Randi Roberts
Swiss National Day was celebrated in Manhattan's Central Park.
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A Taste of Switzerland in Central Park

Meryle Evans / August 2nd, 2013

There were no Alps to climb and no cows chomping grass, but still, Manhattan's Central Park seemed like Switzerland last Saturday night as Helvetian expats and friends gathered at the zoo for the annual celebration of Swiss National Day, in commemoration of the founding of the Swiss Confederation in 1291.

Many were lured by the prospect of sampling the country's diverse regional specialties prepared by celebrated guest chef Reto Mathis, who operates six different gastronomic establishments at the posh ski resort, St. Moritz, and chef Yannick Germanier of the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York.

With balmy weather, a Swiss band playing traditional folk music, and a cool breeze wafting aromas of grilled bratwurst, the long communal tables quickly filled, as did glasses of wine and beer to accompany the sausages with onion sauce, air-cured beef carpaccio, and veal Zurichoise with the home fried potato dish, rösti. Cheese, naturally, starred in a variety of preparations, including tartlets, melted cheese raclette—typically served with potatoes, cornichons, and pearl onions—and plates of Gruyère and Emmenthaler, accompanied by hearty breads, like the pretzel rolls, silserli. A dessert extravaganza of cream-filled pastries, chocolate cakes, and a rich Toblerone inflected chocolate mousse ensured the satisfaction of the Swiss sweet tooth.

The entertainment included a sea lion demonstration and feeding, but there were no Swiss dishes on the seal's menu.