About Sue Style

Originally from Yorkshire I've lived and worked in Spain, France, Mexico and Switzerland, now based in southern Alsace. Author of 9 books, the latest about Switzerland's finest farmhouse cheeses. I freelance for anyone who'll buy my stuff (FT Weekend, Decanter, France Mag, Culture Cheese Mag et al) plus I give cooking workshops and lead bespoke vineyard tours in Alsace and Baden (just across the Rhine).

Eating Out Around Basel #Baselgehtaus

AAA_BGA_Cover_2015_CC.inddIf you want the skinny on good places to eat in and around Basel, you have a number of options at your fingertips. First, natch, there’s the Eating Out: Alsace, Basel and Baden page of this site, which I strive womanfully to keep current, and which attempts (not always successfully) to keep a balance between the various eating possibilities in the three countries on our Dreilaendereck doorstep.

There’s also the Michelin Guide to Switzerland, the Swiss Gault Millau guide and the Guide Bleu Suisse, all of which have entries for Basel. And then there’s Basel Geht Aus, the annually published magazine devoted to good eats, whose 2015 edition was launched at the Kunsthalle on 1st December and which is now on sale at Jens and Franziska Stocker’s brilliant Bider & Tanner, Basel’s best and liveliest bookshop, and in kiosks around town.

The dazzling Murano chandelier in the Kunsthalle bar

The dazzling Murano chandelier in the Kunsthalle bar, where Basel Geht Aus 2015 was launched

The magazine, published only in German (look upon it as a great chance to polish up your gastronomic German), is split into several categories. Thus, if you want high-end eating, you go to the section entitled Grosse Küche für Gourmets in Basel, or (for Alsace and Baden) to the same in Südbaden und im Elsass. If you’re in need of an Italian fix, check out Verführung auf Italienisch and for a bit of Eastern promise (and aromas), head for Wohlgerüche des Orients.

Other sections are distinguished by location: tables beside the Rhine (Tische direct am Rhein), or out in the boonies (Ab ins Grüne); or by character, as in Gemütliche Beizen für Geniesser or Genuss pur in den Quartieren, a roundup of those cosy, nut-brown neighbourhood ‘pubs’ that punctuate Basel’s residential quarters. And for those who just want something safe, not too ambitious price- or foodwise, there are the sections entitled Gut und Bürgerlich or, for more adventurous souls willing to stray over into Baden and Alsace in search of classics, Traditionshaueser in Südbaden und im Elsass. In short, something for everyone.

Some of the chefs in Basel Geht Aus who provided the launch food

Some of the chefs in Basel Geht Aus who provided the launch food

Monday evening’s event was jointly hosted and catered by the Kunsthalle (Urs Kunz), Rubino (Manuela Buser and Beat Rubitschung), Les Quatre Saisons (Peter Moser) and Feldberg (Elias Buess). Sausages and veal nuggets came from star butchers Grauwiler und Jenzer, and jamon iberico from Casa del Jamon. Wines also had a Spanish flavour, including one of my fave cavas, from Raventos y Blanc, a Rueda from Finca Montepedroso and a Rioja Vina Bujanda, all provided by Casa del Vino Ebinger. Beer from the local microbrewery Unser Bier flowed freely.

Out of the Kunsthalle kitchens came a parade of what in Spain are called raciones (think tapas, but a bit bigger). Standouts for me were from Rubino: a morsel of skrei/Arctic cod wrapped in lardo with Puy lentils, a black risotto with sweet-sharp dried strawberries and peppery-garlicky Belperknolle, and a luscious little mousse of Buttenmost (rosehip puree) smoothed with cream.

2-20141201_213638-001Leafing through the 2015 mag, I find plenty of old friends and some new acquaintances, yet to be made. Among the trendsetters flagged up are the tried and tested Coté-Cour in Colmar and the Alte Post in Müllheim. Heading Basel’s top tables are Peter Knogl at the Cheval Blanc and Tanja Grandits at Stucki, while in Baden and Alsace, Douce Steiner (Hirschen, Sulzburg) and Le Maximilien and La Table du Gourmet (Zellenberg and Riquewihr, respectively) all feature. Jay’s gets their vote for the coolest Indian food, and the Krone in Binningen for Thai.

My husband, a Stammgast (regular) at Zur Harmonie, will be delighted at the inclusion of this calves-liver-and-Rösti temple in the neighbourhood-pubs category with super-nice people and friendly service, while I rejoiced to find Au Violon, a little haven of French-ness housed inside Basel’s former prison (the name is slang French for ‘in the slammer’ or ‘in the nick’), still locked inside the pages of Basel Geht Aus.

And those new acquaintances, yet to be made? Among Basel’s trendsetters, I’m looking forward to trying out the Feldberg in Kleinbasel (whose ear-ringed, top-hatted chef also provided some of the launch eats) and Rubino, which used to be called the Luftschloss, downtown just off Baumgasslein. Next time I’m up in Baden’s premier wine-growing region of Kaiserstuhl, I’m heading for the Kellerwirtschaft in Oberbergen. For an Italian treat I’ve earmarked Aroma in Basel and Il Cortile in Mulhouse and I’m keen to give Za Zaa a go, opposite the Unispital on Petersgraben, for a bit of oriental flair.

