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Thursday, 24 September, 2015, 15 : 00 PM [IST]

Getting a ‘Taste’ of switzerland

MasterChef Travel, a new gourmet journey for the travel trade to explore...

When it comes to choosing a holiday destination in Europe, Switzerland easily finds favour among travellers. The thought of the destination by itself transports one to a dreamland of sorts, away from the rest of the world. To explore the locales of the country and experience the local cuisines, Cox & Kings had recently organised a Grand Tour of Switzerland for the travel trade media, through its property, MasterChef Travel. Accompanying the group were MasterChefs, Kunal Kapoor & Shipra Khanna. TravelBiz Monitor, in the first of a 2-part series, revisits the first leg of the tour from Geneva to Zurich

Not many travel segments are as enticing and tempting as a culinary tour. Moreover, when the destination is Switzerland, it is even harder to resist, given that the country is just as much a haven for discerning travellers as it is for food enthusiasts. A delightful combination of travel and food in this wonder of a destination, and that too in the company of a MasterChef such as Kunal Kapoor, is something few people would want to miss.

On the Grand Tour of Switzerland, organised by MasterChef Travel, Chef Kapoor was taken on an explorative tour of the culinary locales of the destination, from April 17-21. The tour covered the destinations on the western part of Switzerland, namely Geneva, Lausanne, Interlaken, Jungfrau, Bern, Gstaad, Lucerne, and Zurich.

MasterChef Travel is a property of Cox & Kings. It is a collection of culinary holidays designed to reveal the wonders of the world’s great food destinations.

Destination Switzerland
Switzerland is a dream destination for most Indians, thanks to the many Bollywood movies that have been picturised against the backdrop of the snowy, mountainous terrains of the country. However, going beyond what has so far been depicted of the destination on celluloid, Switzerland truly has a lot to offer; attractions and sights that one needs to witness to believe! Home to 20% of the Alps in an area of 41,285 sq km, Switzerland boasts of attractions like Lucerne - with its lake streamer cruises; Zurich - the country’s largest metropolis; and the Jungfrau region - with its panoramic views. The country is the birthplace of recreational skiing, and is also a chocoholic’s paradise. Alpine valleys, wildflowers, and snow-laden mountain ranges define this small, landlocked country. Options for undertaking a tour of Switzerland range from self-drives, train rides, aerial cable cars, and cogwheel railways.

Meadows and pastures constitute a large portion of the Swiss farmlands, which is why milk and dairy products are the major agricultural produce of Switzerland. The cuisine of the country is synonymous with fondue, cheese, chocolates, and muesli.

Switzerland produces and exports chocolate on a large scale, which makes it a chocolate connoisseur’s destination. The fame of the country for its chocolate is so far-reaching, that there is a Chocolate Train connecting Montreux to Gruyeres, and then to the Nestle chocolate factory at Broc, where one can sample the luscious delicacies. Moreover, the Swiss are fond of coffee and wine. They produce fine wines, though in smaller quantities, which are mostly consumed domestically, such as the Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Merlot.

Setting off...
Geneva, Lausanne, Montreux & Epesses

The first leg of the Grand Tour of Switzerland commenced from Geneva. The group was taken to the Lake Geneva Region. One of the fascinating marvels of the city is the Jet d’Eau, which is an iconic water fountain that is 140 mtr in height. Equally charming and iconic is the floral clock, L’horloge fleurie. Considered to be the most beautiful clock in the world, it is adorned with 6,500 seasonal flowers.

Not very far away is the beautiful city of Lausanne, which houses the unique Olympic Museum. It is home to over 10,000 pieces symbolic of the Games, which makes it a must-visit attraction.

A short train ride away is Montreux. The city is popular for culinary schools and jazz festivals, though the trademark attraction is the Chillon Castle, located nearby.

The highlight of this part of the Culinary Tour was the visit to the Auberge du Vigneron restaurant in Epesses - an old village that offers some of the finest wines of the world. Situated amid the Alpine mountains, overlooking the Lavauz vineyards, Auberge du Vigneron offers regional cuisine, prepared with vegetables and herbs that are grown by the restaurant right on the banks of the Lake Geneva. A cooking session was organised on the first day of the tour, wherein Chef Kapoor prepared a local cuisine made with fish from Lake Geneva.

More Food for Thou
Interlaken, Jungfrau, Bern & Gstaad
Rich with mind-blowing scenery and adrenaline-loaded adventures, the town of Interlaken is the top-ranker among must-visit destinations in Switzerland. Here, the historic town of Thun and the Brienz Lake welcome visitors with spectacular panorama. The highest train station in Europe, Jungfraujoch (11,371 ft) is the closest one can come to, to experience what the top of Europe feels like.

