You can get French fries, but forget about ordering a hamburger or a bowl of chili along the mountain trails in the Val Gardena. Not that anybody seems to mind. The range of foods available at slope-side restaurants is just another reminder of why I love skiing in Italy. I’m talking about foods like soft, creamy polenta with sausages and wild mushrooms: Or osso buco and grilled polenta: Or polenta with a goulash-flavored stew: Or polenta smothered in gorgonzola cheese. And a beer to wash it down too. I guess you see I have a weakness for polenta. Don’t like polenta? You could always have pizza for lunch instead. This one is topped with prosciutto cotto (a delicate baked ham), artichokes and mushrooms: You’re sure to find something you’ll like here, whether it’s tortellini with prosciutto in a creamy parmigiano sauce, lasagna, or a bowl of chicken broth with canederli swimming inside (These canederli – typical of the region – are made with bread and speck, a smoked prosciutto). All of these are dishes from a cafeteria-style place along the slopes, not even a restaurant. Not hungry for lunch? Just need something to loosen you up on the slopes? How about one of these drinks, written in German and Italian at my favorite mountain hut or refugio, the Cafe Val D’Anna: You could even wrap yourself in a blanket and enjoy it sitting outdoors around the fire: Did you work up a thirst for something ice cold? Try one of these, at the top of the Ciampinoi lift: You can always order a hot chocolate with rum on the side, sometimes called a “lumumba.” At the Sport Hotel Sonne, they had just made fresh krapfen, cream-filled doughnuts that are a specialty at Carnevale. Or my old stand-by, the bombardino with a slice of apple strudel: But today, it’s soup for lunch, like this goulash soup that I ate more than once on the trails. This part of Italy was once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and its food reflects that heritage, as well as much of the signage, which is written in German and Italian.
Back home, I tried to duplicate the goulash soup. While my lunch didn’t have the same ambiance as being in the Val Gardena, the soup tasted nearly the same and hit the spot after a round of shoveling snow. With a lot of winter weather still ahead of us here on the East Coast, it might be just the thing for your weekend meal. Serve with brown bread as they do in the Val Gardena. Beer or grappa optional. Goulash Soup Printable Recipe Here 1/4 cup olive oil 1 cup minced onions 4 cloves minced garlic 1 cup pureed tomatoes (I used whole canned tomatoes and then pureed them with a stick blender) 1 pound beef, sliced into short, thin pieces (don’t get an expensive cut, use something like round steak or London broil) 1 t. hot paprika, to taste (available in specialty food stores) 1/2 t. regular store-brand paprika 4 cups chicken broth and 2 cups beef broth (or use all beef broth if you want a beefier flavor) 1/2 cup red wine 2 small potatoes, diced into small pieces 1 large carrot, chopped finely salt, to taste 2 bay leaves 1/4 tsp. caraway seeds Sauté the onions in the olive oil until wilted, then add the garlic and sauté a minute or two. Add the pieces of beef and brown lightly, then add the rest of the ingredients, except the potatoes. Simmer gently for about 45 minutes, then add the potatoes and cook for another 45 minutes. Remove bay leaves before serving.