Restaurants in Brixen
In addition to quality accommodations and a tranquil garden, the Elephant also has an exceptionally good restaurant, which provided the best meal of the trip. The menu features Tyrolean specialties served with a gourmet flair. I began with a plate of flavorful Schlutzkraphen ($12) dusted with freshly grated Parmesan. Next came a delicious pile of sautéed portabello mushroom slices stacked on top of a tender venison steak and bathed in a reduction sauce ($24). Both were a delight.
Accompanying the meal was a very good red wine bottled especially for the hotel by a local vintner. Reserve a table on the terrace during the summer or in the centuries-old tavern room in winter.
Open Tuesday-Sunday, on Monday opened for hotel guests only, noon-2pm and 5pm-10pm.
Rating: Quality 16/20, Value 15/20
Restaurant-Künstlerstübele Finsterwirt-Oste Scuro
This restaurant has two parts. The first serves rustic Tyrolean cuisine in a pretty, tree-shaded courtyard, or indoors in an attractive tavern. The second part offers a fancier, more refined mix of Tyrolean and international foods upstairs in the richly decorated Künstlerstube.
Tyrolean dishes include a creamy and very delicious wine soup with cinnamon flavored croûtons ($6), tender dumplings filled with mushrooms or spinach ($9) and a heavy venison goulash ($17). International dishes include such fantasies as an appetizer of scallops in Riesling sauce with black band noodles and eggplant cakes ($20) and, as a second course, rack of lamb baked in an herbed potato crust ($22).
Rating: Quality 14/20, Value
Gemütlichkeit highly recommends a visit to the 12th-century Augustine monastery in Neustift, known for its excellent white wine. The scenery is lovely, especially on a walk up the vineyards or along the river leading to the monastery.
Tours can be made of the 18th-century library at select times, and visitors are free any time to wander around the courtyards and visit the church and cloister.
Chorherrenstift wine can be purchased either by the bottle in the small wine shop in front of the monastery, or enjoyed by the glass at a small wine tavern just across the way.
In addition to its white wines - the Sylvaner is particularly good - the monastery also serves a fruity burgundy and a dense, slightly bitter Lagrein, a local grape variety. Simple accompaniments include a board stacked with thinly sliced Speck and brown bread ($8).
Contact: Chorherrenstift Neustift, tel/fax +43/01/36 189, open Monday-Saturday 10am-7pm.
Rating: Quality 13/20, Value 12/20
An Assembled Meal
One of the best dinners in Tyrol was gathered from small shops in Brixen and enjoyed in the evening on the balcony of my room at the Hotel Elephant. Here's where to go to assemble such a meal.
Wine: Stampfl, Trattengasse 18, tel +39/0472/83 60 01, open Monday-Saturday 9am-1pm and 4pm-10pm. Located on a central, residential street, this basement wine shop offers vintages from all over the world, but specializes in the fine wines produced nearby. A selection of wines by the glass is available at a bar in the back of the store.
Cheese: Casa del Formaggio, Domgasse 4, +39/0472/83 60 68, open Monday-Friday 8am-noon and 2pm-6pm; Saturday 8am-noon. A lovely, well-stocked cheese shop tucked away on a narrow street fragrant with the products sold there. The two venerable Italian women proprietors offer cheeses from throughout Italy, as well as a small assortment of Tyrolean mountain cheeses.
Meat: Schanung, Adlerbrückengasse 3, tel +39/0472/83 62 02, open Mon.-Fri. 8am-noon and 2pm-6pm; Saturday 8am-noon. South Tyrol is justly famous for its Speck (bacon) and Kaminwurz (small string sausages so named because they are traditionally hung to dry over the hearth, which makes it look as if the chimney has sprouted roots). Other than local farmhouses, this local chain of delicatessens is one of the best places to sample these Tyrolean specialties, as they still produce them according to traditional rather than industrial methods. They also sell Graukäse, a rubbery, flavorless cheese that must be an acquired taste.
Fruit and bread: The town's bakeries all seem to live up to the high, local standards, so it's hard to go wrong anywhere. Regional specialties include excellent multi-grain breads and Schüttlebrot, a dry, long lasting bread that I found to be about as enjoyable as hardtack.
There are also many small fruit shops selling perfectly ripe Italian produce.
(Editor's Note: When telephoning Italy from abroad, do not drop the zero before the area code as is the case with other European countries).
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