Enjoy yourself with a clear conscience
Lohas followers attach equal importance to sustainable living, morality, quality and enjoyment, and are regarded as one of the most influential target groups of the future. In Vienna they have already achieved this status today.
Trend researchers and opinion leaders love them: Lohas is an acronym for “lifestyles of health and sustainability”, and is a way of life followed by people to whom lifestyle plays an important role, but who wish to integrate into it values such as health, sustainability and generally speaking a clear conscience. They are considered to be a promising target group because they not only enjoy consumerism, but also attach great importance to quality. And finally, they are also prepared to look – and pay – for such quality: These three arguments are of no small significance to marketing experts with an eye to the future.
The Lohas trend originally took root in the United States, where sections of the pragmatic green and environmental movements first discovered the delights of a luxury lifestyle in the late 1990s. Trendy designer clothing, new forms of communication based on modern technology (smart phones and internet blogs, for example), soft tourism, contemporary architecture (low-energy houses), and of course fine food. And this was precisely the area that very quickly turned out to be particularly fertile ground for champions of sustainability, ethics and health: organic foods, short distances and small units, preservation of disappearing or almost forgotten preparations and products (such as those propagated by the “slow food” movement started in Italy with its “Terra Madre” and “Ark of Taste” programmes), fair trade and proper animal husbandry have all given rise to a completely new urban cuisine where enjoyment and a clear conscience have been combined with tremendous fun and ample ingenuity.
From alternative to contemporary
As a city that attaches tremendous importance to culinary tradition, and where opulent meat dishes are actually considered the height of culinary enjoyment, Vienna was quick to join this innovative new trend. Organic and natural food shops have become a mainstay of local shopping facilities, especially in districts where the majority of residents are young, intellectual and independent-minded people. This applies particularly to the Karmeliter quarter in the second district, the area around Naschmarkt in the fourth, fifth and sixth districts, Spittelberg, Vienna’s Bohemian quarter in the seventh district, and the eighth and ninth districts with their large student populations. Particularly in recent years, this scene has been perceptibly developed from a niche market of the alternative jute set to a quality-oriented luxury sector with a highly contemporary note.
In addition to an extensive variety of fruit, vegetables and above all dairy products in all Austrian supermarket chains even in the early 1990s, in recent years special and specialized organic supermarkets and Vienna’s produce markets have staged an extraordinary comeback.
There are currently no fewer than 19 such markets in Vienna – from very small markets with just a few stalls to vast oases with a comprehensive range of fresh produce for your enjoyment. And these markets have not only proved to be more alive than ever, they have also been discovered as culinary supply centers for adherents of the Lohas lifestyle. As a result, a host of smart restaurants offering “moral hedonism” (as Eike Wenzel of Matthias Horx’s “:zukunfts|institut” defines it) have sprung up like mushrooms around markets like Naschmarkt, Karmelitermarkt, Rochusmarkt and Yppenmarkt. In 2007 so-called “organic corners” were established in partnership with Slow Food at Naschmarkt, Vienna’s best known and certainly best assorted market, and Karmelitermarkt. Every Saturday they pro-vide an ideal venue for agricultural smallholders from the Vienna area to establish direct contact with their Lohas customers in the city. Shopping for assortments of vegetables from the past has since become a pastime, people drink steaming cups of espresso brewed from fair-trade coffee beans and nibble organic pickled gherkins made from long-forgotten varieties. Vienna has learned to enjoy the good life, and to keep a clear con-science into the bargain.
Slow Food is an international NGO that promotes biodiversity, fair trade, a return to a more traditional approach to food and cooking, as well as bringing producers and consumers closer together. After an initially lukewarm reception by Austrian and Viennese consumers, its star is on the rise. Thanks to a number of initiatives the Slow Food lists now include several Austrian specialties including safron from the Wachau, chicken from the Sulmtal valley, vineyard peach and cheese from the Bregenzerwald region. In November 2009 Slow Food Wien held its Terra Madre at Vienna City Hall for the first time. The exhibition’s seminars, speeches and product presentations drew around 10,000 visitors – three times more than expected.
