All the world's a stage for this European nation-even its cakes are sweet show-offs.
Mon Oct 19 2009
The Austrian Cultural Forum
Austria’s national day is Monday 26, and even though there are only about 5,000 of its citizens living in New York City, the boroughs are way more Austrian than you might think. New York owes much of its Jewish culture to migrs of the Habsburg empire, which brought bagels and Freud to the city. And dbut de sicle New York is something like a reincarnation of fin de sicle Vienna—the magnetic multicultural capital of a fraying empire.
Explore Austrian art
There’s no better place to connect with turn-of-the-20th-century Vienna than the Neue Galerie, (1048 Fifth Ave at 86th St; 212-628-6200, neuegalerie.org; $15, seniors and students $10), which showcases work by Austrian artists like Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. The museum’s bookstore boasts a full range of titles by writers like Joseph Roth and Arthur Schnitzler; plus, the design shop carries reproductions of Biedermeier, Wiener Werksttte and Bauhaus furnishings and gifts. Prices can be authentically decadent, but if you have some crafting skills, just a yard of a bold Josef Hoffmann textile can yield pillows to make your sofa positively aristocratic.
The Austrian Cultural Forum (11 E 52nd St between Fifth and Madison Aves; 212-319-5300, acfny.org) promotes the country’s continuing devotion to the avant-garde. Its 2002 building, designed by Austrian-born New Yorker Raimund Abraham, looks like a 24-story-tall, 25-foot-wide Easter Island head from the future. You can see the architect’s ingenious use of the skinny lot when you attend one of the forum’s cultural offerings (which are always free). Through Tuesday 27, the “sound:frame:remix” exhibition features video “visualizations” of electronic music selected from Vienna’s sound:frame festival.
Experience Austrian culture
Music has long been Austria’s marquee high-culture export. The nation has nurtured classical heavyweights such as Mozart, Haydn and Mahler—who directed the New York Philharmonic from 1909 to 1911—as well as challenging composers like Schoenberg and Webern. At the Neue Galerie’s Caf Sabarsky cabaret series, an appearance by Marta Eggerth on Nov 5 (9pm, $110) is a precious chance to catch a piece of musical history in the flesh. Eggerth began her career as a child star of Vienna’s operetta scene before she started appearing in films in the 1930s. She’s been in showbiz for 86 of her 97 years and still has the girlish voice and frisky banter of a younger performer.
Chamber group Hugo Wolf Quartett was granted permission to use the 19th-century composer’s name when it formed in 1993; the players link Austria’s deep musical traditions with its contemporary passion for experimentation and jazz. Catch the group on Monday 26 at (Le) Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker St between Sullivan and Thompson Sts; 212-505-3474, lepoissonrouge.com; 7:30pm, $15), where it will mix Schubert and Mendelssohn with contemporary Austrian composer Johannes Maria Staud and jazz works by Kenny Wheeler.
Learn about Vienna’s elaborate caf life at a “Coffeehouse Culture” discussion December 4 at the Austrian Cultural Forum (6:30pm, free; reservations required), featuring Michael Idov, whose recent novel, Ground Up, is a knowing satire of a couple’s doomed attempt to open an Austrian-style caf on the Lower East Side, and Frederic Morton, author of the renowned study of fin de sicle Vienna, A Nervous Splendor.
Eat like an Austrian
Onetime imperial confectionary shop Demel (1 W 58th St at Fifth Ave; 212-572-0989, demel.at) opened a New York branch in the Plaza Hotel last year, offering a glossy range of traditional specialties like Marmorgugelhupf (a marbled cake, $3.50), and whipped-cream-enhanced coffee drinks like Einspnner (espresso under a tower of cream, $4.95). The two dozen varieties of cakes and pastries are as gorgeous and delicious as those enshrined in the original Demel’s spectacular windows, on Vienna’s ritzy Kohlmarkt.
Israeli-born Austrian artist Zipora Fried speaks highly of country-style kndel,, Austria’s ubiquitous dumplings. “There are over 100 kinds of kndel—each region has its own specialty,” she notes, from plump liver or semolina dumplings for soups and goulashes to sweet versions for dessert. She’ll be serving them at Kinski (128 Rivington St between Essex and Norfolk Sts, 646-270-9733), a kndel eatery opening on the Lower East Side in early November.
Also in the neighborhood, Caf Katja (79 Orchard St between Broome and Grand Sts; 212-219-9545, cafe-katja.com) comprehensively represents Austrian tavern life, with beers ($4, $6 or $11 for a one-liter stein) such as Styria’s Gsser Mrzen; more than a dozen kinds of schnapps ($6 and up), including delicate apricot; and auslese dessert wines ($8--$9).
Although most Austrians speak German, Austrian sign language is distinct and uses a different vocabulary than German sign language.
Austrian Joseph Hardtmuth patented the first method for manufacturing graphite-based pencil lead in 1790, and his Koh-I-Noor company introduced the familiar yellow pencil.
The Pez candy company is based in Traun, Austria. It began selling the compressed mints in 1926—the name’s letters are taken from the German word for peppermint, pfefferminz.
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