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Andermatt Swiss Alps

Swiss Fondue: A Rich Tradition

Think food and Switzerland, and what comes to mind? Second only to our famously irresistible chocolate is probably our national dish – fondue.

This rich dish of melted cheese takes its name from the French verb fondre, meaning ‘to melt’, and its origins are thought to lie in the 18th century, when both wine and cheesemaking were key Swiss industries. Today, fondue is a traditional dish across parts of France and Italy, as well as Switzerland. Each region has its own recipe that uses different combinations of regional cheeses and varies the additional flavourings according to local tastes. When it comes to fondue, we at Andermatt are traditionalists – our favourite here in Andermatt is the classic combination of Gruyère and Emmenthal.

Cheeses for fondue - image via Flickr by Goldhahn and Sampson

All fondue recipes share the same basic principles, however.  First, the caquelon (special communal pot) is rubbed with a clove of garlic, then at least two kinds of cheese are melted inside it with the addition of either dry white wine or kirsch, plus a little cornflour to help to stabilise the mixture. This is kept warm over a portable stove, or réchaud, ready for cubes of bread to be dunked in using long forks. You might also be offered meats, vegetables and pickles to coat in cheese.

Fondue has always been popular among locals, as well as the skiiers and winter sports fans that visit us here – there’s really nothing better after a day spent on the slopes – but it has suffered slightly further afield in past years due to its reputation as a slightly dated, 1970s-style dinner party dish.

A meal as delicious as this will never be out of fashion for long, however, and fondue is back on the menu at some of the coolest tables. The trendsetting team behind London’s pop-up pizza supperclub Forza Win launched their first-ever ‘Forza Winter’ this year, swapping pizza for fonduta – an Italian twist on fondue more suited to chilly evenings. Tickets have proven almost impossible to get hold of, with every night sold out – but we can rest easy knowing that this was one trend we were well ahead of.

Other than the obvious fact that it consists of a large pot of delicious, melted cheese, there are plenty more reasons to love fondue. This is a particularly sociable way to eat – the perfect meal for sharing with friends and for getting to know new acquaintances better.

Swiss fondue - image via Flickr by Simon Bonaventure Fondue set - image via Flickr by kochtopf

It’s probably thanks to the convivial nature of serving and eating fondue that so many rituals and superstitions have grown up around it. Swiss tradition dictates, for example, that a man who looses his chunk of bread in the pot must buy a round of drinks, while a woman has to bestow a kiss on those to each side of her – well worth knowing before you sit down to a meal of  fondue here!

If you hear people discussing la religieuse – or ‘the nun’ – while eating fondue, then don’t expect an visit from Maria von Trapp. This is the name given to the crust of cheese which forms on the base of the caquelon and which is lifted off and eaten once all the melted cheese has been finished. It’s a considered a delicacy – and is your reward for eating your way through the entire dish of fondue.

And if you’re wondering what to drink with your fondue, then this is a somewhat contentious issue – some prefer black tea, some spirits, but we’d always recommend a dry white wine such as our own Swiss Chasselas, or alternatively a Chignin from Savoie.

Our pick of the best places to try this national dish in Andermatt is the local specialists, Ochsen.

Given all this cheese (and chocolate), then, we can only be grateful that Andermatt offers so many opportunities for fresh air and exercise throughout the winter season.

Read more about the history of chocolate in Switzerland in our post here, and you can find an excellent recipe for traditional Swiss fondue here.

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