Amy Eber, Food Scout at WRS, recently invited me to join forces with her at an American Women’s Club of Zurich foodie event. The chat was all about what’s good to eat in Switzerland, and where and when to find it. With map in hand we did a whistlestop virtual tour round the Confederation, each of us chipping in with our fave festive, regional and seasonal foods – from all those Carnival goodies that are just coming in (Fasnachtskiechle, Fastewähe, onion tart and burnt flour soup) to the wealth of delectable breads and sausages that are the pride of each canton, to the strictly seasonal delights of asparagus and wild garlic in the spring, followed by strawberries, which in turn give way to succulent apricots from the Valais, then wild mushrooms, game – and of course Vacherin Mont d’Or, which lights up my autumn and winter and which – we both agreed – is one of the most outrageously delicious foods known to [wo]man.
To my great delight, Rachael Sills of KäseSwiss was good enough to provide a fabulous cheese platter, with samples of the kind of wonderful Swiss farmhouse cheeses she exports to the UK. Never heard of KäseSwiss? Allow me to introduce you!
Rachael hails originally from New Zealand, and like many a Kiwi, sooner or later she made her way to London. With a hotel management background, she looked around for jobs in the hospitality business, but all along she had a secret yen to make cheese. Instead of entering the hotel world, she went to work for the famous cheese shop Neal’s Yard Dairy where she learnt not only to sell but also to make cheese, and soon progressed to being one of the Neal’s Yard buyers.
In 2004 she came to Switzerland and dived with relish into the wonderful world of Swiss cheese. Soon KäseSwiss was born, which specialises in selected farmhouse cheeses from all around the country. Nowadays she divides her time between Zürich and London, where KäseSwiss has a stand in the famous Borough Market, a magnet for serious foodies whether they live in London or are just visiting.
Rachael’s sample cheeses included a fragrant Heublumenkäse, a semi-hard beauty from the Toggenburg made by Thomas Stadelmann; a beautifully matured hunk of l’Etivaz, which tops my list of favourite alpine cheeses, made only in the summer months in the Alps of canton Vaud; some gorgeous Gruyère – which needs no introduction – and a truly wonderful, spruce-bound Forsterkäse, which (rather like its distant cousin Vacherin Mont d’Or) has a tendency to run about in a deliciously unruly fashion, so you need to serve it with a spoon.
You can read about many of these cheeses, where and how they’re made and what they taste like in my book Cheese: Slices of Swiss Culture (which recently won an award as best book from German-speaking Switzerland in the cheese category in the Gourmand World Cookbooks Awards). And you can find them at Borough Market or direct from Rachael via the KäseSwiss website.