High Tea: Traditional Mountain Cooking in the Alps

High Tea: Traditional Mountain Cooking in the Alps

strings of melted cheese, mugs of steaming hot chocolate,
icing-laced pastries; the typical après-ski diet is equally
calorific and nostalgic. Its charm is located not in artful
experimentation or cutting-edge culinary concepts, but rather in
the comfort of recipes concocted in rustic chalets and mountain
peaks and passed down from generation to generation. It’s this
particularly alpine food culture that the writer Meredith Erickson
and I set out to document from 2017 to 2019, journeying from the
picturesque pistes of
to the isolated villages of the Gastein Valley in search
of characters and recipes that capture the retro romance of life
lived at altitude.

The Alps are connected figuratively and literally, overlapping
like a blanket covering the land. Despite their differences, the
heavy weight of tradition is felt equally in each locale. Our
odyssey traversed the peaks of Italy, Austria, Switzerland and
France, winding from wine cellar to cheese cave, mountain hut to
mountain top. Each place we visited became a snapshot flavoured by
the stews, soups, pastas, schnitzels and breads that nourished our
souls as much as our weary legs.

We devoured apple strudel at the Restaurant Klösterlein in the
small village of Zug in Austria and warmed up with traditional
bombardinos (brandy cocktails) in a wood-red chalet while the
slanting snow outside filled our vision. Stopping off in
, a bar of chocolate at the chocolatier Cioccolato Peyrano
proved unforgettable.

We drank from the curated cellars of high-alpine bottle
selections at Ciasa Salares in Badia and walked the vines with
small-batch natural winemakers such as Jean-Yves Peron in Conflans.
In the Aosta Valley bordering Switzerland, we tucked into fontina
ditalini as the sharply cut mountain edges danced in the whispering
winds, while at the legendary restaurant Del Cambio we inhaled chef
Matteo Baronetto’s handmade Piedmontese agnolotti.

Wherever we went we experienced a respect for the soil and the
animals that feed on it. The chefs we met were true purveyors of
the land. At Les Cornettes restaurant in La Chapelle-d’Abondance,
for example, chef Jérémy Trincaz uses cheese from a local maker in
almost every dish, while father-and-son duo René and Maxime
Meilleur whip up butter creamier than any we’d tasted at the
Michelin-starred restaurant La Bouitte. Their commitment is another
reminder that in the mountains, you don’t just cook from the
landscape, but instead swallow it whole.

Alpine Cooking by Meredith Erickson is out now (Penguin
Random House)

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