Say Cheese

Château d’Oex’s International Hot Air Balloon festival is rapidly approaching, and some of you may be making  plans to head that way.  Going for the weekend is a wonderful excuse to visit the beautiful region of Gruyère, especially the charming, medieval village of the same name – even if spelled differently (Gruyères).  You’ll take 200 photos of the most photogenic hot air balloons, rising high against a backdrop of the breathtaking Swiss Alps, their colors easy to spot against the clean blanket of pure white snow. Then perhaps you’ll visit Gruyères– its storybook château and one pedestrian street, and then stop in a café for a hot chocolate, as well as the region’s famously rich double cream and meringues.  But you must be saying to yourself now… isn’t the region more well known for… cheese?!

La Maison du Gruyère, SwitzerlandLa Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland

Yes, of course!  Sympathy goes to the lactose-intolerant visitor to this dairy-rich region.  There is probably more cheese and heavy cream per square meter than any other village in Switzerland.  You’ll want to leave room in your weekend plans for a visit to La Maison du Gruyère, where you’ll learn about the region’s eponymous cheese. And literally, learn all there is to know – curds, whey, salted versus semi-salted, etc.  La Maison du Gruyère, just at the bottom of the hill going up to Gruyères, is a working cheese dairy, as well as museum, shop and restaurant all under one roof.  It?s an interactive museum for children and adults alike, and for all the senses ? look, touch, smell, listen and taste.

And yes, there are free samples. Not many, but you get a small taster’s selection as you enter.  You can then spend hours reading all the panels, watching the short films and answering trivia questions.  Most of all, you’ll want to show up when the cheese-makers are busy at work: from 9am to 11am and from 12:30pm to 2:30pm, depending on the season. They produce up to 48 wheels of Gruyère a day, observing the strict AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) rules.You’ll see every step of the process, also explained in the short films, and appreciate those little tastes even more. After all, it takes 400 liters of milk to get one 35 kilo round of cheese. (You’ll be filled with all sorts of fun facts like that!)

La Maison du Gruyère, SwitzerlandLa Maison du Gruyère, SwitzerlandLa Maison du Gruyère, SwitzerlandLa Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland

October 2009 marked 40 years that this institution has been functioning as a cheese dairy, sharing the secrets of Le Gruyère AOC.  And this January 30th is the 10th birthday of the Maison du Gruyère. Festivities began in June 2009 and continue through May 8, 2010.  Before leaving, be sure to take a peek into the cheese cellar (first two photos up top), where up to 7,000 rounds of cheese mature. And you won’t want to leave empty-handed either…

La Maison du Gruyère, SwitzerlandLa Maison du Gruyère, SwitzerlandLa Maison du Gruyère, SwitzerlandLa Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland

Be sure to visit the shop on your way out for its exhaustive selection of local cheese.  But you all know me better than that – it wasn’t only cheese I was filling my basket with.  There are over 50 different chocolate bars too, including local chocolate brand Villars and its large range.  Grab a few bars, a bag or two of meringues and a tub of crème double de la Gruyère. You’ll have the makings of an impressive cheese platter… and dessert at the ready.

La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland

La Maison du Gruyère
From June to September: 9 am to 7 pm
From October to May: 9 am to 6 pm

28 Responses to “Say Cheese”

  1. Tweets that mention Say Cheese | MyKugelhopf -- says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Travel News, Kerrin Rousset and James Robinson, Gogotrip. Gogotrip said: Say Cheese: Château d?Oex?s International Hot Air Balloon festival is rapidly approaching, and some of you may be … […]

  2. Andrea says:

    I really want to explore this region. Do you think it’s possible to get around using the train or would I really need to hire a car to see everything.

  3. The Cooking Ninja says:

    It’s so cool that you get to visit a cheese factory. 🙂 I know of a countryside lady making butter via my MIL but I didn’t get to see how she makes it nor her cheese.

  4. bethany says:

    Oh how much I love Gruyere and how I would love to visit. My dad opened a small cheese factory during the civil war…nothing like this though, LOL!

  5. Romy says:

    Did you meet Cherry the cow? 🙂

  6. Paul - GetMeCooking says:

    Leave me there with a box of crackers (okay, several boxes) and I’d sit and much away all day!

