Grazing in Carouge

The sun was shining and the city had come alive with it, especially after the freezing cold dose of the rainy reality of spring we got yesterday. (see hot chocolate post) So I decided to take advantage of my free time and Mother Nature's good mood by walking along the river from my apartment to Carouge. Fortuitous because I happen to see a sign for 'glace de la maison' along the way and was determined to stop back for some ice creamy provisions for the long hike home.

Carouge is a beautiful quartier (suburb) set in the larger scope of Geneva. Originally a haven for those not sharing of Geneva's puritanical ways (remember kiddies, Calvinism started here), Carouge was granted to the King of Sardinia in 1754. Italian ownership is abundantly obvious in the layout of the streets and the appearance of the artsy boutiques and apartments hiding small gardens in their hearts. Even the atmosphere is quite different than in the city at large, although it's just a short tram ride from the city-center.

What I didn't know when I set out, however, was that today was the Carouge community sidewalk sale (for lack of a better phrase) was going on today as well. Wow. Now THIS, this was a street festival. Row after row of edible goodies, chinese, faux-mexican, strange looking swiss sausages, sweets, and a stand devoted to nothing but monster sized potatoes. Where to begin? Among this veritable smorgasbord I even managed to fit in a bit of second hand shopping :)

One of my favorite finds of the day was a previously unknown to me and typically swiss candy, the double-creme de la Gruyere caramel. Mr. David Waser of Le Beko de la Gruyere had just finished making a batch of the melty lumps of deliciousness and I was compelled to buy a small know, to take home for later. Ha ha ha. Now understand, I am reasonably familiar with Gruyere double cream (to be eaten with meringue puffs and berries usually) and most definitely with various types of caramel as well (long story about homemade caramel for caramel apples gone awry). But this one is a whole breed unto itself. It has a homely appearance and could attempt to masquerade as a lump of brown sugar but there is no obviously grain texture. It almost looks like it could be a very dry pale fudge...but that's not quite right either.

But who cares about how it looks? It's the taste we are more interested in! In the mouth it slowly dissolves and each distinct flavor makes an individual appearance until they mellow and combine. The first flavor is the deep strong well known 'caramel' flavor followed but a low rich buttery note that is highlighted by a very dairy milk taste and wrapped up with a zing of salty/sweetness. Very special, very unique and very deliciously dangerous. I think tomorrow I need to take what's left of the bag to work. I also intend to check out the rest of Mr. Waser's artisanal offerings at the next marche, there's a 'vin cuit de poire' bottle with my name on it...and a printed recipe for gateau au vin cuit!!! I am planning on that to be my first recipe attempt in french.

Ah, ah. Let's not forget the ice cream for the way home, yes? Granted, the Italians are renowned for their gelato...but would 'glace' from the historically Italian part of Geneva measure up? More after this quick break from our sponsors.....hehe just kidding, you silly readers you. Unfortunately, I forgot to jot down the name of the shop (but it's nearby so I can and WILL always go back later) and was rather full-ish from my pseudo taco and candy sampling. I skipped the cone and restrained myself to just one flavor, pistachio. Cool, refreshing, green as it wants to be, pistachio. On my walk home I stopped to sit and reflect on the flavors of this little ball shaped frozen confection. And noticed that my lime green tanktop and the green green grass painted bench set off it's chartreuse tint rather nicely. A great photo op, even if a bit tricky to manage with all of my bags of loot.

This ice cream was more sorbet style, it had a vibrant fresh flavor and was very light. Not too sweet and with none of the usual heaviness of cream filling the mouth. It also seemed like it was spiked with amaretto or a bit of coconut. All part of the nut family to be sure. ;) It finished very cleanly and the only way you'd be able to tell I was a bit nutty would be to kiss me. Ok, perhaps not the only way. :)

I am now lusting after my ice cream machine that is sitting forgotten in a cabinet in the states. Languishing and waiting for me to fire her up again and concoct more of what my brother and I fondly refer to as 'edible experiments'. Would that make me a mad scientist? Mad, am I? MWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! Um, right. Carry on then.

Best. Hot Chocolate. Ever.

