The big romantic picnic

sommerheuriger

Preparation for the Sommer Heuriger

The unforgiving Mittelburgenland sun seems to have settled in and the feeling of being closer to ready to welcome our first guests as well. 

As countless details are being discussed by the whole team everyday, we are now entering the ever exciting phase of the plan involving picking wines and writing first drafts of menus. Everywhere I look, the bountiful produce overwhelm my brain with ideas. The short walk to my preferred oasis of peace where I like to write took me double the time today, I was too busy stuffing my face with the perfectly ripe cherries on the way. 

The idea for the heuriger that is about to take place for the first time in two weeks came from a collection of impromptu gatherings with Franz, Petra, Christoph and myself over a few (countless) bottles of wines. It takes a village and a copious amount of work scattered over months of preparation and discussion to organize such a project. Even if open for only 6 short days. One million questions later, everybody’s helpful restaurant & heuriger experience has proven resourceful, and it seems we have one million answers as well. 

Christoph and I became a couple here at Weninger while cooking fabulous gargantuesques harvest dinners and realizing simultaneously that we were in luck to have found a partner that shared a never ending, voracious hunger. The sumptuous feeling of falling in love with a belly full of harvest-time produce was quite the dream, and quickly evolved into the more familiar one of longing to do it on a larger scale. Truth is, we both miss cooking. And this is where it all began. Around the table, usually covered in food. 

I feel thankful that our bosses were open and excited to the idea of opening the garden this summer. When Christoph and I retired from cooking professionally about 4 years ago to make our way into the wine world more seriously (separately, we didn’t know each other at the time) we both needed a break. He went on to study winemaking and oenology in Neustadt, and I began my work as wine director for Candide in Montréal. Speaking for myself, I felt like a part of me was drained to complete drought. I had the feeling that, despite my deep love for food, I had done it to an overkill. Too many hours, too little sleep. The feeling compared to organizing the greatest dinner party every night but never getting to sit down at the table. 

Time went on and a somewhat sense of balance returned within me. I started throwing extensive lunches in my small apartment in Montréal, and I cherish the memories of 5-6 hours spent at the table every Monday where the food, the wine and the company flowed effortlessly. It satisfied the craving I had of the joyous act of breaking bread while socializing and creating intimate relationships over a full table. That very specific feeling of conversations bouncing between mouthfuls is what we, as a team, would be delighted to cater through the Weninger Heuriger. 

” A recurring conversation between all of us is about simplicity.

When I was a young cook, I was eager to demonstrate, or flash rather, the various techniques I had amassed during my travels. As I grew older, I finally understood the importance of knowing how to roast a good chicken (which I learned from watching my best friend Jaime who is an expert roaster), and surround said bird with a few seasonal vegetable side dishes. I rejoiced with friends and family in the lip-moisturizing pleasure of dipping bread in rendered fat from the pan, or seasoning a salad with it. Eating a whole wheel of cheese with a jar of sweet and sour chutney. Leeks and mustard. Potatoes and butter. Roasted green onions. Simplicity is an emotion. 

We want the food this summer to reflect a few things, the most important one being our surroundings in time and place. The fast changing summer landscape will shape the menu, the plates, our state of minds. The main focus will be on high quality ingredients from the shortest buying circuit, highlighting the people around us, our neighbors, our own garden, the forest, the fruit trees, the animals. My heart is racing just thinking about what to do with Christina Hofer’s raw cream, so thick and dreamy that the spoon stands straight in the jar. 

The Wiesen strawberries (they call them ananas in Mittelburgenland which is both weird and adorable), the salads we grew with love in our box, the beef from Maria’s cousin which will make a killer terrine, the multiple kilos of bärlauch that we picked over the spring are now waiting patiently for their future purpose. A menu made with exactly the dishes we like to cook for ourselves, simple yet elegant food, the luminous flavors of the season shining on the plate. 

 The heuriger style of food places rigid boundaries that we will gladly embrace (no hot food), as boundaries sometimes are just the perfect excuse to canalize creativity. (Plus, it is a known fact that I don’t really to eat hot food so no restrain for me here.) A selection of numerous of the Weninger wines & other various beverages will flow to chase all of this down. 

“Good food.

“Good wine.

“And good company.

Like a hug from your grandma, but better. Like your grandma’s house was ran by two chefs and had a cellar full of really delicious Blaufränkisch. See you this summer.