Czech it out: 2 eats in Brno's Christmas Market that will Tease your tastebuds by Those Fancy Gems

Oh christmas markets - probably the best things while travelling in Europe in winter. Christmas markets are aplenty. As long as there some sort of a square, there will be a christmas market. What makes a good christmas market to me? Other than food choices, its also about the little trinkets, decorations, and not forgetting the cherrie on top of the pie, the christmas tree that sets the whole ambience in place!

Let's take a moment to enjoy this beauty of all carbohydrates.........

........... lovingly made by this chef guy here on an open charcoal stove. 

This is our favourite christmas market snack - Trdelník! I know, once again it one of those hard words to pronounce as an english speaker. Pronounced as Treh-del-nik, this bread/ bun/ pastry fusion-esque snack is one of the best things we've had in all christmas markets that we'll NEVER forget!

Why is so awesome?

It tastes good, smells good, it warms your face on a cold winter's day, and acts as both a main and dessert and keeps you full and comes with a small price tag. That fluffy, crunchy, sweet taste is irresistible, interestingly looking like a chimney, it is roasted over an open fire and is intringing to look at how its made. 

Traditionally a Slovak cake pastry, Trdelník's true origins was from a Hungarian speaking area in Transylvania, Romania. It's production is quite common amongst neighbouring countries like Poland, Hungary, Austria, Romania, Slovakia and more, fashioning different names (chimney cake, hungarian twister, Prügelkrapfen, Baumkuchen, Sękacz, Kürtőskalács,  Cozonac secuiesc, Šakotis, Spettekaka, Skalický trdelník, Makara) and slight variations in which they are made. One thing kept in common however, is the way the dough is wrapped around a cylindrical rod, roasted over fire. What a complicated history it had. 

The Slovak version, Skalický trdelník, is registered under the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) by the European Union. This scheme is like the food version of UNESCO World heritage, and helps to protect and promote the names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs. I hope the traditional way of making this cake pastry lives on for a long time. 

Another must-eat we recommend is actually of Spanish origins - Churros! Churros had definitely infiltrated many dessert shops, selling this deep friend sticks of dough with chocolate dip.

What makes this version sold at the Christmas Market in Brno so special is that there are sweet and savoury options. The savoury one caught our eyes because churros are usually coated with cinnamon sugar or served with a chocolate dip. The savoury one, however, is coated with what seemed like garlic salt and tasted just like chips. It was a refreshing twist to the usual flavour and was also made to order. Extremely freshly made and piping hot when served, hence crispy and flavourful. Pair it with a cup of your favourite mulled wine and it would be perfecto... We could not get enough!

What other snacks would you recommend us to try when visiting a Christmas Market? 

A slice of Salzburg to try - Mozart Balls by Those Fancy Gems

It is hard to unlink Mozart from Salzburg, as this city is the birth place of the famed child prodigy. He also lived for quite a number of years in this Salt Fortress. Mozart had definitely been used as a marketing tool to attract some 8 million visitors yearly, from all over the world to drop by to discover Salzburg's charm. 

We spotted many souvenir shops in the old town, Alter Markt, which were selling these chocolate balls with mozart’s face printed on their red aluminium packaging. What exactly was it? 

These Mozartkugeln, or rather Mozart balls (it seems more fun to say it this way ;) ), was first created by Paul Fürst, a confectionary, in 1890, and was named after Mozart. They are quite small and the main ingredients consists of marzipan, nougat and dark chocolate. The original Mozartkugel can be found at Cafe Fürst and 3 other specialty stores in Salzburg, while many other companies and manufacturers have various other similar recipes. Such other brand names are Mirabell and Reber, which you can find in absolutely every other souvenir shop littered on the streets of the old town. 

We decided to check out the original Fürst cafe, which the first Mozartkugel was made, located at Alter Markt branch. It is in the heart of the old town and features a nice Austrian kaffeehaus setting.

Unsure about the taste and also the hefty price for a single ball, we decided once again to share just 1 ball first. We also had some tea to warm ourselves up as well as a strawberry cake to share. 

Indeed, the original Mozartkugel does live up to its name of being the best. Since it is made of dark chocolate, the marzipan which I assumed to be extremely sweet, was in fact toned down by the dark chocolate. It was so great we decided to buy 3 more before leaving to take with us on the train to Hallstatt the next day.

