Although most of the coronavirus-related restrictions have been lifted by now, the Austrian tourist industry is still struggling to get back to normal operations. German tourists do not seem to be in a hurry to come back, and now the rainy weather is scaring off the remaining Austrians. In the hotel where I am staying (which may very well be the only one open in the village), only a handful of guests are left, and the owner has decided to send all the staff home for a day, meaning that no dinner would be served. I actually welcomed that at first, because a Bosnian family-run restaurant in the village’s center where I had been enjoying my post-dinner drinks looked very good food-wide, but then I learned that that restaurant too would be closed for three days.
Which left me with no other choice but to find a really big Brettljause. The Hochmaisalm is located on a ski mountain slope just above the village, and according to the information I could find does not have a rest day on Mondays, so I’ve decided to take my chance. After a two-hour hike uphill under a pouring rain I finally reached the hut and not only was it open, but I was also its first and only customer.
With no other tasks to spread attention among, the cook could really concentrate on my Brettljause, and the result was highly impressive. (Actually, it would have probably been exactly the same had there been other customers, but it’s nice to realize that someone is spending time and effort just for you.) It is rarely that one sees so many different types of cheese and sausage on a single board, and when it’s also nicely arranged and decorated with bits of onion, radish, cucumber and paprika, one really feels that a lot of thought and skill went into this dish. (If you are appreciating the picture, please ignore the ugly smear of mustard on the foreground: that’s a result of my own clumsiness.)
It’s hard for me to single out any particular ingredient that I enjoyed most, though the rectangular shaped salami was the most unusual one. Rather, this Brettljause was a sampling board for many different bits and pieces, and I loved alternating among them, trying different combinations of meats, cheeses and vegetables. This is how a Brettljause should be, encouraging experiment and discovery rather than simply filling up one’s stomach (although that is important, too).
When I was about to finish, the owner got a phone call: some bad weather hikers like me were enquiring if the hut was open. Indeed, when I left, I saw a small group of hikers approaching. The Hochmaisalm may still make a bit of profit today. That would make me happy: such places should be cherished.