Gilles Desplanches. Say it with me. Zheeeeee-ehl Deeeeeh Plaaaaahnssshhhh. Listen, it even sounds luxurious. The best hot chocolate in Geneva, in Switzerland, and in fact, the World (to date) is to be found in the sophisticated cafe environment just off of Rue de la Confederation in the quartier des banquiers (mmm well dressed men in 3 piece suits AND chocolate. Truly a taste of heaven.) When my Saturday stroll around town plans with a friend were quickly dashed by the freezing wind and rain we took refuge in my little corner of heaven.

The chocolat chaud de la maison here is phenomenal. It comes in it's own cute little serving pot, just right for two dainty mugs full and served with a small bar of the darkest tartest chocolate I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, all while being a study in tasteful monochrome. The hot chocolate itself has a very mouthfilling flavor and is subtly sweet but the bittersweet nature of the roasted cocoa bean is underlying its smooth sensuality. It's a very earthy flavor and made more so with teasing notes of vanilla and anis. The most surprising and overlooked part that truly elevates it to hot beverage greatness though is it's homogeneous consistency. It is as if the chocolate and milk/cream have always been ONE. At no time did they ever NOT coexist in harmony. It's a very special feeling and one I didn't notice until recently. I have always sought to put my taste-bud like finger on just what made it so different from all the others I've tried. Rest assured, if you ever come to visit me in Geneva...we WILL be basking in the warm chocolately embrace of Gilles Desplanches.


The Oh-Shit-I-Forgot-To-Go-To-The-Grocery-Yesterday-And-Subsequently-Have-No-Food-In-My-House Improv Dinner Post

Dudes, and dudettes, it's late. I am going to bed. I just wanted to put this up on the right day for a change. Regardless of the hour. Will update a bit later. Here's the beginning anyhow (consider this an appetizer)....

What to do? What to do? It's 8pm on a Sunday night and as you may have guessed from the oh-so-obvious title, my bright little readers, I didn't make it to the grocery yesterday. Living in Europe you take the good (light as air fresh from the oven croissants daily, being in the middle of EVERYTHING {unlike Iowa, which is also in the middle...of nothing. Ooooh, nestled parenthasis, can you dig it?} and excellent public transportation) along with the not so good (ridiculous rent and apartment hunts, not much customer service, and the whole world shutting down on Sundays.) So here I am hungry on a Sunday. The thought of another ramen dinner or kebab is making me feel a bit ill. Don't get on your high horse. I loves me some ramen...and kebab. Just not on a regular basis. To Be Continued....

***5-13-06 Continued.....Digging thru my magically defrosted fridge and freezer and scavaging from last weeks dinner party I managed to scrounge up some carrots, a half of an already peeled onion, part of a zucchini and some truly wilted and pathetic looking peapods that I tried to perk up in ice water (no dice...luckily the peapods crisp up again while cooking. Good to know, no?). Images of fluffy white rice and an asian inspired sauce to complete the veggie sautee started forming in my mind. What follows next is by far the healthiest meal and fastest to prepare that I've had in quite some time.

Before starting the meal I recommend preparing your sauce to taste. A bit of cornstarch (for body), a bunch of soysauce, some water, and generally garlic, ginger, and pepper, perhaps some cinnamon if you are feeling a bit adventurous. Fresh is best but on an underprepared Sunday powdered spices will have to do. As we all know (or you will now) basmati rice requires rinsing and then boiling the water down until level with the rice before covering and continuing to cook. While all of this ballyhoo is going on, you have the perfect amount of time to peel and cut your veggies. As the rice slowly cooks with the lid on you can sautee some onions in your choice of oil + sesame seed oil, then add the carrot, then zucchini and at last just let the peapods slightly kiss the pan. Stir up the sauce again before adding to the pan of veggies over low to medium heat and cook until just thickening. Quickly remove your delicious looking veggies, dish up over a big ole bowl of rice and top off with some sesame seeds. Et voila! Dinner she is serve-ed. And don't forget your iced green tea (first flush darjeeling FTGFOP1 from Arya...but that's a whole other post!).

Ps-It's worth noting that this simple semi-recipe can be easily turned into a chicken lo mein-like dish by quickly sautee'ing some chicken then adding the cooked veggies to the same pan before adding the sauce mix and then throwing all of it together with pasta in place of rice. See, my little ones, two recipes for the price of one :) I love you that much.


