Photograph by Kurt Winner
Food & Spirits: Lausanne is a city of stairs. On the side of a steep hill, the city was built and fortified for defensive reasons. 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 stretching across to France, Lausanne is a shimmering city made up of many town squares, creating a complex layout.
Because of its hillside location the squares and meeting places are on different levels. To illustrate the point, the subway station we used in the heart of Lausanne was on a slope. It was a strange to walk into a building that was perfectly vertical and horizontal, but the platform and track tipped it to one 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 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 its 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 the cathedral it was time to savor a traditional meal. In search of the oldest purveyor of fondue, French for "melting" we visited one of the best, and also one of the oldest, restaurants in Lausanne, the Café du Grutli. www.cafedugruetli.ch.
Founded in 1849 the specialty of the house is, of course, fondue. The real deal Swiss Fondue made from Le Gruyere cheese, white wine and a touch of garlic and nutmeg. We have all tried it in the States and it was good but Americanized using domestic cheese which did not impart much flavor. But this fondue was a revelation; delicate, with a touch of salt, and like a climber scaling Zermatt's Alps the cheese clings to the bread as it is dragged through the warm pool of cheese.
The Du Grutli has elevated simple ingredients to a culinary art form. This is the source of fondue. More than 150 years of perfecting have paid off in every way.
For cold winter nights and perhaps a holiday get-together I offer you this simple, traditional recipe.
Fondue: Lausanne style
1 lb 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. www.worldmarket.com