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article by
Freelance Travel, and Food Journalist | President IFWTWA / Mwmediaone

Cheese Fondue Recipe From Lausanne, Switzerland's Café du Grütli

Jan. 27th, 2011 | Comments 3 | Make a Comment   
Photo Credit: Kurt Winner

It seems that fondue, the very definition of 1960s culinary élan and the toast of nearly every suburban American housewife's kitchen, is making a comeback. Not because we yearn for a cheesy piece of bread on a stick, but because today we are able to create a truer version.

The availability of real Swiss cheeses and the evolution of the American palate is the driving force. "Fondue," French for "melting," is more than a meal; in winter it is a seasonal event. The Swiss gather around a warm communal pot of cheese with family and friends after an invigorating walk or down-hill run and take turns dipping.

In the French-speaking Swiss Canton of Vaud, one of the oldest restaurants, Café du Grütli, still presides over Lausanne's cobblestone heart. Founded in 1849, the specialty of the house is fondue made with Swiss Le Gruyere cheese, Swiss white wine and a touch of garlic and nutmeg. The fondue is delicate, nutty, slightly sweet and it clings to the bread, filling each tiny air pocket with a pool of cheese.

Step from the street into the crowded restaurant and youll go back in time a few hundred years. Just as in centuries past, the walls are still carved wood, the place is still bustling and the recipe for a good meal is still the same. Husband and wife, Heike and Willi Prutsch, oversee the local specialties flying out of the kitchen. They orchestrate the symphony of warmed pots of fondue, baskets of bread, and Swiss Lavaux or Vaudois wine going to each table.

If you can't make it to Café du Grutli to taste this Swiss specialty, try this simple, traditional recipe at home.

Fondue Lausanne style
To remain as authentic as possible you'll need 1lb cave aged Le Gruyere, 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)
  • ? tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 loaves day old Como or French 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. Pour the wine into the pot and place over medium heat until air bubbles rise to the surface. Add the lemon juice, then cheese in small amounts. Stir constantly to prevent it from burning. Add the kirsch, nutmeg and pepper. Stir the mix until fully blended. Place fondue pot over a low flame or fondue warmer. Serve immediately with bread cubes. Set out a fondue fork for each person.

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 because the figure eight is said to mimic the cross pattern of the Swiss flag. 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.
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3 Comments on this Article

Michelle Winner commented on January 30, 2011

Dear Un Lausannois, Thank you so much for your comments. We tested several recipes when searching for a recipe close to what we had at Cafe du Grutli. We went by taste only. I believe that fondue is much like someone's beloved Nonnas's meatballs in Italy ! Everyone has a regional way of cooking. Some use different cheeses; cheese water content varries too. I have researched and you are indeed correct about the ratios. But so am I; the variations in my research of cheese to wine ratio in good fondue recipes varries as much as 2 cups of wine to one cup of cheese as above or 2 1/2 pounds of cheese to 12 fluid ounces of wine. The Cafe did not wish to share its recipe as you might guess! But please feel free to send me one of yours- I am always willing to learn and I would be delighted to print it in one of my colums . Thank you so much for writing my culinary friend.

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Maralyn D Hill commented on January 28, 2011

Michelle and Kurt Winner did a beautiful job of capturing this moment in Lausanne.

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Un Lausannois commented on January 27, 2011

This recipe requires (at least) 1kg of cheeze not 1lb. That quantity of wine is for 1kg to 1.2kg. Done as described, it will be a catastrophe... 1 person --> 0.2kg of cheeze, more or less 1kg = 454g = .454kg Un Lausannois (i.e. someone living in Lausanne)

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