Robert Kass and Roger Clinton (President Clinton’s brother), circa 2009
It’s really hard to get out of my very comfortable bed today, but I must! It’s going to be a long day of discovery, adventure, incredible heat and humidity and tasting of new foods with the hopes I will not get food poisoning. After a lovely breakfast on the terrace, I venture out the busy, narrow streets of Stone Town; they are lined with shops selling everything from tourist crap to bad African arts & craft, to colorful fine art and just abut anything else you can imagine. The merchants are quite aggressive and don’t shy away from calling you out loud to sell you their trinkets; One local kid looks at me and calls me out loudly: “Jumbo, Jumbo!!!”. Immediately I think he’s calling me Jumbo because of my “slightly” over weight condition; not even a few minutes after, another one addresses me as “Jumbo”. That continued throughout the day to the point where I became really annoyed at the “cheek” of these people to make fun of my weight so shamelessly…how rude!!!! It was only later that evening when I was telling my friend Tina the story that she burst out in hysterical laughter and informed me that “Jumbo” means “Hello” in Swahili. I never felt so stupid; I gave every one who called me “Jumbo” the dirtiest looks all day long when In fact, they were just being kind and welcoming…such a Meryl Streep moment in “Out of Africa”!!!
Arriving at the historic Emerson Spice Hotel
Entrance of the Emerson Spice Hotel
The amazing carved wood terraces
Walking around these narrow streets, you get a sense of claustrophobia after a while and you never really know where you are; but it doesn’t matter, there is so much to see: the amazing 18-19 century colonial architecture that still remains, though in much need of restoration; the well-known, finely decorated wooden doors, with rich carvings and bas-reliefs, sometimes with big brass studs of Indian tradition . Stone Town’s architecture has a number of distinctive features, as a result of Arab, Persian, Indian, European, and African traditions mixing together. The name “Stone Town” comes from the ubiquitous use of coral stone as the main construction material; this stone gives the town a characteristic, reddish warm colour. Another Stone Town famous feature, is its rooftop lifestyle: cafés, restaurants and lounges are often on the top floor or the rooftop of their 4-5-6 story buildings, where you can escape the sweltering heat from below, while enjoying the breeze, the amazing views of the town’s roofs and the ocean. The Arabian, Persian, Indian style is evident in most of the interiors around here; you really feel like you’re on the set of “Alibaba” or that Rita Hayworth will pop out any minute now, wrapped in silk, ready to enchant you with her “Seven veils dance”.
Zanzibar’s famous carved wood doors
“I beg to differ…”
After what seems like hours walking around in circles, I stumble into the Coffee House Café, which I read about on the Internet; apparently it’s the most famous Café in Zanzibar and a favorite of the international tourism, an immediate “red flag” for me! However, since I am there, I might as well check it out. As expected it’s full of tourist and besides the fabulous local ladies behind the counter with their classic African turbans on their heads, it’s not for me, so off I go searching for the town’s main market: Darajani Market. This is the heart of the town and it’s bustling with activity; there is no better place to get the pulse of the people and a view in their way of life and what they eat than a visit to their main market. Once there, it’s a violent stimulations of the senses and It’s not for the faint hearted, in fact, some areas of the market are really hard to be in because of the foul smell of some of their foods; but most of it is filled with spices, plenty of exotic fruits and a real delight to shop around. Being the “Gourmand” that I am, I can’t resist buying al sorts of local Curries, Masalas, hot chilies and the best Vanilla beans in the world…I hope they won’t take them at the US customs.