Viennese cuisine – a paradigm of integration
But what about Vienna’s famous cuisine? Is it compatible with Lohas ideals? It most cer-tainly is! For even though Viennese cuisine may not be the lightest in the world, and vege-tables do not play such an important role as in Mediterranean cooking, for example, classic Viennese cuisine exhibits very many aspects of sustainability. To begin with, it is a multi-ethnic cuisine – a culinary multiculti, as it is called today. Bohemian, Moravian, Italian, Yiddish, Hungarian, Bavarian, Turkish and Polish – all these blend together to form the mouth-watering universe of taste that has brought world fame to Viennese cuisine. Authenticity also plays a vital role – traditions have been preserved for many generations and become part of Vienna’s cultural heritage – sociocultural sustainability at its best, and also a wonderful example of successful central European integration at a culinary level.
Yet another interesting aspect is the fact that classic Viennese cuisine always belonged to both the aristocracy and the working class in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Whilst the “best” pieces and finest cuts were prepared for the upper classes, cooks became extraordinarily ingenious at making magnificent soups and stews from the leftovers, and using bits like lights, livers, kidneys and other innards less appreciated by high society to create delicacies that are still a part of Viennese gastronomy to this day. And today’s open-minded, interested, and above all responsible connoisseur is entirely receptive to the notion of using up meat in the kitchen as completely as possible, rather than just preparing fillet steaks and hams. This is why we are currently seeing an extraordinary renaissance of old-fashioned, original Viennese specialties like “Beuschl” (a hash of calf’s heart and lungs), “Rahmherz”, “geröstete Nierndln”, “geschmorte Backerln”, all kinds of cuts in aspic and even the legendary “Bruckfleisch” (a rather indefinable, strongly spiced ragout of parts that one seldom sees in the butcher’s window).
However, even if vegetables have only ever played a minor role in Viennese cooking, Vi-enna is entirely remarkable when it comes to field produce in that many of Vienna’s vege-tables are actually grown in Vienna. Nearly 16% of the total area of the City of Vienna is used for agriculture, equivalent to more than 6,500 hectares of land on which grain, vege-tables, fruit, and of course Vienna’s famous wines are grown. The area of organically farmed land in Vienna increased from around 300 to almost 1,400 hectares between 2001 and 2009, and today no less 17% of Vienna’s agricultural land is used for organic products. This is not just remarkable by Austrian standards (the Austrian average for organically farmed land is around 11%), for a capital city this is indeed unique anywhere in the world.
The Vienna Lohas scene: diverse and individual
Vienna’s Lohas restaurant and bistro scene is extremely diverse, and it is difficult to make generalizations about it: epicurean morality is interpreted and implemented slightly differ-ently everywhere. There is vegetarian pioneer Christian Wrenkh, who created vegetarian cuisine with chic and stylish elements over 20 years ago, elements that he now propagates in his cooking salons in Vienna and Berlin. Then there is the new and very refreshingly appointed “Tewa on Vienna’s Naschmarkt, where the team from a chain of organic stores proves that cooking with organic ingredients and rich aromas from all parts of the world are not a contradiction in terms. “Suppito” is Vienna’s smartest soup kitchen, where delicious power soups are not only prepared organically, but also in accordance with the Chinese teaching of the five elements. And incidentally, Sohyi Kim, Vienna’s leading and most celebrated champion of modern, creative Asian cooking, takes the same approach at her restaurant behind the Volksoper that was completely revamped in the year 2007.
It goes without saying that “Hollmann Salon” is a particularly fine example of the new Lo-has scene. This is not only because this exceptionally tastefully appointed restaurant is situated in Heiligenkreuzerhof (a well preserved baroque building complex), but also be-cause they have set themselves the objective of completely using up slaughtered animals. The whole animals are bought in directly from organic farmers in the immediate vicinity of Vienna, and are cooked “from head to hoof” in accordance with ancient customs – though many of the dishes look and taste extremely modern. Both the sympathetic “Noi” on the currently very hip Yppenmarkt and the tiny “Gesundes” near Karmelitermarkt offer an ef-fective combination of organic shopping and contemporary organic cuisine. Only organic products are find their way in the
Ligurian and other classic European dishes in new restaurant “Wetter”. A very special type of sustainability is behind the dishes served at the bi-stro tables of “Porcus.” Here everything from the finest ham to slightly less common cuts such as boiled snout and trotters are served according to Austrian tradition – and it goes without saying that it’s all organic.