    Looks fantastic 🙂

  7. Sarka says:

    Wow, I envy you. What a wonderful experience visiting a cheese factory is. I’m a cheese nut and Gruyere, yummy! I hope I will have a chance to visit this place sometime.

  8. Meeta says:

    Gruyere is Tom’s favorite cheese! So this would be a real paradise. Cheese generally is a huge passion shared between us. We will often buy fresh bread a variety of cheese open a bottle of wine and simply enjoy the simplicity of a fantastic treat. Thanks for this Kerrin!

  9. Ancutza says:

    I love both cheese and chocolate! By the way, In Italy there’s a very big international Cheese festival, promotedd by Slow Food organization. The next Cheese festival will be in 2011. I hope you don’t mind if I put a link here:

  10. Kerrin says:

    Andrea, good question. In general, traveling around Switzerland by train is just so easy and accessible, I always recommend it. However, I think for these smaller villages, it would be best to have a car. Especially if you want to go from 1 town to the next and visit places along the way, like the cheese dairy here. I think a car would make things easier, and make for a more enjoyable trip. Let me know what you end up doing…

    Bethany, your dad opened a cheese factory ?! And during the civil war in Lebanon no less ?! Ok, I’ll need more details about that for sure !

    Romy, I clearly need to revisit the cheese dairy – I didn’t meet Cherry !! 🙁

    Meeta, Gruyère is Tom’s favorite cheese ? What about yours ?? Meanwhile, your bread/cheese/wine soirée is a regular occasion over here. But I have to admit – sometimes I don’t even eat the cheese, if it’s fantastic salted butter from Brittany (, that’s all I need !! 🙂 … well, and then dessert of course !

    Ancutza, I don’t mind at all, au contraire. Thanks so much for sharing the link !

  11. jkiel says:

    mmm… have a LOT for me! (jealous? me? naw….. well…. maybe a … little?!)

  12. kelleyn says:

    Yummy, but I am more of an Emmantaler fan! I love the chocolate tin with Pide Piper ? Spelling. I like how he is luring the children away with a bar of chocolate. I have been lure away many times myself. We didn’t have a chance to go to this dairy while in Switzerland, but if you are ever in Oregon you should check out the Tillamook Dairy. They make the best Cheddar and Ice Cream!

  13. Emma says:

    I toured the Société Roquefort caves in southern France – what a spectacle! My favorite part of the tour was when they held us captive in an especially moldy part of the caves and bounced lights and images off different parts of mold-rock, while a booming voice told of the discovery of how good mold makes cheese taste. How right they are.

  14. Jess says:

    Ah, perfect complement post to the Hot Air Balloon Festival post. Looks like the hubby and I might make our way over these on Sunday to check it out and will hopefully do a little touring around the area. I’m sure I’ll blog about it post travel, so I’ll let you know.

  15. Hilda says:

    Oh my goodness, Gruyere AND hot air balloons? Sign me up! Oh wait, I have terrible motion sickness problems, so maybe just a Gruyere tour for me, I love seeing cheese get made but haven’t in, oh, I dunno, probably 10 years or more. Aren’t cheese fabriques the greatest places to take pictures? Love it.

  16. Kerrin says:

    jkiel, um… OK !! 🙂

    kelleyn, yes me too – love that chocolate packaging – and I’d totally be following the Pied Piper if he had chocolate in hand ! While I don’t have Oregon on my travel plans, I’d certainly be heading to that dairy if I did, thanks for sharing ! I’d pass on the cheddar though and go right for the ice cream ! 😉

    Emma, wow, the Société Roquefort caves in southern France – now that sounds like an experience. I’ll have to look into that for sure. Et oui, it’s all about the mold… !

    Jess, perfect- have a fabulous time ! Can’t wait to see you report back on your blog.

    Hilda, oh no on the motion sickness (you’re not the first here to share that). I think just a Gruyère tour (and tasting) is plenty ! Sounds like it’s time for you to take one soon… And yes, bring the camera ! 🙂

  17. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    I love all cheeses. The only time I’ve really been that up close in the past is in a trip to Holland many years ago. This would be a real treat.

