Category Archives: Brunch

Play that Funky Brunch

Just when you thought brunch was a bust. The moment that simmering fear started crystalizing in your head that brunch is in fact a cruel ploy to get you to pay extortionist prices for an omelet in high heels and a tiara. In that very instant of reckoning that we are living in a post-brunch world, brunch – or something like it – came to Geneva.

Of course, you’ll tell me, Geneva has had its brunch spots, from the haughty to the healthy. In days of yore, you heard me squealing about the elusive and exclusive poached egg (which, last I checked, can still only be found at Au P’tit Bonheur), the unacceptability of buffets, and the obstinacy of Swiss brunch menus having to include copious amounts of bircher muesli and quiche, when what you really want are pancakes, bacon, eggs benedict and a bloody bloody mary.

So if you’ve followed my brunch posts, you’ll know my three rules of brunch: no buffets. poached eggs a must. and there must be booze. (That is what the b in brunch stands for, right?) Well, this week’s contestant is 1 for 3: food is served buffet-style, they do not have poached eggs, and they do serve booze. Arguably, the first two theoretical blunders cancel each other out, because who in their right mind wants a poached egg that’s been sitting on the buffet?

Funky Brunch

Funky Brunch, Geneva’s latest (successful) pop-up, appeared as a blip on the radar back in December 2013 at Fenomeno. A glance at the pictures that went up on fb at the time had me intrigued; but no, back then I had been burned by too many boozeless bircher brunches to risk another flop.

Now, at 1 and a half years old (what’s that, about 5 in restaurant years?) the Funky Brunch has gone from a blip to a bang, taking over a kitchen near you almost every Sunday. When I first arrived at Windows, the restaurant overlooking the lake at Hotel d’Angleterre, I was reticent. Of the two sittings available, I had reserved the early one at 10:45, and there were kids everywhere. I ain’t juding – just sayin. And there in the back was the usual classless buffet. In my skepticism, I grabbed a plate, put my head down and hit the buffet like a perfect little lemur: two scoops scrambled eggs, two slices bacon that’s been sitting around… excuse me while I face-plant in my plate.

eggs n bacon (and beef carpaccio)

eggs n bacon (and beef carpaccio)

But then. Oh, but then. When we regrouped at our table, my friends came back with entirely different food on their plates. Where had those colorful diverse salads come from? Green beans with orange peel? Fava beans and radishes? Bulgur with tomato and cilantro? Asparagus, haloumi and sun dried tomatoes?

red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue, I can sing a rainbow too

red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue, I can sing a rainbow too

While my eyes took in the confetti-looking food, a faint smell of fish and french fries tickled my nostrils, and out of the kitchen came marching a waiter with the first serving of fish & chips. A furtive glance to the left revealed a station with a roasted leg of lamb and gratin dauphinois with a light creamy mint sauce. Then someone else came back to the table like he’d seen the promised land: indeed, he’d just returned from the buffet of milk and honey – and cereals and pancakes, and – wait, are those cupcakes??

crispy and fatty and n'er too salty

crispy and fatty and n’er too salty

lamb, jus, mint sauce and some sneaky asparagus salad

lamb, jus, mint sauce and some sneaky asparagus salad

The offerings officially had me sold. Granted, not everything was perfect: the salads could have used some salt, and the lamb, while very tender, wasn’t so inspiring in flavor without its creamy mint sauce. But the OJ was fresh, the fish was crisp and the chips were thick, the salads were delightfully seasonal and refreshing, and the cheesecake was lip-smackingly sour.

DESSERTS: dark chocolate mousse to die for, sour cheesecake, rice pudding (?) and slightly oversweetened apple tarte

DESSERTS: dark chocolate mousse to die for, sour cheesecake, rice pudding (?) and slightly oversweetened apple tarte

So we plowed through, course after course, sipping our coffees, cucumber-celery juice, and Aperol Spritz as a DJ spun R&B classics that even the rug rats were dancing to. A clown appeared half way through my third helping of wakame-wrapped salmon to entertain the kids, and by the looks of it, they’d had some fairy visits too. Having come to the early sitting, we probably saw more kids of the short, pudgy, single-digit kind, who, I am guessing would be replaced by the tall double-digit stinky kind come second sitting.

And indeed, Funky Brunch has figured out how to reconcile the needs of all Geneva brunchers: from the parents wanting a break from the kitchen, to the Saturday night pack rats in for their carbicide Sunday boozer. A true place where little Joey can get his face painted while mama clutches her well-deserved Bellini (and yes I will have that refill, thanks).

Bon app!

