Today I want to talk to you about a pearl of Val Gardena: the restaurant Granbaita Gourmet a Selva di Val Gardena! Thanks to the talent of the chef Andrea Moccia I, together with my husband and the other guests, had a very special experience. Gourmet dinners such as this one are capable of stealing smiles, making one forget problems and creating complicity between those who share them... but let it be clear that a kitchen, however great, is not enough if the dining room is not up to it. Therefore, before revealing the delights I tasted, I also want to say thank you to the maître Marco and all the staff for pampering us with sincerity and skill.

I frequent restaurants of all kinds, from all-you-can-eat sushi to the best starred chefs in the Michelin Guide and I must say that Saturday night's dinner at theHotel Granbaita Dolomites in Selva Val Gardena was one of the best ever. And since there are chefs who want a Michelin star and chefs who lie, I wish Andrea Moccia the best of luck in achieving it. On that note this article dedicated to another restaurant I love, with some of my own thoughts on the Michelin Guide's awarding of stars...

Gourmet Dinners in Selva di Val Gardena: the Dolomites Menu

In this article I have decided to let you experience the 6-course Dolomites Fish Menu. For the wine pairing I have left it to the maître Marco and chef Andrea Moccia, but the menu is justifiably extensive and with some excellent references, both local and international. My husband chose the 8-course surprise menu, so I also tasted other dishes than the ones I chose to report to you. Of these the most interesting was certainly Primordialor Acquerello rice with fermented hazelnut, chanterelles, blue cheese, ricotta and dry yeast.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

Königsbacher Ölberg Riesling Pfalz 2017, A. Christmann 

When I think of a Riesling that can thrill me, this is definitely at the top of the list! Exceptional, divine, superb! When I saw it arrive, I felt like a child in the playground: happy! It has a brilliant, consistent straw yellow colour. The nose is an intense triumph of hydrocarbons and mineral notes that fade into a hint of bergamot that is barely noticeable. In the mouth it is consistent, structured and with a great acidic backbone that heralds its great bottle-ageing potential.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

In Alto Adige, a speck welcome is more than appreciated... especially when served on deer antlers that are so much like a mountain hut. I appreciated the gesture of cutting it at the moment with a manual slicer: the best way not to oxidise an excellent product. It is also always very scenic in the dining room... especially when presented with such a beautiful lacquered red slicer!

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

Another thing I particularly appreciated was the absence of a tablecloth: a great architect/designer avoids covering a magnificent table with cloth, whatever its value. A leather or cork underplate is the best choice from an aesthetic (as well as hygienic) point of view. Gorgeous cutlery. As an orchid collector, I also particularly liked the elegant white Phalaenopsis on the table, only I recommend not leaving water in the saucer or they are destined to last less than a cat on a bypass...

The large windows with a panorama of mountains and fir trees are the perfect setting for a special moment. I love snow-covered fir trees in winter... it must be even more beautiful!

The 'basket' of bread was wonderful, then enhanced to perfection by a masterfully executed hazelnut butter. In this case, perhaps the butter was brought to such a low temperature that it gave it a barely noticeable hazelnut colour and did not trigger the Maillard Reaction, or else the hazelnut butter was whipped with raw butter to achieve a more delicate flavour... in any case exquisite and the presentation spatulated on anthracite stone was beautiful. I spread it with great pleasure on bread.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

Granbaita Gourmet in Selva di Val Gardena: the first course

Predator (Plankton, Mazara red shrimp, Lampara anchovies, spiked squid, mackerel, Mediterranean tuna and M Zero bitter) is more than a dish... it is an idea. Trying to reconstruct a marine food chain is fascinating and the result was excellent. Games of textures and cooking culminated in a masterfully cooked shrimp. Beautiful presentation with the dry ice 'exploding' in white smoke, then trapped by the serving bell on which the ingredients are placed.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

"Lieben Aich Alto Adige DOC Sauvignon 2019, Manincor

When you start out with a Riesling like the previous one, living up to it is not easy, but they succeeded. Not surprisingly, my second favourite grape variety is Sauvignon. This one is a beautiful deep straw yellow, bright and consistent. The nose is elegant and distinctive, with notes of boxwood and passion fruit. In the mouth it reveals both great structure and acidity, and the alcohol content is well dosed, a fact not at all taken for granted for most Alto Adige sauvignons of recent (rather hot) vintages. The long, intense finish magnificently supported the course to which it was paired. Ready, but still with a bright future for the next ten years...

