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We made our way to the Chalet in the Valley for lunch one afternoon in early spring. The weather had not yet broken, but the sun was shining and the snow was at a minimal. There was still a bit of frigidness in the quiet afternoon air.
Only a few travelers had made their way out to the Chalet for lunch today. Glen Meier, restaurant manager, assured us that once the weather warms they will be expecting guests from open until close. During the busy months, Meier explained that travelers are lined out the door just to get a seat and try some of the Chalet's finest Swiss culture.
We settled ourselves in and reviewed the menu before us. A lot of authentic Swiss dishes made up the menu such as Wiener Schnitzel, Spaetzle, Bratwurst and Rosti which our waitress was happy to explain to us. She explained to us that Schnitzel is a way that the meat is prepared (which can be veal, mutton, chicken, beef, turkey or pork) - the boneless meat is thinned with a meat tenderizer, coated with flour, eggs and bread crumbs and then fried. Spaetzle is a type of egg noodles or dumpling and Rosti is shredded potatoes pan fried with Guggisberg's signature Baby Swiss cheese.
My co-worker and I decided on a couple of the Chalet's top entrees. My co-worker went with the black forest pork loin which was smothered in Baby Swiss cheese and topped with sautéed mushrooms. Her dish came with two sides - she chose a side of Rosti and baked apples.
I went for the smothered Swiss chicken which consisted of a tender, grilled chicken smothered in Guggisberg Baby Swiss and topped with mushrooms, onions and peppers. This meal came with one side, I opted for the onion straws (just like an onion ring just in a different shape).
As we awaited our meals, we were served a couple of warm, soft pretzel sticks. They were the perfect appetizer to tempt your taste buds for the main course. We took in the authentic Swiss décor and fine detail work that went into every structure.
Meier explained to us that the woodwork was all original crafted by Alfred Guggisberg himself. Not only was he an expert cheese maker, but a fine woodworker and craftsman. "He was a jack or all trades," said Meier. The most ornate piece is the wooden chandelier that hangs in the center of the room.
Once our food arrived, we couldn't wait to dive in. The smells were overwhelming and with the first bite we were both smiling over our choices. The meat was tender and cooked to perfection and the cheese smothered over top really completed the authentic Swiss palate.
As we finished up our meal, we took in the fine craftsmanship that lay all around us. Handmade cuckoo clocks hung on the walls for sale and a small gift shop held a few fun keepsakes for your trip to the Chalet.
Meier informed me that the Chalet offers a Sunday buffet from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. "This is unique to the area because everything else is closed on Sundays," he said. Stopping in for the buffet means the opportunity to try out a variety of Chalet favorites such as: Bistro Filet, glazed ham, roasted turkey, Bratwurst, breaded shrimp, cabbage rolls, German potato salad and more.
A banquet room downstairs can seat anywhere from 80-100 guests and can be requested for private parties, club gatherings and even couples retreats. The banquet room features similar Swiss décor, a large fireplace and private access to the room from outside.
After paying the bill and patting our now full stomachs, I headed just across the street to Guggisberg Cheese to learn more about the history behind cheese making. Ursula Guggisberg, marketing coordinator and granddaughter to Alfred, filled me in on some of the family history.
Alfred Guggisberg began learning the art of cheese making at the young age of 16 in his homeland of Switzerland. After attending a highly regarded cheese maker's institute, Alfred made cheese throughout Europe and Africa before traveling to the United States in search of a new challenge.
He and his wife, Margaret, settled in the Doughty Valley of Charm. The local Amish community supplied him with fresh milk and he transformed what was formerly known as Doughty Valley Cheese into the Guggisberg Cheese in 1950.
After many years of perfecting his original Swiss recipe and experimenting with local milk supplies, Alfred created a new type of Swiss that was more favorable to the American palate. This new cheese was creamier and more mild compared to the traditional Emmental Swiss. It had smaller holes and was overall a smaller wheel when compared to the traditional Swiss. Margaret called it Baby Swiss, which is where this name for the cheese originated.
"Everyone tries to duplicate [the original recipe for Baby Swiss]," said Guggisberg. "But ours is the original and nobody can quite duplicate it."
The Doughty Valley area is particularly important to the Guggisberg's cheese making process. "There are minerals in the soil that give the cow's milk its flavor. We get most of our milk from the local farms," said Guggisberg.
"Grandpa had extremely high standards when it came to cheese making," said Ursula. "Those standards were instilled in my dad and he has really built this place into what it is today."
Their accomplishments say it all, being name the U.S. Swiss Cheese Champion in 2013 and the grand champion Swiss maker in Ohio. Their Baby Swiss cheese also took first place in the World Dairy Exposition. "We are hoping for an equally successful year," said Guggisberg referring to the 2014 year ahead.
Guggisberg Cheese features a unique set-up where visitors can see the cheese making process as they shop. Large windows show everything from the milk entering the vat to the finished cheese wheel on the other side. The only part they cannot see is the aging cellar.
Customers can sample just about anything and if Swiss isn't your forte, there are plenty of other cheese flavors to be sampled. "You name it we got it," said Guggisberg.
The Chalet became a reality in 1983, when Margaret told her husband that she would love to open a restaurant that featured some of the different recipes she grew up with. "Grandpa basically told her to go for it," said Guggisberg.
Over 250 employees work at Guggisberg and share the same dedication and values in giving customers the highest quality possible. The bulk of the business remains among family as Ursula's sister, Ashton Guggisberg-Womacks, begins her duties as the newest store manager. "She's really getting into it and has some great ideas," said Guggisberg.
"It is very much a family business and we all work together. We want everyone who walks in to feel like family too," said Guggisberg.
Guggisberg Cheese is located at 5060 SR 557, Millersburg. You can watch the cheese being made, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-noon through the viewing windows. Regular store hours are Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information call 330-893-2500, toll free 1-800-262-2505 or visit www.babyswiss.com.
Chalet in the Valley is located just across the street from Guggisberg Cheese. Restaurant hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and closed Monday. For more information call 330-893-2550 or visit www.chaletinthevalley.com.