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Geneva: from forbidden pleasures to capital of gastronomy

Geneva: from forbidden pleasures to capital of gastronomy

Emmanuel Tresmontant - 2008-06-02

Long renowned for culinary austerity, the city of Calvin and Rousseau will amaze you with the creativity of its chefs, the quality of its produce and the variety of its restaurants.

Things have certainly changed since the days when Jean-Jacques Rousseau, citizen of Geneva, urged his followers to eat plain, frugal food with none of the contrivances of civilization!
In his views on food, Rousseau followed in the footsteps of the austere Calvin who, from 1536 to 1564, had educated the Genevans through edicts and sermons and encouraged them to turn their backs on the pleasures of good food. One must eat to live, conceded Luther's disciple, but watch out for the sin of gluttony!
 
Over time, and under the influence of nearby France and Italy, Genevan cuisine broke free from the weighty moral heritage that held the pleasures of food up to public contempt. Remaining plain and rustic, it began to use local produce to great advantage. The canton of Geneva is today Switzerland's richest in terms of gastronomy. What a pleasure it is to sample fresh fish from the morning's catch, fruity white wine from the villages of Lully or Satigny, and strawberries from Chansy smothered in cream!

But Geneva also has many surprises in store for perfection-seeking gourmets! Several talented chefs here produce a very high level of French cuisine, offering great value for money when compared with grand European restaurants.
 
Culinary traditions as diverse as the cantons
In the French-speaking cantons you will find dishes from the Jura and Savoy (trout, lake fish soup, mushroom potées (hotpot), mutton stew with milk, floutes or potato dumplings covered in butter); the Alemannic cantons share German and Austrian traditions (sauerkraut, cooked meats, onion tart, cheese soup cooked slowly with stale bread and stock, leckerlis biscuits with spices), while cuisine in the canton of Ticino is similar to that of northern Italy (tripe soup, Ticinese minestrone with vegetables and haricot beans, osso buco, ravioli).
 
 
Real Genevan cuisine
Bread soup, Lake Geneva charà la crème, fried fillet of perch, rabbit and mushroom stew, cardoon gratin or cardoon à la moelle (with bone marrow) this typically regional vegetable from the artichoke family was introduced to Switzerland by Huguenots who had fled France after the revocation of the edict of Nantes longeole (fresh pork sausage flavoured with fennel and cumin) or pear tart...

Traditional Genevan specialities can still be sampled in certain local bistros, brasseries, or country inns such as the Café de la Rive, Café du Marché, Café du Vallon (Conches), Auberge de Gy, Tourne Bride (Contamine-sur-Havre), Le Pré de la Cure (Yvoire), Les Trois Suisse (Les Bioux) and La Chaumière (Troinex). The Café de Peney (Peney-Dessous) serves delicious frogs' legs and preserved knuckle of pork on polenta, stuffed with roasted marrow seeds.
At Le Buffet de la Gare des Eaux-Vives in Geneva, local cuisine has incorporated spices and tastes from the East with, for example, fillet of pikeperch on couscous, or crayfish from Lake Geneva with citronella! Reckon on paying between 18 and 90 Swiss francs (between 12 and 60 euros).
 
 
Château des Eaux-Vives
Set half-way down the hill between the Plateau de Frontenex and the lake, the Château and Parc des Eaux-Vives have constituted one of the most beautiful places in Geneva since their creation in the 18th century.
 
Giant Egyptian sycamores planted 350 years ago give the park a venerable charm; the château and terrace at the top of a great lawn offer a magical view over the roadstead, the lake and the Alps.
 
The château and park have belonged to the city since 1931, and locals enjoy strolling here both day and night; some of them even stop by to visit the château's kitchens in the middle of a sitting!

The chef, Olivier Samson, likes to show produce from Geneva to advantage, such as the tender and flavourful Simmental beef, the fresh frogs, old varieties of vegetables...

From 79 to 260 Swiss francs (49 to 160 euros).
 
 
Domaine de Châteauvieux
This old winegrowing farm tucked away on a hill above the Rhône has a lot of soul. Here Philippe Chevrier serves food that like himself is generous and copious, and a tad rustic, particularly in autumn when he prepares game birds (teal, partridge, grouse).
 
This perfectionist with a passion for Japanese cuisine is a stickler for precision when it comes to slicing beef or raw tuna (try the delicious Mediterranean red tuna tartare with avocado cream) and uses produce from France (lobster from Brittany, fattened chicken from Bresse and lamb from the Limousin), but also from the area around Geneva (Woolly Pig from Aire-la-Ville roasted and preserved with rosemary or, even more surprisingly, bison from Colovrex cooked in red wine and port, 3-year old Gruyère from the canton of Fribourg, etc.).
 
