Happy Easter From Switzerland’s Lindt Bunnies (Doing What Bunnies Do)

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Sprungli, A Zurich Must

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When traveling, it is great to find a wonderful local place to eat.  Sprungli is just such a place.  A Zurich institution, it opened in its current form in 1939, but before the restaurant/café opened a chocolatier was there.  The Sprungli family started that in 1859.  It’s still family owned although the chocolate making is a separate business (Lindt & Sprüngli).

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Traditionally a favorite of Zurich’s upper crust ladies who lunch (not usually a recommendation that gets me to my kind of place) these ladies know what they are talking about and it’s now a favorite of this girl.  Him too.  The café serves the best hot chocolate and deserts in town, but they have more substantial fare as well.  Plus, when the dining room has cute details like the copper baking tins on the walls, how can you not?

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Sprungli is famous for their specialty products Luxemburgerli macaroons and Grand Crus (chocolate truffles from wild cocoa beans).  They are made by hand with fresh ingredients.  Drooling yet?

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They have several other satellite shops in other towns and at airports (including Geneva’s).  While nothing beats that original location, they are a great place to get a quick Sprungli fix or pickup a stellar present.

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The Magic of Mövenpick

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We have developed a few favorite Swiss brands.  Visitors favorite is always Mövenpick.  After tasting Mövenpick ice cream, we had a visitor come back to the apartment and spend several hours doing a search to find out where she could get it in the US.  Unfortunately, it’s not available there (another reason to visit Switzerland).  They do export and you can find it in 30 countries around the world including Russia, Finland, Australia and Singapore.

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Mövenpick has an astounding number of unique flavors with exotic ingredients like handcrafted Swiss caramel, fine French Cognac VSOP and vanilla seeds from Madagascar.  They introduce new “Limited Editions” flavors for each season.  Think cinnamon in the winter, exotic fruits in the summer…   It’s not just the amazing flavors that make it exceptional.  All products are made without artificial additives, flavours or colors.  The quality of the dairy is phenomenal.  Describing it as incredibly creamy doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

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While the Swiss Chocolate flavor is good, the best flavors are the creamy ones.  Our favorite is Creme de Gruyères (heavenly sweet Swiss cream with crunch bits of real Meringue inside).  It’s so good that you are in real danger of sounding like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally when you taste it.  Other top flavors are Crème Brulée and Tiramisú.

They have over 30 varieties, other flavors include:

  • Pistashio (another one of my favorites)
  • Cocoa & Orange
  • Pink rhubarb,
  • Cognac VSOP,
  • Caramelita (Caramel is a favorite of his),
  • Mousse Aux Poires (pear mousse),
  • Scottish Single Malt Whiskey,
  • Absinthe & Amaretto,
  • Swiss Apple, Edelweiss,
  • Almond & Vanilla,
  • Stracciatella (very yummy),
  • Mirabelle,
  • Apricot,
  • Panna Cotta with Raspberry,
  • White Peach, and
  • Raspberry.

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You can find Mövenpick in Europe at roadside kiosks (highly recommended for lakeside strolls), Mövenpick restaurants (worth going just to check out the insanely large and fancy menu of ice cream), other fine establishments and Co-op Swiss grocery stores (yep, we’re stocking the freezer if you come visit).

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Mövenpick was originally produced in the kitchens of high-end Swiss restaurants.  Eventually, they built factory in Bursins, then moved to a larger facility in Rorschach.   In 2003, Nestlé (in Vevey) acquired the brand rights for the Ice Cream category, but keeps it as an independent unit (classifying it as Super Premium) in their in order to maintain the brand’s knowledge, innovation and quality.

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Mövenpick doesn’t just make ice cream.  In Switzerland, they make yoghurt, chocolate and coffee.  We’ve heard from German friends that they sell wonderful jams and salad dressings there.  I’ve heard they also do wines.  They also have hotels ?!?  Yes, you read that correctly.  In case you’re wondering, they are high-end too.  As you might have guessed, they also serve a phenomenal breakfast.

 

Escalade

No, I’m not talking about a giant SUV.  I’m talking about a pretty cool party. Geneva’s Escalade commemorates the Protestant city of Geneva‘s defeat of the Duke of Savoy‘s Catholic troops in 1602.
I’m not really sure, but these might be Geneva’s version of Paul Revere?  If you’re going to visit Geneva, this might be the best time to do it.  It’s a really cool festival that’s part spectacle, part party and very accessible.  You’re in the middle of it so you’ll experience it with all of your senses.  The sounds of drums and fifes echoed through the city walls, while the smell of mulled wine (vin chaud) wafted through the air.

