Grüezi kids! I hope that all is well with everyone. I´m back in Schaffhausen and have access to a computer again. I had a great time in Bosco Luganese (a small suburb in the hills overlooking Lugano in Kanton Ticino...the Italian speaking section).
We left Schaffhausen on Tuesday morning by mini-van. We stopped in Thürn for a wonderful lunch. Everyone had the more expensive deer tenderloin special, but I opted for the cheaper but more interesting deer special (sorry Bambi). It consisted of slow cooked pieces of lamb (leg,shank, rib, etc.) in a very rich brown sauce with walnuts, white grapes, and pearl onions. It was served with spätzle, red cabbage, brussel sprouts, and a baked half-pear with red currants. It was really fantastic and enjoyed outdoors under the mountain sun with a bottle of merlot from Ticino. It was sort of a quaint place with a view of mountains, cows, and the occasional train. Some of the customers were nut-job bicyclists. It´s nuts to ride a bike in the mountains...it´s hard and involves physical exertion. We made our way south after espresso and dessert and decided not to go through the 17km St. Gotthard tunnel. We decided instead to go for the more scenic route...driving over the St. Gotthard pass. It´s pretty crazy, but beautiful. I recommend that you have a good transmission and brakes if you ever decide to make the trip yourself. The sun was out and everything was honky dory, but the clouds/fog took over near the snowy top. We were driving through pure, dense fog for several kilometers at a comfortably slow pace. Eventually we came out of the clouds on the way downhill (the Ticino side), but the weather was grey and overcast. We did stop at a St. Gotthard cheese producer and picked up some cheese as well as a glance at their operation. Pretty cool.
In time we eventually made our way to Lugano and ultimately Bosco Luganese. The road up to Bosco Luganese is narrow, winding, steep, and treacherous. I'm used to a very flat Michigan. I can handle Detroit traffic and driving, but I don´t think I'd be comfortable driving up giant hills like this. Maybe if the traffic was one way. Some idiots even bike it...healthy idiots! The crazy thing is that there is a Post Bus that drives up and down most of the day. I could see myself getting run off the road by a bus if I don´t get crushed by it. We finally arrive at ca´ Serafino. This house was built/designed by my very talented architect uncle. It´s essentially an old stone farmhouse, but has been completely redone on the inside with hand-molded cavern-style walls. The house is really a masterpiece. He also built a house next door out of an old shed for his daughter, her husband, and their three kids. Also very, very beautiful. The property has a pond, grape vines, fig trees, some other kind of fruit tree (the fruit looks like a cross between an apple, a peach, and a tomato), chestnut trees (chestnut trees are everywhere in Switzerland and this is the season...Marroni Vermicelli mit Rahm is everywhere...that´s a chestnut puree with sugar in the form of a vermicelli pasta shape served with whipped cream). It´s really an idyllic setting. We enjoyed a simple, but fantastic risotto made with saffron and wild mushrooms that had just been found in the woods nearby). Very nice.
I don´t remember what we had for lunch on Wednesday at the moment, but I know it included a salad. Every meal includes a salad. I know that it was good...whatever it was. Wednesday night my cousin and her family joined us for dinner and her husband grilled veal two ways in the fireplace...fantastic! Wait! I remember! How could I forget grilled Bratwurst followed by roasted chestnuts???
(I´m not going to go into to many family details, but just give you the skinny on the basics...like food.)
I believe it was Wednesday night that we watched the Swiss national soccer team tie Ireland. Ireland is eliminated from the European championships...Switzerland has to defeat Turkey next to remain qualified to continue.
Thursday I made a simple bacon and onion omelette for lunch and I made spaghetti bolognese for dinner (not enough sauce...my uncle picked up some stuff from a shopping list, but the cans of tomatoes here are a lot smaller than those in the US).
Friday my cousin drove me down the crazy hill to Lugano itself. We stopped by her husband´s family sporting goods store (Balmelli Sport is the best place to buy whatever you´re looking for if you´re in the vicinity of southern Switzerland or Milan). We joined him for an espresso next door and then we made our way to the city center and the piazza. We walked the old streets and looked at the plethora of very expensive stores. I bought some wine at a local store (gifts for some people here). The entire store is about the size of the area where we keep our shopping carts. There is a wonderful outdoor market on Fridays and it was very nice to look at, but very expensive. A single pomegranate was 6 Francs a piece! I took some pictures and drooled over the white and black truffles from Alba. The lake was pretty hazy, but the sun was out. Not good for pictures...
We stopped at the butcher and picked up the lamb for dinner. For lunch we had a boiled white sausage similar to Bratwurst and a salad. I was also in charge of dinner on Friday. I made braised lamb out of stew meat (they didn´t have the shank meat that I wanted). I did a simple braise...I gently coated the lamb in seasoned flour and browned it in oil in a Dutch oven (in increments), removed the lamb from the pot, sauteed the mirepoix (carrots, onion, celery), added dried oregano, garlic, and a bay leaf, then deglazed the pot with a little red wine. After deglazing I added the meat back to the pot, poured in some red wine and stock, and brought it to a boil. Once it hit a boil I turned the heat way down, covered it, and let it gently simmer for about 4 hours. Chronologically before this I made the dessert. I made a fruit trifle out of lady fingers dipped in orange juice, topped with whipped cream, then a blend of currants, blueberries, raspberries, lemon juice, and sugar. Repeat. Then topped with more whipped cream and garnished with fruit and shaved dark chocolate. Delish! (Imagine a fruit tiramisu). Very easy to make too! Everyone got together for dinner on Friday and we enjoyed an endive and tomato salad, mashed potatoes, and green beans with the lamb. Everyone thought I did a great job, so that was pretty cool.
