In Austria, a snail farmer is revolutionizing modern gastronomy by reintroducing an old staple.
Every autumn brings cool weather, colorful leaves, Maroni (roasted chestnuts) and Heuriger (new wine) to Vienna. The annual Wiener Schneckenfestival (Vienna Snail Festival) is a relatively new addition to that list of events but one that’s destined to stay.
At Andreas Gugumuck’s farm, visitors can watch snails munch and snooze in preparation for their ascent to food delicacy.
Tickets to the annual snail festival offer more than a tasting menu. Once or twice, during the ten day event, Gugumuck conducts tours of his snail farm before leading visitors across the street to his barn and bistro. His presentation includes a brief detour about the history of snails as a food staple; a look under the boards, where said snails rest and feed and grow; and an optimistic look into a future where alternative foods become main staples.
In addition to the snails, Gugumucks farm supplies his restaurant with fresh vegetables such as kale, beans and squash.
After the presentation, we head across the road to the bistro to find a table. We order Almdudler (an herbal lemonade for me), Sturm (fresh, super highly alcoholic red wine that’ll knock a hypo out for Hermi) and a bottle of Ottakringer (beer from Vienna for Wolfi) and peruse the menu.
Everything sounds intriguing but we need to see the dishes before we order so we go check out the kitchen to watch the chef prepare the dishes.
Chef Hansi is stirring the snail ragout, while his assistant lines snail pans with freshly prepared critters and tops them with garlic-and-herb butter. One table over, snail and bacon kebobs and snail sausages are browning on the grill.
Gugumuck’s Bistro is a popular place most of the time. The real proof of this happens during snail fest, with only snail on the menu.
Our food arrives and I, too, am in heaven: pastinak snail soup with a slice of filo roll, snail ragout, snail bratwurst with a pretzel, and snail on balsamic onion.
My all time (and only) childhood favorite: snail au gratin in the pan with garlic butter and slices of french bread.
Everything was absolutely delicious. My favorite? I’m not sure, the au gratin and the sausage? No wait, snail on balsamic onion? So delicious. But the feast doesn’t have to end. Wolfi and I went to order a glass of Gruner Veltliner to buy a jar of snail-and-potato gulasch (stew) to take home and share with Steve. We see a mountain of white chocolate covered snails and Wolfi gets some for all of us to try.
Hermi and Wolfi nibble on their dessert, I’m not yet convinced and just play with it. A savory snail dish sounds just dandy but snail desert??
A snail is a Schnecke is an escargot is … lot’s of things to lot’s of people just usually not covered in chocolate. Which is how I was about to taste this one.
Everyone is happy, life music is going on, the weather is holding up. It’s been a glorious day and I’d like to stay happy so I procrastinate some more by walking around and taking pictures.
And I’m staring at my final critter bite:
My usual thinking, when facing a questionable task is to just get it over with so I stuff the snail truffle in my mouth and start chewing. Not my thing!!
That’s it. The event isn’t over, a kids area has been set up and the next generation is getting snail trained. I’m done, though.
Overall, it’s been a great day and a fantastic experience. And I will partake in more snail dishes as long as their the savory kind. A grill out is planned for later on. Gugumuck puts snail-in-shells on grating to be grilled. A future snail farmer in the making is watching the preparations.
I take pictures of the wildflower garden, while Wolfi gets the car.
I discover corn flowers, daisies, marigolds, and …
…an old well, ancient mile marker stones, and one last snail garden ornament.
And then we’re off. Back to the city. Back home.