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La Auténtica Raclette Suiza

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El platillo nacional del Valais, mi cantón en Suiza, la Raclette es el queso fundido más suculento  que probarás jamás.  Aquí está en su mejor expresión, en el Manoir de Villa en Sierre.

La Raclette [raklayt] es el platillo nacional del Valais, el Catón Suizo donde nací y crecí.  La gente ha estado comiendo esto en mi parte de los Alpes desde el siglo 16.  Para ser comida lenta (slow food), se prepara bastante rápido.  La Raclette es queso de los Alpes, con alto contenido de grasa y se sirve con papas.  Existen tres maneras en que normalmente se sirve.  La primera es la raclette de los valles alpinos.  En los valles alpinos o en algunos sitios donde llevan la raclette en la médula, una gran rueda de queso se corta por la mitad y se coloca junto a una fogata de madera.  La superficie del queso se derrite lentamente, y el 'racleur', (raspador) raspa el queso fundido y lo coloca en un plato.  Esa es la raclette original y es la mejor que puedes comer.  Yo solo la he comido una vez en mi vida, y soy local.  El segundo tipo es la raclette de restaurante.  Funciona con las mismas medias ruedas de queso pero la fogata es sustituída por un asador eléctrico diseñado especialmente para raclette.  Ese es el que ves en restaurantes y en reuniones familiares en el Valais.  Finalmente, existe la raclonette, una varatija eléctrica en la que puedes poner rebanadas de queso  en minúsulos sartencitos cuadrados.  Esta no es una raclette en serio y es mejor evitarla ya que no alcanza la temperatura suficiente para asar la corteza del queso.  Terminas con un masacote aceitoso.  Pese a sus inconvenientes, es tan popular en los hogares suizos como los hot cakes en los Estados Unidos.

Hoy te voy a mostrar le mejor 'raclette de restaurante' que he tenido el privilegio de comer.  Por décadas he venido a la Villa castle en Sierre con mi padre, y siguen siendo los mejores.  El restaurante ocupa un castillo del siglo 16, que es propiedad y es operado de manera muy profesional por una fundación no lucrativa creada en 1951 para preservar el castillo.  Necesitas hacer una reservación  pra comer raclette en le Château de Villa.   La gente viene en pequeños grupos groups y el lugar está atestado para la comida los domingos.  Tomé estas fotos el otro día con mi lente ojo de pescado, por lo que si te mareas, no culpes al queso, sino al pescado.

Si eres una persona bien conectada, o si traes un grupo grande, o si sabes pedir las cosas, te pueden dar uno de los preciosos salones privados para comer raclette en paz e intimidad.

La comida invariablemetne comienza con un  'assiette valaisanne' o Plato del Valais, una selección de rebanadas gruesas de tocino seco, jamón, chorizos y carne de res que acompañas con pan de centeno sin levadura.  Todas estas carnes frías son locales y típicas de la región, y son inmensamente populares con los locales.  Esto convierte al Valais es un lugar maravilloso para los cardiólogos y los oncólogos, sin embargo hay que recordar que este es un sitio inhóspito entre altas rocas y que hasta hace muy poco, la gente, de todas maneras, moría prematuramente

El objetivo de Manoir de Villa es promover los productos de comida locales.  Su idea más brillante es utilizar una selección de 5 quesos, todos de valles alpinos del Valais y todos elaborados a la manera tradicional utilizando leche bronca.  Es posible que nunca tengas la oportunidad de comer quesos como estos en tu vida, así es que si estás en el Valais ¡No te lo pierdas!

Tres medias ruedas del mismo queso se colocan bajo los hornos eléctr¡cos de raclette, con la cara plana hacia arriba.  El queso rápidamente se derrite y burbujea.  El racleur (raspador) raspa los quesos fundidos y los coloca en los platos en una misma mesa y luego regresa los quesos al horno.

Continúa con los platos siguientes y sale volando por el restaurante...

Tal vez observes a dos personas distintas haciendo el trabajo de racleur.  Es porque tomé estas fotos en dos ocasiones diferentes.  Por lo demás, nada ha cambiado.  La buena raclette, como el río Rhin, siempre sigue igual. 

