After a crisp and glorious winter day on the trails and slopes, the cozy and warm Walliser Stube dining room at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is as comforting as a familiar old blanket.
By Lawrence Herzog
Swiss-born Executive Chef Felix Pfister knows he’s got guests right where he wants them: hungry and ready to be dazzled. He delivers with alpine-inspired cuisine, prepared with regionally-sourced meats including elk, bison, deer, wild boar, rabbit, lamb and fresh trout. From gardens and fields comes a bounty of fresh wild mushrooms, herbs like bear leek, nettles and juniper, wild berries and prairie grains including corn polenta and wheat.
“There’s nothing like a fantastic, delicious meal after coming in from the fresh mountain air,” Pfister says. “It takes the whole experience to the next level.”
He pan sears the rainbow trout and serves it with champagne and sauerkraut risotto, fiddleheads and smoked paprika butter. The Jäger Forest Mushroom Spätzle Skillet is a medley of house-made Swiss dumplings, sautéed wild mushrooms, arugula-braised cipollini onions, Gruyère cream sauce, and Emmental gratin.
The restaurant is the Chateau’s homage to the Swiss mountain guides who helped many pioneer climbers tackle ascents of the surrounding peaks 100 to 120 years ago. Lake Louise is considered the birthplace of Canadian mountaineering and, between 1899 and 1954, generations of Swiss mountaineers taught thousands of visitors and locals to climb and ski.
Those earliest Swiss brought some delightful culinary traditions, too, like fondue and raclette. At Walliser Stube, the choices run the fondue gamut from a blend of Gruyère, Emmental and Appenzeller cheeses for an excellent start, meat fondue as a main course, and chocolate fondue to finish with flourish.
Decorated for the holidays and dusted with snow, the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise wears its historic mantle well. Built starting in 1890 as part of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s cross-country chain of grand railway hotels, today’s structure dates to 1911.
It’s fitting that a Swiss-born chef who grew up in the Alps is keeping alive the mountain traditions between the two countries. Like his countrymen who came before, Pfister understands the allure of the Canadian Rockies.
“I came to the Rockies first in 1991, then returned to Switzerland, came back in 1994, and went overseas again for awhile. But, you know, the Canadian Rockies pulled me back. I’ve embraced this lifestyle, and for me, this place just feels like home.”
“Filet mignon” is a steak cut from the tenderloin, the most tender cut of meat possible. This holiday recipe from Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise executive chef Felix Pfister combines the tenderness of filet mignon with the rich, slightly gamy flavour of bison.
PREP TIME 10 minutes
COOKING TIME 15 minutes
BISON FILET MIGNON
4 pieces bison tenderloin (at 6 oz / 170 g apiece)
sea salt and pepper to taste.
2 tbsp (30 mL) peanut oil
1 tbsp (15mL) unsalted butter
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 1/2 tbsp (22 mL) butter
1 1/2 tbsp (22 mL) finely chopped shallots
1 sprig fresh thyme
3 tbsp (45 mL) red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon
2 tbsp (30 mL) black currant liqueur
1 1/2 cup (350 mL) veal demi glace (brown stock)
sea salt and whitepepper to taste
1 to 2 drops balsamic vinegar
BISON FILET MIGNON
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
2. Season meat with sea salt and pepper.
3, Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, then add peanut oil until hot and sear meat on both sides. Add butter and thyme to the pan and turn the meat two or three times.
4. Put the meat into the preheated oven, turn the oven down to 325°F (160°) and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness – meat should register 125°F to 127°F (52°C to 53°C) for medium. Serve with Black Currant Sauce (recipe follows).
- In a stainless steel pot, heat butter and lightly caramelize the shallots and thyme.
- Deglaze with the wine and liqueur and reduce to about half. Add demi glace (brown stock) and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Pass the sauce through a sieve. Season to taste with sea salt, white pepper and balsamic vinegar.
PREP TIME 20 minutes
COOKING TIME 60 to 65 minutes
11/4 cups (300 mL) heavy cream
½ cup (125) mL whole milk
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
10 oz (300 g) rutabaga, peeled and sliced fine
21 oz (600 g) potatoes, peeled and sliced fine
1 oz (30 g) gruyere cheese, grated
2 oz (60 g) white cheddar cheese, grated
2 large egg yolks
salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste
For Pecan Broesel:
2 oz (60 g) pecans, chopped
2 tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped shallots
3 tbsp (45 mL) bread crumbs (fresh or dried
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely grated parmesan cheese
2 ½ tbsp (35 mL) butter, melted
chopped parsley and/or chervil
- Preheat oven to 330° F (165°C).
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream and milk to a simmer.
- Add the garlic and finely sliced rutabaga, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
- Add finely sliced potato and mix well, simmer for 1 more minute. Add grated gruyere and white cheddar, and mix in the egg yolks.
- Pour mixture into a buttered gratin / casserole dish and spread out smoothly. Place in preheated oven and bake 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix together the remaining ingredients for the Broesel, then distribute the mixture evenly over the gratin. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes. If the Broesel topping isn’t brown enough, quickly brown under the broiler. Check the gratin for doneness with a small knife; it should be very soft.
PREP TIME 15 to 20 minutes
COOKING TIME: 25 minutes
14 oz (400 g) dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream
1 1/2 tbsp (22 mL) espresso, cooled to room temperature
1 1/2 tbsp (22 mL) dark rum
4 large eggs at room temperature
5 tbsp (75 mL) granulated sugar
1 pomegranate, seeded
vanilla or eggnog ice cream
- Butter and sugar six ramekins (each 4 oz / 125 mL). Set aside. Pre-heat oven to (330°F) 165˚C.
- Place chocolate into top of a double boiler over simmering water and heat until melted, stirring frequently.
- Meanwhile, whip cream to soft peaks, and gradually add espresso and rum.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and light in colour.
- Carefully mix melted chocolate into egg mixture a little bit at a time. Gently fold in cream.
- Pour batter into prepared ramekins two-thirds full. Place ramekins on a baking tray and fill tray with hot water. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until slightly firm.
- Remove from oven and let ramekins stand for 2 minutes before inverting mousse onto a plate sprinkled with icing sugar. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve with ice cream.