The discerning culinary traveller can satiate his hunger, literally, at The Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel and Spa in Interlaken. The hotel houses restaurants that serve an exhaustive variety of cuisines. If you crave global cuisines, head to La Terrasse restaurant. If you are in the mood for some lip-smacking delicacies from Italy, check out Quaranto Uno. Else, if it is just a few moments of relaxation in the company of drinks and smoke that you desire, then Victoria Bar and Salon Davidoff are the right places.

Next on the list was the tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old Town of Bern (Altstadt). Here, one can discover some of the most beautiful and lesser-known sights of the Swiss capital, including the unique Bear Pit. Another attraction is the cellar restaurant, Kornhauskeller, which serves Swiss classics, Mediterranean dishes, and the regal Bernese platter. Then there is the micro brewery, Wabräu, which is managed part time by a team of 12 people. Brauerei Wabräu serves fresh, handbrewed beer on Fridays, and produces around 9,000 ltr of beer annually.

However, when it comes to classy small towns, Gstaad is the clear winner. It is renowned for streets filled with high-end fashion labels, celebrity spotting, and adventure activities such as skiing and hiking. The village is known for its dairy products, such as the AOC Bernese Alpine cheese, Saanen Alpine cheese, the Gstaad Mountain cheese, and the truffle fondue mixtures. All of these can be found at the Molkerei Cheese Grotto. A steep flight of wooden steps takes you to the evocatively-lit world of the Grotto, which earlier functioned as a community water reservoir. Extending 25 mtr underground, it is home to more than 3,000 varieties of cheese, including some historical rarities. However, what really steals the show is the Cheese Cave, also referred to as the Cheese Monument.

Lovely Lucerne
Surrounded by cobalt lakes and majestic mountains, Lucerne - the ‘city of lights’ - sparkles in every season. The star attraction here is the 14th century wooden footbridge, Kapellbrucke (Chapel Bridge) that runs across Reuss River. This covered bridge features paintings, some of which go way back in the 17th century. Another popular attraction here is the Lion Monument, a symbol of loyalty and bravery. The sculpture depicts a dying lion, and is dedicated to Switzerland’s mercenary soldiers.

In Lucerne, one can find the perfect blend of culture and food. The city’s only remaining guild house, Zunftrestaurant Pfistern, is now a restaurant, which is known for its authentic Swiss cuisine. This, teamed up with a splendid setting in the heart of the city, with magnificent views of the chapel bridge, Reuss River, and the Alpine ranges, offers an unparalleled experience. The menu features meat, fish, and regional specialties, along with seasonal and authentic Lucerne cuisine. What makes for a definite try is the Luzerner Chugelipastete, which is akin to a meat pit.

Swiss cuisine is incomplete without fondue, be it cheese, meat or chocolate. To try some, stop by Fondue House. The warm and cozy ambience of this restaurant’s artistically decorated wooden cabin is perfect for relishing the finest fondues. The best way is to dip bread, potatoes, veggies, and meats into the cheese.

Chic Zurich
Situated about 50 km away is the glacier paradise, Mt. Titlis. The highest point in Central Switzerland, this is where one can experience a breathtaking landscape inside the gondola revolving cable car, Rotair. Mt. Pilatus, on the other hand, has the biggest suspension rope park in Central Switzerland, as well as a range of leisure and recreation amenities. Lastly, a cruise on the lovely lakes of Lucerne, and strolls alongside the waterfront promenade are highly recommended.

The oldest restaurant in Zurich, the Haus Hiltl (115 years old) serves vegetarian cuisine, comprising more than 100 dishes, including an Indian buffet (25 specialties). Located next to the restaurant is the vegetarian butcher shop, where one can find all kinds of veggie ‘meat’, including hamburgers, sausages, cordon bleus, and tartar. The restaurant also doubles up as a bar, and a club on weekends.

The next, and the most obvious, stop is where one can devour some of the best chocolates, pralines, and truffles. For this, step into Laderach Chocolates, which offers tantalising, handmade treats available in a beautiful range, which make for the perfect souvenirs to take back home. Another fine example of Zurich’s culinary creativity is Zunfthaus zur Waag, located in the historic town square of Munsterhof. The restaurant is renowned for its magnificent Renaissanceinspired facade, and Zurich specialties like ‘Zurcher Geschnetzeltes’ (sliced veal in a creamy gravy).

Wanderlust is an insatiable feeling, and more so on a culinary tour. Quite appropriately, there is more to this Grand Tour of Switzerland that needs to be spoken about. Watch this space for the second and the last part of the tour, with MasterChef Shipra Khanna.

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