I have a confession. I live in Colorado, surrounded by famous mountain resorts, yet each winter, my friends and I fly to Europe to ski. But it’s not powder we’re chasing; our days are carefully plotted around on-piste lunches, après-ski cocktails, and wine-paired dinners. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about a chef who has transformed a tiny Swiss hamlet into a world-class food destination near some of the best skiing in the Alps.
For two decades, Andreas Caminada has quietly been turning heads at Schloss Schauenstein, his three-Michelin-star restaurant and boutique hotel in Fürstenau, a village in Switzerland’s Graubünden canton that lays claim to the title of smallest city in the world. Lovers of Swiss food pilgrimage here to dine on whimsical dishes like bite-size mustard pastrami tacos and spare rib–filled beignets in a dining room that feels like a mash-up of Versailles and MoMA. In the past few years, Caminada, who grew up in a neighboring valley, has brought the sleepy town back to life by transforming abandoned buildings—farmhouses, barns, carriage houses—into a bakery, coffee roastery, casual restaurant with guest rooms, and a high-end vegetarian restaurant.
I sandwiched my Fürstenau food crawl between Zermatt and St. Moritz, two of Switzerland’s most storied ski destinations, and connected it all by the Glacier Express, the country’s stylish train line. I purchased a ticket for the train’s new Excellence Class carriage so I could have white-gloved staff serve me a five-course, wine-paired meal as I ogled nonstop mountain views from panoramic windows.
The charming, car-free town of Zermatt is the antidote to America’s corporate-feeling mega ski resorts. Old-fashioned horse-drawn carriages deliver skiers to their hotels, and rustic barns perched mountainside house family-run restaurants spanning generations. Our first runs of the day had been mapped out so that we’d be schussing down Slope 6 just before noon, guaranteeing a prompt arrival for our lunch reservation on the sun-soaked terrace of Chez Vrony.
Family-owned for more than a century, this on-piste dining institution still makes everything from scratch, and matriarch Vrony Cotting-Julen is ever-present in her pearls and Moncler jacket welcoming guests. Each summer, the family grazes cows on pristine mountain grasses. The milk is turned to cheese, and the meat is used for charcuterie as well as for the restaurant’s perfectly charred and juicy burger.
We lapped corduroy runs to burn off lunch, and the Sunnegga piste took us to the buzzy après scene at our slopeside hotel. Cervo attracts a cool crowd with amenities like a climbing wall, an ashram-inspired spa, and dining options ranging from haute Italian at Madre Nostra to the laid-back, street food–inspired Bazaar.
After two more days of skiing, we journeyed to Switzerland’s oldest town, Chur, on the Glacier Express and caught a 30-minute bus directly to the doorstep of Schloss Schauenstein, a castle housing one of Caminada’s restaurants. He greeted me in mountain-man attire (puffy jacket, jeans, On sneakers), and we toured his mini culinary empire. He smiled at the sight of an elderly local couple seated outside the bakery and café with fresh loaves of bread and steaming cappuccinos. “We’re giving this town a new lease on life,” he shared. “For years, these cobbled stone streets were empty.”
His restaurants, all a few steps from each other, celebrate the region’s past, present, and future: Casa Caminada focuses on traditional seasonal recipes like sauerkraut cream soup; the castle features avant-garde cuisine rooted in French technique; and Oz, the 12-seat vegetarian restaurant he opened in 2021, makes use of produce exclusively sourced from on-site gardens and greenhouses.
Last year, he was able to finally take ownership of the castle, as well as the four acres of farmland across the road, which will allow him to launch a village farmers market later this year. A huge advocate of mentorship (a portion of every meal goes to his chef education fund), he’s been able to expand his influence by creating IGNIV. The name translates to “nest” in his mother tongue, Romansh, the fourth official language of Switzerland, and the restaurant brand allows young chefs who’ve worked for him the opportunity to helm their own kitchen under his guidance.
The Glacier Express dropped me and my friends in St. Moritz a few days later. The most prestigious winter sports resort in the Alps still retains the glitz and glamour of a bygone era. We skied, but we also watched snow polo, ice-skated, and tobogganed by moonlight. The highlight was our dinner at IGNIV. Set within the iconic Badrutt’s Palace, the restaurant embodies Caminada’s mastery of both polish and effortless cool.
The dining room was sexy, the soundtrack was rock and roll, and the food—black garlic macarons and duck liver and chocolate atop brioche—was utterly delicious and surprising. Reflecting on the week of excellent eating and drinking, we figured we probably dined just as much as we skied—but isn’t that the European way?
The Glacier Express is arguably the most scenic train route in the world; multicourse menus, local charcuterie boards, and regional wines easily make it the most delicious, too. From $152 for a standard ticket from Zermatt to St. Moritz, glacierexpress.ch
Where to Stay
The nine rooms above Caminada’s Michelin-decorated restaurant are being refurbished this year. In summer months, guests have access to a garden-shaded pool. Rooms from $390
Renowned Swiss architect Gion Caminada designed this casual restaurant with 10 stone-and-larch-wood guest rooms upstairs. Rooms from $250
Zermatt’s only ski-in, ski-out stay feels like a modern Alpine village with 54 rooms spread across seven chalet-style lodges. Rooms from $360
After a 2021 renovation, the 156-room grand dame of the Alps is more glamorous than ever. A 30,000-bottle wine cellar and 10 dining venues make this a dream base for skiers with discerning palates. Rooms from $935
Where to Eat
Cervo’s white-tablecloth restaurant pays homage to neighboring Italy with simple, ingredient-forward dishes like handmade spaghetti with anchovy butter and breadcrumbs.
Reservations are a must at this family-run lunch spot overlooking the Matterhorn in Findeln.
If you can’t get into Vrony, the owners’ son recently opened this low-key spot just up the hill, and its menu has all the classics, like cheese fondue.
The housemade pasta, like pear-and-Gorgonzola-filled fagottini, and Aperol spritzes are worth crossing the Swiss-Italian border. This spring, a new cable car will link Zermatt and Italy in four minutes.
Caminada’s gastronomic temple does just one seating a day for lunch and dinner and takes reservations eight months in advance.
This approachable lunch and dinner spot is rooted in traditional regional dishes like winemaker’s sausage and fried potatoes.
At a 12-seat, horseshoe- shaped counter, enjoy seven- and nine-course vegetarian menus inspired by the on-site gardens and greenhouse.
Rustic Alpine dishes get a refined twist at this 40-seat restaurant. Owner Danijel Krasnic happily nerds out over his 700-plus-bottle wine list; his wine shop, Grand Cru Club, is conveniently located next door.
The food is refined, but the atmosphere is anything but stuffy at this restaurant located in Badrutt’s Palace Hotel.