|Found in my friend's apartment.|
I fell in love with both cheese and Switzerland while living in Geneva during my junior year of college. I've been obsessed with the culture, politics, and dairy products of this tiny landlocked country ever since and have constantly longed to return to my once-home. A deep love of cheese is apparent in so much of the Swiss lifestyle (as seen on the toilet seat to the right), so it's no surprise that I fit right in.
I've dreamed hundreds of times of what it would be like to travel back to Switzerland, and I'm overjoyed to tell you that all my dreams came true when I finally did so in April. I caught up with dozens of old friends, traveled to beautiful new towns, and ate cheese every step of the way.
If you haven't been to Switzerland, I strongly suggest you do so in the very near future. Not only does it have great cheese, but it also has snow-covered mountains, the greenest valleys and bluest lakes you'll ever see, incredible food and wine, and some of the kindest people I've ever met.
For your next Swiss excursion, here are some suggestions from World According to Cheese of how to make the most out of your visit (by eating as much cheese as possible, of course).
1. Eat raclette at a traditional Swiss restaurant.
In my "Festival of Pickles" post I wrote about a raclette I had here in New York, but the Reading Raclette made in Vermont could never compare to the authentic Swiss version. On my first night in Geneva I went back to my favorite traditional Swiss restaurant, Chalet Suisse, ordered a "cinq service" raclette dish (meaning five servings) and attempted to make it through all that melted cheese. I could barely finish my third dish, but I was utterly satisfied when I stopped eating. The raclette tasted fatty and sweet, offset by the tart and savory flavor of the cornichons and pearl onions. It was melty cheesy perfection.
This is what a plate of raclette looks like. I cut up my mini pickles and potatoes beforehand so that they served the cheese right on top of it all.
And these are the cornichons and pearl onions that you eat with it.
2. Order a cheese plate, and don't choose the cheeses.
Lucerne is a vacation town that sits right on the edge of the picturesque Lake Lucerne. While visiting a friend from the area, we were lucky enough to experience the extremely elegant Restaurant Schwanen which sits right in the center of Lucerne on the edge of the lake.
Along with my delicious tea, I ordered what appeared to be a cheese plate (the name was written in Swiss German, which to me is incomprehensible). The menu noted that the cheeses came from affineur Rolf Beeler, a maître fromager whose cheese I'd already encountered back in New York at Cheese on 62nd. I was so delighted to know an affineur featured on a Swiss menu!
When ordering a cheese plate in a foreign land, always ask the server to bring you whatever cheeses they think are best. In fact, the same rule applies to most food ordering.
The cheese plate looked like a giant flower.
So I photographed it from many angles.
3. Eat fondue, ideally while surrounded by snowy mountains.
The town of Saas Fee is so small that cars aren't allowed. It's so high up in the mountains that the air feels thinner and there's a foot of snow on the ground in mid-April. I've never felt more like I was on top of the world in all my life. In this sleepy mountain town, I had an incredible fondue aux tomates and rösti in a deserted luxury hotel, complete with happy cow plates and a happy Lea.
The feast was set before us.
We were delighted by the looks of the fondue- and the plates.
Lea seemed to enjoy the meal.
4. Visit a variety of cheese shops.
There is nothing cuter than a Swiss cheese shop. My favorite one is located on Plainpalais right next to my old apartment and though it was closed the day I visited, I took a variety of photographs anyway. Then I ventured over to Les Halles des Rives, a marketplace complete with three different fromageries. I tried all three in search of my beloved 24 month gruyere, and I found it at Bruand S.A. Fromagerie were I ordered more than a kilo to ship home. On the way, I encountered Müller & Fils where I purchased some Mont Vully cheese, winner of the Swiss Championships in 2006. This cheese contains white wine and a hint of paprika, which can be found in a variety of Swiss foods from fondue to potato chips (I shipped these home too).
My favorite cheese shop in Geneva.
Traditional cheese-making equipment and cows in the window.
Bruand S.A. Fromagerie.
Müller & Fils.
Presumably Muller's son, posing with some Mont Vully.
5. Eat some double crème de gruyère with piped meringues for dessert.
Looking for the perfect dessert after a delicious Swiss meal? Look no further than this perfect collaboration of beyond-creamy double crème de gruyère and melt-in-your-mouth meringues. The blend of tart, thick cream and sweet, crumbly cookie create a perfect harmony in every bite. Plus, I've never seen a more aesthetically pleasing dessert.
The double crème contains 48% butter fat.
The meringues are a work of art.
The combination is beautiful and delicious.
Now go to Switzerland and eat some cheese.