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August 1st: Brunch at a farm

Can you smell the bonfires yet?? August 1st is just around the corner, which means Switzerland will be celebrating (for a change)!

Aside from the outdoor parties, fire works, and Alpenhorn competitions, the day comes with its very own foodie tradition: brunch at the farm.

And this is a tradition that is very dear to my heart. I mean what better way to say  I ❤ Switzerland than by breaking bread with our farmers? In the countryside, amidst the flowing wheat fields, the smell of bacon and eggs on the grill infusing the air… what’s not to like?

Farmers sign up all around Switzerland to welcome neighbors and urbanites alike. In Geneva, you’ll recognize the increasingly popular Ferme de Merlinge that serves a lovely yard-side brunch followed by a mini train-ride through their vineyards. LIterally hundreds of others participate too, and you can find a farmer near you right here.

Better move fast though! Lots of places are already sold-out, but there are still a few spots left to grab in nearby Vaud, so on your marks – get set – reserve!

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Au P’tit Bonheur: Classic American Brunch, Classic Geneva Setting

SO SAD TO SEE YOU GO! THIS RESTO HAS BEEN PERMANENTLY CLOSED. 

On the ongoing quest for the perfect brunch, I finally made it to the place that supposedly has the one thing every other Geneva restaurant is lacking: eggs benedict. And I confirm, Au P’tit Bonheur has got the goods!

In fact, I really shouldn’t be telling you about this place at all. The food is good, the prices are good, and although it’s a bit out of the way in Chambésy, making the trip out there will not only provide you with a classic american brunch (with the right amount of Geneva touches, of course) it will also bring you into what I have always known as a classic Geneva, community restaurant setting. Head out there in the spring time, sit out on the terrace, check out the sparkling view of the lake, and remind yourself how good it is to be living in Genf.

The Menu: What can I say, as you will see, they have it all – including bloody maries and screw drivers for those of us who like their breakfast drinks with a spike! From eggs benedict, to omelettes, to steak and eggs, to french toast, I really think they cater to every taste. They even have bircher muesli etc for those who INSIST on spoiling the brunch fun. As a side note, their lunch menu looks pretty appealing as well. We saw a dorade grillé walk by that had my head craning so far over to the next table I nearly fell into it. Definitely something to go back for.

Amusebouche: Fresh OJ and the Pain au Chocolat!

Before we get to the plat de résistance, I had to endulge in the pain au chocolat, and I have to say I’m glad I did. Although the chocolate was a bit sweet to my taste, its chocolate bars were “al dente” – that is, with just a little bite under the tooth – which is exactly what I look for in a pain au choc. Brilliant. The orange juice came fresh pressed and was full of flavor.

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First Course: French Toast – golden, delicious

Having grown up in Geneva, my idea of french toast is a bit different (read: authentic) then the American version of French toast. So in this case, I was very happy to see that they made French toast the French way: small, somewhat stale bread, cut about two centimeters thick, and with just enough egg/milk batter so the bread takes on just the right soft texture. My one minor complaint is that I usually take mine a little more golden than the ones they served (see picture below). Other than that, yum. (And yes, of course it comes with maple syrup.)

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Main Course 1: EGGS BENEDICT!

Huzzah! I finally found the real thing! And served on a toasted english muffin too! Amazing! So these were in fact eggs florentine. Lets take it apart layer by layer. 1) The muffin was far from the best I’ve had. It was a bit dense and a bit tasteless. Still, it was an english muffin. Kudos for that. 2) The egg was perfectly poached, with the yolk both runny and at times just soft = unctious. 3) The spinach. You may think this strange, but it was the best thing on the plate. It tastes like they sauté it with a clove of garlic, but they also chop in the tiniest of pieces of shallot, which bring out the flavor of the spinach in gorgeous ways. Popeye would be so utterly pleased. 4) The hollandaise sauce was quite dense, but married beautifully with the spinach flavors. 5) On the side there you have some very good cubed, oven baked potatoes that totally remind me of my school lunches in the Swiss public system. 6) Sorry to end on a bad note, but those julienne vegetables on the side there were just a waste of space. I kind of got the impression they were out of the can. Waiter, can we get extra spinach instead of this riff-raff please??

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Main Course 2: The Omelette

Of course I never eat out alone, so I always get to try someone else’s food. More good reasons to eat with good company. Here we have the cheese omelette. It was very well executed (though perhaps a little overcooked?). However the cheese they used was completely unimaginative and nearly unnoticeable. With all the incredible cheese in this country and in neighboring Savoy, it begs the question… but WHY?

