Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gluten-free in the Swiss Alps

You may have noticed that I left out the words "casein free" in the title of this post. I did eat dairy on this trip, and have been incorporating some dairy back into my diet as an experiment. Fortunately, I've had no reactions, which is a big change from a few years ago when I absolutely couldn't tolerate it. I'll probably continue to eat it when out, but when cooking for myself I'll leave it out. But enough with the explanations and on to the travel.

My husband is deployed right now and I had prepared myself not to see him for over six months. For reasons that can't be shared on the internet, we were able to meet up in Germany and Switzerland for a week of leave (vacation). I actually didn't believe I was going to see him until I got off the plane in Germany and saw his smiling face, but my goodness, this was exactly what we needed. After three months of him away, being able to spend a full week together in Interlaken, Switzerland -- quite possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been -- was close to heaven. And what I needed to recharge after a long semester and many moments of missing him.

We stayed in Hotel Rossli, a great hotel/B&B/hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland with an English speaking (and German and French...) owner/host. That was key since neither of us speak the two main languages of the country. This really wasn't a problem throughout the region either though, every service person we spoke with spoke English to us. We attempted to use the little French and German we know, starting a conversation with a "guten tag" or a "bonjour", and they'd reply in French or German which we didn't understand, so to keep things less confusing, we had to be the ignorant Americans who only spoke English. It didn't seem to be out of the norm because English seemed to be the most spoken language in the tourist areas. So a tip if you don't speak the languages fluently: use English and it seems to make everyone's life easier.

At Hotel Rossli a buffet breakfast was offered each morning that consisted of boiled eggs, cold cuts, hard cheese, yogurt, assorted cereals and rolls and croissants. I had to steer clear of all of the starches obviously, but because of the time change, I often wasn't ravenous in the morning. So, I ate some eggs, some cold cuts, a little cheese and I purchased some gluten-free muesli from a local health food store that I brought with me and ate with yogurt each morning.

That brings me what you can buy. I'd recommend on your first day to find a health food store (there were two in the town of Interlaken) or a regular grocery store ("coop" is the name of the store we frequented) and stock up. Schar is the big gluten-free brand there (and it's starting to become a big brand in the U.S. too) and they have a huge variety of foods: from ciabatta rolls to cookies, to bread to breadsticks to muesli -- they were all great. The health food store had more of a selection of gluten-free foods, while the grocery store had some of the staples. For hikes and skiing, we packed some meat (pepperoni-type meat and/or proscuitto) and some hard cheese. As well as a few gluten-free bars and some cookies.

But we were also able to get some vegetables in. Weight Watchers brand foods are surprisingly big there. They have lots of pre-made, packaged foods like marinated zucchini and cut up carrots with dips and lots of salads. Those were a great go-to food when we were out and about.

Eating out was always a pleasant experience in Switzerland. We got some great recommendations from the owner of our hotel and partook in fondue on more than one occasion. Bread is served with cheese fondue, but you can also order other foods to dip in the cheese. We got small, boiled potatoes, gherkin pickles and pickled onions. The potatoes were great, but the pickles and onions were surprisingly delicious. This was at a restaurant/cafe in Interlaken called De Alps. Laterne was the name of the traditional Swiss restaurant on the outskirts of town where we partook in meat fondue. Meat fondue or, chinois fondue is raw meat served with lots of condiments and a large pot of boiling broth or oil to cook the meat in. I really loved this meal, mostly because I love social foods, but it was quite tasty too: there were different dips to put on your meat, like curry, mayonnaise, tartar sauce and cocktail sauces and they all were good.

But perhaps the best meal we ate was on the mountain after a few ski runs. The A-man had an awesomley hearty meal of fried eggs, bacon and rosti (the delicious hash-brown like potato dish that I was obsessed with during the trip), while I had a "fitness" salad. Which, could have had more fat than my husband's dish. The salad, with it's mayonnaise-based dressing came with a chicken breast and little portions of potato salad, cucumber salad and carrot salad. It was awesome. And to get a little carbs, I ordered some pomme frittes (french fries) as a side. I didn't feel too horrible though -- with the not-so-great conditions skiing, I was working hard on the slopes skiing.

Just look at the color of those yolks!

I can't end this post without a huge shout out to British Airways. For my overnight flight to London, they upgraded me to business class (which was absolutely amazing -- they have seats that completely recline so they're flat like a bed) and I spent my five-hour layover in their fancy lounge. And their gluten-free meals are great: full with gluten-free rolls and sandwiches.

But I truly can't end this post without a dog photo: the friendly retriever we encountered on a hike through Bratenberg in Switzerland.

She was a bit of a shedder...


Marlow said...

Yay!! What a nice surprise for you and your hubby!! That food looks good!!! You know when I first went gluten free, my doctor let me know that I may not be able to tolerate dairy while insides were healing.

Liz said...

It was so great, Marlow! Thanks! I've heard that too about dairy -- and I'm assuming my gut has healed. THANK GOODNESS!

Ricki said...

So glad you got to have that time together--looks like an amazing trip (and a local dog will always perk things up)!

Allie said...

liz - that is the most adorable picture of the two of you kissing!