Dining at Four Ski Resorts
In 1892, when Oscar Wilde visited the ski resort of Chamonix in the French Alps, he could not understand why "otherwise civilized people slide downhill at breakneck speed on two fragile sticks of wood". Despite his aversion to skiing, Wilde enjoyed himself enormously, "having found an excellent pub, a delightful bistro and a superb restaurant" at which he could make apres ski an all day and night affair. Like Wilde, I have no great passion for skiing, but nearly every winter finds me at at least one ski resort or another, for there are some excellent culinary experiences to be found near the ski slopes of Europe and North America.
Located at an altitude of 2800 meters,in the Swiss Alpine region known as the Engadine, St. Moritz has been the ne plus ultra of of glamour, very possibly the most fashionable and certainly one of the most expensive resorts in the world. A place that has attracted ed the aristocracy of France, England and Germany as well as the wealthy of the New World, St. Moritz is a city in which one can easily spend SFr. 1500 per night for a hotel room, and where it is not at all difficult to spend SFr. 200 for dinner for one. In addition to the rich and the famous, the city also has a reputation for attracting, as author Peter Viertel wrote in 1986, "the hangers-on of the rich ... the jewel thieves, the profession- al backgammon players and general layabouts, as well as the most exquisitely beautiful and highest paid ladies of the night that Europe knows".
I can attest to Viertel's observations, for as I have learned over the years, this is a resort where great wealth is taken so for granted that sable and mink coats for both men and women are considered a normal way to keep warm during the day-time hours of the winter, where it is not unusual to see women wearing $600,000 diamond tiaras to dinner, and where the ladies of the night charge up to $1250 for an evening of whatever services it is that such ladies provide.
Fortunately, one need not be a millionaire to visit this great resort. In addition to nine luxurious hotels there are also reasonably priced three and four star hotels and fine guest houses. Among the restaurants in the area I most enjoy are:
Johri's Talvo: Set in a charming 17th century farmhouse and located in the nearby village of Champfer, this is a restaurant where meals often approach greatness. Among talented chef Roland Johri's most exciting offerings are fillets of trout on a salad of pasta and asparagus, white bean soup with local sausages and chicken breasts stuffed with truffles and wild rice. Expensive. Reservations required. Tel: 082 34455.
Chese Veglia: via Veglia 2. Merely entering this 1658 stone, stucco and wood building through its massive arched oak door is a treat. Three restaurants are housed here - the Chadafo Grill, where meats are cooked over open wood fires, the Patrizier-Stube that serves regional specialties, and the Hayloft, which is a pizzeria. The first two are expensive. The pizzeria is moderately priced. Tel: 082 21101.
The Grill Room: in Badrutt's Palace Hotel. This posh and luxurious restaurant features green and gold baroque decor in a high- ceilinged room and among the best offerings are artichoke and truffle salad, shellfish terrine with smoked salmon, lobster cognac with 35 year old cognac, fettuccini with foie gras and poached quail with grapes. Here, as everywhere else in the hotel, men are expected to wear jacket and tie. Reservations required. Very, very expensive. Tel: 082 21101.
La Marmite: Corviglia Bergstation. Set high in the mountains and reachable only by funicular, the unbeatable view makes this is a delightful place for lunch. Try especially the venison soup, the seafood omelet or the duck liver with truffles. If you are in a wealthy mood, ask for the six course caviar menu. The dessert buffet here is one of the best in Europe. Expensive. Reservations not required. Tel: 082 3 63 55.
The Trattoria: Hotel Steffani, Sonnenplatz 1. The ambiance of warm, wood-lined decor and the excellent service make this a pleasant place in which to dine on tagliatelle Alfredo, poulet chasseur with polenta, goat meat with rosemary or any of the trout dishes offered. Moderately priced. Reservations not required. Telephone 082 212101
Hanselmann, via Maistra 8. Open since 1855, this tavern and tearoom is one of the best and one of the most reasonably priced places in town for breakfast or lunch. The cuisine is tratitional Swiss. Try especially the country platter piled high with Black Forest ham and Valais rye rolls, and the Welsh Rarebit that is served with smoked salmon and buttered toast. Reservations not required. Tel: 082 33864.