After trying the original, we were really curious whether the Mirabell ones which we have seen everywhere tasted similar to Fürst's Mozart balls, or what was the difference. Curiosity killed the cat. We purchased a single ball by Mirabell from one of those souvenier shops and shared amongst ourselves. It was actually pretty good I must say, very different and much sweeter. But since we had both balls one after another and the taste was still fresh in our mouths, Cafe Fürst wins hands down due to it being not overly sweet. 

Other than Mozartkugelns, Cafe Fürst also sells a number of other truffles as well as traditional cakes. The Mozart balls could cost a little more than others, but I don't see why they can't be edible souveniers of Salzburg to take away for friends and family!

1 Mozartkugeln - €1,10

Café Konditorei Fürst - Alter Markt | Alter Markt, Brodgasse 13, 5020 Salzburg | Summer Opening: Mon-Sat 0800h - 2100, Sun 0900 - 2100 | Winter Opening: Mon-Sat 0800 - 2000, Sun 0900 - 2000

Other locations: Cafe Konditorei Fürst - MirabellplatzCafé Konditorei Fürst - RitzerbogenCafé Konditorei Fürst - Getreidegasse

Why you must try THE original Sacher torte at Cafe Sacher Wien by Those Fancy Gems

Doesn't the Sacher Torte just look so palatable?

My first impressions of the cake was that it looked way too chocolatey albeit palatable - the kind of thick chocolatey goodness that may be so thick it'd cause me to have a sore throat upon swallowing a mouthful. I have the tendency to link my thoughts to a sore throat whenever a certain dish seems thick, dry and gooey, just like the likes of thick ganache and peanut butter.

That aside, the torte itself fashioned an even coating of chocolate icing on it's exterior. It is in a nutshell, two layers of soft fluffy chocolate cake with apricot jam sandwiched in between. 

I had a first bite and I was blown away. I instantly knew why this torte is such a big hoo-haa!

It was that soft fluffiness despite it's looks (yes, never judge a book by it's cover!). Anything that looks too chocolatey also always seem like it'll be too sweet. Fortunately for me, it wasn't too sweet nor bland, and I thoroughly enjoyed it - accompanied by a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and a cup of tea, it was the perfect sweet ending. 

The Sacher torte (pronounced as Sacker) was created by Franz Sacher in the 1800s for the Prince Wenzel von Metternich in Vienna. It is served in Hotel Sacher in present day - the Hotel which was opened by Sacher's son Eduard, in 1876. This torte stayed the same way, made in the same way, since Eduard himself perfected his father's recipe. 

What makes the torte so special was arguably not the cake itself, but the chocolate icing. It was said that the chocolate used are three different chocolates, produced exclusively for the production of the Sacher Torte. It is amazing how much effort goes into this signature cake, and it is no wonder it is able to withstand the test of time, and still remain a Viennese specialty. 

Here is a little on our experience there, with nothing to do with the torte. 

It was an abrupt decision to visit Hotel Sacher cafe, to try out the Sacher Torte. It was yet another rainy evening (damn these winter temperament!). Many people were queueing to get in. Be prepared to wait for about 10-15 mins at the later hours of the evening, say about 8pm-ish, as everyone has had their dinner and are making their way to get desserts. Also, we were unaware of the tradition of having to put our coats in a coat room and having to pay for it - a little bit of a culture shock there because it seemed like a compulsory thing to do even though we did not require such service. I later understood that perhaps our coat may dirty the seats, or wet them in this case, as we just came from the rain from the outside. 

We were already shocked from the fare from the coat room, what happened next was totally unexpected. 

Our cake and tea arrived and we were busy photographing it like typical Asians, feeling that tinge of excitement to give the torte a try. My sister felt a cold sensation on the underside of her thigh. No, she did not pee in her pants or anything like that. There was a gooey mess of yellow and blue on the seat - that of what seemed like the remnants of someone who did not know how to eat properly - and my sister had conveniently sat down on the exact spot without noticing it due to the fanciful fabric on the seat, and the juice or whatever moisture left it the cake seeped through her pants. Not nice. That was shock number 2. 

It was a frustrating moment for my sister to have her pants soiled with cake as we were backpacking and each only had 2 pair of pants (wear one bring one). The staff whom we approached to talk about this seemed a little flustered at the start, as the cafe was just packed with customers and he could not even stop to talk to us. Then came the manager who very kindly heard us out, though she looked doubtful at the start. She offered laundry services to us, but we were unable to accept her kind offer due to us leaving the next day. Instead, the bill was on the house, and also tons more apologies from herself. 

