Sunday, December 30, 2007


Reading The Economist's feature on the rise and fall of the shopping mall (article), I realised that I was shopping this summer in Glendale Galleria. This mall inspired Frank Zappa's then-teenage daughter, Moon Unit, to the song Valley Girl.

It's where I saw the iPhone for real for the first time. Total space cadet!

Toño and his cousin Celeste at the Galleria.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Breeding Terroirisme

The genome of Pinot Noir has been cracked open*. Toño calls Pinot Noir the English gentlemen among the wines**. However, the result of the decoding indicates that it's more like Keanu Reeves as The Economist reports:

One surprising finding Dr Velasco made was the huge degree of difference, 11.2% in all, between pinot noir's two sets of chromosomes. Those sets of chromosomes come from the varieties originally crossbred to create the clone. These parental varieties must therefore have been very different from one another, for 11.2% is far more genetic variation than exists between, say, a chimpanzee and a human.***

The Ecomomist, ever the optimist, sees this decoding as a good chance to further enhance the wine we will drink in the future, such as by adding new and more reliable flavours and increasing the resistance to diseases. But this is not enough. The possible medical improvements are sparking my enthusiasm:

A gene for producing acetylsalicylic acid, better known as aspirin, would help to prevent heart attacks and blood clots. You could get your doctor to supply your daily half-bottle by prescription. The aspirin's analgesic effect would head off hangovers before they even started. Caffeine could be added to keep drinkers awake during boring dinner parties. And it may even be possible to insert a gene to produce sildenafil citrate, the active ingredient in Viagra. For many men that would help to prevent the ultimate wine-induced humiliation.****

Do you thinks they've got carried away a bit? They have just started:

Times have changed. Scientists have a clear duty. Following the lead of many world leaders, they must make it clear that they are not willing to negotiate with anyone who supports terroirisme.****

* A High Quality Draft Consensus Sequence of the Genome of a Heterozygous Grapevine Variety, Riccardo Velasco et al., Public Library of Science
** and Syrah the Latin lover...
*** Vine times, Dec 19th 2007, The Economist
**** Unleash the war on terroir, Dec 19th 2007, The Economist

Friday, December 28, 2007


marmite* is a Swiss magazine devoted to the culture of dining. It runs great features and the cocking technique column by Patrick Zbinden is a must read. marmite also publishes recipes, but they have to be handled with special care. They are aimed at the pretentious sophisticated chef, who knows all the techniques and who got the hang of them.

Our first recipe, we tried on August 01, 2006. We were three men in the kitchen and we almost attacked each other with steak knives. Let's say, the recipe left some room for interpretation.

Today, we tried it again. This time, the challenge was to get all the ingredients and to get it done within the time limit. The time had to be obeyed, because there were oven sections involved. The atmosphere was again a bit tense.

I've decided to go for a Quiche with Sauerkraut, Salmon and Sweet Onions. Sauerkraut usually accompanies Eisbein and sausages. It was the unusual combination with salmon and sweet & sour that caught my interest.

Despite the troubles, it turned out pretty well. We even had got the required fennel and cardamom seeds (thanks to a Christmas present by Tina & Thomas). It was also not to bad that I deviated from the recipe by replacing the butter phyllo dough with short pastry (Toño gets heartburn from phyllo). And it also did no harm that I replaced the Nolly Prat with spicy rum.

Marmite recommends a strong, barrel-fermented Chardonnay from South America or California or a Sauvignon from New Zealand. I had to give it a miss. I had to drive in the afternoon - to fetch some Argentinian wine.

* marmite's homepage is currently off-line.

Yin & Yang

It tastes Asian but has clear Swiss roots (Le Menu), however, the recipe for Orange & Ginger Chicken made it quickly into our canon of fast & easy yet delicious recipes.

It takes about 20 minutes to prepare and...
500 g boneless chicken cut into strips
clarified butter
salt & pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, pressed
3-4 cm of ginger, pealed and finely chopped
3 tbsp of Grand Marnier or orange juice
1.5 dl of chicken stock
1 dl sauce cream
zest of 1 orange

Dab the chicken cuts dry with a paper towel. Fry them in clarified butter, remove from the heat and season.

Sauté onions, garlic and ginger briefly. Deglaze with Grand Marnier or orange juice and chicken stock. Add cream and orange zest, bring to the boil, season.

Add the chicken and cook for 5 to 10 minutes.

As side dish, rice, pasta or grain risotto is recommended. We prefer Jasmine rice.

