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December 30, 2010
Since only those that snow camp venture out on the trail right now here in the Pacific Northwest, some of us are banished to armchair travel. During these darkest of winter days I thought to have you come along with me to Lausanne, Switzerland and offer you a traditional fondue you really could make on the trail if you get a break in the weather. But it is just as fabulous eaten on the table with family at the ranch.
Lausanne is a city of stairs. On the side of a steep hill, this city was built and fortified for defensive reasons. To have a commanding view of the countryside is the only way to defend yourself from roving marauders. In Swiss history, invaders from almost every direction on the compass rose have attempted to rule this area of Europe.
Overlooking Lake Geneva with views across to France, Lausanne is a simmering city made up of many town squares creating a complex layout. Because of its hillside location, the squares or “meeting places” are on different levels. To illustrate the point, the subway station we used was on a slope. It was a strange feeling to walk into a building that was perfectly vertical and horizontal, but the platform and track tipped on it’s side so that the train could reach the next stop on grade. Further, directions given are also very “Lausanne specific.” Our tour guide told our large group that if we all did not fit into the subway car, we were to “exit at the station where the church bells would ring.” Each station has it’s own unique sound or chime so you know your location. There are birds, horses and other sounds. Our stop was located near the ancient church on top of a cobblestone hill in the middle of the city, hence the bells.
After our visit to the cathedral it was time to enjoy a meal. We wanted traditional fondue. Fondue in French means “melting” and we visited one of the best, also one of the oldest, restaurants in Lausanne, the Café Du Grutli: www.cafedugruetli.ch.
Founded in 1849 the specialty of the house is fondue, the real deal Swiss Fondue made from Le Gruyere cheese, white wine and a touch of garlic and nutmeg. To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited to eat fondue. After all, we have all tried it in the States and it was good but Americanized and domestic cheese was used which takes so much away from the flavor. This fondue was a revelation, delicate, sweet and just amazing. The fondue at the Du Grutli has elevated the simple ingredients to a culinary an art form. This is the source of fondue. More than 150 years of perfecting this dish have paid off in every way. So for these cold winter nights and perhaps even a holiday get-together, I offer you this simple, filling and satisfying traditional recipe.
Fondue Lausanne style
1lb cave aged Le Gruyere, this must be imported from Switzerland, Costco carries it.
3 Tbsp. flour
1 clove of garlic split
2 cups dry white wine
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. kirsch (cherry liqueur)
¼ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-2 loaves day old bread cut into 1 inch cubes, use artisan for the best flavors.
Mix the grated cheese with the flour. Rub a fondue pot with the garlic clove. Now pour the wine into the pot and place over medium heat until air bubbles rise to the surface. Add the lemon juice, next the cheese in small amounts stirring constantly to prevent it from burning. Now add the kirsch, nutmeg and pepper, stir the mix
until fully blended. Place the pot over low a flame.
Note: When you dip your bread, swirl it in a figure eight touching the bottom of the pot. This is how the Swiss do it, the figure eight is similar to the cross pattern of the Swiss flag. Be sure to share this with some of your closest friends and family.
Fondue sets can be found at World Market, and in a pinch they also carry prepared fondue from Switzerland, along with Lindt Swiss Chocolate, nutmeg, and imported black pepper for this delicious dish.
Photos courtesy of Kurt Winner