The Third Man: Vienna Beyond Schnitzel

Orson Wells in The Third Man

A Dinner that would make Orson Wells smile...

Set in post-World War II Vienna, The Third Man teaches us that to really understand "reality" we have to set aside old notions, and look beyond surfaces. It was with The Third Man that I set out to create The Movie Chef.

Originally, looking for typical Viennese fare, I set out on a mission to find the best wiener schnitzel and spätzle recipes. But, then I realized these were too easy choices - related to Vienna, but not to the shadowy suspense of The Third Man.

I went looking for something more esoteric, less well known outside Vienna; a dinner that Orson Wells or his character, Harry Lyme, might have enjoyed. A taste of the real Vienna, not an Epcot Center version of it.

Tafelspitz...Gesundheit !

What I found was Tafelspitz, a dinner that sounds like you sneezed.

Tafelspitz is, broadly speaking, a gastronomic gestalt - a dinner that by tradition is made up of more than the sum of its parts. It is a canvas that you will complete by eating, by bringing together the main course and its many side dishes. It is surprising. It is deep. It is foreign. And, it has a wonderfully funny name. What more could you ask? Except, perhaps, to know that in Vienna, to this day, Tafelspitz is a most elegant occasion for dining; there are many restaurants there dedicated to this delicacy.

If it sounds like I'm building this meal up, like I might give the description of a blind date, well...I am. Why does such a marvelous meal require such hype? Perhaps it is because the individual components of the meal are not not, in and of themselves, that mouthwatering.

So, let's be blunt. Strictly speaking Tafelspitz is boiled beef and vegetables served with a white sauce, applesauce spiked with horseradish, creamed spinach, & potato hash. But, if you take the journey with me, if you make this wonderful meal and serve all of its parts while watching The Third Man, you and your guests will be transported to a different continent, a different time.

There is a moment in The Third Man, one of the most perfect moments in movie history, when Orson Well steps out of the shadows and smiles. It is the smile of a rogue. It is the smile I imagine he might have made had he heard we were making Tafelspitz!

Our Dinner...

TafelspitzYour butcher probably won't know what you're asking for if you say give me a five pound Tafelspitz. We'll substitute a thick brisket or bottom round roast. Here you can see the meat surrounded by all the side dishes.
The BrothA first course is the delicious (and twice strained) vegetable-beef broth the meat has cooked in.
Each person gets a couple of thick slices of Tafelspitz. It will be deliciously tender having cooked 3+ hours!
Applesauce with horseradishThe homemade applesauce with horseradish zest gives the meal sweet and sour notes.
The white sauce, also eaten with the meat, is a mixture of egg-oil-bread and other flavorings.
The crispy potato-onion hash gives strong, darker tones to the meal.
The Viennese version of Creamed Spinach has no cream! It is made with a flour, milk and onion base.
The vegetables that cook with beef are also served with the meat.
Together, the meal is a symphony fit for the musical city of Vienna.

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