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Classic Aprés-Ski Dishes To Try In The Alps

Nick Nomi

Senior Contributor

Alpine cuisine is pure convivial comfort food. It is perfect for refuelling around a table with friends and family after long days spent high in the mountains. So as the mercury drops and the cold wind of winter blows in, we've scoured Europe’s most wintry mountain-top destinations to find the heartiest, most delicious, wondrously cheese-laden dishes, worth journeying out into the cold for.

Raclette

Raclette is food elevated into performance art. It is a culinary action movie played out in one swift, grand scraping gesture as bubbles rise on the cheese’s surface, fires flaming all around, cooked to a ravenous soundtrack of winter cheer. Let me explain… Raclette is served as half a wheel of cheese, melted, most often at the table, on a heat lamp or over open flame, and then pleasingly scraped from the wheel onto an adoring crowd of boiled potatoes, charcuterie, cornichons and pickled silverskin onions — which helps to counter the rich, all-conquering flavour of the cheese.

The name derives from the French racler (to scrape), but it’s also known in Swiss-German as Bratkäse and there is little difference between the two. Except perhaps in Switzerland where it’s often served with Bündnerfleisch (cured beef), where in France it’s most often cuts of pork like Jambon de Savoie or saucisson sec, and a salad inexplicably smothered with salad cream on the side. But served, either way, it’s the king of winter cheeses.
Cheese raclette with salami

Credit: Andrea Izzotti

Tartiflette

Tartiflette is a little like gratin dauphinoise but elevated to something more, with a bit of a Pollock-esque aesthetic and a bad reputation among cardiologists. It’s made by baking piles of sliced potatoes with their skin still firmly in place, onions, white wine, browned lardons of smoked bacon, slices of delicious garlic, butter, cream and a wheel of nutty reblochon cheese. And it’s served with a side of charcuterie and cornichons. It sounds like a post-ski heart attack on a plate, but it is also a cheese lover’s nirvana. The real draw comes when eating it outside.

The tantalising conflux of melted cheese, creamy potato and butter, the distant scent of a dry white wine mingling wonderfully with bacon and garlic, and the pure decadence of it all as the cold swirls all around creating scented plumes of the most inviting steam. You may also find Tartiflette or its very close relative Croziflette (basically Tartiflette with the potatoes swapped for crozet pasta) served alongside a dish of Diot au vin blanc, which is a traditional Savoyard sausage dish of Diot sausages cooked in a local white wine with onions and garlic — and though this really does provide an overdose of fat, it is sublime. Tartiflette is best served with an aromatic white wine, but if you’re in the Savoie, then a local Mondeuse will do just as well.
Tartiflette with smoked lardons

Credit: Margouillat Photo

Vacherin

Vacherin is only available for two seasons— between October and March — and its production in both Switzerland where it’s called Vacherin Mont d’or, and France where it’s usually just Mont d’Or or Vacherin du Haut-Doub is protected by all manner of AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée). As such one might not encounter it on every menu and certainly not outside of the accepted seasons.

But Vacherin is a beautifully rich, fruity and complex cheese that is at its best when baked in its box and paired with potatoes, thick chunks of bread, and whatever else one likes dunking into melted cheese…. not unlike a fondue. But it feels and tastes a little bit more rustic. In Jura in the east of France, where Vacherin is made, people tend to just eat it straight from the box, but its strong flavour and overpowering earthy aroma might not be for everyone.
Vacherin with breaded mushrooms

Credit: 1eyeshut

Käsespätzle

This dish is 50% Spätzle (a kind of Germanic egg pasta), which is baked between decadent layers of regional cheeses (often Emmental) and topped with crispy onions, and sometimes a side of sauerkraut. Imagine a grown-up mac and cheese baked until it becomes a satisfying mix of slightly crisped top and gooey moreish centre. It’s a popular option on Austria’s Ski slopes but Käsknöpfle in both Switzerland and Liechtenstein is very similar.
Schinken-Käsespätzle - Tyrolean noodles with bacon and cheese

Credit: Nina Alizada

Fondue

Fondue is the classic Alpine dish. It is perfect for sharing at aprés ski or when on holiday in any number of mountain towns. And it’s even perfect for romance, the wintery mountain version of spaghetti: stringy, entangled and gooey cheese pulling loved ones together like a Cocker Spaniel and a Bloodhound, their mouths tangled up in thick ropes of quickly melting casein molecules, a chunk of bread in either mouth. Ah the romance.

Fondue can be made with all kinds of cheeses, depending on the region where you’re eating it. My favourites are always those found in the Savoie region of France, where beautiful French cheeses are paired with perfectly baked, crispy French bread. And Savoie Fondue is most often made with a sumptuous mixture of Beaufort, Comté and Emmental as well as a little white wine, kirsch, garlic and nutmeg, but it’s not uncommon to see fondues made with Champagne, Génépi and even cheeses like Reblochon and Tomme de Savoie.
Cheese fondue with boiled potatoes

Credit: Angela Pham

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