Yesterday, we chose a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape to accompany the dish. Wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape are blends of up to 13 varieties. However, our Domaine La Barroche Fiancée 2004 is equally made of 100 year-old Grenache and young Syrah. The wine is an alliance of opposites, the fusion of masculine and feminine, a blend of power and finesse, yin and yang.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


New Year's Eve is right around the corner. It's time to stock up for the party. If you really want to have it a bit decadent, you should get some bottles of Veuve Clicquot's Yellowboam.

The label is either made of Ostrich, Alligator or Galuchat (ray) leather. Each bottle is sealed with foil covered in real 22.4 carat gold and topped with a collectible 24-carat gold-plated muzzle cap engraved with Madam Cliquot's signature as a hallmark of the finest quality. All this for only 2000$ per 3 litre bottle. Don't forget to sharpen the sabre.

¡Feliz Navidad!

I'm a bit late sending my wishes for this Christmas. Nevertheless, they come straight from the heart.

Our celebrations were quite and cosy - as I like it.

Now we try to maintain the course till New Year's Eve.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Big Curry Experiance

Can you imagine, I've never made a curry* in my entire life. At least not until yesterday. Inspired by Nigella Lawson - IMHO one of the sexiest most beautiful women that ever has blessed planet earth with her presence - I forced Toño go down the curry road with me.

First, we went down to the butcher to get some tender beef Ragoût. Where I live, we call this Voressen (literally pre-eat). This does not mean that someone else eat it before. No, this term derives from the good old times when one meat course in a meal was not enough. I.e. one had a ragoût as appetizer. At Migros, we then got all those exotic ingredients like wok oil, coconut milk, green curry paste and fish sauce.

It was just great**. We both liked it. We definitely have to experience more of this curry universe.

We accompanied the curry with a bottle of Mas du Soleilla "Les Chailles" 2005 from Coteaux du Languedoc. Its acidity could keep up with the hotness of curry. Beware, not every wine from that area is capable of this.

While cuing for today's lunch ingredients (poached salmon - picture above), there was an Asian boy looking at a huge fish head at the fish booth while, delighted with joy, calling his mother. Malay Fish Head Curry! I'm not sure whether I'm ready for this. Nonetheless, I'm happy for any recipe in this direction.

* besides of Riz Casimir, the characteristic Swiss dish from the 70es, which Swiss refer to as a "curry dish".
** Well, I love almost everything with luscious peas.

Flowers for Blocher

A man arrives at the gate of the Swiss Federal Palace with a bunch of flowers and asked to see Dr. Christoph Blocher to congratulate him to his re-election as Federal Councillor. The security guard told him that Dr. Christoph Blocher has been voted out of office.

The men left, however, he came back the next morning, again with a bunch of flowers and the request to see Dr. Christoph Blocher to congratulate him to his re-election as Federal Councillors. The guard said again that this is not possible because Dr. Christoph Blocher has been replaced by a woman.

The next morning, the man came again. "Why are you coming again and again? I've told you already twice that Dr. Christoph Blocher has been voted out of office", the guard asked him. "Well", the man replied, "I just can't get enough of hearing the good news".

Thursday, December 20, 2007

And The Winner Is...

It's really surprising and hard to believe, but there are still some companies which value loyalty. One of those is Transa.

Transa is a Swiss shop, selling outdoor gear. Everything started 30 years ago with some folks, who had a penchant for trips through the Sahara by Range Rovers. Such an endeavour requires some special equipment, which is hard to get. One thing let to the other, Transa was founded and has been a flourishing business ever since.

The folks of Transa decided to share the joy with their loyal customers. Some weeks ago, Toño and I enjoyed a lovely complimentary evening with fine Maghreb cuisine and a theatre show. There we also filled a competition form.

Yesterday, word came through that I actually won. It's not the main price but a handy backpack by Bach:

Monday, December 17, 2007

Frantically Cookie Bitching

I was late, it was intensive, however, Cookie Bitching 2007 is accomplished.

On Friday, I started with the ones for my clan. It took 24 hours to get those done. I was still baking when the guests arrived for Saturday's dinner party*.

Then on Sunday, we had the traditional Swiss Rover Cookie Contest. These were the winner cookies (unfortunately not mine):

We were so knocked out, we had to skip a Christmas party on Sunday night. This is a first.

* Luckily, the guests brought the food - the kitchen was quite a mess.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Any Wahle To Hunt Down?

