What do the Swiss eat and drink?

Many Swiss meals include milk products – milk, cheese, yoghurt, cream, butter, but there is of course much regional variation. Here are a few specialities:

Rosti (or Roschti) is grated potato formed into a large patty and fried on both sides which can either be served as part of a meal or as a main dish, in which case ham cheese or bacon may be added.

Saucisson Vaudois, which is pork and beef sausage from the Vaud canton. This sausage is smoked and often served with “papet vaudois” a mixture of leek and potato.

Alplier Magrone originated in the mountains but has become a national favourite and is essentially macaroni cheese with onion, bacon and potatoes.

Bernerplatte is a selection of hot and cold meats served with beans and sauerkraut. This is a speciality of the Berne area.

Zurich has its own meat dish of veal in a creamy mushroom sauce called Zuri Gshnetziets.

Nationally popular are the veal sausages of St Gallen, which have a pale white colour.

Graubunden is noted for its Bundnerfleisch which is prime beef that has been air dried, and served wafer-thin as part of a plate of mixed meats.

Fondue, a shared dish of melted cheese which is a winter meal, has moved out of its original area of Suisse-Romande in the east to be popular in most of the country. The fondue refers the wide shallow dish used for melting the cheese and the pot is usually made from cast iron or earthenware. Various cheese mixes are used but one of the most popular is “moitie-moitie” (hal-half) which uses a mix of two cheeses, often gruyere and emmental. Swiss people take the ritual of making and eating the fondue seriously. The diners each have a long fork and dip pieces of bread into the cheese with penalties such as kissing one’s neighbour if you allow your bread to drop into the pan. The dish can be quite heavy on the digestive system and many people prefer to make fondue eating a rather occasional treat.

In the Italian part, Ticino, there are dishes more like you would find in Northern Italy such as Polenta (cornmeal) and risotto. A classic is gnocchi which are small potato dumplings with a pesto or tomato sauce.

Pollo alla cacciatore is a chicken and tomato stew with mushrooms and spices and white wine, usually served with boiled potatoes or polenta.

Drinks are also different by region. For beer the Basel area has Feldschlosschen brewery while in Fribourg the Cardinal brewery dominates. You will find the standard beer glass is three decilitres being just under a third of a litre.

Switzerland, with its many fruit trees, has developed many distilled spirits such as Kirsch (from cherry), Eau de vie (from Plum), and Grappa made in Ticino (from grape skins).

If you are ordering wine it is best to stick to locally made wines which are very good. Though there are wines from many regions the main wine growing area is Valais where Fendant is the top white wine and in the reds Dole is highly regarded.

Switzerland is famous for alpine muesli, a healthy breakfast dish, which was invented by Dr Bircher-Benner of Zurich over 100 years ago to help the patients of his clinic. Many hotels and supermarket restaurants sell Birchermuesli which contains fruit, yoghurt and oats with a topping of fresh fruit. Actually it is often eaten later in the day by the Swiss.

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