Phew. I’m back from my vacation in Austria; a well needed break from the daily grind. I got some sun, took in beautiful views, and made some big life decisions (girlfriend no longer, I’m engaged!). I also ate a lot of sausage. I have to imagine that being a vegetarian in Austria is more difficult than being gluten-free. Austrians love their meat, pork, especially.
While I was in Austria, I spent 4 days in Vienna and then 4 days in the southern region at a lake called Millstatt. It was lovely to be able to see the city and the countryside. It also allowed me to experience gluten-free Austria eating in and eating out.
Before I left, I posted a quote about traveling and food (among other things). Basically, it talks about the value of eating like a local while traveling. By embracing the local food culture you get to participate in the larger culture by doing something you have to: eat. Therefore, I’m a big advocate for eating out while traveling, although it does pose certain challenges for those wish dietary restrictions, if you’re armed with the tools mentioned previously in “Traveling Abroad Gluten-Free” you should do just fine.
Traditional Austrian cuisine includes a lot of key dishes that sadly us gluten-free folks can’t enjoy: wiener schnitzel, knudel, spaetzle, and many many desserts. However, Austrian cuisine is also generally meat and potato heavy, so you’re likely to find a dish you can eat (just make sure to ask about the sauce). Even though you probably won’t learn German for a 10 day trip, make sure you know certain key words like gluten, wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and flour. If you can communicate with your waiter that you CAN’T eat those things, you’re in good shape.
Even though I ate in most of the time while in Vienna, Alex and I did have one big dinner out to celebrate our engagement at Zum Schwarzen Kameel. We made reservations far in advance and Alex explained to them that I couldn’t eat gluten. When we got there, the waitstaff was fantastic. They spoke English perfectly and were incredibly accommodating to make sure my dishes didn’t contain a trace of gluten. We had a very filling three course meal consisting of lobster, fish, and steak. It was very indulgent, but hey, we were celebrating. I imagine you’d have a similar good experience at any well-respected fine dining establishment.
In the South, we ate everyday at the Inn we were staying at: Villa Verdin. All their food was cooked in house, to order, fresh, and local. One night, I ate a trout that was caught that day from the Lake-can’t get more fresh or local than that. Since I happened to be traveling with a bunch of native Austrians, they did most of the work for me, determining what I could and could not eat, but like I said, if you know the key words, you’ll survive. Additionally, this particular place served plenty of salads and vegetables-items naturally gluten-free, and didn’t cook at all with flour.
If you’re staying in a hotel with a kitchen or an apartment while in Vienna, I suggest cooking in once or twice. Don’t get me wrong, I think that eating like a local is a big part of the travel experience but with a gluten intolerance/allergy or celiac disease, Austria can be a bit tough. A break from eating out once or twice during the week will probably feel good and ensure that you’re staying away from gluten.
I was lucky enough to have many native Viennese help me locate gluten-free foods while I was in Vienna. It turned out a friend of a friend also has celiacand I got the inside scoop of where to shop. In Austria (and Germany, I’m told), there are stores called Reformhaus which carry organic and natural products. Like in the states, organic and gluten-free seem to piggyback, so you’ll find a selection of gluten-free items here. In Austria, there is an organic food store that is a mecca for us gluten-freerscalled Bio Maran. “Bio” in Europe is code for organic. Bio Maran was great. There was gluten-free bread, beer, pasta, snacks- you name it. Most of there products were in one section labeled “Gluten Frei.” Throughout the store, there were labels under gluten-free products with this phrase which made finding gluten-free products a no-brainer. I picked up some gluten free beers from Neumarkter Lammsbrau (yayayayay), some muesli, rice cake snacks, bread, and crackers. I could have gone way overboard, but these seemed like essentials.
Another perk of having these few gluten-free items was that when I went to Lake Millstatt, I had my own supplements to the provided breakfast (muesli with their yogurt and my bread with their jams). I also was able to enjoy the delicious spreads they provided with bread before dinner. Although it felt slightly strange to carry around my bread and crackers, I felt like I could enjoy meals with the rest of my gluten eating clan without feeling left out.
Resources for Eating Gluten Free in Austria
Zum Schwarzen Kameel
Orlando de Castello (gluten-free menu)
Book of Yum’s Post on Traveling Gluten Free in Austria and Germany