I just came back from a week of hiking and relaxing in the mountains of Tyrol in western Austria. The trip was a lot of fun, with lots of great food and absolutely gorgeous last summer/early fall weather. We were treated to deep blue skies with wispy fall clouds, the first signs of leaves changing colors, and t-shirt weather almost every day. And of course, plenty of time to explore some local food!
We also made a side trip to Südtirol (or Alto Adige, as it’s called in Italian), an autonomous province in northern Italy just south of the border with Austria. Südtirol belonged to Austria until 1919, and up until today the historic connection can be felt strongly, with German as the predominant language. This historic connection is also evident in the region’s cuisine with its many local renditions of typical Austrian dishes. Some of the most iconic dishes in Südtirol include Knödel (dumplings), Speck (smoked and air cured ham with a spice rubbed crust), and Schüttelbrot (crispy discs of flatbread made with rye flour and local spices).
The highlight of our trip to Südtirol was undoubtedly lunch at Pretzhof in the Pfitschtal just off of the historic town of Sterzing. The lovingly restored traditional farm sits high atop the valley and offers fantastic views of Sterzing and the glacier covered peaks of Südtirol. The interior of the restaurant features tastefully restored and furnished Stuben (traditionally the only heated room in old houses) and the kitchen relies heavily on organic ingredients produced by the farm, such as herbs, cheeses, meats, and honey. The food is classic Südtirol fare with a light and modern touch, impeccably prepared and beautifully presented. It’s all about quality and simplicity. The ingredients are fresh and authentic, exactly what one would expect from an organic mountain farm. There’s no menu, so the friendly wait staff explains the day’s dishes, which makes ordering fun. Our lunch was started off with a “greeting from the kitchen” consisting of an herbed cheese spread with a very generous bread basket containing different types of local breads (see above picture). My favorite was the Schüttelbrot.
For starters, we ordered mixed appetizers. They consisted of a plate with the farm’s own artisanal cheeses, some of which were from sheep’s and some from cow’s milk. All of them were incredible, served alongside two types of vegetables marinated in olive oil and herbs, which perfectly complemented the cheeses. I particularly liked the Graukäseterrine, a mousse-like pate made from Graukäse, a local cheese specialty.
There was also a plate of various smoked and cooked meats, all of which were spectacular. The plate included a divine smoked Hirschspeck (Speck made from venison), Hirschkaminwurzen (venison sausage), venison carpaccio with pickled carrots and zucchini, Speck, tender roasted beef filet, and a great cold beef salad marinated with olive oil.
For our main dishes, we chose pork chops, which were oh so tender and very aromatic with lots of rosemary. The pork chops were served with a generous side of warm Krautsalat with crispy Speckwürfel (cabbage salad with crispy Speck cubes). The salad was perfectly balanced, not too acidic, and with just the right amount of heavenly cubes of Speck. The dish was nicely tied together by an excellent side of pan roasted potatoes, which were deliciously crisp without the slightest trace of greasiness. Perfection!
We also tried the Gamsgulasch (chamois; a wild mountain goat indigenous to the Alps), which came with perfect Knödel, beautiful mixed vegetables, and home made wild cranberry jam. The Gamsgulasch was superb and probably my favorite dish. It had a really deep and complex flavor and the meat was very tender.
For dessert, we tried a light and refreshing peppermint sorbet as well as the Maronikrapfen, which had a chestnut and apple filling with just a hint of cinnamon. The perfect finish to a perfect lunch!
There’s also a small shop attached to the restaurant where you can purchase some of the farm’s products as well as local wines and Schüttelbrot. I highly recommend making reservations as the restaurant is very busy both for lunch and dinner.
Tel. +39 0472 764 455