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‘The Best Cheese In the World’ and More Culinary Excellence in Engelberg

Bedecked in white, Florentin Spichtig carries a wood board holding wheels of his remarkable cheese. It rises to his chest as the sun brightens the round to make it even more stunningly golden. In the background, the Swiss Alps surround Spichtig and a waterfall slaps over rocks in a plummet through the glorious scenery of Engelberg.

We are 5,575 feet (1,700 meters) up from sea level and the only thing that could make this more heavenly, I think, is if Spichtig were to offer me a piece of the Alpcheese that is weighing him down.


The scenery on the summit of Mt. Fuerenalp makes any food or drink that much better. At top, Florentin Spichtig calls his product that he makes on the mountain “the best cheese in the world.” (Adrian Brijbassi photos for VacayNetwork.com)

It takes 100 days to make it, with the ingredients sourced from cows in the valley and herbs from the mountain. It’s Spichtig’s ninth summer crafting the culinary marvel that he matter-of-factly calls, “The best cheese in the world.”

Alpkäeserei Surenen, the name of the tiny factory in the mountain where he works, makes 20 tons of cheese a year. Very little of it ever leaves the Obwalden canton where Engelberg is situated. Four farmers bring the milk to the cheese-making house on the top of Mt. Fuerenalp, one of the summits that have made Engelberg a ski haven for generations and which bless it with a unique micro-climate that is ideal for farming. The cheese is rubbed with salt water once per day and kept in the building that is operated with hydro power. So, as Spichtig notes, “If the whole world has no electricity we will still make cheese.”

MORE ENGELBERG: Kempinski Palace Wows

The cheese-making experience can be enjoyed during a blissful hike of Fuerenalp. A minuscule gondola that fits a maximum of four people and is operated by the families on the mountain can carry you down slowly to the base. There, you can taste spaetzl and savour a beer while sitting in the Stäfeli restaurant watching the mountains and the waterfalls and think you may have wandered into a scene from “Lord of the Rings” and not the idyllic heart of Switzerland.


The award for burger with the best view goes to Smuggler’s — whose delicious patties can only be enjoyed near Lake Trübsee on Mt. Titlis. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for VacayNetwork.com)

The scenery is similarly spectacular as you ascend Mt. Titlis, the most famous of the peaks surrounding Engelberg. Its summit features a restaurant with panoramic views of Obwalden and a number of highlight activities, including an ice cave, a chair lift called the Ice Flyer that hauls passengers over the tundra, and a rotating gondola. On the way up, you can stop at Trübsee, a lower station that is named after the manmade lake that draws visitors for the complimentary row boats, which are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are play areas, a sit-down restaurant that caters to groups, and a cafeteria. Among the additions in recent years is Smuggler’s Burgers, a marvelous little pop-up that features conscientiously crafted menu items prepared with some of the region’s best ingredients and served with views of Mt. Titlis in the background. The food is best enjoyed with an order of USZIT, a lager whose sales support conservation efforts of the Swiss forests and other environmental projects.


Named after the tallest peak in the Engelberg area, Spannort is the epitome of palate-pleasing gastronomy with dishes like this one: Tagliatelle topped with black truffles. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for VacayNetwork.com)

While Alpkäeserei Surenen is artisanal and the burgers at Smuggler’s are easy to love, the most notable part of dining in Engelberg is the restaurant scene, which is very, very good for a small city that’s three hours from Zurich. Because of the ski clientele and a history of hosting regal guests who arrived for wellness retreats in the mountains, Engelberg has a fabulous culinary pedigree.

The best of what I tried during my week was at Spannort, where creativity meets familiar flavors and touches of decadence. The tagliatelle pasta with black truffles was as luscious and earthy as you could want, and the unique take on burrata featured the delicious Italian cheese baked into a skinless, bold red heirloom tomato. Cutting into it revealed the cream-colored cheese, whose flavor is concentrated through the cooking process.


Divine duck liver at the Kempniski Palace’s Cattani restaurant is served in paté form with brioche, citrus, and edible flowers. At the base is thinly sliced apple. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for VacayNetwork.com)

Not to be missed is the Kempinski Palace Engelberg, which has a historic bar for cocktails and snacks, and the Cattani restaurant that delivers fine-dining excellence with stellar service to match. The duck liver pate with oranges and chilled Granny Smith apple, served with addictive brioche, is a beauty of a dish. Wine lovers will want to peruse the carte de vin, especially the selection of distinct Swiss wines. Try a glass or bottle of white merlot, a grape that Switzerland has mastered, bringing out the body of the white varietal but with the minerality of a sauvignon blanc.

There’s diversity in Engelberg, too. The Indian restaurant, Spice Bazaar, hits the mark with peppery dishes and quality ingredients. It’s extremely popular, as a Tuesday evening in the summer was fully packed with locals and a few out-of-towners.

Known for its outdoor pursuits, Engelberg should also be viewed as a culinary destination where excursions showcase the regional bounty and chef-driven restaurants spin out masterful plates — all in a setting as exquisite as anywhere in Europe.


Getting There: Engelberg is 40 minutes by train from Lucerne and about 90 minutes from Zurich. Once in the town, a car isn’t needed. Engelberg is a walkable community that also has a free bus service that stops at the three main mountain bases.
Currency: Swiss francs (CHF) are used throughout Engelberg; some retailers may accept euro at par. The current foreign-exchange rate returns 1 CHF for $1.14 for USD ($1.54 CAD).

Adrian is the founder of VacayNetwork.com and Vacay.ca, and the co-founder of the travel-trivia app, Trippzy. A former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing and fiction. He has worked with leading destination marketing organizations, developing digital and social media strategies, and providing them with content marketing solutions. He has visited more than 40 countries and spearheaded the Vacay.ca 20 Best Places to Visit in Canada annual list that debuted in 2012.