C Janine Wieland at the Alpensteakhaus restaurant in Brand © Angela Lamprecht / Vorarlberg Tourismus
The mountains around the village of Brand are covered by cloud. Even for 9 o’clock in the morning it’s a bit cool here in the middle of summer, which makes the warm greeting from Janine feel extra heartfelt. Dressed in a white jacket with a scarf tied around her short hair, Janine Wieland of the Alpensteakhaus restaurant serves her guests coffee, tea and croissants at this early hour.
White hydrangeas and orange gerbera daisies provide a welcome flush of colour in the winter garden, whilst silver candlesticks and decorative glasses adorn the smooth oak table. The look and feel of this space was curated by Janine’s mother, Annette. One quickly senses that hospitality is her true passion. She and her husband Martin have been in business for the past twelve years. Their daughter Janine joined the team in 2018.
“Ever since I was little, I spent all my time at the restaurant. I enjoyed the entire experience, even the stress,” recalls Janine. Here she also discovered her love for pâtisserie at an early age along with her passion for craftsmanship. After apprenticeships in the Arlberg region and in Spain, the creation of desserts and pastries has allowed her to express her professional creativity. When it comes to cuisine, however, she admittedly still prefers meat to sweet. “Although, when I go out to eat, I always have a dessert. Just to see what others are up to,” she admits.
Janine Wieland is also happy to allow visitors to peak over her shoulders as she works. Today, she lets guests in on the secret of her take on panna cotta. She expertly mixes fresh cream with a syrup made from pine-tips and soft pine needles. She bring the mixture to a boil. Setting the pot aside to cool, she explains, “To make the syrup, you have to layer the sugar and the pine-tips several times in a jar with a screw-on top and then let it sit in the sun for three to four weeks. Then you boil it up and bottle it.” These simple steps sound doable even for amateur cooks.
Making people happy
Janine Wieland received her first award from Gault&Millau at the age of 24. “The toque from Gault&Millau truly validates what I do on a day-to-day basis. Preparing great food is the reason I get out of bed every day,” she emphasises. There’s nothing she’d rather do. Learning new things is what drives the young chef. What she loves about her job is the chance to “make people happy each and every day.” At some stage, she would be open to passing on her skills and secrets. “I find the prospect of training an apprentice really appealing.” According to Janine, she personally learned the most from her dad, a person that she gets along with extremely well. “We barely talk to each other and yet everything is well coordinated.” If it weren’t, working together would hardly be possible otherwise: The small kitchen offers just enough space for the two of them.
Having just hit her mid-20s, Janine feels as if she has truly arrived on the scene. “I still have some wanderlust, but this is my home and I will always come back,” she says assuredly. After all, her home is a beautiful, peaceful place and nature is just at her doorstep. In wintertime, Janine enjoys spending her free time skiing or snowboarding on the powder snow covered slopes of the Brandnertal valley. In the warmer months, she also enjoys walking or hiking. Along the way, she collects several ingredients for her dishes. “An elderberry tree, wild strawberries, blueberries and various different herbs are all located within just a few metres radius.”
Ground ivy, lady’s bedstraw and clover
Janine places a spoonful of homemade berry compote at the centre of her panna cotta, which has already become firm. She then adds three small dollops of crumble and a few dabs of lemon thyme gel. Several bunches of herbs from her latest walk around the neighbourhood rest upon the countertop. Janine carefully plucks off the individual flowers and leaves to garnish the dish. “Ground ivy, lady’s bedstraw and clover,” she says. “Daisies are good for the soul.” Later on at the tasting, this thought will put a smile upon the faces of her guests. “When it comes to my desserts, it’s important to me that they are not overly sweet and that all the ingredients really come together in the mouth.” Closing one’s eyes to take a bite, it’s easy to taste what she means.
As the regional representative of the “Euro-Toques” association, Janine stands for natural foods and therefore relies on ingredients sourced from the region. “Brandner Almochsen,” cattle from the local pastures in Brand, are just one example. The Wieland family and Lothar Schedler from the Hotel Sarotla formed this beef brand together with farmer Martin Bitschi. “We know every cow and we use every part of the animal,” she explains. Regulars at the Alpensteakhaus restaurant appreciate the reliably high quality of the meat dishes served, which Martin Wieland only seasons with salt and pepper. Depending on the season, fresh herbs are sometimes added and there are various vegetables and side dishes to choose from. The vegetables are sourced from markets in Bludenz or Feldkirch or from various local farmers. Berries come from the Winderhof farm in Dornbirn. The “Ninos Ländlefisch” from Frastanz, which provides fresh fish, is another of the restaurant’s reliable suppliers.
To fully enjoy your delicious dinner at the Alpensteakhaus, Martin Wieland recommends planning in two hours. Such advice is hard to argue with. After a delicious juicy steak, Janine’s desserts are not to be missed. For an unforgettable dining experience, the restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday. They are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.