Allergy-Friendly Restaurants in Switzerland: Seeking Your Recommendations

allergy-friendly meal

Dairy/egg-free meal at Grindelwald’s Hotel Belvedere

During a rare meal out at a restaurant last month, my son raised up his arms and cheered loudly at the table—with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other. He really liked his fish, and was pretty excited about having a meal in a restaurant. Although, I can’t help but wonder if he was just glad to not be eating my cooking! Either way, it was a nice moment on our vacation that I won’t soon forget.

Have you ever been served a delicious allergy-friendly meal, carefully prepared by a restaurant in Switzerland? This most recent meal was at the Hotel Belvedere‘s restaurant in Grindelwald. With a lot of advanced preparation and emails back and forth, my son enjoyed a safe meal made without dairy and eggs. We were all very happy to be there—even though I can never fully relax when my son eats a meal I didn’t prepare myself.

Based on our experiences, and those of others living and traveling with food allergies in Switzerland, I’m constantly adding to my list of allergy-friendly restaurants and accommodations. For example, I just received an email last week with a new restaurant recommendation for Zurich: Widder Restaurant.

If you have places to recommend, please leave a comment below or send me an email. We can learn so much from each other. This information is helpful to our family and for so many others living with food allergies and intolerances. I really appreciate your help!

I’ll be offline for the next two weeks until school starts, as we’re taking a short vacation with family visiting from the United States. As usual, I hope to discover some new Swiss foods while we’re traveling. Thanks to you all for your continued support!

Peanuts & Tree Nuts: Translated for Switzerland

A family traveling to Switzerland this summer wrote me and asked for some help identifying peanut and tree nut ingredients. In response to their request, I’ve put together a list of common nuts translated into three of the four official languages in Switzerland: French, German and Italian.

Nuts 2974x2236

As for my methodology, I started with Google Translate. Then, after I finished my first draft of the table below, I shared it with native speakers for each of the three languages. Finally, I made changes based on their feedback. For example, I added a couple of Swiss German terms that were completely new to me.

When you review my list, if there are any terms I should add or change—such as Swiss-French terms from Suisse romande that may differ from French terms in France—please tell me! You can leave a comment below or send me an email. Also, while I hope this can be a quick reference for people living and traveling with nut allergies in Switzerland, please always use caution when reading ingredient lists or talking with restaurant staff—always ask questions if you have any doubts.

Nut

French

German

Italian

almond

amande

mandel

mandorla

Brazil nut

noix du Brésil

paranuss

noce del Brasile

cashew

noix de cajou

cashewnuss, caschunuss, cashewkerne

anacardo

chestnut

châtaigne, marron (roasted chestnut)

kastanie, maroni (Swiss German)

castagna

hazelnut

noisette

haselnuss

nocciola

macadamia

noix de macadamia

macadamia, macadamianuss

macadamia

nuts

noix, fruits à coque

nüsse, schalenfrüchte

noci

pecan

noix de pécan

pekanuss

pecan

peanut

arachide, cacahuète, cacahouète

erdnuss

arachide

pine nut

pignon de pin

pinienkerne

pinoli

pistachio

pistache

pistazie

pistacchio

walnut

noix

walnuss, baumnuss (Swiss German)

noce

While we no longer have to avoid peanuts and tree nuts for my son, I know what’s it’s like to do so. Hopefully your child (or children) will also outgrow their food allergies, or for everyone living with food allergies, I hope there will someday be a cure. In the meantime, I’ll keep sharing what we’ve learned via this blog, in case it’s helpful to others.

Once again, if you have any suggested edits for the table above, please send them my way. Thanks so much for your help. And, Happy Birthday to my mother-in-law!

