Andy’s Adventure to the land of Cheese, Chocolate, Watches and Snow! (Part 2) – A visit to a Star!

For a lucky few, food adventures like this are regularly undertaken. But for the rest of us, including these two Adventurers, a food adventure such as this definitely ranks as a highlight of the holiday adventure. As such, a visit to a Star deserves its own post.

The adventure actually started months before during the planning of the Swiss Adventure. Due to the lucky find of huge savings on the flights to and from Switzerland as well as some other savings and because the rare opportunity arose, the two adventurers decided to treat themselves whilst in Zürich.

The initial plan for this food adventure was to spend two nights at the Sorell Hotel Rütli before transferring to another hotel for a dinner package which included dinner with wine pairings and a room for the night, which would be our last night in Zürich. All that was booked and confirmed. Then a few weeks before departure to Switzerland the adventure took a twist when an email arrived informing us that the hotel and restaurant were going to be closed from Christmas during the time we had booked. So now it was back to the planning board for this one night and for the dinner. The one night of accommodation was easily sorted thanks to the Sorell Hotel Rütli’s online booking management system. A simple case of logging in and changing the departure date to the following day when we were going to leave Zürich for the next part of the Swiss Adventure. The more difficult part was finding a new Star. After poring over the guide along with Google maps a new Star was finally found and selected. This took the form of the Restaurant Pavillon at the Baur au Lac hotel. The Pavillon holds one Michelin Star and 17 Gault Millau Points. The Head Chef is Laurent Eperon. Many people are somewhat familiar with the Michelin Stars (from one to three) that are awarded to the restaurants or dining establishments. A lesser known ranking, and one that I came across for the first time while researching which restaurant to choose for this trip, is the Gault Millau point ranking. The Gault Millau guide uses a ranking of between 0 and 20 points, with 20 being the target for restaurants to aim for. While the Michelin Guide is more popular and therefore generally considered more influential, the Gault Millau Guide of often considered more “purist” as it is purely based on the quality of the food.

The winter evening of Tuesday 22 December 2015 approached after a wonderful day exploring Zürich. During the late afternoon the two adventurers prepared for this much anticipated food adventure. It would be the first time that either would be dining at a Michelin Star restaurant. The walk to the Baur au Lac, located in Talstrasse on the bank of the Schanzengraben canal near the Zürichsee.

On arrival our jackets and coat were taken from us to be hung up. We were escorted to our table which was in the circular section of the restaurant which overlooks either the canal or the beautiful gardens. Soon after been seated the, now standard for Michelin Starred restaurants, first of the Amuse-bouches was served. An Amuse-bouche (literally translated from French to be “mouth amuser”) is an appetizer that is served gratis and according to the Chef’s selection. Usually they are served to prepare the guest for the meal ahead and to offer insight into the Chef’s approach to cuisine. They became an identifiable course during the Nouvelle Cuisine movement of the 1960’s. This was in the form of parmesan cheese puffs with very thing Melba toast. After some sparkling mineral water and the perusal of the menu along with the white gloved presentation of the truffle, at 19CHF per gram (approximately R300 per gram) if my memory serves me correctly, a selection of breads were served. Both adventurers ordered the pre-decided Menu Harmonie with wine pairing. The menu Harmonie consisted of seven courses paired with wines from France, Switzerland, Spain and Italy selected by the Sommelier Aurélien Blanc. Although truffle was included in the one part of the menu we definitely did not pay extra for it! The second Amuse-bouche then arrived which was some Swiss sausage on potato pieces. Then the third Amuse-bouche soon followed. This was a very creative and delicious one. Alfredo served in an egg shell. Both adventurers really enjoyed this Amuse-bouche!

It was now time for the first of the seven courses. The first course was:

NOIX DE COQUILLES SAINT-JACQUES

Roasted scallops and scallop tartar

Black Truffle

This was served with a 2012 white wine from the Alsace region in France.

The dish was served in two dishes. The roasted scallop was served warm while the scallop tartar was served cold with a slice of black truffle on top. The contrast of textures and hot/cold made for a delicious course.

 

The second course was:

FOIE GRAS DE CANARD DE BOUAYÉ

Duck liver terrine, variation of quince

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Foie gras.

