YOU CAN’T BEAT A CLASSIC
Last year, hoping to save a few bucks, I stayed at the Hotel and Restaurant Emshorn while doing luggage transfers along the Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route in Gruben. You’d better believe I found my way back there this year. It’s not a four-star hotel, but the owners Franziska and Renata Bregy, two sisters, really put their hearts into the place and you can see their influence and that of their loved ones all around in this cozy little niche. Like most Swiss hotels, the Emshorn is family owned, dating back to 1953, and when you stay there, you feel like family too. Perhaps the hotel’s most striking feature is apparent in the cuisine: a love of all things Vallais, right down to the Arolla Pine ice cream.
The dish that really captured my attention at the Hotel Emshorn was the Rösti. This was the first place I encountered it, and I’ve since found many varieties. It’s a true mountain food, the kind that fills you to the brim and prepares you for a long day of hiking on the Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route. The Bregy family recipe includes a cake of browned, shredded potatoes (the Rösti part) with cheese, bacon, tomatoes, and a sunny-side-up egg. This is the most common Rösti in Vallais, because it includes the ingredients which are most common in the canton’s cuisine. The ham and cheese are mixed in and cooked with the potatoes, while the tomatoes and egg are neatly arranged on top.
RÖSTI IS NO HORSEPLAY
Well, maybe a little bit, considering one variety of Rösti is served with horse stroganoff on the side! I had to try it; It’s Swiss! I had heard of horse being served at restaurants, but I thought it was a thing of the past. Imagine my surprise when the waitress at Restaurant Bären in Interlaken told me it was her favorite! She hesitated, wondering if I might be offended by her preference, but I assured her I was there to try new things. When it arrived, I was surprised to see that the Rösti occupied one side of the plate, while the horse stroganoff occupied the other. A different set-up than the Vallais Rösti, but every bit as delicious. The horse meat was accompanied by sliced peppers, onions, and mushrooms, all sautéed in a sauce that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. The finishing touch was a spot of whipped cream, unsweetened of course. The horse meat wasn’t quite as delicious as beef, but it still hit the spot.
THE SWISS LOVE THEIR MUSHROOMS
It’s not surprising that another variety is served with mushrooms on top! At a restaurant in downtown Martigny, the Rösti was topped off with chanterelle mushrooms sautéed with chopped chives. It’s definitely more of a dry experience, but whether you’re going for cheesy, saucy, or decadent, there’s a Rösti for you. In fact, each region in Switzerland has their own version! Although typically a Swiss-German food, it can be found in restaurants all over Switzerland. Sometimes restaurants even include non-traditional flavors that have become popular, like the ham and pineapple “Hawaii” combination best known as a pizza topping. A close equivalent to Rösti is the American hash brown. Be sure to try your hand at this Swiss dish by checking out the recipe!