As well as vintage French wines, Swiss wines are in the spotlight, in particular those produced by Jean-Michel Novelle in Satigny: this winegrower counts on minimalist yields and produces a fine Sauvignon, Gewurztraminer and Merlot.

From 88 to 270 Swiss francs (55 to 167 euros).
 
 
La Colombière
Chantal and Bernard Lonati are local figures. After studying psychology, these two self-taught cuisine and wine buffs opened a fondue stall. 20 years on, La Colombière is one of the canton's gourmet restaurants.
 
Like a chemist in a laboratory, Bernard is constantly trying out new recipes. His free-range eggs stuffed with truffles are delicious, as are his strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar with Tuscany olive-oil-flavoured ice cream!
 
As for Chantal, she specialises in food and wine combinations and will suggest wines to taste by the glass throughout your meal.
 
The Swiss wines highlighted on the wine list include the natural wines produced by Jacques Dupraz at the Domaine des Curiades; he makes a delicious 100% Gamay 2003, matured without sulphur.

From 220 to 275 Swiss francs (136 to 170 euros).
 
 
A few essential addresses in Geneva
Chocolate
Geneva is the European capital of chocolate and cigars. At AuxDouceurs du Palais, master chocolate maker Philippe Pascoët has managed to combine these two luxury products and come up with a Havana-cigar-flavoured chocolate! His boutique in Carrouge a beautiful district of Sardinian origin also contains other marvels such as thyme-, liquorice-, cinnamon- and bergamot-flavoured smooth chocolate cream fillings, and Cognac-flavoured truffles.

Philippe Auer is another great chocolate maker, and one of the last to still roll his truffles by hand! He uses 50 different varieties of chocolate and notably makes delicious caramel-coated almonds and hazelnuts, and pralines with 64% cocoa solids.

As for Christophe Berger, he is part of the new generation of Swiss chocolate makers. His creations are full of subtle nuances with, for example, chocolate cream fillings in tea, pink pepper and ginger flavours.
 
 
Wines
Geneva is home to one of the best wine merchants in Europe, La Cité des Vins, run by Emmanuel Heydens (Switzerland's best sommelier 1992), a first-rate wine taster. Not content with merely selling the finest wines of France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Austria, Emmanuel also endeavours to introduce the public to the great new winegrowers of today, away from the tyranny of labels. He has an impressive catalogue of organically produced French wines.

As for Swiss wines, the days when the vineyards above Lake Geneva produced only poor quality wines, and Chasselas was just ordinary plonk, are long gone! In the canton of Vaud, famous for its steep terraces and vertiginous slopes, Jean-Michel Novelle, Jacques Dupraz and Raymond Paccot today produce authentic wines, using impeccable grapes that are picked and sorted by hand (Gamay, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon).
 
In the Valais (the biggest vineyard in Switzerland with 5,200 hectares or 12,844 acres), we recommend tasting the liqueur-like wines produced by Marie-Thérèse Chappaz, one of the great names in Swiss winegrowing today. Made by traditional methods using a native grape variety, Petite Arvine, her wines give off aromas of crystallised and exotic fruit, and are very fresh on the palate.
 
 
Wine bars
There are two bistros run by wine buffs in Geneva, where you can taste wine by the glass in the evening.
This summer at the Marius Café, along with other delicious local wines, Rénald Kocher is serving unfiltered rosé wine from the Domaine de l'Anglore at Tavel and Morgon Vieilles Vignes produced by Guy Breton (known as "Little Max"), which go wonderfully well with a smoked féra (fish from Lake Geneva) with fresh herbs, or preserved Woolly Pig with spices.
At Le Verre à Soif, Manuel Capi-Lupi and Alain Albanesi specialise exclusively in sulphur-free natural wines, such as the Savagnins from the Jura produced by Pierre Overnoy, Côtes du Rhône from the Domaine de Gramenon, Gérard Valette's Pouilly-Fuissé Vieilles Vignes, and Chevernys from Clos-Tue-BoeufAn unusual place, no doubt about it!
 