Updated: June 30, 2014

Saas-Fee and Zermatt with Food Allergies

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The Matterhorn view from Zermatt

With my mother visiting us from the United States, we went on a mini-vacation to the canton of Valais. Along with relaxing in the mountains, we had the ultimate goal of seeing what’s arguably the most famous Swiss peak—the Matterhorn (which I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t immediately recognize!) As always, my son’s food allergies required us to undertake some additional planning. I’m sharing what we learned, including some restaurant recommendations, in case it might be helpful to others traveling to Saas-Fee and Zermatt.


Saas-Fee: The Pearl of the Alps

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Ski chalets and mountain views in Saas-Fee

In Saas-Fee, we rented an apartment for three nights from the Dom Collection. The kitchen was well-equipped with the basics for cooking allergy-friendly meals. The town also has two well-known Swiss grocery stores that I refer to all the time—Migros and Coop. We were very familiar with the products and could easily find what we needed without having to read lots of new food labels.

For these reasons, we didn’t try eating out with our son at any of the local restaurants in Saas-Fee. Whenever we left the apartment, I always packed along lots of allergy-friendly snacks. These came in handy when we took two cable cars and the world’s highest underground funicular up to see the mountains towering above the Saas valley. Our chaotic crew needed a break, so we stopped in a small coffee shop surrounded by the snowy peaks for a snack. I spread out a small smorgasbord of allergy-friendly baked goods for the little guy that included some of my homemade baked goods—Petits Pains with Bear’s Garlic and glazed Madeleines. I also brought along one of our favorite cookies from the United States that we can’t find here in Switzerland: belVita Golden Oat crunchy breakfast biscuits.

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Allergy-friendly snacks at the coffee shop at the Allalin (3500 m.)

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The view from the three sixty coffee shop at the Allalin


Seeing the Matterhorn from Zermatt

We had two and a half days in Zermatt, and our hopes for a clear day to see the Matterhorn came to fruition, and fittingly on Easter Sunday. To top it all off, we successfully had three delicious meals at hotel restaurants with our food-allergic son. I had contacted these places in advance via email about my son’s allergies (and in English). Thankfully, all wrote back indicating they could prepare a safe meal for him.


Zermatt Youth Hostel

The Zermatt Youth Hostel served as our temporary home, and the staff there were great. While our son skipped the hostel breakfast that’s included in the nightly rate, he ate dinner in the restaurant on our first night there.

I was very impressed because the hostel went out of their way to make sure he could have a safe meal. First, even though the hostel always serves a set menu for dinner, the cook prepared a special dish for my son: a chicken breast sauteed in olive oil in a separate pan. Also, when planning the set menu for the evening, the staff person at the front desk told me they tried to avoid using my son’s allergens in order to reduce the potential risk of cross contamination. For example, instead of a typical Swiss dessert that would likely include milk and eggs and nuts, I noticed they served generous slices of fresh melon. Finally, when I had questions about how the rice and peas were prepared, the cook let me read the label for the vegetable bouillon, so I could double-check that the ingredients were safe.

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Allergy-friendly meal at the Zermatt Youth Hostel

On Sunday morning, the Easter Bunny left treats for the boys in the lobby of the hostel. My dear mother brought along lots of allergy-friendly chocolate and candy from the United States. It made me so happy to see my son get his fill of chocolate bunnies and foil-wrapped chocolate eggs—just like all the other kids.

In my opinion, the Zermatt Youth Hostel did a great job accommodating my son’s food allergies. Also, if your kids like bunk beds as much as ours, this is the place to stay if you’re visiting Zermatt. Plus, the hostel has a more affordable rate when compared to some of the other pricier hotels in town.


Cervo Zermatt

A spectacular view of the Matterhorn, excellent food and a beautiful interior, Cervo Zermatt should not be missed. We had a fabulous lunch there on Easter Sunday, and they pulled together a beautiful allergy-friendly meal for our little guy. Of course, he slept through the meal… So, he enjoyed his fancy meal in the stroller when he woke up on the way back to the hostel. We highly recommend this restaurant.

