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I went back at Winkler's, because, as I wrote then, it must be georgeous under the snow. Well, it is. My visit mostly confirmed everything I already write: Winkler is a great, old school chef, offering visitors a home from which you don't wish to leave ( located in a region which, maybe, you would not think of visiting . . . )
This is a house where you feel weel in a spendid region, at the feet of the Alps, magical when there is sun and magical when there is snow, with absolutely comfortable rooms, yet remaining somewhat simple. It is in the countryside and yet 40 minutes away from Munich and Salzburg; and just far enough from the highway that you can't see or hear it.
It is also a warm and friendly house, where the staff give all sorts of little and big attentions, where your preferences are noted and your expectations anticipated. Prices, save for wines, are also friendly.
The captains are the Kieffer brothers. They are charming and a tad witty. Most importantly, they help to overcome the intergalactic prices of wines by picking with a very sure taste simple wines that make great pairings with Winkler dishes.
Taste for instance that surprising Rogonne, a Southwestern French cooked wine apparently inspired from a Crimean recipe, with the simple chocolate cake. Or this Sardinian wine so full of sun that it is almost difficult to drink by itself but turns out to be an ideal, harmonious partner for the pigeon breast wrapped in bread, potato and parsley purees. Or even the Gewürztraminer Vendanges Tardives from Kieffer seniors, perfectly accompanying a trio of goose foie gras preparation which was only marginally surprising (like the foie gras mousse with citrus and crème frâiche)
Winkler is an old style chef because he is there everyday (save his yearly two weeks holiday), tasting everything, supervising the menus, not travelling or PRing.
He is also an old style chef because he makes the cuisine of 1989, of the heydays of Loiseau and Robuchon. Besides, he was then of the few chefs rated 19,5/20 in the always fashionable GaultMillau guide. His style, as he writes himself, is about respecting and honouring the ingredients. Nature, he says, gives us everything in perfection. It is the cook's job to emphasise that.
The passion fruit tart is just stabilised with gelatine (no egg), and looks like a very traditional German pastry. But if you look closer, the colours, the shine, the transparency indicate freshness and subtlety, which the palate enthisiastically confirm: it is both delicate and intense. You are satisfied to eat it but also happy once you ate it.
Same wondered and sustained pleasure, same literaly aesthetic satisfaction with the vegetable based amuses (a deep fat fried, breaded bite of herbs marinated vegetables, a panais mousse with a langoustine bisque, and a tartare of wild salmon)…
…as well as with the langoustines carpaccio with girolles mushrooms, a Winkler specialty. Just by the name of the dish you know that it relies on the quality of ingredients and cooking only. Indeed nice little girolles mushrooms play it firm and salted, with a hint of sweetness, while raw lamgoustine flesh play it melty and sweet, with a hint of iodine. But what makes it a top dish is the Winkler touch as saucier: a simple reduction of fish stock (1989, I tell you!) thickened with a chive butter. This is a sauce whose taste is deep and sweet, light and sophisticated.
The saucier is at work again for this plate of fourme d'ambert (a creamy blue cheese) and trevise salad: it would be only good if it wasn't magnified by a walnut oil and roquefort cheese vinaigrette.
It is easy to make fun of, or ignore, Winkler and his style. But, while there are numerous representatives of a more traditional style of cooking (Bocuse, Rostang), who else than Winkler gives us access today to the best of Nouvelle Cuisine? Like with some archeological discoveries, it seems that one had to be isolated in an Alpine valley and far away from major metropoles to keep this memorable style, this fundamental building stone of the culinary art, intact and sincere.