The famous Zanzibar Coffee House
Interior of The Coffee House
Interior of The Coffee House
Arriving at the Darajani Market
Dried octopus and other oddities (really smelly too)
The narrow passages at the market
Stone Town’s famous spices
One of the thousand beautiful displays at the market
By far my favorite photo of the month
I think I’m done with culture for the day, I got mud all over my feet from the muddy, unpaved streets and it appears I have some new friends following me…cats! Must be the smells of flesh I picked up while visiting the meat market. I’m feeling a little light-headed from the heat and I hate to say, but that infinity pool back at the Park Hyatt, is looking mighty fine now! I’m ready to go back to my comfort zone! On the way back I make a few mandatory stops at The “House of wonders”, formally the Sultan’s residence, built in 1883; It was the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity as well as the first building in East Africa to have an elevator…how about that? I also visit to the Old Fort, a heavy stone fortress that was built in the 17th century by the Omanis to protect the city from European invasions; the internal courtyard is now a cultural centre with shops, workshops, and a small arena where live dance and music shows are held daily.
It’s sad to see how many of their heritage monuments are literally falling apart due to the paralyzing poverty that plagues this continent. With regard to Tanzania, perhaps thing are looking up and maybe the near future will bring some much-needed help to provide a better life for its citizens and much needed funds to restore their beautiful monuments.
An old photo of the House of Wonders
A new photo of The House of Wonders
The building is sadly falling apart
House of Wonders
Another fabulous Colonial building typical of Zanzibar
The Old Fort of Stone Town
Kids playing football in from of my hotel at dusk
Once again, I will spend I quiet evening on my own at the hotel in preparation for tomorrow departure, with my friend Tina, to the other side of the island of Zanzibar, in an area called: Kendwa Beach, that apparently has the most amazing, pristine, white sand beaches in the world…I’ll be a judge of that!
Goodnight Possums: “Jumbo, Jumbo!!!”
After packing and a quick breakfast, Tina’s driver is waiting for us outside to take us to the national airport in Dar es Salaam for my short 20 minutes flight to the mystical island of Zanzibar, an ancient and historic trade center with Swahili and Islamic influences. Zanzibar is a Tanzanian archipelago off the coast of East Africa. On its main island, Unguja, familiarly called Zanzibar, is Stone Town, The northern villages Nungwi and Kendwa have wide white sand beaches lined with hotels; I’ll be staying there later in the week,
Driving on the main road to the airport, you can’t help noticing the incredible amount of construction going on in Dar es Salaam, hundreds and hundreds of new buildings and skyscrapers all mixed in with the old decrepit small business and what appear like mud homes where people live in; all lining the unpaved streets bustling with thousands of street vendors and activity. The paradox between old and new Africa seems to burst trough the seams. Once we arrive to the airport we are attacked by third party travel agents that wait for the “unaware” to pounce and sell you tickets to wherever you are going (It’s always better to buy your air tickets on line through proper travel websites) . Tina and I fall immediately into the trap, but once we realized what was going on, Ms. Thing pulled out that Swiss Airlines badge, like a DEA agent in the movies, stormed through security, barged into Coastal Aviation office (the main local airline) and demanded NOT to be messed with!!! I just stood by quietly with a grin of proudness on my face until she was done and I had a super cheep ticket to Zanzibar in just under one hour…”Not that’s how it’s done in Switzerland…bitches!!!”.
Of course there had to be the “Out of Africa Cafe” at the airport
Simple but effective…good cappuccino and grilled ham and cheese sandwich
Not much traffic today
Tina is not coming with me today, in fact, she has to fly back to Zurich for work but will be rejoining me in 3 days in Stone Town. So after a short wait at the “Out of Africa” Café (Imagine that…), it’s time to board this really scary, small, beaten-up bucket they call a plane! It’s a 10 seater Cessna and pretty much the only choice for traveling inside Tanzania, so I better get ahold of myself and squeeze myself through the inhumanly narrow isle to reach my inhumanly small seat behind the pilot…at least if we go down, I’ll have the best view! When you finally reach cruising altitude the fear of flying is replaced by the sheer beauty out the window of the Indian coast line, the turquoise waters and corral reefs…Just Amazing!!!
