Fondue In Switzerland = Cheesy, Gooey Goodness

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
  • Fondue chinoise, a hot pot, where pieces of meat are cooked in broth.

Although it will be burdensome, we will do the research and report back.

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Barn House Combo

 
Animals put out heat.  To take advantage of their heat (and keep people from stealing them), people built housebarns.  I don’t need one because he puts out a lot of BTU‘s at night.
They never really caught on in the US, but they are all over the Canton of Fribourg (near the town of Gruyeres).  I love them.  
P.S. Those of you who play Farmville, please let me know if you can really purchase a Swiss Housebarn.  Muchas gracias…um…er… Merci beaucoup.

“Cheese – Milk’s Leap Toward Immortality”*

Skanky B, Homie G, MC Roni and I toured the Cheese  Factory in Gruyères.* The highlights were:

  • the free samples of cheese,
  • the scents of all the wonderful alpine plants the cows eat in the mountains, and
  • the demonstration.

For more information on the tour and the town, check out The Swiss Watch Blog’s Gruyères post.

What is the logical follow up to such an adventure? Fondue, of course.

Check out the cow bell and the view
Sooo tasty

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.





Chocoholics Anonymous

Skanky B, Homie G, MC Roni enjoying hot chocolate
Yes. It really was this cool (despite what the lady in pink thought).
Skanky B, Homie G, MC Roni* and I toured the Cailler Chocolate Factory (located in Bulle, near Gruyeres). When you walk up, you smell chocolate. They must pump the smell out there because it was ridiculous. If only I could smell that good…
While waiting to start the tour, we had hot chocolate in the cafe. Yes. We were coloring. My drawing is up on my fridge. After color time, we went to the movie theater (with chocolates purchased from the gift shop) to watch old commercials. They were quite entertaining, perhaps even more so because they were in French.  You go through a Disney style telling of the history of chocolate before getting to the star of the tour, the chocolate itself. There is a room where you get to learn about, smell and touch the ingredients.
The tour just kept getting better and better. Next, you got to see a sample production line for Cailler’s Branches.
What do they do with that freshly made chocolate? They let you eat it! This is where the tour started to get really good. At this point, we were pretty much thinking that this was the best tour ever. We camped out here for a good five minutes eating.
Then, we went to the next room and the tour got even better! They had a giant room with all of their delectable products. You could spend as long as you wanted there and eat as much of it as you wanted!!!This is where we did America proud. We gorged ourselves. It was gluttony at its finest and also a bit embarrassing (not that we minded because our mouths were full of chocolate). They were not going to hurry us out of there or limit our consumption. Nevertheless, we were like Augustus Gloop at Mr. Wonka’s chocolate factory stuffing our faces as fast as we could.

 

My personal favorite
You can’t see our teeth because our mouths were full.
We stumbled out of the tasting room in a chocolate haze. Here are some photos from the gift shop:
You can scroll to the top to see the before.  This is the after.
 
Clearly, we were on a bit of a sugar high.
By the way, if you come to visit, the factory also has a kitchen where they give chocolate cooking classes. They fill up so be sure to pre-book well in advance.
*Names have been changed to protect the not so innocent.
 

Alpine Milk and High Altitude Cows – aka I Need More Cowbell

The commercial says that “happy cows come from California“.   Happier cows come from Switzerland.  We saw them when we hiked the “Sentier des Frommageries”, the cheesemaker‘s path, from a cute little town called Gruyeres.  Don’t they look happy wearing their bells?
They have the life.  They get to summer in the mountains, surrounded by amazing scenery and changing pastures a couple of times a day. They drink from tubs like these.  Note the one below is made from a hollowed out log.
The only down side is that you can’t make a run for it, not that you would want to anyway.
This says: “Please please close the gate thank you”
Note the not one, not two, but three strands of barbed wire below.  Keeping your cattle in is serious business.
 
Luckily, he knows his way around an electric fence.

 

Gruyeres

We went to Gruyeres. It is adorable. They have a castle and the Geiger Museum there.  The star attraction is the Gruyere cheese and the cheesemaking.  We were most excited about heading to the beautiful mountains that surround the town. After a tour around the adorable town, we hiked the “Sentier des Frommageries”, the Cheesemaker’s Path (which starts in town and heads up into the mountains).
We needed sustenance for the hike so we bought wonderful sugary waffles in the town to take with us.
The hike was steep, but stunningly beautiful.  We saw cows grazing at the high altitude.  The Swiss believe that cows that spend the Summer grazing at high altitudes produce a special quality milk.*
  
When we reached the top, we were rewarded with meringues in fresh cream. Yum.  
 
 
*We bought the alpine milk to put it our coffee and it was delicious. It is so good that it will make your leg shake. It definitely deserves its own special post.