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My Site: Day 50: Switzerland

My Site

 
 

Day 50: Switzerland

It’s 6:40 in the morning and I think I’m battling my first official cold of the Personal Food Project in Blog Form. My head hurts, my throat is dry, my nose is running and I’m pretty phlegmy. Of the ways to be sick, though, this is probably the best. A stomach flu would be a disaster. I started to feel it yesterday, so what did I do? Decide to make it Switzerland Day with a lunch comprised entirely of fondue with GirlfriendBites. A smart decision? No. A tasty one? Let’s find out.


Chalet Edelweiss in Westchester, CA. It only opened a few weeks ago, but I got five e-mails from five different friends telling me about it on the same day, saying things like “It looks kitschy, but how bad can fondue be?” Their website says “Welcome to Chalet Edelweiss – the Exhibition Restaurant”. I could have sworn that the Spearmint Rhino’s website says the same thing, but I’m going to check it out nonetheless. As we’re driving past the front, there’s still clearly a lot of construction going on with the building, which can’t help business. Parking in the lot behind, though, we find a sign that says “Open during construction”. Shouldn’t that sign be in the front? We step inside and are immediately greeted by two friendly waitresses. We’re shown to one of the brand-spanking-new tables of clean Swiss looking wood and sit down, taking in our surroundings. Skis on the walls, a huge pizza oven, an alphorn (those long wooden instruments from the old Ricola commercials) and a staff of around nine people (with some dressed like the St. Pauli girl), led by a big smiling chef with a Bluetooth piece in his ear. Our server is a jovial Swiss woman who isn’t wearing the outfits of the rest of the servers, so we assume she must be an owner or manager of some kind. She’s so genuine and nice that I’d expect to see her in a cartoon or TV show, not asking me what I’d like to drink.




First we are given salads with a dressing our waitress describes as “French, but when we say French, people assume tomatoes. It’s actually what our chef brought over from Switzerland, but people don’t know what we mean when we describe it, so we actually call it ranch on the menu.” The dressing is a nice balance of cream and vinegar, but if I was expecting ranch, I would be very disappointed. They’re going to have to figure out what to call this stuff at some point. Our fondue tray is set up and the flame beneath is lit. Then a bubbling pot of melted gruyere and ementaler, spiked with kirsch (the traditional Swiss sour cherry brandy), lands before us, accompanied by cubes of fresh baked baguette and a bowl of pickled cucumbers, pickled pearl onions and chunks of tomato. I ask our red cheeked server if we’re supposed to dip the pickled goods and she says “It’s up to you. Some people do, but I always use bread.” I spear some bread, dip it in, twirl it around, then pop it in my mouth. Melted cheese is melted cheese and the bread is good, so there’s not much to dislike. They may have added a little more kirsch than I would have desired, but it’s a mild complaint. I dip a piece of the pickled cucumber and find it to be a little weird and decide to use the pickled goods as a balance against bites of cheese covered bread. The food doesn’t fully turn into a meal, though, until it is joined by a glass of pinot grigio, per our server’s suggestion. The wine is a perfect retaliation to the power of the swiss cheese and sour cherry brandy and I’m already forgetting about my cold.

Some of the alcohol has cooked off now, leaving a much better flavor. As I scrape my fondue fork into the bottom of the pot, digging up all of the wonderful crispy bits, I realize that, to my surprise, I actually love this place. I was afraid of Olive Garden style Never-Ending-Soggy-Schnitzel-Plates and scantily clad waitresses serving Budweiser in giant mugs, but have grown to really like what I’m seeing. The chef is actually from Switzerland, the over-the-top decor is oddly inviting and I even like that there is a fake tree outside on the patio. Okay, so you can order a 60 oz. Coors Light on tap, but they also have Erdinger Weizenbier and Köstritzer Black Beer. They make pizza and paninis, but there’s a lot of Italian influence in Switzerland, and they also make zürcher gschnätzlets (chicken in mushroom sauce) and Swiss bratwurst, so the menu really does seem to reflect what’s actually eaten in Switzerland. I appreciate a place that can appeal to the masses but doesn’t totally give up on the idea of trying to make something of quality, too. I hope this place succeeds and will add it to my list of “Places I want to revisit when this whole project is over.” But for the moment? I could go for a shot of NyQuil and an 8 hour nap.