This is the flying bucket that will be taking me to Zanzibar
God help me…
Dar es Salaam’s coat and the deserted island I had lunch at yesterday
Corral reefs sufronding the island of Zanzibar
Before you know it we land in Zanzibar…Get me out of this plane already! Like all the other airports in Tanzania, this one too, is chaotic and no one quite knows what is gong on and where you are supposed to go, but eventually you work it out and reach the outside parking area where hundreds of drivers and Taxi men are fighting for you business. Through the mob I see a smiley, bright eyed, thin young man wearing a Moroccan white crisp clean tunic, holding a gold framed sign with “Mr. Kass” on it…a sign of relieve takes over me as I wave away: “here, here…” just like Meryl did on “Out of Africa”.
And here we are!
Where is mine???
When I was looking into which hotel to stay in Stone Town, I was reluctant to consider the newly finished and only proper 5 star hotel in the island: The Park Hyatt (www.zanzibar.park.hyatt.com). I usually try to pick local brads or independent hotels; I always feel you get a much better feel for the local culture and experience as you would by staying in the big, foreign chain. But the whole story I read about Park Hyatt buying a beachfront, 17th century mansion on the Indian ocean and restoring it to it’s formal glory in such great taste…I couldn’t resist! I picked The Park Hyatt and I’m on my way and I’m not apologetic…BTW, it’s always good to mix it up a little when you’re visiting 3rd world countries: doesn’t hurt to throw in a few “5 stars” moments in the mix, now and then. My love affair with the Park Hyatt Zanzibar starts at the entrance of the hotel…I just know! The architecture, the design and attention that went into re-storing this building is obvious the moment you arrive; beyond chic and so respectful of the integrity of the original building and it’s environment…well done! I spend the late afternoon exploring the many areas of this oceanfront stunner and even more time enjoying my brand new, super comfortable, colonial, four-post bed and all the many state of-the-art amenities this hotel offers. The temperature is stifling and probably 100% humidity, so I rather hang out in the infinity pool for the rest of the day and wait till sundown before venturing out in the small town.
The stunning 17th century building that is the new Park Hyatt Hotel
The elegant Arabic entrance of the Hyatt Hotel Zanzibar
My Ali Baba suite…so thrilled!
Now this is a bathroom
I’ll be sending lots of time here
View from my room
The hotel’s Bar
The amazing infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean
The Tanzanian classic fishing boat on the horizon
Sunset from my bedroom
The town of Stone Town is a very complicated grid of winding narrow streets, filled with shops, art galleries, hotels, cafés, minarets, stunning carved doorways and 19th-century landmarks such as the House of Wonders, a former sultan’s palace. It’s impossible to find your way in this maze but you can only end up in two places if you get lost…and you will: the ocean or the Daranjani Market square; from where you can find your way home. Tonight I’m going to have a quick walk around at the Forodhani Gardens, the town’s main square, in front of the Old Fort, where all the locals congregate after work to eat and hang out and where all the food vendors cook up a myriad of local delights, mostly from the ocean, that they sell in the dark square lit by hundreds of gas lights.
One of the many roof-top Cafés in Stone Town
Local children huddled around a few TV playing video games
Street vendors in the Gardens of Forodhani
The amazing food displays in the main square
The Floating Restaurant
One of the many Restaurants in Stone Town
There is something so magical about hanging out in this square on the Oceanside; the energy, the smells, the people, the colors, and the foods…it’s so intoxicating! There are hundreds of scrawny little cats everywhere; I wonder how many end up on the dining table. There are so many interesting looking foods displayed on portable tables, some of which I have never seen and no shortage of sales people calling you out to try their delights; I usually don’t have any problems eating food from street vendors in any country I visit, in fact, I love doing that…that’s how you really get to experience the local fare!!!! But tonight I decide to treat myself to a delicious dinner in my hotel, in that beautiful terrace overlooking the water, with a good glass of wine, proper china and white linens. Tomorrow I will properly explore the locals’ foods and customs…. I promise!