This was served with a 2012 white wine from Switzerland.

The dish was beautifully presented and involved some nice flavours and textures. The sweet wine went well with foie gras.

 

The third course was:

SOLE PETIT BATEAU ET COQUILLAGES

Poached sole roulade

Normande sauce with mussels.

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Sole.

This was served with a 2011 white wine from Spain.

The dish was beautifully presented and tasted delicious.

 

The fourth course was:

A SUNDAY EVENING AT MY GRANDMOTHER

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A Sunday Evening at my Grandmother.

This was an interesting course consisting of a raw egg yolk, crispy onion, some vegetable purée and a Hollandaise type sauce.

 

The fifth course was:

CHEVREUIL D’AUTRICH -CROSS THE CHANNEL-

Roasted saddle of venison, Arabica game gravy

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Roast venison.

This course was served with an excellent 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley red from France.
The venison was cooked perfectly (for Andy) medium and the sauce was full of flavour and delicious. Andy’s fellow adventurer usually prefers her meat a little more cooked but at a Michelin Star restaurant the Chef chooses how well cooked his dishes are. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape red definitely complimented the food perfectly and was one of the best pairings I have ever tasted. The onion as well as the potato purée was perfect to accompany the venison. Each of the adventurers were served a small bowl of warmed red cabbage on the side.

 

The sixth course was:

MANDARINE

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Mandarine.

This course took a similar form to the “A Sunday Evening at My Grandmother” and consisted of Mandarines served in three forms along with a Mandarine sauce.

 

The seventh and final course was a choice of one of two. Andy enjoyed the:

CITRON JAUNE

Sour cream and yellow lemon mousse

Lemon Sablé Breton

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Citron jaune.

This was served with a delicious Italian 2014 Moscato dAsti Barisél from Piedmont.

 

Andy’s fellow adventurer opted instead for the:

FROMAGES AFFINÉS DU CHARIOT

Selection of cheeses from the trolley

These cheeses were some of the best cheeses that either of us had ever tasted! Some more bread was served with the cheese selection.

Afterwards it was time for the traditional cappuccino and espresso accompanied by an assortment of petit fours.

Mention must also be made of the service at the Pavillon. It was simply amazing. We were extremely well looked after by all the staff from the front of house, to all the waiters and waitresses. When the courses were served it was always by a minimum of 3 staff – one to hold the tray and one per dish that was taken from the tray and placed in front of each of us in a synchronized and precise performance. A small side table was also provided for scarves and handbag etc. The waiters and waitresses were always available yet also not intrusive. It was definitely a case of “you are our guest and we will take care of all your needs while you are here with us”.

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The Adventurers. The waitress did a whole photo shoot and chose this picture as the light was the best.

The ambiance and decor create a light and intimate atmosphere in the main circular section of the restaurant without feeling like you are too close to the neighbouring table.

The food was excellent, delicious and full of flavours with a nice range of textures. One could taste the freshness of the ingredients. The traditional ingredients worked well with what one could detect was creative preparation that fused contemporary and classic styles.

Overall, combining the food and the service, it was simply at a higher level than anything I have experienced before. But mention must be made of the difference in dining culture between South Africa and Europe. That includes the likes of The Test Kitchen (voted Number 1 restaurant in South Africa for multiple years), AtholPlace Restaurant and Cube (which you can read about here in another Adventures of Andy blog post) and another excellent restaurant which will be dealt with in another food adventure blog post after the third part of the Swiss Adventure.

Outside on the edge of the gardens of the Baur au Lac was a huge gingerbread/chocolate house complete with smoke periodically rising out of the chimney. We expected Hansel and Gretel to walk out the door of the house at any moment. It was decided that they would not appreciate us having a taste of the house and besides, after the awesome fine dining there was not space for another bite!

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Hansel and Gretel house.

After an amazing dinner the cold night air of Zürich during the walk along the banks of the Limmat River, with frequent photo stops, was very welcome.

If you enjoyed this food adventure then please like and share so that others can also experience the adventure we (you and I) have just been on. Comments are appreciated. Please check back soon for the rest of the Swiss blog posts. You can also see more pictures from the Switzerland Adventure on my Instagram @andyrlapin.

