La Gruyère, Switzerland
If I were to recommend any region of Switzerland to visit, it would be La Gruyère in the canton of Fribourg in the French- speaking Suisse-Romande. The charming historic village of Gruyères-Ville and the surrounding area are not only famous for its namesake – Gruyère cheese – but also a number of sights to see as well as naturally gluten-free delights.
From the train station, the medieval town of Gruyères-Ville – complete with lookout points along the old stone walls – is just a quick hike along the road up to the hill where the town is situated. A short 3 minute bus ride will also drop you off right at the entrance to town. Much of La Gruyère’s culinary highlights feature the dairy that is produced in the region, from milk to cheese to double crème. It is a largely rural and agricultural area. Cows can be seen dotting the hillsides happily grazing away. Just next to the train station is La Maison de Gruyères where one can learn how Gruyère cheese is made and peer into the cellars that house up to 7,000 maturing wheels of cheese.
The village center is lined with all manner of shops and fondue restaurants, with geraniums hanging in practically every window. Also visible throughout the village is the crane that emblazons the coat of arms. Even the very name Gruyère stems from the French word for crane, la grue.
Some of the best fondue around can be found in the restaurants that overlook the surrounding hills out to the peaks of the pre-Alps. Moitié –moitié is the most common type of fondue, consisting of half Gruyère and half vacherin Fribourgeois cheeses. While traditionally accompanied with bread, it is very common to request potatoes (pommes de terres) instead. It is standard to serve one large fondue pot for the table, so if you are dining with non gluten-free folks who want bread with their fondue, be sure that you order separate portions (en portions séparée) so that there are no cross-contamination issues. While most everyone is quite knowledgeable about what it means to have to eat gluten-free, it is still a good practice to explain any dietary restrictions ahead of time to ensure a worry-free dining experience.
Another type of fondue often available is fondue vacherin, which is made with all vacherin Fribourgeois cheese and traditionally served with potatoes. It is a bit stronger in taste compared to moitié-moitié, and a personal favorite! La Maison de Traditions, a restaurant overlooking the region situated in the center of the village, offers a romantic setting for Swiss cuisine featuring fondue made with their own house-made cheese crafted by owner Jean-Louis Jordan. You can dine indoors or outdoors basking in the natural and traditional beauty of the region.
For dessert, there are several naturally gluten-free culinary treats that are hallmarks of La Gruyère. If dining at a restaurant, be sure to order some meringue cookies with double crème and seasonal fruit. Meringues, a naturally flourless cookie made of egg whites and sugar, are a regional specialty. Double crème (upwards of 50 percent fat), is thick enough to hold a spoon straight up and is sometimes so thick that it can withstand being held in a bowl upside down without falling out. Meringues and double crème are paired on the dessert plate with the double crème being served in a little round wooden pot. Crush up the meringue and spoon the double crème on top. Something delectably magical happens as they unite in an irresistible flavor that lingers on the tongue.
Along with the town, Gruyère cheese dates back to the Middle Ages and today is produced in a few varieties that differ by age of the cheese: mild, semi-salty (mi-salé), or salty (salé). Sample a bit of each to find your favorite. For a sweet snack, pick up a bag of artisanal caramels made with Gruyère cream. Sitting outside at a café, you may even catch the song of Swiss yodelers.
At the top of the hill in Gruyères-Ville sits the Château de Gruyères where you can roam the grounds and tour the interior, seeing several rooms from different periods in the castle’s 800 year history. In town are also the well known Tibet Museum and HR Giger Museum. Outside of the village, visitors can ski in the winter at nearby Moléson, one of the most easily distinguishable peaks of the area where cable cars ascend from Moléson-Village to the nearly 2,000 meter summit. In the summer, several hiking trails meander through the region, offering gorgeous views of the hills and pre-Alps. The sentier de fromageries, or cheese making trail, starts at La Maison du Gruyère by the train station and goes up the hills through pastures of grazing cows and past several chalets, ending at the Fromagerie d’alpage in Moléson-Village.
With beautiful scenery, delicious food, and numerous activities, you are sure to fall under La Gruyère’s enchanting spell. La Gruyère will offer you the opportunity to experience the best highlights of Switzerland all in one place during any season of the year. And best of all, so many of the iconic delights of the region are naturally gluten-free!
Written by Jennifer Oliver