This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Swiss cheese

fondueThere are no holes in Swiss cheese in its proper form: melted into a fondue pan, and mixed with white wine and a hint of garlic. In this form it is solid, warming energy on a cold winter’s day. Fat and carbs galore (because oh, all the bread served!).

There are three tricks to survive this bonanza AND feel good: 1) sparkling water; 2) digestive enzymes, or 3) a shot of something afterwards. This time I had no pills and did not request sparkling water – and thus was offered cherry schnapps afterwards. At least it was past noon – barely.

(Zurich, Switzerland; February 2018)


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Les Halles

leshalles-2Les Halles in Zurich is not like Les Halles in Paris. Its is much better. Sure, you get Moules (mussels) there, too, but the feeling is that of a food hall and not of a modern shopping center.

There even are bicycles and sneakers hanging from the ceiling, to create that “authentic hipster feeling” (is that an oxymoron by the way?).

The moules were excellent. The food is cheap. Only cash is accepted. Do book before you go.leshalles(Zurich, Switzerland; February 2018)


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The Nordic version of Carnival

laskiaisbunThe laskiaispulla (FIN), or fastlagsbulle (Swedish dialect in FIN), fastelavnsbolle (NO) or semla (SE) is one hell of a calorie bomb: sweetbread carved out to harbor a clump of juicy, bitter-almond tasting marzipan (or raspberry jam for the heretics), with a cloud of whipped cream on top. But what else do you want on a cold February Shrove Tuesday when the body craves for energy?

This is as close as we get to Carnival in the Nordics: one or several laskiaispulla before 40 days of “fasting” (over here it was mainly cutting out the superfluous) before Easter. Except I don’t know of anyone who actually fasts. It seems to be a nearly dead tradition – and why? In the middle of the carbohydrate frenzy our body seems to prefer during the cold months, take 40 days and really consider every piece of simple, unextravagant food you put in your mouth. Cut down on sugar, leave out the booze. And kick-start it all with a few laskiaispullas in the ancient fashion: served in a bowl of hot milk. This dish is called “hetvägg” in Sweden (hot wall). Try it and you’ll find out why.

(Stockholm, Sweden; February 2018)


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Das Original

vienna-26Today we wanted to have the cake and eat it, too. And it was possible, because Hotel Sacher both serves and sells its famous torte. But who knew that the lunch menu at Café Sacher was so delicious? And that the walls were a bright red, and the china sparkling white? And the service so graceful. It all really became less about the cake and more about the entire experience.

The cake shop clerk recommended to not buy a big cake but single-serving cakes, if possible. Because there is more chocolate and jam per mass, and that makes it all so much better. We agree.
vienna-27(Café Sacher, Vienna, Austria; February 2017)


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Coffee with cake and music

vienna-9Breakfast in Café Central, with white bone china. Where once Trotsky sat. And Freud, Adler, Tito, and even Lenin. The tea is still excellent, and so is everything else. Before 9 am it is quiet, but after 11 am there is a line lasting the rest of the day.

Afternoon coffee in Aida. One of the many pink places scattered around Vienna. Aida has a helpful guide for the bewildered tourist who thinks coffee is just coffee, whereas in Vienna it is avec a whole lot else, too.

And in Aida, cake is preferably taken “mit muziek”, or with music. Perhaps a shot of kirsch, or an amaretto. This fluffy pink establishment claims that in olden times, if one wished for a little shot of liquor, one only had to say one wished for a little music. Of course. (Only in Vienna….)vienna-19(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)


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Taverns in Vienna

vienna-7Wine, vaults, and wienerschnitzels. Viennese taverns are not really bars but restaurants where you can stuff yourself with delicious no-nonsense food and drink local wine. Either underground, or in heurigers (winemakers’ own local taverns). Expect simple comfort food and surprisingly good cheap housewines. And from time to time, awful local music.

And if you are not acquainted with Austrian wines, try a Riesling or Grüner Veltliner from Kamptal, or any -auslese (sweet dessert wines).

(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)