Back in May, we took a trip to Switzerland, spending a week in Zurich, Bern, and Lucerne. We wandered around the cities, hiked, and of course, explored the food culture there.
Switzerland is an amazing place. Snow-capped mountains aside, the cities also have so much to offer. Every city we visited was on a body of water, and that contrast between water, mountain, and sky, is something Sean and I rarely get in the States. The streets are narrow and charming, and it’s so easy to walk or bus through the city – a refreshing change after Los Angeles.
To get out into the countryside, we took the train. We got a 10-day rail pass, and it gave us so much freedom. Using it, we could get almost anywhere without having to plan ahead. We could even take cable cars and ferries. And so we did – we cable car-ed up mountains and hiked down. We didn’t have to go to any famous tourist destinations. Beauty was everywhere. The trails were sometimes hard to find, and sometimes we skirted cow pastures to get to the next little yellow sign and skidded down wet meadows fearing for our lives. But hey, that’s what adventure is about!
Alright, on to the food. 🙂
The first couple of days where actually pretty disappointing. We were in Bern, and it seemed like we could only find the touristy restaurants. And you know what Swiss tourist food is? Cheese and potatoes. Think fondue, raclette, and rosti. In fact, we took a day trip to visit a Gruyere factory. That was pretty cool.
We thought for a moment that maybe vegetables were just hard to grow this far north. But then we discovered the Bern farmers market. And we were sad our hotel room didn’t come with a kitchen. The wealth of selection was so beautiful I just wanted to dig my hands into it. Especially the mushrooms. Oh my God, the mushrooms. A completely different set of species grow in Europe. One of these days, we’ll get around to trying them all.
And then we wandered around some more and found this:
We bought some, of course.
After that, things picked up. Or should we say, slowed down? Europeans like to take time with their food, it seems. We sat down next to this river at this gorgeous restaurant, where our waitress laughed at us when we asked for dinner. (It was 4pm. We had to explain that we were still very jetlagged.)
Switzerland is expensive, but there was no point in trying to save money by eating fast food. We checked the prices in a Burger King in Bern. 11 francs for a Big Mac. Might as well eat things we can’t get in the US. Occasionally though, we did buy bread and cheese at a grocery store to take on our hikes. That did work.
In Lucerne, our travel research said we had to try this chocolate chip bread from Bachmann. So I went up and ordered one in terrible German… and then the sales lady answered in English. Awkward.
We hiked, bought tons of chocolate, and then had this interesting Apple Watercress Soup down by the lake at Rathaus Brauerei. It was surprisingly good. And to head off your question about what’s in those toothpaste-tubes. It’s mustard. Mild, hot, and dijon.
On the way back to Zurich, we went to explore the little train station convenience stores, and discovered this little gem.
It’s litchi-flavored beer! Why doesn’t this exist in the United States?? We bought one almost every train stop we went to after that. It was very exciting.
In Zurich, we finally hit our stride. Good thing too. It was our last stop. One day, we found ourselves at this little French cafe right next to our hotel called Franzo.
Asparagus was in season, so everywhere you went, asparagus was on the menu. We got asparagus salad, and it was pretty on point – it just needed a poached egg on top. The olive tapenade gave me a new respect for olives (it took Europe to do that for me). We asked for the beef tartare medium-spicy, and then each took a bite of that red chili on top. Big mistake! But it made for good laughs later. 🙂
We also want to give a shout out to August. It was getting late one night (and chilly), and we wanted a quick dinner. Our waiter wouldn’t have any of it. It’s just not the European way. “Slow down,” he told us. “What’s the hurry?” So we listened, and ordered dessert, and wished we could stay another week.
Next time, we’re finding a kitchen.