Famous Swiss Foods: Chocolate

Post by Lauren

Maybe one reason that the Swiss don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day is that it is it is an occasion for chocolate EVERY DAY here.

General Facts:
-The Swiss eat the most chocolate in the world. The average Swiss eats 25 lbs of chocolate per year compared to the 11.7 lbs consumed by Americans.
-The Swiss eat 54% of their chocolate production, only exporting 46%

Personal fact: Gabe and I eat four pieces of amazing Swiss chocolate every night after dinner. We haven’t gained any weight. In fact, Gabe has lost weight.

I was lucky to get a tour of Stettler last week. I felt like Charlie let loose in the chocolate factory.

It was 100% in French so I caught about half of the information being that I haven’t learned all my vocabulary for chocolate production yet. However, one doesn’t need to catch every word to be blown away.

This “chocolate laboratory” is in Geneva and is just one of the many chocolate factories and tours in Switzerland. If you are a francophone, I would highly recommend checking this particular one out.

In Winter Wonder with Pascal and Giselle

Post by Lauren

It’s an exciting week in our Swiss household! We have guests Pascal and Giselle, in from Richmond, VA. Geneva has been really behaving, showing its pretty blue sky. We didn’t even know that was possible in the winter here.

So, we feel very grateful that while they are here, they can actually see the mountains instead of the perma-cloud layer that hovers above us usually.

When they arrived, we forced them to stay up and took them around to Carouge Saturday market day and then to Annecy, France so that they could be out in the daylight to help with the effects of jetlag*.

Market day was a little quiet in the winter vs. summer, but still very enjoyable as Carouge always is with its simple Italian architecture and colorful artisans:

 

A quiet day at the Carouge market

 

Next, we went to Annecy, France for lunch. Pascal and Giselle had their first savory crepes. Did you know that a crepe can be a dessert and a meal? Kind of like a wrap…with a pancake. They ordered hamburger ones….check them out below. Even though it was about 20 degrees, there were still a ton of people enjoying the Saturday blue skies and even a crew team practicing in frigid Lake Annecy below snow capped mountains.

The next day, we ventured to Chamonix & Mt. Blanc. We took the Auguille du Midi to the top, the world’s highest vertical ascent cable car. Gabe and I had done this back with Henry Birmingham on July 4th weekend, but boy, what a difference winter makes.

Everything was snow covered and beautiful. We were in awe of the off-piste skiiers.

After the dizzying adventure up Mt. Blanc, we had a nice warm raclette meal in Chamonix, the base village. Very soon, there will be a cheese tutorial on The Swiss Watch Blog so you can learn more about this fabulous Swiss dish. It’s soooo good.

The famous French ski town was bumping at dusk and into the evening, full of skiers and snowboarders returning from the mountain.

You are probably wondering why we keep taking Pascal and Giselle all over France when we live in Switzerland. Actually, because Geneva is surrounded by France, the alpine areas of France are much more accessible to Geneva because of the topography. See my ski map, complete with flags, to check this out.

Don’t worry, we’ll take them around in Switzerland soon. Stay tuned….

*When you visit us, we will also do such mean things as to not allow you to sleep and force you to be in the daylight to reduce your chance of jet lag.

Montreux Christmas Market

Post by Lauren

Yesterday, we had a girls outing to one of the many Christmas markets in the region. We’d picked Montreux because it was supposed to be either sunny or snowy. Well, weather.com was wrong and we had chilly rain, but the company and hot beverages kept our spirits warm. Here are a few photos:

The market was broken up into little stalls selling things. Their little chalets were festive in themselves.Goods ranged from handcrafted items, to teas, and food. Also there were some Christmas items like nativity scenes – creches.

Vin chaud, hot cider, and Christmas tea were sold in various forms of cauldrons.
It kept us warm and toasty as we navigated the market.

This little fire chalet was also a hit.

Not to mention the French Onion soup. Even little HB, our newest Girls Club member, wanted a piece of the action.

Joyeux Noël, everyone!

 

Alternative coffee culture

Post by Lauren

During our three week visit to the US, I consumed more pumpkin spiced lattes that most people consume in a lifetime.

If you have never had a PSL, I feel sorry for you. It is a little gulp of heaven.

There are really three reasons why I decided to overindulge in way more than my fair share of PSLs while in the States.

I love you, PSL!!!