Restaurant Steinbock, in the Steinbock Hotel, via Serias 27. A family style restaurant serving excellent Swiss dishes. Try especially the carpaccio of deer, the pork and veal cutlets, the venison stuffed raviolis, and any of the rabbit dishes offered. Prices are reasonable. Reservations not required. Tel: 082 22272.
Bavaria - Fairytale Castles and Good Food
Whether one visits the villages of Bavaria for their great ski slopes, to see the fairytale castles built by Ludwig the Mad, or to dine in their delightful restaurants is unimportant. Many hotels are furnished with fine antiques; the villages are an exquisite combination of Rococo buildings and smoky beer cellars, of super modern shops and of pale painted stucco houses. Among my favorite restaurants in Bavarian ski country are the following:
In Bad Wiesee: Freihaus Brenner. Freihausstr. 4. Try the rabbit in raspberry sauce, the fresh lake fish and the magnificent desserts. In fact, anything the waiter suggests will be excellent. Very expensive. Reservations required. Tel: 08022/82004.
In Berchesgaden: Hotel-Restaurant Geiger. Stanggass 1. The trout here are among the best in the world. Also consider the stuffed quails, the stuffed goose and the saddle of venison which comes with strawberry sauce. Informal and moderate prices. Reservations recommended. Tel: 08652/5055.
In Ettal: Poststurberl, Hotel Zum Post. Kaiser Ludwig 18. Fish and game are the specialties in this charming country inn. After your meal be sure to try one of the cakes. Reasonable prices. Reservations suggested. Tel: 08822/4637.
In Garmisch: Posthotel Partenkirchen, Ludwigstr 49. My personal favorite in Austria, the traditional Bavarian dishes here are always perfect. Moderate prices. Reservations suggested. Tel: 08821/51067.
In Oberammergau: Alte Post. Dorfstr. 19. This 400 year old inn offers excellent local cuisine at very reasonable prices. Reservations not required. Tel: 08822/1091.
Seattle - On American Slopes
It strikes some as odd to think of Seattle, Washington as a ski resort, but because truly great ski slopes are so readily accessible, many use the city as a base for their daily ski outings.
There are few cities in the United States more strikingly beautiful, more crime free or cleaner than Seattle. Rising steeply from the water to the west, the city is located along the eastern shore of Puget Sound. Built on seven hills, the city has a panoramic view of the harbor and also faces a darkly forested range of mountains. Seattle is as close to a North American gastronomic paradise as one might wish for. The area known as the Pike Place Market, often thought of as the soul of the city, overlooks both the harbor and the waterfront. Six blocks long and four wide, the hundreds of shops that make up the market go down six stories on the cliffside. The upper level of the market is devoted to the sale of fresh foodstuffs ranging from tomatoes and eggplants to fish and seafood and some of the finest beef, veal and mutton that is raised in the United States. Nothing in this market happens quietly, but everything happens in a warm and friendly fashion. Best of all, the market rules demand freshness, local preparation and local ownership, so even though you may find farmers' wives selling their home made jams and freshly baked breads here you will not find a single product that has been made in a commercial factory.
The market is so huge that one can easily get lost. There is, however, no chance of starving, for in addition to more than two hundred take away food stands, most of which feature either sea- food or ethnic foods (McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken have all been banned from the market), there are thirty seven restaurants here - Chinese, French, Vietnamese, Bolivian, Kosher Jewish, vegetarian, Korean, Ukranian, Scandinavian and American, nearly all of which offer excellent food at surprisingly reasonable prices. The very best of the restaurants in the market area are the "Athenian Inn", which features an amazing array of fresh fish (poached, pan-fried, grilled or coated) and the "Alexis Hotel", which features inventive French- Italian style cuisine, one of the finest wine lists in the United States and a rare level of superb service.
Two of the best restaurants in the United States are found within walking distance of the market:
Campagne: 86 Pine Street. A place that comfortably combines the ingredients of the Northwest with Provencale overtones. For starters consider the Montrachet cheese that is served with slices of homemade foccaccia and a bulb of roasted garlic or the smoked salmon with capers and chive vinaigrette. Continue with fresh salmon with fennel or lamb chops in red wine sauce that has been flavored with thyme. Prices are moderate to expensive. Reservations suggested. Tel: 206-728-2800.
