The Chocolate Diet

If you want to gain weight, for whatever reasons, do the following: buy eight to twelve large packages of assorted chocolates, pick your favourites from each package, arrange them casually in a bowl (you want to refill the bowl with chocolates as soon as it’s emptied) and start devouring them during at least four episodes of any show interesting enough to make you stay put in front of the TV no matter what happens or who’s at the door. I do recommend Killing Eve for such purposes, watching people kill other people always gives me an appetite. With that show (season 1 and 2), you have Sandra Oh (oh so gorgeous) and Jodie Comer (she’s gorgeous, too) in sixteen thrilling episodes, offering the most fattening effect. Do not forget to wash each chocolate down with a generous helping of caffè latte with non-skimmed milk in it, or a huge glass of Baileys, or, (or “and/or”, why not), some protein-infused banana milkshake. Repeat. Bon appétit and bonne chance!

Raspberries Revisited

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!

The Chocolate Melting Pot

We’re experiencing the hottest April ever, today we reached a priorly unimaginable 27 degrees Celsius, I can remember colder days in August when I had to take out the winter jacket I had just bought and put it on because I was still sitting outside a café after sunset, but I digress. Anyway, today it was so hot that my crème glacée de chocolat aux prunes à l’Armagnac (aka chocolate icecream with brandy prunes) was melting in the sun! It was a mesmerizing effect, seeing the creamy chocolate blend with the brandy while I took this photo, I waved perfection goodbye, realizing that one should never ever shoot icecream in the roasting midday sun—if you aren’t completely satisfied with it, please take into account that I could not take any more and/or better pictures, as I wanted to try my dessert before its total meltdown, otherwise call toll free 0800-ICECREAM-FAILURE.

As Yummy As It Gets

The best thing about Switzerland is the food. And the best thing about the food is a Luxemburgerli from Sprüngli’s. You might think it’s a macaron but it’s not, believe you me. I’ve had macarons, plenty, even those hysterically cherished ones from Ladurée, and I had them from Ladurée in Paris, on rue Bonaparte, so don’t tell me the taste was probably just affected by transportation, say a long-distance flight to Sydney, Cape Cod or Kyoto or where ever you picture me misjudging Ladurée’s famous delights, no, even those iconic French macarons are nothing in comparison. Nothing compares to a Luxemburgerli. Nothing. Actually, it makes macarons obsolete. Sad excuses for a sweet. You better take the next flight to Zurich and make it to Paradeplatz as quickly as you possibly can. If only I could do the same, but I promised to show up at my parents’ place this Easter weekend…

The Hypnotic Easter Bunny

One day, when on my way home from work, I changed trams on Paradeplatz in Zurich, just like any other day. This particular day, however, was not an ordinary day at all, it happened to be a very particular day, it was the day Sprüngli had changed their windows for Easter. Now, when you’re a chocolate addict like me, you’re about to lose control over your itinerary, you stop paying attention to anything else, least of all your connecting tram, you can take the next one, or the one after that, but on this day, I lost control over time and space altogether, I was mesmerized by a chocolate Easter bunny, the biggest chocolate Easter bunny I had ever seen, ever!, it was huge, gigantic in fact, who could ever eat it up, I wondered. I think, this was my last self-controlled thought, then, this Easter bunny’s face started to mesmerize me, what expressive features, such character, I felt like I had entered Alice’s wonderland, as if that bunny was about to address me, saying something like If I lose my temper, you lose your head, it wouldn’t have surprised me at all, I took a deeper look in its eyes, one look too many, and da war’s um mich gescheh’n, it spoke to me, it sang to me, my fate became quite plain, half drawn by it, I glided in and was not seen again.

A cake that made it into my dreams.

Some time ago, I had the worst of nightmares. I was in a tram in Zurich, trying to make it to Sprüngli’s to get some Himbeer-Rahm-Torte, their famous raspberry cream cake, my very favourite, it’s so very rich and heavy with raspberries, yet light and fresh like air, but that damn streetcar wouldn’t take me there, for some reason, it was taking the wrong turn, totally wrong direction, I wanted to get out, but it just wouldn’t stop, it just went on and on, still, I had to get out to make it in time before closing hour, missing it was not an option, I had to have that cake, I just had to, I don’t know how I finally managed to take another tram, I think I ran them all down somehow, but the other one wasn’t the right one either, I started panicking, I was way too late now, all of a sudden night had fallen, it was completely dark outside, the time was 6:25 pm – hadn’t I left at noon? – and that streetcar had just passed the Zurich opera house to make it home to Seefeld, like it was mocking me, I just had to get out, but even if I managed to, how should I ever make it to Sprüngli’s in time, with five minutes left at my hand? Any suggestions? Any? Well, neither had I, instead, I woke up screaming. Still without any cake, but at least safe and sound. I made it to the fridge and had noisette yoghurt. No raspberries, but quite yummy.

