Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Switzerland: Malakoffs and Horseradish

Simple pleasures - Malakoff and house dried beef at the auberge communale in Luins, Switzerland

In Switzerland, every town, no matter how small, must have a communal auberge. That's an inn and restaurant for the weary traveler to rest. On Monday, I was charmed in spades when friend and fellow food enthusiast Anne Glusker took me into the hills of the lower Vaud Canton in Switzerland to try a local specialty at the source, the Malakoff. Luins is a town of about 450 residents. Local wines were offered at the table, and I enjoyed the refreshing contrast between the Malakoff, which is simple pleasure in itself - a ball of cheese fried up crisp and brown and served sparsely with pickles and onions, along with a glass of a citrusy, crisp, dry, deliciously drinkable wine from the town's vintner, the Chateau de Luins.

Walking among the vines in the town of Luins, Switzerland

It is these simple pleasures that bring us back to our senses when we're shuttling back and forth across international borders, peering at the region through the rough filter of expansive industrial development. But there in between this urgent international hum near the border of France and Switzerland, somewhere between those very important points a and b, tucked under networks of huge autoroutes and crossings, sits a sleepy little cluster-like town, reached when you take a lesser used turn, then swerve this way and that, and climb up into the vines.

Anne Glusker's Malakoff mission in Luins is one of many unique food discoveries that dot the deep ridged fabric of this little countryside, and like any traditional dish, it is a source of debate and precision on every detail. When we questioned the cook at the
auberge, he admitted that there were others who might produce something more exactly resembling the original, dating back to the Crimean war, but he was also quick to point out that his brother was of the mind that they didn't taste as good as theirs. Who makes the most authentic version? Who has the real thing? Who does the best?

My main score of the day was of a completely different vein. Back in Lyon, my repeated pleas for fresh horseradish from the producers is met with stern refusal. They won't grow it because it invades everything and needs a lot of maintenance to keep it from completely taking over, plus nobody wants it except me. I scored a whole horseradish root, which M. Delessert yanked from the ground at my request on his ultra-natural farm in Pralies.

SCORE! Horseradish from a farm in Pralies, Switzerland.

My little plot of land is full of stinging nettles and invasive networks of brambles so if the horseradish took over I'd be thankful! Poking this root into the moist ground will do no harm. The best that can come of it is that we'll have a supply of fresh horseradish to serve with oysters and roast beef!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yum! Good luck with the Horseradish garden. Your clueless sister only recently realized that wasabi is horseradish. I love wasabi on much more than sushi. I fully understand your glee!

Your interview was wonderful. I'm in awe that you are mastering the art of wood stove cooking.

6:37 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Hey Serena! Nice to see you here! Is it possible that I have wasabi here? It smelled just like the regular old horseradish and I was over the moon with joy. But now looking at photos of fresh wasabi root, I realize it looks like WASABI. Lord I hope it grows at my house, which I think I calcuated to be a zone 8. Sincve I have my sister here... Serena, I am just finishing and old tattered copy of Watership Down. I was thinking of you. I remember when you were reading that book. In fact reading this book takes me to the attic of the house on Circle Road.

7:56 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger L Vanel said...

No, I really can't tell, I have to call the farm and ask them. No answer this morning but they will be there in the afternoon. I must find out what to do with this root!

9:57 AM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Tracey said...

The Malakoff looks sinfully delicious. Do they serve it all over Switzerland, or just that particular region? I'll be in the Swiss Alps in May-I'll look out for it at restraunts.

4:01 PM, March 13, 2009  
Blogger Katie Zeller said...

What a perfect lunch! In the mountains... Perfect.
I finally found some prepared horseradish here - and snapped it up before realizing it was already out of date. We ate it anyway!

8:51 PM, March 14, 2009  
Blogger Nicole said...

This looks amazing. I have never heard of the Malakoff. It is really peaking my curiosity. Do you have a recipe?

1:46 AM, March 17, 2009  
Blogger Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I just ate there yesterday and had exactly the same meal as you... I love Malakoffs! They are fantastic!

Your pictures are awesome!



2:03 PM, March 24, 2009  

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