There’s just one thing that strikes me as bizarre: there’s not a single food photo in the entire magazine, only rather uninspired interiors. For foodie pics – and for other suggestions on where to eat – you’ll just have to revert to Eating Out Alsace, Basel & Baden. 

Basel Geht Aus, www.gehtaus.ch, CHF24.50 or €18.80

Eating Out Around the World, #1001 Restaurants

1-1001 resstos“Those of us with an overly developed interest in our lunch can measure out our lives in great meals”, writes Guardian food critic Jay Rayner in his preface to the newly published 1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die.

If you check in here regularly, you’ll know that my own interest in lunch is exceptionally finely honed, so this is a book after my own heart. [I should also disclose that I’m one of the 70 “well-dined collection of restaurant reviewers, food writers, travel writers, journalists, inveterate eater-outers and bloggers” who have contributed from around the globe.] Continue reading

Swiss Gold – Saffron from the Valais

Saffron crocus growing in Mund, Valais, Switzerland by Sue StyleHigh above Brig in Switzerland’s southern canton of Valais is a tiny village named Mund. Nothing remarkable about the place at first sight – just a few houses on a scrubby hillside above the valley, a handful of Spycher, the typical Valaisan wooden storage huts, a primary school, an ancient and a modern church. But in the 1980s, Mund shot to stardom on account of its one product: saffron. Continue reading

Lunch at l’Atelier du Peintre, Colmar

Petite Venise, Colmar, at Christmas, copyright Tourist Office Colmar

Petite Venise, Colmar, at Christmas, copyright Tourist Office Colmar

Recommending restaurants is a dangerous business (says she, who does more of it than many…). A Basel-based friend who’s thoroughly into his food and a terrific cook recently mailed me for ideas on where to have lunch in Colmar. He’d be meeting up with “food-interested friends” from Sydney – a city not noticeably short of good spots to eat – and wanted to give them a treat. Did I have some recommendations?

I thoroughly approved his plan to go to Colmar right now: the Christmas markets have just opened and the city is looking drop-dead gorgeous. But where to wow his Sydneysider friends? The stakes were high.

Continue reading

Swiss Wine Week 2014

PrintIf you love Swiss wines and are living in or near Switzerland (or even planning a visit in the next ten days), there’s a treat in store. From the 20th to the 30th of November, it’s Swiss Wine Week. Which means what, exactly? It’s a joint initiative by Swiss Wine Promotion (whose new logo is featured left) and Sierre-based Swiss wine event organisers Vinea. The aim is to shake Swiss restaurant-goers and winemakers out of their usual – dare I say boring? – habits and cajole them into tasting wines from some part of Switzerland other than their own. Continue reading

Vacherin Mont d’Or – an Autumn Treat

vacherinmontd'or-1

a Swiss Mont d’Or from Hauser in the Jura

Autumn signals open season for one of the greatest cheeses known to woman: a wondrous, washed-rind, cow’s milk cheese that comes on the market every September, made in small dairies in the Jura mountains, on both the Swiss and French sides of the border. Continue reading

Bistrot la Cave, Saint-Louis

Bistrot La Cave Saint LouisIt’s a well-established fact that you’re never going to go hungry – or thirsty – in Alsace. At one end of the scale there are good-to-great places (L’Auberge de l’Ill inter alia); at the other there are decent enough Winstubs (wine bars with a über-trad dishes of the choucroute, tarte a l’oignon school). But then in the squeezed middle, that bit where I’m always hoping to find interesting, fun food with a smidge of creativity, at sensible-not-silly prices and quirky wines by the glass, there’s a socking great hole. Continue reading

Savouring Sicily

Chiesa San Giuseppe, Ragusa Ibla, SicilySeptember is the moment to savour Sicily. The skies are still deep azure (think Quink royal blue), which shows off to perfection the sparkling white of Baroque jewels like Scicli, Modica, Ragusa and Noto. The sea is reliably warm, the midday sun delicious but not impossibly dazzling, the evenings balmy, the nights agreeably cool. Best of all, the crowds have flown north again – to Rome, Milan, Paris, London – leaving you the pick of hotels, B&Bs and villas. And as in any place that’s annually steamrollered by summer crowds, the local people are learning to smile again, they’re more chilled in this back-season, whether in the mercato, trattoria, gelateria or cantina. Continue reading

Crown jewels: venison liver, kidneys AND heart

1-autumn walkIt’s dusk on a dying summer’s evening and the doorbell rings. Our local chasseur (hunter) is on the doorstep, wreathed in smiles. He’s just been out in the woods checking up on the deer and wild boar population (as he is contracted to do by our commune) and he’s shot a roe deer. It will take him a little while to butcher the beast, but would I like him to set aside the liver for me?

I love game and I’m very partial to the Fifth Quarter (aka offal or organ meats), but I’ve never tasted venison liver. What’s clear from his body language (he’s wriggling and grinning like a delighted spaniel with a prize bone) is that this is quite an honour, and that the liver constitutes something of a trophy. After the merest moment’s hesitation, I tell him yesssss, I’d love it. He disappears to do his butchery, giving me just enough time to pull down from the shelf my fave book on game, Nichola Fletcher’s Ultimate Venison Cookery. On page 199 I read: “Venison liver is one of life’s great gastronomic treats.” Continue reading