Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Driving Through Switzerland On Our Way To Gruyere. Everything In This Stunning Country Is So Beautiful, Green, Perfect, Picturesque and Impeccably Manicured.
My Ticket into La Maison Gruyere.
The Cheese Cellar Inside La Maison Gruyere.
The Making of Gruyere Cheese!
The Cheese Masters Hard at Work.
Swiss Cow, Bell Included.
Traditional Swiss Menu.
Town of Gruyere, Detail.
H.R. Giger Museum Bar.
The Giger Bar.
Le Chalet, Our Lunch Spot. Fabulous!
Fall Colours, View from the Castle at Gruyere.
The Drive Home, Looking Towards France.
Our visit to this cheesy destination in the Swiss Alps started off with a trip to La Maison du Gruyere (The House of Gruyere). Essentially a demonstration and exhibition center which takes you on a journey of the senses and allows you to discover all the secrets of Gruyere AOC cheese making. My favourite part was being able to watch the master cheese makers in action who each day produce up to 48 wheels of Gruyere AOC. The dairy is equipped with 4 x 4800 litre vats and a cellar where 7000 wheels can ripen. It takes 8000 litres of milk to make one 80kg wheel of Gruyere cheese, with the cheese being made 3-4 times a day.
Best known as the key ingrediant in classic fondue, Gruyere is one of the most famous cheeses made by the Swiss. A hearty, piquant, hard cow's milk cheese. On the outside, Gruyere has a natural brown (colour depends on age) wrinkled rind-like crust. Inside, Gruyere is pale gold in colour with little to no porsity. Gruyere is rich, nutty, salty and slightly sweet and fruity, with a flavour that varies widely with age. Our ticket to The House of Gruyere consisted of a package with three slices of Gruyere, all of different ages, 6 months, 8months, and 10 months. The 8 month old cheese was my favourite. I would describe it as creamy and nutty when young, becoming firmer in texture and more assertive, earthy and complex with age.
Just as a side note, France also makes a Gruyere and several Gruyere style cheese such as Comte and Beaufort. French Gruyere cheese must have holes according to French agricultural law, whereas holes are not usually present in Swiss Gruyere.
After learning everything there was to know about Gruyere cheese we decided to wonder through the town itself, which only has one street. We didn't get too far when I came across the absolute last thing I would ever expect to see in a quaint little Swiss cheese village – the H.R. Giger Museum. Who and What is this you may ask?
Giger is an acclaimed Swiss surrealist painter, sculptor, designer, interior architect and the creator of the terrifying life forms and their otherwordly environment in the film classic Alien, for which he recieved an Oscar in 1980. Flushed with success he took a shine to Gruyere, bought one of the old houses and has turned it into a showcase for his unique brand of gothic art, nightmarish cityscapes and sexualized surrealist visions of machine -like humanoids. Fundamental to the nature of Giger's work is his biomechanical aesthetic, a dialect between man and machine, representing a universe at once disturbing and sublime.
Giger certainly extended his artistic vision into all domains because right across the street from the museum was a Giger Bar – completely inspired by his designs! The interior of the otherworldly environment that is the H.R. Giger Museum Bar is a cavernous, skeletal structure covered by double arches of vertebrae that crisscross the vaulted ceiling of an ancient castle. The sensation of being in this extraordinary setting recalls being literally in the belly of a fossilized, prehistoric beast.
After experiencing the otherworldy and completely unexpected domaine of H.R. Giger, we decided to top off the day with a traditional Swiss lunch in a converted old traditional Swiss farmhouse. We filled our stomachs with salade, dried meats, wine and fondue (made with Gruyere cheese of course)! Other delicious regional dishes include raclette, chalet soup, high pasture macaroni, ham, meringues to die for and Gruyere cream – delicious as a dessert topped with a mountain raspberries!