...para entregarlos personalmente a cada comensal, anunciando qué queso está siendo servido.  'Este es de Les Haudères en el Vald d'Hérens'.

Panorámica de 360º 360° immersive panorama (Flash, 2 MB) - observa al racleur 'raspador' trabajando.

La Etiqueta de la Raclette es muy importante si comes con Valaisians.  Si le pones sal a tus quesos, la gente te verá como si le hubieras puesto hielo a una copa de Château Cheval Blanc en Bordeaux o pidieses un filete de Kobe bien cocido en Tokyo.  Por Dios, en una de esas te arrojan desde lo alto de un glaciar.  Luego viene la pimienta.  Yo le pondría pimienta al café si yo tomase café, pero si le pones pimienta a tu raclette antes de probar el primer bocado, la gente pensará menos de tí.  Como dice el cuento campestre 'Un día un hombre estaba entrevistándose para un trabajo nuevo y su futuro jefe le invitó una raclette.  El hombre le puso pimienta a su raclette sin haberla probado antes.  Al ver esto, el jefe decidió no contratarlo.  Y resultó que tuvo razón, ya que este hombre tenía tendencia a tomar decisiones precipitadas y prematuras y era un mal empleado.' Me han contado esta historia innumerables ocasiones y ahora la tengo tan grabada que no soñaría siquiera en ponerle un nanogramo de pimienta a mi raclette antes de probarla.  Desde luego tu me podrás decir que el cuento no tiene mucho sentido gerencialmente hablando, pero ese no es el punto.  La raclette es comida de identidad, y es cuestión de historia, de tradición, de comer-esto-nos-hace-ser-quienes-somos, tanto como de cualquier otra cosa.

Otro tip que el visitante casual del Valais puede equivocadamente tomar como otra tradición de las que definen nuestra identidad.  Pronto descubriría que esto no es tradición.  Con una raclette sólo puedes beber  alcohol o té tibio.  Intenta pasarlo con una coca cola o con agua mineral si deseas, pero por favor siéntate por allá atrás para que el olor de tu vómito no distraiga a los demás comensales.  Los padres valaisianos les dicen sus hijos que  'Si toman algo frío con la raclette, el queso se convertirá en una bola dura en su estómago y se enfermarán'. Los niños podrán argumentar que el vino blanco está frío y que nadie se enferma.  'El alcohol evita que se forme la bola en tu estómago'. Esos niños que discuten demasiado bien o que no escuchan el consejo de sus padres pronto aprenden por experiencia. al tener que salir corriendo del salón.

El hombre regresa después de un par de minutos, se lleva tus platos y regresa con más queso. 'Este es de l'Alpage du Marais en Grimentz'. Cada queso te dá una rebanada de los Alpes, la combinación única de topografía, suelo, micrometeorología, la raza de las vacas que ahí pastan, la manera en que el queso fue elaborado y sazonado.  Cada queso es muy distinto de los otros, aún siendo todos quesos de raclette, un poco como las personas de una misma familia le pueden parecer parecidas a un extraño, pero son un mundo aparte una vez que los conoces.

Los platos siguen llegando hasta que caes.  A menos que tengas un apetito de lilliputense,  pide la opción que incluye todo lo que puedas comer y prueba al menos un ciclo completo, 5 platos en total.

En otra ocasión te mostraré la raclette en otro ambiente. 

