Ranging from small, charming guesthouses to five-star luxury resorts, Swiss historic hotels have a rich culinary history. A new book takes you into the kitchens of these landmark hotels and shares some of favorite recipes.
A New Cookbook Highlights Swiss Historic Hotels
To uncover the culinary heritage of Switzerland’s historic hotels, author Anita Brechbühl and photographer Nicolas Glauser traveled to 54 hotels, inns and guesthouses. Each are members of the national association, Swiss Historic Hotels. Both a cookbook and a travel guide, Kulinarische Zeitreisen details their experiences visiting these hotels. They also met with the chef at each hotel, who provided them with a recipe for the book. I recently caught up with Anita and Nicolas during a culinary tour hosted by Swiss Historic Hotels.
Two hotels in Graubünden that were part of our culinary tour: Hotel Palazzo Salis in Soglio, and the Waldhaus Sils in Sils-Maria. Each give a flavor for the diversity of these heritage properties and their culinary traditions.
Preserving Swiss Architecture
Swiss Historic Hotels began in 2004. It started as effort to establish quality standards for hotels that have historical and architectural significance in Switzerland. Known not only for their history, but also for their hospitality and service, the association’s member hotels must meet certain criteria for membership. In particular, the main building should be more than 30 years old. Furthermore, the business needs to be well-established. In addition, the rooms, lighting and furniture must be primarily based on the historic originals. Plus, any structural changes have to respect the existing character of the building.
Published on behalf of Swiss Historic Hotels, this new cookbook divides its member hotels into groups and presents five seasonal routes. These include routes for spring, summer, late-summer, fall and winter. The text, written in German by Anita, is accompanied by colorful and inviting photographs taken by Nicolas. You may already be familiar with them because of their popular travel blog, Travelita.
Hotel Palazzo Salis
Please note: Christian Speck and Monika Müller ended their tenancy of Palazzo Salis in 2019. A new owner reopened the hotel in 2020.
The mountain village of Soglio, with fewer than 200 inhabitants, is about a 10-minute drive from the Italian border. In this quiet village, you’ll find a palatial home built in 1630 for knight Baptista von Salis. More than two centuries later, this property was converted from a private residence into a hotel, as it remains today. Today, it’s managed by Christian Speck and Monika Müller. Altogether, the Hotel Palazzo Salis has 16 guest rooms and a restaurant featuring regional dishes. The dining room contains period artwork and furniture. It has vaulted ceilings and a large, cozy fireplace.
Chef Müller left her café and catering business in Basel two years ago to take over the restaurant at this historic hotel. Her cooking embraces the characteristics of the Slow Food movement. You’ll see this in her menu, which includes dishes like risotto with lamb sausage and pizokel (a traditional buckwheat pasta from this region) with kale and Swiss chard. She works directly with local producers to find the ingredients she needs. For example, just up the street from the hotel lies the farm of Marco and Heidi Giovanoli. They supply the restaurant with meat and cheese.
Chef Müller provided her recipe for Wildkräuter-Hopfensprossen-Salat mit Mascarplin und Honigvinaigrette for this book. She makes this salad with wild herbs, hops sprouts, a local goat’s milk cheese and a honey vinaigrette.
Waldhaus Sils: A Grand Hotel of the Belle Epoque
The famous Waldhaus Sils, like the Hotel Palazzo Salis, was a founding member of the Swiss Historic Hotels. Unlike the Palazzo Salis, which was built as a private home, Josef Giger set out to build a grand hotel in the early 20th century. Situated on a forested hillside above the Silsersee (Lake Sils), this impressive palace dominates the landscape.
Today, this five-star hotel with 140 rooms has been maintained by the same family since 1908. Its former manager, Felix Dietrich currently serves as the Vice President of the board of the Swiss Historic Hotels. Mr. Dietrich retired in 2010 when his two sons, Claudio and Patrick, took over his responsibilities. Dietrich said that the hotel continues to invest in various renovations to its structure. With these investments, they strive to respect the past, while being courageous with its future development. He mentioned the addition of an indoor pool in the 1970s as an example.
Visiting the Waldhaus Sils
Dietrich recently hosted a reading of Brechbühl and Glauser’s new book at the Waldhaus Sils, followed by a dinner of regional specialties from Switzerland’s Engadine Valley. He opened the event with a passage from the book. We listened as he read the “Amuse Bouche,” an introduction written by the Swiss philosopher and journalist, Ludwig Hasler. The dinner that followed was hosted in the hotel’s traditional pinewood-paneled Arvenstube. Each of the dishes highlighted local products, such as chestnuts and dried venison.
For the book, Chef Dennis Brunner of the Waldhaus Sils shared the hotel’s recipe for Bergeller Lamm mit Soglio-Mais-Polenta. With lamb from the Bregaglia Valley, he pairs it with polenta produced from corn grown in the village of Soglio.
Sitting in the dining room of Switzerland’s Hotel Palazzo Salis or Waldhaus Sils, one certainly feels a sense of culinary time travel within these well-preserved architectural gems. These dishes served at these hotels reflect their history. In addition, the talented chefs that work in these hotels continue to draw upon and celebrate the resources of their local communities. Brechbühl and Glauser’s new book will help you to discover even more of these architectural gems and their local cuisine.
For more information:
- Kulinarische Zeitreisen, published for Swiss Historic Hotels by Mattenbach Verlag Winterthur. Anita Brechbühl (text) and Nicolas Glauser (photos). 280 pages. ISBN 978-3-905172-76-8.
- Hotel Palazzo Salis
- Waldhaus Sils
Please note: I attended this culinary tour and stayed at the Hotel Palazzo Salis and Waldhaus Sils as a guest of Swiss Historic Hotels. As a result, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are purely my own.
Updated: May 10, 2022