Calling all Iowans!

I am restraining myself from making hog calling jokes, at my state's expense of course. Anyhow, I am looking for up to 5 brave souls (and their corporeal selves) to visit state fair one day with me and graze our way through it. All snacks/meals will be deconstructed and observations posted on here later. Must have cast iron belly, ability to withstand humidity and heat sans complaint, a good pair of walking shoes, and the ability to articulate an opinion. If you are a motivated individual please apply below. No fear of food on sticks, please.



Summer in Switzerland is a very special time. Thousands of festivals, al fresco dining and lounging by the lake. Last summer I missed every music festival to be had in Switzerland. I vowed this year would be different. Oh, how different it would be! This summer, I attended Paleo. Not once, but twice!

Can you feel the difference?

Ahhh...this is more like it.

Jersey, JiJi and I all went up on Wednesday and experienced the snail paced regional train that takes you from the station proper to the giant field that houses the festival. Wandering around and eavesdropping from stage to stage and tent to tent is a fantastic feeling. Lying in the grass as the sun goes down and being serenaded by Goldfrapp is immeasurably better. This year we managed to take in The Who, Depeche Mode, arrived too late to catch the Dandy Warhols, Dionysus, Louise Attaque, and last but not least the always eccentricly brilliant Gogol Bordello.

This year's Paleo 'village du monde' was focused on Eastern Europa. If I figure out how to paste the wicked video I took of a giant tinker toy like metal bird wearing a pilot's cap moving sculpture I most certainly will. Promise. Up in the Eastern Europa village we were pulling in a thousand different directions. Between the gypsy like storyteller's caravan to the crazyquilt covered tent reeling out minor key laments and floorstomping raftershaking country dance numbers to...of course....the food. Let me begin by saying, there's only so much two or even three normal sized bellies can hold. That evening we pushed ours to the limit. We began with a variety of what I would call Croatian pizza. Flat, thin as a 10 franc note and covered with crumbled meat and onions and some cheese. A good appetizer and just a warm up. Clouds of concert goers passed us by with exquisite shishkabob looking things. Sadly, when we finally found the tent the meat turned out to be something wild and wood dwelling. It smelled heavenly but I just couldn't make myself buy one.

As we passed by another tent I noticed a charcoal burning rectangular pit. Something was rotating above it and curiously, it didn't look like any sort of game animal. In fact, it was rotisserie style Transylvanian bread called Kurtoskalacs, also known as 'chimney sweet'. Samples were being passed out still warm from the spit and as we all can surmise, I am a sample tastin' kinda girl. Aaaand I was hooked. Sweet but not cloying, chewy but yielding and oh so comfortingly yeasty and bread like. In fact it was almost like a very thin hollow soft pretzel, the surface area of the 'crust' is just multiplied, then rolled through sugar and crushed nuts. Jersey and I decided to be magnanimous and bring back a taste of Eastern Europe for our work colleagues the next day. The only thing tube shaped bread is not meant for is carrying in a large sack. It was more ovoid tube shaped when we got back into Geneva in the wee hours.

Note- This bread was not made by a bunch of bakers but rather by a bunch of artists. They belong to the Fonderie D'Art Geya in Ogens. After a bit of googling I found that they are one of the stops (and make a Transylvanian meal and do tours of the sculpture foundry) on the Chemin Des Bles between Lausanne, Neuchatel and Fribourg. I hope to go this summer and perhaps learn how to make my own Kurtoskalacs. I have found a recipe for an oven baked variation on a Japanese Hungarian exchange website (don't ask, I don't know either!) and after I try it out I'll be sure to post it, my dear little bloglings.

Let me continue. When we last saw our hungry protagonists they were wandering around with a haunted famished look in their eyes...Well, not really but we hadn't yet had our fill. We followed a stream of people carrying around steaming baguette halves, curiously intrigued....And we ran smack into the Swiss food courtyard. Jersey downed a large glass of moo juice from the Lait stand and got a collectors cup with a 3D sticker of a cow on it. We also passed pans of tartiflette big enough to feed a village. We split a rosti and kept wandering.

