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Michelin starred mountains, Austria

Michelin starred mountains, Austria
Everything tastes good at 2200 metres. Frances Booth takes an Alpine food hut walk to find some surprisingly good results .
 
 
High in the Alps, just across the Austrian border away from pollution, traffic and the stresses of daily life it feels as if I’ve been spirited away. I am here with Michelin-starred chef, Martin Dalass for an olive oil tasting session and to find out more about the summer hut food fest that Martin and a bunch of Michelin starred chefs have put together for the season.
 
Martin gets straight down to business: Oil number one “has an illness” he tells me, as I warm the glass, taste, and suck air through my teeth - to appreciate the flavour. Urgh. Chemical, oily, heavy. Chef is right.

This is not what I expected here in the pure air, where cow bells jingle, brooks babble, and a local band do an authentic version of yodel-ay-i-hoo.

But Martin is eager to show us how to spot a goodie from a turkey. He should know, given that he specialises in using 15 of the worlds' most exquisite olive oil in his restaurant Santabbondio in Sorengo, Switzerland.

Dalsass, along with 3 other chefs – Martin Sieberer (Paznauner Stuben, Ischgl) Martin Fauster (Königshof, Munich) and Norbert Niederkofler (Rosa Alpina, San Cassiano) – have brought their culinary skills outside into the clean summer air to a series of huts in the mountains above the Austrian villages of Galtür, Ischgl, Kappl and See.

Together, the chefs have contributed to a ‘culinary Jacob’s Way’ for walkers. Each has created a recipe for a dish to be served in the mountains.

Martin Dalsass’s recipe – a take on Tafelspitz (boiled beef) – includes oil. And so we sit at the top of a mountain, trying to banish the
Michelin starred mountains, Austria
taste of the offending oil we are learning about, which sells under the guise of olive oil, though only 5% of the bottle lives up to this claim.

Oils two and three and four and five are better - they might make it past the Dalsass kitchen door, with notes of green tomatoes from Sicily, the unlikely aroma of banana and that tell tale sign of quality – a spicy kick lingering at the back of the throat.

“To get 15 litres of good olive oil takes 100kg of olives,” says our chef. There is picking, crushing, mixing a paste and pressing to be done. Which is why a good olive oil is expensive.

Off he goes to the kitchen to put theory into practice. His beef and anchovy dish is the signature at the Heidelberger Hütte for the summer.

The Heidelberger Hütte above Ischgl, the Niederelbe Hütte above Kappl, the Ascher Hütte above See and the Jamtal Hütte above Galtür make up the Jacob’s Way.

The idea is walk and eat, walk and eat, walk and eat. What a good plan.

Everything tastes good at 2200 metres, after a healthy walk through flower-lined and snow-tipped mountains. Streams of fresh water offer refreshment, and cows provide the music of the mountains, ambling around wearing bells.

But don’t bring a packed lunch for the walk. There is much on offer at the huts.

Martin Sieberer’s sliced dumpling and chorizo dish is being served at Niederelbe Hütte, Norbert Niederkofler’s rabbit dish with olives and courgette is being served at the Ascher Hütte, and Martin Fauster’s baby pork dish is being served at the Jamtal Hütte.

The dishes are not fancy in a style you may expect (and pay for and enjoy) in, say, Martin Sieberer’s Paznauner Stuben restaurant in Ischgl.

There is no lavender and peach ice, no lamb and chanterelles, no creamy, foamy polenta.

But you are up a mountain, after all.

The Jacob’s Way is rather a celebration of Tyrolean cuisine.

The chefs hiked up into the mountains to demonstrate their dishes for the season opening, but won’t be cooking at the huts all summer and have instead taught the recipes and cooking methods to the hut owners.

Arrive on a Sunday and you can expect an addition – musicians will yodel and strum as you eat.

A typical itinerary might start with a first night in Ischgl, then the cable car up to the middle station and a walk across the border to the Heidelberger Hütte in Switzerland (about three hours).

Stay the night in the Heidelberger Hütte, and on day two walk for four hours to the Jamtal Hütte. After staying overnight there, day three is a shorter walk (around two hours) to Galtür.

The mountain serves as a perfect table.

The Paznaun valley (the 4 villages of Galtur, Ischgl, Kappl and See) has 80 marked hiking trails together offering 1,140kms of walks

- Tafelspitz at Heidelberger Hütte costs 12 euros

- For further details on Ischgl, Galtür and Kappl, visitors should contact the Austrian National Tourist Office in London on 0845 101 1818; visit www.ischgl.com, www.galtuer.com or www.kappl.com; or call the Paznaun Tourist Office on 0043 5099 0100

Packages offered by the Paznaun tourist board www.paznaun-ischgl.com, Tel +43 50990 701, include:

22.8.09 – 20.9.2009
6 nights in a 4* hotel, half board
1 night in one of the 4 huts
4 walking tours to the 4 huts of the ‘St Jacob’s Way’ including lunch
5 days Silvretta Card (giving free entry to attractions such as museums, sports centres, swimming pools, plus use of buses and gondolas)
Entry to the Alpinarium Galtür exhibition
From 339 euros per person

10.7. – 20.9.2009
4 nights in a 4* hotel, half board
2 walking tours to 2 huts of the ‘St Jacob’s way’ including lunch
3 days Silvretta Card
Entry to the Alpinarium Galtür exhibition
From 199 euros per person
Michelin starred mountains, Austria
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3 August 2009
By: Frances Booth
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