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!
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!
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.