Schokoladenpretzel and vermicelles. Fladen and mailänderli and nusstorte. These are a few of my favorite things. Swiss pastries alone are the key to enduring our yearly settimana bianca, a ritual “white week” of early mornings, layered clothing, and snow.
I am not genetically nor environmentally inclined to head to a mountain at any time of the year. But I do so for love. Not because my husband Darius is an avid off-piste skier but for love of a fork and knife. Yes, I am an excellent eater, what Italians call the proverbial buona forchetta — a good fork. And I have come to the conclusion that I have no problem wearing extra layers if the gastronomical returns are, well, astronomical. For the past two years, I have been spending ski week in Switzerland — for pastry shops and Michelin stars.
Kempinski Grand Hotel Des Bains
We head to St. Moritz, a bizarre gastro-Blade Runner with everything from fondue to fine dining (and apparently — or so they tell me — skiing). While Darius skis with his merry band of off-duty instructors, I eat. My favorite place is Cà d’Oro, the one-Michelin-star restaurant at Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains.
Kempinski is a super-modern renovation of a historic St. Moritz hotel. Established in 1864, the Grand Hotel des Bains has a storied history as a prestigious alpine retreat. This elegant hotel has hosted royalty, celebrities, and discerning guests over the years. With its refined atmosphere, rich heritage, and world-class amenities, it remains a beloved symbol of luxury and hospitality with a modern design upgrade. Rooms are contemporary in style, muted tones, and high-quality, but not opulent or boutique-y. Everyone knows who you are, and they’re all very friendly. I loved our room, which had a kitchen and a balcony.
The best part of Grand Hotel des Bains? You can ski in and out and recover in the enormous spa. The pool has a two-story ceiling and the services are incredible. And of course the breakfast. I have never had a better hotel breakfast than the one I did here. It was the cornucopia of mornings. Worst part? It”s hike to the town.
The Chef Who Warms the Alpine Chills
I don’t know if my real St. Moritz gastro-epiphany happened when I met chef Matthias Schmidberger, Cà d’Oro kitchen rock star who (besides being typically chef-cute) has an incredible instinct for food pairing and creativity. Or if I saw the light while playing flatware chess with Matthias’ waitstaff whose utensil and beverage knowledge was complete grandmaster level. It was probably both. I have never been so happily surprised as when I meditated on my fork and placed that first bite of astice marino in my mouth. And the rest is history.
Cà d’Oro is a seasonal restaurant, open for the winter season, usually from the end of November until March. Matthias is in St. Moritz from September to April. He spends the off-season sourcing products and fine-tuning his menu. I spend it trying to figure out when I can get back to St. Moritz. When the heat turns on and Matthias is back in the kitchen, he has a work hard/play hard mentality. I asked him to tell me more about it.
“We have to be ready the moment the hotel opens. My experiences are extremely valuable to guarantee a great quality from the beginning until the closing period. I take the summer to come up with new inspirations, but they have to fit into our concept, which means there will only be small changes to our menu. I love to play with amouse bouches, with the small pre-dessert, and with sweet delicacies.”
So I ask Matthias what’s so great about St. Moritz and his response “There is a German saying: “the carrot which is hanging in front of you will be in your hands after every season.” During the season, there is no need to escape. It is a wonderful place with a lot of opportunities for me to relax: biking, swimming, sitting in a piazza with ice cream, skiing in winter, hiking, and celebrating with my team.”
Not to Miss in St. Moritz
I may not be a natural skier but I would have to say my favourite slope is Piz Nair, Corviglia. The panorama is astonishing, and so is the whiskey. If I am looking for views and snow-shoeing I head to Muottas Muragl, a gorgeous mountain who’s astonishing view that inspired late 1800s artist Giovanni Segantini. In fact, I immerse in his paintings at the Segantini Museum, a stone pantheon on the side of the rode.
Late night lovers head to Drac’s, but Matthias’s favourite late night spots include the Cà d’Oro kitchen (insert smile) and the usual places in St. Moritz: the little shack La Barraca, Stübli (an Engadine pub in the Hotel Schweizerhof), disco nights at Vivai, and the King’s Club.
I won’t leave St. Moritz without a stop at Conditore Hanselman for a hot chocolate and a pastry. The historic bakery is housed in one of St. Moritz’s most intricately ornamented buildings. The original 1928 façade features an elaborate pattern of rosettes and decorative borders in red and pale brown sgraffito (etching directly into paint) and allegorical frescoes depicting the seasons.
A version originally appeared in Fathom.