sweet dreams

when stijn discovered and told me about a cupcakery that had recently been opened by an american here in lausanne i was tempted to run out the door and skip all the way there singing but i knew that there was no way i could go alone. there was one person who i knew i had to share the joy of finding something so familiar and comforting (not to mention delicious) with. so yesterday jesse and i set off in search of a taste of home here in switzerland. only about a ten minute walk from our place (dangerous!) we found sweet dreams cupcake café. the petite shoppe was so charming and cheerful i immediately fell in love.


it was hard to get past the towering stands of beautifully decorated cupcakes bearing quirky names like, "what's up doc" for the carrot, and "salty dog" for the dark chocolate with fudge and fleur de sel, but we needed a bit of nourishment before indulgence. when i was finally able to peel my eyes away from the confections i saw the lunch options, just a few freshly made deli style sandwiches and a savory cupcake. jesse and i both went for the muffaletta and almost teared up when it arrived at our table served with a side of chips. apparently we americans are the only people to eat our sandwiches with chips. for the rest of the civilized world, chips are more of a snack to be enjoyed between meals.

we sipped on freshly brewed iced tea with our choice of natural syrups to flavor and sweeten'er up and learned about stacy (the owner), and sweet dreams. after thoroughly enjoying our lunch and a very lengthy conversation with stacy we decided we couldn't resist the sweet any longer. we both chose the strawberry cheesecake cupcakes. they were served with a small glass of milk and a spoon. i have never eaten a cupcake with a spoon before but this is switzerland folks and god forbid the swiss eat anything with their hands. the cupcake was heavenly; moist, not overly sweet, and with the perfect amount of strawberry jam in the center.

while it was difficult to refrain from having seconds i settled on a few to go and we left, vowing to return often, me volunteering to work for her, and both of us feeling happy. happy to be here, happy to have met a wonderful new person, happy to see someone doing what they love, and happily satiated.

pickles and ice cream

contrary to the stereotype i haven't had an overwhelming desire to eat pickles since i found myself with child but then again i didn't need the excuse of pregnancy to be a pickle fiend. it's a known fact in my family that my first word was cookie but it may as well have been pickle as i could easily eat a whole jar of anything pickled in one sitting. deli style dill pickles, bread and butter chips; i have always enjoyed these vinegar infused treats but my love blossomed at the home of my childhood friend, jamie. jamie's mom made, in my opinion, the best pickles i have ever had. the perfect blend of spicy and sour these pickles were sent from heaven. the mere thought of those delicious cucs leaves me salivating. i'm not sure what suann's secret was but i have yet to taste a pickle that comes close to the ones we shared in her kitchen decades ago.

i've tried my hand at pickling but to no avail. i've tried the vinegar method and they're never crunchy enough. i've attempted the lacto-fermented form and the flavor just wasn't quite right. and then a few weeks ago in globus i found the answer in happy girl kitchen co. though the pickled okra was tempting we bought a jar of the classic dills (for 10 swiss francs) and true to form i had eaten them all in just a few days. these were as close to suann's pickles as i have ever tasted and after perusing their website i discovered that they make a spicy version as well. globus may find an imploring note in their suggestion box in the near future (i may just pull the pregnancy card). until that time i will continue to satisfy my appetite with the ever present cornichon.

m.e.a.t. america

photographer dominic espiscopo's united steaks series has turned into a full exhibition in philly at bambi gallery. if you're in the area check out his clever and humorous take on america. and if you're not check out his blog for more images.

photo: oh joy

48 hours in lyon, france

disclaimer: contains graphic content...may be disturbing to vegetarians. proceed with caution!

our travels last week brought us to lyon, the gastronomic capital of france and home to paul bocuse, considered the father of nouvelle cuisine. almost immediately upon our arrival in the city my eyes lit up and it dawned on me that i love france. the architecture is relatively the same as switzerland, the language is the same, yet something is very different. france seems to be more alive. with a city full of bouchons, a market that brings tears to my eyes, and tickets to arcade fire the weekend was sure to be inspiring.

