That best bite of Vienna…
That Käsekrainer sausage with hot mustard and beer at a random Würstelstand near Stephansplatz after walking around, desperately trying to take in all of the sites the city has to offer in the single hour we had between our return from Semmering ski station and our dinner with friends in another part of town.
It was cold and dark, and we were starving. We were also frustrated because every street we walk down seemed lined with Zara’s, Mango’s, Desigual’s and H&M’s. Nothing seemed authentic and we already knew that we were in the wrong part of town, that we had taken the wrong exit from the metro station and stumbled into the cosmopolitan, retail-crusted glitz and glam instead of the polished and romantically backlit relics of the Hapsburg empire. It sucked.
But we only had one hour and were keen on at least getting a beer somewhere, so we stopped at the nearest sausage stand and after quickly surveying the menu and the four different shapes and colors of sausage rolling on the grill, I told the guy, “Ein Käsekrainer, zwei bier,” hoping that my choice would be the juicy looking reddish dog on the grill. In fluent English the dude asked if I wanted it by itself or as a hot dog, gesturing toward some thick looking loaves of baguette-like bread. I wanted to really taste the thing, instead of losing it in a pillow of fluffy dough, so I asked for it on its own. I selected mustard from the choice of ketchup or mustard and dark bread on the side. He took the sausage (the red one, indeed), sliced it into easy-to-share pieces and handed it to me on a paper plate.
A welcome surprise was the creamy yellow cheese oozing forth from inside the blistered tube of meat. Each piece was heavenly – sizzling hot and salty, with incredibly crispy, tight skin that snapped when bitten into, and then the luscious and creamy mess of perfectly melted cheese flooding the mouth. The mustard on the side was great too, adding a heat and tang in flavor that matched the sausage perfectly. Don’t order ketchup with this thing. That’s a mistake.
After doing some research on the Käsekrainer I learned that it’s actually a pretty tricky sausage to prepare, as it needs to be grilled at a very low or medium heat to avoid the exterior burning while the cheese inside stays stiff and cold. Care must also be taken not to cut or poke the thing while it cooks, so that the melting cheese doesn’t spritz out and cause a mess.
After a fruitless attempt to get to know the capital of what was once a mighty Empire in under one hour, we sat on a bench near the stand, picking at our cheese sausage, drinking fizzy cool half-liter bottles of Gösser and smoking a cigarette, well deserved after a day of skiing. It was cheap, quick and a perfect moment in Vienna.