Les Croisettes is an alpine chalet restaurant in the Vallée de Joux of Switzerland so isolated that you have to set GPS coordinates into your car’s satellite navigation and hope to get there.
GPS: 46.63968, 6.3333021
Telephone: +41.(21) 841 1668
In the Jura Vaudois wildlife park, on an old Roman road giving access to the Vallée de Joux, the alpine meadows of the Croisettes awaits you. In the midst of pastures, pine trees and mountains, Les Croisettes perpetuates agriculture and hospitality. Once used for dairy production, the old cheese factory has been transformed with diners huddled around fires to taste fondues, raclettes and grills.
For more than 10 years, the Berney family, proprietors of the Les Croisettes pasture shop, produce their own highland beef on the farm. As the highland cow is a slow-growing animal, it will take 25 to 30 months of hay farming and rearing on meadow pastures and parsley until the dark red meat, hung on the bone for 3 weeks, can delight your taste buds.
Their organic farm produces what the Swiss call “bio beef” that can be tasted at Les Croisettes or to enjoy at home. You can purchase meat and cheese for consumption on-site or collect it after ordering online to take away. Highland specialities include highland meat grilled or tartare, gourmet fondue, dried meats, sausages and burgers.
The chalet also serves as a rest stop for hikers and mountain bikers. The trails include a bird-themed course to discover the different species of the Swiss Jura. The trail is about 40 minutes walk in the pastures, on a path with twenty stations, where riddles and well hidden birds in the trees can be found. Ask for the route map from the refreshment bar. They also offer activities for all ages and various farm animals to discover. Whatever you do, a big breath of fresh air is assured…..
Despite the Swiss propensity for finding innumerable ways to eat cheese, we were interested in the main product at this farm — Meat in all its forms.
They tried their best to distract us with a Starter Platter of cured meats, pate, sausages and cheese mainly of bovine origin but with a small contribution of the porcine persuasion. It only served to titillate our hunger for the prime Highland beef.
Assured of the freshness of the bio beef, I ordered Steak Tartare and therein lies a tale….
I always thought the dish was derived from the Tartars, wildly imagining Mongol hordes riding across the Steppes with slabs of meat tenderising under the saddle each day. I was wrong. Although the word ‘tartare’ presumably refers to the Tartar people of Central Asia, and there are many stories connecting steak tartare with them, steak tartare is not related to Tartar cuisine. The name is a shortening of the original “à la tartare” or “served with tartar sauce,” a dish popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The modern version of steak tartare with raw egg was first served in French restaurants early in the 20th century. Then, it was called “steak à l’Americaine”. Steak tartare is a variation of that dish; the 1921 edition of Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire defines it as steak à l’Americaine made WITHOUT egg yolk, served with tartar sauce on the side. Over time, the distinction between steak à l’Americaine and Steak Tartare disappeared. The 1938 edition of Larousse Gastronomique describes steak tartare as raw ground beef served with a raw egg yolk, without any mention of tartar sauce.
As you can imagine, there are numerous recipe variants all over the world with substitutions like horsemeat and bison and different condiments. The general requirements are fresh chopped meat (not minced), pickled vegetables and aromatics for a balanced, sweet, sour, salty and umami flavour profile. Usually, this is served with hot toast and butter but rye bread and crispbread are used in Russia and Scandinavian countries.
The chopped ingredients are sirloin beef, onion, capers, cornichons and flat parsley.
The flavour ingredients are egg yolk, Dijon mustard, anchovy filets, ketchup, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces, salt, ground black pepper, salad oil and Cognac.
The steak at Les Croisettes is undoubtedly fresh and it showed in taste and texture. I would have preferred it to have been chopped with bigger chunks left in the mince. Although one could not fault the “chef de cuisine” — since that was me — there was still something off the mark about the taste despite using all the ingredients provided. My dining companion is an expert on steak tartare as he consumes it weekly and he was of the same opinion. Overall, we agreed that it was “sufficient” and recommend it.
The other 88% of diners at our table ate sirloin steak that they grilled themselves.
One or two obligate carnivores even had beef sausages on-the-side.
Again, we could not fault the cooks because they were the diners themselves! 😉
Having tried the grilled meat also, I have to conclude that it was better than the steak tartare. Or maybe I’m better on the grill than the mixing bowl?
Although there was a wine list and Swiss wines are most excellent with only 1% exported because domestic demand almost outstrips supply, someone brought his own bottle….
Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007
We all thought it was “most excellent” and amongst good company, even more so. Then, we went home and read the reviews, which surely is the best way to enjoy wines — not knowing until after it is drunk.
The Wine Advocate (Robert Parker 99/100) – “Paul Avril was a bigger-than-life vigneron, a visionary, and a great teacher, but Vincent has been in charge for a number of years, and he has rewarded his father with what I believe is the greatest Chateauneuf du Pape made since 1978 and 1990, the 2007. I have not only tasted this wine at the estate, but I purchased it for my cellar, and have now drunk it on three separate occasions out of bottle. It is unquestionably one of the great Chateauneufs of my lifetime, and I suspect it will merit a three digit score after another 3-4 years of cellaring. The blend is generally 65% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, and the rest small amounts of Muscardin, Vaccarese, Counoise, and Syrah. It exhibits what is probably the deepest color I have ever seen here, and the finished alcohol is a high (for Clos des Papes) 15.5%. Still slightly restrained because of its recent bottling, but wow, what potential complexity, mind-boggling richness, and compelling flavor profile are apparent. It is a sublime expression of the art of winemaking as evidenced by its dense purple color and big, sweet kiss of kirsch, framboise, blackberries, licorice, roasted herbs, and smoked meat. It hits the palate with a fascinating combination of substance, power, full-bodied authority yet extraordinary freshness, elegance, and precision. Give it 3-4 years of cellaring, and watch it unleash its glory over the next three decades. This is a prodigious wine of great quality from one of the most important reference point estates in Chateauneuf du Pape. “
Wine Spectator (97/100) – “Absolutely stunning, with a deep well of crème de cassis that’s thoroughly pure and captivating, while black tea, fig cake, hoisin sauce, incense and graphite notes weave throughout. The supervelvety finish lets blackberry, boysenberry and crushed cherry fruit take an encore—as if this needed any more fruit. A fantastic display of precision in a very opulent year. Best from 2010 through 2030.”
I don’t usually partake when it comes to desserts but as the double cream was farm fresh, I had to comply with the group decision. We couldn’t decide so took on both specialities of the House:
(L) Meringue à la crème double and (R) Flan vanille à la raisinée ou aux fruits rouges
The meringue was simply a sweet excuse to enjoy rich Swiss double cream and in effect, it was probably the best dessert available. By the way, the double cream in coffee was excellent too.
The vanilla flan appealed to the people who wanted a more “complicated” dessert.
AlphaLuxe Two-Tongues Award
I can understand why some people drive all the way from Geneva and up a mountain to Les Croisettes. It is worth the trip if you can find someone else to drive you. Even with SatNav, we got lost because unless you are a mountain goat, there is only one narrow track to the chalet.
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).