Regional specialties
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Fondue is the prime speciality of Suisse-Romande, but there’s a host of other cheesy dishes claiming their roots in the region, including raclette, known countrywide but born and best savoured in the Valais. A large half-round of special raclette cheese is held in front of a fire, and as it melts it’s scraped (raclé) onto a plate, and served with boiled potatoes, pearl onions and pickles, often “à gogo”. The saucisson vaudois, or mixed pork and beef Vaud sausage, is also famous for its delicately smoked flavour, served boiled or steamed, and accompanied by papet vaudois, a delicious purée of potatoes and leeks. Lakeside resorts prepare fresh fish in a hundred different ways, most deliciously as truite meunière, fresh trout floured and sautéd in butter. Autumn across Romandie (and across Ticino too) sees wild mushrooms (Pilzen, champignons, funghi) making an appearance on the menu, from simple croûtes aux champignons (creamy mushrooms on toast) up to flavourful game and mushroom casseroles. In high summer, Valais overflows with golden apricots and peaches, while apples and plums thrive in the lowlands from Lake Geneva to Basel and across to the Bodensee.

All across Deutschschweiz you’ll find plentiful variations of Rösti or Röschti, grated potato formed into a large patty and fried golden-brown on both sides. This can either be an accompaniment to a main course, or, with the embellishment of ham, melted cheese, a fried egg and/or bacon bits, be a comfortably affordable main course itself. An Alpine stomach-liner that has made its way into the lowlands is Älpler Magrone, essentially macaroni cheese with extra onion, bacon, potatoes and cream, often served with puréed apples with cinnamon. Käseschnitten, in different forms, is Welsh rarebit (toasted cheese), while Spätzli and Knöpfli are tiny buttons of boiled dough drizzled with butter. In and around Bern, you’ll find Bernerteller or Bernerplatte, a hefty pile of cold and hot meats including pork sausage, bacon, various hams, smoked pork, knuckles and beef tongue served with beans and plenty of Sauerkraut. Zürich has Züri Gschnetzlets, diced veal in a creamy mushroom sauce, served with Rösti, while St Gallen revels in its own pale, milky veal sausages. In Basel, winter menus offer Basler Mehlsuppe, a heavy brown brew of onions, pork lard and cream, thickened with flour and topped with grated Sbrinz cheese. Graubünden is best known for Bündnerfleisch, prime beef air-dried in an attic and sliced paper-thin in an aromatic Bündnerteller, or as prime ingredient in Bündner Gerstensuppe (barley cream soup with vegetables). With hunting still very popular in Graubünden, you’ll also see plenty of game on autumn menus, such as stews (Pfeffer, fratem) of chamois (Gemse, chamutsch) or deer (Hirsch, tschierv). Zug and Luzern are famous for their black cherries, while Basel has its own dark red variety. Meringue was invented in or near Meiringen, and most Emmental and Bernese Oberland villages offer their own spectacular super-rich, cream-laden meringue creations.

Italian-speaking Ticino has its own cuisine, entirely different from what’s on offer in the rest of the country and more akin to the flavours and methods of neighbouring Piemonte and Lombardy. Polenta (cornmeal) and risotto are staples; leafy salads abound, dressed lightly with olive oil instead of the mayonnaise-based concoctions favoured further north; and fresh home-made pastas and gnocchi (bite-sized potato dumplings), with the familiar tomato- or pesto-based sauces, are delectable. Pollo alla cacciatora is a spicy chicken-and-tomato stew with mushrooms and white wine, served with polenta or boiled potatoes. The Ticinesi also love their sausages, with Mardi Gras in Lugano serving as an excuse for a public pig-out on risotto with luganiga, an extra-rich pork sausage. Spicy mortadella is unlike the Italian version, and can either be cooked or air-dried for eating raw.

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