A few years ago I stumbled upon a magazine article about Hotel Copernicus in Kraków. Just two things from the article have stuck in my mind: the hotel's Medieval origins and a wonderful view of the Wawel Castle stretching from the roof terrace. The hotel is often visited by celebrities staying in Kraków (including my favourite actor, Benedict Cumberbatch) but because I'm definitely not a celebrity, the only thing I could do was to stroll along quaint Kanonicza street and wonder what's hidden behind this impressive Gothic facade.
However to my great surprise and delight, a few weeks ago I received an email inviting me for “snacks” and a press conference with a famous Austrian chef Simon Taxacher, which was going to take place in the Hotel Copernicus itself. As you can guess, I couldn't miss such an opportunity. :)
The meeting took place on the 17 October 2014 as part of the prestigious Gourmet Relais & Châteaux Festival, whose highlight was a seven-course dinner prepared by Simon Taxacher, an acclaimed chef (awarded numerous prizes, including 2 Michelin stars) and the owner of an Alpine hotel and restaurant Rosengarten in Tyrol, Austria.
Here are a few interesting facts that caught my attention during the conversation around a solid, wooden table in the hotel restaurant.
- Simon Taxacher combines regional products from Tyrol with ingredients from other countries so that his cuisine is both local and varied
- he pays a lot of attention to not only the look and structure of his dishes, but also the tableware on which they're served
- because he usually works up to 16 hours a day in his restaurant, at home he prepares only simple, quick dishes
- he values team-work and thinks highly of his co-workers
- even though he's pleased with the awards and praises, he always cooks to please his clients, not critics
The “snacks” mentioned in the invitation email were actually three of the seven dishes from the menu prepared for the festival dinner. The food was not only delicious but also beautifully served. Some dishes looked like little pieces of art. Sommelier Andreas Katona matched the food with Austrian wines. And this is what we had a chance to eat:
Beetroots (old variety), sea-buckthorn, cottage cheese
According to Mr Taxacher, the beetroots are grown in a traditional way in Tyrol. They were served with mountain cottage cheese, sea-buckthorn and beetroot juice meringue. All the ingredients created a perfect blend of flavours but I especially liked the delicious, creamy cottage cheese made by the chef and his team from Alpine cow milk. The beetroots were served with 2012 Grüner Veltliner wine with a spicy, black pepper flavour.
Veal cheek, date malt, Jerusalem artichoke
Apparently beef cheek meat is a relatively rare restaurant dish as it's often used for veterinary inspections. That's why the chef has to cooperate with a vet who won't destroy the meat structure during the check-up. I can't say anything about the veal cheek as I don't eat meat but Ada from blog Pora coś zjeść praised its taste and tenderness. In the meantime, I happily nibbled at the date sauce and all the titbits served with the meat, especially Jerusalem artichoke – a traditional but now forgotten vegetable which is slowly coming back into culinary fashion. Even though I'm not a great fan of red wine, I fell in love with 2009 pinot noir from a small Austrian vineyard. It was definitely one of the best wines I've ever tried.
Garden - plums, nitro-chocolate, gin and tonic
For dessert, we had nitro-chocolate, in other words chocolate foamed with liquid nitrogen and tasting like something between chocolate mousse and ice cream. It was served with a delicious plum sauce, gin and tonic mousse and fresh clovers. The pink dessert wine Rosenmuskateller had a pleasant rose flavour but was a tad too sweet for my liking.
The whole meeting passed off in a pleasant atmosphere. I left the hotel with new culinary experiences, new acquaintances and a box filled with delicious things from Tyrol (including my favourite elderberry syrup). Finally, I discovered what's hidden behind the Gothic facade of the Hotel Copernicus and I must admit reality exceeded my (already high) expectations.
PS. I would like to thank the owners and staff of Hotel Copernicus for their invitation, professional organization of the meeting and a warm welcome. Special thanks to Simon Taxacher and his whole team for preparing all the delicious dishes and for sharing with us his culinary expertise. It was a great pleasure to meet you all. :)
Address: Hotel Copernicus, Kanonicza 16, Kraków (Old Town)
Address: Hotel Restauracja Spa Rosengarten,
Aschauerstrasse 46, 6365 Kirchberg, Tyrol, Austria
Gourmet Relais & Châteaux Festival: www.gourmetfestival.pl