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Dining in Switzerland at Restaurants on Mountaintops

The Après-ski Ritual

Article and photos by Chelsea Frischknecht

Views of the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch peaks from the Schilthorn restaurant.

You quickly learn to be careful where you place your coffee in a rotating restaurant. It’s a disconcerting moment of confusion, to have set your mug on the windowsill just a moment before, only to find it gone and spinning away the next time you absent-mindedly reach for a sip.

Dining at a "James Bond Restaurant" in Schilthorn

My husband, his Swiss cousin, and I were at the Schilthorn, the 60’s-chic mountaintop restaurant featured in the old Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Service. Though the restaurant is now a popular destination for skiers and in-the-know tourists, the Bond movie is still the restaurant's greatest claim to fame.

Besides the view, of course. The restaurant boasts a circumspect view of the surrounding Alps, crowned by the triple peaks of the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch. It had taken us four gondolas and a 50-degree temperature drop to reach the restaurant from the base of mountain. On the way up we had passed base jumpers and skiers alike, some of whom were joining us in the restaurant now for a traditional Swiss Aprés-Ski (after ski).

Riding the Gondola up to the Schilthorn in Switzerland..

Our food arrived; mine a hearty plate of rösti and wurst, a fried potato cake and sausage with onion gravy. My husband’s speatzle was the showstopper however, a cast-iron skillet of homemade noodles tossed with diced ham, cheese, and topped with a mound of unsweetened whipped cream. Speatzle is a Germanic version of noodles, made by scraping a thick egg batter through a grate until it drops into a pot of boiling water. While it doesn’t require the finesse of making Italian pasta, cooking a large pot of speatzle does entail quite a bit of muscle.

Speatzle with ham and cream served at the Schilthorn.

While the concept of Aprés-Ski denotes an entire set of activities other than eating (such as dancing, drinking, etc), the food is the most well known institution. Switzerland is a country of varied cultural influences, blending French, German, Austrian, and Italian from each point of the compass. As a result, the foods offered change greatly from region to region, a delicious tribute to the great diversity that makes up Switzerland.

Dining in St. Moritz

Hosted by another set of relatives in Graubunden, in the southeast corner of Switzerland, we were treated to an afternoon touring St. Moritz, playground for the rich and famous. We counted no less than seven private jets flying overhead, dropping their wealthy patrons off at the local airport. Halfway through a long trek in the snow-covered valleys, we stopped for a shot of Zirbengeist, locally made schnapps delicately flavored by freshly picked pinecones. The sweet herbal liquor cut the cold and kept us warm until safely holed up in a café for hot chocolate and cake.

Trekking through the valleys around St. Moritz.

Drinking Zirbengeist liquor midway through our trek through St. Moritz’s surrounding valleys.

Dining in St. Gallen

In St. Gallen, the northeast canton of Switzerland that borders both Germany and Austria, we were served cheese fondue, along with heaping bowls of crusty bread and boiled new potatoes. Side dishes of raw garlic, sour pickles, onions, and olives accompany the fondue to help tame the richness of the cheese. While white wine is the most well known accompaniment to fondue, the Swiss often will drink hot tea or kirsch (a sipping liquor made of cherries) instead. The fondue itself is typically made of a blend of cheeses, most commonly a mix of Gruyere and Emmenthal, then finished with a touch of cornstarch, white wine, and nutmeg. The incentive for finishing the fondue is la religlieuse, the crust of golden cheese that coats the bottom of the pot. My Swiss relatives have been known to fence with their spear-like fondue forks for bites la religlieuse.

Eating cheese fondue while two of my relatives vie for la religlieuse.

The Swiss excel in luxuriously rich foods, a natural byproduct of a landscape studded by cows. And the Swiss really do love their cows. It is a national emblem, an icon you can find embroidered into lederhosen and pierced into the ears of the country’s more traditional men. For those not living the high Alpine herdsman lifestyle however, a frequent meal of cheese fondue spells death for the waistline. 

Hence the unique pleasure of an Aprés-Ski. After a long day on the slopes, nothing feels quite as justified as a plate of buttered speatzle and sausage, a decadent mug of hot chocolate, or a large bowl of melted cheese.

Hot chocolate and cake in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Classic Swiss Cheese Fondue

1 and ¾ cups Dry White Wine
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and sliced in half
2 tsp. Cornstarch
½ lb. Gruyere Cheese, shredded
½ lb. Emmenthal Cheese, shredded
½ lb. Vacherin Fribourgeois Cheese (Fontina can substituted if needed)
Pinch of Nutmeg

Rub the inside of the fondue pot with the garlic cloves, dicing the remainder to be added to the fondue. Place the fondue pot directly on the stove burner over medium-high heat and whisk together the wine and cornstarch until smooth. Add the garlic and cheese and stir until the cheese is melted, smooth, and evenly coats the back of a spoon. Adjust the texture to your liking with additional wine or a splash of kirsch.

Serve warm from the fondue pot with cubed bread or boiled potatoes. Serves 4.

For More Information

(Check your currency calculator, rates at time of writing 1 CHF = US$1.14.)

Schilthorn Restaurant, "James Bond Brunch" is CHF 35.

Schilthorn: Swiss Skyline: Scores of activities, from skiing to sledding to eating fondue.

Author Chelsa Frishknect.

More by Chelsea Frischknecht
Enjoying Rustic Wine Grape Harvest Rituals in France
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Culinary Travel
Living in Switzerland

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