Chalet Edelweiss
8740 Sepulveda Blvd
Westchester, CA 90045
(310) 645-8740

Food Breakdown: 1 alcoholic beverages, fondue for 2, with an added expense for the kirsch
Price: $51
Distance From My House: 6.5 miles

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Comments

  1. Mr. Meatballs · Oct 25, 11:33 AM

    Sister restaurant of the Waterfront Cafe & Beergarden on the Venice Boardwalk, a frequent haunt this past summer of mine and Whitey. (By the way, when the hell is Whitey or WhiteMan, or ManWhite, or ManWhitesIsrael or whatever joining for a meal?) The Venice location has the Erdinger, which is amazing on a hot summer day, and these truly stellar freshly baked Bavarian pretzels. I’m a big fan of that place, and can’t wait to try the Chalet.

  2. Peter · Oct 25, 06:55 PM

    Heard you on KPCC today. Your spirit spoke to me. I just did a trip with my father from Kansas City to San Diego. Our stated mission was to search for great barbecue along the way, and ended up finding treasures of not just barbecue, but all sorts of foods. Fried chicken in Muskogee, Oklahoma may have been the highlight. Anyway, I love what you’re doing and look forward to following your progress. Good luck with the heartburn!

  3. oldrnwhyzer1 · Oct 25, 07:15 PM

    I heard you on NPR today, and after working on and off, in and around the restaurant business for over 38 years, this job sounds pretty good! I did want to ask you if you find, as I do, that there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to what a Mexican restaurant calls certain items, and then, how they are made? My first restaurant job was for El Charro Mexican Foods, in Lafayette, Ca., serving the same consistant quality Tex-Mex style Mexican Food, since 1948 (one thing many resturants of today cannot boast), and even through some changes in ownerships (but only two different familys), I went back to help out from May of 2006 to Sept. of 2007, and I had to help the Mexican cooks change their making of taquitos out of flour tortillas, calling them flautas, instead, as they are, and then making the taquitos out of corn tortillas, as they should be. But, are they? Of course, most dishes served here in American, especially Tex-Mex style, are not usually found in Mexico, anyway. My basic understanding is that corn tortillas are used for tacos (soft or friend shells), for rolling of enchiladas, or rolled tight and deep fried as taquitos, or fried crispy and flat for tostadas. The corn are the most popular for the making of home-made tortilla chips served with the house salsa, or other sauces (by the way, you have not had a chip until you have had one dipped in the El Charro secret recipe butter/blue cheese/garlic spread they have served and hold the fourth and fifth ingredients secret, since Frank Garcia started this business in 1948… and he was one of the greatest, kindest men I ever worked for). Flour, on the other hand, have always been used for burritos, or Chimi-changas, which is a deep friend burrito, or for Quesadillas. They can also be used to make cripsy baskets for taco salads, or special deserts, etc. They are also usually a good side items to help eat the refried beans with!! They have a special recipie bean dip that is to die for, as well! Anyway, am I off base, and if not, how come even the chain operations don’t use the proper terms for the items they serve? Where are the Mexican police?? What is your favorite Mexican food restaurant?

  4. Noah · Oct 26, 09:45 AM

    That sounds great, Peter. I’ve been dying to do a food road trip across the United States for quite some time. Thanks so much for checking out the site!

  5. Noah · Oct 26, 10:40 AM

    Thanks for writing in oldrnwhyzer1! As to your question about why there isn’t any consistency about the terminology of Mexican cuisine, I’m not so sure. But it seems to happen any time a cuisine gains popularity outside of its original country.

    As for my favorite Mexican restaurant, that’s a tough one. But driving home hungry at 11 or 12 at night and stumbling upon a taco truck with 10 people waiting in line is one of the great pleasures of living in Los Angeles. Some of the meals I’ve most enjoyed in my life cost $4 a were eaten on a street curb in the middle of the night.

  6. ExileKiss · Oct 28, 11:22 AM

    Hi Noah,

    Another great review. Ouch! Did the Brain Soup and weirdness at the night before’s Nicaraguan restaurant inflict this illness on you?? :)

    Hope you’re feeling better.

  7. Noah · Oct 28, 12:06 PM

    Ugh. God, I hope it wasn’t the soup. I doubt it, since I’d think that would effect my stomach first. Maybe it’s Mad Cow.