September 2, 2010 § 4 Comments
It was during winter holidays in Austria that I first began to gain an understanding of the German (in the widest sense) concept of gemütlichkeit (usually translated as cosiness but meaning much much more). At the Hotel Karl Schranz in the resort town of St Anton in the Tirol, this concept was embodied in the dining room with its wood panelling, flickering candlelight, pink linen napkins, and perfect attentive service. The eponymous Herr Schranz would occasionally grace us with his regal presence: the skiing wild child of the 1960s now transfigured into portly gentleman hotelier.
Herr Schranz clearly runs a tight ship as breakfast at his hotel was always an absolute delight – fruit juices decanted into glass jugs (my favourite being “Multivitamines” a bright orange concoction big on carrot and passion fruit juice); müsli and other cereals; delicious thick yoghurt; fruit salad; all kinds of jam, boiled eggs; and best of all wonderful bread – multigrain loaves thick with pumpkin and other seeds, rye bread, white bread and the distinctive and ubiquitous semmel white rolls.
Here is the Karl Schranz experience recreated at home as best I could:
A trip to Chorlton’s legendary Barbakan bakery and delicatessen provided most of what was needed in terms of wonderful fresh bread, cheese and ham. Chorlton is a suburb of South Manchester with a cluster of good food shops – the Unicorn grocery for fruit, vegetables and vegetarian items; Frosts the butchers for excellent meat (including unusual items like squirrel from time to time!) ; Out of the Blue fishmongers for properly fresh fish filleted in front of you, bags of clams and the like…is it worth moving house to have all this on my doorstep I wonder? For now, food shopping in Chorlton remains an occasional treat.
Here’s the Barbakan shop-front, a little unprepossessing from the outside but a real treasure-trove inside. My hands were too full and the shop too busy for me to take a good photo inside. On sunny Saturday mornings, the queue for fresh bread stretches out of the door so best to get there early.
I’ve just checked out the website http://www.barbakan-deli.co.uk/ and see that they have recently won, very deservedly, the 2009/10 Manchester Food and Drink Festival’s “Best Food and Drink Retail Outlet” award.
Barbakan’s 2 founders are Polish and much of their bread has a distinctly Eastern European feel – lots of rye loaves, and both caraway and poppy seeds are a preferred flavouring. Sadly on the morning I called they were fresh out of both Vienna sticks and Kaiserbrot, both of which would have been perfect for my Austrian theme. Instead, I opted for two loaves (German Altenburg rye bread “the true taste of Bavarian rye” , and a second rye loaf this one flavoured with caraway) and and some Polish poppy seed biegles, the originator of the modern US bagel. After all, poppy seeds are popular in Austria too most startlingly in the form of a main course germknödel (poppy seed dumpling) served with lashings of custard…I digress, so back to the bread, pictured below:
A true Austrian Hausfrau would have made all her own jams and preserves. Mine were all bought on this occasion, but as a nod to tradition I made a simple blackcurrant compôte to serve with yoghurt from the tempting looking punnet of blackcurrants that came from the Unicorn grocery just across the road:
Pictured with the blackcurrants are an equally tempting bag of ripe apricots and the fabulous Glebelands Road grown salad leaves – you can’t get more locally grown salad than this unless it’s in your back garden of course.
Here’s the finished compôte together with yoghurt and some pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top. Austrians are nuts about pumpkins in any shape or form. Especially good is the deep green roast pumpkin seed oil which gives a wonderful flavour to salad dressings and, drizzled on top, to pumpkin soup.
All very pretty, but it takes a lot of effort to keep up this gemütlichkeit business – fresh flowers from the garden, best china, freshly laundered napkins and so on. The Austrian Hausfrau must be chained to the kitchen keeping up appearances. So for now it’s back to toast and cereal on the usual crockery, until our next international breakfast, this time from Azerbaijan…
Barbakan contact details
67-71 Manchester Rd
Chorlton cum Hardy,
Telephone: 0161 881 7053