Smile Politely

European Journal: Dinner in the Alps

Editor’s Note: For the next month or so, our roving food writer will be reporting from Europe.

It’s probably not possible for a foodie to leave Switzerland without tasting fondue, so we saved this special meal until went to the Alps. The Swiss Alps are as majestic as you can imagine and perhaps it is this steep rock backdrop that makes the food taste better (either that or all that hiking makes you extra hungry).

Our first stop in the Alps was the Jăngfrau region at a little tourist attraction called Schynige Platte, which can only be reached by a historic narrow gauge train that pulls itself up the mountain using a special gear system. We were attracted to this specific location because the brochure advertised a $30 per person room rate at the one and only hotel on this mountain top plateau. The rate turned out to be too good to be true, but they did have an excellent dining room, so we stayed for lunch and a hike.


I ate two links of Vienna sausage drowning in a hot steaming bowl of potato soup. Yes, they looked like long hot dogs, but the flavor was more intense and the skin of the links a little tougher. When eaten with a broth of nicely seasoned potatoes, the combination seemed, well, inspired. With lunch, we shared a platter of cold meats that included air-dried beef, raw bacon, salami and ham. Each meat had its own distinctive flavor and texture, best enjoyed simply with a slice of bread and no other condiments so that the flavors can remain pure.


Since fondue was not on the menu, we decided not to stay the night in Schynige Platte. We ventured onward to the village of Gindelwald in search of boiled cheese. Centrally located in a valley with easy access to various gondola lines, this little tourist stop features buses loaded with Japanese tourists. But wherever there are Japanese tourists, there are also good restaurants (or is it that Japanese tour groups only stop where they can have a gourmet meal?). In fact there were too many restaurants to choose from in Gindelwald, so we stopped a local woman on the street for some advice (tip: people with dogs are more likely to be locals). She recommended the Bellevue Steuri Pinte, which turned out to be the oldest restaurant in town. And they serve fondue.

Of the three versions of fondue offered, we chose the Oberländer version because it included nice big chunks of bacon. The fondue pot arrived boiling with what looked like a ton of cheese and an array of condiments that included traditional pickles, pickled onions and the most important ingredient — fresh bread. We’re talking about crusty Swiss bread here, thick and chewy on the outside, soft and brown on the inside, and when coated with cheese, one could still taste the flavor of the bread. When I asked the chef about the “secret” cheese formula, he offered the tip that he uses three cheeses. When pressed for more information, he just smiled and patted me on the back.


In almost every Swiss restaurant we ate at, when we ordered a “mixed” salad, a plate of beautifully arranged veggies arrived with at least three different kinds of greens plus beets, corn, cucumbers, and maybe a tomato was presented to us. The “house” dressing varied from place to place, but the salad was always put on top of the dressing. Although we’ve been told that in Europe, salads were usually served after the entree, this was not our experience so far.

With fondue checked off on our list, we can now leave Switzerland.

Next stop: Berlin.

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