Winter is a time of fables and fairy tales. People speak of talking animals, beautiful princesses, cursed villages, virtuous heroes and legendary princesses. The morality and popularity of such ancient tales is somehow not dissimilar to what makes social media so popular today. The more spectacular, the more people “liked” them and the more they were “shared.” Each raconteur added his own measure of extra details and interpretation to spice things up. As for the reality of such tales, few took them seriously. Why does this all seem so familiar today?
Perhaps it is more important that stories captivate us, awaken emotions and strengthen our belief in what is good, or perhaps even encourage us to be better people. It was no accident that qualities such as generosity, success, or luck play a central role in such stories. Today, we hunger more and more for such values. Luckily such character and characteristics can still be found in the Bregenzerwald. The setting of this place makes it easy to draw parallels to legends in nature or idyllic landscapes. Without further ado, here are some culinary stories from “1001 Bregenzerwald.”
The Old Mill in Schwarzenberg
Once upon a time there was a forgotten old mill that had seen much and more in over 100 years. Since the 18th century the mill helped locals to cut wood, bake and stitch… it even supported the work of blacksmiths who relied on its mechanical support. Good old Aunt Friede even turned the property into an inn at one point. Those were particularly good times indeed because instead of attracting craftsmen, the property now lured guests in search of relaxation in the wondrous surrounding landscapes. Sadly, the death of the old lady ushered in a period of quiet and loneliness at the old mill. Many years passed until finally a bright young couple awakened the mill from its hibernation. Heide Ludwigs and Rainer Welte waved their wands and brought to life a lovely countryside inn with historical roots. Daughter Marietta Wild takes care of guests, grandson Oliver helps grandma in the kitchen, and before anyone realised, three generations were at work under one roof. And the lovely aromas wafting from the open windows! How they spill forth and make appetite to sample the venison specialities, fresh herbs, or a crispy Schnitzel. From near and far the people made pilgrimage to the old mill once more, giving the property both purpose and life again.
“The Wishing Table” at the Traube in Egg
A story about the courage of two men. Markus Hecher and Thomas Metzler moved out of their home village to see the big wide world. They found their calling in catering and soon enough they had a common goal: making others happy with food and drink. After years of searching in the very best establishments, they returned home and took over their parents’ operation in Egg. The Traube, which for many years had been more popularly know as the “Brennar,” was a cosy inn known far and wide. This was a place to serve food until the tables bent and yet with the death of Thomas’ father, this chapter ended too early. In spite of the circumstances, the time to rejuvenate the old house was at hand. The people longed for proper home cooking and a table where locals could gather, share and celebrate. So Thomas acted out “The Wishing Table” and treated guests to Käsknöpfle (cheese spätzle), fried beef and onions in gravy, mixed grill and other
local favourites while wine-expert Markus looked after the entertainment and ensured that guests never went home thirsty.
The bear that was healed in Mellau
The transition from ugly duckling to a beautiful swan has brought new life to many an address in Bregenzerwald. And yet today the oldest of buildings are not the ones undergoing such renovations. Instead, more recently constructed buildings, victims of neglect or unfortunate design, are receiving a facelift. Usually such processes have two fathers: firstly, the need to maximise current potential and second, the visionary foresight of initiators. When it comes to the enormous success of renovations at the Hotel Bären in Mellau, one can truly speak of a modern fairytale. Even though the change was long in coming for the building first constructed in 1870, it seems the wait was worthwhile. Local craftsmen and the vision of the Frick family transformed the building into a boutique hotel with an exceptional café to beckon visitors inside. As daring as the term “super breakfast” sounds, the quality of the food (featuring local products and clever dishes) and of the coffee is anything but overstated.
Hildegard’s kitchen in Schwanen in Bizau
Food, feast, feed, dine, peck, devour, or snack – no meaningful description of the aforementioned would be complete without admitting that eating is the world’s favourite pastime. Ranging from feast to famine, reasons for eating are myriad and dependent upon where and how you live. Any good story about food would include the most wonderful descriptions, recipes and glutinous behaviour (one is reminded of the land of milk and honey). When trying to compose a rather modest menu, cooks must be clever and think hard about exactly what they wish to serve. Even in earlier times, people knew well that certain foodstuffs had various effects upon the eater. Antonia Moosbrugger, a passionate cook at the Schwanen Bizau, has been looking into this matter for quite some time, especially in times when allergies and intolerances are seemingly more prevalent than ever. The lessons of Hildegard von Bingen may sound out-dated, but the success and demand at this organic hotel have proven her right.
