Category Archive: Restaurant Reviews

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.

Pretzhof
Tulfer 259
39040 Wiesen/Pfitsch
Tel. +39 0472 764 455
www.pretzhof.com

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Imperial Temptation

Cafe Imperial Torte

I recently enjoyed some delicious coffee and cake at Cafe Imperial in Vienna. The Cafe is located in the luxurious Hotel Imperial, one of the city’ grand old palaces, featuring original artwork, antique furniture and chandeliers, as well as exquisite butler service. They even iron the daily newspapers that are delivered to the rooms and suites! Cafe Imperial is located on the majestic Ringstrasse, a beautiful wide boulevard that circles the historic city center. The interior oozes Old World charm with comfortable plush seating, chandeliers, and gorgeous display cases full of heavenly cakes and pastries.

I tried their hallmark Imperial Torte, which consist of six layers of thin almond cake that are filled with a velvet cocoa cream and covered with marzipan and a chocolate glaze. It was easily one of the best cakes I have ever eaten. Not too sweet, and completely satisfying. I ordered a Melange (coffee with milk and milk foam on top) with my cake, which was equally tasty – very smooth with a lovely aroma and almost no acidity. The service was just as impressive.

This is a great spot to while away an afternoon, or for an indulgent after-dinner treat. I know I’ll be back soon to try the Schwarze Orange (Black Orange) variation of the Imperial Torte…

Cafe Imperial
Kärntner Ring 16
1010 Vienna
Austria
+43 (1) 501100
Open daily from 7AM to midnight

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Nerbone di Greve

Picture rolling hills topped with slender, dark green cypress trees, bright green vineyards, and a sea of silver shimmering olive trees. Set amidst the timeless beauty of this ancient Italian landscape is the sleepy little town of Greve in Chianti, where inspired Tuscan cuisine can be savored at Nerbone die Greve. Located on the town’s picturesque main square, the restaurant proudly serves traditional food prepared with great care and local products.

On a recent visit, we were served perfect little rounds of focaccia, crisp on the outside and soft in the center, sprinkled with coarse salt and generously drizzled with exquisite local olive oil. Particularly noteworthy were the spinach and ricotta filled saffron ravioli topped with tender spring leeks cooked in white wine and olive oil. The saffron, which is grown locally, beautifully complemented the light flavor of the filling and leek sauce. I’ve had cravings for their ravioli ever since… We finished our meal with a heavenly torta di cioccolato. The thin, flourless cake was incredibly smooth with a deep dark chocolate flavor. The perfect finish for a perfect meal!

The friendly wait staff was more than happy to answer any questions about the menu and recommended great local wines to go with our food. Aside from the meticulously prepared food, we enjoyed the restaurant’s cozy atmosphere. There’s a traditional cantina downstairs with exposed brick walls and clean modern table settings, while warm summer evenings can be lazed away al fresco on the upstairs terrazza or off the arcades in front of the restaurant.

Nerbone di Greve
Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, 22
50022 Greve in Chianti (FI)
Italy
Tel. 055-853308
Open Wednesday to Monday for lunch and dinner. Closed Tuesday.

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