Docastaway Experience, Part Four

Previous posts have introduced you to our surroundings, but I haven’t talked much about what we actually did during our time on the “Marooning” island. Today’s topic: eating.

Preparing dinner. Covered up to deter the 'squites.

Preparing dinner. Covered up to deter the ‘squites.

The idea was that this vacation would be part survival and part relaxation in isolation. In practice, this meant that although we were on our own private beach, no food was provided for us (except clean drinking water and ice for the cooler that was delivered every few days).

Man admires his fire

Man admires his fire

Before we left, we envisioned fishing and collecting fruit and going to a nearby market to buy rice and maybe some veggies. We could cook on the gas burner provided for us, or else we’d just rough it and make our own fires. Just to make sure we had enough to eat, we did pack some quinoa, pasta, black beans, red beans, canned tuna, canned other stuff, a sauce, a bottle of mixed herbs+salt, a bottle of syrup to have flavored water, and a package of gummy sour fish for when we needed a sugar fix.

Actually, what we had envisioned didn’t turn out to be our reality, but that’s the fun of adventure travel! There had been a brutal typhoon the previous year that had downed the fruit trees (with the exception of the coconut trees), so collecting fruit was a no-go. That just meant buying more at the market. We were provided with a spear gun as fishing gear, but the fish were too small to be had by this method. So that meant buying some at the market, as well.

So, this market. Where was it? How did we get there? Continue reading

Yearn for Yum

In my post on Emblematic Exports, I mentioned some yummies that Switzerland produces. But really, Switzerland has more than just Emmental cheese and Toblerone, Lindt, and Nestle (Cailler) chocolates. That’s just what it frequently exports.

Since I’m more a fan of sweet, you get a post solely about Swiss chocolate!

So you know Toblerone, Lindt, and Nestle already! Let’s look at other brands that the Swiss know and love.

Camille Bloch. Their factory and shop can be found in Courtelary in the Jura. Perhaps their most popular chocolates are Torino (my favorite) and Ragusa (my husband’s favorite).

Favarger. Geneva-based. The Aveline is their “undisputed specialty”.

Frey. Owned by the Migros grocery store chain and sold only in their stores. I learned that Frey is the leading Swiss chocolate manufacturer!

Suchard. Originally from Neuchatel. The name still lives on at Wodey Suchard, the oldest confectionery in Switzerland.

Villars. Known for their good chocolate but especially for their collectible gift boxes.

Grocery Store Guide

First of all, my apologies to those of you who received this post blank the other day. I accidentally clicked on update instead of save draft (these buttons are not in the same spot, nor are they the same color or in any way or shape similar-looking… oh dear).

That being said, some of you already knew the theme for today! A guide to Swiss grocery stores. I’m only going to talk about the main ones.

The most popular national chains that can be found throughout Switzerland are the Coop, Migros, and Manor. These are also the more expensive chains, but they generally only sell top-quality products. In fact, something you’ll notice at any Swiss grocery store is that there is a very limited selection (in our village Coop, there are only two brands of hair conditioner in the cosmetic section, for example).  Yes, I have found the Swiss to favor quality over quantity in many regards, and the selection at their grocery stores is no exception.

If you don’t want to break the bank when doing your weekly shopping, head to an Denner, Aldi, or Lidl. These stores offer (maybe not top-notch) items at a cheaper price than the previous three. Maybe being in Switzerland has made me a bit of a food snob, but I don’t shop at Denner often unless we are buying fruit juice, and I’ve never been to an Aldi or Lidl. So, this post may be slightly biased…

When you go to the grocery store, there are two important items to bring from home: a coin and a bag (or bags). You will need a coin in order to use a cart. Whoever thought of this system clearly didn’t want to run all over the parking lot finding random shopping carts; carts are chained together, pushing a coin into a certain slot on the handlebar releases the coin, and (here’s the genius part) you get your coin back when you return the cart.

You also need a bag or two because Switzerland goes green. BYOB isn’t just for beer anymore, folks. You are expected to bring your own bags (small plastic ones are provided but they don’t hold much). You are also expected to bag your own groceries. I have gotten so used to this that when I go back to America, I have complete reverse culture shock. It seems strange for someone else to bag my groceries in a way that’s not handy for me later. I even once, without realizing it, started bagging my own groceries in an American Safeway (where people are hired especially to bag for you). I got a lot of stares from the cashier, the bagger, my mom, and even some of the customers nearby…

Ok, enough embarrassment! Let’s get back to our Swiss grocery guide. Another thing to note is that you must weigh your fruits and veggies before checkout. Fortunately, the produce section is typically right next to the entrance/exit, so if you forget, you can go back without wasting too much time.

A post about buying food in Switzerland just wouldn’t be complete without talking about local products. Our little village has a butcher shop, a bakery, a cheese shop, and another shop with basic grocery options. Prices (as would be expected) run high, but to us, it’s worth paying for local shops like these to stay open (especially in the face of big chains that open stores everywhere).