Really, you think you know a country and then it does something like this...

What is 'this' you might be wondering. Go ahead. Wonder. What 'it' is is a portable fondue. Yes, much like it's (in)famous cousin, the Walking Taco, Portable Fondue is a non messy festival oriented version of a nationally famous dish. What 'it' also is, is me stopping in my tracks with my jaw hanging open. 'It' is what every Genevois will turn up their nose in disdain at and call those who partake 'tourists' and yet now are enjoying with abandon, despite the unrelenting heat even late in the evening. Unbelievable. 'It' also happens to be delicious. By this time it is getting to be o'dark hundred and the crowds are getting a bit rowdy. With work the next day and bellies filled to bursting it was time to return home and dream of alkaselzer and tums....and also next year's festival and myriad of delectables on offer.


Soul Food Salad

...with SweetTea

This installment is dedicated to all of my stateside Southern friends. Rather, shall I say, This is dedicated to y'all.

Summer = Hot. Europe = No air conditioning. So cooking is generally out of the question. A leafy cool salad sounded good. I hauled out my Bøøk of Føød rifled through its battered pages looking for something delicious and new. (Mynd yü føød bøøks kånn bĕ prettï tâstí - 3 taco points if you can correctly guess that film reference!) The book is full of clippings from Chocolatier, Bon Apetite, Gourmet, local newspapers and other treasure-like findings. Luckily, I found one that I have been meaning to try for awhile, fried chicken salad with honey pecan vinaigrette. Sounds tasty, no?

And it is a nicely balanced dish. You've got salty crispy moist chicken on a bed of biting greens with mellow pecans and their crunchy touch all held together with a sweet but not cloyingly so dressing. If any one note goes missing the dish might just fall apart, like a mile long domino chain at state fair sabotaged by flying roadkill. Um, I mean, a house of cards. Yeah. Anyhoo..

The recipe says it makes enough for 6 main servings. As I am a singular entity and produce tends to get funky fast here. I pared it way down to an individual serving. I recommend making enough for left overs cause I think it would make a kick ass sandwich on a nice grainy roll or pita wrap the second day.

I am coming to the realization that I use recipes mainly as touching stones. The pictures and general guidelines seem to be enough to jump off of for most 'main course' type dishes, which we all know are mainly improvisational and 'to taste' anyhow. I think some other time I'd like to play around with grinding up some of the toasted pecans and using them in the coating for the chicken. Hmmm....Anyhow, here's the rach-ified version...

Soul Food Salad (serves one, with a moderate appetite)

Pecan Vinaigrette
(makes enough for many many salads. can be made a day ahead. refrigerate and rewhisk before using)

1/4 c. toasted pecan halves (toast some additional nuts for salad decoration)
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. veggie oil ( I used some random Swiss oil that had a little happy sign for use in salad dressings)
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
3 T. honey
1/8 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 T. salt

Toast pecan halves. Reserve some pecans for later. Combine all ingredients in blender and process til smooth.


1 large egg
1 sheet of left over matzah (the original recipe called for panko Japanese breadcrumbs. It seems like all of my recipes lately are calling for this. Is this some new sort of trend? A superior breadcrumb that pigeons will fight to the death for?

I found that the matzah was perfectly fine.
garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
1 chicken breast cut into medium sized tidbits
salad greens of choice, something earthy and with body
finely sliced red onion (optional)
grated cheddar (optional)

-Crush matzah into as small pieces as possible. I prefer to use a glass bottom to crush them with (I REALLY REALLY need that mortar and pestle!)
-Add seasonings to taste and a pinch of flour.
-In a separate bowl whisk egg.
-Meanwhile heat several tablespoons of oil in a heavy bottomed skillet on medium to medium high heat. Dip chicken into egg, then roll through breadcrumbs and fry in skillet til cooked through and golden brown.
-Using a slotted spoon transfer done chicken onto paper towels to drain.

Toss salad greens (cheddar and red onion optional) with small amount of the vinaigrette to coat and top with chicken and toasted pecan halves.

In case anyone is interested the tea is a home brew from my window sill of Grand Yunnan tea FOP, mixed with plenty of ice and oodles of sugar (I think the tea police will crack down on me soon, sorry Mr. Tips) topped off with a straw. Because what good is iced tea if you can't suck up the sugar in sporadic spurts with a straw? A useless travesty I tell you. Go enjoy your useful sweet-enough-to-rot-your-teeth tea. With a bendy straw.


FrankenBerry Cake

Not this Frankenberry.

I've never met a recipe that I didn't mercilessly change from the get go! No, I jest. Generally on the first run through of any new recipe I try to remain true to the creator's vision. But living abroad? Let's just say it complicates things a bit. With the following recipe there were wicked substitutions, approximations, and variations (oh my!) Did I mention I halved it as well?

For Ant's birthday I wanted to try something new. I stumbled across this gem while googling something completely unrelated and this was too good a chance to pass up. Lemon blueberry cake sounded deelish and the accompanying photo was even more enticing.

Light, fluffy, piled high with icy frosting and utterly summerlicious. But I should have known it was dooooooomed from the start. Dooooooomed! I say.

The first time I tried making it was the day after Ant's birthday. We had taken a steamboat up to Yvoire and went swimming in Excenevex (the only sand beach on Lac Leman). Then we were spending the night in JM's castle and making dinner.

A castle?! Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Europe!!!! The garden there had all of the herbs I needed for dinner (fresh herbs! in a garden! picked by me!) We had to hunt for the rest of our provisions at the supermarche that was 15 min. away (cause there is an unwritten rule about castle to grocery store distance ratio to not destroy the illusion of anachronism, I am sure). I was able to find something that MIGHT be like buttermilk. JM picked up the last 3 cartons of blueberries they had but as we checked out we noticed they were all green and fuzzy. Every last one of them. So we ditched 'em.

By the time we got back and got cooking it was getting quite late, we hadn't even had time for the 'grand tour' yet. I made the Madame's Lemonade to rave reviews and hastened to send the boys down to pick the raspberry patch clean to make up for our lack of blueberries while I got down to dinner making. In all fairness, raspberry lemon cake sounds just as good as lemon blueberry cake if not better, right? When we finished eating it was almost midnight and we were all completely exhausted. Which was just as well, I had been unable to find neither cake pans nor hand mixers but perhaps I didn't look in the right hidden cabinet. On top of it all we had to be up quite early the next day to get a start on our hike in the Gorge du Pont de Diable, thus the cake was put on hold.

A few nights later, despite the heat, I planned to finally DO this thing. This time there were no blueberries to be had at my local supermarket, fuzzy or not. Seriously, I am beginning to think there is some sort of blueberry conspiracy going around here. Again, I planned to substitute with raspberries and had to make do with a really very expensive, not sunkissed, garden grown, handpicked with love carton and was only able to find Weight Watchers raspberry flavored buttermilk (Don't ask, I don't get it either). I also had to buy some Kiri cheese to replace the Philedelphia cream cheese that they normally stock and completely forgot to buy the white chocolate bars. So, had to run down to my inconvienience store 2 blocks down while the cake cooled. Recipe for disaster right? But wait, there's more!

As I said earlier, I only had one cake pan and therefore decided to just make it a one layer cake by halving the ingredients. Oh, yeah...and switched everything to metric. Oven temperature, amounts of dry ingredients and more. But still, everything looked ok.

The batter tasted kind of Country Time Raspberry Lemonadey but not bad. Notice the original recipe doesn't state when or where to add the berries. So I arbitrarily sprinkled them along the top (like in the original photo, no?) For some reasons (see all above perhaps) my cake came out more panCAKE like and dense. From all of my mad scientist like changes? ('It's ALIVE! It's ALIVE!") Quite possibly.

Now, the frosting on the cake. Literally. I like cream cheese frosting as much as the next dessert obsessed girl. On deep dark devil's food cake, on carrot cake cookies, graham crackers, anything really. But I think that this white chocolate lemon cream cheese frosting was a bit too baroque for our humble hefty homey panCAKE. An icing like that really needs something a bit more racy and immodest to accompany. Birds of a feather and all of that...

So, after all of this should you WANT to attempt my FrankenBerry Cake in all of it's patchworked glory here is the recipe with all of my substitutes. Or if you would like to give the original recipe a whirl and let me know just where I went astray (the third substitution?) and report back with your findings it can be found here

FrankenBerry Cake


· Flour --1 1/6 cups
· Salt - - 1/4 tsp.
· Baking powder -- 1/4 tsp.
· Baking soda -- 1/4 tsp.
· Unsalted butter (r.t.) --1/8 cup - 28 grams
· Sugar - - 1/2 cup
· Fresh lemon juice -- 1/6 cup ~3 tablespons
· Grated lemon peel -- 1/2 tsp
· Eggs (large) -- 2
· Raspberry Buttermilk -- 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon
· Fresh raspberries -- 2 ½ cups


· White chocolate -- 5.5 ounces ~156 grams
· kiri cheese (r.t.) -- 6 ounces ~170 grams
· Unsalted butter (r.t.) -- 3/8 cup ~85 grams
· Lemon juice -- 1 tablespoon
· Raspberries for decoration

· Preheat oven to 180 °C. Butter and flour one 9”-diameter pan with 2” sides; line bottom with parchment paper.
· Sift first four ingredients into bowl.
· Beat butter in bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until blended. Beat in lemon juice and peel, then eggs one at a time.
· Continue to beat, and blend in dry ingredients in several portions alternatively with buttermilk.
· Transfer batter to pans and bake until tester inserted in center of pan comes out clean (about 30 min). Cool cakes on rack.

· Stir white chocolate in top of double broiler, set over a barely boiling water bath, until almost melted. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Cool to lukewarm.
· Beat cream cheese and butter in bowl until blended. Beat in lemon juice and then the white chocolate.
· Turn cake on working surface, remove parchment. Place one cake layer flat-side up. Spread with 1 cup frosting.
· Spread remaining frosting to sides.
· Garnish with raspberries.
· Refrigerate. Let stand at r.t. for 1 h before serving.

I love raspberries. I loves them SO much.

Ps- My absolute FAVORITE part of this recipe is when it calls for parchment to line the bottom of the cake pan. I have NEVER found it so easy to clean a dish after baking before. And despite all of my badmouthing of this recipe both Ant and I managed to polish off over half of it within a few days. Refrigerated it tastes kind of like a poorman's cheesecake. Cheers.


Pesto Manifesto

So, what's missing in this photo?

For those eagle eyes out there 3 taco points for noticing the olive oil that's gone missing. To the rest of you....try harder next time.

Summer is perfect pesto season. Whipping up a batch is as easy as pushing a button (or pounding with a pestle) and it can be used on everything from bruschetta to pasta salad. This is so totally on my amazon wishlist.

I am still looking for the Golden Ratio of pesto, if you will. As soon as I find it I will be sure to share. Until then here is the 'classic' version. Remember, there is no such thing as bad pesto, but it is possible to use too much garlic, don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise!

Pesto Manifesto's Classic Pesto Recipe

Place 2 large cloves of garlic in the bottom of a blender or food processor. Add 3 cups very firmly packed fresh basil leaves, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup olive oil.

Grind for 10 seconds. Add ½ cup pine nuts. Grind for 8 to 10 seconds longer. The sauce should contain small pieces of leaves, and thenuts should be just broken up, not pulverized. Remember that pesto was traditionally made by hand, and you don't want modern appliances to give it a baby-food consistency.


IceCreamMonster - The Saga Begins

My grocery store loves me so very very much. COOOOOP! was giving away free ice cream samples today. Not like those bite sized Migros samples awhile back. Migros wouldn't even let me buy a box of the tiny cones that so reminded me of my beloved Dinky Dippers. They are the exact right size for moderate ice cream consumption. But I digress, COOOOOP! had a small Movenpick stand that was dishing up double scoop waffle cones. I am not the world's biggest Movenpick fan. I like them just fine. But when you are surrounded by so many small shops that make their own ice cream why should I settle for mass produced stuff? I may have just changed my mind though.

