Never been a problem eat well in the Alps, we would say very well in some areas. Apart from Friuli and Piedmont – which do not have high altitude gastronomic peaks – in Val d'Aosta as in Lombardy, not to mention Trentino and Alto Adige, there are many great restaurants, mostly hosted by famous hotels, but also from modern boutique hotels. The province of Bolzano is a paradise in this sense, with a concentration of stars that only the coast of Campania and Lake Garda can boast: the supreme St. Hubertus by Norbert Niederkofler in San Cassiano, historic places such as the Stua di Michil by Nicola Laera in Corvara or recent 'macarons' such as the Apostelstube by Mathias Bachaman in Bressanone.
An ancient history
But the most delicious experience, for those who love peaks and good food, remains that of gourmet refuges: the altitude is obviously different, but the spirit is identical to that of the tables pieds dans l´eau, highly sought after in the summer. The pleasure of enjoying a good dish, looking at the snow-covered mountain (artificially, as it happens more and more often), improves the mood even more if you have arrived after a good skiing – while at dinner it is a classic to use snowcats – and there is a beautiful fireplace, a good cup to cheer you up. In Italy i first shelters were born towards the end of the nineteenth century with the beginning of mountaineering and hiking tourism: refreshment and hospitality points, where the travelers around the mountains could stop the night and enjoy a dinner, and a simple and hearty breakfast, suitable therefore to fight the cold and fatigue. With the growth of tourism, the shelters have multiplied, the proposal has diversified and some of them, especially those on the ski slopes, have turned into real hotel-restaurants.
Skiing with taste
Romance aside (almost everyone has their good site with info and booking system), there are shelters where the culinary and wine experience touches the starry one. So much so that the Alta Badia, Saturday 14 December, the official beginning of the winter culinary season is celebrated with the now classic ‘Gourmet Skisafarthe'. This is a delicious ski tour at an altitude of 2000 meters in the heart of the Dolomites where great chefs present their dishes (designed for the occasion) in nine shelters that are partners of the area, following the theme of the 2019-2020 edition, namely the products regional excellence. This is the official opening of ‘Skiing with Taste ', event that brings together a series of events also related to wine, but above all signed by a kitchen dream team: the aforementioned Niederkofler and Laera, Matteo Metullo, Giancarlo Morelli, Nino di Costanzo, Riccardo Camanini, the Slovenian Tomaz Kavcic, Alberto Faccani, Claudio Melis. But here is our selection, for regions and destinations
Alta Badia, a paradise
There is an embarrassment of choice. We like them Malga Goster at the Alpe di Siusi where herbs and flowers are used to prepare dishes such as hay soup served in a dish dug in the bread or the Schlutzkrapfen with carob flour, stuffed with mountain cheese and dressed with arolla pine pesto. Also worthy of note Daniel hut in Val Gardena and the Jora refuge in Alta Pusteria where the talented Markus Holzer created a mountain dining resort, with a creative menu based on organic products from the area. Then there is the ‘gruppone’ of Alta Badia from which we extract – but the others are also worthy of a stop – the Bamby and the Moritzino. The first is famous for meat-based dishes, from the Luch de Tlara farm, but also for homemade desserts. The second has passed the half century of activity and dominates the Alta Badia from the 2100 meters of the Piz La Ila. If in the evening, the restaurant allows you to also taste sea fish such as Nebraska meat, during the day the triumph of the local cuisine is celebrated, starting from a very famous strudel in the district.
The fan is rich in one of the holiday capitals. We choose Averau, totally rebuilt ten years ago and at 2,400 meters above sea level, at the Forcella di Nuvolau. Inserted by the Sunday Times among the ten best places in the Alps, it is especially appreciated for its culinary offer: first courses of pasta made in the refuge, game, cold cuts and cheeses, ice cream with hot raspberries. It is also very good at Scoiattoli Refuge, in the locality of 5 Torri, where the Ampezzo tradition is revisited with imagination: an example is the Violette with forest flavors, homemade tagliatelle flavored with blueberries. On reservation the Speck in crust is not to be missed, among the desserts try the Chocolate Salami and the Meringata Scoiattoli. As the With Druscie a certainty remains. The kitchen of the is also very appreciated Viel del Pan, in the district of Arabba.
The kingdom of polenta taragna
Here, too, we focus on two reliable shelters. One is the Never late – beautiful name, really – at 1900 meters, in the heart of Val Chiavenna. The owners have long traced a route on the bio and zero km: local Chianina meat, vegetables from the family's garden, house cheeses accompanied by honey. The other is Rifugio Motta, breathtaking view of the Valmalenco and fantastic terrace. Super-calorie menu, great enjoyment: chestnut and walnut dumplings, polenta ‘taragna’ and shin, excellent desserts with wild fruit strudel in pole position.
A small cult is Meira Garneri, in Val Varaita: in addition to preparing the delicious ravioles, is the realm of snack sinoira that is the small meal that the peasants consumed around 5 pm, after having finished the work in the fields. Sina in Piedmontese dialect it means dinner: it is a menu of five to six frugal but very good courses, completely re-proposed in local (few by now) that are always worth the effort to reach them. Other than apericena …
It feels good in ‘Valley’
Always loved the Société Anonyme de Consommation: former hut with the original sign, at Pila, 2230 meters above sea level. Rustic-chic ambience where the tavern with traditional Valdostan dishes can be found, the bistro that works from breakfast to snack and is famous for piadine and focaccia with local products, a creative cuisine restaurant. In Val Veny dominate the Dzeleluna court with excellent typical proposals and the Maison Vieille, which beyond a spectacular terrace overlooking the Mont Blanc conquers for the meat cooked on the losa, a stone heated directly on the fire. Above La Thuile, la Maison Carrel and the Riondet. In Courmayeur, where they are listed La Chaumière is Alpetta from Chopper, the story is made by Bertone refuge: hikers and skiers come here from all over the world, while the products are strictly local and arrive on the back of a mule. The polenta is prepared with four flours and cooked in a wood: among the recipes to try there are the one with milk and the “alla valdostana” with the fontina cheese that the Cossons prepare and ripen in their own refuge. Curiously, always in Courmayeur – exactly in Plan Checrouit – one of the most famous Italian chefs, the starred Andrea Berton, made it the protagonist of the new menu for the mountain club Super G, luxury and modern version of the "refuge concept". The dish that will surely become a cult: Polenta with Grana Padano fondue and Alba white truffle. Certainly refined, but polenta is.