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Sea bass for Easter lunch at Cervo Zermatt


Parkhotel Beau Site

By the time we got to the historic Parkhotel Beau Site for their Easter Gala dinner, we were all tired and still full from our delicious lunch. The restaurant at the hotel is quite formal, and the gala menu included four separately-served courses, which I knew my two young children would not make it through without a major scene. Thankfully, the kind and patient servers at the hotel allowed us to all order off the À la carte menu. All of us opted out of the gala menu (even though it looked great), and our meals were excellent.

For our son, our server first brought out crudités—carrot and cucumber sticks without any dressing. Then, for his main course, he had Spaghetti Napoli—an allergy-friendly version of pasta and tomato sauce without cheese. He said this was his favorite restaurant meal from the trip!

Overall, the Parkhotel Beau Site is another great option for people dining out with allergies in Zermatt, especially if you’re looking for an elegant and leisurely meal in a more formal setting.

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A beautiful Matterhorn view on Easter Sunday in Zermatt

I’ve updated my list of allergy-friendly Swiss accommodations and restaurants to include the establishments described above. If you have any other suggestions for my lists, please leave a comment below or send an email to dairyfreeswitzerland@gmail.com. Thanks for your help! We can learn so much from each other.

During our trip, I stopped at nearly every bakery I could find! So many delicious Swiss treats to discover, and I’m hoping to share some new recipes soon. Bon week-end, everyone!

Zurich Weekend 2013: Allergy-Friendly Restaurants

The weekend before Christmas, our family spent two nights in Zurich. We took in the typical holiday sights, like the crystal-covered Christmas tree at the Zurich main station. We strolled along decorated downtown streets filled with music and holiday shoppers, while keeping warm with our steaming cups of glühwein (or vin chaud in French). It really felt like the holidays. And it was extra special because for the first time in over a year, we ate out as a family at two restaurants.

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Swarovski Christmas Tree, Zurich main station

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Zurich along the Limmat River

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Sweet treats at an outdoor Christmas market

At these Zurich restaurants—when my 2-year old wasn’t running away from the table to find some toys or another new adventure—we had a hot meal together with my in-laws, who were visiting from the United States. The food was safe, and it tasted good. My son didn’t get hives or have any other signs of an allergic reaction. The servers were very helpful, allowed me to read labels and responded fully to my questions.

Restaurant Hiltl

Haus Hiltl
Sihlstrasse 28, 8001 Zurich
+41 44 227 70 00
info@hiltl.ch

As the oldest continuously operating vegetarian restaurant in the world, Hiltl goes out of its way to make sure you know what you’re getting. Check out the “Declaration” section of their website, which has a glossary of acronyms used to identify ingredients on their menus (e.g., “Mi” = milk ingredients and “Ei” = egg ingredients). Recommend to us via Switzerland’s English Forum, Hiltl did not disappoint. We ate there for lunch on Saturday.

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The Hiltl complex: restaurant, cafe, and bar, etc.

Once our food arrived, my son happily tucked into his plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce sans dairy, eggs and almonds. This was a special treat because we didn’t have to cook it ourselves or clean up afterwards. I will never forget this meal. It was so incredibly nice.

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Saturday lunch: Globi spaghetti

Hotel Novotel – Zurich City West

Novotelcafé Restaurant
Schiffbaustrasse 13, Am Turbinenplatz, 8005 Zurich
(+41)44/2762200
H2731@accor.com

We stayed for two nights at the Hotel Novotel. Our family ate breakfast at the restaurant twice, but we packed along food for my son. There’s a Migros close to the hotel, so we could pick up some things like fruit, salami and soy yogurt for him. I also packed along some of my crescent rolls, this time filled with Enjoy Life chocolate.

On Saturday night, we made a reservation at the Novotelcafé Restaurant for 6:00 PM—right when it opened for dinner. As the only ones there, we had the full attention of our server, who was very helpful. She knew all about our son’s allergies in advance of ordering. Our little guy loves fish, and we were happy to find steamed a steamed version on the kids’ menu. He ended up with a very healthy meal of steamed salmon and vegetables. We were very happy with the restaurant and hotel, so we’ll likely stay here again. While not right in the center of Zurich, public transit makes it easily accessible.

