Die Schwiez… snow, sun and great grub!

Well this time last week we were in a snowy Switzerland for a short break… we arrived to a blizzard and within 24 hours of constant snowing we had some ten inches of snow and a total white-out.

We were staying with friends in a sleepy village that had no local shops without having to drive a bit to get your local produce. Well we were well and truly spoilt with some great grub… we kicked it all off on the Saturday night with a rather sumptuous little starter of Beetroot Carpaccio with orange and feta cheese.  It was a dish that has inspired me to try something a bit similar at a future Hari dinner so watch this space! A rather yummy fillet of beef with sun dried tomato sauce was the main course and we tucked into some local cheeses (plus some Winterdale Shaw and Stichleton I had taken with me) and a very nice and I mean very nice bottle of vintage Port.

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Then on the Sunday evening we sat down to a real Swiss classic of Cheese Fondue. The marriage of a melted cheese and white wine served with cubes of bread is a very social one and this was very much the case as some other friends joined us all. It was very much a loud and boisterous evening  as we all tucked into some great fondues and supped some local kirsch and some local white wine (Never red wine as some would think – it will clot the cheese in your stomach)

Our friends unfortunately had to go back to work on the Monday morning so left to our own devices we set off on a bit of a trek across Switzerland as we were keen to visit a chocolate factory and there is none better than the Nestlé Cailler factory in the town of Broc near Gruyère.

It has been some thirty plus years since I was last at the factory and it has changed a great deal. They have made it much more theatrical than I recall and it is a veritable conveyor belt with small groups setting off every 5-10 mins with whatever language required! It was fun and the best bit was then end of the production line for the mini Cailler Branches where a tray awaited to be sampled and then the tasting room at the end of the tour was another excuse to stuff your face with a range of their chocolates.

Then in true tourist attraction fashion you were led out into the retail shop where Mrs HC and little miss HC were in chocolate heaven as they filled their bags with more chocolate. It was a great visit that we much enjoyed.

We then headed off down the road to the village of Gruyère where we went to see the production of the classic Gruyère cheese. Again it had been thirty years since my last visit and this was also very different from my memory with a much more interactive approach. The little sample packs we were given as tasters were welcomed and as we departed past the ageing caves the rows and rows of big cheese wheels were a truly awesome sight!

We then drove up the road to the town of Fribourg to meet with some other friends for dinner and this time it was another type of Fondue (Chinese). Many think of Switzerland as expensive but this place just over the road from various faculties of the University was great value for money. Eat as much as you want and a total bill for five of us was under £100 including all drinks was pretty good!

It was a long drive home and a great day out!

Well the sun certainly shone on the Tuesday morning with blue cloudless sky and the view from the friends home across the lake and across to the mountains was a great view to wake up to. It was hardly a difficult decision we would today go up a mountain! The next decision was by which method and the desire for a cable car meant we had only one choice nearby – the Rigi beckoned and meant we had to head off to the village of Weggis to take the Luftsielbahn up to Rigi – Kaltbad!

Well it was stunning… the abundance of snow and the great views made it all rather magical and we sat down to a typical mountain restaurant lunch of a Bratwurst and Zweibel Sauce (Onion Gravy) and a rather well made Apfel Torte and a the coffee finish was a Schümli Pflümli – a real local speciality of a schnapps filled coffee topped with whipped cream was a perfect way to end the mountain visit.

As we descended in the packed cable car the views were really breathtaking and memorable as we looked out onto the city of Lucerne and the calm still waters of the Vierwaldstatersee. Pilatus the mountain that overlooks the city of Lucerne looked majestic as did the other snow capped peaks and it was perfect way to end the visit.

Dinner that night back at our friends was my responsibility, a simple “Rösti” potato cake with pork escalopes in a wild mushroom sauce (Steinpilz aka Cepes) was followed by meringues filled with thick double cream from Gruyère. It had been another stunning day and as we said our goodbyes and good-nights to our friends (early departure to work the next morning for them) we promised we would be back again for a return visit before too long.

Our final day in Switzerland was spent in the city of Zurich (where I had spent my formative years on leaving college) dashing in and out of the upmarket department stores of Globus & Jelmoli on the Bahnhofstrasse and yet more chocolate shopping in Migros City! Our final meal was at the Turf Bar of Hotel Ascot. This piano bar is something of an institution in this banking quarter of Zurich as high powered banking conversations were going on all around us! The “Weiner Schnitzel” the size of a dinner plate and wafer thin and crisp was beautifully executed.

It had been a perfect visit to Switzerland, great food, great company, views and weather what more could we have asked for… it had been inspiring… now look out for that new starter to appear on a future Hari dinner…

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