Visiting a friend in Geneva, Switzerland, the Masked Diner decided that he just had to have some iconic Swiss food. As time and funds did not permit him to try every possible Swiss specialty, he opted for something familiar, yet hoped that there would be something novel about the experience. He decided to have raclette, that meal consisting of melted raclette cheese poured over boiled potatoes.
MD has had raclette many, many times — almost always at home, where the meal was a simple matter of buying some raclette cheese from Chris’ Cheesemongers, boiling some potatoes, then firing up his ancient Tefal raclette maker. But he wanted to see how it was done in the country where the dish originated.
MD’s friend, who has taken countless out-of-town guests on try-something-Swiss dinners, was probably glad that MD didn’t want that other Swiss cheese specialty, fondue. He took MD to Auberge de Saviese on the popular rue des Paquis in downtown Geneva, where they had one the house raclette special, offering three servings of raclette cheese, boiled fingerling potatoes, and an order of the assiette Valaisanne, a traditional platter of ham, bacon, dried meat, sausage, and cheese. (Cost: CHF 31, or about C$34).
The main part of the meal, the star of the show, doesn’t look like much, admittedly — its really just a puddle of sticky, melted cheese (shown sprinkled with some paprika). But it’s one of those foods that tastes way better than it looks.
There’s no elaborate ceremony with raclette: you take a potato, pour or spread the cheese over it, and enjoy. Raclette cheese has a stronger smell than, say, cheddar, but is by no means one of those stinky cheeses that may be an acquired taste. If you like gruyere, you will probably like raclette.
In between bites of cheese-coated potato, you can enjoy the various meats that are part of the assiette Valaisanne, or have some of the cornichon (crisp, tart pickles made from tiny gherkin cucumbers) and pickled pearl onions.
Three servings of the raclette cheese prove to be more than enough to feel pleasantly full. But there was
room for dessert, so MD’s reliable guide suggested another local favourite, the meringue with Gruyere double cream
(cost: CHF 10, or about C$11).
This dish may resemble dumplings covered in white sauce, but what it actually resembles more is a taste of heaven. There is no sugar added to the double cream, but that’s because it’s rich enough as it is. Between MD and his friend, the submerged meringue and all the cream disappeared quickly. It was only in deference to etiquette that MD did not lick the plate.
Elsewhere in the restaurant, other diners were dipping into their fondues. But MD had no regrets. The raclette meal was delightful, unforgettable, and, as a bonus, undoubtedly Swiss.