The winter holiday season in Alta Badia, in the heart of the Dolomites, is not only about jumping on your skis and whizzing down slopes. It is also all about the food, and haute cuisine at that, plus the world renowned Alto Adige wines of the region. Lynsey Hall reports.
I had headed to Alta Badia – and its cluster of the six picturesque villages of Corvara, Colfosco, La Villa, San Cassiano, Badia and La Val – which adorn the Alta Badia valley that nestles between Venice and Innsbruck for some early season skiing and some sensational food.
The Dolomiti Superski area serves up 1200 km of piste with 510 lifts across 12 valleys, all covered by a single lift pass. At its heart is the spectacular 26km Sella Ronda ski circuit linking four different valleys (including Alta Badia) with 500km of piste around the Sella Mountain. With most of the skiing above 2000m, and snow-making machines covering 90% of the pistes, snow conditions stay reliable from opening to the end of the season in April.
A Gourmet Skisafari
Jumping on the Piz Sorega bubble, it transported us to the top of the mountain where we donned snow shoes enabling us to pass from hut to hut in search of ancient Italian culinary traditions, as well as participating in the third Gourmet Skisafari featuring five Michelin-starred chefs.
Whilst we were there for the Gourmet Skisafari held at five of the mountain huts, all winter visitors will be able to try these five dishes, as well as nine more, at the 14 participating huts during the winter season. The dishes prepared by the starred chefs will be served at the huts until 12 April for approximately €14 including a glass of wine.
Classic dishes that tell a story
The dishes are all great classics hailing from the culinary tradition of the Bel Paese, and have been reinterpreted especially for the occasion. The dishes offer a peek into the stories of the region, connected to the produce of the land, their producers and, of course, the chefs very own personal stories. They speak about the different Italian regions, of their traits and their traditions behind the stove, in a journey which spans from north to south, west to east.
All dishes will be paired with two wines: one selected by the chef himself and another by local sommeliers from the South Tyrol favourites and chosen to complement the food.
Star studded dishes
One of the first local hosts was Norbert Niederkofler, St Hubertus Restaurant, Relais & Chateaux Hotel Rosa Alpina in Alta Badia (two Michelin stars). For the very first time he was cooking at the Col Alt hut delighting visitors with ‘sweetcorn cream and braised lamb shank, onion salad and finely chopped parsley. When enquiring about why he chose to make this dish he said; “I chose lamb because it’s typical in this area. And because it reminds me of my childhood: we only used to eat meat once a week: either a roast meal, braised or in the oven”.
At the Piz Arlara hut one Michelin star Matteo Metullio, from the La Siriola Restaurant, Hotel Ciasa Salares in the Alta Badia Valley, prepared a dish from his region of Friuli Venezia Giulia by reinterpreting a version of a ‘jota’ a traditional bean broth from Trieste, using potato chips, sauerkraut, Speck oil and lemon shrimp tartar.
The other Michelin starred Alta Badia chef, Nicola Laera, works at the La Stüa de Michil at la Perla Hotel, Alta Badi,. He has created a parboiled organic beef carpaccio recipe, accompanied by a turnip and parsley cream, artichokes in olive oil and rye bread wafer. The organic beef comes from Otto Pitscheider’s herd, Otto is also the owner of the Bamby Hut where the chef was cooking during the event.
Amongst the other guest chefs we met Claudio Sadler, the president of Le Soste, an association reuniting the crème de la crème of Italian starred chefs working in Italy and abroad. The I Tablá hut hosted the chef from the Sadler Restaurant in Milano (two Michelin stars) where he produced a cod escalope cooked in Prosecco with dried olives and Storo polenta, a melting pot of the Veneto and Trentino cooking traditions and ingredients.
My favourite dish of the day, and my final hut, was visiting Giancarlo Morelli, from the Pomiroeu Restaurant in Seregno (Monza) one Michelin star, at the Bioch hut where he served us a buckwheat tortellino with bitto soft cheese, organic potatoes, slightly smoked white onion fondue and crunchy chanterelles.
A cooking style still in progress
Matteo Metullio is Italy’s youngest chef to receive the honour receiving his award at the age of 24, for his work at La Siriola Restaurant at Hotel Ciasa Salares. For a young chef who says his cooking style is still ‘in progress’, it’s clear he has a bright future ahead of him.
Following a full ski day, we joined Matteo and his team back in his kitchen to witness a remarkable demonstration of skill and creativity as he prepared the main elements of his tasting menu. He shared his vision and inspiration with us as he worked – a man in complete control in his own environment, the tools of his trade, and his imaginative palate.
When did you become interested in cooking, has it always been part of your life, we wanted to know. He replied that cooking has been a part of his life ever since he was a young boy. In his household, they always used fresh, organic produce from nearby gardens and farms. His mother always took great care when choosing fresh ingredients such as meat and fish, but very importantly, she knew how to cook them properly. It had always been part of his life; ever since he took his first steps his parents and even grandparents had educated him in the importance of good food.
A Lounge with a view
For a last hoorah we visited the new Rifugio Piz Boè. The Alpine Lounge is found at 3,151m above the Alta Badia valley. We were whisked to heights on the Col Alto ski lift bubble to find an Alpine Lounge which has been built entirely with natural yet simple materials, such as wood and locally sourced Dolomite stone, giving the building a very natural exterior and interior look.
Its high standard of energy saving technology ensures that the building respects the mountain environment. The 40 seat Gourmet restaurant was modern, yet warm, and the Lounge Bar was furnished with comfortable armchairs and a central wooden stove. The bar itself is very modern and extends 20m connecting the interior with the large terrace area.
A huge 34m window afforded stunning panoramic views across all of Alta Badia to the six villages below. We took full advantage of it. It was a perfect place in which to relax and enjoy a glass or two of Sauvignon Wasser Er Hof whilst reminiscing about a day on the slopes and haute cuisine in mountain huts.
Alta Badia : www.altabadia.org