BY MICHELLE WAHLERS
I remember the exact moment I became fascinated with Austria. It was as a young girl, watching Julie Andrews twirl in the Austrian Alps. After that it was all “I should have been born in Austria!,” and “I look exactly like Liesl!”. Ah, to be young. I took German language classes for 4 years and still plan to twirl through those mountains. Until then, Edi and the Wolf will have to do. But what a delightful substitution.
We arrived at Edi and the Wolf at early dinner time, and were lucky enough to get seats by the window. The space is might have been an old garage, the front window is attached to runners that bring it up to the ceiling. Our waitress was friendly and personable, being honest with the dishes and pointing us in the right direction for drinks. We started with the Spiegel and the Hefeweizen. The latter provided a citrus touch that would carry throughout the night and enhance the entree. We were seated at a long wooden table, designed for large groups of strangers who will inevitably become charming and boisterous friends. This place is suitable for groups, but intimate ones; low lighting encourages close conversation and dish sharing. Bouquets of flowers on the table are fragrant, but only until the food arrives.
For appetizers we orders the Landjager and the cured pork belly. They both arrived promptly and took up quite a bit of room. The Landjager (cured dried Austrian sausage) sat on a large slate plate; seated next to a dollop of mustard and a small pile of pickled parsnips. These short logs of sausage immediately reminded me of Slim Jims, but there was a vast difference; these were amazing. Dried and wonderfully spiced, they were exactly what I was hoping to get from a place that boasted authentic Austrian cuisine. The pork belly was thinly shredded and physically delicate yet tasted salty and a bit overwhelming (though plesant). I preferred the Landjager, but perhaps it was because of the easy access “sticks” they came in.
Another round of beer arrived. The atmosphere of the place is completely comforting and even inspirational. Heavy wooden planks line the ceiling with rope line peaking between them, which conveys a sense of being below deck. As more people arrived the long tables filled up and friendly, wine filled banter rose into the air. Heavy rope drapery canopied the bar, giving a feeling of being entangled in a space where they frequently bring you wine and cheese. A good nest to be caught in.
The entrees arrived. We ordered Schlutzkrpfen and the steak. The Schultzkrpfen was ravioli with a Austrian Mountain Cheese, roasted pine nuts and squash. What resonated most with me were the pine nuts, contributing a crunchy toasted texture contrasting with the cheese and pasta. It was tart and startling at first, and fortunately the plates are small because it quickly becomes very filling. (I was also holding out for dessert!)
They recommended the steak cooked medium rare, advice we accepted. It was cooked excellently, with a crisp outer layer and tender pink middle. Surrounded by fried onions, tender parsnips and mild fried peppers, this steak didn’t stand a chance between the two of us. So long! We hardly knew ye.
Perhaps it was because after such a heavy meal an airy passion fruit concoction calmly finished the meal, while the torte seemed to just sit there with additional heaviness.
The night slowly came to an end. By this time, the place was packed with smiling faces clinking glasses and excitedly opening menus. In a corner of Alphabet City you can find a sliver of whimsical yet realistic Austrian cuisine. For those New York bound, this might be as close to the Austrian Alps as we can get.