The Goose of 2022

With lockdowns having become – hopefully for a very long time – a thing of the past, 2022 was supposed to have a back-to-normal Martinigansl season. However, a few weeks before its start, worrying news began to spread: one about a possible shortage of geese and the other about upcoming huge price increases. Apparently, the rising energy costs that were drawing supermarket prices up throughout the year had a particularly devastating effect on the goose market.

Fortunately, these threats came true only partially. A few restaurants indeed finished serving Gansl earlier than usual – as early as right after St. Martin’s day on 11 November. On the other hand, it was not a big problem to find a restaurant with a goose later on, even in December. The price increase was extremely noticeable in Vienna but much less striking outside the capital’s borders. Some of it can even be attributed to the “organic goose” trend that started in 2021. Even last year, a Weidegans would cost nearly 30 euros. In 2022, I saw many more of them on the menus with very similar prices. Can it be that five years ago we were eating organic geese without paying a premium, but now restaurants have realized that they can charge extra for adding a trendy word to the dish’s name?

As for me, I ate 15 portions this season, and it was a very mixed bag. A few offers were exceptionally good, and I almost regret that I did not stop immediately afterwards. As the season dragged on, the geese got progressively worse, and I was surprised by how shamefully bad a few of them were.

I was not too surprised by Waldgrill Cobenzl, however. Two years ago it was already the winner of the “PooGoo” (poor goose) anti-award, and this year the restaurant seemed determined to repeat that feat. Well, it succeeded; the goose of Waldgrill was just as ghastly as I had remembered it, but now much more expensive. I was more disappointed with Römerzeche in Burgenland, which I had visited many times in the past. To be honest, its geese had never been especially good, but this year the quality truly reached the bottom.

Talking about positive surprises, Sperling im Augarten’s goose, served to my colleagues and me on St. Martin’s day, turned out much better than I had expected. A restaurant of such an ambience and location could probably afford some sloppiness in geese, but gratefully it did not. A different example is Lindbergh, a small and rather simple restaurant whose location in the 14th Viennese district is absolutely unremarkable, which nevertheless served a fantastic goose, the third best of all.

The top two geese I ate this season were at Klein Steiermark in Vienna and Oleander Romantik-Heuriger in Trausdorf near Eisenstadt. Both places were well known to me – the former excelling in grilled dishes and the latter offering a freshly cooked “family goose” for four people. Up until yesterday, when I put all the ratings into a spreadsheet and applied my tried and tested formula, I was sure Oleander would come out as the winner. Frankly speaking, its goose tasted better, which could be anticipated for a prepared-just-for-you dish. The cold arithmetic, however, decided differently, and Klein Steiermark managed to beat the Heuriger by a single point. Its first place is well deserved, however. While Oleander served me a nearly identical dish to the one in 2019, including less-than-perfect cabbage, Klein Steiermark has managed to improve its last year’s goose on almost all fronts.

Still, if you think you can only manage two portions of goose during a season, I recommend you visit both Klein Steiermark and Oleander. The ways they prepare geese are quite different and both are worth experiencing. Even better would be to find some space in your stomach for a third portion and go to Schiefer Giebel in Vienna’s 19th district. I have stopped reviewing and rating the Gansl of this little gem after running out of the words of praise. Always freshly prepared, it has some similarities to the goose of Oleander, but remains in a league of its own.

My Instagram page has not gained a lot of popularity last year, but there are still some strange people who visit it and like my goose pictures. In 2022, most likes went to the geese of Heidingers Gasthaus and Handwerk Restaurant, both very worthy places.

As usual, Brettljause awards are coming up in a few days. Stay tuned!


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