Street-roasted marroni nuts, or chestnuts, are the perfect hand warmer when layers of snow cake the streets of Europe. This seasonal Swiss treat appears in fall, when bakers bring them inside to create delectable chestnut paste for desserts. The sweet nuts are pureed, and then mixed with sugar, butter, vanilla and a splash of Kirsch, a German fruit brandy. This concoction is pressed through a ricer and served on top of meringue, graham cracker crust or even ice cream. Vermicelli has a popular presence in patisseries, restaurants and cafes until the end of marroni season in March.
Älpnermacronen (Macaroni des Alpes)
Swiss folks intend to comfort you, not only with their exceptional hospitality but also with warm blends of carbohydrates and cheeses. One local favorite is macaroni of the Alps, or Älpnermacronen. The dish begins with squared boiled potatoes combined with macaroni noodles. Added to the mix is a splash of cream, the spices Aromat and nutmeg, and melted Sbrinz, a traditional Swiss cheese. Another common cheese used is Appenzeller. When served, the dish is topped with pan-fried or caramelized onions. This rich plate becomes even more savory with an optional addition: warm applesauce on top.
Dipping squares of bread into a blend of melted cheeses is now considered a chic cuisine option reminiscent of 1970’s-style dinner parties, but it originally began as frugal fare during Switzerland’s long, bitter winters. Mountain dwellers in the French-speaking Canton of Neuchâtel would preserve their cheeses and bake bread in advance to sustain themselves through the snowy season. Though the cheese was dense and the stale bread harder, resourceful folks discovered that melting the two together made each ingredient digestible, even delectable. They added dry wine from the fruitful Appalachian vineyards to create a savory, filling provision that they named after the French verb fondre, to melt.
The most common variety of fondue is a balanced combination of soft Gruyere and sharp Emmenthaler cheeses, but the location of your host’s home might add some variation. In Geneva, the original Gruyere and Emmenthaler are combined with Walliser Bergkase, a nutty mountain cheese, and morel mushrooms. While they both use Gruyere cheese to start, the residents of Fribourg combine thick Vacherin in the pot and the people from Glarus add in their local green-colored Schabzieger. The natives of Eastern Switzerland prefer a blend of Appenzeller and Vacherin, and on top of that they add dry cider. Most of the select cheeses originated in their respective cantons, so each brimming pot of gooey goodness holds a short geography, and history lesson, inside.
Like fondue, this spicy wine is an attempt at preservation of goods gone bad. It’s a mixture of old red wine and cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Gluvine is served warm, often with an orange slice.