Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Appenzell is a town after my heart. The rest of Switzerland might call it a po-dunk place and make fun of the fact that the canton has the lowest population in the country, that Appenzeller women were not allowed to vote 1991, or that the local ideas of fashion and style involve women wearing lace mohawks on their wedding day.

But Appenzell is a major attraction for food-lovers, so you’re not going to hear me diss the place. Apparently in 1880 there were 144 restaurants for the mere 3,000 inhabitants of Appenzell, and today it contains the greatest restaurant-density in all of Switzerland. !! This region sure knows how to eat. Much, much more on that later on in this post.

First let’s check out some of the scenery. I joined Phil’s class on a daytrip to this tiny, picturesque town located about 45 minutes from St. Gallen.

The town is in a valley and the surrounding mountains and countryside can be seen from high points in the old city. I’m sure it would be even lovelier in the summer.

But winter here has its own special charm. How cute is this wooden house with a stack of firewood, a sled and gingerbread cookies in the window? Can you get any more winter-in-the-Alps than that?

Here are some traditional houses with the church tower in the background.

We wandered around town checking out the painted houses. Notice the lack of people? Apparently the Swiss hibernate in the winter - it sometimes feels like we have the country all to ourselves.

I was really wishing we had the country to ourselves so I could steal the Appenzeller beer truck. Sure, it would be nice to have all that beer, but I had a short-lived fantasy of roadtripping around Europe in the most pimp truck I’ve ever seen.

The beer was just the beginning of the gastronomic delights in Appenzell. Smelly cheese is a local specialty and has a history that dates back to the thirteenth-century when the monks gorged on it in the Appenzell monastery.

Appenzell goats and cows are widely admired and the enormous cow bells decorating most establishments never let you forget the cheesy delights waiting for you around every corner.

There are decorated Christmas gingerbread cookies in the windows of many homes. These cookies are very expensive and given as gifts around the holidays. The more cookies you have displayed in your windows, the more people who love you, the more bragging rights you have around town. I wish cookies equaled popularity where I come from.

My lunch was a brezel sandwich. This is the bomb and I’ve been making it quite a bit here. Ya take yer massive pretzel, split it horizontally through the middle, slather it with butter, and layer it up with cheeses and cold cuts. You can buy these gigantic pretzels in any grocery store or bakery and they are always fresh and slightly chewy. And even average cheap-o Swiss butter is richer and creamier than what I’ve been used to in Australia and the States. Throw in some local cheeses and some of the many varieties of sausages and this simple sandwich turns into a real delicacy.

Appenzell is also renowned for its Appenzeller Alpenbitter liqueur.

We visited the Alpenbitter distillery to learn about its history and production. The unique drink contains a secret mix of 42 plants and herbs to produce a flavor similar to Jagermeister but much more smooth and gentle. It has been valued as a digestif for over 100 years and is often enjoyed on-the-rocks after a heavy Swiss meal.

Only two people know the closely-guarded combination of herbs and the original recipe is locked in a safe box in a local bank. They’re not messin’ around. However, we were permitted to smell some of the herbs in the hidden, locked herb chamber.

I had a field day here as there were some alpine herbs I had never seen before.

At the end of the door we were permitted to sample any of the liquors that are produced and/or bottled in the factory. It definitely could have gotten messy.

You can learn more about Appenzell’s food and drink specialties here.


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