Each month one of our Rotary members is required to give an informal talk on their livelihood, hobbies, or some other personal aspect. This helps us to get to know one another, much like the informal aperos we host in our homes (mine is coming up this week!) Jean Pierre is a member of the local Echanson de la Confrérie des Tastes Whisky Ecossais (brotherhood of whiskey tasters?) and provided our merry little group with the history, geography, lore and variety to be found in single malt whiskeys.

Let me start off by saying I've never had a whiskey in my entire life. Perhaps it will help put this post into perspective.

Our first taste was of Glenckinchie from the lowlands, an 'apero' or easy drinking whiskey, supposedly 'fruity' with notes of smoke, herbs, and spices. My first impression BURNING! AGRESSIVE! TONGUE GOING NUMB!!!

The next was Aberlour from the highlands speyside, more of a 'dinner' whiskey, with an earthy smell, a spicier longer flavor that developes and a bit easier on the palate (or mine had already gone numb.

The third was also from the highlands speyside, a 12 yr old Strathisla. Out of the tasting this one one of the 'hardest' for me. Very harsh, dry, and acidy, almost like a highly tannin'd wine. Very warm and tingly and stayed in the mouth for a long time.

The last from the highlands speyside was a 1994 Speymalt Macallan. I found it to have a slightly sweet smell, light-ish with a more 'open' elegant flavor. The tasting notes say there are notes of chocolate...those I have yet to find!

Second to last was Old Putenay from the Northern Highlands, a not bad flavor and would tend to go well with salmon (which was quite luckily on the menu that night!)

We rounded off the evening with a strong drag at 58% from the Isle of Isla, Lagavulin. This was a very special draught. I can't say I liked it but it certainly stood out from the others. It was very very smokey, so much that it tasted like a doused forest fire. The 'nose' reminded me of bactine and it made my inner ear itch. With commendations like that I can't think why no one else would get fired up about it.

I must admit, I am a heathen. Jean Pierre did a fantastic job and each whiskey was prefaced about the region it came from, the history of the distillery, as well as a written up list on the color, nose, palate, and finish of each. To me, they all smelled like rubbing alcohol and they taste from one to the next varied so slightly as to be almost indistinguishable. And I thought my wine palate was undeveloped! I appreciated this lecture and learned quite a bit, the world of whiskey is a fascinating place steeped in history and secrets. I can appreciate those who appreciate a fine glass of whiskey but for me? I'll stick with my favorite malt product....


on the road

guess who was at a whiskey tasting til late last night? ooooh my head. off for the blog conference in zurich today. posts about both of these soon!


Spice Girl...singular

I just came back from spending 18chf on spices at my favorite local spice shop Lyzamir. That's right, 18 smackeroos for things like tamarind paste and matcha and chickpea flour, oh my! This is all in preparation for next week's themed dinner. Are you hungry yet?

*Lyzamir is a shop after my own heart. It reminds me of jam-packed used bookstores and Mike Fink's office at RISD. It is much tastier but equally as magical. With row upon row of spices, like some food bent alchemist, and sacks of grains I've never heard of it is always a delight for the senses. The only hard part is finding time to cook everything you are enticed to make by browsing there.

Lyzamir Alimentation - Specialities Orientales
3 rue des Corps-Saint
1201 Geneve



Baby Did a Bad Bad Blog

I have been a bad bad blogger, almost a month sans post. And so close to the first anniversary of Ugly Fruit. And even more, on the eve of a blog conference in Zurich! (more on that soon) I am sorry baby, can you ever forgive me? I have posts to update on two, count 'em, two themed dinners (Spiked! and Aphrodesiac), the trip from Germany, the Chocolate Festival in Paris, my first 'tasting menu' fine dining experience in Chicago, a blind dinner in Basel, and more than one 'meme' Rosa has passed along to me. I hope that this will work to appease the blog gods while I get my act together. And when I do post I will be sure to put up a note indicating the dates to go back to as I want to keep them in chronological order. Now if only I could keep up with all of my foodie experiences!

I still haven't found my jumpdrive and have now managed to lose (with the help of the cats) the cord that I had found that allowed me to update my images. Here are a few previously posted pieces that I have gone back and added photos to....

Chocolate Covered...Wait for it, Pie
Muffins are from Mars
Citrus Rice Dream

And yet all the jumpdrives in the world can't help untimely posts. Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging. Admittedly sometimes I suck about updating. I had hoped I would only have to do this once but it looks like I will have to update in two parts. Here are quite a few events I neglected to write about at the appropriate time. But as they say, better late then never, nu?

July - Paleo
August - Sweet Binney
August - Crepe Cake
August - Lollapalooza
October - Furry Babies (and oh, how right I was!)
November - Turkey Day
November - Layers Dinner

Keep your eyes peeled for future retrospective updates. And thanks for bearing with me.


Makes Mouth Happy

Yet another super fantastic dinner with an amazing turn out. We had 12, count 'em, 12 food minded individuals sprawled in my living room and creating the most convivialist atmosphere in Geneva.

