Recently in Europe category

Paris-Lausanne Tour, September 19-25th

candied oranges in chocolate meringues

Due to demand for my Paris and Lausanne Gastronomy Tour, we’re offering a second trip this fall. We’ll begin the week in Paris, exploring chocolate shops, tasting wine, and dining at my favorite tables in Paris. Then we’ll take the high-speed TGV train to Lausanne, Switzerland, to this lovely small city perched above Lake Geneva.

With the historic Lausanne Palace and Spa as our home base, we’ll sample everything from molten cheese fondue to ribbons of air-dried beef..as well as sip lovely regional white wines, which are produced in such small quantities that they rarely make it out of the area. (The exception are the bottles in my suitcase.)

What else will we do?

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Now THAT’S What I Call a Swiss Cheese Sandwich

swiss cheese sandwich

A Swiss local in Lausanne was the first to tell me about Café Romand, “It’s one of those places where – and how do you say it? – those men who are very pretty, that sometimes dress as women, go. You would like it!”

I’m still trying to figure out what that means because no one’s every called me “pretty”, and my only experience wearing women’s clothing was trying on my mother’s Emilio Pucci pumps (how could I not?) when I was around eight years old.

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Blondel Chocolate

chocolate at blondel

Les françaises are justifiably proud of their chocolates and chocolatiers, but if you talk to them about Swiss chocolate, many will say – “Oh, Swiss chocolate is very, very good.” Yet when I press them on which particular brands of chocolate are “very good”, they often don’t, or can’t, pin down the specific names* of any.

chocolates at Blondel

Folks who have been to Lausanne – French, American, and otherwise – however, always talk in glowing terms about Chocolats Blondel. And indeed, they’re worthy of adulation from people, far and wide, a fact I recently was reminded of.

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Le Pont de Brent

first courses

After my visit to the Vevey market with Chef Stéphane Décotterd, we headed back to Le Pont de Brent, his restaurant located above the lakeside Swiss town of Montreux. While he was laying out the fish for the day, which he had just sourced, I noticed the kitchen was unusually calm for pre-service and I didn’t see anyone in the usual panic that happens in restaurant kitchens just before the customers arrive. The cooks were quietly doing tasks like peeling and slicing vegetables into tiny pieces, rolling leeks around scallops with thin wisps of black truffles in between, and baking off miniature tartlet shells.

lobster butter pot

Laid out neatly on trays, he showed me the different fish he had, from a kite-sized Turbot to a blue lobster from Brittany, with tiny black eggs stuck in between all the craws and crevasses.

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Lard de Begnins

charcuterie

Everyone once in a while – and I could likely count the number of times on one hand – I’ve put something in my mouth that silenced me. Unfortunately for the people around me, it doesn’t happen all that often. But when I was told that there was a special lard made in Nyon, I changed my plans for the morning because something inside me (perhaps my rumbling stomach…) told me that it was something that I just had to check out.

lard de Begnins

When we pulled up in front of Chez Philou, the windows were blocked by stacked crates of cabbages, no doubt destined for saucisse aux choux fumé, or smoked cabbage sausages, a specialty of the region. But a pile of raw cabbage didn’t really interest me as much as the smoky aromas clouding the windows of the shop and wafting outside whenever a customer went in or came out.

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The Vevey Market

vevey market

I was having a conversation a while back with someone who worked for an international hotel chain and she told me that their hotels in Europe don’t have alarm clocks in the rooms because Europeans – when they take their vacations – aren’t all that interested in keeping track of what time it is. We Americans, on the other hand, seem to have a need to know.

tiny potatoes rhubarbe

Last Tuesday morning I was invited to the market in Vevey to meet and shop with celebrated chef Stéphane Décotterd of Le Pont de Brent. I guess I’m now European because when my alarm went off at 5:45am, I didn’t really want to know what time it was either.

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The Malakoff

malakoff

I know the Swiss are famous for their discretion and secrecy, but this is getting ridiculous. When I first saw Malakoff on a menu, I thought it was for Charlotte Malakoff, a classic (and hardly made-anymore) French dessert which is a round of chocolate mousse held together by ladyfingers.

malakoff

When I saw it on several menus in Switzerland, I thought it odd that it was a first course. I mean…I know the Swiss love their chocolate, but even for me a chocolate mousse cake before dinner isn’t considered normal.

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La Gruyère Double Cream

double cream meringue blog

When I was at Macheret Fromage in Vevey, Switzerland, I noticed stacks of perfectly piped meringues, piled up to ceiling. I wondered why a cheese shop would have so many meringues? It wasn’t until I headed way up in the alps, to the Maison de l’Etivaz, where a Swiss traveling companion said – “Ooooh, La Gruyère double cream is very good. But very, very dangerous.”

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