I just spent 8 days in the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl for an end of season work holiday. We stayed in a catered chalet, meaning breakfast is included every day and three-course meals (with unlimited wine – woohoo!) are included most evenings. Prepare for tighter pants by the end of the week. Trust me, no matter how hard you ski, you’re never going to burn all those calories off.
So overall, the food in Ischgl was better than expected. Nothing amazing, mind but I didn’t live (entirely) on bread and cheese as I do when in the French Alps. Plenty of both items were consumed but instead of being my only source of sustenance (unless you count cheap wine and Jägerbombs), they were just a part of some meals.
Chalet food is always a bit of a mixed bag and there was the good (cous cous stuffed red peppers) and the bad (a weird, chalky and grossly overpowering fennel and lentil bake) served in the evenings. But then you can’t expect too much from a 19-year-old ‘chef’ who is really only there to ski and get wasted (I know – I have done a season). However, with three courses every night, there is plenty to eat even if you don’t like all dishes served (which I rarely do, being a fussy dessert eater). And to the chalet staff’s credit, I was super-impressed on the first night when instead of trying to serve me the pana cotta (made with gelatine) that everyone else got (and that I have been given twice before on chalet holidays), I was served a yummy poached apple with berry compote. Mmm…
During the days on the mountain, miraculously, only one of my lunches was a cheese sandwich and fries were consumed only once as well. Compare that to last year in Val d’Isere, France where I remember having vegetable soup once for lunch and every other day, a cheese and/or French fry sandwich and it’s a pretty impressive feat!
As the chalet breakfasts and dinners were, in general, nothing to write home about, here are some of the things I ate by choice:
On the Mountain
Kaiserschmarrn –one of the few ‘traditional’ foods I could actually eat. Not only was that exciting in itself but it was also my absolute favourite ‘naughty dinner’ as a child! My parents met in the Austrian Alps and Kaiserschmarrn (sometimes referred to as Emperor’s Omelette or Emperor’s Mess in English) is a bit of a nostalgic food for them and was a special treat for my sister and me on lazy Friday nights. It is a sort of Austrian pancake, chopped up into chunky pieces, sprinkled with icing sugar and served with apple sauce (or various other fruit sauces/compotes). So, so good! My mum’s recipe always had raisons in it but the ski-hill version was plain. I am gutted that in my excitement to eat it, I forgot to take a photo. Enjoyed during an outdoor lunch on a bluebird day, it was nothing short of brilliant.
Salads– a rare delicacy in Europe! There was one restaurant on the mountain, the Idalp Panorama, whose massive self-serve salad bar was a veggie-heaven. You paid by the weight of the food, rather than per option or per plate, so could eat as much or as little as you wanted. Nearly all options were vegetarian and these included spicy ricotta-stuffed cherry peppers, marinated artichokes and button mushrooms, grilled peppers, egg salad, potato salad, various forms of tomatoes (fresh, baked, sundried etc), selection of cheeses, garden salad… I could go on! Needless to say, my plate was piled high. We ate here twice. Stoked.
Cream of Vegetable Soup – not exactly exciting but a perfect warm-me-up meal on a cold, blustery whiteout day.
Vegetarian Pizza – twice. It’s okay – I shared them both times! First one was delish and covered in a few types of veg not traditionally found on pizzas (my favourite kind of pizza toppings!). There was carrot, yellow carrot, broccoli, courgette and olives (which my friend and I both picked off). The second pizza was a bit disappointing as the dough was a little too thick for me and really salty. The only things I really add salt to are eggs and potatoes, so didn’t really work for me with pizza. The toppings were (canned) mushrooms, artichokes, tomatoes and spinach. Wasn’t amazing but still can’t complain as it wasn’t a cheese or French fry sandwich!
Spinach Spaetzle – another traditional meal – hooray! I had never heard of this stuff before but we went to a local restaurant one evening and it was one of the few veggie options, so I decided to give it a go. Spaetzle is a German pasta, that looks a little like macaroni but has a similar texture to gnocchi or dumplings. It is not served in a sauce like pasta or gnocchi, it is just buttered and sprinkled with cheese. It is rather heavy and although I liked it, I could only eat half my serve and in future, would prefer this as a side dish, rather than a main as the one flavour gets a little boring after a while and it’s a tad stodgy.
Fries – yep, just plain, old fries for dinner one night. We went to a small bar on the mountain in Solden (1.5 hours drive from Ischgl) for all you can drink plus dinner for €8. The only dinner options were a beef burger with fries or spaghetti with tomato sauce. I don’t like spaghetti, so opted to just get fries. Don’t worry, I more than got my money’s worth through my impressive consumption of wine!
Seeing as the majority of food I ate whilst away was carbs-loaded, the first meal I cooked when arriving back in the UK was a massive vegetable stir-fry. So, so good after all the stodgy chalet food!
Oh, and for any skiers or boarders reading this blog… Go to Ischgl! It’s amazing.