Vienna’s Sacher Torte and a Window into Culinary Memory

Mmm. Sacher Torte
My own sachertore experience was not at the Hotel Sacher, but it was equally memorable.
I did not eat a sachertorte at Vienna’s Hotel Sacher where it was invented (see my previous post). It was not a sign of protest, but of convenience.  And it was equally as memorable.  After taking a tour of Schönbrunn Palace, walking the grounds in search of the Palm House, we were beckoned by a little Tea Garden, tucked away, along the path to the zoo.  We decided after scaling the hill (and quite a hill it was) for a view over the Palace grounds (and into Vienna), we would reward ourselves here with a sacher torte.
In the outdoor garden restaurant Landtmann’s Parkcafé, the service was the unhurried nonchalance that Vienna cafes are known for.  After we sat, we felt we had done something wrong, for servers puttered about, folding napkins or clearing tea sets off nearby tables.  This gave me extra time to read and re-read the menu, to look at the little pictures of the pastries, and to try to remember how to order sacher torte with whipped cream in German (as if I would fool someone).  Nobody seemed interested in serving us, but it did not matter. All that mattered was that when the server arrived, he could become Gepetto and turn the perfectly pictured sacher torte on the menu magically to life on the table.

After climbing to this vantage point, I deserved a sachertorte

I ordered the sacher torte with whipped cream.  (As a side note, you should always accept whipped cream when offered.  Even if you are on a diet, do not skip the whipped cream.  It is ok to pass up the Steak n’ Shake milk shake, but it is not ok to order it without whipped cream, as if those extra 100 calories are the reason you need to diet in the first place.)
When the plate arrived, it was in nearly equal proportions of cake and whipped cream, reminding me of my days at my grandmother’s house when I would try to cover my pumpkin pie slice entirely in whipped cream until no orange shone through.
The torte itself was tasty.  I could taste the cocoa, and the whisper of apricot jam somewhere in there.  The icing was rich and chocolaty and every dry bite (for this is a notoriously dry cake) was enhanced by a forkful of whipped cream.  The sacher torte was fine, but it was not dreamy.  No angels landed.  I did not channel Rachael Ray (“MMM!  MMM!”), but it was a mighty tasty cake.  It probably cost too much, even here in the tea garden of the emperor’s palace, but that does not matter.
When I am back home and I spy a sacher torte in a pastry case, I will remember this.  I will remember Herr Daniel, the Austrian of Asian descent, who served me, nattied up in a bow tie.  I will remember the pot of fruit tea.  I will remember this Viennese garden, this moment in time when I was younger than I am now.  I will remember the Hapsburgs and the gardens.  And I will remember why it is so important to travel.
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