A gastronomic triathlon: chocolate, cheese and wine tasting

September 23, 2012

Around Lausanne, Travel

A couple of weeks ago we completed a gastronomic triathlon of sorts, combining chocolate, cheese and wine tasting in the space of less than 24 hours. We had our first visitor from Canada, Kathryn’s friend Kelly, who was on route to some business meetings. After reviewing our options for local tourist attractions, we settled on a visit to the Cailler chocolate factory in Broc, followed by a trip to the nearby medieval hilltop village of Gruyere, home of one of the world’s most famous cheeses. The following day we participated in the Route Gourmande, a food and wine festival hosted by the vineyard owners and restauranteurs of the Vevey-Montreux appellation. The Route Gourmande involves a 5km walk through the vineyards above Montreux, with frequent pitstops to sample local wines and food.

The Maison Cailler chocolate factory is located in the small town of Broc (pronounced “bro”), a 45 minute drive from Vevey. The factory was opened in 1898, as an extension of the chocolate manufacturing business launched in 1819 by founder François-Louis Cailler. Cailler was one of the very first companies to produce chocolate for the mass market in Europe (it was previously a luxury product available only to rich), and continues to make a wide range of fine chocolate products. Cailler was eventually purchased in 1929 by Nestlé.

The tour of Maison Cailler begins with a guided walk through a series of rooms presenting a hokey automated history of chocolate and the founding of the Cailler brand. The cocoa bean room was interesting, mind you, where we could touch and smell different beans from around the world, as was a viewing station where one could watch the production of chocolate on one of the factory’s automated lines. The tour highlight, of course, was a visit to the  tasting room, where guests can sample all of Cailler’s chocolate products. Guests moved around a large counter while sampling small wafers of chocolate, all under the watchful gaze of Cailler staff, who were on the lookout for glutons and hoarders trying to stuff their pockets!

Next up was a trip to Gruyère, a short 10 minute drive from Broc. Gruyère is a classic medieval hilltop town, complete with walls and a castle overlooking the surrounding farmland. It is also the focal point for the production of the famous cheese of the same name, which is often used in fondue. A visit to Gruyère begins with parking the car below the town and a short but steep hike up to the village, which is closed to tourist traffic. The attractive cobblestone streets and village square are lined with shops and restaurants catering to tourists. At the highest end of town lies the Castle Gruyère, first constructed in the 13th century and inhabited by the Counts of Gruyère until the 16th century. Since that time the castle has changed hands a number of time between private owners and the Canton of Fribourg. The castle was turned into a museum by the Canton in the 1930s.

The tour of Castle Gruyere is a worthwhile stroll through dozens of sparely furnished rooms. Highlights include the inner courtyard, stained glass,  armour room, outer ramparts, and a bizarre displayed of a mummified severed hand!

A surprising and bizarre find in the village of Gruyère is the HR Giger Museum. Located just before one enters the castle grounds, the museum is devoted to the creative works of the Swiss surrealist artist HR Giger, who earned acclaim in the early 1980s for designing the terrifying creature in the Ridley Scott film Alien. A small chateau beside the castle was acquired by Giger in 1998 and is now used to house an impressive collection of his paintings, drawings and sculpture. Opposite the museum is the Giger Museum Bar, where one can sit and have a drink in a room designed and furnished to look like the interior of the alien’s mothership!

We completed our visit to Gruyère with a beer and fondue at one of the local restaurants.

The following day we met up with a group of Kathryn’s colleagues from Nestlé for the 18th annual Route Gourmande. As mentioned in previous posts, the north shore of Lake Geneva between Lausanne and Montreux is blanketed by vineyards that cling to the steep hillsides and that together make up the historic Lavaux wine region. The Route Gourmande offers wine enthusiasts and foodies an opportunity to walk through this picturesque countryside while sampling the local wines and various gourmet treats. The Route began in the village of Chailly-sur-Montreux and proceeded to wind into the countryside, where we stopped at various kiosks and chateaux along the way to sample libations. The walk was listed as 5km but after a half dozen tasting stops and a few hills it started to feel longer than that! After one final climb we were rewarded with delicious apricot pastries before the descent back to Chailly.

The Route Gourmande was a perfect way to wrap up a weekend of gastronomic indulgence, and we figure the 5km walk more or less offset the caloric intake!


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One Comment on “A gastronomic triathlon: chocolate, cheese and wine tasting”

  1. Barbara Crow Says:

    Can’t wait to go on this tour when we come to visit!!


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