La Gruyere Double Cream
When I was at Macheret Fromage in Vevey, Switzerland, I noticed stacks of perfectly piped meringues, piled up to ceiling. I wondered why a cheese shop would have so many meringues? It wasn’t until I headed way up in the alps, to the Maison de l’Etivaz, where a Swiss traveling companion said – “Ooooh, La Gruyère double cream is very good. But very, very dangerous.”
I wasn’t quite sure what she meant until I got back to my hotel room and found a nice bottle of Pommery Brut Champagne resting on ice, a gift from the hotel for me having to change rooms (twice) very late in the evening due to a mechanical problem on my floor. And that, my friends, is a perfect example of Swiss hospitality, and that’s how you apologize to guests.
After I spent the day touring the ripening caves for cheese up in the mountains in preparation for my upcoming tour, once back at the hotel, I wasn’t all that hungry because I’d been eating all day. And it wasn’t just all day, but upon arrival I had a bit pot of simmering fondue and that has been keeping my company, in my tummy, for the last few days as well. I knew they had a lot of cheeses in Switzerland, but someone please remind me that I don’t need to try them all.
But who doesn’t have room for a few glasses of ice-cold Champagne? Because I didn’t want to be rude and not drink it, dinner was a gathering of items that I had on hand (since I once I put on a big, fluffy bathrobe, it takes a lot of incentive to get me to take it off), which consisted of Champagne, meringues, and La Gruyère double cream.
It wasn’t until I dipped my knife into the thick cream, smeared it on the underside of a meringue and popped it in my mouth, did I understand what the locals were taking about and the dangers it would involve. The whole thing literally dissolves when you bite down and the über-thin meringues shatter into a million tiny bits and disappears, leaving nothing but a trace of sweet.
What’s left is the smooth sensation of creamy-rich butterfat from mountain cream. And even if you live in a country where crème fraîche of the highest quality is readily available, this cream is a whole ‘nother animal and it’s impossible not to want more. It’s somehow both light and rich at the same time.
(Two qualities that I don’t seem to be able to muster in tandem myself—and certainly not after this trip.)
A local chef told me the cream must be at least 45% butterfat, but my knife doesn’t lie and I am certain this was much higher. (I didn’t check for sure because I didn’t really want to know.) You’re supposed to dip the meringues in the double-cream or pour it over berries, but from the looks of things from my pot, I don’t see how that’s impossible.
For all you non-locavores, you’ll have to convert if you want to try this double cream since it’s a specialty of this region. And, of course, you can’t get double cream from Gruyère unless you’re in the region of Gruyère.
I hit another cheese shop this morning and although I didn’t pick up any more meringues, or another pot of double cream, I did eye this bag of caramels made à la crème de la Gruyère, which I’m planning on trying. But I’m waiting for a bottle of Champagne to arrive. Which is why I’m sitting in my hotel room, wrapped up in a bathrobe, waiting for a knock on my door.
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