by Reggie Rullan
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 00:00 Published in Life Style
The Swiss world, with its old world charm, speaks of centuries of tradition which still is true to its roots despite culinary evolutions that have taken place across the world. In celebration of 150 years of Philippine-Swiss relations, the Swiss Embassy, in cooperation with the The Peninsula Manila, celebrates Swiss cuisine from Aug. 2 to 11 with Samuel Linder, Swiss chef de cuisine of the Old Manila restaurant at The Peninsula Manila Hotel.
“Swissness: More Fun in the Philippines,” the10-day festival where Linder takes over the hotel’s kitchens, is an introduction to the varying cuisines of Switzerland’s cantons, the political jurisdictions that make up the country the same way the states or provinces do in other countries. The cantons are well represented in this food festival as Linder features national favorites that are famous all over Switzerland.
As an introduction to the Swiss festival, a three-course tasting menu was presented to the media recently in which two cheeses were offered. The Tete de Moine is a milky semi-soft, melt-in-your-mouth confection that is like a slightly sweet and salty dessert. It was shaved into flower-shaped cones using a cheese mill.
The other one, Sbrinz, served as shaved curls, is a vintage cheese that is slightly dry yet rich and sweet with age. More salty than sweet, its milkiness lingers on the palate like a savory dessert. These cheeses are only two of the over a hundred varieties made all over Switzerland, each canton having their specialties of their own.
The head of mission of the Embassy of Switzerland in Manila, Juerg Casserini, said that the quality of the milk in the Swiss mountains will always spell the difference between Swiss cheeses and those from other parts of Europe.
The first course was a smoked trout tartar and salmon trout confit. The trout was served in a savory coup of a scoop (It was literally a scoop). The smokiness of the trout broke through the creaminess and summed up in the palate in a symphony of salty, smoky, creamy and slightly tangy flavors. The piquant horseradish served alongside it made it an even subtler tasting fish mousse.
It was paired with a thin crisp rye that had a concave center to spoon the mousse and made for a stunning and quite puzzling presentation. I can’t say for sure how Linder shaped the crisp that way but I’m guessing he shaped a soft rye slice onto the top of a dome mold and baked the rye until crisp.
The salads greens of baby spinach tossed with a clear and light vinaigrette was made with clear tasting vinegar, accentuating the paper thin tangy red skinned baby radishes, which in turn was a refreshing textural counterpoint to the trout. The salad was also a fitting side to the excellent smoked trout sliced like a thick finger sized rectangular log. The freshness and quality of the smoked salmon were like orange opaque jewels to be savored as it hit one’s taste buds.
On the side, we had sourdough discs and brioche rolls which afforded a rich mouth feel experience with its moist warm dough texture. I must say that the luxurious carbohydrate intake was worth the extra calories. Fresh and well-baked bread can leave an indelible mark in a way that makes one decide to only eat bread of that caliber and foregoing other carbohydrate varieties of a lesser measure.
The main course is sous vide Swiss veal loin and braised veal breast, a duo of veal cuts prepared two ways. It was a showcase of the different textures and flavors of the meat. The medallion of the tenderloin cut was seared to create a crust around the edges leaving the center rare and succulent. The Highland malt jus was a concentrate of the meat’s drippings that provided the blanket of sweetness and saltiness to the medallion. The braised breast was akin to a beef belly with tender layers of meat and tendon and just the right amount of fat that swirled in the palate with the richness of a roast.
The mushroom chanterelles atop the braised breast added richness and luxury to the dish, the mushrooms being a rare treat as it is not available locally. The Swiss embassy and the Manila Peninsula took pains to import ingredients from Switzerland to make for a truly Swiss food festival.
The dessert, penougat, overthrew expectations of a nougat ice cream coupe as it came in the form of the classic childhood Swiss favorite — the milk chocolate Toblerone. The Peninsula in Tokyo, Japan, sent over a mold upon Linder’s request so he could fill it with nougat ice cream made with Swiss Alpine honey and dotted with the flesh of vanilla pods. The sweep of rhubarb jam on the dessert plate, the vegetable tart and sweet all at the same time, took the role of a sorbet that refreshed one to prepare for another cut of the nougat-filled Toblerone. All the elements of the dessert was a stunning showcase of the sweet treats from Switzerland.
Diners may also enjoy the famous fondue, French in origin, where potato and bread cubes are dipped into melted cheese. Rösti is similar to hash browns, another potato staple, the Swiss being known for their fondness for the root vegetable. Papet vaudois is a mash of leeks and potatoes, usually served with saucisse au chou (sausage).
The alplermagronen, German in origin, uses ingredients that herdsmen had at their disposal in their alpine cottages, usually macaroni, potatoes, onions, pieces of bacon and melted cheese.
From Italy, the pizzoccheri is an interesting fiber rich variation of the tagliatelle. It is made of buckwheat flour and cooked with greens and cubed potatoes. Polenta, a corn meal dish, is also now a staple dish in Switzerland.
The Escolta Restaurant at the The Peninsula Manila will also feature Swiss dishes with lunch and dinner buffet selections on Monday to Saturday and a magnificent Sunday brunch on August 5 with a schueblig eating contest as one of the festival highlights.
During the contest, 10 contestants will vie for an overnight stay at the The Peninsula Manila and a breakfast buffet at Escolta. The winner’s body weight difference before and after the contest will equal a donation from The Peninsula Manila to a charity.
Guests who dine in Old Manila and Escolta may win the grand prize of a roundtrip ticket for two to Zurich courtesy of Swiss International Airlines and a two night stay at the Baur Au Lac Hotel in Zurich and the Lausanne Palace and Spa in Lausanne. Other prizes at stake are Victorinox Swiss Army watches and a Victorinox Swiss Army knife, choice wines from Werdenberg International Coporation, and jewelry from Hans Brumann.
On exhibit throughout the festival at the third floor gallery is Filipino artist Manuel Baldemor’s views on Switzerland, “Timeless: Swiss Landscapes.” This collection was the result of his residency in Basel, Switzerland, in 1994, where he developed a special appreciation and affection for Switzerland.
For more Swiss treats, visit The Peninsula Manila at (632) 887-2888 or eMail