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Saturday night dinner: steamed fish and veggies


Dining Out with Food Allergies: Our Approach

Based on these most recent restaurant experiences, here’s my latest 3-pronged approach to dining out with food allergies in Switzerland:

  1. Contact the restaurant in advance:  For me, since I’m still working on my French (and I don’t speak any German or Italian), this means sending an email in advance to the restaurant about my son’s allergies and finding out what meal options they may have.
  2. Make a reservation for when the restaurant isn’t very busy: A busy kitchen could be less likely to accommodate my son. We want to make it as easy as possible for the restaurant to prepare a safe meal.
  3. When you arrive, give a paper copy with notes about your allergies to your server: In Switzerland, I recommend that information about your food allergies be written in the language of the region you’re in (French, German or Italian) and/or English, depending on the restaurant.

How do you manage food allergies at restaurants? I’m always looking for new and better advice, so if you have some to share, please leave a comment below. Also, there are some great tools and resources from Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).

Finally, if you have any allergy-friendly restaurant recommendations for Switzerland, we want to know! Thanks, and Happy New Year to you all.

Bern Weekend Getaway

Traveling with small children can be challenging, and throwing our son’s food allergies into the mix has introduced a whole new level of planning, as we’re finding out. Our recent weekend trip to the Swiss capital of Bern served as a test run for our family, as we’re eager to plan more excursions and explore our new home country. At the same time, I don’t want to introduce unnecessary risk by traveling, so we’re learning how to balance our wanderlust with our need to be practical and safe for the sake of our son.

Finding Allergy-Friendly Restaurants

When traveling, we prefer having our own kitchen to prepare our allergy-friendly meals, but I had difficulty finding an affordable and available option for just two nights in Bern. Instead, we found a great hotel within walking distance of some of the city’s major attractions, such as the BearPark, the Clock Tower, and the House of Parliament. In advance of our arrival, I exchanged emails with the hotel to make sure their restaurant could accommodate my son’s multiple food allergies. They assured me he would have options in their restaurant, so we felt confident having at least one place to eat. I also looked up the nearest grocery stores, so we could find soy milk and fresh fruit, just in case.

We ended up eating all of our meals at the hotel restaurant, except for one, which we had at a restaurant we researched beforehand. My husband had read about a restaurant with a great selection of beers near the BearPark, so we sought shelter from the rain there and had a pleasant lunch. At both restaurants, the staff were all very helpful and understanding. We heard about another vegetarian fast-food restaurant in Bern, but we didn’t get a chance to stop there. This looks like another great allergy-friendly option.

In general, I find it incredibly hard to trust a restaurant to prepare a safe, allergy-friendly meal for my son. Further, I’m talking about allergies with restaurant staff that may not fully understand what I’m saying—either because my French is so poor or their English is limited. That’s why cards describing food allergies in multiple languages can be extremely helpful, especially while traveling in a place like Switzerland with four official languages. If you haven’t seen this already, check out Allerglobal, which develops free translated allergy cards. I ran across this recently, and a thoughtful Dairy-Free Switzerland reader just reminded me of it again.

Overall, we had a great trip to Bern, despite the rainy weather, and we look forward to our next weekend adventure with the kids. All the advanced preparation we did to find restaurants, the nearest grocery stores, etc. helped make the trip a safe and successful one. We still have a lot to learn when it comes to traveling with food allergies in Switzerland, but we’re feeling more confident having at least taken this first trip.

How do you find allergy-friendly restaurants in Switzerland? Do you have any recommendations for allergy-friendly restaurants or hotels? Please leave a comment below if you have advice or suggestions to share or send an email to dairyfreeswitzerland@gmail.com. Thanks!

