Pre-dinner appetizer. Imiglikos (wine, cavino. patras. gr-lieblich). Not sure what those mean. But it was the description on the wine menu.
Feast. Tafelspitz round two.
I became an instant fan of Austrian food when we touched down in Sternbräu a couple of days ago (or months…now that I’m just getting around to this post). From that discerning moment on, my sister and I stampeded all over Salzburg, trying to find some seriously good eats (well, at least I was. We couldn’t just eat 24/7. We’d be fat). BUT, small problem. When you’re stuck in Salzburg, you’re stuck in Salzburg. Other ethnicities and varieties of food were perhaps the most difficult thing to come by. I wasn’t unhappy at all though, eating increasingly similar Austrian foods, day in and day out. When you gotta eat, you gotta eat. The next restaurant, Salzachgrill, was Hotel Sacher’s quaint restaurant, situated next to the Salzach river. We eventually salzached inside, and ordered.
The plating on the Tafelspitz this round was bit more intricate, and the boiled beef was legit as always. Second time around though, I took more effort to actually not devour all the meat first, but to carefully portion some of the creamed spinach and apple horseradish on it before going to town. (My previous efforts at Tafelspitz resulted in a terrible incongruence at the end of the meal; an entire bowl of creamed spinach, a couple large bites of horseradish, and a singular bite of beef). Anyway, my enjoyment was heightened this time around from what I believe was a textural success. Warm, moist beef, with creamy spinach, and fresh, zesty, slightly pungent horseradish. Nice.
This was, of course, a new experience because in the States, we usually don’t eat our beef boiled, nor with horseradish. So what’s up with horseradish? It’s not exactly “sweaty” spicy and it’s obviously not sweet. Closest I’d describe it is “pleasantly astringent.”
Horseradish contains what Harold Mcgee would call “pungency.” It’s not mouth burning, but it leaves somewhat of a pleasant burn. (It’s almost like exercise!). Horseradish, and things like mustard seed and wasabi, contain compounds called thiocyanates that are released when we gleefully masticate them. These volatile (they like to fly) molecules are released, and they subsequently fly into our nasal passages, stimulate our nerves, which send messages to our brain, and a reflex occurs that looks like a painful sneeze (the wasabi effect). A second class of compounds call alkyl-amides also have the same effect, but its much less pronounced in the nasal passages (less volatile), and instead, bind to receptors in our mouth, hyper-sensitizing them to pain and certain tastes (another post in itself).
Health-wise, you’re actually not too far off consuming things like horseradish. The thiocyanates that I mentioned earlier have anti-mutagenic effects towards molecules such as 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (black stuff on your barbecue; and no, it’s not going to be on the test). Now it’s not to say that you should go off and just buy massive amounts of horseradish root and stuff it down your pie-hole every time you have a little bit of char on your barbecued meat. But that pungency is certainly something to be missed. Apple horseradish or even a dollop of Dijon mustard with a warm meaty steak or slab of boiled beef is nutritious, and well, good for you. Char smells and tastes great; I’ll take any opportunity to mitigate the damage. As long as it’s delicious. Better living through biochemistry.
Rather short post today. Pungency’s good. (The horseradish kind, not three-day old socks).