Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Year!



Bonne Année!

Ein glückliches neues Jahr!

Felice Anno Nuovo!

The Ryder-Walker Staff wishes everybody a safe and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Our Holiday Contest Champion(s) Emerge



Meet Grenzlos, the Global Trekking Gnome, on the descent of one of his favorite peaks (he summited successfully and is actually completing a traverse of the mountain having ascended the ridge on the far right). He is obviously very full of the holiday spirit.

Our challenge on our 2006 Holiday Greeting to our clients of the past 22 years was to identify the peak. Respondents had many very credible answers but only Tom Dempsey and Shirley House got it right. The rules of engagement in the contest were that the first person to identify the peak would receive a free night of lodging in the Alps during the summer of 2007. Tom got the answer in first but we can't quite faithfully characterize him as a client as he is responsible for many of the images in our 2006 and 2007 catalogues (please visit Tom at www.photoseek.com).

Here is one of Tom's images of Ama Dablam, the correct answer to the contest.



Shirley House also answered correctly. Shirley is a very popular person in the Ryder/Walker office and with the guide staff. Shirley has been on over 20 trips with Ryder/Walker and knows the Alps, and obviously other mountains of the world, intimately.

Shirley recently trekked to the Everest base camp. Ama Dablam happens to be on the way so she became well-acquainted with the peak. Ama Dablam is considered to be just shy of 22,500 feet. The name Ama Dablam is born from the beautiful hanging glacier on its SW side and means "mother and her pearl necklace", the necklace is represented by the huge serac band that is the most stunning feature of this ice mass.

The image on our greeting card (minus Grenzlos, the global trekking gnome, of course) is from the gentle alpine artwork of Samivel. Samivel's work is very much worth a websearch if you have the free time. You will be delighted by the fancy of his imagination, especially anyone enamoured of the Haute Savoie and Mont Blanc.

Here is one more image from Tom...



Congratulations to Tom and Shirley, and Happy Holidays from the Ryder/Walker Team.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Friend and colleague earns title, "Chef of the Year for 2007"


Our friends at the Waldhotel Fletschhorn in Saas Fee, Switzerland just informed us that their Head Chef, Markus Neff, is now officially known as the best chef in Switzerland, according to the influential French restaurant guide Gault Millau. Neff recently received 18 out of 20 possible points, thereby earning him the Gault-Millau title, “Chef of the Year for 2007.”

Gault Millau's points are awarded strictly on the quality of the food with any comments about service, price or the atmosphere of the restaurant given separately.

Along with the "Chef of the Year" award, the Fletschhorn now holds 18 out of 20 possible Gault & Millau points. This is HUGE in the world of gastronomy. As of 2004, only two hotels have EVER received 20 points. Of course, the Fletschhorn is no stranger to cuisine and awards. In its Swiss edition for 2007, which lists just fewer than 800 top restaurants, Gault Millau said that Neff continues to follow in the footsteps of his tutor Irma Dütsch, who also won the title in 1994 at the same Waldhotel Fletschhorn. Recently, the well-known U.S. magazine, Wine Spectator, presented the Waldhotel with its “Award of Excellence 2006.” This is basically the equivalent of an Oscar for wine.

So, what’s it like on our hiking tours? Let me just say that we depend on people like Markus and the Staff at the Waldhotel Fletschhorn. I hope that Markus Neff’s award offers a small testimony to our hard-working friends and colleagues in Switzerland. Markus is a longtime friend and colleague of the Ryder-Walker family, and we salute him. Congratulations Markus!

If you would like to know more about the Gault-Millau rating system, or to find out which hiking tours visit the Fletschhorn, please contact us.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Warmth in Winter - Tomato Fondue




In recent years the definition of a "fondue" has grown very broad indeed. Traditionally a cheese based dish ("fondu" itself means melted in French), the dish can now be hot oil or broth cooked meats as well as any of a number of small semi-liquid dollops of you-name-it that one finds accompanying a main item on a plate.

You will find in the higher mountain regions of all alpine countries that the principal dishes are all variations on the same theme. The ingredients of the principal dishes of these regions will be cheese, bread, potatoes, onions, milk, cream, wine and ham. That is what the residents of these once very remote locations had available to them and the tradition lives on. You will find this to be the case not only in Switzerland, France, Italy and Austria but in many mountain regions around the globe.

The classic cheese fondue can take many, many forms. Among our favorite places for a fondue "degustation" is the Vieux Chalet located on a tiny side street in the quaint and remote Swiss village, Saas Fee. At any point in time the Vieux Chalet will have over 30 different fondues available ranging from traditional to exotic (curry fondue is excellent!)



One of our favorites is Tomato Fondue and here we present a few variations on the Tomato Fondue theme.

First it is essential to have the right tools at hand. For cheese fondues (and most Tomato Fondues are very cheesy) you should have on hand an earthenware or enameled cast iron pot. The character of this cookware assures that heat is distributed evenly and consistently. Second, for ambiance as much as ease of eating, a table burner is helpful once the dish has been fully prepared on the stovetop.

Here is a basic recipe and we will follow it with some recommended variations. This will serve 3 - 4 people. You can adjust the proportions of the ingredients any way you wish, fondue is impossible to prepare poorly!

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon to tablespoon of finely chopped onion (taste dependent)
Tomatoes - this element can vary widely in both type and amount. We recommend:
Cherry
Plum or
Grape
seeded and chopped and a cup is just enough and two cups will probably be too much
1.5 cups white wine
1 lb Emmentaler cheese
.5 lb Gruyere cheese
The cheese mixture is another opportunity to explore variations. Many prefer more even proportions of Emmentaler to Gruyere and some even prefer to reverse the proportions. Raclette and Fontina cheese also work excellently in Tomato Fondue.

2-4 teaspoons corn starch
White pepper to taste

Begin by rubbing the warming interior of the pot with the cut edge of the garlic cloves. Melt the butter over low to medium heat and add onions as your stir continuously.

Once the onions are soft and translucent add the tomatoes and keep stirring until the combination reduces to a fairly homogeneous mixture. Add a portion of the white wine and increase the heat.

Add smaller portions of the cheeses alternately and allow them to melt. We find that this process is nicely expedited if you chop or grate the cheese in a blender or food processor first. Add corn starch as you add additional portions of cheese as this will enhance the blending process. Continue to add the rest of the wine. Do not allow to boil.

Add the white pepper and transfer to the table for consumption.

Serve with small (the smaller the better) boiled potatoes (the Swiss prefer this) and/or cubed 1 inch pieces of bread. A nice variation is to offer blanched vegetables as a dipping instrument as well.

Popular variations include adding a small amount of whipping cream to the mixture. We enjoy adding 8 ounces of tomato juice as well. If you are looking for a more "pizza like" experience, and you should be as this is truly liquid pizza, add a pinch of dried oregano before transfering to the table.

Lore is also rich regarding penalties imposed for inadvertently dropping your bread into the fondue pot. We don't wish to limit anyone's imagination as to what so we'll keep mum on this one... just be creative!


ENJOY!