Busby Bakes

thoughts on cooking + eating by one who lives for the daily feast

Archive for September, 2010

manger à Genève

The Husband is on an extended project in Geneva, Switzerland. Sound glamorous? Turns out, we’d rather be in Jersey if it meant we were together. Trying to make the best of it, we plan to see each other every 3 or 4 weeks. Last week marked my first visit.

I arrived at the end of a marathon work weekend for the Husband and his team. So we eased into our dining extravaganza. Joined by a few coworkers, we all ordered giant salads at funky Café Art’s, just a few blocks from his apartment and his office. And the red light district.

The next night, we took a ferry across the lake for a swanky date. Total romance at l’Adresse: cocottes of butternut squash gnocchi,  razor clams, a bottle of Johannisberg—a white wine from the nearby Valais region—and a full moon in their rooftop garden.

On Wednesday, we met for lunch at a sweet little crêperie; mine came with roquette and chevre, the Husband could not resist ham and cheese with a fried oeuf on top. That night we nibbled on cheese and cured meat from the neighborhood’s Italian grocer.

I went to the Left Bank the next afternoon to explore and have a coffee and a treat. While the chocolate charlotte at Gilles Desplanches was quite good, the waiters were snooty. Perhaps they were right: our evening began with a couple of  “lake cans” with the Husband’s coworkers. Then we hiked it to the old part of the city for mussels, frites, and trotters, crème brolée (which is what you get when 2 dudes share dessert), and lots of wine  at Au Pied de Chochon.

And then an “unwinder” at La Bretelle, a hole-in-the-wall that advocates smoking, in many forms.

Friday brought a lesson: there are no rooms to be had, even expensive ones at dumpy-looking hotels, on beautiful fall weekends in the countryside near Geneva. After hours of searching for someplace, anyplace where we could go for a weekend of hiking and yodeling, it became obvious we weren’t getting out of town. So, we went out to dinner: foie gras, Champagne, and outstanding thyme-infused fish at La Table in the charmingly groovy suburb of Carouge.

Saturday night saw another picnic in the apartment, this time assembled from our morning stroll through Carouge’s outdoor market: Tunisian olives and Italian sundried tomatoes from the friendliest of olive vendors; delicious cheeses from the stall with the longest line; a bottle of local red; a loaf of le Glâneur; viande des Grisons (thinly-sliced dried cured pork) from Bronnimann & Fils, a stunning charcuterie; and fruit. After shopping we stopped for open-faced sandwiches (fresh anchovy for me, smoked salmon for the Husband) at the quietly hip, completely friendly Vert Boutielle. The Husband had a beer and I chose a complex, unfiltered French white from their list of biodynamic wines.

Sunday, we just had to get out of town. We decided to visit the Château de Chillon at the far west end of the lake. Before our early-morning train to Montreux, we ran down to the local boulangerie for big, buttery, flaky croissants, including a Nutella-filled variation.

That evening a comforting, lovingly made, truly delicious dinner of curry and whole roasted fish at Jeck’s Place completely made up for the unhappy discovery that this place was not open for late lunch. After a emailing ahead. And receiving confirmation. And an expensive taxi ride up the mountain.

On my last day there, after learning how to work the spotless laundry mat that the neighborhood streetwalkers use (note to self: don’t stand outside whilst waiting for the dryer cycle to finish), I set off to find locally grown green lentils. Much as I would have loved to visit Ferme Courtois, the train sure wasn’t going to get me there. In an email exchange (thank you, Google Translate), Madam Courtois suggested I buy them at Manor, which was a 10-minute walk from the Husband’s apartment.

Holy mother of gourmet goodness: It was Whole Foods meets Harrod’s in a country that loves their food and drink. The enormous section dedicated solely to chocolate was packed with tourists and locals alike. The bakery and patisserie were mobbed. There were dozens of kinds of butter. I saw charcuterie so beautiful, I almost started crying. They even sell salt cod. A bit heart-broken that I’d only found this shrine to the palate on my last day, I bought my lentils (and an embarrassment of chocolate) and can’t wait to return in November.

Then I headed to the old town to satisfy my desire for an indulgent hour spent sipping coffee, eating pastry, and reading at a quiet outdoor café. And of course I’d forgotten my book. After some bewildering moments in a Christian bookstore, I found a newsstand and bought something to read (Vanity Fair, the one with Lindsay Lohan on the cover). And then I wandered around…and around. It seemed the best patisseries were take-out only. And the chocolateries/tea rooms were packed with tourists on traffic-y streets. I didn’t want lunch or a drink, so no cafes. All week, this quest eluded me. I almost caved at a charming crêperie. But I really wanted a pear tart. Or apple, if there was no pear. Frustrated, I compromised.  A patisserie doing steady business on a remote corner offered slices of a gorgeous tarte aux poires. So I bought one and went home. And I had my coffee and ate my tart at the Husband’s tiny desk with the window open.

It was time for a proper Swiss send-off. That night we met with the Husband’s coworkers at Au Petit Châlet, an inviting Heidi-styled place, for rotisserie chicken and a bottle of Swiss Gamaret. In lieu of an unwinder, we indulged ourselves at Mövenpick. Glad I did a lot of walking. Can’t wait to go back!

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