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Eating (and Drinking!) Our Way Across Italy, Part III

If you’ve been following our previous posts (Part I & Part II), leaving Puglia was clearly saddening, but we said our goodbyes to Monopoli while continuing our food adventures to the northeastern corner of Italy, Alto Adige. We experienced cuisine that had both local Italian and German influence. We also enjoyed a wine tour and a spontaneous detour to Austria.

It was fascinating to see the differences in the terrain and culture from the south to the north! Our trip had begun near the waters of the Adriatic Sea and now in the Alto Adige region, we were surrounded by the glorious Alps bordering Austria. Most exciting was being immersed in both Italian and German influence. Not only did the street signs bear both German and Italian languages, but to our delight, so did the menus…This is clearly what sparked our interest to head a little further northeast to Austria.

It’s not often in the States that a group of Texans gets excited about traveling to “the northeast," but in this case it was easy to relinquish our southern pride and embrace the cultural differences. It was nearing dinner time when we arrived and our stomachs and taste buds took control. We decided to go to a nearby village called Cortaccia to check out a charming little restaurant called Zur Rose (which we highly recommend). We loved the restaurant’s authentic atmosphere and intimate setting. Zur Rose (which translates to Red House) is set inside an old house, tracing back hundreds of years! We enjoyed a private dining room where we tried many a dish and passed them all around our table– we’ve really honed our food sharing skills this trip! Our palettes were impressed by the obvious presence of both German and Italian flavors in each dish.

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Italian Speck with Asparagus

This next dish was one of our favorites of the night!

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German Ham with White Asparagus

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Perfectly Seared Lamb Chops with Potatoes

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Italian Fresh Bronzino with Cauliflower

The Zur Rose wine list was pretty spectacular as well – it offered quite the value for non-local wine, especially wine from the Piedmonte Region.

The next adventure led us to AUSTRIA! This brief retreat was aimed at satisfying our curiosity for all things food (and relief from the unusual heat in Alto Adige)! Although we had not planned on leaving Italy, it was hard to resist when we discovered that Innsbruck was only a 1 ½ hour drive. Knowing that it can take that long to commute to work back home, a brief road trip like that seemed well worth it when there’s a heavenly meal waiting on the other side. With our portable European GPS leading the way, we were off. We popped into a few sites, including the impressive ski jump venue from the Olympic Games, and with lunch on the brain, we enjoyed typical Austrian fare and a fabulous Knoll Grüner wine selection.

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Knoll Gruner

These may not have been the perfect choice for our heart health, but they were sure worth the splurge!

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Homemade Sausage Balls

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Classic Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and French Fries

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Schnitzel with Spatzle

With our curiosities pleased, we headed back to Italy for the rest of the week to explore some of the fine wines of Alois Lageder.

Our trip to the Alois Lageder winery included a tour and a GREAT lunch – another gold star for our friends at Southern Visions! We met our wine expert and International Sales Director, Urs, at the local winery’s shop. We liked to refer to him as “Urs Truly”. Assuming correctly that a delicious meal would win us over, he started the tour with lunch! Looking over a beautiful outdoor garden area, Urs first served an Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco. Among many other lovely wines served during lunch, we were most surprised (in a good way) to find that they produce a Pinot Noir. What better way to learn about Italy than enjoying good wine, good food, while listening to “Urs Truly’s” explanation of the area’s cultural history? Here’s our starter…

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Canapés of Herbed Cheese on Bread Topped with Cherry Tomato

The fresh herbs and tomato literally come alive in your mouth when you take a bite. Next we enjoyed many plates of meat, cheese, and veggies served beautifully.

We had different plates that consisted of a type of salami and slices of cured meat

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Salami

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Cured Meat

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Insalata Caprese - Fresh Mozzarella with Tomato and Basil

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Prosciutto with Fresh Cantaloupe

It was asparagus season, and we couldn’t get enough. The asparagus was served with a thick dressing (on the side) that had oil, vinegar, chopped boiled egg yolks, herbs, and shallots. Fabulous!

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Green Asparagus

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White Asparagus

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Awesome Side Dressing for Asparagus

The meal ended with a fine array of local cheeses. The interesting difference about this cheese plate is that the chef at Alois Lageder treats these beautiful cheeses in-house!

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Local Cheeses

After lunch, we took a walk through the village to the vineyards, where Urs explained the rationale for their vineyard techniques.

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Vineyard

He then took us on a tour of the winery, which we found fascinating – It was very modern, but designed architecturally to be very “green”. The entire winery is built against a rock cliff.

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"Urs Truly" discussing the natural insulation of the Rock Cliff

The cellars are cooled by the chill of the underground rock! Part of the property consists of an ancient manor that formerly was occupied by local nobles, then by the local bishop (not restored, but magnificent). We returned to where we ate lunch, and Urs tasted us through what must have been almost their entire portfolio of wines! He brought out a few old bottles as well, and made us guess the year. Because we had previously asked him about the aging ability of the pinot, he tested us on an older Pinot bottle. We guessed 2000 vintage and it was 1998 (not too bad for neophytes). With the help of “Urs Truly”, we left Alois Lageder with a thorough knowledge and enhanced respect (and liking!) for well-made wines in Alto Adige.

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