Château de Villa
http://www.chateaudevilla.ch
Rue de Sainte-Catherine 4
Tel. +41 (0)27 455 18 96
Sierre
Valais (the Matterhorn state!)
Switzerland

El castillo es propiedad de una fundación, y es manejado por Dominique Fornage, un prominente enólogo suizo.  Si al escuchar las palabras 'Fundación Suiza' imaginas un servicio estilo soviético, te espera una buena sorpresa.  El restaurante siempre está lleno, incluso el lunes a mediodía.  Reservar por adelantadao es absolutamente necesario.  Costando 44 francos suizos por una entrada y raclette ilimitada, tampoco es una comida barata.  La gente viene aquí no por el precio sino por la calidad y el servicio rápido.  En efecto, a leguas notarás que si  Mister Queso es tan apto para lograr que sus meseros trabajen el salón con tal eficiencia, seguramente no será el tipo de vinicultor que olvida un par de gotas en sus uvas.  Pero tampoco depende de su cava ni se la pasa tras su escritrio de director, y lo puedes ver por ahí ayudando a llevar fondue o raclette a una mesa.  Una operación muy bien manejada, particularmente para una organización sin fines de lucro.


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46 comentarios

  • #1
  • Comment by Magda
Am almost drooling over here :)

Last April, I was in Budapest for a congress and a Swiss company that was attending had a party on a boat to celebrate its 35th birthay. Besides a Swiss folk group, lovely wine, and a big wooden log with nails (some Swiss tradition I'm told- albeit possibly not the best idea on a boat full people on their way to drinking themselves into oblivion) there was raclette. They had a similar setup as to what you show on your pictures- much less sophisticated though. I do have to say that it was delicious!

Once again, compliments on your site- I always look forward to seeing new posts!

Magda
I've only had raclette once (at a dinner with a Swiss family outside of Fribourg), but I absolutely love it. The minute I can think of a good-enough excuse, I'm buying one of those big electrical cheese melter thingies. :)
When I first arrived in Munich, I was surprised to see the plethora of raclonette devices in the stores, but I've yet to try it the scraped way. My girlfriend worked in Switzerland for a while, and developed quite the love for Raclette there, but space limitations makes it impossible for us to invest in the proper equipment.

This restaurant looks absolutely wonderful, I especially like the idea of being able to try out five variants of a cheese in the same meal, a chance to get to know this cultural dish not only as a stereotypical Swiss thing bought in a supermarket, but as a living tradition with local variations and proud craftsmen behind it. If I get a chance to go to Valais, I shall certainly not miss the opportunity.

/Daniel
A pedant I may be, but Chateau Petrus is from Bordeaux not Burgund. Otherwise great, great site - keep it up!
  • #5
  • Comment by Elise
Oh my goodness, I am drooling at my desk. Last time I had raclette was in Paris four years ago, and before that I hadn't had it since I was a kid, on one of our visits to Chamonix. It is so good, and so hard to describe to people who don't know anything about it. You did a beautiful job describing it. After reading your post, I am thinking we must plan a trip to Valais as soon as possible!! Thank you for a wonderful post.
Such an interesting yet simple looking dish. But what do I know, I've never had such a thing. Now I will make sure I don't miss this whenever I am near Valais.  Thanks!
  • #7
  • Comment by AlexFalk
One of my first culinary creations was fried cheese.
Using cheddar and a non-stick pan, I would fry the cheese till it became crispy, and the oil was rendered.

This reminds me so much of that childhood experiment, that it is now on my list of things to do before I die.
  • #8
  • Comment by Caroline
I have lived in Switzerland most of my life. I skied in Nax (Valais) every winter and I can personally say that nothing beats a good raclette. If you do go to nax for some skiing, go to Victor's barn on one of the pistes, good company, good raclette, good wine.

Now I live in the UK and moving to Australia soon I will really miss raclette and all other swiss dishes.
  • #9
  • Comment by Christine
How does one convey the cheese from plate to mouth? The potato pancake must be one part of the equation. Since you were so kind as to aquaint us with some elements or raclette etiquette, perhaps you would save raclette neophytes from the pitfalls of improper technique.
  • #10
  • Comment by Annie
Looks divine, but what's not to love about melted cheese...reminds me of the melted cheese that I use to make as a child using the microwave and brie.