My King fish with Curry dinner is amazing and after a few glasses of South African wine by myself, it’s time for some of that amazing bathtub action before curling up in my 4-poster-bed for a movies and much needed rest.
“Kwaheri” everyone…or good night
Great end to a perfect day!
Good morning Africa! I feel like a 12 year old on his first trip abroad…so weird for such a seasoned traveler! I guess Africa is so far out of my comfort zone that my curiosity is at it’s peak. We start the day with some shopping at the local arts & crafts market just a few streets down form our hotel. Tina’s guide and adopted son Ferous, is a darling 23-year-old local boy that takes care of Tina and the Swiss Airline crew when they come to town. He provides protection, guidance and access to amazing sites of the beaten pass and most definitely not on the tourist’s guides.
Arriving at the local arts & crafts market
Jewelry made with used Nespresso pods…talk about imagination!
The market if full of incredible finds; one worth mentioning is the used Nespresso pods collection they collect from hotels and then turn into original jewelry; I say A for effort! After buying 800 Pareos in every possible color combination of the rainbow we go back to the hotel where Ferous’s buddy is picking us up with the local, best and fastest form of transportation…The Tul Tuk. This deathly machine is a converted moped with a cabin attached in the back that barely fits 3 people…thank god I lost 3 pounds. These little maniacal vehicles cut trough the insane traffic in the streets of Dar es Salaam with such efficiency, cutting hours of your journey; it goes without saying that such a perk included a pretty good probability of dying in a car crash at any moment…there drivers are literally INSANE in this place!
Tina posing on the Tuk Tuk
In the back of the Tuk Tuk with Tina and Ferous
Tina has arranged an amazing adventure today, we are going to a deserted, pristine, white sand island off the coast of Dar es Salaam where a few local chefs and a few fishermen are awaiting our arrival so they can catch out choice of sea food and then cook it on site at a make shift kitchen and dining hut. After the terrifying ride to the beach, I notice a little unsettling detail…there is no water on the beach! Trying not to look too alarmed, I ask our guide how are we supposed to catch our boat to the island if there is no water on the beach for a boat to float on. He laughs and explains that it is now low tide so we have to walk on the muddy, critter infested sea floor for miles until we reach the water and our boat. Suddenly the dreamy island plan is beginning to look a bit like a nightmare; let me tell you, walking a mile on a slippery, muddy, pothole infested sea floor with little critters crawling around is NOT my idea of a good time! You can barely see the boat; it’s so far away from shore. I guess I have no choice but to suck it up and be a man and show these highly amused locals that this Swiss turist can raise to the challenge. After a 45 minutes dreadful walk holding on to Farous for dear life and getting covered head to toe in dirty mud, I finally reach our boat, if you can call it that; it’s more like a raft with a propeller.
Waiting for our boat…if you can call it that.
Walking on the muddy ocean floor in low tide to our boat
Ferous on sailor duties
Tina and Ferous
But all is about to change, as we get closer to this jewel of an island with the most beautiful fauna and sparkling white beaches appearing on the horizon. Once there the local fisherman ask us what we want to eat and gives us a sort of daily menu options that might be available in the water…meaning, you can pick what you want to eat from the menu variety of sea food available in the area, but there are no guarantees they will find your choice when they go out fishing for it. Sure enough my lobster choice doesn’t happen, none to be found today. So I go for my second choice: King fish, a tasty local white fish that seems to be plentiful today. You can literally see your fisherman go out in the ocean and look for your lunch…that’s a whole new definition to the word “Fresh fish”. While the men do their job, Tina, Farous and I relax on the beach under a Palapa, sipping local beer and swim in the spectacular turquoise water sof Tanzania. Lunch is finally caught and on it’s way to the wood-burning grill on the beach. Amazingly, the only other item they serve besides fish, is French Fries…How about that!!! I don’t know what they put on the fish and how they fry these potatoes, but my meal was delicious and probably the freshest fish I have ever eaten…right out of the water. Don’t bother asking for silverware, there are no such frivolities here; its hands and fingers kiddos…I knew I should have stocked up on those Swiss Airlines packaged wet naps on the way out of the aircraft!