Reason #1 – In Switzerland, there are Starbucks, but NO FLAVORED SYRUPs. This should be a crime. It’s like the movie theaters there that don’t serve popcorn.

All Fall, l had to endure the agony of people posting about PSLs on Facebook. This should also be a crime.

Reason #2 – I can’t afford Starbucks. Its like 10 US dollars for a latte. Since I am not currently working, I have to pass on going. Even when everyone else gets it. But its okay. Because there are no syrups its not as appealing as it would be in the US.

Reason #3 – Switzerland coffee culture. It is definitely a “NO-to-go” country. There are three Starbucks in Geneva and they are the ONLY place I know of that would give you a cup of coffee to go. Even still, you have to special order it that way, or else it comes in a mug. I am pretty sure it also comes with a dirty look.

The Swiss like to casually sit in a cafe and have a teaspoon sized baby espresso cup. It takes them like a half hour to drink it. While I am loving the slower pace, I simply cannot get used to this cultural difference. I like to have mine in a thermos and drink it continually.

How the Swiss do it.

Even when I bring a thermos with me on the tram in the morning, people stare at me. Just imagine the most confused look ever. That is what I get when I carry a coffee thermos. I thought it was because of the no-to-go, but S & S pointed out it also has a lot to do with size. Not that my thermos is large – its normal sized, but it is bigger than a thimble.

A few weeks ago, I saw another person with a thermos. Its the first time I had ever seen it so I decided to capture it as I surely will never see it again. I gave her lots of smiles on the tram as I wanted to show my support.

Concluding this coffee post, I am happy to report that we imported a 750 ml bottle of Pumpkin Pie syrup. No clue if it is anything like Starbucks, but one can hope. There is already an army of fellow ex-pat PSL fan friends in Geneva ready to try it out.

 

The Price Is Right – France vs. Switzerland

Post by Lauren

Do you remember the Grocery Game on the show The Price Is Right? I used to love watching this show when I was a kid. So for the spirit of fun, we are going to play the game on this blog with the prices of goods in France vs. Switzerland.

Good luck guessing. A little more challenging than Bob Barker’s version.

The prices are equalized by currency, and I took it a step further to actualize it into American dollars. So, euros x 1.4 and Swiss Francs x 1. 2.

Be a sport. Scroll til you see the product and no more before you guess the prices.

Roll of Pizza Dough:

Switzerland:

$ 6.48 (5.40 CHF)

France:

$ 2.80 (1.37 euros)

500 Grams of Spinach

Switzerland:

$ 7.08 (5.90 CHF for 300 g)

France:

$ 3.50 (2.50 euros for 500 g)

Kronenbourg Beer 10 pack

Switzerland:

$ 10.68 (8.90 CHF)

France:

$ 5.72 (4.09 euros)

 


Guacamole, jarred*
I know, its gross, but beggars can’t be choosers

Switzerland:

$ 6.60 (5.50 CHF)

France:

$ 3.02 (2.16 euros)

Canned green beans

Switzerland:

$ 8.22 (6.85 CHF)

France:

$ 1.33 (0.95 euro)

Coke 4 pack, 1 liter each

Switzerland:

$ 9.12 (7.60 CHF)

France:

$ 6.72 (4.80 euro)

 

So how did you do? I hope you were a winner.

Me, I’m depressed after putting together this game.

Wine O Clock

Post by Lauren

Our favorite Geneva festivals are wine festivals.

Reason # 1. Swiss wine is pretty good. And, you’ll have to come visit us to experience it. In keeping with Swiss tradition, they only like to consume their own agricultural goods. This is based on knowing their own are of higher quality (like everything Swiss) and more historically, on WW2 and the refusal to be dependent on anyone else for food. So, by the time they drink their own supply, only 1% is left for export.

Reason # 2. Doing independent wine tasting on your own requires a lot of work. Wineries are only open 10-noon on Saturdays. I have learned customer service and pleasing the public is not on their list of to-dos. So, you’d have to be well-planned to visit more than 2 in one weekend due to the short opening hours. Plus, I am sure you have to be fluent in French for it not to be awkward to show up at someone’s farmhouse ready to taste.

Reason # 3. Past Success. You might remember our first weekend we attended Caves Ouvert , where we met A & A and also D. We were delighted to go 2 for 2 with the A’s for Geneva wine festivals. They hosted an awesome pre-game brunch to lay good groundwork for the day. Sadly, D was not with us but we carried her around on a popsicle stick all day for photo ops. 2 out of 5 (the guys) thought this was creepy. But, all the girls enjoyed the humor in it and we made sure D on a stick had a good time.