thursday, 22:00
dinner at le petit flore, a bouchon lyonnaise. a bouchon is a traditional lyon restaurant that serves fatty, meat heavy dishes and local wine. le petit flore was charming, a tiny restaurant with checkered tablecloths and walls adorned in old aperitif ads. i began with a chicken foie gras followed by rognons (kidneys) in a wine sauce. the foie gras was silky and smooth and melted in my mouth. i ordered the rognons because when you're in the gastronomic capital of france you might as well go all out. i'll be honest, i was not a fan. maybe it was mental, maybe it was texture but i just couldn't love them the way i wanted to. what made them easier to swallow however, was the incredible côtes du rhône we had ordered. not to mention they were accompanied by the most delicious, perfectly cooked potatoes i've ever had. i was taking pictures and writing in my moleskin which must have led the maître d'hôtel to believe i was a journalist because he offered to send us a case of the wine. we didn't tell him i write a blog that 5 people including my mother read. after all, we wanted the wine and so the handoff was scheduled for saturday afternoon behind the restaurant.
rognons (lyon)

friday, 12:00
brunch at pain & cie. after the indulgence of thursdays dinner i opted for a light tartlette and salad.

friday, 18:00
aperitif and entrée at a small café followed by dinner at le bistrot de lyon. walking the pedestrian only, rue mercière i stared in wonder at the men outside handling shellfish barehanded on ice in 30 degree weather. i felt obligated to honor the hardship of their labor and partake in the reward. we ordered a platter of seafood containing: shrimp, prawns, lobster, clams, oysters, mussels, escargot, and some other delicacies(mom and dad, i did eat a few shrimp). when we finished my plate looked like i had been shell hunting all day at the beach.
bouchon (lyon)

friday, 20:00
arcade fire concert in an old slaughterhouse. amazing!
arcade fire (lyon)

saturday, 12:00
les halles paul bocuse, findlay market on steroids. on our way out of town we stopped at les halles to stock up on as much meat, unpasteurized dairy, and wine as we could fit in the car. stijn had warned me that i was going to be "looking my eyes out," as he says, but nothing could have prepared me for all that i was about to take in. les halles is like disneyland for a food lover. row after row of fromagerie, boucher, boulangerie, chocolaterie, patisserie, interspersed with restaurants serving oysters, boudin (blood sausage), and tartare de boeuf. once inside time seems to stand still. i could have easily spent 8 hours there and not noticed. when we had bought all we could carry we sat down for oysters, escargot, and chablis as a farewell to the great city of lyon. as i used the bread to sop up the herb butter sauce dripping from my plate my eyes welled up with tears at the thought of how much joy there is in this life of mine.

many more photos here

the church of cheese

no cheese platter is complete without a hunk of gruyere cheese. and in all the trays i've assembled, never once did i think that my life would somehow, someday land me in very close proximity to the namesake of this dairy wonder. saturday we set off on the swiss chocolate train into the mountains of switzerland to eat gruyere in gruyere. taking a train through switzerland is straight from the postcard. you see cows happily wandering green pastures, a cat having a standoff with a farm dog, swiss chalets as you've pictured from storybooks, all just a few meters from the rail lines and separated by nothing but a bit of wire.
the train drops you at the foot of the town of gruyere requiring you to hike your way to a glorious reward. at first this seemed backwards to me...i figured a hike after gorging oneself on cheese would prove helpful in maintaining one's waistline. but i discovered that the hike justified the quantity of dairy about to be consumed and once finished i could just unbutton my pants and simply roll down the hill back to the train station and allow myself to be carried home.

