When it comes to food and service, Swiss is quite frankly, beyond reproach.
In fact, if you consumed everything that was offered, you would surely feel extremely uncomfortable - not unlike the Monty Python character who grudgingly accepted the proffered “wafer thin mint” to his detriment.
Quality food features highly on the Swiss (Switzerland’s national airline) first class menu. Served with an aperitif came an amuse-bouche of mushroom tartlet, beef tartaire on bread or goose liver pate. My choice of hors d'ouvre – roast beef fillet with a coarse black pepper crust and cherry tomato with a horseradish mousse inside it followed by salads to die for - more than whet the appetite. By main meal time, I was positively drooling. According to the informative menu, it was cooked by chef Frédéric Breuil from Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, St Moritz.
On to the main course of fillet of beef, shallot flavoured balsamic jus, carrots, braised Belgian endive and vegetarian capuns (meat, cheese and salad leaves) – a speciality predominantly made in the western part of Canton Grison. All was exquisite.
As we looked down upon the Austrian Alps, crispy white sharp edged meringue tops against a blue blue sky, I was offered many beverages including a glass of Amigne du Valais AOC Mitis Grain Noble 2002, one of Switzerland’s best known dessert wines, described as, “opulent, and meaty, shamelessly seductive on the palate”.
However, I eventually sipped a South African Chardonnay Plasir de Merle 2006 as I like it dry and old habits die hard. Its claim to fame was it won a gold medal and took double honours as both top Chardonnay and top white at the fifth Swiss International Air Lines Wine Awards in South Africa in May last year.
I actually skipped the dessert, again out of habit, an ingrained fear of gaining an expansive waistline. I did hear all about the orange tiramisu marinated orange salad and fresh mint as well as the Palace truffle gateau walnut ice cream, raspberry coulis and chocolate garnish, and was sorely tempted.
There is something quite unique about the Swiss cabin attendants too. The smiles are genuine, a knowledge of three languages is standard; they are attentive but not in your face or obsequious, efficient but not clinical. Being unable to fix a minor problem in my seat’s head rest – it wouldn’t stay in the correct position – was acceptably dealt with. “I do not have the right tools,” said my maître de cabine apologetically, but that the fault would be reported upon touch down.
It was by then 3.30 am anyway and time for some shut eye, which evaded me but not because of anything Swiss Air could rectify. The turbulence buffeting the aircraft’s body would keep most awake although my fellow traveller all appeared fast asleep as they stretched out in their 203cm long and 60cm wide flat beds.
I discovered that the airline introduced this novel culinary concept in 2002 known as SWISS Taste of Switzerland which offers first and business class passengers on intercontinental flights from Switzerland and on selected inbound flights, a sample of Switzerland’s varied regional cuisines prepared by some of its home country’s finest chefs. The programme has already featured the cooking of various cantons including Vaud, Basel, Valais, Zurich, Ticino and Appenzell.
Following the Grison specialities I experienced are now delights from Canton Lucerne in central Switzerland. The menus have been created by Renee Rischmeyer, executive chef at the Park Hotel Weggis on Lake Lucerne, and will be served aboard SWISS flights until the end of May.
In first class his amuse-bouche choice include shrimp roll on sweet-and-sour mango chutney and roast lamb on crostini with tomato tartar with basil. Hors d’oeuvres this time include marinated shrimps on an artichoke bed, and the main course recommended by Renee Rischmeyer is sautéed fillet of beef with parmesan crust on an Asian vegetable salad with black bean risotto. Dessert this time includes a timbale of elderflower mousse with raspberries.
I simply can’t wait!
by Cheryl Mandy
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