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December 02, 2008

Chef Daniel Humm's Swiss Picks

Some of Daniel Humm's gorgeous creations.
Photo: Eleven Madison Park

by Mollie Chen

In the two years since Daniel Humm took over at Manhattan's Eleven Madison Park, the chef has invigorated the art deco dining room with his ultra-refined seasonal cuisine. He is especially known for his thoughtfully designed tasting menus, which include course after course of impossibly beautiful dishes (think seared diver scallops with acorn squash and satsuma tangerines, and suckling pig with plum chutney and five spice sauce). I'm still dreaming about a foie gras brulée with brioche I had there ages ago.

Now Humm and the restaurant have one more accolade: They were recently named Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux, a status shared by only 150 other restaurants in the world. Humm was able to take time off from the kitchen (and from training--he ran the New York Marathon this year) for a trip back to his native Switzerland. We asked him for his top hometown food picks; check out his answers after the jump.

What are your favorite Zürich restaurants?
* Vorderer Sternen for the best bratwurst in Switzerland, served on a delicious roll with mustard. I love to go there in the early evening and people-watch; the restaurant attracts such a diverse crowd, from CEOs to politicians, students to construction workers. Everybody is eating a bratwurst, drinking a beer, and having a great time. 
* Kronenhalle serves traditional Swiss cuisine and has been around for many years. It's located around the lake of Zürich and serves fantastic local fish dishes.

What are your can't-miss experiences, food or otherwise?
* Shopping at Globus.
* Chocolate brioche at Sprüngli.
* Going through the markets in Lugano, the Italian part of Switzerland. It's a great blend of Italian flair with Swiss perfectionism.
* Hiking, skiing, biking, swimming in clear lakes in the mountains.   
* Verkehrshaus in Lucerne is a very interesting and interactive transportation museum.

What can you get in Switzerland that you can't get here? Any regional delicacies or childhood favorites?
* Crème Gruyère is amazing double cream, enjoyed mostly with berries and meringue but also used for cooking.
* Different types of rösti with bacon and cheese.
* Glühwein, a sweetened, spiced red wine served warm.
* Switzerland is known for the quality of its veal, so many restaurants offer amazing veal chops and schnitzel.
* Raisiné is a jam made from slowly reduced pear juice. It's used mostly for baked goods like tarts, but it's also great with cheese.
* Metzgete is a traditional casserole dish of warm charcuterie--similar to a Bollito Misto.

What was the last place you visited? What did you love? Any favorite restaurants?
I just returned from Vienna with Danny Meyer and our general manager, Will Guidara, for Relais & Chateaux's International Congress. Eleven Madison Park was designated Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux, the only stand-alone restaurant in North America to be newly inducted into the Relais & Chateaux group this year. It was an incredible honor. One culinary highlight of our trip was a restaurant outside of Vienna in the Burgenland called Taubenkobel. The food was delicious and we enjoyed some excellent Austrian wines.

Where are you going next?
I'm going to Paris to spend time with my friend Yannick Alléno, who is the chef at Le Meurice. We'll spend a week in Paris and then go to Lyon to the Bocuse d'Or.


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