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Setting, price quality, etc: It was gorgeous out the day we made our way there, so naturally we sat outside. This is where the classic Geneva element comes in. Like any village restaurant in the canton of Geneva that has an outdoor area, you sit around well dressed metal tables strewn about somewhat casually in a bed of gravel. A typical Geneva nobby tree (you know the ones…) sits in the middle of the area, with big silvery rocks surrounding it. Sun shining, glistening lake, birds chirping. I heart Geneva in the Springtime. Oh, and the prices are a STEAL for what you get! 6.50chf for the french toast, 20chf for the cheese omelette, 26chf for the eggs florentine.

In sum: just yum yum yum.

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Brunch (and a Burger) at Les 5 Portes

The popularity of Les 5 Portes as an after work spot for a glass of wine and a round of light tapas would suggest that the place has it all. Much as I count myself among the throngs of Thursday-nighters heading down to the Paquis to fight for a table at this place, I also have a few reservations about it – namely the usually blasé, too-cool-for-school waitstaff – but then again, it just wouldn’t be Geneva if the waiters didn’t come with attitude! And when it comes to dinner and drinks, it never really disappoints. Still, in the years I’ve been in Geneva, I had yet to try their brunch. As a Paquis local, a food fanatic and most of all a devout bruncher, this needed to be rectified, stat.

The menu: While the brunch menu may not satisfy everyone’s brunch craving, it’s 5-10 menu options just about do it for me. Most importantly, this is not your traditional Swiss/Geneva brunch (read: no bircher muesli here!) Instead, dishes include a variety of eggs, potatoes, pancakes, salmon, salad and even hamburgers (for those Sunday brunches that lie a little more deeply in the shadows of a Saturday night out.)  Sadly, still no poached eggs to speak of. One day Geneva, you and I will make it happen..!

The meal: At this particular sitting, I got to sink my teeth into the bacon burger dish (make sure there’s cheese on that, d’accord??), and a dish (hunnel…something or other) that included  scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and herring served with a touch of sour cream, a knife point of caviar, and two blinis. With this came boiled potatoes, and of course, salad. Pretty simple, but just right for a brunch on the lighter side. The salmon was of decent quality, though really nothing special. The scrambled eggs were very airy and on the undercooked side (like it or not?) The two blinis, though a nice touch, were a bit of a joke to eat with so much salmon and sour cream, but the touch was still appreciated.The potatoes were cool – hard to tell if it was intentional or not – but in either case were very nicely flavored with a little butter, a little salt, and a little seasoning to bring them to life. The nicest surprise on the plate was most likely the herring, which is a rarity on brunch plates and was really quite good.  Although the salad dressing was a bit weak, overall it was a nice plate to work through.

Ok ok ok! I get it, we want to know about the BURGER! Well here’s the burger deal. All the different components of it were really good, but like many places in Switzerland, they just don’t understand the philosophy of the burger. (YES, there is such a thing as burger philosophy!) For starters, the bread. Fresh and tender, perhaps, but have you ever tried eating a burger on a long rectangular bun? When we tried placing the top bun on the burger, it looked something like two planks of wood with a ball in the middle. Awwwwwkward! To make matters worse, the bacon,which was totally overcooked – and cold -, sat on top of the burger like a crab carcass – more awkwardness. And the lettuce and tomato seemed to just be placeholders for propper lettuc and propper tomato. So, lose points for being able to squash it down and eat it like a real burger. With all that negative bit said though, I have to hand it to them, the rest was burger worthy. The patty itself was well cooked (still pink in the middle), plump and juicy, and ground from a good cut of meat with very little trace of fat. The barbecue sauce was tangy but subtle enough not to overpower the other ingredients. It blended particularly well with the caramelized onions. And it came with a side of roasted potatoes, which, although tasty, seemed like they had been sitting around the kitchen for a good few hours already.

The green factor: The 5 portes does not seem to advertise its “green” policy, so some investigation has been necessary. As I’m still in the midst of my investigations, stay tuned!

The setting: I think the setting is half the charm of this place. The walls are warm red with big beautiful brass mirrors hanging around, couches in the background, some family style long wooden tables… Overall it feels like a french bistro meets Seattle coffee shop meets wine bar. And what’s not to love in that?

Price/Quality/Service: Though the dinners can be on the pricey side, the brunch I found to be decently priced, averaging around 20-30chf. Probably no need to comment on the service again, though I have to admit, the waiter we had on this particular Sunday was very sweet! Not sure why, but it seems like the men are nicer than the women at this place.. The other standout factor is the plating, which is always attractive – though sometimes practicality falls victim to creativity.

