(Double) Cream of the Crop
After a quick French spelling lesson and an introduction to the quaint village of Gruyères, I hope you have worked up an appetite for the specialties of this dairy rich part of Switzerland. The region is most well known for its eponymous cheese, but running a close second is the fresh, local cream, famous for its high butterfat content. I had heard about this cream from friends who lived in Switzerland, but never really understood all the fuss they made about, well… cream. Turns out it is worth the fuss, for its unparalleled, unctuous texture and its rather unique aroma. That’s probably why it’s served on top of just about everything, at all hours of the day. Most restaurants proudly announce that they have “crème double de la Gruyère” outside, so customers are rest assured before entering.
The double cream is stark white and looks almost like the unbaked batter of the meringues with which it is paired. (That, or Elmer’s glue!) That’s the classic combination – feather light meringues made in a wood-fired oven, dipped in this luscious cream. Or the other popular dessert is a bowl of berries and cream. The meringues are not like the football size ones you may see in Paris’ pastry shop windows, with a real hard shell and then a chewy interior (my personal favorite). They are small and weightless, and have the same texture throughout. Bite into one and it just crumbles away in your mouth (and all over your shirt). Pure sugar!
I was rather content eating the meringues with no accompaniment, or better yet, with a scoop of coffee ice cream on top, mmmm! But the cream is there to soften the sweet kick of the sugary meringues. People dunk them into the cream, which is always served in a traditional wooden dish. You may be lucky and have a sculpted, wooden cream spoon as well, nowadays only used for decorative purposes.
If you’re in Gruyères, you won’t have any problem at all finding meringues or double cream to buy. Step into any shop and you’ll see walls piled high with the classic white and red boxes of plain meringues, or bags with different flavors, including caramel, chocolate or even cheese. I went with plain and mocha, and can highly recommend both!
We ordered our plates of meringues, berries, double cream and coffee at the Chalet de Gruyères, a comfortable café downstairs, and an upstairs restaurant with a fantastic wooden decor, typical of the region. The same menu is served on both floors – we chose to enjoy our treats downstairs with the aroma of fresh coffee instead of cheese fondue!Chalet de Gruyères 1663 Gruyères Switzerland +41.26.921.21.54 www.chalet-gruyeres.ch
And here’s the shop with all those bags and boxes of meringues above:Magasin Antonietti 1663 Gruyères Switzerland +41.26.921.22.92 www.gruyeres-shop.ch