Salt and Snow in Austria

I’m writing this now from the safety of my home and my head is not sunburnt anymore, my legs are not in a stupid amount of pain from skiing and my tastebuds have almost recovered from the salt overdose. The weather was beautiful, the snow was fine (although melting quickly) and the food was filling and intense. That much became clear after the first lunch:

By the way, don’t ask me what any of the dishes are called. My friends told me loads of times but my German skills are non-existent and I’ve completely forgotten. My normal approach was to check what people around me were eating and then point at it until someone told me the name. It worked, I think.

Anyway, the heart-attack in a bowl above consisted of some pasta/gnocchi, loads of cheese, crispy onions and tasted quite good despite (or maybe because of) the fact that it was swimming in fat. My heart was racing and it wasn’t because of the skiing-induced adrenaline.


Well, here’s to hoping all the bad food is cancelled out by the fresh air, the amazing views and the physical exercise. Who knew that going down a hill could be so tiring.

We stopped at a hut, and I saw someone eating this giant ball of goodness and I wanted one. I was warned by Phil that it is weird but I wanted to give it a go anyway. Well, it was weird. It’s like a giant steam sponge, which is great, and it’s surrounded by vanilla custard which is even better. But then, rather than throwing some chocolate on the top and in the middle, someone decided it would be a good idea to fill it with some fruity jam with Stroh and sprinkle it with enough ground poppy seeds to get you arrested in most countries. It promised so much but it ended up being plain odd.

And this must be the highlight of our culinary experience, although possibly not in a good way. Cheesy sausage. A sausage oozing with cheese at every touch of the knife. Make your own jokes.

I realised today that I had to add salt to my food twice to be able to taste it. Austria, you have destroyed me. There goes my career as a food critic. But it was a sacrifice worth making since this was a great week with beautiful weather, enough skiing and loads of food and drink. A refreshing Almdudler in the sun is a beautiful thing and it is in that and many other respects that the Austrian Alps are so much better that the French ones.

What I like about Minneapolis

Well, this is going to be a hard one. My initial idea for this title was the offensive but accurate “Minneapolis is rubbish” but to be honest I didn’t have such a bad time, even if it was because I was with fun people and I was quite busy with maths. So, I decided to stop moaning, and write about the good things. I will number them as well, because then it will feel more of an achievement every time I manage to come up with one extra thing. There it goes:

1) Sky walks: It’s 6.30 in the morning and you are on your way to the conference centre, for 10 hours of talks. It’s cold and you’re tired (jet lags only happen when you go East as far as I’m concerned) and the last thing you want to do is get out of the hotel. Worry not:

You don’t have to.

2) Hell’s Kitchen: They make something called sausage bread with the texture of a really moist cake and the taste of heaven (oh, the irony). And they serve it with something that I can only hope is whipped butter rather than whipped cream. If someone can confirm that it is actually butter, my respect for Minneapolis will increase by about 450%.

And, if you order a sandwich, you can expect your bread to have been buttered to death and then fried. Don’t get me started on the portions. This one is a big hit apparently, with loads of cheese, ham and poached pears. It was yummy.

Finally, they claim that they make the best peanut butter in the world. They might be right.

3) Joe’s Garage: Yes, more food, but this is a food blog and I am starting to struggle for ideas. Joe’s garage looked pretty terrifying from the outside but, once on the inside, we were served juicy and tasty burgers by someone (presumably called Joe) who seemed friendly and competent. He memorised our order (although we all had different toppings and sides on our burgers) and only made one mistake.

4) The twin city of St Paul: Ok, not strictly in Minneapolis but if you’re looking for some type of sightseeing, you can have a look at the only two interesting buildings we managed to spot in the two cities:

The Cathedral

and The Capitol

It is advisable that you avoid looking at the ceiling or wall paintings if you have a sensitive stomach or any sense of style.

5) Hard-working people: The lady that gave us an amusing tour of The Capitol – highlight was her using the word sophisticated to describe the decoration of this:

also turned out to be working at the cloakroom in the conference hall. Coincidence? Maybe there are actually only 3 people living in Minneapolis after all, which could well explain the empty streets.

All in all, you wouldn’t go to Minneapolis out of choice, but if you find yourself having to, pick a good restaurant. They do exist, but they might be hiding away in a basement.