Right about 25 years… yep, that’s the last time I played tourist at the Chocolate and Cheese Factories in Lausanne. I can’t remember much, but I’m definitely more impressed now than before. One thing for sure, it’s truly heavenly when you have these treats straight from the oven!! The history tour at Maison Cailler was as interesting as the amount of free chocolate they feed you at the end of it! But no matter how much you’ve stuffed your face with, you can’t help but buy some more chocolates before leaving this wonderful chocolate heaven. The self walk tour is organized by timing and led in small groups; with each visitor assigned with individual personalized language audio headphones. Besides indulging in the free chocs, I also liked the see, feel, touch and taste room.
Boxes of raw ingredients from cocoa to almond to vanilla laid out for your five four senses. Start, or end with a lustrous hot chocolate at the cafe. It is sooo good! We picked up 3 bags of chocolate powder thereafter so we could recreate the same toasty beverage at home.
The Cailler House also conducts chocolate making classes at CHF77 per person. I watched from the glass kitchen as kids and adults nervously pour and pop chocolates out of molds. This could be a fun experience if you’ve got the time!
MAISON DE GRUYERE
If you’re in the neighbourhood, lunch at the Gruyère Restaurant is a no-brainer. Where better but here for an authentic Cheese Fondue? Sure, many Swiss restaurants do a decent to great job; but it really can’t get any awesom-er when freshly made wheels of cheese sit right next door! Half Gruyère and half Vacherin, the two local cheeses make up the most satiny, gooey, delicious cheese dip for plain old bread and potatoes. It is rich, yet light. And for someone who had never been able to finish a portion of fondue ever, I was longing for more after scraping the bottom of the fondue pot!
La Maison du Gruyère @ Place de la Gare 3, CH-1663 Pringy-Gruyères Phone: +41(0)26 921 84 00
RESTAURANT LA JONQUE
Conventionally, I’d not opt for a Chinese meal outside Asia whilst on vacation. But we were hosting dinner for a group of Swiss friends whom all adore Chinese cuisine! Also, I know many Asians crave some Sweet & Sour Anything after one too many cheese and potatoes! So here goes!
Before we begin, when you eat Chinese in Europe, it’s unlikely to taste the same as what you get back home. But have an open mind and it’s all good.
Pretty close and expectantly, the mandatory Sweet & Sour Pork matched in taste and texture; lacking only on the bright tomatoey hue we’re used to. As you can see from the photo (which hasn’t gone through any color filter), it is more brown than bright tomato red. But the pork nuggets were fried well, without any icky greasiness. No fatty cuts were used, yet the meat was tender. So this was satisfying enough.
Basil Chicken tasted like neither the Taiwanese nor the Thai version but was special in its own way. Good thinking, using dark meat to maintain moisture and tenderness. The basil wasn’t overpowering but it was aromatically present. The sweetish savory brown sauce coated every piece of chicken nicely. And though it said on the menu it was cooked with Szechuan peppers, it was nowhere spicy.
Tofu with Mixed Vegetables in Claypot was cooked in a savory brown sauce (Yes… Chinese food in Europe are almost all brown!). The semi firm tofu triangles were first fried before joining a party of cabbage, mushrooms, wood ear fungus, carrots, chives and bamboo shoots. Covered and braised within a claypot until all flavors melded, it was tasty enough to drown my rice with!Beef in Peanut Sauce wasn’t Satay skewers as we had expected. Instead, we got sliced beef stir fried in a peanutty Satay sauce. This was a hit with our Swiss friends though it is nothing I’ve ever seen in my life as an Asian! BUT! You can’t fault it when they bring you succulent beef swimming in smokey creamy peanut buttery sauce complete with crunchy peanuts in every bite! Ironically, some of our local beef Satay don’t taste as juicy as this!
What’s appalling was the Deep fried Wonton starter. At first look, you’re impressed with the mere giganticness of it! It is the size of your palm, which is 10 times the size of a regular wonton! Then you take a bite, and another, and another, and realize it is all dough! And when you finally reach “the best part” also known as the “meat filling”, it was a petty teaspoon of under-seasoned minced meat. Which explains the plum sauce it came with. Would feel less deceived if it’d been called a cracker : ) What an anti climax!
La Jonque is our go-to (if necessary) for their friendly service, comfortable seating and reasonable cooking skills. Its a family restaurant, not the stuffy high end type, yet I can’t recommend it for its reasonable pricing. Every dish is portioned for 1-2 persons and priced between CHF28-30. Single serving soups are between CHF9-12. Pretty steep I feel, but if you’re desperate for some Chinese food, it will fix that crave.
CABANE DU PETIT OISEAU
2 days into my Swiss immersion, we drove an hour to Cabane du Petit Oiseau in Moleson for another round of cheese fondue! Perched on a mountain near Vevey, the cozy local restaurant boasts not just a superb menu but also a farm of goats, donkeys, horses and rabbits! Here’s the scoop. This is nothing close to touristy. In fact, only local Swiss in the vicinity would be familiar with this hidden gem. You’re welcomed!
We wasted no time! First call of the day, the Fondue Moitie Moitie! Made with local Gruyère and Vacherin. The silky smooth gooey cheese was so light yet so flavorful, we couldn’t stop dipping! A thin slab of charred burnt cheese, hot and crispy, awaits at the bottom of the pot. Truly the the gold at the end of the rainbow!
The house special Rösti was really good too. Fluffy on the inside with a smokey charred “skin”. You could have it with eggs, or mushrooms, cheese or ham or both. Our double sunny side up made us very happy!
Also a specialty on the menu is their home cured meats. There was beef (always good) and horse (very yummy). The beef was tender and beefy while the cured horse meat was rich (-er in taste and texture).
We spent some time walking around the area, just taking in the beautiful surroundings, the fresh air and the peacefulness of it all. I was told they get pretty busy over weekends when locals flock from nearby cities to soak in some sun and nature. I’m so glad I got the chance to visit.
I love how peaceful and quaint this little mountainside getaway is. I am definitely not into the touristy kinda traveling but there’s been no regrets being a camera toting traveller the past few days and rounding off with the Cabane du Petit Oiseau, Home of the Little Bird!
Disclaimer- This is not a sponsored post.