Say Cheese

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Where do you find the best raclette east of Geneva? In Bhutan, naturally. Operated by longtime Swiss resident Fritz Maurer, the Swiss Guesthouse, tel: (975-3) 631 145, overlooks the small town of Jakar in the Bumthang valley, Bhutan's cultural heartland. With its grazing cows, mountain scenery and orchards, the property looks beautifully reminiscent of Heidi, and generous plates of the house special, raclette, assist the illusion. But how does the traditional Swiss favorite of melted cheese, gherkins and potatoes manage to taste so good here?

The answer lies in Maurer's background. An agriculturist by training, he came to Bhutan more than 30 years ago to help the remote kingdom develop a dairy industry, before staying on to open his guesthouse in a traditional stone building that was once the home of the King's sister. Maurer's professional expertise, as well as the pristine environment, ensure that the food at the guesthouse will be among the freshest you've tasted. Vegetables are from the garden. The jams, honey and bread (apparently a favorite of the Queen Mother's) are homemade. The butter and cheese are produced on a farm down the hill.

Accommodation comprises nine comfortable twin rooms heated by wooden stoves. Exploratory treks to the valley below will also help to keep the cold at bay. So will the hike to the cobblestoned village of Ura, believed to have been home to Bhutan's earliest inhabitants. As you ramble back, the thought of a plate of Maurer's raclette will have you yodeling with delight.