I have the same question as Christine: how does one tranfer the raclette to the mouth?  I don't see any thing obvious like bread.
  • #11
  • Comment by Luci
As if you didn't have enough ways of introducing melted cheese to my diet!  And re:  tea and wine with melted cheese - I totally concur with you and general convention - I had fondue a few months ago in Montreal and drank a glass of water with it.  Felt very ill - until I had a cup of tea with dessert.  Everything was fine afterwards!
  • #12
  • Answered by fx
Magda, thanks for visiting and I'm glad this brought back such a pleasant memory! Raclette really is a most convivial dish, with every guest sharing a friendly wait for the next instalment, commenting his slice or passing his turn. And it really is easy to cook once you have the setup!
  • #13
  • Answered by fx
Angelica, make sure you get the marchine that melts the whole cheese half rather than the lowly raclonette, that's no good. And buy as much proper raclette d'alpage cheese as you can carry!
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
Daniel, you must rejoice that there is such a fine thing for you in the future as tasting real raclette rather than the boiled-down 'raclonette' version! You are missing the delicious burnt cheese on the sides without any of the oil that oozes out of the cheese in the raclonette. If you get a half cheese head, you could do this in a fireplace instead, that would even be better. No need for any further equipment!
  • #15
  • Answered by fx
Elise, when you come to Sierre and visit the Manoir de Villa, you won't be disappointed! Really worth the trip in my opinion!
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
Alex definitely please don't die before you try the mighty raclette!
  • #17
  • Answered by fx
Christine, there are no potato pancakes, just boiled potatoes with their skins. In between deliveries you peel a potato, then cut a piece, wrap some melted cheese around it, and up it goes in your mouth and down your belly.
  • #18
  • Comment by Luke
Thaks for the warning, FX. I just wish I listened. Being the inquisitive moron I am, and having had both fondue and New England style extra-cheese pizza with a cold soft drink on numerous occasions, I decided to melt comté and gruyère and eat the result with only a small piece of bread, then wash it down with some ice-cold tea. I was in Hell.

That said, I'd still love to try the real thing someday. If I'm ever in Valais, I'll definitely go for some. Only this time, I'll bear the beverage rule in mind.
  • #19
  • Answered by fx
Luke, if only inquisitive morons and staunch-headed curmudgeons were lured into trying raclette with a cold drink, we'd have ourselves a nice test to decide who should be member of a club. Most people do try it once in their life, few try a second time!
  • #20
  • Comment by Brozzi
I once saw a picture of a raclette melting pan that was on the end of a long stick for use ove a campfire.  I've tried for hours and cannot find that website again.  Does anybody know of such a device and where I might acquire one? Looks like a great cmap meal.
Thanks
Brings back memories of a lunch in the back of a cheese shop in Paris. My husband had the Raclette, not sure if it was as good as one in Valais, but it was definitely a most memorable meal.
  • #22
  • Answered by fx
Laura, was this at Androuet?
  • #23
  • Comment by Helena
Wow. I just tried Swiss raclette last week. It really is the most amazing cheese. I don't think I had it at the right temp and I wasn't expecting the strong smell. But it was amazing. I think I'm hooked. Got to hunt down the French version as well soon.
  • #24
  • Answered by fx
Helena, you could try with a wood fire and a wooden board, you need a really hot temperature. And please don't mention any French raclette to a Swiss or you'll end up marooned on mountain top!
  • #25
  • Comment by chef4cook
In a hotel where I was the chef I did a wonderful onion soup with raclette gratine'd! it was delicious.
  • #26
  • Comment by Judith Basham
I could not agree more with the coca cola statement.  If I were a Restaurateur it would, along with its other soft drink cousins, never be stocked.  If customers didn't like it, then too bad and directions handed out to them where the nearest fast food chain operates.  Standards!
  • #27
  • Answered by fx
Judith, they don't have any coca cola at Philippe Rochat, Switzerland's finest and my favorite restaurant!
  • #28
  • Comment by felicia
Raclette is the greatest,whether you have a scraped raclette or a pan. splurge and enjoy.
  • FX's answer→ Felicia, you are very right, but might I say that there is a world of difference between scraped raclette (on a wood fire if possible) made from Alpage cheese and raclonette made with industrial raclette cheese? Anyway, I hope you'll get to enjoy the former soon!

