The smallest 5 Star Superior Hotel in Switzerland can be found in a small Engadine village, home to only 100 people. Here, a wonderful mountain landscape sets the scene for a beautiful inn: The IN LAIN Hotel Cadonau. It has preserved its classic Engadine style for over 450 years and is the work of the Cadonau family. Top Chef Dario Cadonau has made a name for himself with his his fine cuisine. Lately also as global ambassador of Veuve Clicquot and their La Grand Dame cuvée. Join us for an unforgettable stay in the Engadine!
Dining with Dario Cadonau, Veuve Clicquot Ambassador
We arrive at the IN LAIN Hotel Cadonau for a very special event: Rosé Together! Top chef and host Dario Cadonau, together with his wife Tamara, have invited a group of friends and guests to join him on a culinary journey featuring some of his finest dishes and paired with exclusive Veuve Clicquot Rosé creations. The evening starts on the newly opened terrace with a wonderful wooden lounge and beautiful views. Here, the team of Dario Cadonau, who was awarded 1 Michelin Star and 17 Gault&Millau points, treats us with some mouth-watering appetizers. With it, glasses of Veuve Clicquot Rich Rosé are served. It is a champagne with a dosage of 60 g/L, which enhances the blend’s aromas. It tastes wonderful on ice. We are off to a great start!
Once it gets a bit colder outside, we are in the middle of the Swiss Alps after all, the guests head inside where the pleasant evening continues. We are seated on two large tables. A familiar atmosphere and genuine happiness unfolds as more delicacies are served. The starter, a wonderful creation with foie gras and a dish with veal on a salmon sauce, is paired with a Veuve Clicquot Rosé poured from a magnum bottle.
We then continue with an incredible creation made from tomato essence, followed by perch fillet. Both paired with the incredible La Grande Dame 2004 cuvée. Just as everyone thought that it couldn’t get any better, the next course arrived. It is dedicated to the quail. This delicacy gets served in three variations, all paired with La Grande Dame 2006. We’re in heaven!
A lesser known fact about the IN LAIN Hotel Cadonau is, that they produce their own cheese. Lots of it actually. Now we get to taste some of their finest variations. With it, La Grande Dame 2008 is served. A very full-bodies cuvée with a big of sweetness that goes wonderful with the cheese.
For the dessert, glasses are filled with the Veuve Clicquot Rich Rosé again. It turns out to be the ideal pairing for the raspberry ice cream and espuma that is served. After experiencing the gourmet cuisine of Dario Cadonau and enjoying the excellent champagnes by Veuve Clicquot we understand why he was appointed ambassador of the brand. Both parties strive for excellence in their craft buy stay true to their origins. A great match!
Getting to know Dario Cadonau
We had the chance to sit down with Dario Cadonau and talk about how he became a top chef. He also tells us what influence nature has on this cuisine and what inspires his cooking style.
When did you start dreaming of owning your own hotel?
It was very early on. I was the one in our family who fell in love with gastronomy and the hotel business. As a child, I liked to cook at home; for me but also for friends. It always fascinated me. I then went on and built my career on that passion. I told myself that I would certainly like to run my own restaurant and, if possible, my own hotel. This dream has followed me from an early age. With my apprenticeship as a chef, my career finally took shape.
Who or what inspired you on your path to becoming a top chef?
During my apprenticeship at Suvretta House, I had the opportunity to follow and participate in competitive culinary art exhibitions. I was always very impressed by that. The Suvretta House has a large, classic kitchen with over 50 employees. Things got rough there from time to time. As an apprentice, you had to get down and dirty. That pushed me forward and I had the opportunity to develop a certain perfectionism in my work. I was then able to get to know the haute cuisine in the context of national and international competitions. There, it was all about the visual arrangement, color combinations and so on. I was fascinated by this kind of cooking and was shaped accordingly. After my apprenticeship, I knew that I wanted to work in gourmet gastronomy. This world fascinated me. I am a person who likes to work precisely and has certain ideas that go in the direction of perfectionism. That then followed me. I went to Philippe Rochat in Crissier, then to Daniel Bumann in La Punt, and to Germany where I worked for the 3-star chef Harald Wohlfahrt. This time shaped my current style.
What makes the gastronomy in the Engadine special?
The Engadine, a long high Alpine valley region in Switzerland, is enormously diverse. In addition, there is a hotspot for luxury hotels and top gastronomy in the central and upper part of the Engadine. In the small village of St. Moritz alone, there is an enormous density of 5-star hotels of considerable size. This is extraordinary! It was built and shaped this way because St. Moritz had an international attraction early on. Guests come from far and wide to the Engadine to enjoy the region. I think it has so many beautiful facets. From sports and museums to music. There is so much to experience! Consequently, culinary delights also play an important role here.
