We know what you’re thinking. ‘Fondue… isn’t that a traditional Swiss dish?’. The answer? Absolutely it is. But some think that the French do it better!
Cheese fondue is an Alpine delicacy, believed to have been invented in the Swiss Alps. It involves melting cheese, mixing it with a little white wine – and keeping it warm and gooey while diners dip bite-sized pieces of crusty bread into the pot. It’s a classic après-ski dish in the winter months.
The traditional Swiss variation is often called ‘Fondue Moitié Moitié’, which translates to ‘half and half’. It means that a blend of two different cheeses is used. While this can be any Swiss cheese, it’s usually a mix of Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois… not to be confused with the French Vacherin Mont d’Or. These cheeses produce a very pale, creamy fondue that’s quite rich and heavy.
The French approach fondue in a slightly different way.
Fondue with a French touch
French fondue tends to be a little lighter than its Swiss counterpart, using cheeses from the Savoie French Alps. The most popular French fondue is Fondue Savoyarde, which can be made from any locally produced cheese from the Savoie or Haute Savoie regions when possible. Tomme de Savoie and Emmental are good choices, along with Beaufort, Reblochon, and Abondance.
Another mouthwatering French fondue is Fondue Comtoise; a fondue made exclusively with Comté. What makes this so special – and so unlike the Swiss variation – is the inclusion of different Comtés of varying ages. You could combine a younger 6-month aged Comté with a more mature cheese. While still having that lightness, this fondue is also bursting with bold flavours and fruity, floral notes.
France is also home to the fondue that isn’t. Raclette – a dish made using Raclette cheese from the French Alps and Jura mountains – is often thrown into the French fondue category. But it’s not fondue at all. There are a lot of similarities, of course. Both include melting cheese and charcuterie usually. But Raclette is different. It involves taking a half wheel of Raclette cheese, melting the exposed edge, and scraping the gooey cheese onto diners’ plates, usually over some boiled potatoes with cornichons and cured meat.
Fabulous finishing touches
Whatever type of French fondue you want to try, remember that while the cheese may be the start of the show, the finishing touches matter too! The classic accompaniment to French fondue is a crusty French baguette, cut or rustically torn into perfect bite-sized dippers. Fondue is an opportunity to really get creative. Try dipping cooked potatoes, vegetables, or even meats. A Beaufort saucisson is wonderful in a cheese fondue.