In sum: If you’re a bit sick of Geneva’s standard cereal and tartines for brunch, don’t hesitate to check this place out. I’d take it over Halles de l’Ile any day for its comfort and price/quality, though les Halles has a broader spread. It also has the bonus of serving a delicious chocolat chaud a l’armagnac (or grand marnier if you prefer)….. you know, since a brunch just ain’t a brunch without the hair of the dog on the menu…!

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Bagel! at Café de la Paix

Bagel Brunch at Café de la Paix

After a number of recommendations and a looooooong night, I’ve finally made it to the Café de la Paix to try their brunch.

Granted, crawling out of bed seemed like an arduous task when I got the call for brunch. But knowing that this was THE opportunity to try this place out, I slinked into my clothes and scurried over to Plainpalais.

Why the effort? Simple. A New Yorker and a fellow foodie both flagged this place for having something Geneva has never experienced before: a good, genuine, New York bagel!

Let’s take a brief history lesson. In my lifetime, every bagel initiative has failed in Geneva. It was always clear they were pre-made, frozen and served dry and bland. And this was my opinion BEFORE living in New York for 8 years. So needless to say, when I heard the rumors about good bagels in Geneva, I flew.

The setting: The Café de la Paix is one of the oldest bars/restaurants of the Jonction neighborhood, and indeed it has all the charm of that slightly classical, slightly off beat wannabe retro feel you get at a lot of these Plainpalais/Jonction hot spots. 

The bagel etc: There was what seemed like an extremely long wait between the time we ordered and the time we got served, but all was forgotten when I bit into that bagel. Fresh out of the oven, plump but not too dense, with a crisp crust and subtle seedy flavor, this bagel was nothing short of a slice of heaven on a freezing Sunday afternoon. The coffee was very flavorful. I wished they had more coffee options to choose from, but since the one they served was so tasty, I can’t really complain. However, the hot chocolate was disappointing. The milk tasted like it was steamed at the coffee machine, and the chocolate tasted like it came out of a Caotina pack. Fine, not the end of the world, but nothing to write home about. As a chocofreak, I would stick to coffee or tea next time.

coffee in a ceramic shot glass

The menu: If some restaurants go over board on menu selections, the Café de la Paix does quite the opposite. A rarity in Geneva, I might add, to specialize in something so… specific. The menu consists almost solely of bagel plates. Bagel with salmon, bagel with roast beef, bagel with San Daniele, bagel with tuna… you get the drift, yah?  And since the bagel is THAT good, they can afford to narrow their selection to that degree. Kudos, really. They offer a breakfast platter for 11chf that includes one toast bagel, butter, homemade jam, one bircher muesli (because it just wouldn’t be Switzerland otherwise), a glass of fresh pressed orange juice, and a cup of something hot. The brunch platter for 25chf consists of 3 toasted bagel slices, plus all of the above, plus a plate of either salmon, roast beef or San Daniele, plus a bit of lettuce, tomato and onion, a dollop of cream cheese, and a cup of fruit salad. There are also other menu items that seem totally delicious that should probably be tested as soon as possible.

The Bagel Brunch Spread

The green factor: Straight up? I don’t know what the green factor is at this place. The jams and the bagels are homemade, but I did not ask about where their produce and other products came from. Guess I’ll just have to go back and ask ’em. 🙂

Price/Quality: The 11chf breakfast and the 25chf brunch are a pretty good value for your money. I would like to point out though that the amount of cream cheese they give you would never a full bagel cover – let alone 3 slices. These are what I would call “healthy” portions, but in the literal, not figurative, sense. This is not all together a bad thing, and in the end, it shows that a New York bagel can perhaps only be successful in Geneva when served in Swiss doses. Oh, and last but not least, don’t go if you’re a rush- the service is sssssssslllllllooooooowwwwwwww!


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The Bare Necessities of Brunch: Brasserie des Halles de l’Ile

There are few things that I take more pleasure in than Sunday brunch. To those who enjoy a good Saturday night on the town, brunch is more than just a good meal, it’s a survival mechanism. Right when you think nothing else in the world is going to peel you out of bed, just imagine your eggs, ham, french toast and coffee and you’re out the door.

All this makes me want to say that there’s no such thing as a bad brunch, but nothing could be further from the truth! And Geneva’s restaurants have a way of testing this theory in the most frustrating ways.

So this will be the first of a number of posts assessing brunch places in Geneva. First up: the brunch at la Brasserie des Halles de l’Ile.

Today was just the second time I’ve been there. Because in all the brunches I’ve ever had in this country, nothing really beats the home made brunch where you can really taylor it to your specific tastes. But from time to time, I believe that there must be a decent brunch spot in this town.

