Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's for Dinner?

With a little time on my hands and restaurants being bloody expensive in Geneva, I have been exploring the art of cooking as of late. Until now, I have always been a very basic cook....pasta and premade sauce, grilled ham and cheese, etc. Since my newly ordered Cooking Light magazine arrived in the mail a few weeks ago, I have discovered a new hobby. Now, don't go crazy and think that I am creating masterpieces. I still have not braised anything and I certaintly have not attempted to caramlize anything. My pantry, however, is slowly starting to fill with ingredients (white wine vinegar, fresh chives, fennel seeds, etc) that would have been non-exsistent in the past. Did you know that a shallot is a small member of the onion family mild in taste and used in sauces and salads where the strong onion might overpower the dish? Cooking Light's "40 minute or less" dishes have been my best friends so far as I am not quite ready to brave Mahimahi with Pineapple Chutney. I did make one mean Dijon Croque Monsieur with Haricots Verts Salad (including a homemade vinaigrette dressing) the other day! My Roast Chicken with Balsalmic Bell Peppers and Mascarpone Masted Potatoes (pictured above) wasn't too bad either. Well, at least neither Jignesh nor I got sick from it and I managed not to set the place on fire! I am even starting to create my own gucamole recipes. Of course, this new hobby is even more interesting cosidering I am working with a kitchen the size of a broom closet and I have to find all these strange ingredients in a grocery store with labels in French. I am not sure I will ever become the next Gordon Ramsey but I at least I am filling our bellies with some homedmade, flavorful, and healthy meals. Don't worry, if you come and visit, I always keep a frozen pizza tucked away just in case...

Au Revoir.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Since we stayed in Europe this year for Christmas, we decided to put our newly purchased car to the test and take a driving trip through Italy (the picture to the left is of Vatican Square taken from the top of St. Peter's cupola). So, on Christmas day we (Schlopy included!) loaded the car and headed to Venice. Relying on a borrowed GPS (thanks Hans), we quickly found ourselves passing through France with mountains in the distance. Within an hour of leaving home, we came upon the Mont Blanc Tunnel. After paying the €35 toll and receiving a pair of work gloves (yes, we are still trying to figure out what those are for), we proceeded through the 7.25 mile long tunnel and were rewarded on the other end with some amazing views of the Italian Alps. After winding through the mountains and then the countryside we arrived at our hotel in time to enjoy a delicious Christmas dinner.

Venice- What a truly unique and magical city! Built on a series of low mud banks, Venice is a maze of small alleys and canals. The old buildings ooze with character. The only mode of transportation within the city is by vaporetto (water bus) or water taxis. Or, of course, you can also hire a gondola if your pockets are deep enough (€80 for 50 minutes). We started our Venice experience by taking the water bus down the Grand Canal for an overview of all the great sights. We disembarked at the famous Piazza San Marco where we explored the basilica and some of the luxurious shops filled with Murano glass. For the remainder of our visit, we simply got lost among the alleys and canals, ate lots of pizza and pasta, watched the boats drift by, and admired the architecture of this northern Italian city.

Sorrento/Amalfi Coast- From Venice, we headed south to the resort town of Sorrento. The drive proved to be a bit difficult as we encountered some wrong turns and quite a few crazy Italian drivers. Upon arriving in Sorrento, we quickly rewarded ourselves with some local pizza and great wine. With only two full days in this area we decided to split the time between sights and relaxation. The first day we headed to the ancient ruins of Pompeii. In AD 79 nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted burying Pompeii in 20 feet of pumice and ash, ultimately killing between 2,000 and 3,000 people. Today, Pompei is filled with artifacts and buildings virtually untouched since the day Mt. Vesuvius erupted. On our second day in Sorrento, we slept in and then braved the famous Amalfi coast drive. Jignesh was convinced that there could not be anything much better than the California’s Highway One. Well, within five minutes of driving this winding, coastal road, he admitted that the drive was best he has ever seen. The views of the sea and the small towns along way were breathtaking. We drove for a few hours and then stopped in the town of Amalfi for a classic Italian lunch and some window shopping. We ended our trip to the Amalfi coast with dinner in the beautiful town of Sorrento and a walk through the main streets that were adorned with holiday lights.

