Brunsli, Walliser and Spitzbuben. Laugen, Grittibenz and Zopf. If you've ever been to Switzerland, these words are making your mouth water. For the rest of you, here's a general translation: Delicious, hard-to-find cookies, pastries and breads made by a Swiss pastry chef and his newlywed, pastry chef wife.
Reto Weber and Laurie Alleman-Weber have had a whirlwind year, getting married last summer in Europe and skipping a honeymoon to open their Swiss Bakery and Pastry Shop in Burke, Va.
Reto came to the United States six years ago to work for Swiss importer Albert Uster in Gaithersburg. The company specializes in European pastry and chocolate products, which is how the couple met. Laurie was a pastry chef at D.C.'s Galileo restaurant, and she frequently drove to Gaithersburg for supplies. Both of them dreamed of eventually having their own bakery. When the Burke bakery became available, the Webers were ready.
In the small workspace at the back of the bakery, Reto makes the flat, all-rye mountain bread called Walliser ($3.25), the braided egg-bread Zopf ($3.50) and a handsome swirled flax seed bread ($3.50). He makes the soft, addictive pretzel rolls called Laugen (65 cents) with the traditional lye solution that gives them their shiny amber crust. He's also particularly proud of his St. Galler bread ($3.25), a dense, chewy white bread with a dark brown, almost burnt-looking, crust that's traditional in the northeastern part of Switzerland Regulars also know to come early for the Swiss cheese bread ($3.50) -- a loaf so tender and delicious, one customer confessed that she gets two, one to eat in the car on the way home and one to actually share with her family.
For the holidays, the Webers are offering several European specialties, including Swiss cookies made with nut flours ($12.95 per pound) and grittibenz -- the little bread men with raisin faces eaten on Dec. 6, St. Nicholas Day. Reto also makes stollen ($12.50) the old-fashioned, damn-the-calories way. "You take it warm from the oven and submerge it in melted butter and then sprinkle the top with sugar," he says.
No wonder, says loyal customer Wilhelm Jorach, a retired Austrian chef, "I have to come here three times a week."
-- Candy Sagon
Swiss Bakery and Pastry Shop, Burke Town Plaza, 9536 Old Keene Mill Rd., Burke, Va. Call 703-569-3670.