My dad is a fount of bad jokes. In general, his jokes fall into three categories: painful puns, dirty jokes and humor at our family's expense.
When I was a teenager, Dad often traveled to Europe for work. At one point, he became interested in our family's roots and decided (Clark Griswold style) to look up relatives in Scherzingen, the Swiss town whose name we bear.
"So I get there," Dad tells us upon his return, "and it's such a nice place, but tiny—just one street, really, with the cutest little alpine houses." He pauses for effect.
"Guess what was at the end of the street," he says. Not yet knowing the story, we shrug.
"A mental hospital!" Dad declares triumphantly. "That's all there was—a few houses and one huge mental hospital!"
According to family lore, everyone but I thought this was funny. "O, besmirched Schirtzinger clan," I thought. "No one must know this shameful secret!" (I was a serious child.)
Crazy roots notwithstanding, my family remained true to the Germanic traditions of consuming meat at every meal, glorifying chocolate and using skiing as an excuse to eat ridiculous portions of cheese. And so, when Santa Fe's new Swiss bakery opened on Jan. 16, I was at once ecstatic and nervous. Could it be anywhere near as good as I hoped? Was it even right to have a bakery on the spot that once boasted Santa Fe's only real nightlife, the old Corazón space? Aren't we supposed to be holding out for a bar or at least something to keep the Railyard alive past 9 pm?
And then, on the section of the menu devoted to salads, I found a meat plate. It was like coming home.
Chef-owner Philippe Müller is having a homecoming of his own. In the 1980s, Müller worked at another Swiss bakery on Guadalupe Street.
"I wanted to recreate that," Müller tells SFR. "The Swiss bakery was a very popular place to go for breakfast and lunch."
Some things have changed: Müller says he's using organic eggs and farmers market produce when possible, and he's added some non-Swiss offerings to the menu, such as the Santa Fe Swiss stuffed croissant ($6)—eggs, cheese, ham and green chile—which he recommends for breakfast. His lunch pick is chicken vol aux vent ($12).
Frequenters of Corazón will remember the bar's delicious darkness, an ambience that made you feel just fine about downing a midday martini. The Swiss Bakery's meringuey interior (sweet, light, airy) is a stark contrast, but it works. Beyond the croissants and fresh-squeezed juices, Teutonic types will delight in heavier fare. The croque monsieur ($8.50) is decadent, with béchamel for an added dose of richness. Assiette valaisanne ($12) is a meat lover's paradise: Swiss cheese, thinly sliced salami, punchy saucisson and curls of prosciutto garnished with pickled onions and cornichons. The bar at which we once drank cocktails and talked politics is now a pastry counter filled with tantalizing rows of éclairs and napoleons.
So far, Müller says, business has been good. And for those of us who like a good mug of lager with our salami, Müller plans to offer beer and wine by summer.
As my father would say, "I'll meat you there."