It’s all about the cheese, and we had been hearing about raclette before we ever stepped foot into Switzerland. We knew that it was melted cheese over potatoes and other good stuff. We knew that it involved a machine at the table. We knew we wanted some.
Even at the Alpabfahrt last month, with our first raclette, we knew there had to be more to it than a styrofoam plate of gooey cheese and some potatoes (as good as it was). Then the Two Small Potatoes wrote about their experiences with this Swiss dish. Excitement was mounting.
Then the ETH professor whose lab H is working in this year invited us for dinner last Saturday. He told us they would serve raclette. We were ready!
White wine goes with cheese, and there are some fine white wines produced here in this small country (which never get exported since the supply is limited), but I have no idea how to choose a bottle here. Enter Denner, the discount food store with a huge wine supply (from around the world) and weekly specials. If you go online and check out their wine specials, you can also read customer reviews. Even if you don’t read German or French, the 4-5 stars are easy to translate. Armed with two bottles, we headed over to D’s flat (just a 6-minute walk from ours).
Turns out this was a dinner party with D and his wife, two of their children (one is at the University of Chicago) and another American family where the husband and wife both teach chemistry at the ETH and their nearly-2-year-old son, Bosco, is learning Swiss German in daycare.
So, when you have a group of interesting people (including the daughter who is a student at the ETH and the son in high school who gave us some cultural and linguistic insights about Zürich), then eating raclette becomes the social event it should be.
In the middle of the table sits the raclette machine. Each person gets a small wooden coaster and scraper as well as a little pan with a handle. Place one thickly sliced piece of cheese in your pan and put it into the machine. While you wait for it to become all bubbly, pass around various dishes, from potatoes and small pickles, to sautéed mushrooms, small onions, and thinly sliced meat. When your cheese is ready, scrape it off onto a portion of what’s on your plate, then ask for another piece of cheese to get it going.
Since the process takes a while, you get the opportunity to relax and share in great conversation and make sure that the wine compliments the food (it did). Plus we got to enjoy the incredibly cute toddler.
As the Two Small Potatoes say, Don’t eat out – it’s a waste of money and friends make better raclette.