Schauenstein Castle (“Schloss” in German) in the village of Fürstenau (Swiss Graubünden canton) provides the backdrop for star chef Andreas Caminada and his out-of-this-world culinary arts. A lesser known bit of local lore has it that a specter haunts the castle, consumed by wanting to wield the cooking spoon in Caminada’s gourmet restaurant. I had to get the full story…
On the drive to Schloss Schauenstein up in the Domleschg valley, past all those Graubünden castles of both the intact and ruined type, we can’t help but ruminate if Schloss Schauenstein really is haunted and if it indeed has a full-fledged castle ghost? Like they do in so many other castles?
While we’re still on the autobahn, Wikipedia enlightens us that Schloss Schauenstein dates to the year 1670 and cousins Rudolf and Johann Rudolf von Schauenstein. Or at least the name dates from then; the castle had been owned even earlier by the Catholic bishop of Chur.
By the time we arrive for lunch prepared by the world-renowned star chef Andreas Caminada, we are all prepped for a goodly portion of history. And some late Middle Ages groove, because the photos on the Schauenstein website shine with old-style wooden striped armchairs.
Schauenstein Schloss Restaurant
When we enter the castle garden, we are startled to make the acquaintance of assorted mysterious sculptures. All of them seem to allude to the castle ghost. It feels totally like we have landed on the set of that popular movie, “The Little Castleghost.”
Casting nervous glances over our shoulders, we ascend the stairs to the piano nobile, peer into the massive front door only to be suddenly welcomed with open arms while the door swings shut behind us.
But it’s ok: not a ghost anywhere in sight. We breathe a sigh of relief! It dawns on us that we might have gotten a little too worked up about the ghost story.
We are whisked into one of the restaurant’s two dining rooms. The decor is muted in a refined and elegant way. A young woman appears at our table to ask if we would like some water. It is only later, when she unlocks the riches of the castle’s wine cellar for us with her corkscrew, that we will discover she is no lesser a personage than sommelière Anna Jung.
But, now I ask her who by chance would be cooking for us today. As a well-traveled gourmet blogger, I know all about the super-busy star chefs who command several restaurants but can’t be in all of them at the same time, consequently they rely on their respective sous-chef to do the honors instead. Anna seems puzzled by the question and only responds that, as usual, the kitchen brigade is at its full complement of 13 staff.
I don’t press the matter. After all, I just walked in. But, I plan to find out sooner or later who did duty at the stove. I doubt it was the castle ghost…
Let the feast begin. It starts with a quick succession of amuse-bouches. We knew what to expect, as we chose the 4-course menu and resisted the seductive 5-course menu.
Still, I quickly loose track as the many different apéro tidbits in all colors and at various temperatures materialize. I am grateful that, besides the waitstaff, we have place cards to enlighten us what all the marvelous formed and frothy delicacies they serve to us are.
Next follow two courses of hors d’oeuvres. They are pleasingly small, so that we don’t ruin our appetites for our 4-course meal. Because it hasn’t even started yet!
Obviously, the kitchen crew knows what it is doing: Not only do the highly-decorated plates arrive at the table tasting of 19 Gault Millau and 3 Michelin Stars, the timing of the courses is completely in phase with ours!
In a class by himself – Andreas Caminada
The appetizers and main dishes taste — dare I even whisper it? — out of this world.
After all that eating delight, even before coffee and its pralines, I ask if I might take a couple of snapshots of the kitchen.
I’m racked with curiosity about who so heroically executed Caminada’s menus for us today!
But, then — before I can get out of my chair — there he stands!
In the middle of the room.
The man himself: Andreas Caminada, superstar!
One of the world’s top 50 chefs.
In the flesh!
Katja nearly swoons as he walks over to our table to greet us, but she manages to pull herself together reasonably quickly.
And so, it came to pass that I could ask the lord of the castle in person about the spooky castle wraith. Just as a feeble joke, nothing more.
But Caminada comes back immediately with:
Our castle ghost? Pantaléon?
Of course he’s here!
Furtively looking over his shoulder and whispering, he entrusts his latest project to us: Caminada Documenta, his semi-annual recipe magazine.
Quickly, I flip through it. And, yes, indeed! Author Gion Mathias Cavelty tracked down Pantaléon, the 500-year old castle ghost. An ominous feeling takes hold of me as I read that Pantaléon is mad as hell at Caminada and has had it with playing second fiddle to him. Allegedly, he is plotting to dethrone him so that he can once more wield the cooking spoons in the castle.
Well, let’s just hope that the house blessing plaque is not out of whack!
But, let us at last proceed to the coffee and pralines! Preferably, on the upper floor, either in the bar or the smoking lounge, depending on smoking preference.
A man’s haunted castle is also his…hotel
We purposely showed up for lunch, thinking that we could indulge more at that time of day than in the evening. But that was because of two things we had no inkling of: For one, you do not stuff yourself here; instead, even after uncounted courses, you still feel light as a feather. Second, the hotel rooms warrant much better than my earlier shorthand attributes of “wooden” and “striped,” when they are, in fact, “generous designer suites“!
Simply sensational, how a 500-year old guy like Pantaléon has ensconced himself here under the castle roof! It doesn’t get much better than this, for spooks or us more solid types.
Bravo, bien joué!
For anyone ready for the ghost hunt:
Schloss Schauenstein Restaurant Hotel
Listed among The World’s 50 Best Restaurants
Per person menu prices start at CHF 200.- for a 3-course meal; the 6-course menu goes for CHF 261.-
Room prices start at CHF 370.- on weekdays and CHF 390.- on weekends for a room for one night , the suites are available starting, respectively, at CHF 580.-, or CHF 600.- . The airy Tower Suite costs respectively CHF 660.- and 680.-, and an additional Tower Room — probably shared with Pantaléon — another CHF 180.-
Breakfast the next morning costs CHF 42.- per person
Days: Thursday through Sunday, starting at 12 noon
Nights: Wednesday through Sunday, starting at 19:00 hours
Make sure to be there at the hour sharp. You’re in Switzerland after all ;-)