As A alluded to, I've been quite busy the last ten days traveling around Europe- primarily in Switzerland for a week-long conference, with a short visit to Florence to visit our cousin as well as some brief jaunts in German airports. The trip was an absolutely wonderful experience, a perfect mix of fun and learning. Of course I always love experiencing a new location through it's food, so here are a few things I ate while I was away.
I had a few minutes in the Frankfurt airport (which, by the way, is the most enormous airport) between flights and wanted to snag an "authentic" snack. The only thing close to my gate was a little place called MoschMosch which was actually a "Japanische Nudelbar" but also had a few German items in a small case near the register. I inquired about something interesting looking called Mettbroechen and was informed that it was a pork tartare. Served as an open faced sandwich topped with bits of raw onion, it was reminiscent of a meatball or hamburger mixture.. before cooking, of course. Slightly peppery, silky smooth ground pork with the crunch of pungent raw onions. Where can I find this in the States??
The conference was held in a small town called Les Diablerets, about 90 miles from Geneva.
All meals were included, served at the Eurotel Victoria. Lunch and dinner were always formal seated three course affairs, with a wide range of menu influences. On the other hand, breakfast was always a buffet- and it was always my favorite meal of the day. A huge spread of pastries, breads, juices, meats, cheeses, yogurts, fruit, veggies and cereals as well as the standard bacon and eggs satisfied absolutely any breakfast desire.
I always ate the same thing: chocolate granola with plain yogurt and a dollop of jam, a piece of fruit, and a buttery croissant with honey. The honey is served as a giant cake-sized solidified mass that you just knife a hunk off of- small glass bowls provided. Even though the breads and cheese called my name loudly, I could eat this plate of food every day for the rest of my life and be completely happy.
After an 11 hour train ride to Florence, Italy for a quick weekend visit, the first thing on my mind was a snack. Fortunately there are "self-service" restaurants on every corner offering pizza and sandwiches. I opted for an interesting combination of blue cheese, capicola, tomatoes, spinach, and a few shreds of mozzarella. The crust was thin and crunchy and the salty combination of flavors quite satisfying.
Lunch the next day was an equally simple affair- a small sandwich consisting of thick slices of brie and a thin spread of pesto on a flat white roll. Bread and cheese is one of the world's most delicious combinations.
We also popped into Grom, the famous gelateria that also has an outpost in NYC. While Florence has a plethora of places to get gelato, most of them sell a processed form of the treat recognizable in the form of tall, piled heaps of the stuff. Grom keeps theirs in closed metal containers. I opted for a mix of Caffe (coffee) and Crema di Grom (an egg cream with bits of dark chocolate and crumbled cookie). Perfect for savoring on a hot and gorgeous day, coffee and chocolate are the perfect complements. I'm happy to know Capogiro is always nearby when my gelato needs kick in.
After a very American dinner at the new Hard Rock Cafe, I tried out an Italian dessert- puffs of pastry encasing a custard filling, topped with a generous coating of fudgy dark chocolate, fresh whipped cream, and a crunchy cookie. Incredibly rich chocolate was offset by the airy lightness of the pastry buried beneath.
Breakfast on my last day consisted of a pastry and cappuccino- the latter being the highlight. A thick, almost caramelized foam hugged a sweet shot of espresso. The pastry was crispy on the outside and airy within, also slightly sweet with a hint of lemon.
The food highlight of the trip (OK, Swiss breakfast gives this a run for its money..) was a pizza from Gusta Pizza, across the Arno river on the quieter side of Florence. The place offers a short and sweet list of 6 or 7 different pizzas. I went with the recommendation of the Calabrese, a simple combination of mozzarella and thick curls of spicy sausage. You better believe I ate every bite of this pizza- the crust was thin while still maintaining a good chew, not too crispy which is just how I like it. The spice of the sausage was mild until you got a good bite of it- the little kick in the throat was addicting.
Another pizza with mozzarella, grape tomatoes, generous shaves of parmesan, and peppery arugula was also a hit. The arugula was some of the best I've had- thick and a little more "mature" than I'm used to, giving it a more developed earthy flavor to balance the spice. I made a little side salad of cast-off leaves- the pizza had a huge pile of the stuff.
Recounting the highlights of the trip in food reminds me just how lucky I am to have opportunities to travel. I can barely keep up with what Philly has to offer- the rest of the world is so overwhelming and yet so inviting.