Sausages and Cherry Tomatoes Fried Together

I am at the Swiss Food Festival with M and P flanking me, and well, they bring out these fried pork sausages with Dijon mustard. I was thinking of not indulging, but this epic meat, cheese, chocolate and potato fest, literally, is not something I can really miss, can I? Not even with a temperature running and a hacking cough.

Pineapple and Orange juice over Ice.

We are served a lovely concoction of pineapple and orange juice over ice. It’s not too sweet, and somehow the melting ice is soothing to my throat, keeping my cold at bay, though I know I shall be paying for it later.

Marco Saxer, General Manager, Swissotel Kolkata Neotia Vista

We are joined by Marco Saxer, who is here to tell us about the food in Switzerland. The first few words gets me hooked completely. Switzerland has about 300 kinds of sausages and 600 kinds of cheese, most of them local and extremely area-centric. Apparently, the Swiss people prefer eating food which are sustainable and local, so the fishes they eat might only be available in a certain lake or a certain river. Most of the fishes are not available widely, and the best application is to cook it as uncomplicated as it can be.

Executive Chef Pranay Kumar Singh Explaining things to P.

Executive Chef Pranay Kumar Singh is there too, and he explains some of the dishes to us. We are slightly dazzled by the spread – it is indeed a feast, and contains an assortment of bread, salad and dishes which are pretty hard to resist. He talks about the way some of the food has been imported, and some of it sourced from different parts of India, to make sure the authenticity is maintained.

Mushroom Pastetli

 A dish of chopped and sauteed mushrooms in tiny vol-Au-vent puff pastry shells, gratinated with some cheese on top is apparently one of the most famous food of Zurich region. Literally translated as Meat Pie, these are actually much larger in size in general, and are considered to be main course. Here, they have been cut down in size to be served as an appetizer. The fresh buttery puff pastry crumbles inside my mouth, the mushrooms and cheese adding that elusive hit of umami which I love.

Grilled Zopf with Chicken and Swiss Cheese

The Grilled Zopf is a thin roll of bread stuffed with chicken and cheese and cooked. I would have preferred the cheese melted, but I still am not complaining with what I got.

Salad bar and chicken pate

The salad bar is quite immense. We spot a huge number of salads… and a bar where you can mix your own, with bread croutons, olives, cherry tomatoes, dressing all laid on the side. We also spot bowls of silky chicken pâté which I immediately gravitate to.

top right and bottom left- various kinds of bread, including rye and rustic farmer’s bread. Top left – wurstsalat, bottom right – red apple and walnut salad, and Swiss potato salad.

There is a table laden with fresh bread. I choose a slice of fresh rye, munch on the crust, and move on to the salads… picking some of the wurstsalat, with sausages and pickled onions in a creamy dressing, a bit of the tangy Swiss potato salad with large bits of pickle, and some crunchy walnut and red apple salad in a sweet and creamy dressing.

chicken, avocado and tomato verrine
But my favorite from the salad bar is definitely the marinated chicken, avocado and tomato verrine with Swiss cheese on top, which is a delicious, cold jumble of different textures and flavors – the sharpness of the tomatoes and sour cream, the creamy tang of the avocado, and the cold poached chicken, topped with a cross of cheese, is exactly what I would like to eat on a summer afternoon. The fact that it is in a glass makes it even more easy for me to consume them. 

We are whisked off to the place where Roesti is being prepared for us. We wait for the chef in the station to finish cooking our plate, and then serve with with a slice of deliciously stretchy cheese on top, which is not salty, balancing out the smoothly cooked and fried potatoes with a touch of creamy goodness. I finish mine in three bites, and head over to the fondue pots. 

Marco Saxer with a Fondue Pot

The fondue is being cooked slowly over very low heat, and Marco tells us that you need to use one of those long fondue forks to pierce a vegetable or bread slice (and in some cases meat), dip it inside the hot cheese, and then eat. The key is to get the cheese to coat the piece of food as much as possible without losing it inside the thick cheese flavored with kirsch, because if you do, then you get to pay for everyone else, a very Swiss tradition. 

