You don’t merely do lunch in Switzerland’s Appenzell region but with each bite savor the essence of mountain living. It all starts with hiking on the narrow lanes passing through vast emerald meadows from the Village of Weissbad transitioning to a well marked trail system leading up to the summit of Ebenalp. Each turn upward on narrow gravel paths not only offers “wow-inducing” vistas but also time to mingle with Swiss hikers of all ages. It’s clear that folks here take their pastime seriously including satiating their appetites after such prolonged physical exertion.
You’ll know the summit is near when as you continue your steady climb tight
along a rock ridge, a striking gabled wooden dwelling tucked underneath a rock outcropping comes into view. Upon reaching the grand terrace of Gasthaus Aescher Wildkirchli, a restaurant with hostel-type guestrooms on the second floor, you’ll get the definitive sense that it’s time to take a break. The hearty food served here is made on site with fresh local ingredients. During hunting season, same-day dressed venison is served in a stew called hirsh peffer. Similar to stroganoff but more flavorful, the perfect accompanying side dish is rösti, a type of hash brown rich in butter, crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.
Don’t even think of asking for a mere glass of water or soda here! Spectacular mountain views in every direction serve as a reminder of just how far you’ve climbed and how much more there is to explore after
lunch. Since calorie counting is now a laughable notion, go for the complete experience and order up a Cave Coffee named after nearby Wildkirchli Caves where prehistoric bear skeletons were located over 100 years ago and an underground chapel resides. The Cave Coffee’s main ingredient is Alpenbitter, a schnapps made from over 40 herbs, spices, fresh roasted coffee, and generous clouds of real whipped cream on the top. Or perhaps wine is more your style. Go with Sauser, a locally made unfermented grape juice. And for a dessert that will even wow the die hard Swiss hikers crowding the tables around you, their signature sundae features a few scoops of coffee and vanilla ice cream buried under a towering mountain of fresh made whipped cream.
After coming this far, why not push beyond a day hike and spend multiple days hiking from inn-to-inn? In addition to the alpine terrain and restorative mountain air, more homemade Swiss cuisine awaits!
photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky