James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

R&K Insider: The Alps, Porn, and Pudding

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Happy Friday, nomads.

This is Alexa, from the R&K bureau in Vienna. During a heat-wave in central Europe last summer, I decided to go on a road trip through Austria and write about it. I set off on three separate long drives across the country, from west to east, exploring Austria’s weird and wonderful experiments with beer, whisky, and wine.

For me, this was more than just an assignment. It was also a chance to revisit the landscape of my youth. I left Austria to study in the UK when I was 17. I had been to some of these places before. Anyone who went to school in Austria has memories of countless school trips around the country’s mountainous heartland, hiking, doing geography busy-work such as measuring depths of glacial rivers or counting birds, and donning oversized yellow slickers and being shepherded into salt caves near Salzburg. During my trip, I revisited Hallstatt—an unbearably pretty salt-mining town so Instagrammable that it has been replicated in China. (In response to the hordes of selfie-stick-brandishing visitors, the town has instated a—cheerfully ignored—ban on drones, because so many tourists were using them for dramatic aerial shots and accidentally flying them into residents’ bedrooms.)

I also got to do new things, like drive around (and swim in) the Attersee, a lake a shade of turquoise-blue so profoundly, ridiculously beautiful that Gustav Klimt not only painted it several times but also spent his summers on its shores. I also got to do the High Alpine Road, which traverses some of the country’s highest mountains, and came away mostly with a strong desire to buy a motorbike and do it properly.

I started out by sampling a beer spa in Tirol, close to the Italian border. I also ate a lot ofSchlutzkrapfen (which is basically ravioli, but you can see why the Italian term for the dish is the one that caught on globally.) I met people who distill single malt whisky inside a glacier near Salzburg. And I visited a young winemaker in the Kamptal, about an hour west of Vienna. Not included for space reasons: the special gated chamber in their 14th-century wine cellar (see photo below) where they keep some bottles from the 1950s, which the family successfully hid from the wine-raiding Russian soldiers during the Russian occupation of eastern Austria. The couple that owns the vineyard has also saved a rare wine from the 1930s, which they had planned to drink at their wedding, but on the day they sensibly decided they were already too drunk to appreciate it.

Please visit and taste the wines—they are a lot better in situ. And now, anti-freeze-free.Prost.

We’re also really, um, excited to bring you the latest in our Dispatched series of long reads curated by Anthony Bourdain for which writer Mitch Moxley enrolled himself in an erotic film school in San Francisco that trains the next generation of dirty moviemakers. The result (in addition to producing a porno called Make America Cum Again) is a rich piece with a personal look inside amateur porn schools, where students are making trans-friendly, Trump-bashing pornography—a form of resistance in the age of Trump.

We hope you also enjoy this piece on the battle rap gods of the Middle East, by Alexandra Talty, a correspondent (and battle rap spectator) in Beirut. Come for the politics, stay for the sick burns. Also from Beirut, Zahra Hankir’s sumptuous piece on the labor-intensive but delicious rice- and tahini pudding, mfata’a, and the family keeping the arduous sweet-making tradition alive.

That’s all from me. Anup will be back here next Friday.

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