Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Off The Rock: Vienna

Day One: Coffee Among Ghosts

Melange at Cafe Museum
Vienna's coffee culture is undoubtedly the best in Europe. Give me a second to take cover from Italian, Dutch and Greek gunfire. Okay, I think they've stopped aiming for my nether regions.

Along with Double Trouble, who became my partner-in-crime for the daylight portion of my sojourn in Vienna, we hit up as many historical coffee shops as possible without sacrificing valuable time that'd be better spent visiting museums and speed-walking our way through downtown's cobble-stoned streets. We gulped a Wiener melange at Cafe Museumonly a few hundred meters away from The Secession buildingand occupied a red sofa probably once used by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele (my new favorite painter) and Koloman "My Name's Unfortunate" Moser. A string quartet serenaded us with waltzes at Cafe Bräunerhof, an old stomping grounds for Austria's literary bad boy, Thomas Bernhard. We shared a corner booth at the seriously hip Cafe Drechsler and then made our way to the cozy and bohemian Cafe Hawelka, where, if you have nothing better to do with your money, you can purchase a twelve Euro poster of its centenarian owner Leopold Hawelka and his late wife Josefine posing in full cafe regalia. Finally, this time accompanied too by The Wife, Ph.D., we split a Sachertorte and Apfelstrudel at Cafe Frauenhuber, one of Vienna's oldest coffeehouses thattrump this, Europe—saw live performances by both Mozart and Beethoven towards the end of the 18th century. After all that coffee and quality time among preeminent ghosts and tuxedoed waiters, the only thing left to do was to switch to wine.

2011 Vienna "Christkindlmärkte" @ City Hall Glühwein - Served piping hot in a tacky mug I brought back (probably like thousands of lame tourists) to The Rock. Cuddly aromas of cloves, vanilla, cinnamon, cherries and oranges. Had two mugs and could've kept going if it hadn't been for The Wife, Ph.D. who cut off both Double Trouble and me. Off-the-charts rating given the setting and evening chill factor. 

Day Two: Sunday With McCoy 

Near Stephansplatz
Our first dance as a couple was to John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman's rendition of Irving Berlin's "They Say It's Wonderful." My studio apartment in La Jolla was filthy that night. An empty case of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was staggered across the kitchen floor like fallen bowling pins. Warm pisco sour coated the sides of my blender and patches of the white counter. A couple loads of dirty laundry spilled out of a rattan basket next to the radiator and the beige carpet needed vacuuming, its creases revealing mysterious signs of life. Nonetheless, we were oblivious to the staleness of our surroundings and we swayed our bodies like two buoys in calm waters and we leaned into each other as if we had never heard truer words..."they say that falling in love is wonderful"... than those suavely being trickled out by Hartman.

McCoy Tyner was the pianist on that recording, and, at the ripe young age of 73, performed that Sunday night in Vienna at Porgy & Bess, a former X-rated movie theater converted into a world-class jazz venue. The Wife, Ph.D., and I hid behind a bar, barely within view of the stage, where we drank Austrian red, nibbled on some tapas and became possessed by the legend's music. After a few instrumental pieces, Jose James, an up-and-coming jazz vocalist, joined McCoy and broke out several Coltrane and Hartman classics including "You Are Too Beautiful." Only then did I inform The Wife, Ph.D., that the show was a tribute to their music and reminded her of that romantic dance almost eight years ago. She gave me a blank stare and wondered out loud whether the owners had properly disinfected the joint before going from screening ass to hosting brass.

2010 Günter & Regina Triebaumer Blaunfränkish - Red currants, some cherries and plums. What stuns, though, is an explosion of black pepperchillies eventowards the mid-palate. Rounded out nicely by a sour cherry finish. Short and medium bodied wine. 86/100. 

Day Three: Gustav Klimt's The Kiss (or The Dream of Every College Girl) 

Mulled Wine and Mug
Back in college, I would peruse poster sales for revolutionary art and inevitably stumble upon a reproduction of Gustav Klimt's The Kiss. I pictured young coeds buying a copy of the Austrian's masterpiece to decorate their candle-scented rooms. They'd then stare at it for eons and daydream of Prince Charmingmaybe the third-string quarterback or the comical boss-man of an A cappella ensemble—tenderly engulfing them with a golden blanket and kissing them goodnight under a bed of flowers. Very romantic and very beautiful but nothing like the Austrian artist's Death and Life, which elicits similar though less sexual emotions as The Kiss but includes a stark reminder that death is right around the corner waiting to consume us. I sat before boththe former at the Belvedere, the latter at Leopold Museum—and must admit the latter's balance between dark and light sold me on it. In my book, a hint of darkness is always good. Keeps things real, you know?

2009 Giuseppe Gabbas Cannonau di Sardegna (Grenache) "LiLLovè" - Red fruit (raspberries and cherries), leather, tobacco, spice and a herbal (parsley) finish. Surprisingly light bodied, smooth and simple, perfect accompaniment for our pizza at Regina Margherita. 14.5% alcohol is hardly discernible. Great wine and our first from the Italian rock of Sardinia. 89/100.

2007 Casa Valduga Cabernet Franc (Serra Gaucha, Brazil) - Red fruit, cinnamon and vanilla, soil or fertilizer and a hint of green beans. Drinkable with mild tannins but too much oak for my taste. 84/100.

No comments:

Post a Comment