 
Fish
All the grand restaurants in Switzerland are supplied by Dominique Lucas. It was Fredy Girardet, regarded as the greatest Swiss chef of the 20th century, who was the first to make professionals in the field of gastronomy understand the necessity of having fish deliveries several times a week (at that time people were making do with one or two deliveries a week). Fish and shellfish are delivered to Lucas every morning. From emperor fish from the Azores to oysters from Prat-Ar-Coum, and of course all the Lake Geneva species, from char to pike... here you will find only top-of-the-range stock. Dominique Lucas also sells to private individuals and makes sushi every morning, which is delivered to his Japanese restaurant in Place du Molard (open all day).

But it is also fun to cycle along the shores of the lake and pay a visit to Geneva's last traditional fishermen! If they have not already sold everything to the grand restaurants, you can buy perch, pike, féras and char, and sometimes even crayfish and frogs, in their huts. On Quai Gustave Adore, opposite the fountain, you may thus come across Gérald Caillat and Maurice Perrissol. At Vésenaz, Jean-Marc Barbaglia sells his fish direct to the public by request only.
 
 
Address book
Restaurant du Parc des Eaux-Vives
82, quai Gustave-Ador
1211 Geneva
Tel: 022 849 75 75
www.parcdeseauxvives.ch

Domaine de Châteauvieux
16, chemin de Châteauvieux
1242 Peney-Dessus
Tel: 022 753 15 11
www.chateauvieux.ch

La Colombière
122, route de Soral
1233 Lully
Tel: 022 757 10 27

Aux douceurs du Palais
1, rue St-Victor
1227 Carrouge.
Tel: 022 342 16 00

Auer Chocolatier (chocolate maker)
4, rue de Rive
1207 Geneva.
Tel: 022 311 42 86

Confiserie Berger (confectioner's)
16, av. Henri-Drunant
1205 Geneva.
Tel: 022 329 12 02
 
La Cité des Vins
3 bis rue de Coutance
1201 Geneva.
Tel: 022 732 22 22

Marius Café
9, place des Augustins
1205 Geneva
Things have certainly changed since the days when Jean-Jacques Rousseau, citizen of Geneva, urged his followers to eat plain, frugal food with none of the contrivances of civilization!
In his views on food, Rousseau followed in the footsteps of the austere Calvin who, from 1536 to 1564, had educated the Genevans through edicts and sermons and encouraged them to turn their backs on the pleasures of good food. One must eat to live, conceded Luther's disciple, but watch out for the sin of gluttony!
 
Over time, and under the influence of nearby France and Italy, Genevan cuisine broke free from the weighty moral heritage that held the pleasures of food up to public contempt. Remaining plain and rustic, it began to use local produce to great advantage. The canton of Geneva is today Switzerland's richest in terms of gastronomy. What a pleasure it is to sample fresh fish from the morning's catch, fruity white wine from the villages of Lully or Satigny, and strawberries from Chansy smothered in cream!

But Geneva also has many surprises in store for perfection-seeking gourmets! Several talented chefs here produce a very high level of French cuisine, offering great value for money when compared with grand European restaurants.
 
Culinary traditions as diverse as the cantons
In the French-speaking cantons you will find dishes from the Jura and Savoy (trout, lake fish soup, mushroom potées (hotpot), mutton stew with milk, floutes or potato dumplings covered in butter); the Alemannic cantons share German and Austrian traditions (sauerkraut, cooked meats, onion tart, cheese soup cooked slowly with stale bread and stock, leckerlis biscuits with spices), while cuisine in the canton of Ticino is similar to that of northern Italy (tripe soup, Ticinese minestrone with vegetables and haricot beans, osso buco, ravioli).
 
 
Real Genevan cuisine
Bread soup, Lake Geneva charà la crème, fried fillet of perch, rabbit and mushroom stew, cardoon gratin or cardoon à la moelle (with bone marrow) this typically regional vegetable from the artichoke family was introduced to Switzerland by Huguenots who had fled France after the revocation of the edict of Nantes longeole (fresh pork sausage flavoured with fennel and cumin) or pear tart...

Traditional Genevan specialities can still be sampled in certain local bistros, brasseries, or country inns such as the Café de la Rive, Café du Marché, Café du Vallon (Conches), Auberge de Gy, Tourne Bride (Contamine-sur-Havre), Le Pré de la Cure (Yvoire), Les Trois Suisse (Les Bioux) and La Chaumière (Troinex). The Café de Peney (Peney-Dessous) serves delicious frogs' legs and preserved knuckle of pork on polenta, stuffed with roasted marrow seeds.
At Le Buffet de la Gare des Eaux-Vives in Geneva, local cuisine has incorporated spices and tastes from the East with, for example, fillet of pikeperch on couscous, or crayfish from Lake Geneva with citronella! Reckon on paying between 18 and 90 Swiss francs (between 12 and 60 euros).
 
