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Le Bailliage du Greater Washington, DC Chapter

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A Gastronomic Tour of Switzerland

February 22, 2018

By William Babash, Vice Chargé de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.

The Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C. gathered at Stable restaurant in Washington's renewed H Street corridor on February 22, 2018 for an entertaining, informative, and delicious gastronomic tour of Switzerland. Stable's co-owners, Executive Chef David Fritsche and General Manager Chef Rôtisseur Silvan Kraemer, delighted members and guests with a range Swiss cuisine paired with beer, wine, and spirits from across the Swiss Confederation.

Chef Fritsche began cooking at an early age, helping at his grandmother's hotel in the Swiss Alps. His professional career began at age 15 as an apprentice in Switzerland and he progressed through some of the finest hotels in Dubai and Ireland. He was runner-up in the Chef of the Year competition in Dubai and won gold medals in all categories in the Junior Cooking World Cup in Dublin. He arrived in the U.S. as Senior Sous Chef at the Essex House in New York City and then moved to the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington, where he was named Executive Chef after just one year.

Chef Rôtisseur Silvan Kraemer, also a native of Switzerland, is an accomplished chef himself, awarded the Swiss Federal Master Chef diploma and the Medal of Merit from L 'Académie de Gastronomie Brillat-Savarin. He became Chef de Cuisine at the Essex House before moving to Washington to be the Food and Beverage Director at the Dupont Circle Hotel in DC. Chef Kraemer's focus has been on the service side of the restaurant business, and his experience and commitment show at Stable where the service and food are equally outstanding.

Having worked with each other since 2002, Chefs Fritsch and Kraemer opened Stable in April 2017, bringing the first authentic Swiss restaurant to the nation's capital. Stable transports diners to a cozy alpine farm with authentic details such as traditional wood banquettes accented with genuine Swiss army blankets and checked table cloths in the red and white of the Swiss flag. Thinking of the Swiss love of American beef and Americans love of Swiss cheese, the business partners contemplated calling their restaurant "Cow," but quickly realized that would incorrectly suggest that it was a steakhouse. The name Stable reflects the restaurant's rustic farm style and is a clever contraction of "Swiss Table."

The bailliage was particularly honored to have His Excellency Martin Dahinden, the Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States, and his wife, Anita, as guests of honor. Ambassador Dahinden is an expert in Swiss culinary history and is the author of a book on the topic, Schweizer Küchengeheimnisse (Swiss Food Secrets). The Ambassador officially welcomed diners to this bit of Switzerland in Washington and shared several fascinating insights into Swiss gastronomy.

The Ambassador explained that Swiss cuisine remains highly and proudly regional, with each of the country's 26 cantons having its own specialties. Historically, the Papal and French royal courts attracted the best chefs from across Europe, including from Switzerland; Napoleon's chef was Swiss. As a result, unlike in France, Swiss cooking did not become haute cuisine, but instead remained true to its varied local roots. Nevertheless, Switzerland has made numerous contributions to global gastronomy. Oscar Tschirky (1866-1950), for example, is the Swiss-born restaurateur who was maître d'hôtel of Delmonico's restaurant and later the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. He is credited with popularizing Delmonico steak, and creating Waldorf salad as well as the preparation of eggs benedict.

The evening began with a reception in the front of the restaurant, where guests mingled and watched preparations for the upcoming dinner in the open kitchen. As always, festivities began with bubbly – Angelo Delea Charme Spumante Brut, produced in Losone in Canton Ticino, the southernmost canton in Switzerland, on the border with Italy. Crafted from pino niro and chardonnay, this fruity and fragrant wine was a great palate opener in the tradition of the finest sparkling wines. Chef Fritsche whetted appetites with a wonderful selection of passed hors d'oeuvres: Beef tartare with subtle notes of mustard and caper on crostini; light gougère with house-smoked salmon; Tète de Moine cheese on house-made pear bread; and a flavorful Landjäger, a Swiss style salami, wrapped around a slice of pickled onion. Each was delicious, hinting at the delights to come.

The event then moved to the dining room, where Chef Kraemer led eager guests through a gastronomic tour of the Swiss Confederation. The first course took the gathering to the northern, German-speaking portion of Switzerland. Cold-smoked venison carpaccio was served with forest mushrooms, mâche, and Rösti croutons. Diners were immediately impressed by the visual elegance of the composition, which was equaled by its flavors and textures. Rather than wine, this course was creatively paired with Appenzeller Holzfass-Bier from the canton of Appenzell in the rolling hills of northeast Switzerland about 70km east of Zürich. Barrel-aged for four months, this naturally cloudy, amber beer emphasizes malt and hop flavors with virtually no bitterness, making it a perfect companion to the buttery flavor of the venison loin.

