Polenta: age-old culinary magic
Preparation of Ticino polenta requires an element of culinary magic. The ground maize is cooked in a copper cauldron over an open fire, just as it was in the old days. The golden-yellow cornmeal bubbles for hours, even scorching a little at the bottom of the pot to get its full taste. The polenta is served up thick – and proves that the simplest food is the best.
Saffron: more precious than gold
Saffron flourishes in only one place in central Europe: the Valais mountain village of Mund. Just five kilograms are harvested a year, laboriously by hand. For Mund saffron comes from the three red stigmas of a crocus flower; it takes 12,000 flowers to make just 100 grams. The delicacy can be enjoyed in saffron risottos, saffron fondues, parfaits or other desserts.
"Cholera": a Valais curiosity
"Cholera" is a pie that probably originated during the cholera epidemics around 1830. People no longer dared go out onto the street, so to prepare a meal they took whatever they had – potatoes, leeks, cheese, onions, apples, pears, bacon – topped it with pastry, and baked the pie in the oven. Today even top chefs have created their own version of this innovative dish of leftovers.
Valais wines: pure sunshine
Switzerland's largest winegrowing region is also its most varied: more than 50 grape varieties thrive on the sunny slopes above the Rhone. Among them are ancient names such as Petite Arvine, Heida, Lafnetscha, Cornalin and Humagne rouge. But the Valais is also known for the contemporary flair of its innovative winemakers – not least its pioneering women. Stars include Madeleine Gay, Winegrower of the Year 2008, and Marie-Thérèse Chappaz in Fully, who follows biodynamic principles and is famous for her sweet wines.