Here’s the deal. Charles Emmanuel I the Duke of Savoy wanted Geneva’s wealth. Genevans wanted their independence.  Many of them were religious refugees and would have had no where safe to go if Geneva had fallen to Catholic France. They also wanted to keep their money instead of giving it to the Duke.

When the Duke’s troops attacked, grandma threw a pot of boiling soup over the city walls as they attempted to climb them.  She then woke up the city so that it could defend itself.  Pretty much, they celebrate not their city not being overtaken by the Savoy and not becoming part of France.

It’s historic in the best possible way.  They have parades.  The old town is lit up by people carrying torches.  They really did fire the muskets!  They were so loud.  It scared the heck out of me… and the kid next to me.  They fire cannons too.  People dress up in period costumes.  Some are even on horseback.  The Passage de Monetier, a secret passage in Geneva’s old town is open for only this one night.
How do you celebrate grandma’s victory?  In the most quintessentially Swiss way. Chocolate!  They make giant tureens (cauldrons) of chocolate with marzipan vegetables (to be like granny’s tureen of soup).  Stores like Migros and Co-op sell the “vegetables.”  I bet it’s really easy to get kids to eat these vegetables.  They also have tasty street food and (of course) mulled wine.

Children dress up in costumes, kind of like they would in the US on Halloween.  We didn’t see any risqué costumes like you do there.

The cannon was louder than the muskets.  Unfortunately, there are not enough occasions where shooting off a cannon is permitted.  If you can get away with it, it definitely says celebration (or attack). There’s also a race/run that takes place weekend of or preceding the night of the 11th It usually starts in the  Parc des Bastions, where the Savoy troops congregated before attacking the walled city, and goes through Geneva’s old town, before finishing near the start. It’s a big deal here and everyone gets involved; you’ll even see families and running together.   There’s even a youth race and a costume run.

*Escalade translates from French into English as climbing.

 

 

This Little Piggy Went To Market

Twice a week, we have a market in our neighborhood.  When the Sweetest Girl in the World and my niece came to visit, we went.
They have wide variety of fruits and vegetables, many of which are locally grown.   Somehow, I doubt these Pineapples are locally grown.
I absolutely had to buy my niece a chocolate croissant.  It’s hard to say no to someone so cute.
I could easily do some major damage to this cheese vendor’s cart and my pocketbook if I let myself go.  Check out the variety.  Most of them are from Switzerland, Italy or the nearby Savoy region of France.  We used goat cheese when we made crepes.  Mmmmmm…
We spent a relaxing morning wandering around the market, oohing and aahing over the wonderful food.

Wild truffles!  I wish that I were rich enough to afford and a good enough cook to get the truffles.
Dried fruits, nuts, olives, beans, peppers, spices, vegetables, many types of mushrooms….
Check out all the different types of greens above.  There were more, but I couldn’t fit them all in the shot.  She bought some homemade soaps as souvenirs.
The first time we went to this market, I had major sticker shock.  A rotisserie chicken, which would be between $5-10 at home was 20 CHF ($22-25 depending on the exchange rate).

 

It’s The Little Differences – Halloween Version

One bag’s worth of candy

Top Ten Ways Halloween is Different in Switzerland:

10.  Smaller bags of Halloween candy.  There are 10-20 pieces per bag and each bag costs a lot more.

9.    You have to search hard to find the candy.  It’s not like the US where they sell it everywhere.  There are aisles of chocolate bars in the grocery stores.  Finding individually wrapped candies suitable for your Halloween candy bowl is another matter.  For example, I do not think it is appropriate to hand out individually wrapped candies containing cherry liqueur to children.

8.    Costumes are scary and supernatural-themed (witches, zombies, vampires, brains, blood, guts, etc.).  You don’t see nurses, TV/movie characters, famous people, cartoon characters, superheros, etc. The Rocky Horror Picture Show may be lost in translation.

7.    No trick-or-treaters.

Sally Brown:  Do I get to go trick-or-treating this year big
brother?
Charlie Brown:  Sure, Sally.
Sally Brown:  Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!  How do we do it?
Lucy Van Pelt:  All you have to do is walk up to a house, ring the doorbell and say “Tricks or Treats.”
Sally Brown:  Are you sure it’s legal?
Lucy Van Pelt:  Of course it’s legal.
Sally Brown:  I wouldn’t want to be accused of taking part in a rumble.

I am Lisbeth Salander from “The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo“; he’s in Leiderhosen. 

6.    Halloween is not a huge holiday here so you get strange looks riding the tram or walking down the street looking like this.  I found it helpful to wish everyone who looked at me strangely a “happy Halloween”.  It usually elicited a smile.

5.    No pumpkin spice lattes.  We may have to bring some back with us.  I have become fixated on it.

4.    You might be disappointed with your Snickers after getting used to Swiss chocolate.  I suspect this aspect of reintegration will be difficult.

3.    No pet costumes.  If I happen to see a St. Bernard (or any other dog) in costume, I promise to whip out my camera and post it for you.

2.    Here, pumpkins are for eating.  It is hard to find carving pumpkins here and there are definitely not any pumpkin patches.  For that matter, I haven’t heard of any cider mills either.  Great, now I’m starting to fixate on apple cider too.

1.    No “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” on TV.   Thank goodness our awesome family sent us the book.

Happy Halloween!  Eat, drink and be scary!

 

Pralines

 
Another yummy post. Belgium is known for its chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, their chocolate is good.  Very, very good.  It is also a competitor of Swiss Chocolate, so I must be diplomatic. Fortunately for me, I haven’t seen pralines here like you do in Belgium. Aaaahhh, a loophole.
 
What are pralines? A chocolate shell that could be filled with butter, cream, liquor, nuts, marzipan (sugared almond paste), or even a different kind of chocolate. They come in rectangular boxes like you see below.  If you see one of these boxes, you know instantly that something good is headed your way.
 
The best part is that you, in America can taste some of this yumminess. I know that I supported Belgian businesses in the US whenever possible (beer, ahem, and pralines). Leonidas and Neuhaus are both in the US. Neuhaus is even in Asheville!
 

P.S. I may or may not have snuck some with breakfast. If I did, please don’t judge me.  

 

Chocoholics Anonymous

Skanky B, Homie G, MC Roni enjoying hot chocolate
Yes. It really was this cool (despite what the lady in pink thought).
Skanky B, Homie G, MC Roni* and I toured the Cailler Chocolate Factory (located in Bulle, near Gruyeres). When you walk up, you smell chocolate. They must pump the smell out there because it was ridiculous. If only I could smell that good…
While waiting to start the tour, we had hot chocolate in the cafe. Yes. We were coloring. My drawing is up on my fridge. After color time, we went to the movie theater (with chocolates purchased from the gift shop) to watch old commercials. They were quite entertaining, perhaps even more so because they were in French.  You go through a Disney style telling of the history of chocolate before getting to the star of the tour, the chocolate itself. There is a room where you get to learn about, smell and touch the ingredients.
The tour just kept getting better and better. Next, you got to see a sample production line for Cailler’s Branches.
What do they do with that freshly made chocolate? They let you eat it! This is where the tour started to get really good. At this point, we were pretty much thinking that this was the best tour ever. We camped out here for a good five minutes eating.
Then, we went to the next room and the tour got even better! They had a giant room with all of their delectable products. You could spend as long as you wanted there and eat as much of it as you wanted!!!This is where we did America proud. We gorged ourselves. It was gluttony at its finest and also a bit embarrassing (not that we minded because our mouths were full of chocolate). They were not going to hurry us out of there or limit our consumption. Nevertheless, we were like Augustus Gloop at Mr. Wonka’s chocolate factory stuffing our faces as fast as we could.

 

My personal favorite
You can’t see our teeth because our mouths were full.
We stumbled out of the tasting room in a chocolate haze. Here are some photos from the gift shop:
You can scroll to the top to see the before.  This is the after.
 
Clearly, we were on a bit of a sugar high.
By the way, if you come to visit, the factory also has a kitchen where they give chocolate cooking classes. They fill up so be sure to pre-book well in advance.
*Names have been changed to protect the not so innocent.
 

Christmas Came Early

Manneken Pis, a famous Brussels landmark

I don’t know if I have ever been so well looked after. I returned from Belgium last night. I spent time with my host family from Belgium. It was wonderful. I got to meet my host sibling’s children (who unfortunately for me and fortunately for them speak better French than I do).  I had the best time and I miss them already.

They sent me back with tons of wonderful presents. As they are Belgians, most of it was food (and warm clothes). I came back with:

  • Tins of fish from Brittany
  • Giant packs of the best kind of Belgian Waffles (Gauffres de Liege) covered in chocolate
  • Pralines from Leonidas
  • Pralines from Corne
  • A pot of Nutella (This was, unfortunately a casualty of airport security. They said it was a liquid. I think they wanted it for themselves.)
  • Belgian chocolate (Yes, this is different from Nutella, pralines and chocolate covered waffles.)
  • CD’s
  • Jewelry
  • Warm, clothes that will make me look très Eurpoeanne (or at least less obviously American)
  • Super cool paper placemats that teach you French (a painless way for him to learn some French)

I think they were afraid that I would go hungry in Switzerland. I ate so well in Belgium (posts to follow) that I feel a bit guilty that he wasn’t there to taste all the goodies. He was able to have yummy waffles for breakfast and will, undoubtedly, have pralines tonight. Thanks for everything.