The tuber (and flower) revolution

At St Hubertus in val Badia, listening to Niederkofler’s new refrain: Cook the mountain

23-08-2013
Flowers on the table of the St.Hubertus inside hot

Flowers on the table of the St.Hubertus inside hotel Rosa Alpina, 2 Michelin stars in San Cassiano a Badia (Bz), tel. +39.0471.849500. Chef Norbert Niederkofler has made a brave change of direction focusing only on local products

Is it brilliant idea? A sudden madness? A mystic enlightenment? After getting rid of most of the ingredients that came from around the world, it looks like Norbert Niederkofler has freed himself of a burden, that is to say international cuisine. “Cook the mountain” is his new refrain. The approach is that of a local cuisine at the highest level, interpreted with regards to altitude. “Mountain people are similar, wherever they are” – he explains after his recent trips to Tibet and Peru.

We’re in Alta Val Badia, visiting the most famous chef from Alto Adige, one who has experimented and opened many roads. Today he takes a new challenge (and a risky one) by welcoming only products coming from the vegetable gardens of Alto Adige, from the malga nearby, from the cheese maker next door into his kitchen. For a five star hotel with a great international vocation this is quite a step. And indeed there are those who are sceptical and criticise. But on the bridge between the new Nordic cuisine trends and the identity crisis and the chaos of the Mediterranean diet one couldn’t find a better place where to arrive. We’ll see what the results will be.

The extraordinary Marinated lavaret with season radish

The extraordinary Marinated lavaret with season radish

So here we are in his large kitchen-workshop, trying to find out what is happening, starting from a delicious series of amuse bouche to be tasted by the steel counters. From now on, we will call it the tuber (and flower) revolution. We start with Raw veal tartare with a gelatine sphere of mountain herbs. Spheres of hazelnut and camomile cream. The Potato land aromatised with cocoa with tuber tips and carrots – something that would have a botanist turn pale. Especially if the tubers are those grown in Barbiano by an archaeo-fitologist farmer, namely Harald Gasser. For Norbert, this meant starting from scratch, once again. Especially for him, since he doesn’t want to give up on his classic and masterful cooking technique.

Moving to the table, with the generous company of some extraordinary bottles – there are 350 Rieslings in the list – we concentrate on inspirations such as Fiume d’inverno (winter river), or Crispy veal head not to mention the memorable Graukaese risotto. How about foie gras? Are we going to miss it? Revolutions, it’s a known fact, are no simple things and there can be prisoners. But we’ll see. Spring and summer appear with renovated inspirations with the Veal carpaccio with sweet and sour vegetables and fir sauce or the Snails and kitchen garden with a parsley emulsion and herbs and vegetables from the kitchen garden. The Val di Vizze lamb with nettles and mint puree–popcorn. It seems like there’s no tuna at all, and this - alone - is already a great news.

Norbert Niederkofler and his bread just out of the oven

Norbert Niederkofler and his bread just out of the oven

Raw fish is focused on lake lavaret and charr, which in fact is no big loss. In fact, in some cases more than at Noma it seems to be at Hans Välimäki’s Chez Dominique in Helsinki, the top chef of purist Finnish cuisine. Though it will be harder, in Italy, to justify a menu in which vegetables and essences are the protagonists. We look, full of faith, at this soft revolution. Not just because we enjoy revolutions but because we feel an innate fondness for rebels.


St.Hubertus dell'hotel Rosa Alpina
strada Micura de Ru, 20
San Cassiano
Badia (Bz)
+39.0471.849500
Average prices: 35, 30, 48 e 24 euros
Tasting menu: 140 euros
Closed on Mondays, open only in the evening


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