 
Château des Eaux-Vives
Set half-way down the hill between the Plateau de Frontenex and the lake, the Château and Parc des Eaux-Vives have constituted one of the most beautiful places in Geneva since their creation in the 18th century.
 
Giant Egyptian sycamores planted 350 years ago give the park a venerable charm; the château and terrace at the top of a great lawn offer a magical view over the roadstead, the lake and the Alps.
 
The château and park have belonged to the city since 1931, and locals enjoy strolling here both day and night; some of them even stop by to visit the château's kitchens in the middle of a sitting!

The chef, Olivier Samson, likes to show produce from Geneva to advantage, such as the tender and flavourful Simmental beef, the fresh frogs, old varieties of vegetables...

From 79 to 260 Swiss francs (49 to 160 euros).
 
 
Domaine de Châteauvieux
This old winegrowing farm tucked away on a hill above the Rhône has a lot of soul. Here Philippe Chevrier serves food that like himself is generous and copious, and a tad rustic, particularly in autumn when he prepares game birds (teal, partridge, grouse).
 
This perfectionist with a passion for Japanese cuisine is a stickler for precision when it comes to slicing beef or raw tuna (try the delicious Mediterranean red tuna tartare with avocado cream) and uses produce from France (lobster from Brittany, fattened chicken from Bresse and lamb from the Limousin), but also from the area around Geneva (Woolly Pig from Aire-la-Ville roasted and preserved with rosemary or, even more surprisingly, bison from Colovrex cooked in red wine and port, 3-year old Gruyère from the canton of Fribourg, etc.).
 
As well as vintage French wines, Swiss wines are in the spotlight, in particular those produced by Jean-Michel Novelle in Satigny: this winegrower counts on minimalist yields and produces a fine Sauvignon, Gewurztraminer and Merlot.

From 88 to 270 Swiss francs (55 to 167 euros).
 
 
La Colombière
Chantal and Bernard Lonati are local figures. After studying psychology, these two self-taught cuisine and wine buffs opened a fondue stall. 20 years on, La Colombière is one of the canton's gourmet restaurants.
 
Like a chemist in a laboratory, Bernard is constantly trying out new recipes. His free-range eggs stuffed with truffles are delicious, as are his strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar with Tuscany olive-oil-flavoured ice cream!
 
As for Chantal, she specialises in food and wine combinations and will suggest wines to taste by the glass throughout your meal.
 
The Swiss wines highlighted on the wine list include the natural wines produced by Jacques Dupraz at the Domaine des Curiades; he makes a delicious 100% Gamay 2003, matured without sulphur.

From 220 to 275 Swiss francs (136 to 170 euros).
 
 
A few essential addresses in Geneva
Chocolate
Geneva is the European capital of chocolate and cigars. At AuxDouceurs du Palais, master chocolate maker Philippe Pascoët has managed to combine these two luxury products and come up with a Havana-cigar-flavoured chocolate! His boutique in Carrouge a beautiful district of Sardinian origin also contains other marvels such as thyme-, liquorice-, cinnamon- and bergamot-flavoured smooth chocolate cream fillings, and Cognac-flavoured truffles.

Philippe Auer is another great chocolate maker, and one of the last to still roll his truffles by hand! He uses 50 different varieties of chocolate and notably makes delicious caramel-coated almonds and hazelnuts, and pralines with 64% cocoa solids.

As for Christophe Berger, he is part of the new generation of Swiss chocolate makers. His creations are full of subtle nuances with, for example, chocolate cream fillings in tea, pink pepper and ginger flavours.
 
 
Wines
Geneva is home to one of the best wine merchants in Europe, La Cité des Vins, run by Emmanuel Heydens (Switzerland's best sommelier 1992), a first-rate wine taster. Not content with merely selling the finest wines of France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Austria, Emmanuel also endeavours to introduce the public to the great new winegrowers of today, away from the tyranny of labels. He has an impressive catalogue of organically produced French wines.

As for Swiss wines, the days when the vineyards above Lake Geneva produced only poor quality wines, and Chasselas was just ordinary plonk, are long gone! In the canton of Vaud, famous for its steep terraces and vertiginous slopes, Jean-Michel Novelle, Jacques Dupraz and Raymond Paccot today produce authentic wines, using impeccable grapes that are picked and sorted by hand (Gamay, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon).
 
