"" Writer's Wanderings: Cruising The Danube - Oh, The Food!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Cruising The Danube - Oh, The Food!

Our morning on the last day of the cruise was spent visiting the Schonbrunn Palace Zoo (or the Vienna Zoo--whichever you want to call it). While the sun kept peeking out from between the clouds, it was still chilly, enough to want a bowl of soup. On our earlier trip to the Schonbrunn Palace Christmas Market I had seen soup in a bread bowl. It was a good reason to return.

For a carbohydrate "addict" a bowl of bread sounded perfect. Add to it a potato soup that was delicious and all was heavenly. To my surprise the bowl did not leak. Instead the soup kind of soaked into it a bit but not so much to make it real soggy. The stand where we purchased them offered real tablespoons to eat it with and we walked a little bit away to a table to stand and eat it.

Just a note: There were no tables with chairs at the markets. The tables were all chest high except for a few just a bit shorter for kids. So if you are person who needs to sit a spell after a long walk around the market, you need to be prepared to go into a cafe.

We pretty much cleaned up our bread bowl of soup and felt more than satisfied. We returned the spoons and I wondered how well that kind of trust would work back home. Would people return them or throw them out with their trash?

It was still early afternoon but we had packing to do and one more excursion in the evening so we headed back on the subway. Later, all bags packed and stored with just enough clothes left out to get us through our dinner excursion and the morning trip to the airport, we relaxed with some coffee and tried to refrain from eating anything with it. Coming up was a Michelin dinner (no it's not at a tire store) that we didn't want to spoil.

That evening, four buses awaited our departure for four different Michelin star restaurants in the city.
We had our choice and had picked the one we thought from the menu we would enjoy the most. We had no idea what to expect. We'd never eaten at a Michelin restaurant--at least not that we knew of.
So what's the deal with Michelin stars?

To my surprise, the Michelin stars awarded restaurants do have something to do with tires. The Michelin tire company (yes, the one with the Michelin man) is based in France. Not only known for its tires, it also publishes travel guides and road maps. It all began in 1900, just 11 years after brothers, Andre and Eduord, started their tire business. They were clever fellows. They figured if they encouraged people to drive more, they would need to buy more tires as they wore the old ones out.

Their guides expanded to include most of Europe and their one star rating rose to three stars. One star is superb, a second star is greater and the third means it's a destination place to go to dine. The inspectors, chefs themselves, who travel to the restaurants to rate them are trained and remain anonymous (for obvious reasons). They may return several times to be sure the quality of the chef's product is award winning. And it is mostly about the chef and how he/she chooses ingredients, creates his dishes and presents them.

While the chef is important, it is the restaurant that gains the star/s. You can lose your stars if the quality drops. And your restaurant does not need to be fancy. There is a three star establishment that serves from a wooden counter at a car park.

Our restaurant, Le Ceil, was no car park. It was on the top floor of the Grand Hotel Wein which in itself was quite a place to visit and see. Beautiful chandeliers. Exquisite decorations. Charm and beauty. The restaurant was the finishing touch.

White table cloths, candles, polished silverware, elegant centerpieces, glassware and dinnerware gave the evening a special atmosphere. White gloved waiters poured water and drinks and brought us each course on the menu all while a pianist played on a grand piano near us. Each dish was presented artfully on the plate and was absolutely delicious. Ours was a set menu and I thought that was just because of our large group but according to their menu online, you can also order a dinner that way.

It was quite an experience to end our cruise on. The next morning would find us on a plane heading for warmer weather and a few days of laundry, grandkids, and warming up for our Caribbean adventure.

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