In the shade of an old linden tree
How a snack station on the Rettenbachalm became an inn where the beef soup simmers for four days on the wood-burning stove and the innkeeper always hosts friends.
"Look," says Florian, plucking greenery from the reawakened spring meadow near the edge of the forest, "that's wild chervil." And then he is pleased after the survived winter really like a snow king that it around his inn on the Rettenbachalm above Bad Ischl finally blooms again so properly and thrives, because one is the Florian already quite particularly important: "It must be regional, because you taste it and so you want to have it. And if then the wild herbs and spices and other plants usable in the kitchen grow quasi directly before the entry door, then it hardly goes more regional."
Florian Simmer, born in 1988, reopened the former snack station on this so-called Niederalm in the heart of the former hunting grounds of Emperor Franz Joseph I on September 28, 2019 as the Rettenbachalm Inn.
"And word has spread quite quickly that there is suddenly more than bread and bacon and cheese or sour sausage up here at 640 meters above sea level." There is absolutely nothing wrong with bread and bacon and cheese or sausage, quite the contrary, but when someone suddenly starts cooking up here who, during his almost 15-year career in the kitchen - excluding his apprenticeship at the Hotel Goldener Ochs in Bad Ischl - has already worked at the Steirereck on the Pogusch, for a good two years at the Landhaus Bacher in Mautern or for just as long at the Döllerer in Golling, then it not only sounds very promising, it really is.
The goulash from the alpine ox, for example, gives great pleasure, "and who knows, maybe I've already personally scared off this cow in front of the fence in front of my inn," says Florian and laughs. Regional. Just as the cheese comes from the farm store, which is used as a sauce to refine the ravioli that is still produced in the night after the kitchen closes. "The beauty of my job is that you never stop learning and I can incorporate my creativity into my own creations. You're always reinventing yourself, at least a little bit." Of course, the classic dish is Kaiserschmarrn, which is truly a sensation.
Throughout his professional life, Florian cherished the desire to be self-employed one day. And so it was fortunate that one day the owner of the snack station parted company with his tenant. "I was in Bad Goisern at the Goiserer Mühle at the time when I was recommended to apply for up there. And the owner and I hit it off right away," Florian says, recalling his last and also first day on the job. "It was a Sunday, I was still cooking at the mill, then I said goodbye and went up the mountain in the evening to clean. It looked pretty awful there. The dirt was centimeters high."
So then he cleaned. Quasi for a week continuously, and in parallel he has pre-cooked, and then he has opened the following Saturday on the Alm, where no electricity flows from anywhere, but photovoltaic systems adorn the roofs not necessarily, but economically and environmentally friendly provide the necessary energy. The main stove is powered by gas. "Here I have settled down and become happy," enthuses Florian, who, together with his girlfriend Doris and their three children, lives down in Bad Ischl, but climbs the mountain in his car every day at dawn. "And every day I'm delighted anew when I drive up this almost six-kilometer-long gravel road through the gorge to my little kingdom and see the old linden tree in front of the house from afar, which provides a little shade in the summer."
Well, the realm is not quite so small, fifty guests have space inside, eighty in the - because of the cattle - fenced garden. And at the peak season in the warm season it plays itself already quite. "But even in winter, when the house doesn't get a single ray of sunshine for about two months, there's a lot going on, because we have a nice cross-country ski trail here, and snowshoe hikers and ski tourers also like to come, especially since the road is always cleared," says Florian, and then shows the heart of his kitchen, the wood-burning oven, "without which nothing works at all," and on which the beef soup simmers away for four days before it's served with the finest Kaspressknödeln or frittatas.
And on Sunday there's fresh roast pork. Of course, from said oven. "What I want to offer is upscale inn cuisine with exclusively regional ingredients," says Florian later over a small beer on the terrace with a view to the left toward Styria and the last corner of the Loser, as well as the good hundred cattle from six different farmers that roam freely here just as numerous goats. In addition, there are some untamed and not quite so run lazy Noriker.
Catching crabs by hand
"And back there," Florian says, pointing in the direction I mentioned, "that's where the Rettenbach flows, which has brook trout and trout and also crayfish. I catch the crayfish by hand before I prepare them." On the wall of the house, tomatoes, peppers and chili peppers climb up the trellis, while cucumbers and other vegetables grow in the bed next to them. Many things are also dried or pickled for the often long winter - mushrooms found in the fall, for example, or the quail eggs from the Stögner family in Bad Ischl.
Florian has really got it right, he knows that, and he says so again and again. He is also a sociable guy who, time permitting, also likes to sit down with his guests and have a glass of wine with them.
"Because guests are friends with me."
TEXT: Achim Schneyder PHOTOS: Gregor Kuntscher / ASA12
Text & photos have been published in Servus Salzkammergut Magazine 2022.
Rettenbach 74, 4820 Bad Ischl
Tel.: 06132/236 31