I managed to finish Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell as well as David Sedaris´ new book Dress Your Family in Denim and Corduroy. Both were fantastic reads. I read both of them in a day and then had nothing left to read...
On Saturday morning my mother and I said our goodbyes and my cousin and two of her kids took us to the trainstation. We barely made train. We had to settle for some seats near a guy that smelled of dried pee. We enjoyed some Schinkenbrot (ham sandwiches) on the train (I had a major craving for some Schinkenbrot and it really hit the spot as I hadn´t had any yet on the trip). We arrived in Zurich and put our luggage in a locker. We walked around the Bahnhofstrasse and central district near the train station. We stopped at Globus for a look. Globus is a really cool department store (think Marshall Field´s-ish, but way cooler...and more expensive). There´s a beautiful grocery store on the basement floor with caviar and any other snooty thing you could imagine. We left Globus to walk around a bit more an grab something to eat. We decided to eat at the Feldschlossen Bier restaurant. I ordered the Walliserösti. It was hashbrowns with Schweinshnitzel (pork), tomatoes, melted cheese, and covered with a fried egg. Heaven on a bun (without the bun)! I had a dunkel style beer with it. Very nice. I had a craving for a cook so I shelled out the 6 Francs or so and got a large fountain coke...it was cold AND it came with ice! Heaven again! I´m not the average ugly American, but sometimes I want my drink COLD! I´ve gotten used to a few things in America. Although it may not make any difference whether a drink is served cold or at room temperature it at least feels more refreshing if it´s cold. I ended the lunch with a citron sorbet (lemon). We made our way back to the train station, gathered our stuff, looked at the crazy lady (apparently she´s there ever day), found our track, and waited for the track to Buläch/Neuhausen/Shaffhausen. We made it to Schaffhausen, got on the #3 bus, got out at right stop, and walked up the hill to my uncle´s. He prepared a very simple meal of boiled potatoes served with your choice of cheeses (the selection included Appenzeller, Gruyere, Limburger, Sbringd, a soft cheese with caraway, and about 3 other cheeses that I can´t recall the names of. My aunt picked me up after dinner and drove me to Alfred´s. I had 39 e-mails waiting for me (mostly junk). I checked my work e-mail and hope that someone has followed up on one very specific one. It could be bad if they don´t.
This morning I enjoyed a soft boiled egg, toast, bread, butter, preserves, Appenzeller cheese, Gruyere cheese, Jura cheese, OJ, and coffee. My aunt then drove us into Germany to visit the site of a synagogue that had been destroyed during the war. The memorial site was very serene and simple. It really makes one reflect. We also looked at the Jewish school and cemetary nearby. We left Germany, drove the Kanton Thurgau, crossed the Rhein into Kanton Schaffhausen to the very old and beautiful town of Stein am Rhein. It´s really very beautiful and ancient. We then picked up my mother and grandmother and drove to Alfred´s to have merangue with whipped cream and coffee. Very nice indeed! We played a Swiss board game and then my aunt dropped off my aunt and grandmother which leaves me to right now...I don´t know what´s for dinner, but it smells good...maybe soup.More Swiss Observations...
I´m really glad I´m not a Swiss Catholic. The churches are all in the damndest places. They´re always in the most prominent, highest, hardest to reach places. I guess the church really does want you to suffer. Swiss hills suck! I don´t think that they had parking lots in mind when they built the churches hundreds of years ago...
Although I´ve certainly witnessed a lot of superior European fashion, I´ve also seen a lot of casualties. I know that the Europeans are supposed to have the edge on us Americans, but I´ve seen a lot of fashion don´ts. It´s like there´s another Southland Mall, but in Switzerland. I always get a kick out of the shirts that have English writing on them, but the words seem to be completely random and don´t make any sense. Just imagine a shirt saying "Mushroom Tickle Good Time Surf Fun Team". I haven´t actually seen that one yet...
A snake is called a "Schlange" in German. It´s funny to be able to say Schlange in front of my mom.
Speaking of Schlanges...there are a lot of snakes (and lizards) in Ticino. There are small, poisonous vipers. Here they are pronounced "weepers". I just think that´s kind of funny.
"Rösti" is essentially the national dish. It´s hashbrowns. Although every family and restaurants makes it a little differently (by the additions...ie. bacon, onions, etc.).
If you´re ever on a Swiss train and have to sit by a guy with no front teeth, smells of dried pee, and spends 4 months a year in Thailand...he´s probably pretty interesting.
Damn it to hell, but it´s hard to get a cold drink around here...
Tschau for now,
(I leave in two days...)