Hiking, which the Swiss call “wandering,” takes you through farmlands where huge cows graze and block wide paths occasionally. Looking up from chewing grass, the cows eye you with wonder and what might be nonchalance or maybe respect.
From these farms, often populated with small herds of, at most, eight to 12 cows – all of whom have names (common ones include Rosalie, Lila, Dixi, Vita, Olivia, Luna) and are considered part of the family – comes the amazing milk used to create those famous Swiss cheeses and chocolates, as well as yogurt and other great, fresh, regional products.
It’s the perfect place to experience true farm-to-table dining.
A few years ago, female farmers throughout Switzerland banded together to create Swiss Tavolata, an organization with 40 hosts offering the opportunity to have a real farmhouse meal, right in their houses (or fields, gardens, barns or wine cellars). At least 80 per cent of the produce has to be from the local region.
And because the Swiss take themselves seriously as gourmands, these are thoughtful, multicourse meals. Examples include “parsnip soup with hazelnut butter” (served at Erika Hanni’s farm in Reichenbach im Kandertal, canton Bern), "organic roast beef on a bed of hay,” (from Migga Falett in Bergun, canton Graubunden), and “chicken breast stuffed with juicy apples and a side of rösti,” (at Regula Fah’s farm, canton Thurgau). Some hosts also offer brunch.
“I love having guests,” Hanni said on a recent German program. “It’s a great way for us to tell people about agriculture, inviting them to our beautiful house, and giving them great meals from regional products.”
While many hosts do not speak a lot of English, you can get by with basic English, German, or French. And let’s face it: Food is the great communicator. Knock on that big wooden door, smile, pull up a seat, and say, “please,” and, “thank you.”
Prices are 96 Swiss francs ($127) with wine, per person, or 76 Swiss francs without wine. Children from the ages of 4 to 12 are 46 Swiss francs. (Kids under four eat free.) Find locations and reserve (in English) at swisstavolata.ch/tavolata.
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