Switzerland is incomparably glorious land and after a second visit, I only want more. What surprises is that the food, hardly noticed next to reigning European cuisines, French and Italian, holds such fresh, satisfying foods well beyond the cheese and chocolate they are rightly known for. I was amazed by fresh seafood, rich desserts… better food than I had expected in this pristine country. More of that in my next issue. For now, I share great Swiss finds for drinks or snacks:
Esther’s Guesthouse, Gimmelwald: The most gorgeous place I’ve been to (twice now), Gimmelwald (not Grindelwald, the more well-known, touristy ski resort also in the Swiss Alps) is nothing short of a piece of heaven. Gimmelwald is a small smattering of chalets and inns up in the Alps, without cars, shops or restaurants; edelweiss grows in abundance; the soundtrack of cows’ constantly ringing bells. Food must be purchased elsewhere (restaurants are in the village of Murren, a cable car ride up the mountain). We rented an apartment in Esther’s Guesthouse, a local farm with plain but clean digs and friendly staff. In what one can hardly call a shop, rather a shelf with a handful of items off the front of the house, Esther’s sells cheeses, meats and yogurt from their local cows… a highlight of my Swiss food adventures. Cheeses, thinly sliced meats and sausages from local cows are rustic, savory. The yogurt is simply the best I’ve ever had in flavors such as vanilla bourbon, mango, cherry and chocolate. If only I could get it elsewhere, which I realize would clearly defeat the point, I’d be a devoted fan.
Patisserie Tea Room Francey, Montreux, 021-963-4107 – Located a couple blocks up from picturesque Lake Geneva, I stumbled upon this Patisserie, my favorite café of the trip. The cappuccinos are perfect: French-style, rich, strong. Pastries are likewise perfection with tarts, croissants and a Gruyere ham roll so addictive, I had to order a second one for the road.
Brassiere Café de Paris, Lausanne – In another Lake Geneva town, this café is famed for chocolates, which are clearly its highlight. They can be ordered online and are on display in the front of the café. Their pastries, pates and coffees are French-style (as is much in these mainly French-speaking Swiss towns), though the simple Patisserie in Montreux was better. A worthy stop in Lausanne for breakfast, coffee or chocolate.
Giger Bar, Gruyeres – The quintessential Swiss village of Gruyeres (yes, where the heavenly cheese comes from!) is well worth a visit for its idyllic rolling hillsides bordering mountains and excess of cows roaming the surrounding countryside of a medieval walled, one street village. It’s so adorable, so very Swiss, that it’s almost a shock to come across the Giger Bar and Museum of famed local artist, H.R. Giger, who designed creatures and sets for the “Alien” movies. The museum is so dark and disturbing I had to shake it off upon leaving. But the nearby Bar, lined with Alien vertebrae ceilings, walls and chairs, is an eclectic, funky find not just in Gruyeres but anywhere – a memorable change of pace. Famed local dessert of heavy cow’s cream with berries, Double Cream, is served here, as are bar drinks, coffees, wines.
Piz Gloria, atop the Schilthorn: Famed for earth-shattering views of the Jungfrau Alps as captured in the James Bond film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, Piz Gloria is a ‘60’s looking revolving restaurant atop the Schilthorn peak (the majority of traffic you’ll see passing through Gimmelwald are day trippers on their way up to this 10,000 foot peak). It’s obnoxiously touristy, complete with a shop full of key chains and postcards. But for a front row view of the breathtaking, 14,000 foot Jungfrau range, we ordered drinks only (and were kindly given a table) and spent an idyllic hour over coffee and Baileys circling the Alps.
Zum Storchen Cafe & Bar: Kornmarkt 9 (Plz 6004), Lucerne, 041-410-602 – In the center of Old Town, this tiny café has a Spanish tapas and wine focus but also serves great coffee and pastries in a modern, cozy setting. There are only a couple tables, including some outside on the square, with most seats at the bar. The smokers can be excessive, but I found it a memorable spot outside my hotel to journal over coffee while observing a sophisticated crowd of young and old debating culture over drinks (at least from what I could pick up in German!)
Movenpick: Perhaps my favorite Swiss snack of all, one I savored in stands along Lake Geneva, from grocery stores, in cafés in Lucerne… Switzerland’s own Movenpick ice cream. Double Crème with Meringues was a fabulous local tribute to the cow cream of Gruyeres and meringues, also “invented” in Meiringen, Switzerland. But Movenpick’s real glory lies in fruit flavors: light but creamier than sorbet, potent with flavor, it was all I could do not to go back for seconds after each visit (I did anyway!) Lemon & Lime, sour and tart, with zest of both fruits, was perhaps my favorite. But how could I choose that over the Grapefruit & Orange or Passion Fruit & Mango? Better to just love them all… and wish we had a distributor in the States.