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

Granbaita Gourmet in Selva di Val Gardena: the second course

Of the whole dinner Asparagus (Asparagus of the moment, organic egg, caviar, oyster and Philipponnat Champagne) was the dish that most excited and made me happy. As a woman and as a gastronome. A balance of flavours and textures manifested in the egg yolk contained in a foamy clear like a meringue with a false shell. And then the caviar, which softens the egg's sweet tendency with its savouriness. The oyster served with a pearl that is none other than a spherification of Champagne probably painted with an airbrush for a question of consistency (if I am wrong, I invite Chef Andrea Moccia to correct me in a comment below this article) was the icing on the cake: divine! The quality of the oyster is also excellent, which could be replaced with a Fine de Claire Verte at least for the winter and late spring seasons: it is very scenic for its emerald colour (due to an algae present in the water that naturally filters) and in addition to the nutty flavour it adds a slight piquancy similar to that of blue cheeses. You could then try using Oscietra caviar which goes even better with oysters. Congratulations!

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

Meursault Blagny AOC 1er cru 2013, Antoine Jobard

Chardonnay and Burgundy: a brief history of a perfect pairing for a superb wine, still incredibly young. It is an intense straw yellow with gold highlights, consistent. The nose is intense, with notes of hay, smoke, vanilla, butter and bitter orange marmalade that fade into a mineral undertone. In the mouth, it is consistent, elegant, structured and slightly shifted to hardness. Persistent, it still has a long way to go in bottle to express its full potential.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

Granbaita Gourmet in Selva di Val Gardena: the third course

This for me was the most extreme and 'difficult' dish, whose performance - in overall terms - exceeded expectations. Meanwhile its preparation was extremely scenic: the waiter brought to the table a Syphon, the same one used for coffee (do you remember when I wrote about this exquisite TrisMoka coffee dinner at the Osteria Cielo in Franciacorta?) and extracted a very aromatic broth which he then poured over Homard au Gin (Lobster, tomatoes, miso, Gin '8025″, guacamole, lovage, burrata ravioli, pesto). On the plate, I found a cuisine that I would describe as molecular without excess, but with plenty of balance of aromas, tastes and textures. The raviolo was wonderful.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

"Vieilles Vignes'. Gevrey Chambertin AOC 2017, Domaine Humbert

An excellent Pinot Noir from Burgundy that suffers from youth: it is not yet ready to be appreciated as it deserves to be. However, it shows great promise: it is an impenetrable, consistent ruby red. On the nose, notes of bitter cocoa, underbrush, Jamaican pepper and plums fade into an earthy finish. The palate is consistent, enveloping, quite soft, structured and with tannin still to be smoothed. The finish is a long succession of spices.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

Granbaita Gourmet in Selva di Val Gardena: the fourth course

With Soqquadro (mezze maniche, canocchie, alpine artichokes, clams, angler fish and kefir) Chef Andrea Moccia managed to make me appreciate a dish composed of several fish/crustaceans. Yes, I have never understood why I would take the famous 'spaghetti allo scoglio' or eat several cold cuts in the same sandwich... so I have always preferred to dress pasta with sauces composed of only one main ingredient. The balance of flavours was impeccable. The monkfish was cut into a thin fillet and probably seared with a blowtorch or otherwise grilled, given its delicious smoky note. The alpine artichokes created a creamy sauce that amalgamated all the flavours.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

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"LÖWENGANG' 2018, Alois Lageder Winery

Together with the riesling, this was certainly the wine I enjoyed most of the entire evening. The carménère is overbearing and indiscreet with its green pepper note. The use of wood is skilful: you can feel it, but more for micro-oxidative purposes as the primary aromas of the grape varieties are more than respected. Enriched with a balsamic and resinous note, it glides through the mouth with great structure and powerful tannin. Long finish of black pepper. The sommelier rightly paired it with my husband's BBQ buffalo, but I can assure you that it was also wonderful to taste it on its own. The Glacier 51 went on to be paired with Burgundy Chardonnay.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

Granbaita Gourmet in Selva di Val Gardena: the fifth course

We wear a black silk mask to take a journey of the senses: without letting sight guide us, it is taste that reveals the next dish. I distinctly recognise olives, tomato, anchovy. I open my eyes and watch my husband as, with the help of waiter Federico, he eats this delicious little croquette.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

The fifth course is AltitudeGlacier 51 (-2000 m), Pretzhof lard (1600 m), saffron (1000 m), chard (Selva 1563 m), coriander, anchovy and lime. Here too, Andrea Moccia creates a balancing act between ingredients that live at an altitude difference of 3600 metres. The Glacier 51 is a fish and specifically the Dissostichus eleginoides, commercially known as oceanic moro and not to be confused with moro, which is not as valuable. Unfortunately, trade names easily mislead: in newspapers and blogs written by less knowledgeable people you may read that the oceanic moro is in the same family as the sea bass: nothing could be more wrong! That is the Mora moro, the fish with which it is confused, and mind you, this is no small detail! The sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax)as well as the Mora moro, are two fish of the family Moronidae, while the Glacier 51 is a fish of the family Nototheniidae (also called ice fish). I swear, I don't want to bore you, but explain why this dish was so successful! 🙂

