A festival dedicated entirely to Swiss cheese seemed like a good way to spend a Saturday morning, so I hopped a train to Basel to check it out last month. If you enjoy sampling cheese and having the opportunity to talk to and purchase directly from local producers, then here’s a brief summary of my visit (including the beer fondue!), as well as information about other cheese events coming up in Switzerland this year.
Käsefest Basel 2016
Sponsored by Trägerverein cheese-fesitval, an association that promotes Swiss cheese, this one-day festival in Basel took place at the Markthalle, (home to lots of interesting food vendors, so I hope to return there soon!). It’s located within walking distance of the main train station.
After admiring the wheels of cheese just outside the door, I stepped into the hall and eagerly approached the various booths to sample different cheeses in various forms. Altogether, 17 producers offered approximately 170 different milk and cheese specialties. I arrived early in the morning when everything was just getting started, but Trägerverein cheese-fesitval estimates that between 2,000 and 2,500 people visited throughout the day. While it was the first edition of this festival in Basel, this association has hosted cheese events before in other Swiss cities, like Bern and Thun. (For more information about the Basel event, see the complete press release, in German).
Along with samples of cheese, some of the producers also had other foods you could purchase to eat on-site, such as Chäschüechli (cheese tarts), fondue or Ueli’s cheese-burger. The smell of cheese was definitely in the air!
I took home three cheese purchases, including the following:
- Bier-Fondue with Burgdorfer beer – I sampled the beer fondue (it had a little whisky in it too) and liked it, so I had to grab a bag of the ready-to-use cheese mixture for my beer-aficionado husband.
- Juraparkkäse – The Juraparkkäse carries the Swiss Parks label because it’s produced within the Jurapark Aargau. It’s a semi-hard cheese with a mild flavor.
- Emmentaler with the Presidio Slow Food designation – I talked with the producer of the Emmentaler (which we generally refer to as “Swiss cheese” in the United States), and he said that at Käserei Hüpfenboden, they typically make only about two wheels per day of this very traditional cheese.
While your local Swiss supermarket has lots of cheese to choose from already, the cheese festival gives you the advantage of being able to connect face-to-face with the producers. You can ask questions about how the cheese is made and how to use it (a gratin or fondue?), for example. I felt good about my purchases knowing that they benefited people who take great pride in producing really high-quality (and delicious!) products.
Upcoming Swiss Cheese Events
If you’re interested in attending a cheese-focused event in 2016, like Käsefest Basel, you have several to choose from, and in different regions of Switzerland. Here are just a few upcoming examples, and you can see the full calendar at cheese-festival.ch.
- Tête de Moine Käsefest, Maison de la Tête de Moine, Bellelay: April 30-May 1
- Käsefest Thun, Bälliz, Thun: October 8
- Käsefest Luzern, Kapellplatz, Luzern: October 15
- Käsefest Rapperswil-Jona, Seequai, Rapperswil SG: November 5