"If music be the food of love...": Culinary highlights of the Vienna Opera Ball
From chic ham to waltz sausages: this year, too, there are numerous tasty highlights in store for visitors to the ball. Including much-loved classics – and exciting innovations.
"If music be the food of love, play on!" says the very first scene of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night". It may not be an opera, but it is a fact that musical and epicurean enjoyment work best together, soaring to almost ecstatic heights; this was already well known by the English poet. Especially in a culinary stronghold with an affinity for culture like Vienna, prestigious events give rise to great expectations - and what could be more prestigious than the Opera Ball? Together with renowned artists from the opera scene, exquisite couture from Austria (this year by Alexandra Gogolok-Nagl from Vienna, Maiken Kloser from Vorarlberg and Marlen Sabetzer from Styria) and the traditional media hustle and bustle, food and drink play first fiddle here.
In the 66th year of the event, one of the oldest partners of the "ball of all balls" is celebrating an anniversary. For 155 years now, "Gerstner" has been responsible for the catering of danced-through nights and this year once again spans the arc between tradition and contemporary variation. 272 of the more than 7000 people present at the Opernring are exclusively responsible for serving fine food in 139 boxes, at 267 tables and eleven buffets.
Gerstner stands for the best taste, exquisite quality, perfection and the highest level of expertise. The Vienna State Opera has been relying on this expertise since 1869.
... says Herbert Fuchs, Managing Director of GMS Gourmet GmbH, which also owns the traditional "Gerstner" brand. Sustainability in particular is playing an increasingly important role in the choice of dishes, which is why there is also a growing range of vegetarian and vegan dishes with ingredients from Austrian suppliers. It is as surprising as it is pleasing that the Viennese ball showpiece par excellence is now focusing on ecological thinking and plant-based offerings.
Of course, it doesn't get boring: sandwiches with Brie de Meaux, walnut and grape or vegan lentil stew with fresh herbs sound just as good as roast beef and Vulcano ham or the classic sausage in different variations. But more on that later. It is rounded off with fines de claires and caviar, the latter of which simply does not translate well into the veggie alphabet.
At the Hofzuckerbäcker, the focus is on sweet temptations anyway: strawberries in tails on top, Parisian lace, and the ball menu is ready! This year in particular: the "opera" petit fours with nougat and pistachio, which celebrate the long collaboration. You immediately have Mozart in your ear.
Although not for the 155th time, this is the fifth time that the "Ströck" team has taken part, offering a similar menu at the "Feierabend" bar. Sausages from "Schinkenmanufaktur Thum", organic hand rolls, Kittsee wood-fired bread with beetroot hummus, ham or salmon. And those who are completely exhausted on the dance floor can indulge in a potato goulash. For dessert there's the "Ströck" flagship: carnival doughnuts. Anyone who misses this in the "sweet curve" will receive a fluffy Jour copy for the hopefully not-so-curvy way home.
The aforementioned opera ball sausages, for example in the "Sacher" version with mustard, horseradish and extra length, are a must. They are just as indispensable as the debutantes' white dresses.
After so many delicious carbohydrates and meat as a base, the stage is set for bubbles, wine and cocktails! The best is once again on offer from Viennese night-time gastronomic gems such as the "Kleinod", which offers Champagne Bollinger (Special Cuvée and Rosé) and, above all, maximum rotation. Particularly good: the Pornstar Martini, which has probably celebrated the comeback of the decade in recent years, French 75 or an Earl Grey Fizz for those who want caffeine but no espresso martini in their glass. If you're in a hurry: a "Lava Lamp" shot – and all the lights are on. Same procedure as every year.
Those looking for proven sparkling wine specialists should not miss the "Kate & Kon" merchants. They offer exactly what they had on the menu last year - but for good reason:
We hold true to what Konrad Adenauer is rumoured to have said: 'No experiments'. If something is well received, there is no reason to change or even just add to it.
... explains owner Katharina Wolf. In addition to exquisite prestige champagnes, including La Grande Année and R. D. by Bollinger, exclusively imported Gold Selection Caviar is also on offer. "And then there is also the Ayala Brut Majeur – a 'Brut brutal brillant'. Everyone must have drunk it. And we make sure of that," says Wolf. Promise or threat? No matter when it comes to something so exquisite.
The "Eden Bar" is a new addition
But there is also a newcomer: the "Eden Bar" is probably the most high-profile culinary debutant of the evening. The first floor of the State Opera will be redesigned for the first time to accommodate the unique "Eden" atmosphere. In addition to the obligatory champagne and sparkling wines from Schloss Gobelsburg, the "Franz Mule" made from Viennese vermouth, limoncello and ginger beer will be served. "You shouldn't miss out on this drink," says Managing Director Patrick Sit.
And to make high society feel right at home, food and drink are also traditionally served from the "Schwarzes Kameel", all "dell'Italianità". The Opera Ball Negroni comes with Tramezzini Venezia or black bread sandwiches, canapés "de luxe", fan polonaise and the supposedly "best punch doughnuts in the world", as "Kameel" owner Hans-Jürgen Serloth explains.
And if there is one thing that has hardly changed in Vienna for centuries, it is probably the Heurigen culture. It is a guest at the State Opera in the form of the Wieninger winery. You can taste biodynamic wines from the best Viennese vineyards and organic delicacies such as mountain cheese from the Paznaun Valley, homemade sausages from Lienz and Wachau rolls. "Like the Opera Ball, we also see ourselves as ambassadors for Viennese culture and carry it out into the world with our wines," says Sigi Machatschek from the "Wieninger am Nußberg" wine tavern. One highlight that, in his opinion, is not to be missed: the homemade spreads. First and foremost the Liptauer, which is so good that it was even worth a story on the British BBC. Well, if that's not a cultural message.
Pink Floyd and the sea
This year's floral decoration is all about a special rose.
As we all know, you eat with your eyes. And that's why we serve the last course as a flower arrangement, which is always a well-kept secret. Front and center this year is a special rose called, you guessed it, "Pink Floyd", which is at least as hypnotic as the iconic band. It is "a flower of impressive beauty and depth that symbolises admiration and elegance," says Emil Doll from Dolls Blumen, explaining the choice, which was made together with event professional Maryam Yeganehfar from the Opera Ball Committee.
"In addition to the 'Pink Floyd' rose, we use a carefully selected mix of ranunculus, vetches and anthuriums. This combination enables us to convey a rich palette of emotions and meanings that perfectly match the ambience of the Opera Ball," says Doll. A brief digression: pink roses are associated with recognition, while ranunculus are said to be attractive and appealing. So it will be flirty in a respectful way, as vetches stand for togetherness and anthuriums for strength, elegance and exoticism. Exciting!
The entire arrangement is intended to grow into a modern, asymmetrical sea of warm shades of pink, without the supposedly distracting green leaves, which have been deliberately omitted this year. "This approach contrasts with last year and highlights the colourfulness and vitality of the flowers. Our aim was to create a vibrant sea of flowers that fills the room with life and colour," they say. And what could fill a room with life and a life with colour better than a brilliant ball ...
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