Il Giardino- Finally a top restaurant in the mountains

As I mentioned yesterday, sometimes the food is hit or miss in the Austrian Alps particularly if you visit off season.  Some of the restaurants/hotel restaurants we wanted to try were already on vacation until the next tourism season.

You can always find a simple meal of pizza or schnitzel at a casual Italian or Austrian eatery, but if you are looking for an experience that is beyond a college pizza joint or a smoky old hotel restaurant or bar, the options are few and far between.  On a recent trip to the Alps, my husband and I decided to make a 1.5 hour detour to the Aqua Dome therme in the town of Langenfeld (Tirol).  We knew we would need to figure out a dinner option after our soak and steam and threw it up to chance to find a restaurant on the way home.

Don’t ask what made me say “STOP” as we drove through the town of Oetz, but my Michelin-dar sensors lit up as we passed Il Giardino.  We parked the car outside of the apartment-hotel and walked inside the all white, French-Scandinavian, cosy dining room.  I saw the two big red Michelin nominated stickers posted on the door from 2008 and 2009- a good sign and a significant boost from all the pizza I’ve been eating over the weekend.  The restaurant and hotel is owned by husband and wife Peter and Christine Singer and has been around for 22 years.

Lamb411 Il Giardino Oetz Alps

We were one of four table that night (off-season) and had almost an entire section to ourselves.  We were seated in a sunken, garden room with sliding windows that opened on-to the outdoor seating (in nicer weather).  The room was dimly lit with candles, soft lights and decorated with framed black and white posters, a few plants and white orchids.

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To start, we were served an amuse bouche of cooked beef in a jelly roll, a tomato puree and a fresh slice of baguette.  It was delicious and I am not one to scarf down a beef jelly roll.

We both had the ruccola and Parmesan salad, a habit from earlier in the weekend.  Il Giardino’s rucola salad was excellent.  It was spicy, salty and tangy all at the same time.  There was generous shavings of Parmesan and the pine nuts were perfectly toasted.

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For our main courses, my husband ordered the pork schnitzel (he was sick of pizza) which came with sauteed cabbage, a homemade cranberry sauce and roasted cauliflower.

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I was sick of pizza so I ordered pasta!  I chose the mascarpone and tomato pasta which was a little bowl of heaven. You could actually taste the acidity of the tomatoes among the creamy mascarpone cheese.  Typically it is all cream and no tomato.  The flavours were very balanced and very satisfying.  I devoured the entire mound of pasta.  When pasta is cooked by a top chef, it tastes extra good.

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To finish, we had espresso and tea and could not resist an ice.  Over the course of our weekend in the Alps, at every restaurant we ate at, we saw order after order of ice cream sundaes coming out of the kitchen.  We figured if we were going to have ice cream on the trip, it might as well be here.

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We chose the ‘Nutty’ ice cream which came with two very long spoons to scoop out cashew and walnut ice creams topped with whipped cream and a tart raspberry sauce.

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At the end of the meal, Chef Wolfgang Scalet even popped his head out to say hello.  What a wonderful treat after a weekend of mediocre dining.  I could not recommend this restaurant enough if you happen to be passing through this part of the world.  You will not be disappointed.

 

Il Giardino, A-6433 Otz: Hauptstrasse 86, Austria

www.ilgiardino-oetz.com

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A mini getaway to the Austrian Alps

I like a good mountain get-away.  I am a non-skier/non-snowboarder but when I am in the mountains, I can unwind, I can breathe and I feel relaxed.  There is something about walking outdoors surrounded by mountains that is humbling and grounding.  I also like eating muesli, which can always be found on the menu of an Austrian alpine hotel. Double score!

Let me tell you a bit about taking a mini getaway to the Austrian Alps.  Living in Europe makes a weekend getaway to the Alps very plausible (not just the Austrian Alps- really any Alp range in Europe).   We flew one hour from Copenhagen to Munich, rented a car and drove about an hour and a half south into the Tirol region of Austria, where we checked in at DasPost Hotel.

This hotel was adorable with its contemporary wood and stag interior design.  Come to think of it, DasPost was stag happy!  I tried to snap a couple shots around the place.

Lamb411 Austrian Alp Weekend

In traditional alpine custom, there was lots of wood used throughout the hotel.  As we drove through the valley towards our hotel in Zell am Ziller, we passed several lumber/timber yards.  My favourite room in DasPost was the breakfast room.  There were floor to ceiling windows on three sides of the space with sliding glass doors that could be opened when the weather gets a bit warmer.  They accented this ‘sun’ breakfast spot with modern light fixtures, bold coloured felt chairs, a brightly patterned fabric on the banquet wall seats and a single tulip in a white vase.  When you look out, your view is to the hotel’s backyard which is an outdoor pool, decks and one of their outdoor saunas.

