Monday, November 2, 2015

La Brisolée

Or roasted chestnuts for my english-speaking friends.

Switzerland’s culinary offerings are as varied as the regions and cultures themselves. Everyone knows about Swiss chocolate ! Most people have heard of fondue and raclette – two wonderful cheese dishes ; others may even know the speciality from Zurich – rösti (hash browns, but ten times better !), or the Tessinoise polenta and rissoto ; the dried meats of the Grisons ; the perch filets of Lac Léman and I could go on and on – there is a speciality per canton and often per village. The mountains where winters are hard, the vallies that know little light in the winter, the flat plains, the rivers and lakes – all meant that the Swiss usually ate locally.

The canton of Valais enjoys lots of sun and produces many items that one wouldn’t necessarily associate with the alps such as apricots and even asparagus ! With 50 different grape vareitals, It also has the largest assprtment of grapes in Europe for one region. But back to La Brisolée : just saying roasted chestnuts doesn’t quite represent this particular meal. The basic version consists of roasted chestnuts accompanied by several cheeses from the alpine pastures, fruits of the season such as apples, pears and the last pickings of the grapes, the rye bread produced in the Valais and one usually drinks the first press of the new wine – or cider. The « royal » version adds dried local meats. There is always either a slice of apple tart or carmalized pear as dessert : a feast for which one needs to walk several miles in compensation !

And walk we did: first cocktails at a friends, then she led us along the Dranse river towards Martigny La Croix under a very benevolent fall sun – beautiful. Lunch in the Café de la Place (just in case anyone needs to know) where the chestnuts were actually roasted in a barrel over an open fire : I loved the dichotomy of the chap’s turning an ancient metal barrel over an open fire all the whilst checking his iPhone!

La Dranse

Bridge over La Dranse

La Dranse as it comes down from the alps

vineyards along the river

vineyards and cable for use in the vineyards

goats fleeing the fall sun
a true chestnut roaster
old and new

pumpkin soup
roasted chestnuts
La Brisolée

After lunch we wandered through the old town of Martigny (Martigny Bourg) before arriving at the Giannada Museum. There we first took in the exposition dedicated to Leonard Giannada who turned 80 this past summer followed by a conference on the current exhibition, Matisse and painters of his time. I had a plastic chair that had been distended enough to leave me in a half-sleeping situation and sure enough lights out for the slide show following the explanations had me half asleep. Enough so that when we re-entered the museum for the exhibition itself, I told my hostess that as I had already seen it three times, I would excuse myself. Another brisk walk back through town (good to know a city as well as I do Martigny !) and along the river to pick up my car and I was off to drive the fortunately short distance back up the mountain.

All in all a great day meeting another 15 or so people I didn’t know before !