One of my favorite ingredients in the kitchen is vinegar. But when I´m talking about vinegar I mean a particular vinegar from the South of Styria (Austria) close to Slovenia and Hungary. It is made by a family run company. The weather and climate down there is perfect for wine making. The family property is in the neighbourhood of Stohmeier, Tscheppe, Werlitsch and Schnabl – wine makers who got a lot of appreciation also abroad. But that’s a different story.
Their vinegar we are using is a kind of balsamic vinegar. It is made from white grapes which are stored for a year in steel tanks. That´s not so special, but the end product is. Every chef who ever tried it fell in love with it. I could drink this vinegar pure! If you want to describe the flavour by comparing it to other vinegars, one could say that it is an Austrian version of the Japanese Komezu.
When it comes to the usage of the vinegar it gets even better! One of my favorite things is to combine the vinegar with “beurre noisette”. Imagine roasting a Jerusalem artichoke in some butter until it nearly melts inside, then raising the heat to brown the butter, and then, just before finishing it, adding a dash of this special vinegar to it. This transforms everything in a very very positive way. That’s a simple combination which I personally adore.
To be honest I tasted this special flavour for the first time at the Steirereck. It was my first stage after school and I was clever enough to stay there for nearly 3 years. I learned so many things which I´m still proud of today. And it also opened some doors for the future.
There is also another favourite. I’m talking about the small bites in the kitchen – about the best gravy to dip your bread in, the sauce which is freshly mixed with some mustard, the crunchiest small piece of crust, freshly made ice-cream right from the turning machine, a fresh berry or peach which is still warm from the sun and never found way to a fridge.
Of course it is my job to offer all the delicious things to a paying guest at the table. Maybe I am too romantic or stupid, but certain flavours you can´t buy. It is more. It is a big effort to find the product, to prepare it, serve it at a perfect temperature, make a nice crust and all other important details which it is all about. But after that there is us in the kitchen having this perfect piece just in front of us. Tasting, eating, enjoying it. That´s my favorite flavour … it´s the effort and finesse in preparing something with knowledge and passion.
I just love cooking!
Philip Rachinger, Mühltalhof (Neufelden, Austria)