This is the second post in a two-part piece about my travels to Vorarlberg in Austria. Read the first part: Mountain Hiking, Herbal Walks and Local Food in Lech, Austria
For the second part of my Vorarlberg stay, we moved to Bregenzerwald. The drive to Bregenzerwald from Lech is a magical weave through valleys and mountains. Sweeping winding roads, and lots of promise. So stunning we had to stop to take some photos and stop and pause to take it all in.
We were on our way to Löwen mountain distillery with lunch first there in the Gasthaus Löwen’s Inn & Café. A beautiful restaurant in an old house with one of those beautiful large tiled heaters (a Kachelofen). Windows draped by small curtains looked at the mountains outside. We took a table in the corner and perused the traditional menu. I love the menus in places like this. Plump käsespätzle (handmade noodle shreds in a voluptuous and generous cheese sauce) and schnitzel were what drew most of us in. The cool mountain air creates an enthusiastic appetite and with a distillery trip straight after, there is a need for it.
Löwen Mountain Distillery
The distillery is in the same building. The master distiller crafts schnapps, gin and liqueurs using locally foraged aromatic mountain herbs, roots, blossoms and seeds. We tasted from the bottle and the barrel. The local gentian spirit made from yellow gentian is a noted digestive and a very polarising flavour but I liked it. I loved the gamsblud liqeur the most and I bought a bottle to bring home with me.
They also make Sig, a curious local liqeur made from cooking down and caramelising the leftover whey from cheesemaking, in this case from goats and a hay liqeur made from the prized local hay. Sig is also called Forest Chocolate and was a treat for kids growing up at one point. I love the resourcefulness of this. You can see a photo of it with butter further down the post.
Hotel Gasthof Krone
On then to Hittisau and to the Hotel Gasthof Krone where we would stay for the next two nights. A family run beautiful boutique hotel in a large old Alpine house, it is also home to a lovely restaurant with a large outdoor terrace where we would dine that night and also have lunch before we went back to the airport. In the evening there is a set tasting menu, at lunch it is a la carte. The local river trout cooked with butter and almonds and filleted tableside is one of the best things that I have ever eaten. Sublime in its simplicity and perfectly cooked. With so few ingredients there is nowhere to hide. Austrian wines on the side of course, of which there is plenty on the wine list.
Making cheese at family Metzler’s farm
The Metzler family in the village of Egg in Austria (I know! The village called Egg!) are well known for their highly regarded cosmetic products made from whey, they also have a terrific small cheese school where up to 20 people learn to make local cheese using the milk from that morning. On arrival everyone is served a homemade whey drink with fruit, popular in the area. There is a lot of whey left after all that cheesemaking.
Each person has their own station which they have crafted specifically and they are so impressive. I have made cheese many times, I even ran my own cheese class in London at one time, and the detail and thoughtfulness that has gone into each little station is fantastic. Cheesemaking instructions are detailed and the class is very sociable. At the end we have platters of local cheeses and charcuterie with baskets of bread and some wine.
We take our homemade cheese – 3 cheeses each – to Ernele restaurant in Hittisau and prepare some homemade filled pasta with chef Felix for lunch. They have a gorgeous vegetable garden outside which supplies the restaurant. The room is beautiful, very modern with walls of enormous windows, but also attached to an historic hotel. Based on the food we had it is certainly worth a visit.
Dinner at Schwanen Hotel and Restaurant
Schwanen Hotel is a Biohotel (an organic hotel focussed on sustainability). The Schwanen is family run as with many properties in this area and the community spirit is very much alive here. The area is famous for duroc pics and owner Emanuel Moosbrugger borrowed some to help clear out the space for the garden before planting it.
The menu at Schwanen Restaurant is in four sections: traditional, summer, travel and from the garden. Great care is taken to source produce as much as possible from the garden and otherwise locally. The resulting dining experience is creative and full flavoured. It was a very enjoyable meal.
Hearty breakfast at Adler restaurant in Krumbach
We paid a final farewell to Vorarlberg with a misty early morning moor walk followed by a heart breakfast at Adler. On the way we met a local farmer and his duroc pigs. Those deserve an article in their own right another time and a return trip.
Breakfast was a banquet of local charcuterie, pancakes, zopf bread (an egg and milk enriched Austrian bread baked in a plait). The highlight was riebel (in the frying pan), a cornmeal pudding left to sit lovernight and fried in lots of butter and served in crisp clumps with apple sauce and jam.
There is so much of interest here and it is an ideal place to unplug and relax. I would definitely return and hope to, in the future.
With thanks to Visit Vorarlberg who sponsored my trip. All editorial is my own.