View of the pristine white sand island
Today’s dining room
Detail on the beautiful African Palapas
The island’s kitchen…and fat chefs!
Catch of the day with French fries
No silverware here…just good old fingers action
Africa’s mighty Bao Bao tree
Amazing photo of me and the mighty Bao Bao African tree
After lunch we take a walk around the island to visit the stunning beaches and the African mighty Bao Bao trees; and here I though it was a Disney fictional creation for their theme parks! These trees are truly amazing and their trunks surface look like elegant skin. Photo ops…check! It’s nappy time on the beach with a cold Tanzanian Brew and sun bathing for the rest of the day. It’s almost sad leaving this little paradise we called our own today, but we must get back to the hotel in Oyster Bay and get ready for a dinner with Tina’s Swiss Airlines colleagues tonight.
Exhausted and in desperate need of a siesta
Tina is taking us to her friends Samantar’s beautiful Hotel-Restaurant, The Mediterraneo on the Indian Ocean (www.mediterraneotanzania.com); this sprawling property is a cross between Pirates of the Caribbean and Trader Vick’s, complete with white cotton draping everywhere, converted African wood boats into seating, glowing lantern and the most beautiful dining room right on the water front under a full moon. Turns out the owner is from Italian and African parents, so the menu is predominately Italian food…fine with me…and they have silverware! I order the black squid tagliatelle with lobster and they are just excellent. I just love those Italians; no matter where you put them in the world they will cook up an amazing meal. The evening takes a turn when the Limoncello and the Grappa suddenly appears out of nowhere, compliments of the owner. It’s quite hilarious watching the very conservative, polite and professional Swiss crew letting their hair down…sort of speak. I even have the chance to meet my first Masai warrior; who are generally hired by large hotels to do their security, which in itself is quite amusing, considering their only weapon is a simple wood stick! But make no mistake; these thin, tall African warriors, wrapped in colorful fabric, can apparently kill a lion with their bare hands!!!
The beautifully done bar at Mediterraneo Hotel and restaurant
Lounge at Mediterraneo
The Swiss Airlines crew and me
The delicious squid tagliatelle with lobster at Mediterraneo
Nightcap at the cosy lounge on the water
It’s been an amazing first day in Tanzania and I am so exited for tomorrow flight to the island of Zanzibar for a week of new adventures and surprises.
“Assante” to all my new African friends and thank you for the warm welcome!
Wake up call at 5:30am…Ugh!!!!! Still to tired to realize I’m off to Africa…and probably still digesting last night’s dinner. I can’t wait to get out of this hideous hotel I found by the airport: Hotel Mövempick. It’s like a Russian army bunker from the 30′, really depressing…never again! Riccardo is driving me to Zurich’s airport which is 5 minutes away, where I am meeting my childhood friend Tina: my Africa expert, travel companion and Swiss Airlines 1st class “Hostess with the mostess”. Tina has been telling me about Tanzania for 20 year and trying to convince me to go with her sometime; for some reason, Africa was never on my radar as a place I want to visit, but in the last 6-7 years, my interests have changed and Africa has become a definite destination priority.
Ready to board.
So here I am boarding my flight to Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania for the 11 hours flight with a stop over in Nairobi, Kenya. I settle into my lovely business class nest when Tina comes by to ask me if I want to go in the cockpit with the pilots for taxi and takeoff…Ahh…Helllooooo???? Of course I want to do that; how amazing! So off I go to the cockpit, where after a few pleasantries with the 2 pilots, we are “Go’ for takeoff; I’ve done this before on private jets but never on a massive commercial airliner…it’s incredible!!! The pilots are also really nice, especially the older one who immediately asked me about that psychopath Donald Trump and his bid for the presidency of the United States. The second pilot seemed barely old enough to drive a car…scary!