Things we learned for next year:

–Don’t show up at noon for the Russin Wine Festival. Things don’t get started until about 2pm-3pm. We wondered around a ghost town Russin until about then.

–Babies aren’t allowed to drink

–If you dress up in a Father Wine Suit, you are likely to have lots of pretty girls pose with you.

–The most important lesson comes tomorrow. Be sure to tune in.

In the meantime, for more facts on Swiss wine, check out Schwingen in Switzerland.

Gruyeres, Switzerland

Post by Lauren

We are excited to have Andreas in town visiting for the US this week. At first, Switzerland decided to show Andreas its gloomy side, but Gruyeres ended up being a good little day trip as the heavy clouds made the castle a little bit more mysterious, and the chill in the air made our cheese dishes a little bit more tasty.

When we first arrived, we checked out the Gruyere cheese factory and even got to try a sample.

Touring the Gruyeres Cheese Factory

The arduous process certainly made us appreciate our cheese more. I really especially liked the story, told from the perspective from one of the cows, detailing the history of cheese and cheese-making. The story also compared wine tasting (when you pick of flavors of cherry, oak, etc) to cheese tasting, where one should pick up the cumin, the thistle, etc of the matter that the cows graze on.

Next, we moved onto the town of Gruyeres. Usually you can see the Alps in the background. But, it was a tad foggy. Oh well. We were still charmed by the beautiful walled town. We grabbed a traditional cheese dish of raclette and relaxed and dined by a panoramic view of the valley.

After lunch, we adventured to the famous Gruyeres castle. It was really neat, but my favorite was the beautiful geometric gardens that rested in the courtyard.

We almost had an additional adventure when our car took 7 times to start in the very empty rainy parking lot. But, he made it. More on that later.

Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas Anymore: Part 1

Post by Lauren

This is a new series meant to bring a little bit of humor to things that we see on a day-to-day basis. Of course, we want visitors to come see these neat differences yourselves, but hopefully this will keep you up-to-date in the interim!

1 – Freshly baked pastries and FREE wine on short flights – this is a normal occurrence on Swiss Air. I understand they had some financial problems recently but I am not complaining. I have never had an airplane meal this good, sans charge.

2 – The lack of refrigeration of dairy (milk, cream, whipped cream) and egg products. Milk products are ultra pasteurized so that they can stay on shelf. They’ll last up to two months before opening. Eggs are also left on shelf, but just need to be consumed within a week. If you could see the size of our fridge, you’d be trés grateful you can stock up on dairy without needing precious cold space!

3 – Don’t even try it, folks. This gas station does not take 1000 CHF bills. Note: this is like $1200 USD. In the US, they frown at you for giving 50 dollar bills.

4 – The use of Indians to guide angry cars and people during construction. Here he is saying, “Caution – roadwork. I am your guide”.

No further comment. I am just pretty sure I wouldn’t see something like this back home.

Mr. Edible

Post by Lauren

If you love animals, you might want to stop here.

So, as a beginner in French, our first week here, I took notice of a menu posted on the street with “cheval”.

 

“Hmm” I commented to Gabe, “ I thought that cheval meant horse! Ha, my French is really awful….Rosetta Stone really didn’t pay off, huh?”

A few weeks later, I saw it again. It must be some sort of goat cheese…..like fromage de chèvre. Sort of sounds the same, right?! So, thirsty for French knowledge, I looked it up.

Oh no.

And, I found that I was accurate the first time.

Yup, as confirmed by the meat labels in our local store, people here like to eat Mr. Ed.

Riding or eating. Either will work!

I was shocked and brought it up on our next women’s hike. My friend M noted that usually this is served prior to fondue, as a dried meat. Bleccccck!!!!


Horse steaks on sale in Carouge!

If you don’t believe me, check out the little animals on the packages they have at the Co-op to help people identify the meats. I should dedicate a Gratitude Friday to these labels so that I haven’t mistakenly eaten horse.

Speaking of mistakes, when we were in Chamonix a few weeks ago, I was eating the dried meats they served with raclette until I remembered M’s fondue advice mid-bite of a really tough piece.

Getting upset thinking about what I might be eating

Don’t worry, we asked the waitress and it was a false alarm – all jambon, or ham. I couldn’t eat any more after that though.