Tag Archives: healthy

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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Eating Cheap, Eating Well: Lentil Salad and BLT Salad

Well, after a week of my Eating Cheap, Eating Well personal challenge, there is still some food left in the fridge, believe it or not. Some of it is getting a little um, mature, shall we say, but I am among those who believe that food is good enough to eat as long as it smells right and tastes right.

So I pressed on with the challenge, pushing my 42chf grocery spree from last Monday to today.

Lentil Salad a la Alice Waters

You’ll recall last week I skipped a night of cooking to eat some leftover chili con carne. That night I had been planning to make a lentil salad, since we’ve had this bag of lentils in the cupboard forEVER. In case of war or crisis or, say, temporary poverty. So I picked up on that idea and decided to try this Alice Waters recipe, originally from her recipe book The Art of Simple Food, but which I found on this website right here.  (And if you like this blog but don’t yet know who Alice Waters is, you MUST check her out, as she is none other than the inventor and overlord of refined foods made of products grown locally and sustainably).

Now, lentils may not get the love they deserve, but they seriously deserve kudos: 1) they are easy to cook 2) they are packed with proteins, carbs and all the nutrients you need (and regulate your blood sugar, and give you energy, and and and, read more here) 3) they are actually a locally grown product!

Bio lentils from the Coop. Fascinating.

Bio lentils from the Coop. Fascinating.

The recipe is exceedingly simple, which is fantastic for a Monday when you get home and just want to stop at a restaurant for pizza. I put a 1/2 cup of lentils in a pot of water to boil and then simmer until they were cooked through. During that time I chopped up some shallots and parsley and feta, and when the lentils were done, tossed it all together with just a little red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. See? SO SIMPLE! And really, just the red wine vinegar and the lentils go together like peas and carrots (although, having said that, I hate carrots…)  Anyway, you’d be surprised at the flavor I got from just these simple ingredients. Alice Waters, your mission has been accomplished!

Funky shallot - though for this recipe, I'd stick to scallions next time.

Funky shallot – though for this recipe, I’d stick to scallions next time.

The ingredients assembled...

The ingredients assembled…

And together formed a lean, green, lentil salad machine!

And together formed a lean, green, lentil salad machine!

BLT Salad

Day 9 of the 42chf grocery batch. I admit, when I left work I heaved at the notion of having to pick through the remnants in my fridge to compile some kind of dinner. I cracked the fridge open and discovered a small block of pancetta left from a trip to Milano a few weeks back. Dry, but so damn salty there’s no way it could be off! Plus I was craving meat, so that was definitely going into dinner. Other than that, a slightly sad looking lettuce head. Ok, let’s put it out of its misery. Hiding beneath the lettuce were also some perky little tomatoes… and what’s this? Half an avocado with the pit still in it! Score! We have ourselves the makings of a BLT with avocado (a BLAT? ahem). And without the bread. And I was too lazy to make rice to go with it. Still, put together, and combined with a leftover piece of brioche bread held over from Sunday brunch, I was full and happy.

BLT. How creative..... but it's got bacon it. Win!

BLT. How creative….. but it’s got bacon it. Win!

These 9 days have had a huge impact, mostly on just how EXPENSIVE everything in this town can be – and especially dinners out. I’ve also noticed with surprise that I have not thrown out any food since I went shopping last week, which is a reward I had underestimated.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, day 10, when I’ll be having DINNER OUT! I’m about ready for some fries…

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Eating cheap, eating well

One thing we all know about Geneva: it is expensive. Wanna have a simple lunch out? You’re looking at at least 30chf down if you give in and order a non-alcoholic drink and an espresso to flank your meal. Dinner with a friend to catch up over a bottle of wine? Better bring that 100chf bill. Feeling like getting a cocktail or two on the backend? I think you see where this is going.

total freak out session

total freak out session

Other things we know about Geneva is that it is full of people who make a good living, so, generally, aforementioned prices are not shocking to many of us. However, try living in Genf on a budget will make even a recently laid-off banker ready to raise their fists up against the greedy capitalist snobs who run this town.

