Wine and dine the executive Austrian way
By Agnes Yu
An executive suite, an executive director, an account executive _ the title “executive” denotes distinction. It assures you of a certain standard or a guaranteed level of quality or service. Stefan Moerth, the executive chef at the Grand Hyatt Seoul, exemplified this in a special evening themed “A Taste of Austria” on April 26 with attention paid to every mouthful.
Since Chef Moerth is from Austria, there was undeniable authenticity in the menu selection. He greeted the guests individually and two enthusiastic women came dressed in traditional dirndl and snippets of German could be overheard in the stately and elegant lounge.
Also on hand that evening was Joel Payne, a wine journalist and expert on alpine wines. Payne shared his knowledge about the region and the finest Austrian wines that are not yet even available in the country during the dinner.
According to Payne, Austrian wines are the best kept secret in Europe and many are organic. His short intermittent speeches introducing the particular traits of each of the wines paired with each course provided not only light entertainment but further enjoyment of the meal.
As each course was served, conversation lulled and murmurs of “sehr gut” (very good) echoed around the table.
One of them was from Julia Goettlinger who just moved to Seoul earlier this year from Vienna. She said, “It is hard to say what the most memorable part was because the evening was really wonderful, nice people, delicious food and lovely wine! If I have to pick one course I would say that the fish course with the asparagus combined with the Gruner Veltliner and Riesling was my favorite as it reminded me of cozy spring evenings along the Danube River with friends!”
The flawless combination of wine and food was certainly executive class. After postings mainly in Asia in a career that spans more than two decades, Moerth has been the executive chef at the Grand Hyatt Seoul for just under two years. He said, “My specialty is European cuisine. I trained in numerous restaurants and hotels in Austria, Germany and Spain before moving to Asia 13 years ago.”
Often shadowed by Germany and stereotyped by musical references, Austria is actually among the richest countries in the world and as Payne commented, the varietals are bit difficult to pronounce, but they are delightful to drink.