I tried a scoop of lemon with elderberry swirls and one of kiwi/goldenkiwi. The lemon elderberry combo was nothing to write home (or even blog) about. But kiwi/goldenkiwi? Wow. Who woulda thunk it? It's citrusy and delicious without being overpowering or too sweet. I don't think I'd sit down with a giant bowl of it though, it is more for mini cones (oh, Dinky Dippers, I miss you! Snif.) and an occassional spoonful as you pass the freezer. Better hurry if you plan to get some though, it is one of their seasonal flavors.

Walking around in a grocery store while eating ice cream, how novel. Reminds me of CeeBee's in good old Naperville. The ice cream counter was the first thing you saw on the way in (and the large pretzel stick they would give you after checking out, the last). I would always cajole a family member into buying me bubble gum ice cream (what was I thinking?) or the peppermint one with shards of candy cane in it.

Yet having the ice cream as breakfast was a bit naughty of me. I am getting together with a friend later today for ice cream by the lake (but who can pass up on free ice cream cones?!) and Jersey owes me one tomorrow. I could say that this is all research for the artisanal ice cream shops in Geneva and that I will be researching and writing up my finds (which I will). More truthful though is the fact that I have become the IceCreamMonster© this summer. Not as blue and fuzzy as a Cookie Monster perhaps, but infinitly cooler. Even Cookie would have to admit that nothing could be better than ice cream nestled between two of his favorite goodies. I fear the transformation that will come over me when I go home for vacation and am reunited with my ice cream machine. MWAHAHAHAHA!!!!

To be continued.....


FoodVentures : Pepsi Gold

Go For the Goal'd

(This was written a while back and updated to celebrate the ending of Le Coupe du Monde. Throughout the year Plainpalais (the big diamond in the photo below) is host to many events, several circuses, antique fairs, luna parks and more. For over a month now it has been full of honking cheering yobs twice daily for the games. I am all for team spirit, but I am even more for being able to sleep at a decent hour. So here's to getting my backyard back.

Better than a head-butt to the chest? That is the question we hope to answer with today's tasting. Can YOU taste the Victory? Oh yes, I can. And it tastes like yellow dye #5. Europe has a bad case of football, I mean soccer, let's just call it the World Cup fever. And the Evil Empires aren't afraid to cash in on it with limited edition offers (much like Super Bowl commercials, long awaited but do they really pay off?) Yes, MacDo, I am calling you out on your burger Francaise!

Sqyd, the Duct Tape Goddess and I felt obliged to try it out and report to you, good readers. Not much to say. It's rather 'yellow' flavored, much like many popsicles are 'red' flavored, and fizzy. No hint of cola, like a slightly older beer swilling sports obsessed sibling to the unforgettable Crystal Pepsi brought out back in 1993. You remember Crystal Pepsi, right? RIGHT?! However, you can certainly see by the golden plastic container that this drink is for 'Winners' only. You want to be a winner, don't you???

Survey says: Like a penalty kick ricocheting off the top of the goal, this drink misses it's mark. Thank goodness for limited editions (like Cappuccino Pepsi and Holiday Spice Pepsi, shudder.)

Welcome to my nightmare

This past weekend Ant and I decided to head up to Gruyeres. No, not for the cheese, although we couldn't resist the cheese either. (I'll post later about our tasty raclette experience.) In fact, I will have to go back up for the Gruyere cheese factory tour at a later point...and to buy that 35 franc bottle of Le Fee Vert I passed on. No, we went for a different, more art related, reason all together.

Gruyeres was the regional seat of power from 1080 up until 1554. It is situated a couple hours and a beautiful countryside train ride away from Geneva. It is a hill-top village repleate with obligitory chateau. Completely picturesque and inundated with tourists.

