I’ve been living in Switzerland for almost 6 years and honestly, I’ve yet to be disappointed with the meals and snacks I’ve tasted - even during these peculiar Covid-times. From a simple slice of bread and cheese, apricots straight from a tree, to the famous fondue, there is much to explore in Swiss cuisine. It doesn’t hurt that this whimsical country, the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, shares borders with France, Germany and Italy. That means bits and pieces of these three countries naturally trickle down into Swiss pots and pans. Thankfully Corona has yet to stop that.
In support of the food and beverage industry in Switzerland, a Michelin Star restaurant will be highlighted every quarter, along with its menu and staff. Many of us still want to celebrate special occasions and hallmark moments within the parameters that the cantons have given us… and why not. We may not be able to dine inside these beautiful Michelin Star restaurants for now, but we can still support them and enjoy their gastronomic magic by ordering takeout and have them deliver to us.
First up is the delightful Maison du Village located in Saint-Aubin-Sauges.
There are many ways to get to Maison du Village, situated between Neuchâtel and Yverdon-les-Bains. If you’re the athletic adventurous type, I hear cycling there is fun! You’ll be riding through lush vineyards covered with endless bunches of Swiss grapes. The climbs aren’t too steep and a bench is never too far away to take in the magnificent Swiss Alps. When you arrive at Maison du Village you’re instantly greeted with a warm smile from Caroline, chef Marc Strebel’s partner or someone from the team. They’ll escort you to your table, then ask which beverage you’d prefer to quench your thirst. If picking wine at a restaurant intimidates you as much as it does me, you can relax and exhale. The vibe there isn’t pretentious nor is the menu. Marc is excited about food. He’s ready and willing to try anything new. He’s inspired by many things, not excluding the music they play in the kitchen. The menu is seasonal, colourful, exciting and absolutely delicious!
Marc and Caroline have owned and operated Maison du Village for 8 years. Marc started working in the restaurant business when he was 16 as an apprentice at the Montreux Palace and afterwards worked at the Beau-Rivage Palace in Neuchatel. Not on any account did Marc imagine owning his own restaurant until 2011, when a friend told him about one in Sauges that was up for sale. Caroline and Marc went to see the place in October, and it was up and running in January the following year.
In March 2020, Covid-19 made its appearance throughout the world. On every side of the globe, governments forced schools, businesses and everything in between to close their doors with little to no warning. Maison du Village was one of those businesses. Marc and Caroline learned on a Sunday evening that they would have to close their restaurant the following Monday.
Without wasting any time, they decided to provide a take-out service for the local patrons. Not only could people in the neighbourhood pick up meals at a significantly lower price; not wanting to throw away any food, Maison du Village also gave food to local nursing homes. When Marc and Caroline realized that the confinement would last longer than 3 weeks, they, along with the help of the Swiss government, fought to keep on their entire staff.
Maison du Village are currently operating a simple yet gourmet takeaway menu for lunchtimes and weekends. They are also suggesting the dining gift voucher option for that long-awaited moment in the - we hope - not too distant future.
What’s in the pot?
There are three main criteria that are considered before awarding a Michelin Star to a restaurant : consistency, innovation and the products/ingredients. The first two can be worked on alone, but the quality and the kinds of products a chef uses is based off a partnership with the farmers, butchers, winemakers and other suppliers. Chef Marc values his relationship with his suppliers. They’re free to introduce a new legume or even a special type of wheat. He knows where the butchers get their meat and considers how the animals are treated. For Marc, the produce he uses is "a permanent reflection of nature" in order to create a menu based on "fresh, spontaneous and creative cuisine."
An easy recipe from Maison du Village. Bon appétit!
Caramel & coconut flan
Quantity: about 10-12 servings
60g egg yolks
30g grated coconut
90g egg whites
200g sweetened condensed milk
Small individual aluminum molds
Pour the sugar into a saucepan and make a dry caramel, dilute it with water to stop cooking, place the hot caramel in aluminum molds.
Divide the grated coconut among the ramekins.
In a bowl, mix the milk, condensed milk & egg yolks.
In another bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff and then add to the main mixture.
Fill the molds evenly with the mixture and place in a combi-steamer oven 90°c, 20% humidity, for 50mins.
Note: If you do not have a combi-steamer, use a traditional oven and cook in a bain-marie at 120°c. Check the cooking after 45mins -1hr.
Bake the flan the day before if possible.
Return to a deep plate or bowl, garnish with coconut chips & whipped cream.