Yesterday, quite out of the blue, I was confronted on Instagram with a photo I had posted years ago. Years! A fantastic little object of fine Swiss patisserie on one of my Royal Copenhagen plates. Obviously, I was still living in Zurich at that time, a time I was deeply and ever so hopelessly in love with everything the Swiss do to raspberries. At Vollenweider’s, for example, they sprinkle them with tiny pistaccio crumbs, des pistaches hachées ever so menues, just to enhance their aroma, just like what a glass of cool Sauternes does to strawberries, at least if we trust Sebastian Flyte, which I do, but I digress and on top, I’m quoting from Brideshead Revisited again, but any of Evelyn Waugh’s novels are forever stuck in my mind, so I have to ask for your forgiveness and to reread them all. Anyway, this delicious post had just gotten a new like after all these years, and by whom? By none other than the Vollenweider people themselves! I was most honoured to be reminded of what I’ve been missing in my life ever since I left Zurich… Damn!
Pardon my stupid unoriginal pun, I just couldn’t resist. Fact is, however, this salad’s recipe is originally from Nice, France, and secondly, it’s very nice a recipe, especially when served in summer on a hot day and spaghetti bolognese are just to heavy a meal to even think of. You might say now, that in November, temperatures are ever so moderate, and ask what kind of point I was trying to make, and in fact, you’re right, if served outside now, you might want to exchange your glass of red wine that goes ever so fine with for some mulled wine or punch in order to stay alive and/or unfrozen, but I still would have to remind you of the people from Down Under who are suffering from some rigid heat wave right now, so hot, they might actually wanna have their red wine served on the rocks. I have never quite understood why that actually is, they having summer when we have winter, something with the sun and rotation and blind sides and solstice and astronomical stuff such as that going on, but I digress. Anyway, salade niçoise, this lovely dish from Nice, France tastes fine in any season, at any time, with any ocean next to it, the Mediterranean Sea or the Pacific, but if you prefer some heat to go with it, just turn it on. Bon appétit!
Some days ago, or weeks rather, on one of these greyish autumn weekends, I visited a castle nearby in the beautiful region of Münsterland, a castle not so much known for its architectural significance, although having been around since the 11th century, the “new” main house with its splendid black and white shutters was built from 1540 to 1545, and not a single one of its many stones has ever crumbled, it’s only known for one of its residents, Baroness Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, a well known German author from the early 1800s. On January 12th, 1797, Burg Hülshoff was her place of birth, just imagine, at that time, in the late 1700s, the castle had already been over six hundred years old. Six hundred! The Frankfurt apartment my parents lived in when I was born, was merely 80 years old at that time and was already considered Altbau, meaning old architecture. I’m a sucker for tradition, as you might guess… Anyway, besides all this history and ancient glory, besides the little neo-Gothic chapel added in 1880, just imagine having your very own chapel to pray in, just like the marchioness of Brideshead in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, what struck me most was the moat the castle is surrounded by. All that peace and quiet, protected by ever so tranquil a moat. Not even the ducks that are to be spotted here and there dare to make any noise. I really need one, too.
We’re all schizophrenic beings, I think. Otherwise, how could it be possible to name a duck your favourite animal, and still love the very same guy served for dinner, à l’orange or Peking or roast with some yummy sauce? As for sauces, I came up with a totally new one. Lots of rucola, haché menu, some garlic and spring onions, aka shallots, also chopped and minced in as tiny little pieces as you can manage, some fine aceto balsamico, from Modena of course, ever finer olive oil, from any Mediterranean origin, I prefer Sicily, lots of crushed white pepper, chillies, and some honey, not a lot, all of it gets stirred, not shaken, and you end up having the most aromatic condiment for your roast duck. It’s so good, you want to give it a name! Donald, or Daisy, or as you please. As I said, we’re all schizophrenics…
I have no idea if F. Scott Fitzgerald or any of his protagonists ever had bratwurst for dinner, leastwise the Divers should have eaten this teutonic meal at least once when staying in Zurich, the Swiss make such fine bratwurst, but since I happen to own Jay Gatsby’s personal napkin ring, discovered it some years ago in an antique store in West Egg, Long Island, I can tell you that his spirit is still with us and was with me tonight, when I had bratwurst for dinner, accompanied by some savoy cabbage. This curly leafed vegetable surely would have put a smile on Scott Fitzgerald’s face, savoy has such a nice first class hotel ring to it, doesn’t it? I think, I can say sans rougir that tonight, Jay Gatsby and I had a bratwurst as big as the Savoy.
Today, just by chance when shopping for Turkish chestnut honey at my Turkish grocer’s (despite the Turkish invasion in Syria, I decided not to take it out on the Turkish bees and chestnut trees, I cherish both of them way too much), I came along some dorados that were fresher than any other dorado I had ever met, and my life’s plans changed instantly—tonight’s originally planned linguine surely wouldn’t mind taking a rain check, and so I carried two of these wonderful, bright-eyed dorados home. Not realizing of course, that they were so fresh that I would have to remove all of the scales first, tricky job, and then open their bellies and operate on them to extract all of their intestines before I could finally put them in a pan, oh what lucky people all these vegetarians are… It was kind of a survival trip, rather challenging, no filleted stuff served on fancy plates by some blasé waiter, no, these guys I almost hunted down myself like a lion would an antilope… We had them with potatoes and some parsley, quite à la Hemingway, I understand lions like them best this way…
Cheese is the best thing there is, unless you’re lactose intolerant. I thought I was, at least until very lately, but it turned out to be an imaginary intolerance. Actually, it was a severe case of media brainwash, thus called by my physician, but that’s a totally different story. Anyway, as I said, cheese is the best thing there is. Especially this one, imported from Burgundy, France, by my parents who came back yesterday, served tonight for dinner with baguette and some other fine stuff and, most importantly, with a (actually, two and a half) bottle of Maranges, a very fine Burgundy wine, with a nice aroma of almost overly ripe cherries to lighten the almost overly creamy heaviness of that wonderful cheese. A cheese, of which my parents couldn’t recall the name, otherwise I would have told you, please believe me!