what to seek out in Switzerland?
Are there any cheeses you know and love that will be more easily found and sampled in Switzerland? What are the must trys? (I am supposed to be avoiding unpasteurized products but may make an exception for something really special.)
Go the the city of Chateau Gruyere where cheese shops will be selling Gruyere in ages with three month differences up to five years. It is wonderful.
Also Raclette Bagnes, with the Bagnes pressed on the rind.
Also,also,also,just try everything you see.
Thanks for asking this question. Dredged up some memories and sent me searching through some of my photos of Zurich.
July 2007, I arrived in Zurich Hauptbanhhof, sick with bronchitis and weary from travel, for an afternoon and overnight before flying home. I walked in from the platform and discovered a large indoor market that takes over RailCity on Wednesdays. I spotted a huge trailer, a mobile cheese store specializing in cheeses from the Zurich region. Learning that this show would shut down in a few hours, I hustled to my hotel to check in and leave my bags, then hurried back.
As Delucacheesemonger recommends, taste wherever you can, and I did. The owner of the Züri-Natürli cheese truck was happy to sample me on many items and tell me about them. Having the chance to taste many Alpine cheeses in succession gave me a much better appreciation of them. And in mid-summer, the aged cheeses were mostly made with spring milk, the richest of the year. I'm remembering one that he referred to as "cream cheese". Not the soft, fresh Philly variety, but instead a firm mild cheese that shows off the floral and spring green character of the Alpine cream.
Looking at my photos, here are links to some of the ones I tried and brought home with me.
Bündner Bergkäse (rezent means spicy in Swiss-German)
Muhlestein - this was very special, one to seek out. Made by Willi Schmid at Städtlichäsi Lichtensteig GmbH, one of the top cheesemakers
Züri-Natürli has a number of outlets now, shown here,
Searching the net for more info on Züri-Natürli, this post on Chowhound popped up with some recs too,
I was glad to have the chance to find and look at those photos again. Would not have remembered the names of any of the cheeses without them. Please do let us know what you discover cheese-wise on your travels.
And as wonderful as those cheeses were, I'll go off-topic to say that the thing that you must seek out and bring back are Luxembergerli. There is a note on the box that says refrigeration is required (the filling is buttercream). They're perfectly fine for the flight from Zurich back to San Francisco, tucked under the seat resting on the cold plane floor.
re: Melanie Wong
YUM. They look like macarons. Is that right? I am gluten intolerant and since I'll be 15 weeks pregnant while we are there can't blithely decide to eat and just suffer the consequences (a reason we decided on Switzerland instead of Spain where I'd really regret missing some of the tapas). I figured there would be plenty of good cheese and veggies + potatoes to dip in fondue on this trip so will only shed a small tear when my DH gets to indulge in all the grainy german style breads that I used to love so much :)
They are similar to a french macaron but better. They are only made by Sprüngli and were invented in 1957.
I would bet that they are GF, but you should check to be sure.
For the most part, I chose to forego the breads, good as they were, in Switzerland to have more room in my belly for cheese. :)
Skip the names you recognize. You can get them in the USA and the quality of the aged Gruyere (French) we buy at our home in the USA is better than what we can buy at our home in Switzerland. That's according to my Swiss wife who lives cheese.
Melanie Wong has excellent advice, good cheese shop, look, smell, sample, buy what you like.
For unique cheeses, there's a huge assortment of farmers/artisan cheeses available that we do not see in the USA. Markets are where you find them. They can be superb.
Typically you will be offered a sample. Its the norm, do not hesitate asking if none is offered.
There was just a comparison on French vs. Swiss Gruyere and the French was handed it's walking papers over the use of the name 'gruyere'. l think a 24-40 month Comte is wonderful but far prefer the Swiss product for Gruyere.
Also l live half the year in France and routinely buy a Gruyere des Alpages that according to the two main gruyere exporters has never been exported to the States, thus many times the best product may remain at the source.
Don't forget to buy something to cut the cheese with. As well as the air dried and smoked meats and sausages. My personal favorite is a Victorinox that was issued to the West German army. That corkscrew sure came in handy!!
Definitely stop in any cutlery or hunting store and get a Swiss knife that you can use in the future and hopefully be the source of many happy memories.