Switzerland

What to Eat in Zurich

It was pouring down rain when Mr. Pretty and I landed in Zurich. Hard, heavy rain that made the air humid, yet slightly cold. What do you want on such a raw day?

Comfort.

So what is Swiss comfort food? Fondue, of course.

Now, look–we stayed in the Altstadt district (the old city), which of course was positively crawling with touristy joints advertising fondue and raclette, because melted cheese is what the proper tourist thinks of while visiting Zurich. That said, you can still find a place with good food amongst the souvenir shops. Our choice was Le Dézaley, a restaurant that has been in operation since 1903 and which is located in a 13th century home with a really interesting history: in the early 14th century it belonged to a guy named Niklaus Bilgri, who was executed for plotting and participating in the Zurich Night of Murder.

Finding Le Dézaley was easier said than done. Mr. Pretty and I huddled together under my umbrella, trying not to fall ass-over-teakettle on the slick cobbles. The path took a turn . . . downward. I skidded halfway down the street. It was only by accident that I tripped over my feet and ended up on Le Dézaley‘s doorstep.

We snagged a table by the window–all the better to watch people slipping and sliding down the street. It was a bit of a late lunch, maybe around 1:30 in the afternoon, but the restaurant was still buzzing, tables populated mostly by older people, what looks like groups of friends and coworkers. The fondue was so delicious and perfect for a rainy day.

Hot tip for eating fondue: it’s your responsibility to keep too much of the cheese from burning to the bottom of the pan, so with each piece of bread you dip, please stir the cheese with your bread/fork. A figure eight pattern is good or clockwise; allegedly, counterclockwise stirs are not traditional.

That said, at least a bit of cheese is going to burn to the pot. Our server was fantastic–when we’d finished off the fondue, she scraped up the burnt bits for us. Those bits, by the way, are called “la religieuse” and considered a delicacy.

Beyond fondue and raclette (and chocolate, of course), what other Swiss foods come to mind? I couldn’t think of anything–and to be honest, it seems like most of the food we encountered was German-esque, heavy, and quite fried, both in Altstadt and in other neighborhoods. And if you eat at one of the many open air restaurants on the banks of the Zimmat, the food is generally going to be mediocre (and fried). What I found to be an excellent alternative to so much heavy food, though, is charcuterie–nearly every restaurant we came across had an option for a good cheese and meat plate. In fact, aside from all the chocolate (which is another post), I mostly survived on chunks of Swiss cheese and bits of cured meat.

Again, though, you *can* find a good meal that doesn’t involve something fried (or a charcuterie plate). Our last meal in Zurich was at Cicchetteria da Rosa, a Venetian restaurant with a lovely outdoor dining room. Near-perfect shrimp risotto and the best grilled octopus I’ve had in years. Delicious!

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