What is “real” Swiss food, you may wonder and you’re not alone. Trust us, there is more to it than cheese fondue, but it is a difficult question, even for the Swiss, as recipes and preferences vary from canton to canton.
So, which Swiss foods should you try in Geneva?
CENOVIS – LOVE IT OR HATE IT!
If you order a ‘Tartine au Cenovis’ you will be regarded as one of two things: either very local, or very adventurous! Cenovis is known in all of Switzerland, but it is most popular in the French-speaking part of the country.
Cenovis is quite peculiar in taste, and is often compared to the British Marmite. The flavour is similar to a bouillon cube you would use to cook, spread on toast. This said, Cenovis can be your secret weapon when cooking, and in many a salad dressing! The genevois however mostly eat it on a slice of bread with butter.
You will either love, or hate Cenovis.
Where to get it: Cenovis can be bought at Geneva supermarkets, but can also be ordered at the Bains des Paquis, or “real” genevois bistros.
LA MARMITE DE L’ESCALADE (And how to eat it!)
They are back in the supermarkets now, and this is our favorite! The Marmite de l’Escalade is not just about chocolate, it’s about one of Geneva’s most treasured traditions! The Marmite de l’Escalade looks like a chocolate cauldron (or marmite), complete with marzipan “vegetables” inside.
You put your chocolate marmite on a clean kitchen towel and fold it around it (so that you won’t hurt your hands during the next step). Then, the youngest, and the oldest person in your family put their hands together into in one big fist and break the chocolate Marmite while saying the words: ‘Et ainsi périrent les ennemis de la République!’ (“Thus perished the enemies of the Republic!”). Then you unfold the kitchen towel to reveal and share the pieces of chocolate and the marmite’s marzipan bounty!
Where to get it the chocolate Marmite.
At your local Migros, Coop, and at Geneva’s many chocolate boutiques!
LONGEOLE (Sausage with cumin)
Another typical genevois thing: Longeole, a traditional pork sausage with cumin. You can find Longeole at local festivals, buy it at butcher shops, or order it at restaurants in town: the historic Café Papon, in Geneva’s Old Town, has it on offer on its menu occasionally, while the traditional La Brasserie Genevoise on Boulevard Helvétique features it year-round.
LA CROUTE AU FROMAGE
This is the Swiss, and more elaborated, version to the Croque Monsieur. It is a slice of bread with melted cheese poured over it on the plate. It exists with a whole range of added ingredients, and can be enjoyed at the Auberge de Savièse, a traditional Swiss restaurant on Rue des Pâquis.
This, to many, does not sound very Swiss, but it is a specialty in the Canton of Vaud, and often features at Geneva’s festivals and restaurants. Its name comes from a Fort called Malakoff, which was besieged by Swiss soldiers that had joined French and British armies during the Crimean War. During the siege, which lasted 11 months, they made these cheese beignets, and later named them after the fort. Malakoffs can be tasted at the Café du Soleil on Place du Petit-Saconnex (for dinner only) and can also be ordered at the Auberge de Savièse.
Cardon Genevois is a vegetable, relatively unknown outside Geneva and almost exclusively cultivated in the Canton! It is quite popular, and traditionally served as a side dish on Christmas dinner, often prepared as a gratin. You can buy Cardon Genevois in jars at local supermarkets year-round, but also fresh on the markets in December.
Who doesn’t love a good Bircher müesli? This might be the most famous Swiss food after the fondue, as it is healthy, and easy to make! You can find it almost everywhere in Geneva, from bakeries, to the Bains des Pâquis. The best one I ever bought was from the Boulangerie Mérigonde, on rue de Vermont.
You can, of course, also make your own Bircher müesli at home!
MERINGUE DOUBLE CRÈME
No visit to the town of Gruyère is complete without a Meringue a la double crème in one of the town’s charming restaurants! This traditional Swiss dessert can be easily found in many restaurants in Geneva. I had mine at the Café du Soleil recently on a lunch break, and loved it! You can also buy it at local supermarkets, to be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home.
The Swiss consider Rösti a national dish. Its origin lies in the Canton of Bern, and is mainly eaten in the German part of Switzerland. The border between the French and the German parts of Switzerland is sometimes humorously referred to as the Röstigraben, pointing to a cultural divide between the two territories. To make Rösti, grated potatoes are fried in a pan and look a bit like a big potato pancake when served. Rösti is a very common dish in Swiss restaurants, and can be ordered at the Auberge de Savièse, among many other places.
Of course, there is so much more to Swiss food than what we listed above! Geneva is nestled right in between France and Italy. In Geneva you’re only 20 minutes from France and less than 2 hours from Italy! This has played a huge influence on the cuisine in Geneva — you get the best of both worlds!