Ice fish live in very deep waters, up to 2500 metres deep, and therefore evolution has made them develop different characteristics to fish living in warmer waters (such as the more common sea bass). As you can easily guess, it is very cold at that depth and therefore it is essential to have a good reserve of fat and to move very slowly so as not to waste energy. To this end, the bone tissue and caudal fin have been replaced by cartilage and gelatinous tissue, which together with the fat insulates the fish's vital organs. So we have a fish with evenly distributed fat and a distinctly sweet tendency, the same as chard and lard. The 'toasted' lard and anchovy also give flavour, the lime acidity and the saffron amalgamates the flavours: Altitude is a perfectly constructed dish that denotes great culture.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

Granbaita Gourmet in Selva di Val Gardena: the pre-dessert

If there is an aromatic herb without which my life would not be the same, it is dill: I am literally crazy about it, so much so that I 'obliged' my mother to buy me the good one in Romagna. Lately I have also discovered dill seeds and they are an incredible pleasure... so imagine my joy when as a pre-dessert I was served a dill sorbet! Exquisite, it cleaned my mouth and prepared me for the last course!

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

"Le Petit' 2018, Manincor Winery

I love late harvest muffé wines: the Botrytis cinerea gives the wine a distinctive apricot and saffron aroma and a taste that is not too sweet, despite the fact that these late harvests are often the wines with the most g/l of sugar. This Petit Manseng sat in my glass with a light amber colour with green-gold highlights, elegant aromas of honey and dried figs (in addition to those mentioned above), structured, with a good acid shoulder and plenty of flavour. A perfect balance that enhanced all the cheeses, with a special mention for the blue cheese and goat's cheese.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

Granbaita Gourmet in Selva di Val Gardena: the sixth course

Although the Dolomites Menu ends with Checkmate (caramel chocolate, tonka bean, cream cheese, raspberry and burnt milk) I could not resist U-Lat (selection of cheeses with mustard). I live for cheese and am not a fan of desserts (except for anything with even a micro drop of pistachio), so for me this was the best conclusion. I did however get to taste it from another guest and found it delicious, plus the presentation on the chessboard was incredible! The cheeses were portioned directly in the room by the waiter, which I really appreciated and not only because they were contained in a beautiful wooden trunk. In recent years, even in fine restaurants, waiters are somewhat relegated to plate bearers and this debases a beautiful profession that plays a dominant part in the final experience. There is no excellent cuisine without equally excellent service in the dining room, and this is precisely the greatest miracle I have experienced in Selva di Val Gardena: the role of the waiter in the aesthetics of food.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

Granbaita Gourmet in Selva di Val Gardena: the small pastry shop

Here, perhaps the only thing not at the level of the entire evening was the small pastry. Sure, it's an extra, but it's implied that from a restaurant of the highest standard I expect it to be served. Although the surprise effect of the containers was nice, neither the tableware nor the contents excited me. Mind you, the biscuits, nougat and praline were good (the fruit a bit so), but somewhat 'ordinary'. Ordinary in an extraordinary dinner like this clashes a bit: in my opinion better to go for a single, but unforgettable pastry. I would work on the praline: already nice and good, it could have a more particular and at the same time territorial taste (e.g. a praline with an apple and cinnamon filling and a liquid rum heart inspired by strudel) and I would enhance it by serving it alone.

Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

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Granbaita gourmet dinners selva di val gardena

Here is the Chef Andrea Moccia, born in 1980 and originally from Aversa (Caserta). From his homeland he has inherited the short cooking time, but this is not surprising: all his cooking precisely follows all the dictates of the 'cultured' Nouvelle Cousine: lightness, aromatic herbs, respect for the raw material. His handling of the dish is masterly and for me he is an absolute genius: as I have already said with the barbecued watermelon carpaccio he stole my heart. I have read that Andrea Moccia, in his seasonal breaks, has travelled and met great kitchens to learn and this, in my eyes, does him great honour. Of all of them perhaps Ronny Emborg of Copenhagen (whom I find an absolute genius), with his sensory and multidisciplinary cuisine, must have particularly inspired him. Chef Andrea Moccia's cuisine for me is contamination of ideas, flavours, places.

Thank you very much to all the staff for giving me one of the best food and wine experiences of my life... perfect for a gourmet traveller like me!

Cheers 🍷

Chiara

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