Saving the world one snail at a time

Slow and steady wins the race is my mantra as I retrace my steps through the streets of Vienna, lost again en route to dinner with Vienna's most famous snail farmer.

It's just a short walk said the hotel concierge and there was plenty of time for a casual twilight stroll through the streets of this city.  When asked about dangerous areas to avoid there was a shocked, laughable response.  "Don't worry, Vienna is a very safe city."

Safe or not, when the instructions don't add up and the phone GPS won't help, it's time to ask a local so I'm standing in front of another hotel help desk with yet another map and more directions.

Wishing there were walking shoes rather than my cute black flats on my tired feet, I finally arrive at the understated entrance of Konstantin Filippou.  I've been promised a special dinner menu at this Michelin-stared restaurant and I'm expecting snails to feature.  

Snail farmer Andreas Gugumuck is excited when he arrives at Konstantin Filippou straight from a Slow Food Movement conference. He announces I can look forward to a five-course degustation dinner with four snail courses.

I have to confess I'm both excited and terrified by the prospect.  Excited because this is new ground and bound to be a taste sensation; terrified because I know how my partner feels about snails and I assured him he could have a different menu that doesn't seem to be available. "Disgusting, slimy-like-snot creatures" are the words he uses to describe snails.

Andreas Gugumuck owns and runs Vienna's largest snail farm. He exports snails, snail caviar and snail-liver all over the world and also sells locally to Austrian gourmet restaurants. His snails are grown in fields and feed on cultivated in breeding plots filled with sunflower, beet, canola and  herbs such as thyme and fennel.
When the bread arrives with house-churned butter it's a good start and at least something that K2 will enjoy.

As the dishes roll out it's clear that the meal is going to be a challenge for a non-snail lover.  There dishes where the snails look like snails and dishes where it's hard to tell where the snail starts and ends. Snail caviar sits like little balls on top of emulsions.  The flavours are astounding and the presentation perfect.  It's a dinner I'll dream about later.

The conversation is equally as stimulating as Andreas explains what it's like to be a snail farmer in Vienna and how snails are the perfect sustainable food.

When we leave and stumble our way back to the hotel, The Guesthouse Vienna,  I'm excited by the experience and surprised by K2's ability to make the best of a  challenging meal.

"Wasn't that fabulous!" I say to him. "Great company and a wonderful meal."

"You've got to be kidding," he says. "You owe me double time for eating those snails."

Moral of the story is never play poker with K2.

Konstantin Filippou Dominikanerbastei 17, 1010 Vienna, +43 )1 512 22 29

Disclaimer: .Ed+bK stayed in Vienna as a guest of The Guesthouse and Vienna Tourist Board.

Kerry Heaney