all aboard the swiss chocolate train



café du centre

café du centre
through the cobblestone streets of lutry following the smell of molten cheese we turned down a dimly lit alley and made our way to the back door of an unassuming house. this was not just a house this was cuisine gourmande, a maison du fromage, fondue réputée. we were greeted warmly by the lady of the house, cathy danner. she, a joyful, bubbly host was dancing about the small dining room. a stranger to no one, her words were interspersed with bursts of an infectious laughter that made me want to hug her. a bell rang and a dumbwaiter carrying food began to descend from the upstairs kitchen of the apartment that i assume she lives in. for a moment my imagination got the best of me and i began dreaming that she was my aunt. we were in her kitchen, windows lined with lace curtains, wearing vintage floral aprons and she was teaching me to cook the way her grandmother did. i snapped out of it just in time for the assiete du jour to arrive, the esteemed fondue. we dove in placing bite after bite of cheese enrobed bread into our mouths. just when i thought i would surely explode before eating another fork full we came to la religieuse, french for "the nun", it is the thin crust of toasted cheese at the bottom of the pot (aka the best part). i settled back into my chair in a cheese induced coma and wished for stretchy pants which henceforth shall be called fondue pants.

munchin' my way through münchen

this weekend was the final weekend of the 200th oktoberfest in münchen and was to be my 1st oktoberfest. stijn and i dropped kenya off at jan and jesse's place in geneva and met up with luana to set off on our 7 hr drive through switzerland, austria, and germany. the three country tour had the sound of music fan inside me elated. the thought of crossing from switzerland into austria had "climb every mountain" on repeat in my head. a word on austria: bp (the gas station) had high top tables and bar stools inside with joyful austrians drinking beers with friends while their tanks were being filled. i digress...we arrived in munich tired and sober surrounded by drunk people in lederhosen wandering the streets looking for food, taxi's and more beer. we stopped for a small bite and to rescue some german friends who had been oktoberfestin' it up all day. enter my first encounter with german cuisine, currywurst and pommes schranke. currywurst is a pork sausage in a tomato, curry sauce and pommes schranke, referring to the colors on a railroad crossing barrier, are fries with mayonnaise and ketchup.

my first day of the oktoberfest began with brunch at a coffee shop where i enjoyed a very traditional breakfast of zwei weiβwürste, händlmaier senf, and brezel (sausages with sweet mustard and pretzel) washed down with a bathtub full of coffee.

fueled with enough sausage to feed a family and wearing my best modern interpretation of a dirndl including a newly "acquired" bavarian hat we set out to discover the wiesn. my plan of attack for making it through the day and the size of the beers was to just keep eating. so after my first german beer and the irresistible smell of smoked fish producing a pavlovian reaction we sat down in a biergarden and ordered mackerel.

this was not food for the faint of heart but as they say good things come to those who wait, or those willing to work for it. as i dissected my fish and pulled the tender flesh from bone it became clear to me that i have never had fish before. this was by far the best fish i had ever had the pleasure of eating.
the festival was packed, so packed in fact that all the tents were closed with packs of people noses pressed to door, waiting to be allowed entrance. it was looking grim until by good fortune alone we discovered someone selling wristbands. like fiends looking for their score in back alley deals we came to possess the contraband wristbands and walked right to the front of the line and into the sacred tent. here is where the real drinking began. the beer steins were now bigger (1 liter) and much heavier (8 lbs.).

within a few hours my hand was bruised from the glass resting on my knuckle. never mind the pain there was enough drinking, singing, and dancing atop benches to distract. "ein prosit, ein prosit..."
day 2 much was much like day 1 only this time i was wearing a legitimate dirndl and was slightly hungover. we spent most of the day in the biergarden until serendipitously we were able to waltz right into a closed tent and spent another evening drinking, singing, and dancing.
i come from cincinnati, a city rich in german history, we have an "octoberfest" and a hofbrauhaus. i have lived a good portion of my adult life in over the rhine, have a german last name and grew up eating braunschweiger at my nana's house. but this weekend i saw the real hofbrauhaus, sat in a real biergarden, and crossed the real rhein river. henceforth i shall sign my name megan straβer.

for more pics of the weekend's festivities visit flickr