and an introduction to the Assiette du Valais
In days gone by, the people of the Valais region of Switzerland lived a nomadic life. They would live high in the mountains in the summer months, where it was cooler than in the valley and their animals could graze on the grasses.
Here they would tend to small crops of vegetables, rye and sometimes grapes for wine. In the winter, they would close up their high mountain huts and move back to the valley. The long grasses in the valley were cut and stored for the animals to eat through the winter months.
The owners of Chez Vrony still keeps dairy cows in Findeln during the summer months, their milk is used to make cheeses for the restaurant. When they are between 5 and 8 years, the cows are slaughtered for the dried meats and sausages, made using the recipes which have been handed down in the family for generations. These cheese and sausages are the key ingredients for the Assiette du Valais.
Throughout our stay in this beautiful region, the Assiette du Valais became a staple. As a starter before a meal, or shared with a glass of wine after skiing, this platter was always splendidly satisfying in its simplicity. As with the furnishings, at Chez Vrony, they presented this traditional offering with a contemporary twist.
In the early 60’s the family added their homemade dried meats, sausages and cheeses to the drink offerings at the Alpenheim. Today, these items are still made using the same recipes and served at Chez Vrony on the Assiette du Valais. I love the recipes I found published in the book Findelbord, which offers a pictorial history of the restaurant and the family. Here they are:
Findeln Mountain Cheese
“Heat the milk to 32 Celsius in a copper kettle. After adding the rennet, leave the milk for about 20 minutes until it has thickened. Break it up again and then reheat to 45 Celsius and leave to simmer for another half hour. The curds are then pressed into a mould and turned several times. After 24 hours, the cheese is placed in a salt bath for 24 hours and in the weeks thereafter has to be washed and turned daily. Thanks to the dry mountain air, this cheese is ready to eat after about 3 months.”
Papa’s Dried meat
“The pieces of meat, each weighing between 3 and 4 kilogram, are cured in a mixture of salt, red wine, spices and alpine herbs (thyme, rosemary, laurel leaves) for a period of 14 days. They are then hung up to dry in a nice draughtry (drafty) room. Drying takes 2-3 months, depending on the ambient air humidity. The drying process has to be completed before the first snow falls, as the meat has to absorb the earth’s aromas. After drying, the meat has to be stored in a cool place”. — time to absorb the earth’s aromas — this must be the unique flavor of these meats and cheeses!!
All of the food was wholesome, delicious and elegantly presented. Many of the vegetables and herbs are grown organically by the family. Here are some of our other lunch favorites:
A spicy tomato soup, topped with an herb whipped cream and spiked with Swiss Vodka.
The most delectable duck foie gras EVER! Served with a rosti (potatoes, cheese, bacon) and drizzled with a tangy cranberry or lingonberry sauce.
They served a wonderful platter of desserts to be shared: