Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Reluctant Cheese-Eater

So I'm going to gloss over -- Qu'Importe, our local winebar, which I'm sure I'll have further occasions to describe, although at the risk of a seriously run-on (perhaps even 10Kish) sentence, good but oily bruschetta and good but pricey wines by the glass, Le Potiquet, the restaurant we visited in Lyon, which was really exceptional, with a young, energetic, ambitious cook who turned out sumptuous, but ingredient-based food, while also manning the front of the house, and Boki, the Chinese take-out place we tried in the Paquis (so-so) -- because through sloth and moving in, I've lost the necessary clear memory of what we ate and how it tasted, but, but, that doesn't mean I don't have something to say today -- and that is about cheese. I'm not really a cheese eater. In fact, I didn't eat cheese for many years, and I'm still quite nervous about stinky cheese. But I'm going to try it all here, since Switzerland is known for its dairy. And I started today with a Tomme de Valais from the Carouge Saturday market.

This tomme was an easy introduction. Tomme is generally a low-fat cheese (or so says Wikipedia) and this was true to its nature. It didn't quite melt in your mouth, nor did it interact with my red wine the way a fattier cheese might, creating that delicious combination of acid wine and fat that goes so well together. But it wasn't particularly sharp or pungent either, and very easy eating with bread, olives and the aforementioned glass of vino. I can't say there was much remarkable about it, but I would call it smooth.

So that's my first foray. We'll see if MP can convince me to be more daring over the days and months to come.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Last Week in Paquis

So a few updates from our last week in Paquis, in descending order of preference --

La Caravane Passe: A nice Lebanese restaurant. We sat outside and enjoyed a bottle of Blanc de l'Observatoire of Chateau Ksara, probably the only Lebanese wine I know. Our food was on the whole pretty good -- the falafel was crispy, the labne was creamy and flavorful, and the best of all were the eggplant slices sauteed with garlic. The humus was just ok and I think the bread could have been better. Disappointing were the veggie kebbe (we'll have to try the meat variety next time) and the foul, which as too often is the case when ordered in restaurants, was simply beans with olive oil and some parsley and other spices. Foul proper, in my view, needs to be mashed and much more flavorful -- just the way you make it on the streets of Cairo to be shoved into a sandwich. Their Gâteau moelleux (fondant) was also pretty good and their mint tea was a nice way to finish the meal. Recommended, but not quite as good an experience as Cafe Espresso, or even Creperie du Paquis, I'd say.

Parfum de Beyrouth: A pretty good shwarma shop (try saying that three times fast). We've now been twice. The meat shwarma (shwarma lahmia) is better than the chicken. But both were pretty tasty and the portions are ample but not overflowing (like the disastrous shwarma I got in Carouge, where I had to pick out at least half the greasy meat in order to be able to take a bite). Not outstanding, but solid.

Restaurant les Cinq Portes: A place with a nice ambiance and just-ok food. Miss Persnick had salmon and I had loup (no, not wolf, the fish). Both were fine -- my fish probably the best thing on either plate. There was also a tomato topped pastry, which was uninspiring. So on the whole it was fine, but simply not worth what you pay for it.

Coming soon: our first meal in Lyon, which puts everything else to shame in terms of value and quality, and a neighborhood wine bar in Carouge.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Red Meat & Cheese

Two somewhat delayed reviews -- of Bistrot du Boeuf Rouge and of Cafe du Soleil. Both were fine, but a bit underwhelming. I had eaten at Bistrot du Boeuf Rouge on a previous trip to Geneva and had really enjoyed their entrecote. I'm not sure what I did wrong this time, but their 'À point' was not so on point (slightly overcooked), and what I got this time around was a different dish -- with potatoes, not fries, which were squishy and cheesy, and not at all what one would necessarily want. The veggies were added as if an afterthought and the pat of herbed butter on the meat was slightly gelatinous seeming. All this sounds rather negative, and it wasn't bad, but I had really enjoyed the steak frites the last time around and was disappointed. For dessert, MP had a chocolate mouse, which was super rich, almost to the point of being difficult to eat more than a few bites, and I had a strawberry tart, which tasted a little crunchy, as if too long on the shelf (although the fruit was fresh enough).

Another mild disappointment was Cafe du Soleil. I had heard great things about their fondue. We went with another couple and had fondue and a few other dishes. My crab tartare with avocado was really nothing to write home about; it looked and tasted like a sprinkling of crab meat on top of guacamole I could make at home. The fondue seemed good (I defer here to the more expert MP) but not great. There certainly was plenty of it, and the bread was nice and crusty.

A slightly more positive review of Parfums de Beyrouth, the shwarma shop we've been frequenting, to come shortly.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Only en Suisse

A notice at the cash register of the gelato place near our hotel warns that certain bills are not accepted. No, not the 20 franc note, not the 100 franc note -- not even the 200 franc note. The tiny neighborhood gelato place won't accept one THOUSAND franc notes. Heh.

Ok, now that that's out of the way, on to the gelato itself. How does it measure up to Pitango, our fave from Logan Circle / DC days?

I love the ananas-basilic (pineapple-basil) flavor that's so popular here, and Gelato Mania's permutation (the store is aptly named since during each of our two visits here we've had to wait at least 20 minutes in line) is well-executed. It's refreshing and not too "basil-y". Plus, I have a soft spot for basil flavors showing up in unexpected places, since the amazing caterers at our wedding served a surprise basil-flavored sorbet/gelato in between courses. In general the flavors seem a little more adventurous / non-traditional at Gelato Mania than those offered at Pitango. For example, last weekend when we went Gelato Mania had a "concombre-menthe" (cucumber-mint) flavor on offer. It was not being served this evening or I would have tried it. But I'm excited to try some of the other weird / unusual flavors. Gelato Mania - 1, Pitango - 0.

The "cafe" flavor I tried this evening was good but tasted more creamy than a typical gelato (which has less fat, less cream, and less air than ice cream). As a result, the coffee flavor was less intense than Pitango's "espresso" flavor. Pitango's espresso flavor remains my all-time favorite, because the flavors are so intense without being overly rich or overpowering. Gelato Mania - 0, Pitango - 2.

However, Gelato Mania gets an extra point because it was the PERFECT evening to get gelato and sit in the nearby plaza with its pretty fountain.

Total scores for the evening: Gelato Mania - 2, Pitango - 2.

I'll just have to keep sampling Gelato Mania's wares to figure this one out.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sticker Shock

Being the self-appointed Budget Whinge of the household, I feel I must interject at this point to observe that prices in Geneve are rather cher, shall we say. They're about as bad as my french, which is pretty bad. You can easily drop 100USD here on a dinner for two that turns out to be shockingly mediocre.

For instance, our disappointing dinner at La Bourse cost 89CHF, or approx. 115USD.

On the other hand, there are relative bargains to be had. Relative, I stress. The Espresso Club, for instance, was both quite tasty and moderately priced by Geneva standards, with large portions. Glasses of wine at 6-7CHF, and pizzas / pastas at around 20CHF each.

There are two things here that are priced better than they are in the States, however: chocolate and wine.

Pas mal!

A generic grocery store chocolate bar priced at less than 2CHF that I tried the other day turned out to be surprisingly rich and complex. I savored it over the course of several days; those who know me will recognize that this was no mean feat. And then there's the wine. Sesqui, which I think I will start calling him because his nom de plume is so damn long -- is more wine connoisseur than I am, but I think we'll be able to get good value for our money in this area as well.

Perhaps I need to start a spin-off blog devoted to evaluating all the varietals of chocolate here...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bains des Paquis

I also thought a word might be in order about the food at Bains des Paquis, since we've both eaten lunch and dinner there at this point. For those who don't know, Bains des Paquis is a long pier stretching out into the lake (it costs 2CHF to enter during the day) on which are a couple of rocky beaches, a Turkish bath, a ping pong table, some diving platforms, and a small restaurant (supposedly, we're told, manned by recovering drug addicts). It's an absolutely wonderful place to go people watching and toe dabbling. It closes around 9:30PM, we also learned last night, when the watchman kicked us out from where we were sitting watching the light reflect off the Jet d'Eau.

But the food. They have a limited set of options -- there's always a plat du jour, both for lunch and dinner. And there are also a set of salads and cold plates (e.g. meats). For lunch, we had one of the salads, which was pretty good. A mix of vegetables under a tzatsiki dressing of some sort. My only complaint was that since we didn't have a tray (or because the person behind the counter didn't like my look) we didn't get bread (and everyone else did). Those of you who know me will know how ireful that would make me!

For dinner the other night, we tried the plat du jour. And it too was pretty good. It was lamb "hache" -- meaning ground -- and on a stick. But the lamb, which was a little mealy, was the least interesting or tasty part of the plate. There was also a Jura-sized mountain of couscous, which was good, and a cold eggplant salad, which was better. And perhaps best, there were two tranches of good, crusty bread, which I had made sure to request.

I'll update further once we've had occasion to sample other plats du jour, but for now, let me just say that you come for the views and to be on the water, but the food doesn't drive you away.

Coop Wines

So a quick break from all the eating to discuss one of the few semi-reasonably-priced things in Geneva -- the wine! Coop is one of two nearby supermarkets (and one of two principal Geneva supermarkets, the other being Migros). We've been exploring their (limited) wine selection and wanted to write a few words about the two different bottles of Chateau Saint-Andre we've tried -- one a Gigondas and the other a Rasteau.

A quick prefatory word about wines discussed here -- unless otherwise noted, any wine described on this blog will be under 20CHF. And these two bottles are certainly no exception.

I actually rather liked the Gigondas. It was nice and Grenache-y, if that's a word. Fruit forward but with a little bit of depth. The Rasteau was harder to read. It was quite dull on first drink. By the second night (with bottle re-corked overnight), and accompanied with Thai food, it wasn't bad. It still didn't have much personality though.

The hunt remains on for that perfect every-day bottle that doesn't break the bank and is readily available around here...