The best chocolate cake there is.

My grandmother used to travel and bake a lot after retiring, she had all this time on her hands and filled it with some culinary creativity, and as she was fond of red wine and Spain, she ended up baking but one cake only, her masterpiece, her Rioja cake, commonly and less specifically known as her red wine cake, as in the 1970s, Rioja was quite uncommon a beverage in Germany and she didn’t feel the urge to explain her extravagances to just anybody she had over for tea and sympathy, she was a teacher, the most loved one of her village, her funeral was crowded with former students, she must have been a hell of a teacher, anyway, I, being more into France than into Spain, have always replaced Rioja with some Bordeaux when I made that cake, but now, just to cherish her memory, I opened a bottle of Rioja, the batter takes a quarter of a litre, as well as vast amounts of cocoa, chopped dark chocolate, this one is from Venezuela, quite fitting an origin, it’s a Spanish speaking country after all, anyway, the cake‘s obviously soaked with flavonoids from all that red wine and cocoa, kind of an anti-ageing approach to baking. I think, I’ll have another slice just now.

How to serve toffee.

My great-grandmother was a great influence on me, although I never met her. But I get it from stories my mother who adored her has told me. My favourite one, and the most impressive, gives a wonderful example of what it takes to be cultivated, and maybe more of what a certain upbringing does to you and your morale. She was very particular about the way a table was set. As a middle aged woman, long before the war, I’m talking World War II, she indulged in style, decorated her house beautifully, with no trouble apart from striving for perfection on a daily basis, she would give orders to the few servants she had, and was known for her splendid dinner parties. But it wasn’t just the times and circumstances that made her the lady that she was and to bring her daughter up to be one too in the future, meaning to instruct my grandmother, then a young girl, never to take too much sugar with tea, what unthinkable intemperance, regardless of my grandmother’s sweet tooth of course, to force her to sit at the dinner table as if she had swallowed a broomstick and to introduce her to the effects of alcohol, a young lady’s demeanour and virtue mustn’t be compromised by a glass of wine, let alone three, it was her composure, her absolute restraint in everything she did. This would actually not be a story if she hadn’t had to adapt to war times. First of all, that dinner table got lost in ruins, bombs smashed it to pieces, and after the war was over, there was not much food to serve. But no war could ever impinge on her dinner celebrations, anything had to meet her demands, it was like an obsession with her. My family was happy to have anything at all, potatoes were a luxury, there weren’t any oysters to sprinkle with lemon juice, meat on the table would be conceived as a mirage, a fata morgana, but she would never eat up, even in these days, she would leave something behind on her plate, always, whatever it was, however humble a meal had been prepared, she would leave something to be thrown away, for one could get the impression she’d been hungry, and hunger, oh dear, what a vulgar sensation, how weak a character one would be to adapt to a life in ruins, she might have thought, and so she did not. Never. How absurd, and yet, quelle contenance. I think of her, each time I want to eat something right off the box, like these toffees. And then, I take a beautiful plate or dish, and one of the antique glasses for the sherry instead of the dishwasher safe ones, and enjoy life her style. God bless her.

Midnight Chocolate

When God came up with cocoa beans, he must have been in a very good mood. Cocoa beans are the best beans there are—sorry, Heinz, no offence, but your bean cans were portrayed by Andy Warhol, this is as far as your fifteen minutes of fame go. Anyway, cocoa beans are so very rich in healthy flavonoids, but more importantly, without cocoa beans there was no chocolate, and without chocolate there were no chocolate glazed marzipan cakes, especially the one in my fridge (keeping it in the fridge is important to make the thick chocolate glaze as crunchy as possible), the one I just devoured out of sheer lust. And now I am in such a good mood, the best of moods, actually, just like God himself the day he came up with cocoa beans.

Anne Boleyn Cake

Sprüngli’s truffes cake is a serious matter. It’s heavy duty. It’s heavy weight. It’s nothing but cream and sugar and cocoa and butter and eggs, some flour, more cocoa and cream, and some almonds and hazelnuts. It was obviously made to kill people, to instantly clog their arteries, fatten their hips, and ruining their appetite for days. I know what I am talking about, I am a survivor of endless attacks on my veins’ sobriety, afterwards always claiming in vain I would never lose control again—until the next battered defeat. When I left Zurich and Sprüngli for good, I had to set an end to this cake’s power over me, at least symbolically, and so I made myself its executioner. Inspired by the passing of mostly female English royalty like Mary Stuart and Lady Jane Grey, I put Sprüngli’s truffes cake to death with my cheese cleaver. It took even more attempts to break its neck than poor Anne Boleyn’s.