One of my favorite places on the planet is Montreux, Switzerland and I happened to have just returned after a fabulous visit. When in Montreux there is really only one place to stay in my opinion and that is the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace – the grande dame of the Swiss Riviera that still sparkles and offers a level of service that I have seldom come across in my global travels.
One of the hotel’s dining options is Harry’s New York Bar and you’ll typically find me there for cocktails every evening of my stay in Montreux before heading out for the evening. Harry’s also offers a full menu and there have been several times where I have just tucked-in for the night opting to dine in its very comfortable surroundings.
Harry’s bartenders are second to none and the head, Georges, mixes quite possibly the most wonderful cocktails on the planet – not to mention he is so interesting to talk to. He has been a fixture since I have been visiting Harry’s and it is always nice to see a familiar face far from home – particularly one that makes you feel like you are at home.
This trip we dined at Harry’s twice for dinner and both times it was a flawless gluten-free experience. Many of you already know that Fairmont offers Lifestyle Cuisine Plus at all of its properties. I was lucky enough to be interviewed earlier in the year on MSNBC.com and later the Today Show.com Luxury Travel outlets about the new menus and travelling with food allergies. These menus cater to food-allergic and dietary restricted diners offering such options as gluten-free, vegan, low sodium, and diabetic options to name a few. What’s nice about the program is that dishes feature local ingredients and are, in most cases, unique to individual properties. While this is a very nice feature, guests are not restricted to these options and are encouraged to discuss their individual requirements with their servers, managers, and chefs.
I was longing for one of Harry’s famous hamburgers but when I ordered it was quickly informed that it contained bread crumbs and would not be a suitable option. Remember, the first rule of gluten-free dining is that recipes do change and what might have once been safe could quickly become no longer an option. There were however a plethora of options that were gluten-free and I quickly decided upon a fantastic plate of beef carpaccio (actually more Bündnerfleisch or Bresaola) with fresh melon and accompaniments and a green salad on the side. When the huge plate arrived one of the managers placed a basket of rolls on the table and I quickly mentioned being Celiac to which he responded with a smile, I know, they are gluten-free. I nearly fell off my chair. Not only were they gluten-free, they were hot and simply delicious.
Later in the week we would dine once again at Harry’s. This time I opted for a more substantial meal and opted for one of their specialties the Chicken Quincy Jones – a wonderfully roasted half-chicken accompanied by a peppercorn sauce. Once again, different gluten-free rolls appeared (see photo, left) and the waiter ensured that all my selections were in fact gluten-free. This is the perfect example of living my mantra of eating where I want, when I want with no apologies. I would have loved to have tried the Lifestyle Cuisine Plus gluten-free options but, alas, with the exception of the dessert, all items contained my other food allergic item – shellfish/fish – so it was not meant to be. Yet, kudos to Fairmont for not only having the Lifestyle Cuisine options available at all its properties but also carefully looking out for guests that prefer to order off of the regular menus. Making staff aware of your allergies or dietary requirements goes a long way. Doing a bit of research before you travel and choosing to patronize establishments that not only recognize your needs but understand them makes your vacation all the more enjoyable.
You can learn more about Harry’s on their Facebook Fan Page where they have great pictures of events (and the food). I have more posts in the coming days about my gluten-free journey in Switzerland as well as more on my experience at the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace so stay tuned.