Les Halles offers a prix fixe all you can eat buffet brunch. For 39chf, you can get your fill of scrambled or hard boiled eggs, meat, fish, salmon, salad, quiche, mini pastries, waffles and desserts. Plus coffee and some other bells and whistles. While I can’t complain about the taste of the food, I’m just not that sold on the place. And here are a few reasons why.

  1. The place is noisy and freezing. If you’re rolling in here at 1pm on a Sunday, you’re probably hungover, and the last thing you want to have to do is curl up into a ball, clutching your coffee.
  2. The service sucks, though to be fair, perhaps not any more than at any other restaurant in Geneva.
  3. The buffet is abundant, but because it’s a buffet, the food is always lukewarm at best.
  4. No eggs a la carte. Why is it so hard to find a brunch place that serves omelets or eggs benedict in this town?
  5. No fresh pressed juice. Fail.
  6. Their waffle mix is too oily somehow.
  7. While you can drink yourself into a caffeine coma on free coffee, you have to pay extra for any other beverages, including cappuccinos. Add 4.50chf to the 39chf flat fee and you have yourself an expensive brunch. Which leads me to the last point…
  8. It’s just overpriced. You can get better for less at other restaurants. I’m sure of it.
So why is it still so hard to get a table on a Sunday? I actually don’t have a great answer to that question. But I’d be hard pressed to deny that it’s a good location, its big, they have a nice spread, and the food is good. I’d particularly recommend the quiche. After that, well I guess each to their own!
I’ll be testing other places in the weeks and months to come, so comments welcome if there’s a place I shouldn’t miss!
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Countryside Brunch

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Saturday Brunch Bliss

If you’ve been in Geneva long enough, you know there is a bit of a divide between “Rive Droite” and “Rive Gauche” – and I don’t just mean the lake and the Rhone. Although I now live in (and love) the Paquis as one of the only places that comes close to “urban” in Geneva, I was raised in what seems like a land far far away, across the lake, up the lake, and around the bend.

 

It’s one of the beautiful aspects of Geneva. You can live downtown and enjoy a multicultural environment, with restaurants offering cuisine from around the world, getting around by bike and barhopping with ease. Granted, the city definitely sleeps at some point, and it would be silly to pretend Geneva is anything like New York or London, Madrid, Paris or even Prague. What it DOES have over all of those places though is a breathtaking countryside just minutes away from the increasingly busy downtown area.

A few weeks ago now, in a fit of nostalgia, I scooped my local family and some out of town family that was visiting, and we drove out to Gy, a community that has existed roughly since the 1200s (yeah), and officially established itself as its own ‘commune’, apart from neighboring Jussy, in the 1800s. (Don’t you love Swiss decentralization??) The village is situated on a plateau and has really spectacular views of the Saleve and the Alps, and is surrounded by fields of sunflowers and vineyards. For this reason alone, heading out to this part of the canton is highly recommended.

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But getting back to the good part. Aside from its gorgeous environment, Gy is also home to the Ferme de Merlinge, where on Saturdays, from 9:30 to 1:30, you can enjoy a classic, farm fresh brunch with a huge spread of some of the territory’s best products. For a flat, affordable fee, you have access to an all you can eat buffet of fresh out of the oven breads, homemade jams, and perfectly made crepes. For the more savory-inclined, the omelet is out of this world, and they offer enough varieties of cheeses to please everyone-soft and pungent to hard and salty, and from goat to cow’s milk. And don’t walk off without trying the fresh pressed apple cider.

And as if it wasn’t enough to be served with an unlimited supply of grandma’s best, the farm also includes a market where you can buy all of these tasty delights to take them home with you, not to mention walnut oils, raspberry vinegars, and free range chickens.

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The farmer's market

In addition to the brunch, the farm hosts a number of activities, like a trip through the grape vineyards on a choo-choo train (yeah, it’s mostly for kids, but they’ll let you on even if you don’t really fit in the seats), and wine tastings (while the kids take a spin on the train?). On occasion they also invite you out for the cueillete or fruit picking, though it’s best to call ahead to find out what’s available.

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The downsides? I would have to point to two critical omissions from their buffet: 1) no chocolate (NONE!) and 2) no espresso. I know. I know. It hurts. But trust me, even this complete chocoholic would go back any Saturday of the week.

So some logistics to help you get out there: 1) if you don’t have a car, you can take the A bus from Rive to the “Merlinge” stop. Check the schedules ahead of time at http://www.tpg.ch, since it doesn’t run every 5 minutes like every other bus does. 2) brunch available every saturday until December 24th. 3) GO HUNGRY!

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