Clichés are making a comeback. Bernese Mountain dogs are found in dog runs all over America. Swiss-precision watches have replaced digital timepieces. And fondue? Restaurants are popping up everywhere, and upscale mall-stores sell fondue pots so you can melt your own right at home.
Nothing is more comforting on a cool night than hanging with family (and Bernese) by a fireplace while dipping squares of slightly stale bread into a hot vat of creamy, tangy cheese. In fact, the tradition began during Switzerland’s long, bitter winters, when mountain dwellers in the French-speaking Canton of Neuchâtel would preserve their frommage and bread to sustain themselves. By adding a little dry wine, the cheese would further melt into a savory, sublime provision.
No longer is this dish considered peasant food. In fact, each region of Switzerland has their own take on fondue – some simple, others more complex – but most incorporate traditional gruyere – a hard yellow cheese that with age, takes on a complex and nutty flavor.
In Fribourg, wine and Kirsch is added if the cheese hasn’t fully ripened. If no wine is required, guests dip bread in plum schnapps before dipping into the cheese. Sophisticated Geneva combines gruyere with Emmental and Walliser Bergkase, and may include chopped morel mushrooms. If traveling throughout Eastern Switzerland, Appenzeller and Vacherin are the cheeses of choice combined with a dry cider. And the Vaud region adds roasted garlic to their recipe.
On board the scenic GoldenPass line, the Belle Époque comes to life on the Salon Bleu train in the legendary style of the Orient Express. Linking Montreux to Lucerne, this panoramic route is among the finest railway experiences to be had anywhere in the world. Pass edelweiss meadows and picturesque villages all while enjoy voluminous upgrades and mouth-watering meals. Off the trains, these two towns offer fondue in sophisticated settings.
Can’t get to Switzerland right now? Make your own at home. There’s a technique involved here; one can’t just dip bread into a bubbling-hot pot of cheese and eat it. Be careful to set the flame not too high; this will prevent the cheese from burning and drying out. If your cheese appears chunky, add a drop of cornstarch. Ready to dip?
First, spear your pan. Next, coat your piece until drenched. Don’t remove too fast! Hold it over the pot to let the excess gooey-goodness fall back into the pot. This keeps everyone neat, and ensures no one gets burned. Don’t let the hot fork touch your mouth!
What happens if you drop your bread in the pot? That depends…
If a man’s bread does take a dive, it’s now his duty to buy a round of drinks or next pot of fondue if you’re out at a bar or restaurant. If a woman drops the bread, she has to kiss the person next to her. Hopefully if this happens, it’s on a date. Fondue is a wonderfully romantic meal. In fact, the verb “to melt” is in French, “fondre.”
Do as the Swiss do, and toast or prost before eating, raising a class of simple, light white wine. This is the perfect accompaniment to this heavy, heartwarming dish one can’t help but be “fond” of.