All in a post food orgy haze of course. As this was meant to be February's dinner (we kind of missed last month) a theme of 'aphrodesiac' was decided upon to commemorate Naked Flying Baby Day. Ladies and Gentlemen, love was in the air. Love of flavors bursting on our tongues and seducing us with tempting scents and sights. Luckily it was just foodlust, as the boy girl ratio was 1:11 ;) Too bad for all of the gents I invited that decided not to show, no? On to dinner....see if you can spot the 'active' ingredients (insert wicked grin here)

We started things off with brie puffs and grapes (recipe below)

Then moved right along to a creamy tomato and basil soup (see recipe below)

Hal and Al brought an arugalah pesto with dried cranberries and fresh pasta

I'll add for the record we did have green things and salad. I managed to make my first asparagus dish (yay!) a lemony and garlicy thing, and was quite pleased with the photos though, sorry. (recipe below)

Kiriel started off the spice with her delicate and flaky ginger marinated fish

Rosa continued to heat things up with a zesty jerk chicken dish

Not to be outdone Hal and Al 'kicked things up a notch' with some truly tender flank steak that had been pan seared and smothered in a garlic and chili sauce (I was burping up spice all night and LOVED it)

And then there was dessert. Oh, the dessert we had. Generally at our dinners each foodie claims a part of the meal to bring. This time I do believe we all had to do a dessert IN ADDITION to the already fantastic other dishes we had done. And by god it was worth it. Nothing is sexier than dessert!

Rosa made a deadly flourless chocolate cake (recipe here) with 5 spice creme anglais and Hal and Al made individual sized banana bread puddings

I took advantage of the first strawberries of the season and made a downright homestyle strawberry creamcheese cake (see recipe below)

And Kiriel sweetened the deal with ricotta and pistachio...tartlets you might call them, with a ginger syrup (recipe here)

And then there were none :) The carnage after a typical theme dinner. We got saavy (if slightly less environmentally friendly) this time by using some disposible plates and cutlery. It might not be as classy but MY GOD! was the clean up less painful for all parties involved.

Please join us later this month for the 'real' March dinner...the theme? Hidden Secrets ;)

Apro-dine-iac Recipes from Rai

Brie Puffs

Phyllo sheets (the thicker pastry kind, not the flaky baklava kind)
bit of butter or oil

I deliberately left the amounts blank as you can make this to suit 1 or 100. This time I made individual bite sized appetizers but the brie works just as well as a whole half wheel. It looks fancy, tastes delicious and is so easy you'll have to hide your smirk when you get compliments on it. Simply take the desired amount of cheese and encase it in some phyllo dough. Be sure to seal the edges so that the cheese doesn't leak out (still delicious, just not as pretty) Brush the tops of the bites with a bit of melted butter or olive oil and bake on a foil covered cookie sheet at 400F (200C) until brown and crispy. Serve with a side of grapes, apple slices, strawberries, etc.

Tomato Basil Soup - by Max, modified by Rai

I originally found this recipe on Chew on That as Max's Fresh Tomato Basil Soup. It was very good the first time around...but missing 'something' to my taste buds. I tried it slightly differently this time and am getting closer but am by no means finished in my persuit of the perfect tomato soup. It's still a fantastic soup. Enjoy

4 C. fresh tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped (I didn't bother to peel as it's tedious...I strain the whole thing later)
4 C. good chicken stock
10 fresh basil leaves
1 C. heavy cream
1/4 lb. unsalted butter
(I added a bit of tomato paste, or even tomato sauce will do. I like my soups with some zing)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine tomatoes and stock in saucepan. Simmer 30 minutes. Puree, along with the basil leaves in a blender or food processor. Return to saucepan and add cream, butter and tomato paste or sauce to taste, while stirring over low heat. (At this point I let it cool and stuck it in the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors develop. I then strained it the next day, as I can't stand those little curls of tomato peel on my tongue, and simply reheated on very very low) Garnish with extra basil leaves.

Lemon Garlic Asparagus

1/2 lemon
2 cloves of garlic
1 kilo asparagus
olive oil

Wash asparagus and lie them in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, squeeze the hell out of the lemon and gut for the pulp, and sprinkle with the grated fresh garlic. Bake at 375F until a vibrant green and cripsy/tender. The asparagus is good...but the lemony garlicy juice at the bottom of the pan is worth licking out on it's own later.

Strawberry Cheesecake - recipe by Rai

1 c. slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 c. crushed graham crackers
1/4 c. sugar
6 T. unsalted melted butter

Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Butter a 9" glass pie dish. Chop almonds and mix with other dry ingredients, slowly mix in melted butter until a course meal forms. Press firmly into pie pan and bake 10-12 minutes. Remove and cool, keep oven on.

Cheesecake Filling
1 box cream cheese (8 oz.)
1 egg
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Cream eggs and cheese. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat 10 minutes on high speed. Pour over cooled crust. Bake at 375F for 15-30 minutes (really keep an eye on it, baking time differs each and every time I do it. Sometimes it's necessary to double the filling amount, obviously before baking...use your own sense). Let cool completely and feel free to turn oven off. Time to focus on the stove now.

Strawberry Topping
5 c. quartered hulled strawberries
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 T. fresh lemon juice

Place 2 cups of strawberries in a large sauce pan and squish with the back of a fork. Add sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Stir over medium high heat until sugar dissolves, color darkens, and the mixture begins to boil and thickens, ~3 min. Transfer mix to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Stir in remaining 3 cups of strawberries. Chill pie for 2-6 hrs.