Eastern Switzerland Feature
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Eating Well in Eastern Switzerland
Eastern Switzerland's cuisine is the country's least cosmopolitan, but includes some of its heartiest and tastiest dishes. Specialties from Appenzell, St. Gallen, Thurgau, and Schaffhausen bear names that defy pronunciation, like Chäs Tschoope (fried bread cubes with cheese and cream) and Chäshappech (cheese-and-beer batter funneled into snail-shell shapes, then deep-fried). St. Galler Kalbsbratwurst is a popular sausage made from veal, milk, and bacon, and Mostbröckli is a gamey air-dried beef worth sampling.
Regional wines from Thurgau and Shaffhausen are notable, but so is Appenzeller beer, which is found across Switzerland. For once vegetarians have something to celebrate in otherwise meat-loving Switzerland. Appenzeller cheese has a robust flavor that comes from a secret herbal brine that reportedly includes roots, leaves, flowers, seeds, and bark. Chääsflade (cheese pie) and silky cheese soup are a few other must-try dishes, whether or not you're a vegetarian.
Head to Böhli (9 Engelgasse, Appenzell 071/7881570 www.boehli-appenzell.ch) for biber, molded honey, spice, and almond-paste bakes, and for chrempfli, turnovers with hazelnut filling. St. Galler Klostertorte, with jam peeking through a lattice crust, is available in the tearoom and shop at Chocolaterie am Klosterplatz (20 Gallustrasse, St. Gallen 071/2225770 www.chocolateriesg.ch).
The earthy and pungent Appenzeller cheese dates back more than 700 years and is known as the "spiciest" cheese in Switzerland, but really it's just herbal. It adds a nice addition to the local fondue. If you're in the mood for something milder and creamier, Tilsit is your best bet. Unique to Thurgau, the cheese takes its name from the town of Tilsit, Russia, where an immigrant Swiss cheese maker helped develop the recipe before coming home to set up shop.
In St. Gallen, specialty sausages abound. Try the St. Galler Bratwurst, also known as the St. Galler Kalbsbratwurst, a white, unsmoked variety that custom dictates must be made with pork, at least 50% veal, and milk or milk powder. When ordered in St. Gallen, the legendary Olma-Bratwurst must be eaten with a hard piece of bread known as a Bürli, and never with mustard.
These aren't your average hash browns. Deemed the national dish of Switzerland, Rösti is a dinner or lunch dish that is essentially grated, fried potatoes, covered with a variety of deliciously greasy toppings—bacon, bits of lard, ham, eggs, and cheese, or served alongside favorite regional main dishes. While Rösti can be found all over Switzerland, it is especially loved by Swiss-Germans, so much so that the border between the French and German-speaking areas of Switzerland is known as the Röstigraben, which literally means Rösti ditch.
Popular throughout Central and Eastern Europe, dumplings have been elevated to an art form in Switzerland. These tender egg noodles come in many forms and are known as Spätzle, or if in a smaller, rounded form as Chnöpfli (literally, little sparrows or little buttons, respectively). Eat them boiled then fried in butter until golden brown and crispy, or oozing with melted cheese, a preparation known as Chäschnöpfli.
Don't let all the cheese and sausages fool you: eastern Switzerland has sweet treats to finish off any meal. Fruit and nuts reign supreme in Switzerland, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a dessert without either. Thurgau is famous for its apple orchards, and there's no better way to enjoy a healthy dessert than to snack on the region's lightly dried apple rings. Those who yearn for a buttery treat can delight in Hüppen—these long, crisp waffle cookies are sometimes filled with chocolate and are thought to take their name from the Greek hopyes, meaning wafer.
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