Who came first? The Kaiser (Emperor) or the Schmarrn (rubbish)?!
The word Kaiser (Emperor) in Kaiserschmarrn refers to Emperor Franz Joseph I – the husband of Empress “Sissi” – in the mid nineteenth century. There are many theories as to how the dish was created and how it got its name. The most believable describes how a chef tried to serve the Empress a dessert which she turned her nose up at. The Emperor responded with, "give me that ‘Schmarrn’ (rubbish), that our Leopold has cooked up again!". The Emperor liked the dish so much that it was henceforth named "Kaiserschmarrn". Another story claims that the chef messed up when cooking a pancake for the Emperor. In the kitchens everyone said it was ‘Schmarrn’ (rubbish/ nonsense) to serve the broken pancake to the Emperor, but the Emperor really liked it. Whist the exact origin of the name may no longer be known, it is impossible to imagine Austrian cuisine, especially in ski huts, without it. Certainly far more important is that Mayrhofen’s visitors know where to head to sample the best Kaiserschmarrn in the area. Read on for blogger Gesa’s reviews.
1. Gschösswandhaus: For Connoisseurs
All the more beautiful for its hidden location, is the Gschösswandhaus. Those who leave behind the busy pistes to make their way to this hut are rewarded with incredible tranquility and breathtaking views. This a place where that frequent holiday wish – that time would stand still – is realized. There is no music playing. Instead, guests enjoy the views of the mountain and watch the birds soaring past the cliff-top Gschösswand.
The Kaiserschmarrn served here is somewhat doughier and less sweet than some of the other Kaiserschmarrn I test, but it is topped with plenty of icing sugar. It is accompanied by apple puree, a sprinkle of cranberries and, on request, a delicious warm blueberry schnapps with cream. The warm, genuine conversation with the hut owners Christa and Gerhard and the homemade biscuits served with the coffee make a visit to the Gschösswandhaus a real experience.
Note: Hot food is only served until 3pm
Other popular dishes at the Gschösswandhaus: The spinach dumplings with butter and parmesan.
Directions: The Gschösswandhaus appears on the piste map somewhere below the pistes and lifts which made me a little anxious about finding it. I imagined myself fighting bravely like a knight through the forest to reach it. Rest assured, the way to the hut is not half as adventurous as this, although it is as picturesque as a fairytale. On arrival in front of the Penken lift, go behind the gondola station where you will find a drag lift. Follow the track at the top of the lift, leaving behind the busy pistes. Continue through the thick trees and, after just one bend, the picturesque Gschösswandhaus appears in front of you. To return to civilization, either walk, slightly uphill, for approximately ten minutes along the prepared path to the Penken station, or ski the track to the Penken Express chairlift in just two minutes. From there you can take either red 25,26 or 27 or blue 28 or 29.
Is overnight accommodation available? Groups and school classes can escape the busy valley and stay overnight in double rooms and dormitory accommodation.
The Gschösswandhaus in short:
View: 5 star deluxe
Ambience: 5 star (tranquility between heaven and earth)
Music: None, and therefore 5 star!
Kaiserschmarrn: 4 stars
2. Granatalm: For Hut Fanatics
Granatalm belonged to her grandfather in 1910. Back then, this hut on it’s sunny plateau had the reputation as one of the nicest in the Ziller Valley. Today visitors still enjoy hours relaxing in deckchairs in the sunshine outside the hut at 2095m. In the background, modern classics such as Michael Jackson and Daft punk create an upbeat mood without being intrusive. There’s something for everyone.
The Kaiserschmarrn at Granatalm is exactly to my taste and captures my heart with its traditional style. Nothing beats a good amount of cinnamon and sugar in a Kaiserschmarrn and at Christa’s these ingredients are added plentifully into the raw mixture. The dish also includes rum aroma and – just as there should be in a classic ski hut Kaiserschmarrn – raisins. It is served in traditional style (in a frying pan) with apple puree and cranberries on the side.
Other popular dishes at Granatalm: The meat specialties
Directions: Take the Nordhangbahn chairlift at the base of the Vans Penken Park and enjoy the amazing panoramic views when you arrive at the plateau. Alternatively, reach the hut with the Finkenberg gondola or the Katzenmoos chairlift. There are loads of possibilities of pistes to ski after your lunch stop: blue 52, 53, red 55, 47, 48, 49 or black 45.
