Food and Drink Pairing Favorites from the Alps
To celebrate the first few days of spring, Ryder-Walker wants to invite you to try our favorite springtime recipes from the Alps. Across Northern Italy, Switzerland, and France much of the cooking is associated with heavy dishes best enjoyed in the heart of winter. The traditional peasant’s recipes that define alpine cuisine typically involve a huge amount of cheese and meat: hearty fare that is representative of the hard living that was once ubiquitous in the high mountains. Of course, these recipes have been refined and specialized into the delicious variations we know today, but what of the (slightly) lighter dishes available throughout the Alps that are best enjoyed as the weather gets warmer?
There is little better way to kick off the springtime than inviting a group of friends over to enjoy a full charcuterie board. This meat, cheese, and bread plate is all about the presentation and quality of ingredients. A variety of quality cheese and air-dried meats is a must, with a recommendation towards including thin-cut meats such as Bundnerfleisch or Prosciutto, while hard cheeses are often well received as a compliment. Outside of core meats and cheeses, no charcuterie is complete without its accompaniments: dried fruits, nuts, olives, and gherkins are all an excellent direction to lean.
Pairing: Chignon Bergeron
Chignon Bergeron is the most iconic white wine from the Savoie region of Southeastern France – the alpine region surrounding Chamonix, and thus it is a fitting pairing for charcuterie, but truly you can choose whatever your favorite grape or vintage is – there is nothing quite like wine and cheese to get the party started.
Apfelstrudel is a truly delightful apple pastry found across Germany and the Austrian Tyrol. Apfelstrudel starts with a flaky puff pastry which is then layered with apples that have been marinated in sugar, cinnamon, and a squeeze of lemon. Top your pastry with either vanilla sauce or a dollop of sweet cream for one of the most excellent pastry experiences you can have anywhere in Europe.
Milchkaffee is the German word for coffee with milk, the ideal accompaniment for a morning apfelstrudel. German coffee, while less lauded than Italian coffee, is a surprisingly delicious product, exemplifying the region’s propensity towards excellence in all its products.
Bergsalat or mountain salad is a less-sung dish in the Swiss Alps that is truly delicious. In Switzerland, salads are often eaten as an entire meal rather than as an appetizer or side dish, and the ingredient list is reflective of this. The first and most distinct element here is the inclusion of both meat and cheese in the salad – how incredibly Swiss. The cheese is typically ultra-sharp and hard, cut extremely thinly so it curls, followed by similarly thin-cut cured meat. To make a true Swiss salad you need a large bounty of vegetables as well, shredded carrots marinated in vinegar are an iconic addition, as are shredded beats, sliced radishes, mixed greens, and sometimes even green beans or corn. Another more surprising addition to the Swiss salad is a side of tuna!
There may be nothing more Swiss than Rivella. This unique soda comes in a bottle adorned with the Swiss flag; in case you were in any doubt about its national origin. Made from milk curd, Rivella is sweetened with mountain herbs and sugar.
While calling the tartiflette a “lighter” dish is a bit of a stretch, it is hard to put together any list of alpine food without including the queen of cheese dishes. The tartiflette is a truly unique Savoyard casserole. Begin making your tartiflette by boiling potatoes until they are beginning to soften but are short of being entirely edible. Arrange the thinly sliced potatoes in a cast iron pan, cover them in Reblochon cheese, add ham or bacon, and then douse the entire dish in cream and a splash of white wine. The tartiflette is then baked until the potatoes are cooked through and beginning to crisp around the edges.
Pairing: White Wine
The cardinal rule when eating a cheese-heavy alpine dish is to drink white wine alongside it. Drinking beer with a tartiflette is often a recipe for a digestive nightmare, while the chemical makeup of white wine allows your body to digest the cheese-bomb more smoothly – this reaction is the same reason that white wine is used to emulsify fondue.
Looking towards northern Italy, Bruschetta is the perfect dish to ring in spring. This simple fare starts with grilled bread, which is then topped with olive oil, salt, vinegar, and diced tomatoes. Simple, fresh, and delightful.
Pairing: Aperol Spritz
A snack as light and delicate as Bruschetta needs an equally summery pairing and what better addition than the joyous Aperol Spritz? This carbonated drink has recently exploded across U.S. cocktail culture and is an easy one to make – just combine Aperol, bubbly, seltzer, and a slice of orange.