I got to Bolzano around noon, dropped off my luggage and immediately went to have gelato. It was blissful (for those wondering, I chose gianduja and pistachio). Only after sating my gelato craving did I go to see Ötzi. He’s been dead over 5,000 years now, and doesn’t look that bad, all things considered. Heck, I wouldn’t have put him a day over 2,000, so that really says something. They have built an entire museum around him, with every artifact they found on or near his remains getting its own display. Want to know about his shoes? There’s a display for that. His pants? Another display. His axe? Yup. His loincloth? Of course (no, I’m not kidding). They also had a picture of Brad Pitt’s left forearm, where he has a tattoo of Ötzi (still not kidding).
I wonder if 5,000 years from now our descendants or some alien society will discuss our underwear, and the risks and benefits of briefs vs boxers.
After this was siesta, and the streets were fairly quiet so I ended up wandering about town until the afternoon break ended and people emerged from their homes. I eventually decided to find dinner, and the few restaurants I knew of were closed, so I asked the clerk at the hotel, who said, “Ah yes, this is problem. It is Sunday, so nothing is open.” She managed to make a few suggestions, but didn’t seem excited about them so I went with the advertisement in the city guidebook I found in my room. It was for Hopfen & Co, who brew their own beer on premises and serve it unfiltered. The concept spoke to me.
I sat down and noticed a few things. There were antlers again, this time with a cross.
And there was ominous music playing. A requiem, perhaps? There was also a dead flower on my table. Things were not beginning well.
I started with the house beer, “scuro.” It was good. Then I ordered the gröstel. I don’t know what this is, but the menu said something about onions and potatoes, and the waitress said this is a traditional food. She then asked if I wanted an appetizer, to which I said “More food? Why of course!” She suggested spaetzle with speck, and rather than read the description on the menu I just blindly nodded. Something cooked with ham? How could it be bad? If they only knew how gullible I am, they could really take me (for more, I mean)!
The spaetzle came and I immediately thought, “I don’t remember seeing mushrooms in the description that I didn’t read.” Yes, mushrooms, and lots of them. I don’t like mushrooms, for the most part. I don’t entirely dislike them, but I certainly don’t seek them out. Some varieties of shroom are actually ok, but I always assume that unless the menu is specific, the mushrooms will be gross. I don’t know what these were, but they were small and probably poisonous.
So how was the poisonous mushroom spaetzle? Good, actually. There was, indeed, speck which gave it a nice salty haminess. Then there were the mushrooms, which brought along a nice earthy mushroomy flavor. And there was a mound of cheese in the middle that completed things quite nicely.
The gröstel was strips of beef cooked with onions and potatoes. There wasn’t much else, spice-wise. Perhaps a little bit of thyme and pepper, but that’s it. It might have been a little bit bland for me, but not bad, and since I suspect that this is, in fact, a traditional recipe I’m really ok with it. This was served with a cabbage salad made with speck (yay!) and caraway. We don’t use much caraway at home and I’m finding that I like it quite a bit. It really freshens the flavors up a lot and I’m starting to think I should use it more often.
Another comment on music. During dinner I heard a dance version of John Williams’s Olympic Fanfare from the 1984 Olympics. I couldn’t believe it. I was torn between, “this is almost what I played in band” and “this is weird.” When this ended Bon Jovi was on with “Bed of Roses,” and somebody at the bar was singing along …. Clearly they liked the beer as well.
For dessert I almost ordered gnocchi di ricotta, which sounded really appealing. Then I had a random thought and asked the waitress whether it was similar to Topfenknödel. She was a very excited and said it was, in fact, Topfenknödel. Since I had already had that twice (thrice if you count one of the meeting lunches, which we shouldn’t since that particular manifestation sucked donkey balls) I opted instead for the beer sorbet. This was an outstanding choice, as it was light and cold, and I could clearly taste the beer as well as the blood orange with which it was flavored. The only down side was wanting more at the end.
Overall, dinner was good. Hopefully I will have as much good fortune tomorrow.
March 13, 2021
I did it again – I didn’t explain Ötzi. He’s an ancient man whose body was found frozen in the Italian Alps. And I’m clearly focused on being a food blog here. Fascinating to think anybody would want to read that.