    I’m loving that chocolate tin, too……really loving it!

  18. Nomadic Chick says:

    I wish I adored cheese as much as my best friend Sheri does. One day I told her I could take or leave cheese, she gasped out loud, and said, “That is wrong, just wrong.”

    The pictures of the tour are nice though. 🙂

  19. Kevin says:

    Mmmm…free samples…

  20. my spatula says:

    you are killing me. i’d hide and sleep in that cheese factory! fantastic photos.

  21. Chantal says:

    The factory is a great place to tour. I finally feel like I’m becoming Swiss now that I can tell the difference between how old a cheese is after tasting the samples at the factory. And the balloon festival is not to be missed!

  22. Jen Laceda says:

    I’d love to visit some of these cheese chateaux or farms! Gruyere is a favourite of mine. My daughter loves it as well! We cook this dish called “Chicken in Milf and Cheese” (from Tessa Kiros’ Apples for Jam cookbook). We always use Gruyere because of its flavour. I had a cave age Gruyere once and it had a nice, piquant taste to it! I LOVED it!

    By the way, I just posted on my blog, “the Mind-Boggling Street Foods of the Philippines” – see which ones you’d like to try 🙂 Happy Weekend!

  23. jim says:

    Good information here. I enjoyed reading this and can’t wait for more. Keep up the good work.

  24. Eva says:

    I miss Switzerland every time I look at your updates!

    Another great food blog with a large focus on Cheese that others may appreciate is FX Cuisine:

    He has not posted for a while, but there is wonderful footage of small cheese makers and other food wonders of Switzerland and other travels.


  25. Solo Road Trip says:

    This post returned a flood of memories for me. My first travel experiences were through cheese. Growing up on a working farm and cattle ranch, we didn’t move much past the fence lines. We grew and raised everything we ate. Except cheese. The rare grocery store outing found us checking out with bricks of Texas Longhorn cheese (and not much else). Since I was the family cook, someone gave me a cheese cookbook for Christmas – James McNair’s Cheese Cookbook. The first recipe I wanted to try called for croissants, bacon, prosciutto, eggs, and lots of mozzarella and gruyere cheeses. It took my Mom and I 18 months to find the gruyere and prosciutto! LOL I proceeded to make every recipe in the book over the years of High School and in the process wrote several papers in various classes over cheeses and from where they hailed. Like I said, my earliest travel experiences were through cheese. As you can tell, I loved this post. Someday, I will visit the fascinating Gruyères region you’ve described. I’ll have to set aside several days to recover from it. 🙂

  26. Sealand says:

    I have never even heard of that place before in all of my travels. I love that you posted the pics to really illustrate it. I will definitely have to check it out.

  27. Kerrin says:

    Nomadic Chick, that’s funny about your friend Sheri. I think I’d agree with her… if you were talking about chocolate ! 😉

    my spatula, i just pictured a sleeping bag in the middle of those aisles in the cheese cave ! ha ha ! What’s for breakfast ?! 🙂

    Jen, seems like your daughter has her mom’s taste buds – lucky kid ! 🙂 I have never heard of that cookbook before (nor the chicken dish), will look it up for sure, thanks ! And yes, totally saw your post on street foods of the Philippines – wooh !!

    Eva, thanks for sharing the link for FX Cuisine, looking forward to checking it out. Hope you enjoy “visiting” Switzerland here !

    Solo Road Trip, wow what a strong connection to cheese you do have indeed ! Thank you so much for sharing, and so glad I could bring back such wonderful and delicious memories for you. That first recipe you wanted to try – talk about ingredients, can’t go wrong mixing all of those ! Do you still cook from this book ? Must bring back great memories every time. Especially if you make those croissants ! Well then, one thing is clear – Gruyère is definitely the place for you !! 🙂

    Sealand, thanks. Let us know if you make it there and what you thought…

  28. Steve says:

    Spectacular photos, especially those factory shots. Scroll the first shot of the aisle of racks up and down for an interesting effect. I’ve got to get to this region, most definitely durig the balloon festival. Great advice. On a side note, i’ve always wondered what Little Miss Muffet was eating while sitting on a tuffet (whatever that is). Leave it to Kerrin to talk about curds and whey 🙂

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