Granatalm in short:
View: 4 stars
Ambience: 4 stars (comfortable and friendly)
Music: 5 stars (classics)
Kaiserschmarrn: 5 stars (traditional – the only one with raisins in the test)
3. Pilzbar: For Après-skiers
When skiing down the red 27, the Pilzbar can be seen from far away. Its name (‘mushroom bar’) is boldly represented by the bright colours of the umbrella bar: red with white spots. Its reputation in the resort is renowned; après-ski? Pilzbar! After all, its only a stone’s throw from the Penken gondola.
I can highly recommend the Pilzbar for those who prefer a more cake-like Kaiserschmarrn. The mixture is considerably thicker than the others in the test. It too is served with apple puree and cranberries. If you want to enjoy some music and party atmosphere, sit on the front terrace and watch the skiers arriving. If you prefer a quieter location, then head for the back terrace where you can watch the paragliders taking off.
Also popular at the Pilzbar: Après-ski.
Directions: The Pilzbar lies at the bottom of red pistes 26 and 27 and blue 28. Its the perfect place to end your ski day as the Penken gondola is just a short walk away to take après-skiers back to the valley.
Is overnight accommodation available? There are three holiday apartments above the Pilzbar at 1800m with breakfast and mountain views included.
The Pilzbar in short:
View: 3 stars
Ambience: 3 stars (après-ski)
Music: 3 stars (après-ski)
Kaiserschmarrn: 3 stars
4. Schneekarhütte: For Gourmets
Until I first visited the Schneekarhütte, it never seemed particularly impressive. Of course I noticed the hut with its two pyramids every time I took the chairlift up to my favourite piste – red 10 – but I always passed by. This was a fatal error, as I later discovered. In front of the two pyramids (where you can also enjoy a luxury overnight stay) is a traditional yet very modern hut where, in my opinion, you can enjoy the best Kaiserschmarrn in the ski area!
Now let’s talk about the ambience: visitors to the Schneekarhütte’s large terrace are greeted by modern, electronic music and, on clear days, spectacular views over the Ziller Valley Alps. Whilst lunch on the outside terrace tends to be a loud and busy affair, quieter corners can be found inside the hut or in the conservatory
Despite the traditional nature of the hut, as you enter you immediately sense that it is more refined than most mountain huts. The food being served looks high-quality and well-presented and I get excited by the prospect of the “caramelised Kaiserschmarrn” advertised on the menu. I have to wait a good 30 minutes for my Kaiserschmarrn to be served, but, when I hear the reason why, I am happy to wait: every portion of Kaiserschmarrn ordered at the Schneekarhütte is freshly prepared in its own pan! The kitchen even has a dedicated Kaiserschmarrn chef. Some would call this perfectionism, and the result is perfection: thin and light, moist but crisp and nice and sweet, served with apple puree, although without raisins. The recommended wine to accompany your Kaiserschmarrn is a dessert wine from the Tremmel vineyard.
Its been a long time since I ordered Kaiserschmarrn not just because it makes my ski holiday complete, but because it is truly the thing which appeals most to me on the menu. However, this is the case at the Schneekarhütte!
Also popular at the Schneerkarhütte: The wafer-thin Tarte Flambee
Is overnight accommodation available? Yes, you can enjoy an overnight stay far away from the après-ski and hustle bustle of the resort. From one of the loveliest viewpoints in the area, guests at the Schneekarhütte can wave goodbye to the crowds heading for the last gondolas back to the valley. An overnight stay includes a panorama sauna, gourmet breakfast buffet and five course gala menu.
Directions: Reach the hut via the Schneekar chairlift (or alternatively the Gerent or Unterbergalm chairlifts). The hut is at the top of red 10, blue 11 or black 12 as well as ski route 13.
The Schneekarhütte in short:
View: 5 stars
Ambience: 5 stars (refined yet welcoming)
Music: 4 stars (electronic)
Kaiserschmarrn: 5 stars (luxurious and special)
So, where can you find the best Kaiserschmarrn in the mountains around Mayrhofen?
My conclusion: The best gourmet Kaiserschmarrn can be eaten at the Schneekarhütte or Granatalm. However, if you’re looking for a fun atmosphere to accompany your lunch, then head to the Pilzbar. Alternatively, the Gschösswandhaus is the place to go if you want to enjoy your Kaiserschmarrn in peace and with exceptional mountain views.