For one reason or another, my well was dry last week. Bone dry. Temporarily bone dry, thank heavens – steady pay checks are just around the corner. But rather than dip into the red this month, an experiment came to mind: eating well, at home, on a tight budget.

Talk about a sobering experience. You know, this Genfer lived in NYC for years, living a little above the NYC poverty line in that category known as “low income” (as university students often do). It wasn’t long before I discovered the meaning of food justice and access in an urban environment where so many poor can’t get their basic nutrients because veggies and fruits of any caliber are more expensive than 12 fried chicken wings from the Chinese take-out place on the corner.  It was easy for those making a decent enough living to judge the thousands of families that caved into to poor eating habits under such duress. And I must admit that the last few years, making a good pay check, I had happily put behind me what choices one had to make when you’re caught between the rent, the bills, and putting food on the table.

Back in Geneva, it is easy to forget how lucky we are that even the cheapest produce is of reasonably good quality. Still, can you feed yourself on 50chf worth of groceries in a week?

Last week, we tried, and with relative ease I might add! We didn’t have to give up vegetables, and eating at McDonald’s or equivalent was not necessary. Still, concessions needed to be made on the origin, sustainability and organic-ness of the produce. We tried to include fish in our diet: possibly the most expensive protein per gram, so we were immediately limited in our choices. The cheapest fish was cod, not caught in the wild, but farmed, which, they say, is at much higher risk of contamination. We wanted seasonal produce like strawberries, but it was cheaper to stick to apples and bananas, even though we are about as far away from apple season as we can get – not to mention bananas (!?).

I was told it was a good idea to include pictures in my posts to appease the social tendency of short attention spans – are you still reading?

Thankfully, we had some pretty sturdy products hanging out in the kitchen. A couple of forgotten sweet potatoes made their way into a salad with toasted sunflower seeds, feta and a lovely sweet balsamic dressing, accompanying a couple of chorizos we had in the freezer. A few newly bought tomatoes embraced a fresh avocado on the side of (another) couple of frozen chorizos and some rice. And perhaps the best bang for our buck was some ground beef and kidney beans that gave us a few days worth of chili con carne that warms the soul no matter what the price. A bag of rampon was stretched out over two meals to make sure we got some greens in.

So what was the tab for 6 days of grub? 65chf and some basics we already had camping out in the kitchen. On Sunday, proud of our accomplishments, bedazzled by the glorious summer day, we caved in to an intense filets de perche craving (as all good Genevan’s do)…. and watched 125chf go down the drain on mediocre food we could have made at home.  (more on that experience manana!)

The verdict? None yet really, more research must be done to see if conscientious shoppers must forego health and sustainability to feed themselves. What is certain is that we have plenty more choice than urban America when it comes to affordable veggies. Inspired to repeat last week’s experience, I set myself a new goal: I’ve got 41chf worth of groceries, consisting mostly of greens and milk products, and some basics in the pantry. Let’s see if that will get this temporarily lone-diner adequately fed this week..!

Parsley 1chf; 05L of whole milk 1,15chf; fresh lettuce head 1.70chf; 250g of butter  2,95chf (on sale); mini green beans 3,95chf; avocado 1.60chf; 5 tomatoes 2.80chf; 250ml heavy cream 1.70chf.  Not featured: 1 duck breast at 8.95 that has already been devoured by yours truly and a box of 8 children's apples for 2.55chf.  For those who can't count, that's a grand total of 41.90chf.

Parsley 1chf; 05L of whole milk 1,15chf; fresh lettuce head 1.70chf; 250g of butter 2,95chf (on sale); mini green beans 3,95chf; avocado 1.60chf; 5 tomatoes 2.80chf; 250ml heavy cream 1.70chf. Not featured: 1 duck breast at 8.95 that has already been devoured by yours truly, a box of 8 children’s apples for 2.55chf; two heads of broccoli at 1.90chf a piece; pine nuts at 5.50chf; 2 garlic heads and 5 shallots adding up to 3.20chf. For those who can’t count, that’s a grand total of 41.90chf.

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