Every Swiss person you meet will have a different opinion on what makes the perfect fondue, although it’s typically a mixture of older and younger cheese, white wine, garlic and a dash of kirsch.
But what they’ll agree on is the following: First, fondue is a winter food, best enjoyed on a cold, snowy day, preferably in a rustic location. Second, you can’t just dip your bread in the cheese – you have to stir it. Third, chocolate fondue is a foreign aberration that has no part in the Swiss canon. And finally, fondue, notes Swiss dairy manager Johann Wittwer through a translator, is a social meal – “Good friends are the most important ingredient.”
So gather them up and plan a trip to one of these fondue experiences, in Switzerland and here at home.
ON A RICKSHAW
Book a 90-minute city tour on a bicycle rickshaw while partaking in a cheese fondue for two. The driver will tuck you in under a woollen blanket before latching on the customized wooden tray complete with spots for the fondue pot, plates, cups of tea, tiny bottles of kirsch and even slots and a latch for wine glasses. Take cubes of bread out of the hanging bag then swirl them in the bubbling cheese as you learn about the history and culture of the Swiss capital. $238 (190 Swiss francs) for two, firstname.lastname@example.org, bern.com
ON A TRAM
Join a crowd of mostly locals on a city tram kitted out with wooden tables and benches and two nimble servers and guides. The two-hour ride through the city includes mulled wine, an appetizer of sliced meat and cabbage salad, all-you-can-eat fondue and a fruit plate for dessert – and you’ll enjoy the surprised smiles from the street as pedestrians outside realize that what looks like a simple tram is really a moving restaurant. $116 (93 Swiss francs) a person, fonduetram.ch
Mont Tremblant, Que.
After a gondola ride to the summit, follow your guide to the Refuge du Trappeur, an off-the-grid log cabin in the forest, to dine on cheese fondue with salads and sides by the heat of the wood-burning stove. Then burn off some of the fromage on a five-kilometre snowshoe back down the mountain, lit by your headlamp or the moon. $79.99 for adults, plus $10 for snowshoe rental, tremblant.ca
Cypress Mountain, B.C.
Did someone say chocolate? Work for your dessert on this evening excursion. Strap on a headlamp and follow your guide up and down the mountain and through forest and meadow on an interpretive snowshoe tour. Follow up the exercise with hot apple cider and a chocolate fondue served with fruit and angel food cake. $50 each, cypressmountain.com/snowshoeing
Les Diablerets, Switzerland
Take an evening chairlift up to Restaurant les Mazots at 1,717 metres for a classic cheese fondue. Then, put on your headlamp and grab your sled for an exhilarating glide down the seven-kilometre run, culminating in a cup of mulled wine. $62 (50 Swiss francs), $44 (35 Swiss francs) for children aged six-12, diablerets.ch
Sun Peaks, Kamloops, B.C.
After-hours, alpine skiers can take the chairlift up to mid-mountain, where they’ll dine on a three-course fondue dinner – broth, cheese and chocolate – accompanied by live music. When it’s time to head back, headlamps are handed out for a guided descent down a freshly groomed, green run. $70 a person, sunpeaksresort.com
Panorama Mountain, B.C.
Après-ski doesn’t get much better than this: A 12-minute helicopter ride takes groups of up to 14 into Purcell Mountains to Summit Hut for drinks by the fire and an indulgent meal of cheese and chocolate fondue. More than just a place to stuff your face, the view alone from the top of Panorama Mountain is worth the trip. Availability depends on flying conditions – book ahead, but have a contingency plan. $530 for a group of up to eight, $700 for up to 14, rkheliski.com/fondue