Matthew 6:11

There is nothing quite like brunch at Le Pain Quotidien on a miserable and drizzly Sunday....except when you beat the crowds by going on a miserable grey drizzly Saturday!!! Mwahahah, I so sneaky! The restaurant (3 different locations in Geneva...and to my chagrin, over 60 franchises worldwide. Sigh.) is what realtors like to refer to as 'cozy' and oozing 'rustic charm'. Except in this case that is not code for the size of a shoebox with a family of rabid raccoons already occupying it.

The charm of the place is the rough hewn communal tables, the limited amount of tables, the warm environment like your grandmother's kitchen and of course the shared jams and assorted spreads (Hey! Bring that back, I wasn't done with it yet!) Actually, I despise sharing my treasure trove of glittery sweet sparkly fruit spreads, then again I never played nice with others in school either. MINE!

I digress, normally the fixed brunch menu is my first choice. It has a wide selection of savory palate pleasers which are kicked off by a coffee or hot tea and the pastry of your choice. But, quite frankly, I was looking for something a bit lighter today. The spring menu was intriguing and coquette-ish with its early show of salmon fume or toast with chevre chaud, pears, honey and thyme. Which I must certainly return thyme you might say ;) GROAN.

I settled upon (not literally, dear reader. I detest unnecessary laundry and am sure that the staff would not have been thrilled to see me spooning with the croissants.) a simple assiette de fromages, fresh squeezed orange juice, and some tartine to sweeten things up. The juice brightened up my day and each little fragment of pulp burst in my mouth like sunshine made 'pop rocks'. What about the cheese and tartine you might ask (go ahead, ask. I'll wait....) Well, rest assured, all is right with the world. I was able to mix and match a wide variety of breads (hearty and nutty, vaguely whole-wheaty, and some sor of 'country' loaf) indiscriminately with an equal diverse selection of cheeses (chevre, brie, parmesan, and some sort of not-quite-cheddar) AND top it all of with the chocolate spread or raspberry jelly of the maison.

What?! Quit making disgusted faces. I blame it on living in Sweden too long. The thought of jelly on a cheese sandwich is delightful! It's like the playful combination of pineapple on pizza or a french fry dipped in a Frosty. 'Don't knock 'em till you've tried 'em'. Also, 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em'. And let's not forget the ever popular, 'When the going gets tough, the tough eat bruch'. Um, right. Moving on from overused cliches....

The only slightly negative comment I can make is that the breads, having been presliced earlier in the day were a bit less than perky. The were a little dry and rapidly passing their prime. Luckily the toppings helped me to forget all of that, even if I did have to fight tooth and nail to maintain my little pot of jelly. All in all, a quite fulfilling midday meal and a great place to lose track of time. Although, now that I am aware it's part of a world wide chain...I am a bit less enamored (but somewhat appeased after reading their history and finding out that they use mainly bio products). I miss my Mom-and-Pop greasy spoon diners. Everyone deserves scrambled Egg Beaters, homefries, and toast overflowing with butter and INDIVIDUAL SMUCKERS JELLY PACKAGES at 3am. Even if they do always run out of the strawberry packets first. Hmmm, that gives me an idea....Battle of the Brunch, anyone? (Faim, Alhambar, Pain Quotidien, etc. vs. American style brunch a la Chez Moi)


Continuing my culinary foray into Eaux Vives, I followed my nose to Chex. Chex is the brainchild of chef Gavin Clutterbuck. info on chex..... history, current program, etc. (coming soon)

On this Saturday Mark Butcher, one of WRG's on air personalities, had just returned from travelling through Asia. To welcome him home and introduce the community at large to Chex's new location chef Gavin hosted an 'open house' and invited in friends, former participants, and welcomed random people off the street who were lured by the siren scent of exotic spices. We were able to watch him demonstrate how to prepare several Malaysian dishes and afterwards sample the fruits (and curries and satays, oh my!) of his labors. It was a very enjoyable afternoon and as nice as it was watching a professional tying helpless fish in intricate banana leaf casings, I itch to don one of the aprons and have a go at one of the courses myself. Any one interested an afternoon course? Leave me feedback.