P/S: Of course I'm not writing this to inform others on ways to be able to get a free meal in the cafe. It is just one of those interesting experiences that we collected during our trip that I think was worth sharing.

Other than our interesting experience, I would have to say that the Sacher Torte is definitely worth a try. The interior is beautiful like all the other Viennese coffee house. It is highly raved but also highly loved and rated. My story is just a part of our experience; don't shy away from this cafe as it is THE place for Sacher Torte. They have other branches in other parts of Austria too (Innsbruck, Salzburg and Graz), but the one in Vienna is the birth place of this torte. So if your geographic location permits, go to this one!

Fun fact: The Sacher torte is so famous, it has its own day dedicated to it - 5 December.

Hotel Sacher (Sacher Cafe Wien) | Philharmonikerstraße No. 4, Innere Stadt, Vienna, Austria | Opens daily 0800-0000

Follow Min and Kiat to the most grand looking cafe ever: Vienna's Cafe Central by Those Fancy Gems

As I have mentioned before in our recent post - Highlights of Wien: 9 Things you should know about, cafe hopping in Vienna is very different, and the style of their cafes are an absolute delight. We did not know what to expect before visiting, but Kiat insisted that we should go (he is extremely willing to travel for food and coffee - check out his instagram account for more of his cafe and coffee adventures: @aweikiat), so we did. 

It is actually relatively easy to get there, because it is conveniently situated in the 1st district. 

Decorated with pretty lights on the outside, it is hard to miss it!

Upon stepping in, we were greeted with music coming from a pianist playing live in the center of the cafe. The interior consisted of high vaulted ceiling, arches with accent colours and details; the waiters were in traditional uniform and the cakes in display looks delish. Stepping into this cafe was like travelling back in time. It is hard to believe we were in the same place as some world's most influential leaders like Lenin and Hitler, and poets and writers alike. 

I think the hype of the cafe is due to it's extravagant interior and exterior. We had a couple of cakes and it was really tasty. If you are on a budget, it would be best to just have a cup of coffee or cake, just to experience the ambience, as the main courses can get a little pricey. 

We were there for quite a while as the pianist was just so good. Some songs that he played when we were there includes "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Habanera" from Bizet's opera "Carmen". 

Café Central | Herrengasse 14, 1010 Wien | Mon - Sat 0730-2200, Sun and Holidays 1000-200

Sunday morning in Vienna - Where you can get your breakfast & coffee fix by Those Fancy Gems

Sunday mornings in Vienna might be a little of a pain for tourists who are looking to explore the city. What is more difficult than finding things to do is looking for a place to fill one's stomach. Even if you are willing to just have a bun from a supermarket, you will still have to travel quite a fair bit before getting to one located near to a big U-bahn station. 

We got a little lucky on that fateful Sunday morning, lurking around our hostel's area (we stayed in Wombat's Hostel - Naschmrkt) in the early hours. Maybe we were being a little picky - as our hostel offered breakfast for just Euro 3.70. But it was our last day in Vienna, and we just wanted to have savour what the coffee houses in Vienna has in store for us one last time before leaving. 

Our feet miraculously brought us to Coffee&bread after what seemed like walking on forever and getting rejected by closed door and 'close' signages. When we spotted this cafe, we knew it was the one for us. It was well lit, with the fresh aroma of coffee beans and pastries seemingly pulling us in closer. We were greeted with very nice smiling faces. The whole menu was in German, so we could not understand but we tried to make it out anyway, and our difficulty got spotted by one of the staff. She was nice enough to explain to us what each thing on the menu was, even down to what herbs was contained in the dish. When we still did not understand what herb it was, she took the effort to go into the kitchen to take it out and showed it to us. So much happy vibes in the morn!

This third-wave-coffee cafe is definitely refreshing for people in Vienna, if they ever want a change from their typical coffee house. 

The food was simple yet delectable. Not much of a crowd on a Sunday morning but I would expect it to be pretty packed on weekdays, as it is situated near Naschmrkt and Karlsplatz. It is probably a favourite of university students of the nearby Vienna University of Technology especially with it's affordability. 

Coffee&bread | Operngasse 24, 1040 wien | Mon - Fri: 0700–1900, Sat: 0800–1700, Sun: 0800–1400