Merano / Meran, Alto Adige / Südtirol
This past week we took a little excursion to Merano in Alto Adige. I have been to the Italian alps before, in Cortina d’Apezzo, with my host family when I was 16. I thought it was beautiful, had never seen mountains like them before, but at that age I didn’t understand a lick about food, only what tasted good and what didn’t. Of course Cortina d’Apezzo is in the Veneto and therefore in the Italian part of Italy, whereas Alto Adige, though politically a part of Italy, it is culturally Austrian. It was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of the first world war in 1919 when it was annexed as a part of Italy.
Bolzano, the provincial capital is number one in Italy for quality of life. Every city that follows is unfortunately in Northern Italy, and I believe Taranto and Naples are contesting for last place, not a great reflection on where we live. It may be a factor of the close proximity to the rest of Europe, or their Austrian roots, not that the Austrians have set the best example in the past, maybe for order, not for civility, but you can sense that life isn’t as bitter up there as it is for people down here. More jobs, less pollution and certainly less corruption.
The towns in Alto Adige are famous for their Christmas markets at this time of year, I can’t say thay I am too interested in Christmas tchotchkes, but I did enjoy seeing the edible goods that people were selling. Strudel, cheeses, vin brulé and speck, a lot of speck, my new favorite pork product.
We had one of our meals from one of the stands at the Christmas market in Vipiteno. A sandwich with prosciutto del contadino, farmer’s ham, which was cut into thick slices and seared on a griddle and served with sauerkraut and mustard, paired with hot apple cider, it was delicious.
The canederli or knödel were really interesting, they came baked with a few of our meals and we ordered them for lunch one day in a meat broth, which is how they are typically served. They are a dumpling made with stale bread, mixed with speck or cheese, whatever is at hand. There is a great use for stale bread in every part of Italy, never let a thing go to waste. We also tried buckwheat spaetzle, which were delicious and a lot like orecchiette so my daughter veered for a moment from her patatine fritte (french fries) and had a few bites of something new.
My husband was most excited about the stinco di maiale, which is a pork knuckle, and he ate the pork plate at almost every meal. I tried it, loved the sauerkraut, and even though I didn’t order the pork plate every night, I was seriously craving some veggies by the time we left. Our last meal was at Sigmund restaurant, which was very elegant, I ordered veal cheeks with polenta and scamorza affumicata, delicious. My husband, the pork plate and my daughter, le patatine fritte.
One Year Ago: Francavilla Fontana Thanksgiving, Risotto with grated Fennel, Monkfish and Pistachios, Pranzo di Domenica, Pappardelle with Wild Mushrooms, Latkes, Creamy Carrot Soup with Poppy Seeds & Rigatoni with Octopus and Artichokes
Three Years Ago: Cappuccino Cheesecake, Sweet Potato, Pumpkin and Apple Puree, Turkey Tetrizzini, Brasato alla Birra, Torta di Riso e Zucchine, Risotto ai Funghi Porcini & Spaghetti With Roasted Cauliflower, Tomatoes and Olives
Four Years Ago: Phyllo Sweeties, Grilled Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Pomegranate Glaze, Blackbean, Pumpkin and Leek Soup, Focaccia, Linguine con Finocchio e Sarde, Swedish Meatballs, Penne alla Boscaiola & What to do with Leftover Meatballs!
Five Years Ago: Ricotta and Spinach Pie, Roasted Cauliflower, Raisins and Anchovy Vinaigrette, La Sicilia I, La Sicilia II, La Sicilia III, Fusilli with Swordfish and Pistachios, Salsicce sulla Pietra Ollare, Sfogliatella, Cotolleta alla Milanese, Polpo alla Luciana, Calamarata with Octopus Heads and Clams, Ligurian Shop Windows, Puntarelle & Ristorante in Lavagna