Taxing on the runway
Up up in the air!
View of the Alps from the cockpit
Through the entire trip, I visit the cockpit every time there is something special to look at; watching the sunset over Sudan is truly spectacular…though I couldn’t resist asking the pilot if it was safe flying over this notorious enemy of the state and breeder of terrorists; the pilot laughs! After about 11 hours we are making our descent to Dar es Salaam and I am in the cockpit to witness the night landing…amazing!!
Sunset over Sudan from the cockpit
View of the landing strip from the cockpit
The first big shocker is getting out of the aircraft and experiencing the sweltering 100 degrees and 100% humidity environment that is Tanzania. The 1-hour visa process through the sauna-like terminal is beyond unbearable! I know…I sound like a spoiled westerner traveling abroad; but I’m not kidding when I say it’s really a tough experience. Finally we board the Swiss Airlines air conditioned van with the entire crew….ahhhhhhh, finally things are looking up! It’s almost midnight and I am spent from an entire day of travel; we are leaving for our hotel where I’ll be spending 2 nights before going to the island of Zanzibar. Tina and I are ready to hit the sack in the coldest room in Dar es Salaam…heaven!!! Jambo Jambo
I’m actually sad to be leaving this marvelous place but also exited to vista Tanzania for the first time in my life! After one last amazing breakfast at my hotel, it’s time to pack! Being the seasoned traveler that I am, I brought 2 pieces of luggage so I can pack all the winter stuff in the big suitcase and leave it behind for when I go back to LA and pack the small suitcase with my African needs, mainly bathing suits, t-shirts and shorts. I’ll miss my beautiful suite at The Kempinski with the best view in town; God know where I’ll end up staying in Africa. I have one last lunch with my dear friend Reto before hitting the road to Zurich where i will spend the night with some friends and then leave in the morning for Tanzania.
Reto has invited me and some Italian reporters at Mathis restaurant (www.mathisfood.ch); It’s the hottest restaurant in St Moritz, located at 8,000 feet at the base of Piz Nair cable car. Uber-chic skiers in Bogner and Chanel ski wear make the culinary pilgrimage to the bold-yellow multilevel ski lodge in search of chef Reto Mathis and his acclaimed kitchen of high-end culinary indulgences. On sunnier days guests also have the option of eating outside near the famed “Yacht Club” complete with vodka ice bar, fur-clad chairs and personal Beaver lap blankets. Today is such a day and we indulge on the most delicious meal while sunbathing to the Alpine sun, complete with Beaver lap blanket!
During lunch, the charming Reto Mathis makes his way to our table to meet us and chat with my Reto from Kempinski. What a beautiful day and lovely company, but Helas, it’s time to leave; my friend Riccardo from Italy has kindly offered to drive me to Zurich so I don’t have to take the train, though I do like the train ride from St. Moritz to Zurich…another time! After returning to the hotel and saying goodbye to Reto and Simona, Riccardo and I hit the road for the 2-hour drive to Zurich. It goes pretty fast, especially listening to all of Riccardo’s entertaining and somewhat ridiculous stories of all his ex, present and future girlfriends’ dramas…those Italians!
The funicular to the Corviglia
The Corviglia funicolar
View from Mathis Restaurant
Swiss star chef Reto Mathis
The very exclusive Mathis Restaurant at the Corviglia
Once we arrive in Zurich, I give Riccardo a little tourist tour of the beautiful city since he’s never been here. We start with the very chic Bahnhofstrasse (The Rodeo Drive of Zurich), a walk in the old town Zurich dating back to the year 450, up and down the river and finally at my favorite Bar in Zurich; The Odeon. This place had been around forever and I’ve been coming here since I was a student in my teens. Talking about students…we are meeting my dear friend Tina Serianni with whom I went to school at Franklin College, an American College in Lugano Switzerland. Tina and I will be going to Tanzania together in the morning, she works for Swiss Airlines and she’s been trying to get me to go to this magical place for many years; I finally accepted and here we go. She brought along her new French boyfriend, a tattoo artist with hardware all over his ears and nose…she’s always been a little bohemian and rebellious.