Rome- We arrived in Rome on New Year’s Eve and headed to the Coliseum for a New Year’s concert and fireworks. Well, our New Year’s was cut a bit short when the skies opened up with some of the most torrential rain that I have ever experienced. We were completely soaked all the way up to our knees and my shoes took three days to dry! Despite the rain, we had a wonderful New Year’s and arrived back at the hotel in time to celebrate with a glass of wine. We spent the first day of New Year just walking Rome as all the main sights were closed for the holiday. We walked up and down the Spanish Steps and threw coins into the Trevi Fountain. And of course, we ate some pizza! On our second day in Rome, we stood in one long line to enter Vatican City. Did you know that Vatican City is the world’s smallest state with about 500 residents. It has its own post office, banks, currency, and judicial system. There, we climbed the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica for an amazing view of the entire city and toured the basilica itself. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to see the Sistine Chapel (I guess that is a good reason to return someday!) but did have time to enjoy an amazing dinner at a recommended restaurant! You cannot visit Rome and not see the all the ancient ruins. So, our final day in Rome was spent in Ancient Rome. Our first stop was the Coliseum where we took a guided tour and spent time taking a ton of photos. As it was the end of our trip and overloaded with on tourist attractractions, we decided to skip the Forum. Instead, we just strolled through streets and stopped in a cafe for a cappacino and dessert. Our final night in Rome was spent at wherelese…a pizzeria (ok, it was at mall that looked like it belonged in any American suburb but it was still pizza made with fresh ingrediants and cooked to perfection in a wood burning pizza oven)! Rome is such a vast city filled with endless numbers of sights and museums. It would take weeks to see it all! I guess that just means that we will have to return...

Au Revoir

Friday, January 8, 2010

Italy Pictures

Venice's Grand Canal

Italy= Pizza and Wine

Venice's Grand Canal at Night

Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius in the Background

Amalfi Coast

Ancient Rome

The Coliseum

Friday, January 1, 2010

We have Wheels!

In a rather sudden fashion and only days before leaving for our road trip through Italy, we decided to buy a car! Jignesh came home late one night and announced that we (with the help of his friend at work, Hans) were going to look at a few cars the next day. Before I knew it, we were putting a deposit on a small 2001 Daewoo (yes, a Daewoo...the same car company that went belly up in the US in less than 10 years!!!) and only days later, securing Swiss registration (quite a process in and of itself), insurance, and purchasing snow chains (required in most parts of the Alps in the winter). With only 2 doors, 94,000 km, and a couple minor scratches, it does not come close to competing with all the shiny Porsches and BMWs all too common in Geneva. It will, however, be more than sufficient (we hope) for the next year or two. While we still plan on using public transportation on a daily basis as parking in Geneva is difficult not to mention extremely expensive (please refer to previous blogs), the newest addition to our family will be used for future getaways (did I mention that Paris and Milan are each only about 3.5 hours away?), weekend ski trips to the mountains, and just plain exploring Switzerland. While I was (and maybe still am) unsure about the need for a car, I have to admit that it does feel liberating to have a car at my disposal when needed. We can now buy bigger household items (note to self: Google nearest location for Costco) without worrying about how to get them home and make larger grocery trips. And we can easily bring Schlopy along too (stay tuned for Schlopy’s first European road trip adventure)!

For those of you who know me well, I like to name our cars (past cars include Razzy, Sputnik, and Little Lightning). Usually, these names come to me quickly and easily. However, I am having a bit more trouble with this one and could use some assistance. Any suggestions would be welcome and seriously considered! If it helps, a picture will of course be posted soon as well. The winner will be awarded an honorable mention on the blog and will earn a free all expense paid trip to Geneva, Switzerland. *

On a different note, we are currently in Italy (putting the car to the test) for the holidays. So, stay tuned for all the details and pictures from our trip to Venice, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, and Rome...

Au Revoir

* Winner is responsible for airfare, taxes, and may be asked to buy us things while visiting. Award includes a warm bed and a map of Geneva, Switzerland.