Finally, local products can also be found at open-air markets! I, for one, love going to the market. Saturday morning is the traditional market time (some villages and towns have an additional morning mid-week), and designated plazas/streets are filled with stands of fruits, veggies, bread, meats, fish, and (of course) cheese. So much local goodness.

Well, there you have it. A quick look at the grocery options available in Switzerland. Just don’t try going to a grocery store on Sunday. It WILL be closed. If you absolutely must have something on a Sunday, check out your nearest gas station. They’re bound to have something to tide you over until Monday.

Favorite Cheesecake!

So… on my “About Me” page, it lists baking as one of my top 5 likes. However, I have yet to post about it! Instead of creating my own recipes, I really like being inspired by others’. Here’s my go-to autumn cheesecake recipe.

Thanks to Stephanie Phillips who posted on Allrecipes.com, I have found my favorite way to make cheesecake: Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake! Even people in Switzerland like it!

I make my own pumpkin puree and crust from scratch, and I nix the whipped topping. But I don’t typically change anything else, as I find the proportions for the spices really great. Hope you like it as much as I do!

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

Continue reading

Bach et Buck Creperie

Many restaurants in Switzerland will break the bank. Luckily, we’ve found affordable places near the university in Neuchâtel. These are typically in the form of kebab stands (not my favorite) and creperies. After trying multiple creperies in Neuchâtel city, I’ve found myself returning to Bach et Buck again and again.

This creperie has never disappointed as far as the food quality is concerned.

My favorite dinner crepes to order are:
CEF (mushrooms, spinach, and cheese), with goat cheese as a substitute
Thai (stir-fry veggies, tofu)
Shrimp cocktail

Dessert crepes:
Crunchy (with Ovaltine)
Caramel beurre nature (buttered caramel)

For a nice night on the town, you can go for crepes and a movie at one of Neuchâtel’s small theaters (budget about 75 CHF for 2).

Capitol Hill, Seattle

Entrance to Annapurna

Entrance to Annapurna

Seattle’s Capitol Hill never ceases to amaze me. There is so much personality radiating from the shops, schools, parks, museums, restaurants… In December, we hit up one of our favorite spots to eat: Annapurna Cafe. They rock cuisines from India, Nepal, and Tibet. In 2012, Seattle Magazine readers dubbed it the “Best Indian Food” around. A worthy title for a noteworthy restaurant.

Going down the steps

Going down the steps

And of course, what trip to Broadway would be complete without practicing a few dance steps?

Mambo

Mambo

Au Gout du Temps

Earlier this month, David and I went with one of our couple friends to a restaurant in Mutrux, a nearby village.

The wife had heard about Au Gout du Temps and had been wanting to go for a long time. Lover of information as I am, I went to research the place only to discover that it doesn’t have a website (not unheard of in Switzerland… which still blows my mind). It is, however, featured and raved about on review sites.

The concept of this restaurant is quite unique. First of all, when you arrive at the outside of the building, the only door (glass) shows a kitchen behind it… We asked ourselves all sorts of questions like, Is this the right place? Are we allowed to open this door?! Luckily one of the workers was outside braving the cold and welcomed us in. Through the kitchen.

the inside

the inside

Continue reading

Il Vino

A year ago, David and I took a weekend trip to Paris so he could see the sights. We had purchased a Paris Pass and definitely made the most of it! A great time was had by both.

Our most noteworthy dining experience in the City of Lights was our meal at Il Vino. The concept: order your wine and you will be served a dish that complements it. We ordered a 4-course meal with surprise wines and surprise dishes. I don’t think I can recommend this place highly enough.

Enjoying a delicious evening of meals paired to our wines.

Enjoying a delicious evening of meals paired to our wines.

Christmas Dinner Tradition

The first time David and I hosted Christmas dinner at our house (2012), we wanted to start a new tradition. We decided to base the entire meal around the Christmas story. Our four courses were fit in throughout readings from both the Old and New Testaments.

First we set the scene in Roman times with recipes inspired by ancient Roman dishes. Then we had carrots three ways to represent the wise men, using spices originating from the East (curry, coconut, ginger, etc.). The main course was lamb (the Lamb of God) on a bed of fries and green beans (straw in the manger). Dessert was a king’s cake (typically for Epiphany) with a trumpeting angel sugared on the top to announce the Good News.

Read more… Continue reading

Thanksgiving

On this day of giving thanks, I am thankful for my family back in Seattle. Today they are breaking tradition and having lunch at my aunt’s new house instead of their usual spot. I miss and love them and wouldn’t be who I am today without them.

I am also thankful that I can host Thanksgiving dinner here in Switzerland with people who live in my apartment building. Keeping the menu simple: turkey breast, green bean casserole, mashed spuds, and salad. Alas, the dessert will have a Swiss theme as my neighbors offered to bring the sweets. They should be here any minute…

Happy Thanksgiving!