Brettljause Awards 2020

Just a few days ago, I wrote about the positive effect the lockdown had on the goose offerings. As restaurants were forced to close their doors and operate only in delivery or takeaway modes, many of them stopped pre-cooking geese and keeping them in the fridge for days, but instead began to prepare them fresh just on time for the pick-up.

For Brettljausen, on the other hand, the effect of the COVID restrictions was deadly. First, cold cuts are not a good candidate for takeaway food. Anyone with a knife and a bit of creativity can cut themselves a reasonably good Brettljause out of supermarket-bought ingredients. In fact, this is exactly what I was doing in March and April, and the results were quite impressive. (Obviously, I will never rate my self-made Brettljausen on this site, but if you are interested, visit Facebook or Instagram to see the pictures.) Moreover, in the weeks following the first lockdown, Brettljausen became noticeably smaller, less varied and generally less exciting than before the pandemic. Clearly, restaurants were not sure how many people would actually visit them, so did not want to invest into lots of quality ingredients. The situation improved somewhat by the second half of summer, but then the second lockdown in autumn killed the whole business for good.

Still, in the time available, I managed to try 43 Brettljausen (self-made not included), which is 31% down from the 2019’s figure, but still quite OK considering the circumstances. In August, I finally reached Vorarlberg, and its Jausen left a generally positive impression, although I expected the cheese to be stronger. I also explored the Hochkönig area, which had long been in my plans, as well as spent a few days in the East Tyrol. Maybe the excitement of being able to escape isolation played a role, but most of the Brettljausen I rated earned an above-average score, the mean rating being 6.1 compared to the last year’s 5.9.

Although no Brettljause was truly groundbreaking (so the top fives remain largely the same), there were quite a few highlights, which made a positive difference to the uninspiring mediocracy of 2019. The bronze Brettl award for the third place goes to the Theodor Körner-Hütte, which I visited while spending a weekend in Gosau, and which exceeded my expectations for its variety and quality of the ingredients. The view from the hut’s terrace was very nice, too. Hochmaisalm in the Hochkönig area of Salzburg earns the silver Brettl for serving me a great Brettljause despite the fact that I was the restaurant’s only customer (and extremely wet as well). On the other end of the Hochkönig massiv, I found the best Brettljause of 2020: the Mitterfeldalm provided me with one of the tastiest cheeses ever and a view that must be seen to be believed.

Mitterfeldalm wins in all the subcategories except two. For the authenticity, it was beaten by the beautiful Brettljause at the TOM Almhütte in Maria Alm, which is one of the coolest modern huts in Austria. If you feel stingy, Buschenschank Schulter near Leibnitz in Southern Styria provides a good value for money.

With the pictures of all the Brettljausen getting posted on Instagram, they inevitably start accumulating likes. Although it would be stupid to consider the number of likes an objective measure of the dishes’ quality (it is more a measure of my photographic talent, or rather lack thereof), you might be interested to know that the tiny Molterau-Hüttn (again from the Hochkönig region) came out as the Instagram winner in 2020.

Finally, the worst Brettljause was served to me, a bit surprisingly, in Vorarlberg, at the Gasthaus Stern in the town of Bludenz. It had some nice Speck in it, but everything else was rudimentary.

Let’s just hope that the COVID disaster will calm down in 2021; otherwise, I will have nothing to write here in one year’s time.

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