August 25, 2010
Geneva's Street Food
This posting will make a good sohour reading in the month of Ramadan because if like me you are fasting, it can be torturous to think about food during the long hours without it. When I wander the streets of Geneva during daylight hours, and all the outlets are open and clients consuming, I know it is a true testament to my willpower to resist all those temptations.I have stragenly always enjoyed fasting in the West because I feel the experience is all that much more memorable and challenging.
Let us begin with my favorite coffee outlets. Cafe Aeur is probably my preferred because of its pleasant location on the tram street, where you can spend time casually watching pedestrians walk by. The cafe resides beside its own chocolate store, where you can sneak a few chocolate covered almonds with your coffee. Cafe Leo, on the Rive roundabout also has a very good coffee. I think I order the lemon tart with it once a season (and then I am lemon tarted out). The renverse coffee (Swiss cafe au lait) is fantastic at Globus, where you can sit indoors in the department store and gaze at shoppers. I still prefer my sunday personalized renverse at Cafe des Arts, when I step in and the coffee is served without me placing an order. Yet, I always enjoy being surprised by delicious coffee at random neighborhood cafes, at parks, train stations, especially by that final coffee savored at the airport, at the end of my stays in Geneva.
My children often accompany me on my street food indulgences, and enjoy all of them but for the above mentioned coffee of course. In French, we call it "manger sur le pouce", or eating on the run but literally translated as "eating from your thumb".
I will begin with our favorite street food. The panninis. Fabrizio Panini started as a one man show. The owner, who could pass for a soccer player, used to serve his customers from a trailer. The lines were long, his product delicious and so his business grew. Now his paninis are sold in dozens of other outlets and catching a sight of him is a rare thing: "there is Fabrizio!" say my kids.
For sushi, we used to cross the lake by shuttle ferry to reach Mikado, a Japanese grocery store with a few tables to dine there. They also expanded and opened a large restaurant behind our house, with the same concept of self service bento packed meals and have a good turnover. My kids love the shumai and the teriyaki chicken and of course the sushi. I always get side orders of seaweed salads.
For more fish, we go to the department store Manor and buy salmon pizza. These pizza slices are cut from a large three square meter pizza straight out of the oven. We like to sit beside the geranium frilled fountain outside the store, and enjoy our pizzas. The fountain is also a good place to rinse your fishy hands after the meal.
In addition, the Italian grocer in BelAir will make homemade lasagna that you can purchase by the slice and take home to warm in the oven, or deliciously stewed bolognese sauce. He will also cut the breasaola slices you ask for and put it in some olive foccacia bread with arugula (and butter, I can't omit that).
While all these finger foods are delectable, the most unique shopping experience (well not as unique anymore since La Duree is crawling in every neighborhood in Paris and has even been rumored to open at Dubai Mall) is walking into the La Duree store with my daughter. This is a rare occasion and often happens as a consolation after a visit to the pediatrician. The elegant pistashio colored metal door opens and the aromas coupled with the jewel like decor of the shop are feasts for the eyes. My daughter reaches for the counter, on her tip toes, and gazes upon the pastel colored macarons, all stacked in neat lines. She hesitates, asks me to read the flavors, enjoys the enumeration of names such as green apple or rose petal or almond. Her favorite flavor is caramel but she will sometimes venture into a coconut or lemon. She is only allowed to choose one for herself and one for each of her brothers who predictably like chocolate. When her turns comes, she smiles because the salesman with the black tie or the saleswoman with the lace apron is all ears, like a salesperson at Cartier or Bulgari. The order is taken, the salesperson handles the macarons with white gloves, weighs them delicately and requests an exorbitant price. The shopping experience lasts five times longer than the bite it takes to devour the macaron on the side walk as the metal door closes behind you. I wonder if one day, many years from now, she will smell the aroma of a macaron by la Duree, after not having had one for a long time, and if it will transport her to these beautiful summers in Geneva, like the famous madeleines of Proust.