The basement of the hotel came equipped with four lovely saunas and they also had a spa, a fitness room plus an indoor and outdoor pool.  All the right components for a relaxing non-skiing weekend.  (Remember- saunas are naked-only in Austria)

Austria, Rice Breakfast April 20131

Zell am Ziller is a small village (one of many) dotting the mountains of Tirol.  Right across from the hotel was an inter-village train that you could take up to the ski area.  There is also a run/walk/bike park, a nicely groomed path that runs along both sides of the river, where you can run/walk/bike for kilometers on end.  I tried it out on foot one morning and it was great.  Everyone said their hellos, and good mornings as we passed one another.

Austria, Rice Breakfast April 20132

Of course since I was in Tirol, I did a bit of MPREIS hunting.  MPREIS is my favourite Tirolean grocery store chain.  Each MPREIS is designed by an architect and they are all made to look different from the exterior.  They stock each store with a lot of local produce and the shopping experience is just a pleasure.  I think I found six on this trip. It’s like the where’s Waldo game, but I play the “where’s MPREIS” game.

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It is no wonder that the timber industry seems to be alive and well in the mountains, all the houses, hotels and buildings seem to be made of wood or have wood trimmings and accents.

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Depending on where you stay in the mountains the food can be rather hit or miss.  I found one bit HIT but I will write about that in a separate post.  For the most part, there is an overabundance of apfel strudel and pizza.  On this trip, I ate pizza three days in a row at three different restaurants.  I had pizza coming out of my ears by the last day.  It was a total pizza overdose, and now I am on a no-pizza mission until I am detoxed from it.  -FYI when you order a vegetarian pizza, it typically comes with corn on top!

Austria, Rice Breakfast April 20135

All in all, our mini getaway was a perfect vacation after a hectic trip to Toronto.  We even to a detour and drove down to the famed, Aqua Dome, a therme which has received a lot of press for its interesting architecture.

If I had to choose where to return, I would go back to Bad Gastein (see below) over Zell am Ziller, but that is because there was a bit more to do there (for me).  For my husband, the snowboarder, the Hintertux glacier and Zillertal mountains were more than enough to keep him happy.

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My last mini getaway to the Austrian Alps was to Bad Gastein and you can read about it here.

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A look at the new Grod

Here is a look at the new Grod that opened at Torvehallerne market this afternoon.  Grod is a porridge concept- where they make sweet and savoury types of porridge morning, noon and night.  It is their second location in Copenhagen and I visited this afternoon as the finishing touches were being put on the shop….

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Next week I will post pictures of the taste test….

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A Toronto Marathon (not the running kind)

I just returned home after spending 12 days in Toronto visiting family and friends.  What a whirlwind of a trip.  While there was no running involved, I felt like I just completed a marathon.  I was downtown, uptown, east, west, north, south and in suburbia multiple times in 12 days.  I saw babies, dogs, friends, (no foes), doctors, and family.  Despite a sore back from all the driving, I had a blast and can’t express how much fun I had being back in the city.

A few shots:

The Ultimate Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls

Lamb411 Visits Toronto

Baby Visit #1

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A little retail therapy at Jacaranda Tree & Co on Mount Pleasant- A favourite home decor and accessories store

 

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Brunch at Celestin Restaurant on Mount Pleasant

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Baking up a storm for a Countlan Magazine Issue 04 photo shoot.  I tried one of Hedy Goldsmiths’ recipes from her new book, Baking Out loud– Highly recommend this one if you like fun, American-style, comfort food desserts.

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Brunch again- this time at Emma’s Country Kitchen on St. Clair Avenue West.  I had the Red Velvet pancakes and my mom had the French toast.  We decided we liked the French toast better.

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Multiple refills at David’s Tea.  I must have gone there at least five times in 12 days. Yikes! Where is my loyalty card?

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I learned about a new cookbook (from the Mile End Deli) from my Aunt which is now on my ballooning Amazon wishlist.

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I completed not one, but three photo shoots for Countlan Magazine!  Here is a picture snapped at the first one.  Good work team + helpers.

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Hey Meatball- Meatballs are becoming very popular around the world. I see these meatball only restaurants popping up everywhere.  I tried Hey Meatball in Toronto on College Street.  Very nice vegan balls with risotto.

 

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Monocle is my favourite magazine in the entire world.  They opened a shop late last year in Toronto, so it was rather fitting I pay a visit while I was in the neighbourhood.

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As part of my marriage proposal, my husband sent me on a scavenger hunt around the city- Lit Espresso bar was one of my stops where I had to learn how to make a Cortado before I could get my next clue.  Here is a stop in at Lit for a pick me up.

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Baby visit #2

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Delicious loaves of challah staring at me over Passover.

 

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Finally, a look at the new Aroma Espresso Bar that opened at Bayview Village.   Nice interiors don’t you think?

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And that my friends, is what you call a marathon- Believe it or not, this is only 1/4 of my trip.  Of course I do not want to bore you.

Up next. I am off to Munich and the Austrian Alps this weekend for a bit of R&R.  Now you know why.

Until next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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