Lunch at Pretzhof

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.

Tulfer 259
39040 Wiesen/Pfitsch
Tel. +39 0472 764 455

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Tomato Ricotta Tartelettes

Tomato Ricotta Tart

Lately, I find myself going back and forth between wanting to cook dishes that embrace the first flavors of fall, and wanting to hang on to all those great summer dishes that I enjoy so much. Tomato Ricotta Tartelettes clearly fall under the latter category – they feature all the great flavors of summer, including spicy basil and ripe tomatoes, and make a wonderful light lunch when paired with a green salad (extra virgin olive oil and a good balsamic vinegar is all you need for a dressing). Now I just wish summer would last forever…

Tomato Ricotta Tartelette (serves 2)
1 sheet puff pastry, cut into 10cm x 10cm squares
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, quartered
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup Ricotta
1/4 cup feta, crumbled
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons basil, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil

1. In a bowl, combine ricotta, feta, lemon juice, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper and stir until well mixed (mixture should be smooth).
2. Spread mixture on puff pastry squares, leaving a 1cm border on all sides.
3. Arrange tomato and onion slices on top.
4. Drizzle with olive oil.
5. Bake in preheated oven at 200C for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, or until puff pastry is golden.
6. Let cool for a minute, and drizzle with more olive oil before serving.
7. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, decorate with fresh basil leaves, and serve with a simple green salad.


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Late Summer Sweetness

Plum Cake

I am the first to admit that I am a cake addict. So when deep purple, sweet, and juicy plums are calling my name at the market, I have no choice but to buy them and let them shine atop a lovely little cake. What makes this particular cake so delicious is the cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. It melts into the juices released from the plums during baking and adds a heavenly hint of cinnamon to the plums.

Plum Tarte
100g butter, softened at room temperature
100g sugar
2 eggs
pinch of salt
finely grated peel of 1 lemon
200g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
extra sugar

1. Beat butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy.
2. Add eggs and beat until mixed well.
3. Add salt, lemon peel, flour, and baking powder and mix until well incorporated.
4. Pour batter into a 24cm tart pan with removable bottom. Spread evenly.
5. Cut plums into thin slices and arrange evenly on top of batter.
6. Mix extra sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl an sprinkle on top of cake.
7. Bake in preheated oven at 200C for about 35 to 40 minutes. Check to make sure cake is done.


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Potato Curry With Mint And Ginger

Potato Curry

I was in the mood for basmati rice the other day and what better way to enjoy it than with a delicious curry! The aroma and complexity of Asian curries is second to none – be it rich and deeply aromatic Indian curries, or the intense flavors and heat of Thai curries made with copious amounts of fresh chilies and lemongrass, I am a big fan of them.

This curry is more like one you would find on the Indian subcontinent rather than in Indochina or Thailand. Aside from plenty of basmati rice, you could serve any type of Indian flat bread with it, and a glass of smooth mango lassi to cool the heat from the spices. You can easily adjust the spiciness and aroma by adding more or less garam masala, ginger, mint, or chilies. I have found that curries taste much better the next day when reheated, so this is perfect for making in advance. That is, if you can wait that long!

Potato Curry With Mint And Ginger (serves 4 – 6)
600g baby potatoes
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
20g fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 bunch fresh mint
1 or 2 fresh green chilies, depending on the level of heat you prefer
40ml vegetable oil
1 generous teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
750ml vegetable stock
100g red lentils
1/2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons plain yogurt, plus extra
juice from 1/2 lemon

1. Cook potatoes until just tender. Let cool, peel, and cut into halves or quarters, depending on their size.
2. Put onion, garlic, ginger, and mint in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
3. In a large pot, heat oil and add curry powder. Cook for about 3 minutes until fragrant.
4. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and mint mixture and ground coriander seeds and stir for about 1 minute.
5. Add cherry tomatoes and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes.
6. Add vegetable stock and lentils. Simmer until lentils are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Do not cover!
7. About 5 minutes before lentils are done, add zucchini.
8. When lentils are tender, add potatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.
9. Remove from heat and add yogurt and lemon juice. Stir well.
10. Serve with plenty basmati rice.


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