I was beginning to get that creepy vibe I sometimes get at places like La Caille or The Anniversary Inn, establishments that try way too hard to create an artificial, self-contained bubble that shouts, “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto!” But then, I get the same vibe at places like The Mayan and Macaroni Grill, too. They just seem a little cheesy. Could be my problem.
Things begin to improve considerably, though, once you’re inside Zermatt’s 18-acre alpine compound. Once checked in by a decidedly non-Swiss receptionist (from Tonga, actually) and ensconced in my room, I began to notice that the furnishings at Zermatt are anything but faux. They’re the real deal: Exquisitely ornate hand-carved dressers, armoires, canopy beds and end tables, along with first-class detailing and bathroom accoutrements, lush carpeting and linens, were beginning to make me feel like a king. OK, a Swiss king.
By the time my dinner reservation at Schneitter’s rolled around—that’s Zermatt’s fine-dining restaurant—I was feeling awfully relaxed. Zermatt’s pampering service and amenities like its top-notch spa will do that to a person. Before long, you’ve forgotten you’re in Midway. Especially after masseuse Kathy Davidson has worked her magic in the form of a Himmel & Masse treatment, which translates as Heaven and Earth. It combines two of my favorites sporting activities: scalp massage and foot massage.
Cross-vaulted ceilings, stained glass, a crackling fireplace and beautifully appointed dining tables characterize the roomy Schneitter’s restaurant. And, happily, our party was accorded refreshingly professional service by an Argentinean waitress who (bonus) really knew her wine. Unfortunately, the house was out of the first three Champagnes we tried to order. Given the slippery Champagne start, I had doubts about what might or might not emerge from the kitchen.
Nonetheless, we forged ahead, sharing a trio of starters which included a jumbo-size pot of Swiss and Gruyere fondue ($15), with enough crusty housed-baked bread to feed most of Midway. My friend Katie was the first to drop her bread into the fondue, thus inheriting (thank goodness) the night’s dinner bill. (Tradition calls for the bread-dropper to kiss the person on the left or pick up the tab.) A grilled artichoke with mixed greens ($10) was served on a snazzy-looking plate with separate compartments for fresh-sliced lemon, roasted garlic aioli, and buerre noisette (hazelnut butter). It was delicious in the simple way that only a grilled artichoke can be. But the real starter stunner was King crab “salad” ($15). Large voluptuous chunks of Alaskan King crab came perched atop a cylinder made of julienned English cucumber and stuffed with diced tomato, avocado and chopped iceberg lettuce. The plate was drizzled with aioli and garnished with parsley, black pepper, Sterling caviar and an edible flower. It tasted just as lovely as it looked.
It’s rare that I’m able to pass up a plate of osso buco. But “Molasses braised” osso buco ($38) just sounded wrong. I feared it would be a sticky, icky molasses mess. But it was I who was wrong. Sous chef Steven Robinson’s osso buco is one of the best versions I’ve ever encountered. He uses a mere tablespoon of molasses in his braise for an entire batch. The result is a slightly tart, very rich, silky sauce to cloak ridiculously tender, tasty meat—all adorned with oven-roasted root veggies and a huge pile of delicious fried shoestring spuds.
I’d never heard of a Dublin Bay prawn before. It turns out to be a very large prawn, somewhat akin to a langoustine, and also known as a Norway Lobster. The prawn was served head-on, which might freak some people out, on a bed of homemade black pepper fettuccine with fresh basil, tomato, and garlic-infused Pernod. It’s yet another delectable dish, like roasted winter vegetable “baklava” ($22), from the talented Steven Robinson, whose stellar cooking I remembered from when he worked in the Blue Boar Inn’s kitchen.
You might wonder who Schneitter is or was. I did. It turns out that Schneitter’s restaurant was named after the grandfather of Zermatt’s owner, Dr. Robert Fuller. He was the original owner of the Homestead Resort in Midway, which, back then, was called Schneitter’s Hot Pots. Zermatt’s more informal restaurant, Matty’s Bistro (see Second Helping), is named for Matty the Bear—Zermatt’s mascot. I was told the bear concept came from a Midway man named Henry Kohler, who many years ago, during Midway’s Swiss Days, would dress up as a bear and play his squeezebox for children during the parade. Apparently, he brought much joy to the kids, which Dr. Fuller remembered from his childhood. Hence, Matty the Bear guards The Hotel der Baer and is the namesake of Matty’s Bistro.
In addition to Schneitter’s award-winning Sunday brunch, they’ve just launched a Saturday-night Italian buffet and I’ve been hearing rave reviews. Although the imitation Swiss ambiance at Zermatt can get a tad cloying, the food at Schneitter’s restaurant is definitely the real deal.
Zermatt Resort, 784 West Resort Drive, Midway, 866-643-2015, ZermattResort.com