High above Ftan at 2200 meters sits Alp Laret. This idyllic meadow is where 128 cows spend their summers grazing. Since it would be near impossible to transport all the milk to town every day, Ftan runs a veritable pipeline funneling 2000 liters of fresh milk every day.
But we are not here to milk the cows. Instead, Hotel Paradies Ftan has invited us to try out their cooking academy which takes place every summer and fall. This is just one of the activities available to members of the hotel. But this exclusive cooking school is open to the general public, too.
An evening to write home about
To make preparations for the class, Chef Thomas Hayungs and his crew have already arrived in the morning. They have not only set the tables with lots of care, but have carried all the ingredients to cook a five-course meal.
The communal cooking class is taking place inside Chasa da Fö, a former pig stable. The centerpiece of the this rustic room is a 110-year old wood-burning stove which gives the house its name: Firepit House. Under the helm of Hotel Paradies, the stable has undergone a soft renovation and is now considered Europe's highest altitude cooking academy.
Our experience starts outdoors with a glass of Riesling Sylvaner by Obrecht, Bündner Herrschaft. It is a gorgeous late summer evening and still bright out. As we toast, we introduce ourselves to the other participants who came from as far as Australia and Brazil.
From up here, we have fantastic views of the surrounding mountains, the "Dolomites of Engadine" which peak above 3000 meters above sea. As the sun slowly sets, the peaks start to gloom in hues of pink. Time to strap on an apron and follow the instructions of Chef Hayungs and his team.
Chicken in a haystack
Everyone here speaks English and German, so communication is easy. We are split in smaller groups, each being responsible for preparing of a different course. One group chops onions, carrots and other vegetables for the soup.
Here is Mamiko chopping a basket full of chanterelle mushrooms:
Another group is tasked with fixing a local cheese dish, Grisons Sage Malfatti. But wait, we still need Hollandaise sauce to finish the Malfatti! "Any volunteers?", the chef asks. Having taken pictures the entire evening, I feel like it is my turn to help.
"Oui, chef!" I reply. Having never prepared Hollandaise sauce, I had no idea that whisking those eggs would turn out to be the most intense task of the night... No doubt, the resulting Malfatti dish was worth every whisk.
My personal highlight is the chef's interpretation of steamed chicken. In order to transport the flavor of hay onto the chicken, the chef has stuffed wooden steaming racks usually reserved for dumplings with fresh hay.
The presentation of the chicken not only makes for a big surprise, it also fits the alpine setting perfectly. The dish is served with gersotto, beans and a poached egg, making for a well-rounded main.
Before we leave, a bottle of "enhanced water" makes the rounds. It truly is the perfect moment for a nightcap, but we have to toss in our aprons and sit this one out. Throughout the night, the sommelier has treated us more than well already...
The experience costs 285 francs per person, which includes the class, all meals and beverages, as well as transportation back to Ftan at the end of the night. The upcoming cooking classes will take place on the following dates from approximately 6 PM to 10:30 PM:
- June 20, 2020
- July 11, 2020
- August 22, 2020
- September 19, 2020