Several months ago, I was catching up on the latest updates on David Lebovitz’ blog, which I read fairly regularly. An expat living in Paris, he’s the author of several cookbooks and/or food memoirs, and his blog is a combination of recipes, travel recommendations, and musings on life in Paris. I’ve liked his writing for a while, and since moving to another country myself, I’ve come to appreciate his perspective even more. When I read this post, I immediately wanted to try this incredible-sounding pairing of meringues with La Gruyere double cream. When I mentioned it to David, he matter-of-factly asked, “Ok, so when do you want to go to Switzerland?” That’s one of the craziest things about living in Europe–everything is relatively close! We can go to Switzerland for a weekend! So we booked flights to Geneva for our long weekend in early December, and I prepared myself by reading and re-reading Lebovitz’s description of the crunch of the sweet meringues combined with the cool richness of the double cream.The first thing we noticed when we got to Geneva was that it wasn’t nearly as cold as we’d thought it would be. The weather this year has been pretty strange all over Europe (snow in London a couple of weeks ago, what??), and Switzerland was no exception. Which was a relief, because we were not prepared for colder weather–I left my warm coat at home because I didn’t have room, and David’s parents tried to mail his, but there were a series of shipping complications and in the end, the coat is back in California and he gets to wear a super classy coat he bought at the supermercado. Anyway. We got to Geneva and began wandering around, and the first glorious thing we discovered was that our hostel was right near chinatown. We got sriracha, thai chili paste, and hoisin sauce, and our meals since Geneva have been decidedly more exciting. Well, some of them, anyway…a girl can’t eat thai curry every single night when she’s surrounded by chorizo, fresh queso de cabra, and fabulous fresh fish. I do love the food here, but Spain has a decided lack of authentic food from any other country, ever.
After stocking up on glorious spicy things, we explored the rest of the city. Almost immediately, we encountered chocolate shops, with windows full of chocolate cauldrons in sizes ranging from a small mandarin orange to a human torso, filled with marzipan vegetables. At first we chalked this up to the whole Switzerland-is-famous-for-chocolate thing, but we soon discovered how wrong we were. You see, in our haphazard and semi-spontaneous booking of this trip, we happened to come to Geneva the weekend of an enormous cultural festival called L’Escalade. As we learned one night over a giant pot of cheese fondue, in the year 1602 Geneva was invaded (I think by the French?) and the defenders repelled the attack in the most awesome way I can possibly imagine: by dumping boiling cauldrons of soup on their attackers, successfully convincing them to cut it out and go home. Hence the chocolate cauldrons.
In addition to carefully crafted chocolate creations, the weekend also featured a parade with horses and a fife-and-drum band, as well as nearly 800 local residents dressed in elaborate costumes (think Colonial Williamsburg). There was mulled wine, lots of food covered in melted cheese, and free guided access to towers of the Cathedral which are normally closed to the public. The views, as you can see, were absolutely amazing. My feelings the whole time stayed somewhere between “AHH! I’m going to fall and die!” and “Look! I’m the Hunchback of Notre Dame!” All in all, a very cool experience, though. And David’s not scared of heights so he loved it even more than I did.
Other Geneva highlights include a charming Christmas market in a perfectly picturesque Swiss town, eating 5 different kinds of fabulous cheese, free hot chocolate at a candy factory, and both Thai and Vietnamese food, which I’ve dearly missed. Plus, I got an awesome souvenir mug (it’s handmade with no handles and a gorgeous blue glaze and says “L’Escalade” on the side), which filled came with hot mulled wine! What could be better?
Oh, and those meringues were spectacular.