Eating Well in Graubünden
Graubünden, with its myriad dialects and potent blend of Latin and German blood, has a cuisine as novel and unexpected as its culture. Local specialties here include capuns or chrutcapuns (spätzle dough and curd cheese with dried beef and ham wrapped in a Swiss chard and cut into small pieces); maluns (grated potatoes stirred in pools of butter until they form crisp balls); pizzoccheri neri (buckwheat noodles with greens and potatoes, swimming in garlic butter and melted cheese); and Pizokels (dumplings).
The Graubünden idea of fast food is a salsiz (a kind of small, rectangular-shape salami of venison, liver, or beef) and a piece of bread. Besides regional specialties like the ubiquitous Bündnerfleisch (air-dried beef pressed into rectangular loaves and shaved into translucent slices), Gerstensuppe (barley soup), and Nusstorte (shortbread with a chewy walnut-and-caramel filling), you will find a broad range of international cooking, notably in the larger resorts. Italian influence is strong, and the Germanic Spätzli (tiny flour dumplings) coexist with gnocchi, risotto, and polenta.
Year-round, but especially in fall, many menus feature wild game: the centuries-old hunting tradition is especially strong in this canton. Look for Reh or Hirsch (roe or red deer) and Gems (chamois), usually served with red cabbage, fruits, and chestnuts or in a Pfeffer (strongly flavored, peppery stew).
Most restaurants' wine lists include a selection of the red pinot noir and white Riesling Sylvaner from the Bündnerherrschaft region around Maienfeld, Jenins, and Malans as well as the hearty red Nebbiolo of the Veltlin. The latter is actually grown over the southern border in Valtellina, which was ceded to Italy in 1815, but some quantities have always been brought in bulk into the canton for bottling and can be considered, at least in spirit, to be Swiss. As an alternative to wine, try one of the regional mineral waters: Valser, Passugger, or Rhäzünzer.
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