If you find yourself in Switzerland, you absolutely must treat yourself to some fondue. The Swiss are known for fondue because they invented it and they do it right. It’s tremendous.
Swiss fondue is served in earthenware pots with handles, none of that crazy stainless stuff you see nowadays. Traditional ingredients for melting include cheese (of course), cheese with truffle oil (pictured), cheese with tomato (see gallery), cheese with wine, peppers, mushrooms, and a number of other combinations. Usually, bread is dipped — first into a small container of a strong liqueur, if you’re into that, then into the cheese pot — but in some cases, boiled potatoes are also used. Chocolate is not a traditional fondue ingredient, and wasn’t really heard of until the 1960s. Meat fondue (where you dip raw meat in hot oil to cook it) developed a little earlier than that and is very similar to a Chinese hot pot, but Swiss fondue goes back to the 18th century (and some allege the original concept dates back as far as Homer’s Iliad).
The cheeses are usually Emmentaler, which is what we think of as “Swiss cheese,” with the holes, Vacherin or Gruyere. The fondue should be warm enough to be smooth, but never burn. A perfectly served fondue forms a toasted crust at the bottom, which you can see once you’ve eaten it all. If you burn it, you should feel bad about yourself.
In Seelisberg, you can have fondue in a funicular, which is fun to say.
I tried my first Swiss fondue at Café du Grütli (above), a Montreux restaurant which specializes in fondue. The restaurant was charming in bright yellow with funny decor like garden gnomes, butterflies and soccer stats on the walls. The wine was local to the Swiss Riviera and perfectly paired with the cheeses. After dinner, traditional after-dinner drinks like flavored kirsch (like schnapps) were served. I indulged in 86 proof apricot kirsch — perhaps it has to be that strong to help you digest all the glorious cheese.
One last important thing: Don’t go for Swiss fondue alone. You may think you’d never eat an entire pot of cheese by yourself, but you totally will, and then you probably won’t feel very good. Ever again.
My trip to Switzerland was sponsored by Switzerland Tourism, but the ideas and opinions expressed in this article are 100 percent my own.