Beautiful Zurich at night
The Fraumünster church with Chagall’s famous stained windows
Zurich’s famous bohemian Odeon Bar
Odeon’s classic interior
After introductions, pleasantries and 3 martinis, we go to one of Zurich’s landmark restaurants: Zeughauskeller Restaurant (www.zeughauskeller.ch/home). Swiss food is not necessarily renewed in the world, but for those who know, there are a few dishes that are just amazing from this country and one of them is the famous Kalbgeschnetzeltes Zürcher Art hit Rösti…yeah, don’t even try to remember this name, it took me 20 years! It’s a veal dish, drowning in butter and cream and spices served with Switzerland’s most famous side dish: Rösti, the Swiss version of Hash Browns. Rösti is a Swiss dish consisting mainly of potatoes, in the style of a fritter. It was originally a breakfast dish, commonly eaten by farmers in the canton of Bern, but is now eaten all over Switzerland and around the world.
Kalbgeschnetzeltes Zürcher Art hit Rösti recipe:
2 lbs veal cutlets, sliced into 3/4 in strips
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, very finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
15 fresh sage leaves, chopped
7 ounces cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
Sprinkle the flour over the meat and coat well. Heat half of both the butter and oil in a frying pan. As soon as the butter foams, add the meat and brown it very quickly on all sides. Set aside on a plate.
Add the rest of the butter and oil to the pan and sauté the onion, garlic and sage for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms. Stir well and when the mushrooms start to soften, continue cooking for about 5 minutes longer.
Add the wine to deglaze the bottom of the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape away any crust that has formed. Add the veal and cook, stirring, until the wine has evaporated. Turn the heat down to low and cook for another 10 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper, and at the last moment, add the cream, let it bubble for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and serve.
Zeughauskeller was built in 1487, this former middle-ages armory is a bustling place located just steps from the Paradeplatz. It’s always jammed packed and you may have to wait for a table a long time. The menu is all Swiss classic, including sausages and beer…a Swiss staple!
Place setting at Zeughauskeller in Zurich
Zurich’s traditional dish and Zeughausekeller’s signature dish: Kalbgeschnetzeltes Zürcher Art mit Rösti…AMAZING!
Zeughausekeller’s 15th century main dining room originally built as an Armory
After gorging on a low-carb dinner, we stumble out and make our way to the hotel for an early nigh, since I will have to meet Tina at Zurich’s airport at 7am. I am to busy digesting my dinner to realize that tomorrow I’ll be in Africa…how AMAZING!
Well goodnight possums…Chüss!
Now that the scary first day of skiing is behind me, I’m feeling quite confident, so today Jonathan and I are gong for the highest peak in St. Moritz, the “Top of the world” Piz Nair at approx 4000 meters hight! Funny how after visiting Macchu Pichu, hight has become just another number! My entire body is aching from yesterday skiing, but I must suck it up and show my little brother that I’m still “The man”! it’s amazing to me how much effort goes into skiing, though you never realize until the next day when you are practically paralyzed! After the Kempinski’s amazing breakfast spread in their main ball room and my daily dose of Birchermüesli, a delicious Swiss breakfast icon, it’s back up the Alps for my last day of skiing (www.kempinski.com/en/st-moritz/grand-hotel-des-bains/welcome). I was very surprised to find out that on the way up the funicular to the Piz Nair, I am suddenly petrified by the dangling and sheer hight of the funicular; I am experiencing Vertigo and a bit of a panic attack. I have never been scared of heights and this is certainly not my first time on a scary, high-up dangling funicular, but today it’s a whole new experience…must be yet another damn present that comes with age!!! We finally get to the “The top of the world” where it’s customary to go up to the bronze statue of a goat that looks down on the world from its position and grab its balls for good luck! God knows I need all the luck I can get…so It’s a mad dash for the goat’s balls. Once again, I am very uncomfortable with the extreme height of this mountain top and I look at Jonathan, with panic on my face, and tell him:”Let’s get the hell down from this mountain!!!”.
