Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Café Gourmand in Geneva

A warm and inviting restaurant with a bright Indo-Moroccan decor. The aroma of exotic spices welcomes you in as soon as you enter the front door. We went for a Monday lunch and nearly every table was occupied. Café Gourmand is a small restaurant run by Bea and Sergio, there is one waiter and one sous-chef. Attention to detail is paid especially in the cooking department. It was recommended we order the 55 Chf "Menu Gourmand" and we started things off with an outstanding and very unusual apero made with ginger and fruit juice. The spice from the ginger is surprising and you will almost think you are drinking a high-octane cocktail but in fact there is no alcohol in it at all.

Here is Sergio's recipe:
200 gr. fresh ginger
6 oranges
1 small pineapple
6 mango
1 lemon
cane syrup to taste
Pass the fruits through a juicer, add syrup to taste and leave to rest in the fridge for 6 hours. Serve cold in a champagne flute with a cub of ice.

The first course was a very nice pasta dish called "Linguine Camélia", it was a spiced saffron tomato and cream sauce with filets of oranges and tiny shrimp served over linguine.

The main course was slices of filet of beef in a spicy cream-based sauce served with steamed Basmati rice and steamed spinach.

Dessert was the decadent "Fondant au Chocolate" which was like a warm and very rich chocolate mousse.

We had a lovely glass of Chasselas de Peissy AOC "les Perrières" Genève at 3.20 a deci and a second glass of a delicious Syrah-Grenache, Pont du Gard 2003 vigneron d'Estezargue at 4.90 a deci. I always feel a good house-wine speaks volumes about the restaurant.

Although we had the 55 Chf menu, there is a daily special that starts at only 18,50 Chf and So you could get in and out with the plat-du-jour and a glass of wine for under 22 Chf and that is really a bargain for Geneva!

Sergio manages to cook a very successful French-Indo-Arabic fusion and it was a pleasure to be there and he and Bea made us feel very welcome.

Café Gourmand
35 rue des Bains
1205 Genève
Tél: 022/328 56 56
hours:11h30 to 15h00
and 18h30 to 24h00
Closed on the week-end


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Cuisine Terroir

Recently my cooking has taken a provincial turn. I have become fascinated with simplicity. I use meats and vegetables that take hours to cook, and I am using Dutch-ovens and cast-iron pots more than ever before. I am in quest of ancient recipes and forgotten techniques: food that our forefathers cooked, “cuisine terroir“. For the time being, I have turned my back on all "new" food. Restaurants that turn apple juice into faux-caviar like El Bulli just depress me now. I can no longer tolerate any cooking that masks the true flavor of food. I want to use the most basic of ingredients and cook them painstakingly slowly with the utmost attention. I want to taunt the flavor out of my ingredients. I want to wait patiently, like a father waits for his children to grow up…like a connoisseur waits for his wine to be ready to drink.
Give me time…. give me the chance to tease and coax my ingredients to perfection… give me kitchens thick with the perfume of slow-cooked food…. but most of all.... give me one or two friends that feel the same way to enjoy it with.

Pork Shanks with Lentils and Carrots (pictured above)
4 pork shanks about 2 inches thick
2 medium onions
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of flour
Half a bottle of white wine
2 cups of water
1 cup of Puy lentils
2 cups of sliced carrots
In a cocotte, fry the pork shanks in olive oil to give them some color, add onions salt, pepper and thyme and flour and continue to fry until the flour begins to get a little color. De-glaze the pot with the wine and add enough water to almost cover the meat. Set the cocotte in a 220° F oven (100° C) for 6 hours. After 3 hours, turn the shanks, add the lentils and carrots and cook for another 3 hours. Serve in shallow bowls with a heavy white wine or light red.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Label Conscious

Wine labels attract us in mysterious ways. The sight of a Chateau Petrus or Mouton Rothschild label makes some people weak at the knees. It's the same with cognacs, cars, cigars, almost every hobby seems to have it's coveted marks. I suppose it's because we are confronted with so much mediocrity in our day-to-day lives that we are automatically attracted to excellence like moths to a flame. The real truth about wine is that there is too much of the stuff being produced and the result is a wine glut which results in some pretty creative thinking in the ole' marketing departments. Bottles and labels get sexier with every vintage. Mouton Rothschild was one of the pioneers when they commissioned an artist to paint a new painting every year for their wine labels. Perrier Jouet Champagne bottles have huge hand painted flowers on them, even 24 carat gold leaf lettering can be common-place these days. I have seen bottles with gold plated kangaroos dangling from the neck, and some even come with artificial dirt on them, presumably so that your guests will be impressed by your poor application of the domestic sciences in your "ancien cave".
But it's the Spanish who are the real kings of the kitschy bottles. They wrap them in burlap or copper wire and one of my favorites comes with a little plastic bull on it's neck and it's usually obligatory to show at least one cluster of gold medals whether or not the wine has actually won an award in the last 100 years or not. I once met a man that had an impressive collection of wine which he just collected for the labels "Its a good investment" he declared "I actually don't care for the stuff myself" he said!
So does all of this hype actually help sell the bottles? I suppose it might, but never the less, you are more than welcome to come over to my house to see my herd of tiny plastic bulls and my bulging collection of wine related key chains.
All these pretty things on the outside of the bottle are really quite worthless and are only there to attract our attention. Try to remember to use the label for what it was originally designed to do... inform you of what is in the bottle, where it came from and what year it was made. After all, isn't it what's inside of the bottle that really counts?
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