Heissenberger is a tea and coffee shop offering Austria’s largest and best assortment, and organically grown fair-trade coffee is becoming increasingly important at the classy outlet on Kohlmarkt. The fair trade blends from the mini Alt Wien coffee roastery play a part in making the fourth district’s the city’s fair trade capital. Though at first glance bistros like “Schreiners” and “Witwe Bolte” in Spittelberg may appear rather simple and down-to-earth, they also demonstrate that genuine Viennese cooking with ingredients from controlled origins and properly managed livestock tastes even better than before. Vienna’s prestigious “Pfarrwirt”, restaurant was opened in Vienna’s Heiligenstadt district in the fall of 2007 by successful businessman and neo-winegrower Hans Schmid. Even here they take a similar approach, putting only Austrian produce – and then only the best – into their pots and pans. This is evidently the ideal prerequisite for an imaginative and astonishingly tasty form of modern Viennese cuisine.
Vienna wine – organic and back to the roots
And on the subject of wine: there have also been some interesting developments on the organic and sustainable sector. Whereas organic Viennese wines were previously produced only for a small niche market, Viennese wine is currently experiencing a boom, prompting newcomer Stefan Hajszan to cultivate his entire vineyard in accordance with the strict principles of biodynamic viticulture right from the word go. In 2008 he was fol-lowed by Vienna’s leading and best known winegrower, Fritz Wieninger, who also switched to this method of production in a move that will certainly have repercussions for the Vienna wine industry. Yet another culturally and historically relevant theme relating to sustainability is the rediscovery of the so-called “Gemischter Satz”. This wine is a reminder of the ancient method of planting, where different types of vines were planted out together in the same vineyard in order to reduce the risk of damage by pests and adverse weather conditions. Actually, this traditional method was retained only in Vienna, and after decades on the sidelines as a simple table wine, this typically Viennese wine has been discovered by upcoming young Viennese winegrowers like Rainer Christ, Richard Zahel and Jutta Ambrositsch. Thanks to modern oenology, the Gemischter Satz is now cultivated to a top international standard. Many ancient vineyards have also been rejuvenated and maintained, and for the first time in sixty years have again been planted out in keeping with the old tradition – with a colourful diversity of vines. The concept behind the wine has also caught the eye of the international Slow Food Organisation. The Viennese Gemischte Satz was one of the first two Austrian products to be granted Presidio status – one of just five wines worldwide.
The fact that awareness, responsibility, ethics and health do not necessarily involve sacri-fice and a frugal lifestyle is also clearly apparent in Vienna – as practised by Viennese people of all ages. Since the quality of life in Vienna is one of the highest in the world, perhaps there is a connection to be found here!
- Gesundes, Lilienbrunngasse 3, 1020 Vienna, www.gesundess.at
- Heissenberger, Kohlmarkt 11, 1010 Vienna, www.heissenberger.com
- Hollmann Salon, Grashofgasse 3, 1010 Vienna, www.hollmann-salon.at
- Kaffeerösterei Alt Wien, Schleifmühlgasse 23, 1040 Vienna, www.altwien.at
- Kim kocht, Lustkandlgasse 4, 1090 Vienna, www.kimkocht.at
- Pfarrwirt, Pfarrplatz 5, 1190 Vienna, www.pfarrplatz.at
- Schreiners Gastwirtschaft, Westbahnstrasse 42, 1070 Vienna, www.schreiners.cc
- Slow Food Wien, www.slowfood-wien.at
- Suppito, Girardigasse 9, 1060 Vienna, www.suppito.at
- Tewa, Naschmarkt 672, 1040 Vienna, www.tewa-naschmarkt.at
- Weinbau Jutta Ambrositsch, www.jutta-ambrositsch.at
- Weingut Christ, Amtsstrasse 10-14, 1210 Vienna, www.weingut-christ.at
- Weingut Hajszan, Grinzinger Strasse 86, 1190 Vienna, www.hajszan.com
- Weingut Wieninger, Stammersdorfer Strasse 78, 1210 Vienna, www.wieninger.at
- Weingut Zahel, Maurer Hauptplatz 9, 1230 Vienna, www.zahel.at
- Wetter, Payergasse 13, 1160 Vienna, Tel. +43-1-406 07 75
- Witwe Bolte, Gutenberggasse 13, 1070 Vienna, ww.witwebolte.at
- Wrenkh Wiener Kochsalon & Restaurant, Bauernmarkt 10, 1010 Vienna, www.wiener-kochsalon.com
Article Author: Florian Holzer, writer, journalist, restaurant critic