The joy of living – so good you can taste it!
In Carinthia, on the sunny southern side of the Alps, our motto has always been to relax and enjoy life. Our Carinthian Alps-Adriatic cuisine also promises any amount of good things, with fresh ingredients harvested locally in season, longstanding cooking traditions and new interpretations merging into a delicious regional style.
Wine, cider and schnapps are similarly “homemade” in Carinthia. In 2015 this southern province focuses on its characteristic culinary diversity, with fish as a special feature of the regional menu.
Influenced by the eating cultures of three countries – Carinthia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Slovenia – Carinthia makes a point of using seasonal and local products to create delicious dishes. As you would expect of a truly authentic cuisine, it is both the different regions and the changing seasons that colour the interesting range of the Alps-Adriatic style. Good taste crosses all borders! Anyone venturing into the neighbouring countries of Italy and Slovenia will constantly encounter dishes that are “related” to Carinthian specialities. Carinthian Käsnudel (pasta pockets with curd cheese) are served as ravioli in their Italian variant, while Slovenian Pohaca and Friulian Gubana are reminiscent of the Carinthian Reindling, a yeast-raised cake filled with raisins, cinnamon and sugar.
One of the many examples of a very special seasonal Carinthian delicacy is asparagus from the Lavant Valley. This is cut by hand from the beginning of April onwards, and can be obtained not only at the weekly markets but also direct from the farm. Our local restaurateurs also use Lavant Valley asparagus to create magnificent dishes. Another example of seasonal Carinthian cuisine is autumn game specialities from the local forests – above all, venison. Game from the Metznitz Valley is particularly highly prized.
Closely associated with the agricultural flow of the seasons are Carinthia’s church traditions, which have left their mark on the regional cuisine. At Easter, for example, there is a special cold Easter meal with ham and horseradish and Reindling cake; for the church festivals there is a special saffron-yellow soup, the Kirchtagssuppe; and around St Martin’s Day, crispy goose reared on Carinthia’s organic farms.
Definitely full of flavour and enjoyed at any time of the year are Carinthian Käsnudel, a traditional dish of pasta pockets with a potato and curd cheese filling which acquires its distinctive flavour from flavourings of chervil and mint. The filling varies according to the region and the recipe, which is often handed down from one generation to the next.
Culinary festivals and markets
You can sample our local cuisine at any of our friendly eating establishments, the range of which varies from farmhouse taverns to rustic inns to hip lakeside eateries and award-winning food “temples”. In addition, throughout the year culinary festivals are held at which those who appreciate good food will encounter our famous Carinthian hospitality and friendliness. The highlights include the fish festival in Feld am See (www.fischfest.at), the “Küchenkult” festival in Villach (www.kuechenkult.at) and the “Tafeln” festival by Lake Millstätter See and on the Alpe-Adria-Trail. In addition, there are culinary events taking place in many regions of Carinthia in the autumn. You are also sure to have plenty of memorable encounters at the weekly Carinthian farmers’ markets, where as a bonus to the delicious products on offer you will often be given advice from the producer on how to prepare them.
“Genussland Kärnten”, the gourmet’s paradise
Anyone sampling Carinthia’s Alps-Adriatic cuisine will not be surprised to hear that between the Lesach Valley and the Lavant Valley there are 13 “Genussregionen” (indulgence regions) focusing on regional culinary specialities of the very highest quality. The umbrella brand “Genussland Kärnten” brings together 13 products which are grown, matured and processed in accordance with clearly defined criteria. The range extends from Gail Valley ham and Nockberge meadow beef to Jauntaler Hadn (buckwheat) and Lavant Valley apple wine. A very special culinary delicacy is Glockner lamb, which has a particularly fine flavour of Alpine herbs as a result of the sheep grazing at up to 3000 metres above sea level. Another speciality is “Kärntna Låxn” (lake trout), which can only be farmed and processed at four selected operations in Upper Carinthia. The lengthy maturing period of this lake trout in our clear, cool mountain waters guarantees flesh of optimum quality. The popular fish festival in Feld am See takes place this year on 5 July.
Wine, cider and Swiss pine schnapps have a long tradition
Carinthia’s answer to the Italian frizzante is Lavant Valley apple wine, produced from fine old apple varieties with names like “Bohnapfel”, “Lavanttaler Banane” and “Schmidberger”. The knowledge of how to process these apples into cider and schnapps is passed on from generation to generation. The Zogglhof farm in St. Paul in the Lavant Valley has become a “competence centre” for processing the fruit and also a quality assurance institution.
Wine production in Carinthia has a tradition that goes back over 1000 years. There have been periods when wine production flourished and the wines were distributed far and wide, and other periods when wine growing almost died out. In the last fifteen years wine growing in Carinthia has been on the rise again, with the area planted with vines increasing from four hectares to over 100. Over this short period of time just a small number of wine enthusiasts has grown to over 120 vintners. Many of them produce wine as a hobby, but there are already a number of professional wine producing operations, the biggest of which is currently being established at the ruined castle of Taggenbrunn in St. Veit. Because of the exposed position of the slopes, the vineyards of Chateau Taggenbrunn can be seen from a considerable distance.
In 2014 a total of 170,000 bottles were produced in Carinthia, and this figure is expected to rise to 750,000 by 2020. The main focus remains the production of quality wines. In Carinthia, up to 80% of the wine produced is white. The main varieties are Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.
The traditional Carinthian “snack” of tasty ham, sausage, liver sausage and curd cheese is usually finished off with a “digestif”. Particularly popular are the fine schnapps varieties that are produced in Carinthia. If you try the traditional “Zirbenschnaps”, you are getting a schnapps whose slightly resiny flavour comes from the cones of a special variety of pine tree. The well known Gurktaler Alpenkräuter is also a genuine product of Carinthia and is made according to an old recipe using herbs for which a special dedication ceremony is carried out every year in August in Gurk Cathedral.
Bread as world heritage
The art of baking Lesach Valley bread is perhaps 10,000 years old. The processing method from the raw grain to the finished loaf has remained unchanged for centuries, and in 2010 was actually placed under the protection of UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.
Food and drink guide “Kostproben”, the new 200-page plus guide to Carinthia’s Alps-Adriatic cuisine, is available at info@kärnten.at