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Andy’s Adventure to the land of Cheese, Chocolate, Watches and Snow! (Part 1)

This was definitely one of the best Adventures of all time! It also literally started with an Adventure.

Departure from Johannesburg and the Frankfurt Connection

After security and passport control it was time for some relaxation with my adventurous travelling partner, Adele, in the Bidvest Lounge before the first of two flights. Some sparkling wine was just what was needed to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas Holidays and the start of the amazing Swiss Adventure!

But, alas, the electronic departure board had some news for us. South African Airways flight SA260 had a delay of 1 hour. Oh well, we just had an hour less shopping time at the next airport which has some great shopping options. The excitement increased as the boarding process was finally carried out. Once we had boarded and taken our seats, luckily the second row from the front of economy, we sat. And we sat. And we sat some more. Eventually it was take off time – over 1 hour 40 minutes later. The delay put a huge time pressure on us for our connecting flight. The time of 2 hours and 15 minutes between landing and take off was now shaved down to just 35 minutes with passport control and very thorough airport security to get through!

We literally hit the ground running in a very misty Flughafen Frankfurt am Main. Would the Germans wait for two South African adventurers? After some running we arrived at passport control, luckily with no queue. Then it was to the German airport security. Luckily Frankfurt is very well organised and have a “Fast Lane” security option for passengers with time constrained connecting flights. We arrived at the gate 2 minutes before boarding commenced.

The Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Zürich was fairly short and carried out with the efficiency the Germans pride themselves in. Finally it was touch down in Zürich! Zürich is a delightful city on the northwestern tip of Lake Zürich with about 2 million people within the Zürich metropolitan area.

Zürich Teil Eins

The hotel in Zürich was the Sorell Hotel Rütli, a perfect little hotel a few minutes walk from the railway station. After checking in it was time to go on an adventure and explore the wonderful city. From the Sunday we arrived until the Wednesday that we departed, with the exception of Monday when we did a trip to Basel for the day, we explored Zürich and the Christmas Markets.

The first Christmas Market we came across was the one inside Zürich Hauptbahnhof, the main railway station. This had numerous stalls selling everything from crafts to food and drinks. One of the first stalls we came across was selling “Maroni”. This was something new to us adventurers and turned out to be roasted chestnuts. Since the gentleman occupying the stall was kind enough to give us one to taste we ended up buying one “Glühwein Rot <Alpenrose>” and one Glühwein weiss <Edelweis>” from his “Glühroni” stall. The Christmas Market had stalls selling chocolate made in the shapes of tools, cheeses, salamis and cold meats, nuts with various coatings and, what was to become a favourite, Schmalzkuchen (absolutely delicious little German pastries) amongst others. This railway station Christmas Market had the Swarovski crystal Christmas tree which was spectacular!

In the evening we explored another Christmas Market which was fairly new to the Zürich Christmas Market scene. This was the Singing Christmas Tree Market. The Christmas Tree has places where choirs can stand in the tree and perform. A nice touch is that they get people from the crowd to join them up in the tree and participate by ringing the traditional Swiss cow bells. The conductor shows the tree a colour and they ring the bell of the same colour. This was a really enjoyable time listening to the carols, singing and music. Then, it was time to find dinner. The noses of the adventurers detected a very nice smell from a little hut at the Singing Christmas Tree Market. Venturing inside the source of the lovely aroma was found to be a cheese fondue. Naturally the only option was to sit down and have a traditional Swiss cheese fondue. Served on the side was hot cider.

