Christian Langenegger of Marathon Sprachen joins Kerrin Rousset for the maiden tour of Sweet Zurich.
There is no better place to start a tour of Zurich than at Paradeplatz on the Bahnhofstrasse. Home to three of Switzerland’s claims to fame — the big banks UBS and Credit Suisse, as well as the Sprüngli Flagship café and shop. Money and chocolate. On a stunning Friday afternoon at the start of February, food blogger, translator and connoisseur of all things sweet Kerrin Rousset is ready to lead her first group of curious sweet toothed tourists to some of Zurich’s hidden sweet spots.
The sugary side of Zurich
We come together in front of the giant Sprüngli shop with the blue and white trams screeching to a halt and hissing as they turn the corner, Frauenmünster and Grossmünster in the background. The New Yorker, who came to Zurich by way of Boston and France, has a very pleasant and warm voice that invites guests to introduce themselves and add a few things to their introduction other than just a name. We’re a small group on this maiden tour — a young Swiss-American art writer and art consultant, a lady from the Valais moved up to Zurich and working in the pharmaceutical industry and myself. What we all have in common is an interest for food and learning more about Zurich’s sugary side.
Having gathered in front of the Sprüngli shop, one might believe that this is the perfect start to the tour. Begin with something familiar. Even if you’ve never been to Switzerland, Lindt & Sprüngli’s chocolates are known around the world. Lindt’s most famous spokesperson is none other than Switzerland’s most famous man — Roger Federer. But we turn our backs on the Swiss giant and make our way up the Bahnhofstrasse. Along the way Kerrin gives us a short history of chocolate in Switzerland. Where Nestlé, Cailler, Sprüngli, and Lindt come into play and what these men did for chocolate in the small alpine country.
As we turn a corner and make our way into the heart of the Old City, Kerrin also points out other little treasures for baked goods and sweets. Our first stop is a specialty chocolate shop, emphasizing the culture around chocolate. Knowing that these shops are small and can be busy Kerrin quickly gives us a rundown of the shop, who runs it and their approach. If you’re looking for chocolate as far as the eye can see, you’re in the wrong place — this is not Merkur.
Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate
The owner loves chocolate, but she also loves the culture around chocolate. She carries a wide assortment of chocolates from different countries, books about chocolate, and chocolate paraphernalia of all kinds. She invites us to try her special hot chocolate. The secret is hers and she’ll gladly share it with you should you stop by on the Sweet Zurich tour. A knife with a curious blade catches the interest of one of the guests. It is a chocolate knife. In the 1930s it was quite common to cut one’s chocolate with a special knife. This beautiful knife is a must have for all chocolate aficionados.
As we leave the shop we walk through the old city and over the Münsterbrücke. Next stop is another chocolate shop. As we enter it is more than clear that Kerrin is a regular there. Like our first place, this shop specializes in more than just chocolate, but also chocolate accessories. If you’re looking for special Swiss, Austrian, Spanish or Italian chocolate, this is the place.
The highly knowledgeable staff make us feel welcome and invite us to sample chocolate truffles as we like, and are ready to answer any and all questions. Again the chocolates here are also hand selected and come from a select few producers. These are chocolates that you won’t find in the chocolate aisle at Migros or Coop.
Next we go somewhere I have never been before. I have walked past this place a few times a week for the past two years, but had never been in. I tell Kerrin and she’s shocked. The building dates back to the 14th Century. Walk inside and you can’t help but be in awe. It’s splendid. From the silk wall coverings to the giant cash register to the amazing selection of cakes, pastries, honeys and other fine treats.
We are warmly greeted and treated to their famous hot chocolate. I’m in love. It’s very thick and has a nice bit of whipped cream on top. Again another secret and it’s different from our first stop. Hot chocolate down, welcome Prosecco and a tour of the establishment. Our guide is a perfect match to Kerrin and tells us stories about the café with enthusiasm, humour and charm.
Back out onto the street we make our way to another Zurich treat. For us Swiss people going abroad always leads to some frustration mixed with humour when asked where we’re from. It seems many in North America believe that Sweden and Switzerland are one and the same. The place we are now visiting brings these two countries perfectly together. A fine selection of handcrafted chocolates and Swedish fashion and design products are what separates this shop from the others. A trip here is well worth it, and shows just how creative people can get.
Sweet tours of Zurich
Then Kerrin brings us to a shop specializing in what she sees as the latest sweet trend to hit Switzerland. What is it you may ask? You’ll have to venture out on a Sweet Zurich tour and find out.
As Kerrin wraps up our tour, we are all slightly high on sugar. Though the actual intake is not that much, it is much like a wine degustation, where a steady stream of small amounts leaves you feeling it. We part ways with smiles on our faces and a little fear in our heads knowing that we are all about to become regulars at the shops we’ve just visited, which might not be a good thing for our waistlines.
I sat down with MyKugelhopf founder Kerrin Rousset to find out a little more about her. Kerrin has always been a lover of sweet things and after she and her husband left their jobs in the US they travelled around the world, which gave Kerrin the perfect opportunity to try lots of new food. The name of her blog MyKugelhopf comes from the traditional Alsatian cake called Kugelhopf.
If you follow Kerrin on Twitter @MyKugelhopf, there is one thing you will notice. She loves Zurich! It is most likely this wonderful combination of interests and qualities that make Kerrin a great food writer and the best person to lead interested people around Zurich discovering its sweet spots. In her almost three years in Zurich, Kerrin has gotten to know the shop owners of the places she takes her guests.
I asked Kerrin where the idea for the tour came from and she said that it was a natural progression. “Whenever I travel, that is how I love to discover a city, where the locals go and especially where to find the best sweets. People ask me often for recommendations of where to do this here, and where I love to go. So this is a way to share it with them, and show them there is more than just the big name addresses in guidebooks.”
Kerrin has found the passionate people in the city, the people who are running specialty shops because they love what they are selling and want to get others excited about it. When was the last time a Migros employee got you excited about selecting a Frey chocolate bar?
When she’s not busy writing, running, or leading curious groups around Zurich, Kerrin is most likely to be found looking for fresh produce at one of Zurich’s many markets. And what does she do with all of this fresh and seasonal produce? Well, she cooks and bakes of course in her favourite place in Zurich — her kitchen.
If you’re interested in taking the Sweet Zurich tour, check out the website: www.sweetzurich.com. Tours are on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays starting at 2pm and last between 2 and 2.5 hours.
Marathon Sprachen provides custom-tailored language instruction, cultural training and expat services.