Marco fishing the bread out
 Marco expertly spears a cube of bread, dips it inside, and then swirls it about quickly before fishing the entire thing out and putting it in his mouth without a single mishap. Emboldened by this bit of bravery, I venture into the pot with a little dab of pickled onion at the end of my fork. Thankfully, I don’t lose it in the pot, and well, it tasted gorgeous, the sharp pickled onion and the smooth, creamy cheese – a mixture of three different kinds of cheese melted slowly over slow heat.

We also spy dishes of Chicken Cordon Bleu and spear us a few of them while we contemplate sitting down for the main course.

I am spoilt for choices here, but in the spread, I naturally move towards the Surre Mocke, which is essentially sauerbraten served with a sour sauce, thick chunks of meat cut against the grain and cooked till tender but not overly so. I savor the buttery Spätzle with some of the shredded chicken cooked in a silky mushroom sauce.  The Suuri Gummeli is a tangy potato dish cooked with cheese and sour cream, and its a perfect accompaniment to my meal so far.

Salmon with sparkling wine, fresh herbs and cream sauce

But my heart is set on tasting the salmon, cooked with wine, herbs and cream. I spear a few chunks of asparagus, and they are tender stalks which are cooked through, yet retains a mild crunch that is quite addictive with the pink, flaky salmon flesh.

Shrimps with Garlic and Lime

On the other hand, the grilled shrimps, butterflied and cooked through with a heady smell of garlic and lime, provides a lovely retreat from all that cheese and cream laden dishes, and I enjoy the contrast through and through.

Before moving on to our dessert segment, I am introduced to the man who is in charge of the chocolates, to be very frank. Mr. Abhiru Biswas who represents Barry Callebeaut chocolates from Belgium in India, and also a few other gourmet brands. The chocolate fondue that has been cooked lovingly by the dessert chef has a combination of Callebeaut and Swiss chocolates, and he will be showing off a few single origin chocolates for the Sunday Brunch, he confided. M decides then and there to return for it, and sample some more of the chocolate-laden Swiss buffet.

The pastry chef, Sanjay Kumar Jha, eagerly takes us through the dessert buffet. He quickly shows us the bubbling cauldron of molten chocolate on the counter, and explains to us the beauty that is a chocolate fondue.

Chocolate Fondue

Of course, I must dip a few marshmallows into the hot, sweet chocolate, which is not so hot that it will burn your tongue, but comfortably warm and invites me to dip a few pieces of fruit in it too. Who am I to resist?

Hazelnut Swiss Roll

The dessert selection is considerable, yet again, and I am faced with a dilemma – what do I choose? In the end, the Hazelnut Swiss Roll wins the day for me, and makes me fall in love with the smoothness of hazelnuts mixed with just the right bit of chocolate. My other favorite is the strawberry Swiss roll, which has a thick layer of strawberry jam and cream encased within it, and more cream is used to cover up the sin. 

Clockwise from top right – Meringues, Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce, Strawberry Swiss Roll, Mini Carrot Cupcakes, Chestnut Vermicelli with crushed Meringues.

But I must say, the freshly made meringues, beautiful to eat solo, or crushed and put in a glass with some chestnut vermicelli and cream, is a treat as well. The miniature carrot muffins are sweet and unremarkable, and the apple strudel is crisp and covered with powdered sugar, taking care of the fact that the vanilla sauce is not sweet at all.

Swiss Muesli Cream Quark Torte

But I am quite intrigued by the sweet and salty combination of the Muesli cheesecake. It has a salty layer at the bottom, topped with creamy, sweet cheese on top, and a smattering of crunchy muesli to make sure the texture stays interesting. At this point, food coma is a very real threat, and I choose to recover with a cup of freshly brewed cappuccino, perfect for lazing around, chatting with friends. 

The Swiss food festival is going on from the first to the seventh of this month,  at Cafe Swiss. Although on most days it would be a dinner buffet at 1600/- plus tax per person, Sunday would showcase a special brunch, which is 1650/- plus tax. 

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to the special Swiss Food Festival Preview at Swissotel by the management.

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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