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St Moritz - Chic, Elegant, Exclusive and Cosmopolitan

With my feet itching, taste buds eager and throat dry I knew it was time for another journey in search of terrific, fabulous and fine food and wine. September, my bags packed and off to Europe we go. The first stop on our journey was one of the world’s most famous holiday destinations, St Moritz, Switzerland’s original winter wonderland. Since 1964, St Moritz is synonymous with visiting royals, celebrities and moneyed wannabes. Normally, according to the locals, a chic, elegant, exclusive and cosmopolitan vibe can be felt throughout the season. For us, however, visiting in summer, unfortunately most of the hotels were closed. We were fortunate enough to finally find a room at the beautiful Hotel Schweizerhof where our room had the most exquisite view of the lake.

After a long day driving from Germany, we were eager to settle in and have a drink.

image12We decided to dine-in at their à la carte restaurant, Acla, specialising in authentic cuisine with classic combinations of traditional and new. Their chef, Christian Ott, is famous for his light and market-fresh, regional produce. He has been awarded honours at the famous American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem as well as at the Villa d’Este in Cernobbio. And on the menu for us… it’s hunting season! From September until the end of November marks the annual hunting season and the wild game is as fresh as can be, nothing farmed here. We were obviously in for a feast.

image13We were treated with an aperitif of Vin Mousseax (the French term for sparkling wine) from the Bündner Herrschaft, in the northern-most corner of Graubünden, and the gateway to the region. Its excellent Blauburgünder wines have made the area famous as a winegrowing region. It is also here in Maienfeld that one would find the home of Heidi - the world-famous children’s book character written by Johanna Spyri in 1880.

(Heidi, is a little eight year-old who lives with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps)

Our wine selection for the meal was a bottle of Apocalisse, Bianco Ticinese 2011 (A Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc blend) from the Delea region. A modern fresh and fruity, balanced yet moderate white wine. It has a pale yellow colour with a discreet nose of citrus fruits such as lime, tangerine and lemon followed by apples, pears, peach and pineapple. In addition there is a slightly herbal note and a little honey. We truly enjoyed the wine, especially after driving for eight hours! We might have had two bottles.

We received a complimentary amuse bouche from the Chef of lamb, a rice salad and lemon sorbet. It was beautifully presented and very refreshing. It was somewhat heavy for a complimentary, but as I soon discovered, the Swiss like big portions and man did we eat!

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Derrick opted for a starter of roasted quail breast on a Carpaccio of brezel dumpling accompanied by grape chutney. The quail was cooked to perfection. The dumpling was a tat on the dry side. Nothing really stood out with this dish, which unfortunately tasted as flat as it looked.

Our main dish was a shared medium roasted saddle of venison (in this case female deer) “Schweizerhof” garnished with wild mushrooms, bacon slice, braised red cabbage, brussel sprouts, red wine-apple and red wine-pear, spaetzli, flour potato noodles and game cream sauce. The meal was dished up and carved at the table by our waitress Yvonne Lauft. She even returned to dish up a second portion. Told you about the Swiss eating habits! This makes me a little nervous for the rest of our journey as I’m likely to pack on some extra kilos, although all in the name of an extraordinary food adventure.

I was a little more adventurous with my starter and picked the chanterelle risotto with hare fillet on a cinnamon skewer. The chanterelle mushrooms were delicious, the cinnamon smell and taste intoxicating, the hare fillet smooth, fresh and delightful. The cinnamon stick was cleverly used as kebab stick. Good start on my part – rich in flavours but unfortunately or fortunately… no fuss about plating. Just plain old good cooking.

Being great hosts, we were offered a glass of "whisky-type brandy", Marc “Schloss Salenegg” from Magenfeld, Graubünden on the house (40% alcohol). Made in copper pots on an open fire, the "grape skins and peps" they call "Trester" are distilled twice, as their descendants have done over centuries. As legend has it, a good brandy should travel by ship once around the world, or be allowed to ripen over five years by the change of seasons. Schloss Salenegg is one of the most significant cultural sites of Switzerland. Both the Hotel Schweizerhof and Schloss Salenegg are owned by Helene v. Gugelberg. Schloss Salenegg Winery was founded by the Benedictine monks in 950 AD.

Yip…monks, go figure, after all Dom Pérignon was a Benedictine monk, born in the 17th century and widely credited with the invention of Champagne. And so our journey started and it seems it is going to be an interesting one!