South Tyrol is definitely a land that I feel close, in a few kilometers there are many gourmet stages: every valley boasts its Michelin stars, almost that you could not get away from these steep lands until you had done a full tour. Or at least this is what I feel every time I arrive, I want to try and try again many deserving restaurants and discover the new stars that are added from year to year. Three years have passed since Norbert Niederkofler reached the peak of glory for a chef, the consecration of the third star, since then South Tyrol seems to live in perpetual gastronomic ferment, peaks of taste second only to the Dolomites that embrace these places. There are also many events taking place: in Dobbiaco the chef Chris Oberhammer of the restaurant Tilia (1 Michelin star) is the promoter of the Dolomiti Gourmet festival, culinary event that gathers famous chefs from all over Europe. “Cooking is done in its most original form”, explains Chris Oberhammer who promotes the meeting between the chefs and the most genuine Farmers in the area, where everything was cooked in its most original form on wood stoves and grills. Only 15 square kilometers for four Michelin stars: we are in Alta Badia where four stars have made this place a real attraction for fans, so much to be called “the gourmet valley”. Norbert Niederkofler with the Restaurant St. Hubertus (3 Michelin stars) and Nicola Laera with the Restaurant La Stüa de Michil (1 Michelin star). And Norbert Niederkofler was also the promoter of the “Cook the Mountain” philosophy that he put into play, sharing its strength with international chefs with the events of Care’s – the ethical chef’s days. “It all started when I began to wonder how mountain cuisine could contribute to the sustainable growth of the entire planet, how the chef could promote the protection of the territory in which we live and what the future of mountain food could be and not only” tells Niederkofler. “To find the answers I started from my roots and then listen to the current trends of rediscovery of the local, respect for biodiversity, spread of organic products and 0 km, the mentality of slow living following the seasonality. The objective immediately became clear: to rethink economic and social development by investigating the relationships between production, product, territory and consumption. The starting point of this change must be cuisine, understood as a “catalyst of cultural processes” for the spread of a model of sustainable development. From this point of view, the cook must assume the role of “emotional educator”, able to promote a new lifestyle”, he tells me with emotion. Another valley, other starred restaurants: in Val Gardena I can not miss the appointment with Mario Porcelli at the Alpenroyal Grand Hotel in Selva di Val Gardena (1 Michelin star) and the one with the chef Reimund Brunner at the Anna Stuben Hotel Gardena in Ortisei (1 Michelin star). Perhaps less known, but equally fascinating, the Val d’Ega, boasts a Michelin star with the chef Gregor Eschgfäller of the restaurant Astra. But why do I love South Tyrol so much? In addition to the restaurants, the region offers an endless choice of wine, with international and native vines. The secret is in an Alpine-Mediterranean climate, excellent soil quality and the enviable locations of the vineyards in addition to a ferment given by meticulous and diligent winemakers, and the commitment of far-sighted consortia and rich in ideas. The richness of the soil is immediately found in the glass: in South Tyrol there are 150 so-called mother rocks, which in time move and mix with the others; the result of this process is a significantly varied soil, that allows the growth of vines with extremely different characteristics. And even if these lands are famous for the whites, lately Schiava and Lagrein are being rediscovered, who live a second youth and, from “peasant’s” wine they are also making their way on the starry tables.
Space, of course, also the canederli often declined in three different variants: speck, cheese and spinach. They are served in broth or cooked in water and seasoned with hazelnut butter. There is also fresh long pasta such as tagliatelle and pappardelle, masterfully combined with fresh mushrooms or meat sauce game. Or a hot barley soup, ideal for warming up after the cold winter days. The absolute star of the main courses is surely the polenta, accompanied by trifolati mushrooms, melted cheeses and pastìn, a sausage with at the base a mixture of pork, beef and seasoned with salt and spices. Very present in the menu are also the famous unique dishes: hearty recipes perfect for those coming from a day of skiing or trekking. Also in this case there is plenty of game with delicious deer, roe deer and wild boar, accompanied with polenta or in some cases fresh pasta. The Ampezzo potatoes are a highly distinctive side dish, a preparation in which the tuber is first blanched and then sautéed in a pan with extra virgin olive oil, onion and speck. As a worthy conclusion to the lavish Dolomite lunch, you can not miss the flavored grappas to accompany desserts such as strudel, cream ice cream with warm raspberries and zopes, slices of stale bread battered with eggs, wine, grappa, sugar and fried in butter.