Like most countries’, Switzerland’s culinary traditions developed out of necessity. Just while other places were stuck eating a lifetime supply of potatoes, Switzerland was like, “it’s really cold in these beautiful mountains, I bet our stockpiles of cheese would be an excellent way to help consume the bread and pickles we have so we can survive.” Gruyere, Emmentaler, and Vacherin typically get the name calls outside the country, but practically every single town has their own delicious specialty. And while bubbly fondue and oozing raclettes may not be totally substantial for, like, nutrients, there’s also alplermagronen, a rich gratin of potatoes, macaroni, cheese, cream, and onions. You also may have heard that the Swiss make chocolate. That WAS NOT A LIE, and it’s delicious.
Food you haven’t heard of? It’s just as hearty and rich and better than the stuff you’ve been living off of, like Luzerner Chügelipastete, a puff pastry filled with goddamn meatballs and white sauce, or beef braised in wine and served over slow-cooked polenta that soaks up all those savory juices or roti, an iconic dish of salted & fried shredded potatoes that’s basically like hash browns but far better with cheese and bacon in the mix. For that matter, we’re sure there’s SOMETHING boring and bland in the Swiss mix, but then they just add the cheese of the day in, and ALL THE PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED.
The mix of influences here — be they Italian, Mediterranean, French on the coasts, and slavic in the interior of the country — helps set up a delicious mish-mash of foods. They have fantastic olive oil, and the oysters in the small town of Ston are considered some of the best in the Adriatic. Their Babić, Malvasia, prosecco, and Vrbnička žlahtina wines used to be underrated, but are getting more international cred each year. And, perhaps their most famous dish — roasted lamb “under the bell” — is worth the hype, considering the meat cooks from both sides (with a domed clay bell covered in hot charcoal on top, and a coal BBQ below) slowly in its own juices.
So much chocolate. So many different kinds of waffles. A vegetable named after one of their major cities that has, in recent years, taken the American restaurant world by sprouted storm. A complex beer scene featuring upwards of 180 breweries dominated by Trappist and Abbey beers. Large, twice-fried, um, fries. Delicious cheeses, including the AOP-protected Herve, which is often eaten on rye bread covered in pear and apple syrup, and paired with some delicious beer. Belgians may not always be able to agree on what language to speak or even whether they should remain a country, but their damn delicious foodstuffs better not go anywhere.
Most of the foods are heavy — the bountiful styles of sausage, from brats and bockwurst, to frankfurters, landjäger, and weisswurst; the potatoes, from the pancakes and dumplings (kartoffelklöße), to famous potato salad and whatever schupfnudeln is; the spatzle; the sauerkraut; the krapfen donuts. But they are gloriously heavy — heavy in a way that makes you feel warm and strong. The beers are, of course, world famous, what with the German Beer Purity Laws ensuring quality, and the widespread popularity of biergarten culture. But head to any cafe around 4pm and you will see the highly underrated kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake) culture as well, which is also just a fun thing to say aloud.
Georgia sits in the middle of the ancient spice route between Europe and the Middle East and Asia, so the country’s dishes are imbued with an incredibly rich and unique use of herbs & spices, like cilantro and dried marigold, that are used in combinations not seen in the other individual regions and are layered for bold, but balanced dishes. And the pinch-hitter of those dishes is khachapuri, a boat-shaped pastry filled with a glorious amount of melted cheese and a raw egg. It’s so popular that the country’s trying to trademark it so places like Panera don’t steal it when they realize HOW MUCH BETTER THE BREAD BOWL CAN BE.
Also in the lineup: khinkali, the twisted dumpling knots that’re filled with pork, beef, or lamb and laden with all those spices, plus onions; kuchmachi, which is one of those dishes where you should not ask what’s in it (hearts, gizzards, and the like) and just savor the deep flavor of pork, fried garlic and onions, coriander, and bright pomegranate seeds; or chahohbili, a peppery, sweet chicken stew. Cheese is abundant (obviously, they put it in bread boats), and tkemali, a plum sauce, accompanies a slew of meat dishes and is, of course, laden with coriander and cumin and peppery bites.