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While IT was visiting, we took her to Château-d’Oex, a small Swiss alpine mountain village that was hosting its annual winter hot-air balloon festival.  See this earlier post here.

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Unfortunately, the weather was not suitable. So we walked around the small village which had several hotels, restaurants and shops.

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The place looks a bit deserted in these photos because there were not a lot of people in the first place and the people were congregating in the cafes and restaurants.

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The Swiss loves fondue and the area is well known for cheese. So we went to Le Chalet (this has to be the most unimaginative name ever given to a Swiss mountain eatery) which is a cafe-restaurant, fromagerie (with a ski school on top) and a shop below (“magasin”).

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Hanging on the outside wall of the restaurants were rows of cow bells.

On our way there, we passed the village of Étivaz, whose name is used to name the hard cheese made in the area. According to Wikipedia:

In the 1930s, a group of 76 Gruyère producing families felt that government regulations were allowing cheesemakers to compromise the qualities that made good Gruyère so special. They withdrew from the government’s Gruyère program, and “created” their own appellation d’origine protégée (AOP) cheese – L’Etivaz – named for the village around which they all lived.

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L’Etivaz is made essentially as Gruyère was 100 years ago. It is a hard cheese made from raw milk, produced by hand over an open fire from May to October in about a hundred Alpine dairies. The raw milk is treated directly in the dairy and is full of aromas of fine Alpine herbs.

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A man was making L’Étivaz-style cheese in the dining room of the restaurant.

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It has a firm texture, a characteristic aromatic/fruity taste with slight hints of nuts that can vary slightly depending on the food given to the cows (so say the promotional leaflet). The cheese is formed into a wheel, 40 to 65 centimeters in diameter with a thickness of 10 centimeters and weighing from 20 to 50 kilograms. It has to be aged for at least 5 months.

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Below the restaurant was a cheese shop which sold various types of local cheeses. We had a tasting of 14, 18 and 24 months old aged L’Étivaz and bought the 18 month-old. To us, they all tasted like a strong flavorful Gruyere, as expected.

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Cheese soup – according to Sue, buttery and very tasty, with bits of vegetables.

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A plate of very local charcuterie to start.

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For the three of us, we ordered two persons’ portions. Local white wine. Bread and potatoes for dipping. Potatoes were our favs.

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The menu at this restaurant did not offer any option on additional ingredients (other than the 2 or 3 kinds of cheeses). At other places we’ve been, various kinds of mushrooms (bolets, morels, etc) can be ordered which are mixed into the cheese giving the fondue a more varied combination of flavors.

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We had a slow, long meal before venturing back out to the cold.

This is a decent touristy restaurant, authentic (in the cheeses used in the fondue) and welcoming. However, we suspect that the locals never eat here.

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One Comment

  1. Yummy. I love fondue.


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