Gourmet experiences in the mountains

Author: Alberta Voltolini

Imagine an unusual sort of table - both the physical object and the abstract concept of “table”

What happens when some of the most creative, most curious, and most driven people from the world of fine dining come together in a dimension of space and time that lies beyond daily life, fueled by the power of creative expression? People converse and experiences intertwine, breathing life into new ideas and giving shape to new initiatives.

The unusual tableImagine an unusual sort of table - both the physical object and the abstract concept of “table” - one situated within the extraordinary beauty of the Adamello-Brenta Nature Park. It is a table steeped in the aromas of the forest and the flavors of alpine pastures, as one might intuit gazing upon its dazzling green color. The individuals seated around this feast of nature are gourmet, Michelin-star chefs, producers of quality goods, restaurateurs, food critics and journalists, and young researchers.

Noris and FeroThe event is hosted by Noris Cunaccia, an expert in wild edibles who has transformed a personal passion for the mountains and the great outdoors along with her knowledge of the herbs that grow in the Alps into a business venture and a unique way of life. The guest of honor is Ferruccio “Fero” Valentini, a woodsman who speaks the language of nature and lives in close contact with the environment and has developed a virtually unparalleled ability to grasp the quality of all that surrounds us. 

Before coming to dine at this truly special table, each of the guests was assigned one task: to bring with them their knowledge and experience and a willingness to share it freely with the others. And so it was for three days in late July, as a group of the foremost experts in Italian cuisine met in Madonna di Campiglio, yet again a hub of entrepreneurial spirit and of ideas near and far. Horsetail, one of the oldest species of plant still found on planet Earth, having survived millions of years of evolution, was selected to represent the three- day Campiglio event as a symbol of the vitality of the group, and Cunaccia herself collected each of the examples of horsetail that were handed out to the various members.

Those in attendance included: Anna Morelli, editor-in- chief of Cook_inc., one of Italy’s most original food publications and renowned hotspot of international cuisine; Andrea Petrini, global food journalist and talent scout, who Time in 2013 named one of the thirteen “Gods of Food”, one of the very few individuals in all the world with the ability to influence the direction of global cuisine; Carmelo Chiaramonte, the wandering chef, who brought the warmth and color of the Mediterranean up to the Brenta Dolomites; Teo Musso, the father of the Italian craft beer movement; and Alfio Ghezzi, the talented local chef who came up through the schools of Gualtiero Marchesi and Andrea Berton.

Thought laboratory

Ingredients both daring and delectable were brought to this laboratory of ideas and cuisine, including: delicious Thun honey; hyper-local cheeses; trout from Rifugio Lago Nambino; artisan baked goods; wild-herb and berry salad created by Giovanni d’Alitta (chef at the Michelin-starred Stube Hermitage); an herb pie, a traditional Val Rendena dessert
as interpreted and prepared by Davide Rangoni (chef at the Michelin-starred Dolomieu); and a mysterious menu by Sabino Fortunato (chef at the Michelin- starred Il Gallo Cedrone) and Noris Cunaccia in which everything is an illusion.

“Herbs serve two contrasting purposes, They can either temper or reinforce the spirits being used.”On this menu, a tomato and Taggiasca olive bruschetta turned out to be a cornel-based pasta and Taggiasca-style cornels, and a montanara pasta with capers and oregano, which calls to mind the aromas and flavors of faraway lands, was discovered to be entirely local, made with cornel- based pasta, dandelion buds, and oregano from Val Nambrone. The intriguing dinner, prepared by Chalet Spinale and served at Capanna Hofer, concluded with an amicable encounter between local Trentino flavors and those of the island of Sardinia.

In this space for reflection and experimentation, there was also room for mixology, an approach to cocktails that involves the careful selection and measurement of ingredients and elegant motions during actual drink preparation, all accompanied by fascinating explanations of the  finished product to enhance the drinking experience.

The cocktails for the event were mixed using the herbs, flowers and fruits of the mountains, such as dog rose, just to name one. “Herbs serve two contrasting purposes,” said Velier’s mixology manager.“They can either temper or reinforce the spirits being used.”

“It was an experience of great cultural experimentation and excitement,” Noris Cunaccia explained. “A unique opportunity for sharing and research, during which the, at times, very different points of view were focused on our community. There is much to be done, but all the conditions are there to do good things and to express and contextualize this wealth of knowledge about nature and all that it produces, as handed down from generation to generation in traditions that remain to this day.”

the first official editionAs for the future of this far-reaching project, the first official edition, after “edition zero” of last July, will seek to promote the values and unique characteristics of this territory nestled between the Brenta Dolomites and the Adamello-Presanella group through a direct bond between nature and food, between the knowledge of tradition and today’s innovative techniques, all with discriminating emphasis on sustainability, authenticity, beauty, and a passion for all things made well.

The Rendena Valley has a strong hand to play, and with Noris Cunaccia, who inspired the start of the initiative this summer, the trump card has been played right from the start. In the words of Andrea Petrini, “We live in a world of impostors, every one of us, Noris excepted.”

In just a few (important)

to bring together a tribe of wanderers
to enjoy spending time together in these mountains, pondering food, drink and wild edibles
to experiment with, understand and try new things
only the best, without judgment or bias
forest, altitude, absence
a good name for our movement to promote alpine culture
Who we are
people with an undying passion for all that we do
support each other, extend a helping hand, and share knowledge

outdoors, weather permitting, outside of the sterile classroom.

by Noris Cunaccia

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