A sip of something strong at the Löwen in Au
Refuge for tired hikers, rumour mill, paradise for blow-hards and braggers, or the starting point for many a story: Very few fairy tales don’t in some way involve an inn! Small wonder when speaking of feasts that last all night long, pots that steam, stingy hosts or cheeky damsels. What could be better than experiencing such situations in a rustic parlour. And there is no better place than the Bregenzerwald! One property in particular comes to mind, the rustic, historically protected Löwen in Au. Since 2015, Siegfried Atzlesberger and his team have set new standards in hospitality. The homemade cakes, pies, and strudels are nearly as popular as the spectacular mixed meat and cheese platter and the aptly named tart flambé they call the “Löwen Lällar.” And yet the true gem of the establishment is the impressive Alpine distillery. Over 30 varieties of schnapps are created here, making this the perfect environment to wax philosophical about the good “new” times.
Slice of Heaven in Engel in Bezau
Judging from the distribution of roles in fairy tales, the angles have the most influential lobby. They are healers, the bearers of good news, flying messengers of God, spiritual choir singers, but also drama queens and fierce avengers. In general, these figures serve all of the romantic clichés that have been connected to this versatile figure since polytheistic times. Petra Matt-Bischof in Bezau also proves just how magnificently angels can take care of man’s more corporal needs as well. The Käsknöpfle (cheese spätzle), which should be ordered in advance, are particularly heavenly. Petra’s specialities are traditional dishes such as roasts, offal, apple strudel, Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancake). But perhaps the Engel Bar is best known as a rumour mill or the stomping ground for all social classes.
Superman of the stove in Hirschen in Sibratsgfäll
Does anyone still recall the story of Zwerg Nase, a children’s story about a boy who becomes a star cook under the spell of the Fairy Kräuterweis? The young man has many trials and tribulations during his apprenticeship in the kitchen, but in the end he is celebrated for his delicious cuisine. Many a cook today can draw parallels with this figure, a sort of ‘super cook’ who puts food at the centre of his life. One such modern-day cook is Peter Dorner, a fifth generation innkeeper at the Hirschen Sibratsgfäll. As chance would have it, the house has been in the Dorn family for the same length of time as the story itself (first published around 1830). With venison, crispy pork knuckle, countless varieties of offal and more, this inn dishes up great food for guests and locals alike. The location is also in high demand as a venue for celebrations. Those interested should contact Sabine Dorner.
The flicker of torchlight at the Alpe Moos in Riefensberg
You’ll feel like the star of a Czech winter fairy tale – in the heart of the Bregenzerwald! Like a scene from Cinderella, Noriker horses pull carriages through the dream-like, snowy winter landscape. Church bells ring hollow somewhere in the background as you pull up to the Alpstüble inn, where inside the friendly innkeeper serves delicious food far from the hustle and bustle outside. As Walter Steinhauser explains more about his thoroughbreds, the title melody of Cinderella plays somewhere at the back of your mind. Luckily, his wife proudly cooks more than the ‘three hazelnuts’ served in the fairy tale. Here they are just one of many ingredients that flavour the cakes and pies prepared by daughter Magdalena. Treat yourself to a torch-lit carriage ride and film the scene for yourself!
The snows of the Jägeralpe in Warth
When the Little Match Girl ignites the Ice Queen’s fir tree whilst Hänsel & Gretel play tricks on Old Man Winter, even Cinderella’s stepmother cracks a smile. In all these stories and many more, winter is a central character, largely playing a rather dramatic or sinister role – bitter cold and relentless. But of course, fun on the slopes and tourism hadn’t started yet… so what else could the season offer people at the time? Today things are a bit different. Nowadays, there is no such thing as too much snow in winter, especially if you happen to find yourself at the Hotel Jägeralpe in the heart of a ski area. In addition to sporting pursuits, dining in a rustic hut is amongst the very best the region has to offer. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the raclette or fondue.
Hunter’s Game Platter in the Tannberg in Schröcken
He saves Snow White’s life, he shoots a fly in the eye from a distance of two miles, routinely kills beasts, saves whole kingdoms and rarely get the affection of a princess for all his efforts. The humble hunter plays a key role in nearly half of all the Grimm fairy tales. Not much has changed at the cosy Gasthof Tannberg inn in Schröcken where today, father, daughter, and son-in-law of the Moosmann family prepare the finest venison and game-meat platter around. Here, culinary creativity knows no boundaries: chamois meat, deer-liver spätzle, haunch of deer and wild-boar ravioli are all on the menu. Naturally, there is also homemade bread, jams, honey, and teas – what else could you need?