Kaspar's: 2701 First Avenue. Located six blocks north of the market, the restaurant has a breathtaking view that includes Mount Rainier and the harbor below. Chef-owner Kaspar Donier has managed to make a subtle combination of the flavors of southwestern America with those of Asia and the Pacific Northwest. His crab and chopped vegetable salad in sushi rolls and his smoked salmon and goat cheese enchilladas are delightful. The seafood dishes are all excellent but do not overlook the possibilities of trying the duck, steak or pasta dishes. Moderate to expensive. Reservations required. Tel: 206-623-4450.
Salish Lodge: Worth a special trip from Seattle is the one hour drive east to the tiny city of Snoqualamie, where the outdoor parts of "Twin Peaks" was filmed. Once there stop at Salish Lodge (also used in the television series). This grand hotel is especially renowned for a six-course brunch that features dishes like salmon with wild-rice pancakes, crabmeat and scrambled eggs in strudle dough, and spicy venison hash. The wine list is encyclopoediac, and the tiny Snoqualamie Winery, which is gaining a good reputation for its red wines is nearby.
Italian Lake Country
Bound by Lakes Como and Maggiore and including the small cities of Orta, Bellagio and Como, the area known as Italian lake country is gaining justifiably increasing popularity among skiers. The region is also gaining popularity as a place for culinary adventures.
Even though the local cuisine is strongly influenced by the trout, perch, pike and other fish that inhabit the lakes, the lake country kitchen also includes a great many meat and game dishes. Like fish, meat and game can be served grilled, fried, in stews or with simple but tasty sauces, the most notable of which are the sweet and sour agrodolce and bagna cauda, a hot sauce of butter, olive oil, anchovies and cream.
As in all of Italy, pasta is served but the most popular starch staple of the area is polenta, a thick porridge made with water, salt and cornmeal. If served warm it may be topped by gravy, tomato sauce or simply butter and cheese. It can also be spread out on a sheet to cool and become solid and is then cut into slices and fried in oil or baked with melted butter and grated cheese. The best cheeses of the region are gorgonzola, stracchino, taleggio, bel paese and groviera, and the locals demonstrate their culinary wisdom by closing out their meals with one of these cheeses, fresh country-style bread, lots of butter and a piece or two of fresh fruit.
There are expensive and even outrageously expensive restaurants in the area, but the best places to sample the local cuisine is in small, simple inns and taverns such as some of those listed below. Be sure at least once in such a place to try fonduta, the Italian version of fondu, made with fontina cheese and eggs and sometimes sprinkled over with grated white or black truffles. Also not to be missed are the rich terrines that are offered in even the simplest of eateries. Whether based on venison, rabbit, trout or pike, these are frequently exquisitely good.
Nearly all of the wines of Italy are available throughout lake country, but do not pass up the opportunity to sample some of the local reds and whites. Among my own favorites are the pale pink Chiaretto del Garda with which to start a meal and the Moscato de Casteggio, a delicate, slightly sparkling yellow wine that goes well with desserts. My favorite reds are Barbagallo and Buttafuoco, both of which are soft, mellow and rich dry red wines.
La Pergola: in the village of Pescallo, 2 km. southeast of Bellagio. Inexpensive Tel: 031-95-02-63.
San Marino: in the village of Laglio, 10 km. north of Como. Moderate prices. Dinner reservations suggested. Telephone 031-40-03-83.
Al Veluu: in the village of Rogaro, in the hills 1 km. north of - Como. Inexpensive. Telephone 0344-405-10.
Ristorante Piemontese: via Mazzini 25, Stressa. Closed Mondays. Dinner reservations required. Reasonable prices. Telephone 0323- 302-35.
L'emiliano; corso Italia 50, Stressa. Probably the best but certainly the most expensive restaurant in lake country. Reservations required. Telephone 0323-313-96.
Il Triangolo: via Roma 62, Stressa. Simple but excellent and inexpensive. Telephone 0323-327-36.
© Daniel Rogov
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