Without leaving their seats, the bailliage traveled south into the heart of the Alps and the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. Saffron risotto was prepared perfectly al dente and creamy with subtle seasoning. It was accompanied by generous chunks of flavorful braised rabbit leg and topped with Belper Knolle cheese. From the town of Belp just outside the Swiss capital of Bern, this hard cow's milk cheese is dried and coated with salt, garlic, and black pepper. Chef Fritsche grated the cheese, rarely found in the U.S., over the risotto as one would a truffle. A foam of 36-month aged Sbrinz cheese – made from milk from cows fed exclusively on grass and hay and similar to Parmesan – completed the dish. Angelo Delea Marengo Bianco, 2014, a blend of chardonnay and chasselas, was a floral and fruity pairing with this sophisticated course and, with the earlier Spumante, illustrated of the range of this Ticino winey.

The gastronomic tour then moved east to the Romansh-speaking canton of Graubünden (known for hosting the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz). Romansh is a direct descendant of spoken Latin and is one of the four official languages of Switzerland. Chef Fritsche presented his version of Capuns to represent the region. For this traditional dish, the chef wrapped spätzli dough in Swiss chard that had been braised in chicken stock, then reduced the stock and added cream and seasonings to create a velvety sauce. Slivers of air-dried beef topped the plate, adding a nice contrast of color and salty flavor to make this a vibrant composition for both the eyes and the palate. The delicacy and hint of tartness of Cave de la Côte Rosé, made from gamay grapes from the cantons of Vaud and Geneva in the French-speaking Romandie region, complemented the richness of this dish beautifully.

Dinner culminated with traditional raclette from the western, French-speaking region of Switzerland. Each table was equipped with a raclette machine – a small broiler in which diners melt cheese in individual pans. Rooted in the French verb "racler," meaning to scrape, "raclette" translates literally as "scraper," referring to the small spatula used to transfer the melted cheese to the plate. Raclette cheese is a semi-hard cow's milk cheese with a sweet, nutty flavor and perfect melting characteristics. Diners had great fun watching their cheese broil to the perfect level of bubbly deliciousness, then enjoying the hot, gooey cheese atop steamed new potatoes, with paprika, curry powder, nutmeg, and/or cayenne sprinkles on top to individual taste. The classic raclette garnishes of cornichon, pickled onions, and onion salad rounded out this quintessentially Swiss experience. Wine for this course was a 2015 Cave de la Côte Rouge, a red from the same winery as the rosé from the previous course. The medium tannin and round finish was perfect with this most entertaining and delicious experience.

What would a culinary exploration of Switzerland be without chocolate? Chef Fritsche more than satisfied this craving with Felchlin chocolate beignets. Light, bite-size beignets were filled with dark chocolate from Felchlin, a premium chocolatier in the town of Schwyz, 30km east of Lucerne in central Switzerland. Smooth and creamy house-made caramel ice cream and fresh pear coulis created perfect flavor combinations with the chocolate. The hint of pear flavor in the Poire Williams Eau de Vie from the Diwisa Distillery in Willisau (30km west of Lucerne) was perfect with the dish, and, at 70 proof, was a nice counterbalance to the sweetness of the dessert.

As the evening concluded, Bailli Judy Mazza thanked and congratulated Chefs Fritsch and Kraemer and their staff for a delicious and informative evening of culinary exploration and presented them with a Chaîne plate to commemorate the occasion. She conveyed the bailliage's gratitude to Ambassador and Mrs. Dahinden for honoring us with their company and sharing their passion for Swiss culinary history.

This event originated with an idea from Dame de la Chaîne Nicole Schiegg, who brought Stable to Judy's attention. Intrigued by its great reviews and distinctive cuisine, Judy and few members of the board joined Nicole for an exploratory lunch in January and knew immediately that the bailliage would thoroughly enjoy it. Chefs Fritsche and Kraemer were equally enthusiastic about hosting the Chaîne and creating an exclusive menu that would showcase the best of Swiss food and beverage. The result was a sold-out event described by many as one of the most fun in recent memory. Do you have a suggestion for a Chaîne event? Let Judy know!

The next two events promise to be outstanding: On 15 March the bailliage will be at Rice Paper, a Vietnamese restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia, for a fantastic Asian banquet, with beer and various wines to sample with a wide range of authentic Vietnamese specialties. And on April 26, we will be at 2941 in Fairfax, Virginia, for a cider-centric dinner. Rather than wine, each course will be paired with a hard cider. If you're not familiar with them, you're in for a treat as we explore the range, complexity, and sophistication of top quality apple and pear ciders – most from France, but some domestic. Chef Bertrand Chemel is working with sommelier Jonathan Schuyler to craft an exquisite multi-course menu inspired by and paired with the ciders, and featuring the finest springtime ingredients.

Finally, the Bailliage is now on Twitter. Follow us and participate at @LaChaineDC.

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