Hi there my name is Ali Strauss and I am the owner and operator of Grazing Haus. Grazing Haus was born from a combination of passion and heritage. I am one of the unicorn locals, born and raised here in South West Florida (Fort Myers to be exact), but I also was fortunate enough to grow up influenced heavily by my Austrian background. Every Summer I would visit my grandparents, in the small town of Sankt Nikolai I/S, Austria. It was there where I learned the importance of hard work, and the difference that quality food can make.
A little bit about my grandparents:
My Grandfather Josef Strauss began his butcher career at 14, training as an apprentice for one of the top schools at that time. It was there he learned how to care for, respect, and give final purpose to the pigs and cows of his farm. He met my Oma, Erika, when he was just 16. They fell in love and decided to venture out of the town and over the mountain to another village, Sankt Nikolai.
There was just 1 business available for lease - a small single home, that also doubled as a deli. After attaining a business loan, they made an offer on the house and began to work their farmland where they grew corn and wheat. These crops fed the pigs they bred and raised to eventually turn into the products that they have now been making for the last 70 years.
Josef and Erika had no idea that their small family business would turn into a household name. Today their products bring people in from all over Austria, and even from the surrounding countries of Germany, Italy, and Slovenia.
Growing Up half Austrian:
Like I said earlier, I am so grateful for having the opportunity to grow up in Austria during the Summer. I was able to learn German, and experience what it truly means to run a family business and to grow a company from your own 2 hands. Some of my favorite memories growing up were helping my Oma along side my sister in the deli. We would hate the smell and scrunch our noses, but now as an adult I will cherish that smell for the rest of my life.
Margaret and I would try to help our Oma as much as we could in the Deli, slicing the meat, counting change, wrapping and bagging, or just sometimes smiling and talking to the customers. If we weren't there, we were in the Gasthaus, brewing coffee, learning how to pour the perfect beer, and drinking way too much free-flowing fanta!
Jousen - cultural eating:
It makes sense that since the deli and the Gasthaus were all of 10 steps from each other (the same building), that we would serve our Strauss cold cuts to those that were passing through town on a bike ride, or on their way to go take a hike. Customers would stop in for a late morning or early evening snack, asking for a light meal called a jousen.
*jousen (yow-zen) is a dialect term used in the Steiermark (southern region of Austria), this word is roughly translated to mean light eating, cold cuts, cheese, bread, usually enjoyed over a bottle of wine*
Jousen is a less formal type of graze, but is the foundation of a graze nevertheless. Charcuterie, cheese, spreads, bread, nuts, and of course wine! Eating this way is the normal for European culture. Large lunches are typical, and dinners are usually a much lighter fare. Unlike in the US where we plan family dinners in the evening, kids are sent home for lunch in Europe to enjoy the large family meal together.
Could you imagine going home and eating lunch with your mom and dad who also were home from work? It's amazing the cultural differences, and I love them all.
Not only is Nikolai in a region of grazing, but it is also nestled in the heart of the "Austrian Tuscany". Surrounded by vineyards, this region is the epitome of grazing and sipping. Local favorite wineries include Buschenschank Strauss, Pichler Schober, and Winzerhaus Kogelberg.
The grapes came from the Roman's hundreds of years ago when they took over the land. Local varietals include Sauvignon Blanc, Welschriesling, Grauburgunder, Gelber Muskateller,Zweigelt, & Chardonnay. Most wine in this region is a dry white wine. The rieslings are not your typical sweet! Have you ever tried an Austrian wine?