Yes, the title sounds like a Bavarian Eberhofer crime novel. However, we are still on the road in South Tyrol and guests at the Romantik Hotel Turm in Völs am Schlern.
Stephan Pramstrahler, the owner, invited us to his hut on the Seiser Alm. We are not only inspired by his raven and eagle owl stories, but also open and curious about further stories and tales.We drive with our Mercedes GLA 250 4matic to the Seiser Alm. The route is like meditation for our eyes. Mountains, mountains, mountains with flower meadows at their feet. We are not able to drive up to the hut – nature reserve. So we exchange our PS strong SUV for two horse powers: a carriage pulled by two beautiful horses.
It is a leisurely ride over stick and stone. “The two ladies are somewhat angry because this is actually their time to go home,” the coachman laughs. Katy and Lilly are best friends who are only two years apart. They have been inseparable since childhood, even if they are different in character. One is spirited, the other calm.
I tend to trust the PS strong companions, but the description of the two horses’ characters fascinates me, as well as the deep trust between man and animal. How long does it take to get used to each other? “About a year,” the likeable coachman tells me. Well, with our Mercedes it went faster.
Stephan is waiting for us in front of his cottage, which is located in the middle of the Alpe di Siusi, surrounded by pastures full of flowers and high stone peaks. In the parlour it is comfortably warm. Like in the old days, the oven is used simultaneously as a heating and cooking place. We take a seat in the sitting area and admire the ingredients for our cooking lesson with Stephan. The pot of water is already on the stove and the heavy cast-iron pan is waiting to be used. We are having traditional mountain cheese dumplings with sage butter in a bed of fresh wild herbs.
Stephan hands us a Sauvignon from his house, which tastes like elderberry. He has spent 35 years of his life in the kitchen, 25 years of which he only ate standing up due to lack of time. And yet he doesn’t see this as stressful at all. “I love going all out, only then can I enjoy myself.”
He grins and takes a big sip from his white wine Bubo, which is dedicated to his eagle owl Olga. “Do your best when cooking and if it does go wrong, it’s not too bad. It is supposed to be fun. So let’s laugh and be happy while preparing the dumplings!” He introduces us to the art and secrets of preparing this typical South Tyrolean dish.
We are fascinated by the passion with in which he is teaching us the individual steps whilst still maintaining his naturalness and easiness. Every cooking fool will be capable of getting it right after his course!
As a matter of fact, he doesn’t even need to work anymore. He made his fortune in real estate a few years ago, he tells us. But the kitchen’s call was stronger, even though he doesn’t have that much time for it anymore. While his hands skillfully form the dumplings, he continues to telling us more exciting stories. He was not an easy child. And certainly not a perfect student. When he was 14 and beat up his teacher, his father took him out of school and put him in a long-distance truck bound for France: “He knew that school was not for me. So he sent me out into the world, where I was to gather my experience for a year. “Your life begins now,” he told me then.
He worked in gastronomy and he enjoyed it despite the hard handling. The dumplings are now in a hot water bath. The warm butter with the sage spreads a pleasant smell in the warm room. Stephan lovingly lays out the wild herb nests: “What is trendy today, namely unusual ingredients for traditional dishes, I had already started doing 30 years ago. Especially when it comes to bread. To this day we still grind our own flour. Do you know how great a bread with sourdough tastes? Delicious!” We believe him. But now we’re set for dumpling mode. “Dumplings were originally a poor man’s dish. The old but precious bread was still had a purpose!” I’m trying to scrape the remaining butter out of the plate by using the last piece of dumpling. For me, they are a delicacy. It is exactly these simple things that make our hearts beat faster and leave us with beautiful memories.