If you come visit, expect to eat fondue. Fondue restaurants are pervasive and even a non-cook like me can make fondue at home. Our friends Pitbull and TNT came to visit and we had a fondue extravagaza. Here’s how we made it:
Cut the bread into cubes of less than an inch. Some people like the bread a bit dry (to better absorb the cheese) and will use day old bread and/or cut it a few hours ahead.
Split a piece of garlic in two. Rub the inside of the fondue pot it.
Pour a bit of white wine (preferably Swiss, it should be dry not sweet) in the bottom of the pot.
Pour the shredded cheese (see below for which ones) in the pot and stir.
Add more wine, bit by bit to ensure a smooth texture. I find it helpful to leave a bit of cheese in reserve to add if the mixture becomes a bit thin and/or runny.
Stir the mixture so that the cheese melts and cooks evenly.
While you want the cheese to melt, you don’t want it to burn. Check the temperature to make sure that it is not too hot.
Raise your glass, toast and begin eating.
While eating, adjust the heat so that the cheese stays at a constant temperature and does not overcook.
Eating fondue is easy. The largest problem associated with eating fondue is overeating. Put a small piece of bread on the fork/dipper/fondue skewer, stir it in the cheese and enjoy. Although I can’t help you with the overeating part, here are some tips and etiquette for eating fondue:
Even though you will want to pop the cheesy goodness right into your mouth, try to be patient and let the cheese drip/cool for a second.
To avoid sharing too many germs, people avoid touching their mouths to the fork/dipper/fondue skewer.
Drink only white wine or room temperature water while eating fondue to avoid indigestion. You will thank yourself if you do this and curse yourself if you don’t.
If you lose your bread in the cheese, custom dictates that you buy the next round of drinks or be thrown in the lake (Lac Leman/Lake Geneva). Given Geneva’s expensive prices, you may be in for a dunking in Geneva’s approximately 5 degree waters (41 Fahrenheit). You were warned.
La religieuse (French for the nun) refers to the well-cooked remnants of cheese that stick to the bottom of the pot. They are scraped out and eaten. Yum.
The Swiss debate the best type of cheese fondue. The most popular types include (in order of popularity):
Sometimes, a shot of Kirsh, tomatoes, peppers (red and green), or mushrooms will be placed in the cheese. Of course, the French (Comté savoyard, Beaufort, and Emmental or just different types of Comté) and Italians (Fontina, milk, eggs and truffles) have their own versions.
There is, apparently, a much larger world of fondue out there, just waiting to be discovered (and eaten). Other types of fondue include:
Chocolate fondue, where pieces of fruit are dipped into a melted chocolate mixture,
Fondue bourguignonne, where pieces of meat are cooked in hot oil
Finally, I have gotten to the really important things for expats in Geneva. The Buvette at the Bains de Paquis has the best fondue in Geneva. As much as I want to bring you the scoop, I am certainly not about to eat every fondue in Geneva. Regardless, I stand by my statement. Here’s why. It is really good fondue. At 20 CHF, it is reasonably priced. The best part though is the location, its wonderful view and relaxed atmosphere. This is your view. Outstanding. I rest my case.
It is a great place to bring out-of-town guests. When my mom was visiting, we brought her here (by boat from Eaux-Vives) for a very memorable evening. She ate it up. Heck, I ate it up. Literally.
My mom has been visiting. We wanted her to see as much Swissness as possible during her visit so we took her to Brig to see the Cow Festival.* It was perfect. I’m sure that if we brainstormed, we could fit a few more Swiss clichés into the day, but they hit all the big ones.
It was interesting to watch them try to move something so big that did not want to move.
We arrived in Brig a bit early and got to see the cows arriving. They may walk down from alpine pastures, but they take trailers to the parade. The cows are a special kind of Swiss cow that is raised almost exclusively in the Valais region,Herens. These cows are known for being particularly aggressive. In the spring, this area hascow fighting contests. Here’s a YouTubeclip for inquiring minds.
Do I look like I want to wear a flower hat?
I’m in love. Again. We had a connection.
My favorite part of the parade
This is the capital of raclette. When in Rome…
What’s a parade without someone handing out samples of local wine?
They also baptise the crowd with wine. Yes, they really do. Check out the guy in the plaid shirt’s face.
Alphorns! They sounded great echoing through the valley.
They handed out the apples decorating this float to the crowd. They did not hand out the cauliflower.
I’m not sure if this is traditionally Swiss.
Carved woods signs announcing the top cows = uber Swiss
Note the ribbons. That cow is all done up for a night on the town.
Mountain Reine National translates to National Mountain Queen. She is the prize cow so to speak. Do you think she won the smack down?
Sometimes, the cows got really excited about hitting the grass at the end of the parade.
They were lined up according to number and set about eating (and, ahem, answering nature’s call).
Another cute parade participant
Sorry I didn’t get any decent pictures of the goats. They were unruly to say the least.
Other parade participants. It said “Heidi” across the back of the cart!
*In the end of September and beginning of October, Switzerland has festivals all over the country to celebrate cow’s descent from alpine pastures. This was one such affair.
If you are visiting the greater Geneva area and are not a hiker (there are great places to hike near Gruyères), you can take the chocolate train. It is a great way to see beautiful scenery, the cheese tour, Gruyeres and the Cailler chocolate factory in a single day.
*I just learned that there is a second cheese factory in the mountains around Gruyères. Don’t worry about being uninformed, I will try that one for you too.
I am so glad that we are not lactose intolerant. This is a country of dairy where the cow is practically a national symbol (not to discount the goat and sheep’s milk products you see everywhere). The Swiss do dairy. They do it a lot. They do it very, very well. As a result, we find ourselves constantly trying new, wonderful dairy products. Delightful (and tasty). If you are lactose intolerant, you can still easily enjoy the good food here. It is of high quality and very fresh. You will just miss out on some of the abundant dairy yumminess.
To prove my point that the Swiss do a lot of dairy, I took photos of just some of the dairy in one grocery store. Mind you there is another one across the street. Enjoy!
P.S. I pounded not one, but two delicious youghrts for breakfast this morning and having mountian milk in my coffee. Excessive? No, just a delightful, darylicious way to start your day.