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Polenta is king

There are various polenta recipes to be enjoyed in Oasi Zegna, including concia, moja, maritata and with fresh mushrooms sautéed in parsley and garlic

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In the mountains, every season has its culinary delights. Here in the Biella Alps one of them is polenta of course, a symbol of the mountain tradition, a constant in Oasi Zegna in many versions. Hearty eaters can plan a tour to taste them all.   Soft, steaming and "conciata" (dressed, or cunsa in dialect) with plenty of butter and cheese (toma + maccagno). Fancy trying this “polenta cunsa”, queen of the Biella tradition? Just wander up to Rifugio Monte Marca on Oasi Zegna’s high point (1,620 meters). The diversely athletic can take the chairlift from Bielmonte, but if you want to walk amidst splendid autumnal colors, it’s only 20 minutes to the hut and you get there with a bigger appetite. Their polenta is made strictly with coarse maize flour that’s stone-milled nearby and is also eaten with braised meats and platters of local cured meats and cheeses. Rustic food, typical of mountain huts, to enjoy on terraces (weather permitting) with a 360° view of the Alps.  

Maccagno, the best known of the local cow’s milk cheeses, is also used for polenta moja, the set piece at Locanda Bocchetto Sessera, a building of ancient origins at 1,380 meters on the Panoramica Zegna. Inspired by a Valle Cervo recipe, it’s one of the specialties of Signora Teresa, who will amaze you with her polenta balls, a bit like ice cream balls, swimming in melted cheeses and cream. Just what’s needed after a guided tour of the Foret of Smiles to enjoy the spectacle of the foliage, for the Locanda is close to the start of the path that loops through this special place in which to discover trees’ bioenergetic properties and read children’s fairy stories carved in wooden books.  

More refined palates will appreciate the menu at Ristorante Bucaneve, in the eponymous hotel in Bielmonte, which has several polenta dishes on its menu of elegantly revisited traditional cuisine. From classic concia to polenta croutons with cream of maccagno and fried egg (another typical Biella highland dish), polenta with marinated deer, or the typical autumn polenta with sautéed fresh mushrooms, and polenta biscuits made with maize flour and mountain butter.  

Also in Bielmonte, Ristorante Chalet Bielmonte is well worth trying for its excellent maize flour gnocchi with stinging nettle and maccagno fondue and then tagliolini (pasta) with cep mushrooms, the seasonal highlight.  

Ever tried paletta di Coggiola? If not, drop in at Agriturismo Oro di Berta, a farmstay in Portula, this typical Biella cured meat is served with polenta maritata, a highly aromatic polenta combining wholegrain maize flour and the inner chaff of chestnuts. Paola and Stanis’s small organic farm amidst sweet chestnut groves has four guest room and a menu based on home grown vegetables, wild herbs and other local products: the perfect place for trying specialties made with the nut that symbolizes autumn. Such as chestnut and mushroom soup, roast chestnuts with lard and chestnut cake.
   
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