A Taste of Trentino Alto Adige in New York
High up in the Dolomite Mountains in the Trentino Alto Adige region of Northern Italy is St. Hubertus, one of Italy’s finest restaurants. Named for the patron saint of hunters, this elegant 2-star Michelin restaurant is located at the Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa in the tiny town of San Cassiano. Though Charles and I were not able to dine at Rosa Alpina when we were in this area several years ago, we met the chef, Norbert Niederkofler, here in New York this week with Hugo Pizzini, whose family has owned and operated the Rosa Alpina for more than 70 years. The hotel is a part of the luxurious Relais & Chateaux group.
The personable Chef Norbert prepared an outstanding tasting menu for us which was paired with some of the region’s great wines. Here is the menu:
Speck with Horseradish served with crispy dried bread from the Dolomites — Speck is a tender smoked ham that is typical of this region. The bread was light and airy and super crunchy. Terrine of Foie Gras with Alto Adige Apple Snow — The snow was a tart green apple granita, a delicate complement to the foie gras. It was perfect with the Tramin Gerwurtztraminer, a slightly sweet wine, that accompanied it. Char cooked in Moutain Herbs with Potato and Wild Ramp Puree — The fish was delicious and cooked to perfection, but I loved the potatoes and wild ramps that went with it. I think I will try this if I can find some ramps at the Greenmarket this weekend. Crispy Red Mullet on a Tartar of Scallops with Sauteed Calamari and Coconut Coriander Sauce — Sounds like a lot going on, but this was actually very delicate and the flavors were subtle. The coconut and coriander flavors were a subtle undertone. Risotto with Pine Needles and Slow Cooked Breast of Guinea Fowl — Yes, pine needles! Tender green tips of low-growing mugo pine branches are pureed and blended with sweet butter which as stirred into a basic risotto in bianco. Very delicate and different. Venison with White Asparagus, Pea Puree and Fresh Morels — The venison was tender and perfectly cooked while the vegetables were the essence of spring. Chocolate Pudding with Fromage Blanc Ice Cream and Rhubarb Soup — Warm, cake-like steamed chocolate pudding topped with tart, creamy ice cream and surrounded by a tangy rhubarb sauce. Charles was really crazy about this.
Home cooking in Trentino Alto-Adige is hearty with many kinds of whole grain breads made with nuts as well as buckwheat, oats, and other grains. There are stewed meats, delicious cheeses, and dumplings of all kinds served in broth or simply doused with butter. It may not be what you think of when you imagine Italian food, but believe me, it is all delicious! The Alto Adige region is influenced by Austria, and before WWI, was actually a part of that country. The first language in the region is German, and Italian is second. The people in the valley where the Rosa Alpina is located also speak Ladin, derived from Latin. Hugo Pizzini said that the region is eligible to become a United Nations World Heritage Site which he believes will help to preserve the beauty of the area and the local traditions.
Charles and I look forward to returning to this stunningly beautiful region of Italy to see Chef Norbert and enjoy his delicious cooking once again. For more information about the Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa and St. Hubertus restaurant, go to www.rosalpina.it. And for a complete run-down on the wines we tasted with our meal, see Charles’ post, which will appear soon, at http://www.i-italy.org/bloggers/wine-and-food