Which is why it is even stranger to run across the goth futuristic horror and genius that is

*Giger is best known for his work on Alien and Species. Born in Chur Switzerland in 1940 and took a winding path that led him to art school in Zurich (much like our two protaganists). In 1969 Giger designs and silkscreens his first 'biomechanoids' and participates in a Happening with two other artists. After a horror nightmare sometime later he begins work on Necronomicon and by 1978 a copy makes it's way to Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox. And thus begins his reign over the horror genre.

The ancient converted house is quite unassuming, bar the tiles and sculptures adorning the outside and marking it as Giger's own. While wandering through the narrow rooms Ant and I kept musing out loud what it must be like to have such things in one's head all the time. A whole world of nightmarish creatures, to not only dissect how they live and reproduce but to bring such creatures to life. And then we noticed a giant Alien floating above us and decided to muse out loud in the Giger bar across the way where things might be a bit less frightning. We were wrong.

The bar offered something called 'Alien Coffee' but after having seen the spoof scene from SpaceBalls the night before (in which the Alien baby pops out of the guy's stomach after eating at a roadside cafe) we decided to avoid any and all Alien food references.

One website laments 'his (Giger's) unique brand of grotesque art, sexualized surrealist visions of machine-like humanoids, nightmarish cityscapes and fantasy-porn gynaecological obsession' influence on the city of 'Switzerland's most photographic sights'. I disagree however. I think the juxtaposition works well. The treacly sweet Walt Disney like castle-village is well tempered by the sparse flock of black leather clad Goths and metalheads blending in like oil in water. The site goes on to say 'Heaven help Gruyeres' when really it ought to say 'Heaven help Giger'. The man, although brilliant, is obviously in need of a good night's sleep with nothing but candyland like dreams.

*All biographical information excerpted from Giger's official site


FoodVentures : C*Ice

A Nice Tea of Pot

Generally while waiting in a train station and attempting to buy edibles out of a vending machine one's choices are rather limited and infinitely cliché. But not today, mes amis! I found a product both local AND exotic, C*Ice. An iced tea flavored with cannabis that promises 'Fantastic Natural Feeling', despite it's containing only 5% syrup with hemp (sativa flower?) flavor and 0.015 g/L of cannabis extract ( THC...don't know) in a 250mL container. Which, if we do the maths (AGH! MATHS!) is...shoot, I was an art school grad not liberal art! It equals out to 0.0015%, let's just say that, ok?

Stylishly designed with plenty of dancing little pot leaves on a bright background to attract and entice tie dye wearing, dreadlock totting, phish following, grateful dead listening neo-hippies. Even stoned you can't miss this in the vending machine calling out it's siren song.

Sadly, many of the bottled teas in Europe are choose-your-own-deity-awful. In fact, I have rechristened the most popular one on offer....

It is just THAT bad. Unfortunately for us, cannabis tea doesn't fare much better. It has the typical 'bottled tea' flavor with the 'added bonus' of an artificial lemon flavor and smoky marijuana-like aftertaste. Generally when smoking, liquids are used to quench your cottonmouth, not as another form of ingesting not yet legalized substances. (Not that I would know, never having tried anything like that...Hi Mom!)

Survey Says: Save your Suisse centime, it's no Arizona or Honest Tea. Better yet, Barry drop your bong and brew a pot of sun tea. Or, if you prefer to have a visual approximation of real 'pot tea' try brewing up a large glass full of loose Gunpowder tea with fresh mint leaves still on the stem.
Herbalicious man!


C is for Caprese...

Dat good enough for me! Here's a summer salad even Cookie Monster could love. Or at least a Ninja Turtle if he couldn't wait for the pizza to finish cooking. It's also quick, cool, and delicious (and oh so festive) for your 4th of July picnics and bbqs today (if you are in the US and 7 or so hours behind me, as well you ought to be!).

Caprese Salad (serves 2, increase as necessary)

1 red vine ripe tomato
1 large ball of fresh mozarella (bufala if you desire)
pesto (optional)

Slice tomatoes, slice cheese. Layer in alternating lines. Garnish with pesto, drizzle with virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, all, some or none of the above. Et voila! Ready to eat with a nice fresh bread or even on it's own. Buon appetito.