Les Halles

I've just discovered one of Geneva's little known secrets*....Les Halles des Rives. Camouflaged by it's mild mannered street level shop appearance beats the heart of a culinary like beast. Stand after stand of local producers selling sushi next to artisanal cheeses. Butchers with giant cleavers bump elbows with men making fresh pasta. All under one roof, with an outdoor Saturday market to boot.

As I entered and wandered longingly up and down the isles I noticed that my friend's father had a stand. How fortuitous, I had planned to forage my breakfast at Les Halles and now knew where to start. With his help I decided on a Greek tyropitakia and some borek and specially spiced pistachios for later. He was even so kind as to throw in my breakfast's dessert, baklava.

While walking amid the stalls outdoors I notice that all of the goods being sold are raw products for later. The Swiss farmer's markets tend to be less 'grazer' friendly than their American counterparts. I was hunting for other breakfast treats and something homemade to drink, but try as I may I only found Coke, Sinalco, and bottled water. sigh.

A few blocks away I managed to seat myself among some of the brightest sunshiny yellow tulips of the season and dig into my little piece of Greek fashioned heaven. Phyllo dough that could compete with clouds but feet firmly planted on the ground with earthy toasted poppy seeds embracing a warm creamy layer of the salty goodness that is feta. And gone all too soon.

Luckily my small breakfast ended up as an ethnically diverse amuse bouche for the Malaysian goodies cooked up later at Chex. More on that to come....

*the reason Les Halles is little known is not due to its appearance...but rather it's forbidding hours. 6am til 1pm? ouch.


72% Spring

One of my all time favorites is chocolate combined with fruit. I know, you are asking yourself, "Rai, what's up with all of the chocolate in your posts lately...the name of the blog isn't 'Chocoholic' or 'Countess Chocula', althought perhaps it ought to be. Where are the sauces and breads and things you mentioned?" Well my response is, "BECAUSE I CAN!!!" So there ;) As I was saying, I am a huge sucker for berries robed in chocolate, dark dreamy Godiva bars that hide a secret fruity filling, mousse cups adorned with glittering jewel-like fruits, the list goes on and on. And yet, I find here, that there is a more purist chocolate attitude. Pralines and nuts are like chocolate's well known but little mentioned mistress and fruit the horribly neglected step-child. Perhaps you'll see a dehydrated grape (aka raisin) hiding in a Tourist bar among it's nutty neighbors, but fresh fruit and chocolate? Zut Alors! So here is my praise for the exquisite incomprable pairing of two of mother nature's finest. Cheers.


Ugly Fruit and the Chocolate Factory

April 1st, a day for more than just pinning paper fish on the backs of unsuspecting friends (no, really, this is the custom here). This year, April 1st brought the second annual Festival du Chocolat in Versoix, as well as the 180th anniversary of the Favarger chocolate factory. It was my duty and privilege as a chocoholic...I mean, connoisseur to lead a trip up there and check it out. Also, a very good warm up for the Salon du Chocolat in Paris to be held this fall.

Our small group met at the train station bright eyed and bushy tailed at 9.50. Ok, maybe not so bright eyed...most of us had been out late the night before and anything before noon on a Saturday is pushing it. But there was chocolate to be had. So we hopped the train and a scant 20 minutes later arrived in Versoix, a beautiful lakeside town. Made all the more beautiful by the jam packed tent. We planned to arrive early because there had been rumors about chocolate samples running out mid-day last year and we had a private tour scheduled at the Favarger factory around 13.30.

As our group of 15 slowly ate our way through the tent we had to pause more than once at some of the miraculous things offered. (Sadly, I remembered my camera that day...just not the memory card. D'oh. Remember, it was before noon on a Saturday. My friend Jackie was kind enough to send the images you see here) One of the first sights to greet our eyes was a chocolatier hand stirring a bunch of chocolate covered honey roasted almonds. When I say hand stirring I mean, literally his bare, rather furry, arm was elbow deep in the mini cement mixer looking thing and completely covered in chocolate. And yet, my first thought was not, 'How unhygenic' but rather ' I wonder if he'd mind if I licked his arm?' Now, don't tell me you wouldn't all have had this thought as well! I didn't attack him and he kindly offered up still warm almonds covered in manna for us. Mmmm, manna.

In the next corner we had to prod our way to the front of the crowd hemming in the chocolate fountain. No, you read right. CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN, surrounded by fruit. What a beautiful mess we all were, and how I wish I hadn't forgotten my camera! On offer were also, chocolate mustards, absinthe white chocolate truffles, moelleux, chocolate spreads for tartine...too many things to recount. My favorite Genevois chocolatier was there, Phillipe Pascoet , and I found some new ones to love and explore,of which there will be further right ups later, you can be sure.

Our group of 15 headed over to Migros and picked up a quick lunch to enjoy at the lake shore (despite the rain) before zipping over to the factory for our tour. We were able to follow our noses to the quaint chateau like factory....with the huuuuge lines snaking around it! We ducked in the back, donned our protective booties and were off. Unlike the factory tours in the US, we were able to wander among the machinery rather than behind plexiglass walls. We sampled as we learned, the best way to do it, and before we knew it our chocolate festival had drawn to an end. So, with full bellies we each bought a small dixie cup of fruit and chocolate fondue to enjoy on the train ride back and began dreaming of the penultimate festival this fall.