The Alpbach Valley is a region in Austria’s western state of Tyrol, known for its green rolling hills, traditional dark wooden houses and excellent winter skiing.
Made up of nine picturesque villages that could be straight off a chocolate box, the lush valley is home to plenty of incredible local produce and on a recent summer trip I got to check out some of the best in the valley.
With crystal clear lakes brimming with fresh-water trout, bacon smoked using a traditional method and plenty of crisp fruity schnapps, there was more to the Alpbach Valley then I thought. Here is my guide to eating in the Alpbach Valley.
For more information on visiting Tyrol visit tyrol.com, or learn more about Alpbachtal at alpbachtal.at
Save some cash this summer with our guide to the best cheap eats in London.
What to See
Cheese is a big part of the diet in Tyrol. It goes hand in hand with the hearty appetite needed for high altitude living and traditional farming.
The picturesque town of Reith is home to the unique Alpachtaler Heumilchkase cheese, which is produced using milk from cows that have been fed exclusively on a diet of hay. This round cheese has a slight smokey flavour from the hay, and is just in between being hard and soft, making it the ultimate melter!
Try it for yourself at Restaurant Malerwinkel, in the small little town of Rattenburg further down the valley, where they make an incredible cheese soup, using the light cheese, loads of garlic and fresh thyme.
Speck is a traditional smoked bacon that is found across Austria, commonly made by hanging juniper studded bacon joints in traditional smokers.
Konrad Kirchmair is the man to see when it comes to this silky smoked bacon. You can only try the fine speck he produces at his farmhouse The Hechahof, as he doesn’t sell it to shops or restaurants.
The traditional farmhouse was built in the 16th century and not much has changed since. Konrad and his family have not altered any of the architecture, including the original smoker, giving guests a true insight into how speck has been made over the centuries.
His thin cut, satin-like, smokey bacon has just a hint of juniper to it and is perfect draped over a slice of Konrad’s home-made beer bread.
Blessed with an incredible amount of lakes that get up to 26 degrees in the summer, Tyrol has some of the finest fresh water trout you can find.
Due to the low salt content in the fresh water, the flavour of the fish is mild and not too salty. The water and the relatively small size of the lakes mean that the trout can grow to an unbelievable size.
There’s no better way to enjoy the fresh water trout than at the lakeside restaurant of Bergsteinersee, where they serve their daily catch simple grilled to flakey perfection, with its delicate pink meat having a subtle fish flavour that perfect with a herb loaded potato salad.
You cannot go to Austria without trying Apfel Strudel! Made from impossibly thin pastry and stewed apples, the whole strudel looks like an incredibly large pastry sausage when raw. This is then cooked to golden perfection, before being sliced into wheels of flakey pastry filled with the soft, squidgy apples.
This kind of hand-held apple pie is the must try on the menu at Rattenburg’s Café Hacker, where proprietor Reinhard Hacker hand stretches the dough as thin as possible using a traditional method. The dough is then laid out and filled with an apple mixture that uses as little sugar as possible to ensure a nice sharp flavour. The result is a light and crispy pastry and a lovely tart apple centre.
For more information visit cafehacker.at
Famed for its mountain-filtered natural springs, the Alpbach Valley is known for its unique mineral rich water.
Over centuries, the water filters through layers of rock in the mountainous region, where it is purified and absorbs an incredible amount of natural nutrients. The result is beautifully crisp water that is full of body and replenishing nutrients.
Schnapps is very VERY popular in Tyrol and is quite unlike any you would have tasted before. Using fruit as the base for fermenting, the schnapps is then filtered with no added flavours or colours. The first taste is pure alcohol with a serious kick, but give it a minute and you get rich fruit flavour and gentle warmth, which makes it the perfect digestif.
Producers across the valley use all manners of fresh fruit grown in Alpbach, including apples and pears, with nothing imported to keep it as local and traditional as possible.
But not everybody can make it. Schnapps distilleries have to be given special permission by the government to ensure that that this authentic Austrian beverage is kept true to form with no impurities and nothing artificial.
Austrian cuisine isn’t all about meat and cheese, in fact they’re a dab hand at growing a paler version of one of our favourite summer vegetable, asparagus. Austrian white asparagus is thick, tender and utterly delicious, with a stronger taste than it’s green cousin.
The best Asparagus that I had was at Tyrol’s award winning restaurant Sigwart’s Tiroler Weinstube. Here the asparagus is served simply with melting Tyrollean cheese, salty bacon and a tangy vinegarette. The asparagus adds a wonderful crunch to the salad, and its bold flavour means it isn’t overpowered by the other strong ingredients in the dish.
Traudi Sigwart is the only award winning female chef in Tyrol, and the restaurant she owns with her husband Anton is well worth a visit when staying in the Alpbach valley.
For more information visit tiroler-weinstuben.at
Deer roam free amongst the lush forests of Tyrol eating their way through a diet rich in nuts, mushrooms and berries, which makes their meat incredibly sweet, tender and gamey.
The little town of Alpbach, hailed as the prettiest town in Austria due to its rule that all houses must all be built in the same traditional style, is home to Romantikhotel Böglerhof hotel. The hotel is steeped in history and has an incredibly well stocked wine cellar.
Their star dish was a roasted loin of venison, juicy and pink in the middle with an amazing gamey flavour much stronger than you’d fine in the UK. This was served with a pungent wild garlic gnocci and a rich game jus, making the dish intense in flavour. Just what’s needed after a long days trekking along the river Inn.
For more information visit boeglerhof.at