  • #30
  • Comment by Andrea
A Christmas tradition in my German household when a large number of people are present is the raclette grilling: a fantastic option in the absence of a brick oven, raclette stove and racletour.  There is something warm and wonderful about giving the guests the option to grill their own veggies, potatoes and meats while chatting at the table.  It is also a slow meal, and thus makes the dinner a social occasion.  Oh, it is also fantastically delicious with Gruyere (i prefer the cave-aged).
  • FX's answer→ Andrea I agree that Raclette is a really hearty convivial dish to share with friends. Can you really get old Gruyere to melt properly without oozing out loads of oil?

Salût,  Excellent writing and images ... mes félicitations.  I was (and fundamentally will ever be) un fromager d'alpage en Valais:  Hérémance, Ovronnaz, Entremont (La Lettaz & Champlong) for 10 seasons.  Now my kid Ari has taken over.  Meanwhile, I'm organising a Symposium le 17 Mai 09, in Ferney-Voltaire, titled "Cheese, Sex Death & Madness".  This will be the second edition for us.  I'd be pleased if you might be interested in joining in, as participant or as collaborator.  The website is just getting off the ground ... I'm a pure neophyte, but it will help you identify my orientation.  Hope to hear from you.  Jim
  • FX's answer→ Salut Jim, thanks for dropping by! What is the symposium about, there was no information at all on the website about it apart from the date and place. Sounds interesting though!

  • #34
  • Comment by mary petrie
So love your sight....I am a student of wine in NY. What wine would you have with Raclette? thanks mary
  • FX's answer→ Mary, you absolutely need a dry white wine, ideally a Fendant (made with Chardonnay). Please don't ever drink anything cold other than wine with raclette as it will invariably lead to stomach ache.

  • #36
  • Comment by Fereshteh
It was everything I wanted to know about the cheese. I am new in Switzerland and your website is grate for me and I got lots of information I needed.
  • FX's answer→ Glad I could help and I wish you can visit the Chateau de Vila to sample some proper raclette!

  • #38
  • Comment by Vic
Great article! If I want to have an extra spicy, reasonably 'dry' raclette cheese, which one would you recommend? I have bought a nice one last year, but now our cheese supplier doesn't remember the make... It had a brown crust and a silverpaper-like label on the side.
  • #39
  • Comment by Kahing
Reading this story of yours makes me hungry all over for this raclette! Can't wait to go and try it out.

Still though, ANYONE who seasons it's meal before tasting it has no respect for the meal nor it's chef... This has been common sense in my family for centuries.

Thank you for posting so many interesting stories.

Kahing
  • FX's answer→ Yes, this is some serious raclette! Even better: a wood fire.

  • #41
  • Comment by Theb
I went there last December with a person who is crazy about raclette (kind of a pilgrimage for him :-)).
It is one of the good tables of Sierre. The good idea of the "Château de Villa" is to propose the tasting five different cheeses... The flavour is very different from one to another. You can really feel the "terroirs". When you are done with the five different tastings, you can continue to have raclettes with the cheeses you preferred. We spent an excellent evening. Definitely a place and an experience to recommend.  Theb. PS : Your pictures are great.
¡Estupenda comida!
  • #43
  • Comment by Pierre Zuber
I could not agree more with this presentation about the Raclette and the Château de Villa for this is where I was born.
Raclette is one of the most specific Swiss meal. In addition to Racletteas well as Fondue the Chateau de Villa offers one of the best place to taste the superb varieties of Valais wines either white or red. Unfortunately, our wines even though they compete with the best French wines are not know much beyond our borders.
  • FX's answer→ Yes indeed, the reason is mostly that we Swiss drink on average 3 bottles for each bottle we produce in Switzerland, so naturally there is no reason to try and sell our Swiss wines abroad, even so more because the price would make it hard. The local market just drinks way more than we make.

Your informative and amusing article draws one to Switzerland!  Don't know if I could eat that much raclette without at least trying, or dying in the attempt.
  • FX's answer→ Ah but raclette comes slowly, one by one, and is a really moderate amount of cheese per portion. And you can pause at any time...




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