We have crossed the lake from Evian Les Bains to Ouchy and now we are on the metro railway up to Flon in hilly Lausanne. Our destination is Café Romand on Place Saint-François. Tucked in beside the church, this august establishment made its reputation under the auspices of Madame Christiane Péclat and chef cuisinier Thierry Lagegre.
It is rustic charm and if you are lucky you’ll get a two-person table by the wide window looking out at those looking in, wondering what you are going to eat. For us today it will be rösti, pan-fried potatoes, one of Madame Péclat’s signature dishes. Lagegre made his rösti with parboiled waxy potatoes, in the fashion of the Bernese. That story is for later in the adventure.
We have a dilemma. To explain we must tell you a story about a brotherhood, a competition and a baker-butcher tradition first established in the 1950s. In 2009 the Confrérie de la Charcuterie Artisanale (a brotherhood of over 100 artisanal butchers inaugurated a year earlier) announced their intention to organise a festival to promote their products, and one in particular, the pie known as pâté Vaudois.
For decades a collaboration between the baker who would supply the dough and the butcher who would supply the meat filling had flourished in the villages of the region. The jambon croissant, the pâté and the vol-au-vent became the standard snacks across the region. Gradually the demand increased and production intensified.
Philippe Stuby, a Vevey butcher and artisanal specialist, saw trouble ahead. The city of Lausanne agreed and organised a Pâté D’or for the following year. A competition was arranged. A baker, a butcher and a farmer sampled pies from the region, from artisanal producers and from the supermarkets Aperto, Coop, Manor and Migros.
The judges were disappointed with the quality of the pies and pulled no punches. It was a blind-tasting. Points were awarded for the quality of the crust, the meat and the jelly. Sisters Brigitte Grossenbacher and Maggy Berti of Le Petit Encas in Etagnières won with a jelly and meat filling that blew the judges away. Everyone was delighted, especially butcher Stuby. The industrial pies were seen for what they were, and the artisanal pies were revealed as products of the terrain.
The flour for the pie dough came from Echallens mills, a mixture of three wheat flours, a rye four and an oatmeal flour. Daniel Grossenbacher, Brigitte’s husband, produced the meat. ‘There is premier pork, cheek and rind. It is cooked at a low temperature, 18 hours at 72°C. The small bones and the cartilages are removed, and then chopped and kneaded and the spices incorporated. A little dough is added for homogeneity.’ After a 60-minute bake at 185ºC, then cooled, the jelly is poured through the funnel of each pie for a daily total of 1500 pâté Vaudois. Brigitte Grossenbacher is adamant. ‘We like what we do, we do simple things with top quality products, there are things to respect such as cooking times, jelly, the preparation of the meat …’
And now we want to taste these wonderful pies and see whether we can get the recipe for the jelly. We find that a trip to Etagnières will take 20 minutes on the regional train to Echallens, the site of the floor mill, and we wonder whether we can combine a visit to both. After an exchange we decide it is not practical. ‘Where can we get your pies?’ we ask in hope and explain that we are in Flon.
‘You are in luck, go to the Vaud Farm Shop on Place de la Palud.’
Just around the corner.
We are in the heart of Lausanne old town, and there it is, a few steps back from the cobblestone street under an archway guarded by a large inanimate cow. La Ferme Vaudoise.
Produits de Terroir – indigenous food produce and artisanal food products of the canton. These include numerous flours, bread sticks, white cabbage sausage, dried meat and those pies.
They sit serene under the glass counter.