New Apartment, New Allergy-Friendly Meals

We’re getting settled into our new apartment after nearly two months of temporary housing. I’m trying a few new allergy-friendly foods/meals, but unpacking is taking a higher priority right now. I also need to devote more time to studying French, especially after this week’s language school assessment placed me squarely at the “beginners” level. Luckily, I have a few recent success stories to report in terms of our allergy-friendly dining:

Non-Yeasted Cinnamon Rolls

Cocoa-Cinnamon Whole Wheat Cinnamon Buns

Vegan baking recipes work well for us, and I came across a great recipe from the It Ain’t Meat, Babe blog for vegan cinnamon buns. I LOVE biscuits, and these are essentially cinnamon rolls using biscuit-style preparation. They’re quick, easy and so delicious. I will make these again and again. I ran out of cinnamon, so I made up the difference with cocoa powder. Also, I used wheat flour and skipped the nuts to be on the safe side. We’re looking forward to our next allergist appointment to determine whether or not we need to continue avoiding peanuts, tree nuts and sesame seeds.

Our First Restaurant Meal in Switzerland

In the square just below our apartment, there’s an Italian restaurant that makes homemade pasta. While I was standing outside the restaurant last Saturday with the boys, waiting for my husband to grab something we forgot from the apartment, I asked the manager about their allergy-friendly menu options for my son. Between my horrible French and his very good English, he suggested that they could use oil (not butter) to prepare some veal, pommes frites and veggies for his lunch. When my husband came downstairs, we decided to take the leap and eat our first meal as a family at a Swiss restaurant. I can’t believe it took so long, but I’ve been nervous about eating out. Given our son’s food allergies, it seems our dining options may be pretty limited in our small city.

Our first meal at a Swiss restaurant

It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but our 15-month food-allergic son was very distracted during our lunchtime meal by a huge dog seated at the table next to us. However, he did manage to eat small portions of his meal, and without any reactions. Next time, we’ll be more prepared and have some soy milk packed along with us. Overall though, we were very pleased with the experience and hope to find another allergy-friendly restaurant option again soon.

Allergy-Friendly Pizza

Back in the U.S., before we discovered the milk allergy, I would make homemade pizza about once a week. I used leftovers from the fridge, like steamed broccoli or half-finished packages of prosciutto, to make a quick pizza. Using my go-to pizza dough recipe from my favorite Betty Crocker cookbook, I could prepare this meal very quickly, and it was always a hit with the family.

I really wanted to bring pizza back to our mealtime line-up, so I came up with an idea to use grated tofu instead of mozzarella. I’ve noticed the tofu here in Switzerland from our local Coop seems a bit more dry and firm compared to what we bought in the U.S. As such, I thought that even though the tofu would have a very different flavor compared to mozzarella, the texture and appearance might be similar. Last weekend, I tried this method, and we loved it. My nearly 5-year old who doesn’t have any food allergies had thirds, and we all thought the taste and texture worked well. Yes, the tofu doesn’t melt like cheese, and the taste is different. Yet, it looks like cheese, and tastes good (notice I was pretty light on the tofu, adding just enough to give the appearance of cheese). Saturday nights can be pizza nights once again!

Allergy-friendly tofu pizza

Store-Bought, Allergy-Friendly Bread

I was not anticipating this, but I finally checked some of the Coop-brand bread options and came across at least three different kinds (including a baguette) that our food-allergic son can eat! Since we arrived in Switzerland, I’ve been making homemade bread almost every day. I was so pleased to find clearly-marked allergy labels on the bread indicating gluten as the only allergen. It sounds selfish, but this is a huge timesaver for us. I love making bread, but having a quick and safe back-up option is so comforting. And, apparently the Swiss love their bread, so I’m glad we can at least find a few store-bought options that work for us.

Allergy-friendly “Ticino Bread” from Coop

I hope to be posting more frequently now that we’re getting settled. As always, please send your allergy-friendly news and recipes my way at dairyfreeswitzerland@gmail.com. Thanks!