When I decided to set up a Twitter account back in May, it was quite easy to pick a username. I chose @zurichvienna. I had been spending the previous eight months commuting (almost on a weekly basis) between Switzerland and Austria and I love both cities, Vienna and Zurich. Both are gorgeous and offer a very high quality of living. And both have amazing restaurants.
I have already reviewed Zurich-based restaurant Hiltl and Vienna-based Yamm earlier in this blog. These are two casual dining restaurants with a pay-by-weight buffet, and are perfect for a brunch with friends or even a solo lunch with Mr. Laptop.
You can imagine my excitement when I read that Hiltl and Yamm will be competing against each other at Kitchen Battle 2012, a dinner event organized by Cuisine Sans Frontières.
CSF is an organization based in Zurich that runs several projects involving community kitchens, bakeries, and other food outlets in developing countries.
The event was held in the large hall of Rote Fabrik, a cultural center by the Lake of Zurich. There were 140 attendees, plus a jury of five people, including Moritz Leuenberger, former President of the Swiss Confederation.
The two teams were told at 10 a.m. what ingredients they were allowed to use to put together a three-course menu: apples, bergamot, butternut squash, cabbage, chestnuts, chickpeas, eggplants, gin, goat-milk ricotta, poppy seeds, sauerkraut, and white polenta (besides, of course, more common ingredients typically available in a restaurant’s kitchen).
Each team revealed its menu a few hours before the start of the event at 6 p.m. It was fun to watch the cooks prepare the appetizers on the stage before serving it at 7 p.m. At the end of each course, diners and jurors had to vote for either Hiltl (red card) or Yamm (green card).
So let’s start with the appetizer, which also included an amuse-bouche at the very beginning of the meal.
Hiltl: Butternut squash hummus with a poppy seed bread stick; Apple-ginger soup with sauerkraut bread & chestnut chutney.
Yamm: Polenta cream with butternut squash & bergamot foam; Dough pockets with apple-cabbage-poppy seed salad.
I really liked the soup and the bread in Hiltl‘s appetizer, but overall I enjoyed the appetizer of Yamm more, as the entire course tasted better in my opinion.
Moving on to the main course…
Hiltl: Eggplant lasagna with pine nuts & orange-cabbage zest.
Yamm: Veggie goulash with leek roulade.
The main course was a draw for me. I liked both dishes, though neither was exceptional, I must sadly admit.
And, finally, came the dessert.
Hiltl: Pepper parfait with goat-milk ricotta polenta & gin zabaglione.
Yamm: Chocolate cake with chestnut cream.
Oh my goodness, what a shocking surprise this was! My favorite veggie restaurant, Hiltl, preparing the worst dessert I’ve ever eaten. I was terribly disappointed. After a spoonful of the polenta and another of the parfait, I figured it would be better not to eat any more, otherwise the dessert might have ruined my entire dining experience!
Yamm‘s chocolate cake tasted divine and – thankfully – saved the evening.
While Yamm focused on more traditional Austrian recipes, Hiltl aimed at creating sophisticated dishes with a curious mix of flavors. But more often that not, it is the simple dishes that people appreciate most. As a matter of fact and at least on this occasion: the simpler the dish, the yummier it was!
The votes by the jurors and the public confirmed my expectations: Hiltl got more votes on the main course, Yamm on the appetizer and the dessert. Hence, the winners of the first Veggie Kitchen Battle were the Viennese! Bravo!