Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Full Moon at Tana Del Grillo

Spring has definitely arrived, warm sun and flower-filled meadows and all, so let's make this the last snow-themed post of the season.  This actually happened back in January but I never got a chance to blog about it.  Just like in the winter of the previous year, our friends in Valtellina organized a dinner at Tana del Grillo, a mountain lodge in Valmalenco that specializes in wild meat.  They also make sure it falls on a weekend where there is a full moon so we can also enjoy the winter wonderland effect created by the brilliant full moon reflecting off the snow.  And because the lodge is set pretty high up in the mountains, it cannot be reached by car, but on foot or with a snowmobile or snowcat ride provided by the lodge. 

This year we invited also some of our friends from Milan to join us for the unique experience.  We decided to to drive up in the late afternoon so we could have a nice walk to the restaurant.  We figured it would be nice to get some fresh air and exercise while enjoying the scenery before the big dinner.

It was cold, as cold as it looks in the pictures, maybe even more!  We wrapped ourselves warmly and set out for the 6 km or 3.7 mile walk.

Some of us had backpacks.  The restaurant also offers affordable rooms for lodging and our friends from Milan were going to stay overnight that night to complete the winter wonderland experience. 

It was a nice walk although at one point the wind was really frosty.  My face was frozen and I wondered at that point why we opted to walk rather than take the snowmobile ride.  But it was worth it.  I knew what was in store for us at dinner (mountain food isn't exactly low calorie cuisine) and the walk definitely helped build up an appetite and assuage some of the guilt.

Plus there were some snowballs thrown and silly pictures to be taken. 

When we arrived, we had some time to kill while waiting for the rest of our party to arrive so we hung out in a sitting room upstairs and had some drinks.  We ended up being a group of twenty.  A hungry group of twenty.

First came a selection of appetizers.  I was too busy eating and failed to take pictures of everything.  This is the cotechino con vellutata di porri or cotechino in a leek cream sauce.  Cotechino is a fresh sausage made of pork with lots of pork fat.  Not exactly light, but very good with the leek sauce.   We also had vitello tonnato or veal in a tuna and caper sauce (sounds strange but it's good and you can't really taste the tuna), pate di lepre or wild rabbit pate, and affetati misti or mixed cold cuts of prociutto, salami and the like.  Let me say that it was all good and we were almost full at that point.

I don't have any pictures of the first dishes but everyone in our group pretty much ordered one of the following:  
 - ravioli di capriolo or ravioli with roe deer filling
- tagliatelle con ragu di cervo or tagliatelle with venison sauce
- pizzoccheri, the typical Valtelinese pasta dish
- risotto con la pernice rossa or risotto with red partridge

And because we were a large group, in addition to our own individual servings, they also offered us tastings of all the other dishes so we could taste the other ones as well.  Even the 'tastings' were generous, and it felt like we had eaten four first dishes!

And then it was time for the second dish.  I ordered the sella di capriolo or roe deer (not sure the technical term of the deer's back).  I'd had it before and it was as perfectly tender as I remembered.  Some others ordered the bistecca di cervo or steak of deer.  Ok, I can't even begin to explain the difference between capriolo and cervo; the dictionary is not very descriptive.  Does anyone know?

Lastly, dessert... I had a molten chocolate cake that was great.  I was really stuffed by then.  I don't remember what everyone else had.  Finally coffee and a selection of grappa and digestif liquors including the local Braulio.

We ended the night with a snowcat ride back to our car.  Our friends who stayed for the night took a short walk near the lodge, illuminated only by the moonlight.  The next morning after breakfast, they got to ride out on a snowmobile.  It was a fun mountain experience in the snow.

Tano del Grillo
Pian del Lupo
23023 Chiesa in Valmalenco (SO)

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