Cookie of the year
My friend Daphne and I had some lunch with our pastries at Franz’s Backstube.
We started with Backstube’s signature cookie: When I form a circle with my thumb and index finger, I create the circumference of the small, good thing. A half-inch tall shortbread-like wafer made up the base with a dollop of raspberry jam. Encircling the jam was a mousse-like, sweet, creamy substance. All of this was enclosed in chocolate. Top this off with a macaroon and violà! This delight looked like a castle tower. The blend of textures and all that fat and sugar made for a wonderful petit-mort in the mouth.
Next we sampled the traditional Austrian cookie, which was made with the same shortbread as the base of the castle-tower signature cookie. This crescent-shaped cookie, made of butter, vanilla extract, sugar, flour, vanilla bean, ground almonds and confectioners’ sugar, is two sides pressed together with a layer of apricot jam. Both ends of the crescent are then dipped in chocolate. The shortbread was some of the mildest I’ve ever had; in other words, it was not so heavy I had to take a nap right after I ate it. The textures of this cookie were really great—another petit-mort.
We ogled more pastries but decided to eat some real food. We split two single-serving quiches ($3.50 each), one mushroom-spinach and one Lorraine. Both were perfectly shaped from 4-inch ramekin dishes, about 1-inch deep and ever-so-pretty. The pastry crust had a nice consistency and was plenty buttery. The vegetable quiche was loaded with spinach, which was good.
At one point, Daphne said earnestly, “Everything’s better with bacon,” as she ate the Lorraine. I agreed wholeheartedly, and upon reflection realized that not many dishes combine bacon and cream together with a dash of nutmeg.
For some reason, we both thought there should have been Swiss cheese in the wee quiche. I think in some convoluted way, the fact that we were in an Austrian Backstube eating a dish from the Lorraine region of France (very close to the German border), and German is the language of Austria and the Swiss, and Austrian Alps are one in the same … well, we just wished there’d been cheese.
Finally, we split a bowl of perfectly paprika-ed goulash soup ($4.75). Apparently, the Austrian aspect of the soup is that it’s thinner than, say, Hungarian goulash stew. We could taste the high quality beef broth, and the chunks of cooked-just-right beef were perfect. Like a good Mexican mole, this goulash soup tasted like it had 25 different ingredients, with layers upon layers of complexity.
The interior design of the Backstube is a cross between a cozy cottage and an IKEA catalog. From the ultra-modern cobalt blue lights, square tables and geometric cushions in the high-gloss wood and brushed-steel chair frames to the ceramic teapots lined up on the baking rack, the dried, colored wheat swags on the walls and the frameless pictures of Austrian scenes, it’s quite a combination.
By the way, Backstube is German for "baking room," not "back step" as I guessed.