Basel für den Tag

Monday morning was the day for the planned adventure to Basel, Switzerland’s third most populous city after Zürich and Geneva. It is a city that is located on the borders of Switzerland, France and Germany and actually has suburbs in all three countries. The day did involve a slightly later start in order to catch up on some sleep from the travelling. This was actually a good thing since it was raining a bit in Zürich in the morning. The train journey from Zürich HB to Basel SBB (there are two stations in Basel – Basel SBB is the Swiss station while Basel Badischer Bahnhof is over the Rhein and is the German DB station) ranges from around 53 minutes to about 1 hour 4 minutes depending on the InterCity or InterRegio trains and the number of stops. Exiting the station the adventurers began the short walk towards the city centre and the main sights. But there was a distraction and detour along the way. This was in the form of Schiesser Chocolatier, hidden away in the UBS building on the corner of St. Alban-Graben and Aeschenvorstadt. Of course the only logical thing to do was to go and have a look and hopefully a taste. While admiring the different chocolates the friendly Schiesser lady offered us each a taste of a chocolate of our choice. Wow! It was so delicious that we each ended up purchasing four chocolates. It took a lot of willpower to not just eat all four chocolates there and then. The friendly Schiesser lady did inform us of their main branch with a tea room at Marktplatz.

With our precious cargo safely packed we continued towards the first objective – the Rhein at Wettsteinbrücke, Basel’s second oldest bridge over the Rhein although it has since been replaced by a new structure. The views of the Rhein from the bridge were fabulous. On the Kleinbasel side on the north bank of the Rhein the river bank is fairly low whereas on the southern side the bank rises up quite high and quite steeply. The exploratory walk continued along the bank on the Kleinbasel side. This provided great views with the Rhein in the foreground and some beautiful buildings of Grossbasel, most notably the spires of the famous Basler Münster, a building with a very interesting history. It was originally a Catholic Cathedral but today is a Reformed Protestant Church and construction took place between 1019 and 1500! It was destroyed during an earthquake on 18 October 1356. That earthquake is considered the most significant seismological event to have occurred in Central Europe in recorded history. It is built in Romanesque and Gothic styles. Of course the obligatory temperature analysis of the Rhein was done using the finger test. Yes, it was very cold!

Upon reaching the Mittlere Brücke (which is the oldest bridge in Basel), Greifengasse leading away from the Rhein into Kleinbasel looked quite vibey and a hive of activity. So the adventurers followed it and explored some of the shops along it. This lead us to Claraplatz and an inviting looking stand selling some delicacies outside the St. Clara-kirche. Naturally a “snowball” needed to be tasted. This turned out to be a delicious coconut “cutie pie” type delicacy.

Then it was time to make our way back across the Rhein which we did by crossing the Johanniterbrücke. From there we walked through the university hospital area of Basel which lead us to Marktplatz where the Rathaus (Town Hall) is. Of course a visit to the Schiesser tea room and shop was a given. As was a pretzel from Brezelkonig.

Time to move on to find the Basler Münster. This was done via a quiet but extremely delightful cobbled street with buildings a few hundred years old. This lead us to the far end of the Münsterplatz right at the Christmas Market. This Christmas market was small but had wonderful food. A small sample of some rösti resulted in the purchase of a plate of rösti with some garlic sauce and sample of Glühwein. A quick walk around the beautiful interior of the Münster and it was time to walk back towards the station, with a detour to another Christmas Market at Barfüsserplatz. Since this was a bigger market there was more on offer with some elaborate stalls, including talking mooses. A purchase of some nutella nuts was made.

The decision was then made to head to the station and return to Zürich. A rest stop at the hotel was made before some more night time exploring of Zürich was done. This exploring lead the adventurers to another, much bigger Christmas Market on the shore of the Zürichsee at Sechseläutenplatz. This market provided a real treat – truffle cheese! Dinner was Glühwein and freshly made potato crisps.

Zurück in Zürich

Tuesday was the last day of the Zürich adventures and involved some exploring and a boat trip on the Zürichsee from/to Bürkliplatz to Zollikon and Thalwil. The day involved more visits to department stores where I had my eye on, but ultimately ended up not purchasing unfortunately, a very nice Certina watch – perhaps one day I will purchase it. The first part of the Switzerland Adventure ended with the ultimate food adventure which deserves it’s very own blog post.

If you enjoyed the first part of the Switzerland Adventure please like and share. Comments are appreciated. Please check back soon for the rest of the Swiss blog posts. The next post will be about the Adventure of the evening of Tuesday 22 December 2015. After the part 2 of the Swiss adventure will be posted. You can also see more pictures from the Switzerland Adventure on my Instagram @andyrlapin.