The very scary Piz Nair funicular
Incredible views from Piz Nair
Love my iPhone Panorama shot from Piz Nair
We continue skiing all morning until it’s time to meet up with my oldest BFF, Fabrizio at one of St. Moritz’s top places for lunch: Salastrains Restaurant (www.salastrains.ch). Salastrains is a beautiful, typical Engadin style building with the most amazing terrace on the slopes overlooking the Alpine mountain range. If you are lucky enough to get that perfect sunny day, you can sit outside on the terrace and have one of the most memorable lunches in your life! Today, we have that kind of luck and we sit on the terrace for some great views, great company and some St. Moritz specialties: like Onion soup and Carne del Grigioni.
St. Moritz’s ski-in, ski-out top lunch spot: Salastrains Restaurant
The amazing outdoor dining terrace
Another Engadina classic: Carne Secca del Grigioni
After a few more slopes, the rest of the afternoon is spent walking around the old town and a visit to one of my favorite hotels in the world: Badrutt’s Palace Hotel (www.badruttspalace.com). This place has more stories than you can imagine; it’s been a mecca for the jet-set, super stars and billionaires for over 100 years! Not only it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, but it’s also a place that I have frequented since I was a little kid; I have to many memories here to count, especially at the infamous King’s Night Club in the basement of the hotel where more parties, scandal and debauchery have been going on for so many years. My dad used to bring talent to the Palace in the 60′ to perform and I spend countless New Year’s here at my late friend Christina Onassis’ NYE parties. The founder of this iconic hotel is pretty much responsible for creating St. Mortiz when he built the first hotel in the area, now the Kulm Hotel (www.kulm.com), and later the Palace with its famous “Torretta”, once occupied by the famous German playboy and billionaire Gunter Sachs. To date, I am still friend’s with the grandson: Johannes Badrutt Jr.
The legendary and super-chic Badrutt’s Palace Hotel
The famous billionaire Günter Sachs’s green roof Torretta at the Palace Hotel
Palace Hotel entrance
The stunning mountain/chic interior at the Palace
The amazing carved wood ceilings at the Palace Hotel
The 1959 Rolls Royce Silver Spur for guests at the Palace Hotel
Alright, I better get back to the hotel for a siesta before tonight’s big event at the Kempinski: The 2016 St. Moritz Gourmet Festival, featuring only Top Japanese chefs from around the world, including my buddy from LA, Nobu Matsuhisa. Reto has arranged a few tickets for this famous yearly gala held in St.Moritz featuring a different cuisine every year; it’s going to be a bonanza of food tasting of one of my favorite cuisines. Most presenting chefs have 1 or 2 Michelin stars restaurants around the world, so you can imagine the kind of foodie experience this will be. It’s a black tie event and I only have a sport jacket and jeans (Clearly, I wasn’t planning on attending elegant events on this trip. But it goes to tell you what my dad always said: A gentleman always carries a suit in his luggage…you never know!). Apparently I am not a gentleman and I definitely stood out like a sore thumb; all this means is that I have to turn up the charm to make up for my inappropriate appearance. After a few sakes, no one cared, least of all, me! After inhaling about 20 incredible Japanese nibbles with equally amazing paired wines, I am literally falling a sleep on my feet! It’s bed time for this aching, out of shape, old ski bunny!
The Japanese Chef delegation at the 2016 St. Moritz Gourmet Festival
Preparations before the big event
The Gala is in full swing
Look who is also here showcasing his amazing food? My friend Nobu from LA
Tomorrow I will spend my last half day in this winter paradise before driving to Zurich, where I will spend the night for my early departure the next day to Tanzania; in other words, I will go from 10 degrees to 110 degrees in one day! Sayonara!!!