Friday, January 13, 2012

December Redux - Cheese and Castles

In December, we had our first visitors - Kari, Brian's research partner from UW, and Eric and Morgan from California.

Kari, along with her friends Rike and Heinz, shared lots of meals with us while she was here, including fondue and raclette, the two cheesy traditional dishes of Switzerland. I'm sure that most people here are familiar with fondue- in Switzerland, it is pretty much only served with cubed bread and it's traditional to have shots of kirsch (brandy made with cherries), supposedly to make sure the cheese doesn't clump together in your stomach.

Raclette is both the dish and a type of cheese. In the traditional method, a big block of raclette cheese is heated under a special grill under the top layer of the cheese gets all melty. The top melty layer is then scraped onto boiled potatoes (usually) and served with cornichons and pickled onions and perhaps pickled mushrooms and baby corn. Raclette is sometimes also prepared in a mini grill pan for those who don't want to buy the giant block of cheese. Warning: raclette cheese is moderately stinky so your kitchen will smell like it for a few days.

In addition to eating cheesy dishes, Kari got a tour of Google and some shopping and tourist days as well as a talk at ETH, the technical university in Zurich.

Only a day later, Eric and Morgan strolled into town on their European tour. For the day, we went down to Bellinzona, a small city in the southern Italian part of Switzerland. Bellinzona is known for the three castles that dominate the town and is a UNESCO heritage site. (That night, we made them eat raclette, to continue the cheese theme).
Bellinzona Castle Wall

The following week, Brian and I had booked a table on the Fonduetram. As it sounds, it's a tram that serves you fondue while driving you around the city. It's a little kitschy, but the fondue was tasty and included a nice appetizer and light dessert. The best part is probably seeing people and views out the window - however, with the fondue, the windows steam up a bit. To help out with this, they provide each table with a squeegee to clean the windows.

Fondue Tram

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