One of the most tedious tasks - sorry Tom Peters - projects of this year is over. Yesterday, I managed to clear the last hurdle in becoming a Certified Senior Project Manager (IPMA Level B). It was an interview by two assessors, who had to challenge my knowledge and experience in steering a doomed and complex project through hideous shoals and gruesome adversity to shining success and smashing victory.

I reckon, I was convincing enough. Already today, I had a letter in my (snail) mail box, confirming the certification and inviting me to the certification party ceremony.

Are facing abyss with your project? might be your deliverance!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Diva Relaced By Woman

I have no idea who made it, but I reckon this is the most popular picture on Swiss blogs right now:

The Swiss parliament has deported the biggest diva of Swiss politics (Christoph Blocher) from the cabinet and has replaced him by a real woman. Blocher is the mastermind behind the plot, which tries to turn Switzerland into Europe's heart of darkness (read more about). This will not stop him but it is reassuring to have people in the government who know the term dignity not only from the dictionary..

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

L'entrecôte Café de Parise

Last weekend we went with some friends to commemorate the defense of Geneva in 1602 against the hideous Savoy by a bowl of vegetable soup, which provided enduring freedom, wealth and protestantism. The event is called L'Escalade.

However, one can not only live of vegetabel soup, chocolate cauldrons and marzipan, so we went to a restaurant, which is located next to McDonald's and Burger King and which is pround to have an even simpler menu. The place is called Café de Paris and features only one item on the menu, which has been invented in 1930: Salad, French Fries and Entrecôte Café de Paris. All you can choose is wheather you prefer your sirloin steak à point, saignant or bien cuit, and your choice of drink.

We accompanied the menu with a bottle of Gamaray, a wine variety from Geneva with a dark and intense colour, and a rather animal note. It matched perfectly.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Me Senator

At least there is a bit of a reward for the deprivations. Today, I was awarded Senator status with Miles & More.

If I counted correctly, there were 41 flights this year. When I asked my boss the other day, if there were some more, he said Why do you ask me? Flip a coin!

Saturday, December 08, 2007


We had to take countermeasures against the tendencies I developed in Canada. We did this by having Plätzli on a bed made of vegetables, salad and apple:

We deviated from the original recipe by using chard instead of spinach, and by choosing veal over pork escalopes. I don't particularly like pork and I think it causes arthritis.

Cut stem and leafs of the chord in slices, blanch them in simmering water and shock them with ice water. In a wide pan we fry a chopped onion, add the chord and two table spoons of water. After about ten minutes, add chopped chicory, a sliced apple and some skimmed cream. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Boil it up and let it cook briefly.

Added later on Rob7534's request: We had a bottle of Jacquesson 1996, this is one of the best yet affordable vintage champagnes.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Going Bionic

It seems to be true, global warming is a fact we have to deal with. One of the side effects is that the weather will be much extremer. But as we know, there is no bad weather - only bad equipment.

When it comes to waterproof and breathable fabrics most people still choose Gore-Tex™. But remember, we have to deal with the threats of the 21st century, and Gore-Tex™ is so last century if not last millennium. Thus I decided to go bionic for my mew exposure to nasty weather gear by choosing howies®' Long Way Home Jacket:

Long Way Home Jacket

Around whole collar and front arm panels, it has Schoeller’s fabric called reflex which looks black in day light but becomes a large reflective area in the dark. But the real stand out thing about the jacket is it uses the bionic (sfx: six million dollar man music) C-Change™ membrane from Schoeller. It was voted ‘2006 Frost & Sullivan Award for product innovation of the year’.

It’s clever stuff. You see during activity, the structure of the C-Change™ membrane opens as body moisture levels rise. Excess heat can escape to the outside air. Which makes it great for those long rides home. Correspondingly, when you’re cooling down, the structure of the membrane closes, retaining the heat directly at the body.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


One of the disadvantages of business trips is that one is constantly eating out without taking care to exercise - with the usual side effects on the waist line. Here are some related experiences from our winterly trip to Canada in arbitrary order:

If you ever make it to Montréal, see that you can dine at Ouzeri St Denis (4690 Rue Saint-Denis). This restaurant claims that its Mediterranean cuisine is recherché. Whatever, I enjoyed those chunks of lamb covered in a spicy feta cheese sauce before Mr. Mac could roll me back to the car.

I like to taste local brews. In British Columbia I discovered Kokanee which sported the most stylish label.

In a Chinese restaurant in a Japanese settlement called Steveston village in Richmond, a city in Greater Vancouver, we had (among other things) a huge platter of most tender scallops. In Switzerland, such an order would consume the family food budget of an entire week.

Tim Hortons is a Canadian institution. When we went there, we caused some confusion among the staff, because a) we had first to consult the menu, and b) did not know which dishes on the menu are not served before 11 am.

Québec is not only the home of Cidre de Glace, but also of Apple Vermouth. There seem to exist no limits for apples in Québec.

Avoid Sandwich Chaud au Poulet, it was the worst thing I eat since an Indian pizza that tasted like cardboard. There supposed to be an even worse Quebec delicacy called Poutine, or heart attack in a bowl, as it is also referred to.

Well in 24 hours I will be back in Switzerland and again subject to Toño cooking.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Facing the Out-stretched Palm

I'm a guest here in Anglo-America and it's not for the guests to complain about the cultural behavior of their hosts. However, I will do it anyway, because it's about money and when we Swiss know anything then it's about money. But I'm not alone, as I could read in Monocle's November issue, where the editor in chief wrote:

I know I'm partly to blame because too much time spent in Asian hotels has made me intolerant for mediocre north American service delivered with an out-stretched palm.

Yes exactly, I'm complaining about the tipping culture.

I don't mind paying a fair price for the service, but why can't this be included in price listed on the menu? The same goes for the various taxes. I'm not interested what the single items cost. All I'm interested in is the bottom line and an attentive service. It doesn't help when I know my waiters name (I don't do names anyway) and I don't need him/her constantly in my face. And last but not least, I'm useless when it comes to mental arithmetic.

Dear Anglo-American restaurateurs,

Please pay your staff decent wages, include the taxes in the prices on the menu, and don't expose me to mental stress.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sliding to Work

Did I mention that Hertz gave us a car with four season tires despite the imminent danger of a blizzard?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Kohbunny is Evil and Help Wanted

While aimlessly surfing the internet, I discovered that daring artist Terence Koh* has closed down KohBunny, because KohBunny seems to be EVIL!!

* better don't follow this link at work - viewer discretion is advised.

No Bad Weather - Only Wrong Gear

Next to our hotel is this river, which we always call lake by mistake. It's unusually wide and calm from a Swiss' perspective. Whatever... last week it was crowded like Boxing Day at Walmart with geese.

Suddenly one morning, we heard noises like in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Looking up, we saw the sky darkened by migrating geese. We are talking here of zillion of geese passing by. We stood there for minutes watching the endless trail pass.

We better should has taken this as a hint. The temperatures dropped significantly since the passage. We are now at -12 °C. Taking the wind into account, it feels like -23 °C. And for this night, 15-25 cm of snow are forecasted.

You may say that I've been to Siberia and thus must be used to far lower temperatures. Well, this is a business trip and I'm here in proper business attire.

However, cold means dry snow. When we came here two weeks ago, everything was covered in damp snow, which was awfully bad for my feet in leather soled shoes. Because of fear or slip and fall, they make me walk like a penguin (desperate note to self: get some flash looking business shoes with rubber sole - if there is something like this).

By the way, I'm terribly missing my goose down feather duvet. I don't like hotels that leave you with just a blanket.

And did I mention the icing rain that made us chip the ice of our car for half an hour after work?

It's time that this trip ends.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

So Bored I'm Doing a Meme

Departed from my deriously beloved Toño for the second consecutive weekend and inspired by the conversation with Mr.Mac over breakfast at Tim Hortons, I'm doing a meme from my hotel room's toilet.

The Soundtrack of my Life!
1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc.)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool ...

Opening Credits
- Ritz 107 - Fischerspooner

Waking Up - Such A Shame - Talk Talk

First Day at School - I Love Paris - by Cole Porter, covered by Les Négresses Vertes

Falling in Love - Yernanjá - Joyce

Fight Song - Satisfied, Prince

Breaking Up - English Summer Rain [Freelance Hellraiser remix] - Placebo

School Ball - Dulce Compaiñía - Julieta Venegas

Life is Good - Broken Face - Pixes

Mental Breakdown - Dum Dum Girl [12" mix] - Talk Talk

Driving - Wrong Turn - Jack Johnson

Getting Back Together - A Different Corner - George Michael

Wedding - Meds - Placebo

Paying the Dues - Too Far - Kylie

The Night Before the War - Allison - Pixies

Final Battle - What Have I Done To Deserve This? - Pet Shop Boys

Moment of Triumph - Readymade - Beck

Death Scene - Te Voy A Mostrar - Julietta Venegas

Funeral Song - American Angel - George Michael

End Credits - After You, Who? - by Cole Porter, covered by Jody Watley

In conclusion: feel free...