What influence does nature have on your cuisine?
A very important one. At IN LAIN we have geared our cuisine to it: It is very close to nature. We have many products from our own production. For example, flowers, herbs and so on. Our neighbor is also a farmer who grows many products for us. In addition, we have a large vegetable garden on our property. We also work closely with other farmers and fishermen in Switzerland who supply us. It’s important to me to know where the products we process come from. When we started 11 years ago, we were also the first to include the local pine trees in our culinary concept. We started with a pine syrup that we serve with champagne as an aperitif drink. This is still the welcome drink our guests enjoy upon arrival. Then we created other dishes like fillet of beef wrapped in a pine crust. Today we serve chocolates, bread but also drinks with it. The Swiss stone pine is native up here, characterizes our cuisine and is part of our DNA.
What role do wine and champagne play in your cuisine?
For me, both are part of a good meal. We are always trying to develop our offering in this area. Especially with regard to our gourmet menu. In our gourmet restaurant, we have always offered a wine accompaniment. Now we also offer a champagne accompaniment. In Switzerland, the latter is unfortunately not as well-known as in France. There, especially in the Champagne region, you will find almost no wine on the menus. There are some, but in most restaurants, champagne is the preferred drink. It is a food companion over there. In Switzerland, that’s a little less the case. That’s a pity because anyone who has experienced it knows that it is something wonderful. Personally, I prefer a champagne accompaniment because I feel much fitter the next day than with wine. At least that’s the way it is with me. I like that!
What does the collaboration with Veuve Clicquot mean to you?
The Veuve Clicquot team approached me and asked me if I would like to become an international ambassador for the brand and the prestigious La Grande Dame Cuvée. Before accepting, I took my time to consider it. For me, it is important that I can identify with the product and the brand in such collaborations. I’m not interested in just being an ambassador for anything. That’s not my world. For me, it’s about identifying with a product and a story. With Veuve Clicquot, I found a lot of similarities. Especially with Madame Clicquot, the inventor of the “pupitre de remuage” and Rosé Champagne. She was a pioneer in the industry. In terms of history, there are a few parallels between this French Maison and us at IN LAIN in Switzerland. Especially since we have built something in a very remote place that works and is successful. We must find creative ways to obtain consumers or guests for our products and services. It was the same with Madame Clicquot. That’s why we found each other and started working together in December 2020. We were able to create a win-win situation for both.
What do you do to switch off and get inspiration?
I’m passionate about cars. I have a few and I enjoy taking them out for a drive. Although I like some models and brands, I would like to highlight my Corvette in particular. It is a Special Edition, which can also be driven on the racetrack. Really cool! But family and nature are just as important to me. Just like I relax during a car ride, I can also experience that during a walk in the woods where I find inspiration. Likewise, during a hike including a BBQ with my family.
Staying at the IN LAIN Hotel Cadonau
A wonderful mountain landscape sets the scene for the beautiful IN LAIN Hotel Cadonau. It is situated just outside the Swiss National Park, home to deer, ibex, eagle and more Alpine creatures. The main building has preserved its classic Engadine style for over 450 years. New buildings have been added recently. They blend in harmoniously with modern lines and clad in natural wood. It is obvious that the architect drew inspiration from the surrounding pine and larch forests.
After a thrilling hike or mountain bike tour, guests can unwind at the natural swimming pond in the hotel garden. The water even comes from their own natural spring. Next to it, the wonderful garden sauna can be found. While sweating, the fragrance of local pine is breathed in and breath-taking views of the mountains are enjoyed. If sauna is not your thing, then the bathing tub might do the trick. Have a bath in pine infused water heated to 38°C. Did you know that local pine has many qualities which have a positive effect on health and well-being? We definitely felt its soothing effect!
One of the fascinating things about the IN LAIN Hotel Cadonau is the original building’s history. Many of the old elements like the cellars or the living room have been professionally restored and are now part of the hotel. This let’s guests dive into a unique world. Another factor is the local pine wood used for construction, interior design and furniture. It creates a very familiar and intimate atmosphere and looks very authentic.
After a relaxing night, we enjoy a rich breakfast. There is a lovely buffet with local bread and charcuterie. Dishes like omelettes or carefully prepared eggs can be ordered too. A great way to finish our stay here at the IN LAIN Hotel Cadonau. We hope to be back soon!
Are you more into the Scottish Highlands than the Swiss Alps? Then read this article about our visit at the Glenmorangie Distillery.