I visited Ramsau at the end of September a couple of times, and it was firmly in the shutting-down mood: many hotels were not available, the huts’ opening times were sporadic, and most hiking buses had already stopped their operation. At the end of October, Ramsau is all but asleep: despite the sunny (though chilly) weather, the number of tourists has decreased to the minimum, the marmots are in hibernation and most of the restaurants and hotels as well, and the only bus left is the one travelling between Schladming and the lower station of the Dachstein cable car.
Walking around the Rittisberg mountain is a lonesome experience, with only a few other hikers sharing the path. In fact, I was not at all sure that Sonnenhof, one of several huts on Rittisberg was open, despite all the assurances on its website. I was therefore quite surprised when upon opening the door I found the hut full of drinking and dancing people and a few musicians entertaining them. The reason became clear when I noticed a parked tourist bus on my way back and read the Sonnenhof’s website more carefully: the restaurant is specializing in organizing group and company events, and the celebrating crowd came from far away, possibly from the city of Leoben.
Still, there was a spare table and no problem at all getting a Brettljause and a few beers to wash it down. A decent Brettljause it was, too – not pretending to be a super-authentic one, but quite on par with the average Jausen of the area (which is quite an achievement). Variety-wise, it did not particularly impress: the Schmalz and the Liptauer shared the wooden plank only with the slices of Speck and cheese and a few small pieces of a hard sausage. It was only later that I discovered that the Speck was of two sorts, one slightly fatter than the other. The cheese was clearly the weakest link, having no taste and possibly coming out of a supermarket. Honestly, the Specks could have come from a supermarket as well, but their quality was good enough to make me almost sure that local farmers were involved. The Liptauer and the Schmalz were great, on the other hand (the Schmalz would have benefited from a bit of extra salt), and made the dish for me. Just be aware of the small green (or red) pepper that you find alongside the other ingredients: it’s hot. I mean, really deadly dragon-like type of hot. If you repeat the stupid thing that I’ve done and chew the whole thing at once, make sure there is a bit of Schmalz left. It’s the only remedy against the burning mouth and uncontrollable hiccups; not even the good quality complimentary Schnapps helps.
Don’t go to Sonnenalm expecting a lovingly produced Brettljause made out of self-made ingredients. It’s not a farm; it’s an event-organizing business, albeit a very friendly, authentic and enjoyable one. However, if the weather is good and you feel like having a nice time getting drunk and eating reasonably well, Sonnenalm is perfect.