In the Valais (the biggest vineyard in Switzerland with 5,200 hectares or 12,844 acres), we recommend tasting the liqueur-like wines produced by Marie-Thérèse Chappaz, one of the great names in Swiss winegrowing today. Made by traditional methods using a native grape variety, Petite Arvine, her wines give off aromas of crystallised and exotic fruit, and are very fresh on the palate.
 
 
Wine bars
There are two bistros run by wine buffs in Geneva, where you can taste wine by the glass in the evening.
This summer at the Marius Café, along with other delicious local wines, Rénald Kocher is serving unfiltered rosé wine from the Domaine de l'Anglore at Tavel and Morgon Vieilles Vignes produced by Guy Breton (known as "Little Max"), which go wonderfully well with a smoked féra (fish from Lake Geneva) with fresh herbs, or preserved Woolly Pig with spices.
At Le Verre à Soif, Manuel Capi-Lupi and Alain Albanesi specialise exclusively in sulphur-free natural wines, such as the Savagnins from the Jura produced by Pierre Overnoy, Côtes du Rhône from the Domaine de Gramenon, Gérard Valette's Pouilly-Fuissé Vieilles Vignes, and Chevernys from Clos-Tue-BoeufAn unusual place, no doubt about it!
 
 
Fish
All the grand restaurants in Switzerland are supplied by Dominique Lucas. It was Fredy Girardet, regarded as the greatest Swiss chef of the 20th century, who was the first to make professionals in the field of gastronomy understand the necessity of having fish deliveries several times a week (at that time people were making do with one or two deliveries a week). Fish and shellfish are delivered to Lucas every morning. From emperor fish from the Azores to oysters from Prat-Ar-Coum, and of course all the Lake Geneva species, from char to pike... here you will find only top-of-the-range stock. Dominique Lucas also sells to private individuals and makes sushi every morning, which is delivered to his Japanese restaurant in Place du Molard (open all day).

But it is also fun to cycle along the shores of the lake and pay a visit to Geneva's last traditional fishermen! If they have not already sold everything to the grand restaurants, you can buy perch, pike, féras and char, and sometimes even crayfish and frogs, in their huts. On Quai Gustave Adore, opposite the fountain, you may thus come across Gérald Caillat and Maurice Perrissol. At Vésenaz, Jean-Marc Barbaglia sells his fish direct to the public by request only.
 
 
Address book
Restaurant du Parc des Eaux-Vives
82, quai Gustave-Ador
1211 Geneva
Tel: 022 849 75 75
www.parcdeseauxvives.ch

Domaine de Châteauvieux
16, chemin de Châteauvieux
1242 Peney-Dessus
Tel: 022 753 15 11
www.chateauvieux.ch

La Colombière
122, route de Soral
1233 Lully
Tel: 022 757 10 27

Aux douceurs du Palais
1, rue St-Victor
1227 Carrouge.
Tel: 022 342 16 00

Auer Chocolatier (chocolate maker)
4, rue de Rive
1207 Geneva.
Tel: 022 311 42 86

Confiserie Berger (confectioner's)
16, av. Henri-Drunant
1205 Geneva.
Tel: 022 329 12 02
 
La Cité des Vins
3 bis rue de Coutance
1201 Geneva.
Tel: 022 732 22 22

Marius Café
9, place des Augustins
1205 Geneva
Tel: 022 320 62 39

Le Verre à Soif
21, rue du Fort Barreau
1201 Geneva
Tel: 022 740 38 40

Lucas Poissons (fishmonger)
9-11, rue Blavignac
1227 Carrouge.
Tel: 022 309 40 40

Gérald Caillat
Fisherman's hut on the jetty side of the fountain, Quai Gustave Ador
1207 Geneva.
Tel: 079 213 39 71

Maurice Perrisol
Same address as above
Tel: 022 735 26 46

Jean-Marc Barbaglia
12, chemine des Raies
1222 Vésenaz.
Tel: 022 752 49 91
 

Tel: 022 320 62 39

Le Verre à Soif
21, rue du Fort Barreau
1201 Geneva
Tel: 022 740 38 40

Lucas Poissons (fishmonger)
9-11, rue Blavignac
1227 Carrouge.
Tel: 022 309 40 40

Gérald Caillat
Fisherman's hut on the jetty side of the fountain, Quai Gustave Ador
1207 Geneva.
Tel: 079 213 39 71

Maurice Perrisol
Same address as above
Tel: 022 735 26 46

Jean-Marc Barbaglia
12, chemine des Raies
1222 Vésenaz.
Tel: 022 752 49 91
 

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