Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Swiss Cheese? No Holes, Please!

At a big family party last weekend, my in-laws whipped up a huge buffet feast. One of the great things about French Swiss (and French French for that matter) formal dinners is the cheese course served after the main dish and before (or sometimes in place of) dessert. Here you see an array of Swiss cheeses. Notice the complete absence of holes here. You go from the rich, liquidy spreadableness of the Vacherin (at 12:00) to the solid richness of the Gruyere (at 3:00 and great for melting) to the oozy pungency of a very ripe Reblochon (at 5:00. Ok, so this isn't Swiss; it's from Haute Savoie which is so close to Geneva it's almost a suburb). And then ignore completely the rocky sharpness of the Parmesan (9:00) that we brought up from Italy for the occasion.

A Swiss cheese that deserves it's own special plate and shaving device is the Tete de Moine (Monk's head) cheese that is eaten in paper-thin frilly curls. You might see the logic of the name since the top of the cheese is "bald" while the sides still have their covering.

The cheese that probably gained Switzerland it's holey reputation is Emmentaler. Full of holes and rather sweeter than Gruyere. It's not my favorite but it does go well in a standard cheese mix for fondue: Gruyere, Emmentaler and Vacherin Fribourgeois, all shreddable and very melty. Who's up for fondue?


Blogger Corrie said...

I'm up for fondue! The Tete de Moine cheese is very cool--how neat that it gets its own cheese shaver! I agree about Emmentaler--not my favorite either, although my Italian sister-in-law claims it is hers!


3:59 PM  
Blogger Tracie P. said...


i've had that monk's head stuff too...very good. you know, i don't love emmenthaler either, but every now and then, having a sandwich with that and some prosciutto cotto satisfies my occasional desire for an american flavored sammich. figurati!

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a Swiss girl and so cheese is essential to my diet.I remember becoming a vegan in my early twenties and getting soya cheese. It was horrible!! I quickly regained my senses and started eating dairy again.
I'm a big fan of Gruyere as it is so smooth and creamy.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I've never tried Tete de Moine. It looks good! The paper thin frilly curls are so pretty.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That cheese shaver rocks! Is it specific to the tete de moine, or do other swiss cheeses ever get a shave?

8:42 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Jackie, I love and Italian who claims a foreign cheese as her favorite! It seems to me that cuisine is the only arena of Italian nationalism (they're so great that way!) O.k., well maybe calcio(soccer, football) too.

So you go for the ham n' cheese for a little Americana? I always hit the P.B&J. Always and forever.

Good golly! Vegan cheese! Glad that's over. A good Gruyere beats the livin' crap outta that, especially the Etivaz. So what part of Switzerland are you from?

Hi Beenzzz, It's great to shave off some curls and make little florets with them to serve on a fruit and cheese plate. Soooo Martha!

Hey Scott, I think the shaver IS specific to Tete de Moine and I don't know of other cheeses that get that treatment other than a particular Italian one, really big, which the guy at the market's always trying to fatten me up on. Don't know what it's called.

12:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pick me pick me! I want fondue! Those cheeses sound yummy. I think 2007 is going to be my year of the cheese - trying different kinds each month =)

1:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can call me to a fondue dinner anytime you want Susan and, best of all, I am not picky about the cheese! ;)

3:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My family comes from Herisau Switzerland. However, most are in Canada now. The surname is Zellweger but so far we have no proof we are related to Renee. :-)

3:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can't talk about Swiss cheeses without at least mentioning raclette! Raclette is not only a cheese but also a meal that is in Switzerland more loved than fondue.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Stacy, I think a once-a-month cheese tasting sounds wonderful! Blog it for us!

Hi Lotus, When are you coming? We're having a Gabriel's birthday fondue and Escalade party in 2 weeks.

Hi Moon, Ooh! A maybe relative of Renee Zellweger! That's exciting!

Hi Anonymous, Thanks for visiting! I'm sorry but raclette is not my thing! I find it unenjoyable to get a plate of melted cheese and to scarf it down with boiled potatoes before is gets cool and rubbery. I'm too slow an eater for that. But the cheese, itself is nice.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

looks like this is gonna be one happenin' fondue party! my rsvp is yes, also. i'm pretty sure i'm half mouse because i love cheese, too!

2:39 PM  
Blogger Lea said...


this would totally send me into a foodgasm!! O_O God I love cheese... I've totally been on this cheese kick lately. SO envious of you over there... in the US we have to many freaking restrictions on cheese its not even worth bothering! =( *cry*

I am all for a monthly cheese tasting!! WOOT!! Give me an excuse to go buy cheeeeese!

I just ordered some Tibetan Yak cheese from Amazon hehehehe =)

9:35 PM  
Blogger Lea said...


btw.. is Raclette really that bad? I was really looking forward to trying it when we go to Switzerland next year! =( How can cheese be bad! wah!

9:38 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Melissa, Will be expecting you in mid December, then!

Hi Lea, First, No! Raclette isn't bad at all! It's just that I really eat slowly. I can't enjoy a meal when it's too quick. The idea of raclette is to set half a wheel of the cheese up against a fire (if you don't have a raclette machine) and then scrape off the melted edge onto peoples' plates. They then eat the cheese over mini boiled potatoes along with some ham. When I went to a raclette restaurant in a Swiss skiing village I felt really rushed and then sick to my stomach for having inhaled such heavy stuff so fast. My problem really. DO try it, especially if you're a quick eater!

Now, Were you kidding about the yak cheese?

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so jealous of your access to these great cheeses. I've never had Tete de Moine and now I must find some to try.

11:16 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Cherry, But in Italy I find that I have fewer "international" cheeses available than I did in Minneapolis and Chicago. If you have a food co-op or (an overpriced) Whole Foods, you have access to most of these cheeses.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Lea said...

I am a pretty slow eater... but I do love cheese.. and I'm not one to pass up a national delicassy!! I'll just make it a point to eat the taters first. ;-)

Dead serious about the yak cheese! lol

5:54 PM  

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