Savoring Zurich

After our foodie weekends in Göteborg (Gothenburg), Bra and Turin, Alex and I were a bit stumped where to go next. We debated Berlin, London, Helsinki, Copenhagen and several others but tossed them again: too expensive, too far, been there too often, etc. Then Alex suggested Zurich. Zurich? Isn’t that too expensive, you ask? Yes and no. Don’t you already know every corner? Yes and no. I thought about it for a while and then said yes. Why not dive into the city and go to places I’d never been to, visit places that have been on my list forever and look for new places to eat at? In fact, this was the perfect excuse to actually go to a restaurant. Due to the high prices and my picky taste buds (why pay high dollar for something I can make better at home?) we almost never go out to eat. We picked a date and started on our list of places we had to go to.

I picked Alex up from the train station and after she put her bags in a locker, we made our way to the first place on our list for lunch. It was a hot day and we happily sat down at a table in a cool courtyard where the restaurant Milchbar is situated. It’s off the main street and a bit hidden, but popular for those in the know. We each chose a large homemade ice-tea and the delicious burrata salad with berries. We saved room for ice-cream as the first place on our list was a few streets over.

According to a study and unlike their neighbors, the Swiss don’t eat that much ice-cream and that is one of the reasons there aren’t that many ice cream parlors. No wonder it’s hard for me to find good ice cream around town! Time to change that with our first stop: Max Chocolatier. Max Chocolatier is a high-end chocolate maker originally from Lucerne who has recently opened a shop in Zurich. I’d even say, one of the best and my second favorite in the world of chocolate. We stood in front of the freezer and while Alex immediately decided on chocolate salted caramel, I needed more time. In the end I reached for the dark chocolate and pistachio, but wondered if I should have gone for one of the non-chocolate ice creams. I guess it just means I need to go back! The friendly salesperson disposed of the lids for us so we could go out and enjoy immediately. Whoa- what an intense chocolate flavor! The caramel was a bit too caramel-y for me, but I really enjoyed the whole pistachios in my dark chocolate.

We walked around and took some photos, making our way to a food tour in the hip area Zürich-West (western Zurich). A week before our foodie weekend I saw an advertisement in the bus for a food tour through Zurich and immediately booked two spots. We didn’t know where we would be going so it was a nice surprise. I highly recommend coming hungry, though! During the tour we were also told about the history of the area and it wasn’t that long ago that the only way around the area was by train or on foot. This was the industrial part of Zurich, outside of the city limits. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll see it in the architecture and the tracks on the street. There is only one train line that is still in use which doesn’t serve passengers but transports flour from the city mill to a train stop near by where the flour is then sent on its way to stores.

Our first stop was in fact at a place I had been wanting to go to for a long time: NENI. This Israeli restaurant first opened in Vienna several years ago and was a huge success. I have even bought NENI hummus at a supermarket in Austria before and was waiting for a chance to visit in Zurich. Situated in the 25 hours hotel, this restaurant is trendy and fun. We were served a refreshing lemonade and then an étagère with falafel, hummus and baba ganoush and a plate of pita bread was brought to us. We all could have licked our plates clean but refrained from doing so. I’d definitely go again and would like to visit the second restaurant which has just opened in Zurich.

After leaving NENI, we made our way to an old soap factory which is now a small brewery that has been brewing beer for 10 years: Steinfels. We tried the Lager, the Weizen and the IPA. My favorite of the three was the IPA, although I prefer darker beers. Most people come here for beers and burgers, burgers being their specialty. We were able to peek into the actual brewery before heading across the street.

Across the street is the Schiffbau which is, as the name says, where ships were made. The building originated as a spinning mill and when it was decided that there wasn’t enough money to be made in that area, moved on to making steam engines and boats. Today there are still boats made in that building which are running on the lakes in Switzerland. The name remains, but the building is now a theater where plays are put on and jazz is played and the fancy LaSalle restaurant. This is the place to go if you love industrial chic. We were given a chilled cucumber soup, beet terrine and beef tartare. Although I’m not a fan of beets, I have to say the terrine was quite tasty and the cucumber soup definitely convinced me cold soups are the way to go in summer!

From Schiffbau we moved on to Les Halles a bistro-style place known for their moules et frites and is also a small supermarket and a place where you can buy a bicycle. We sat down to a plate of mussels and a cold glass of wine. By this time we were starting to fill up, but I’m not one to say no to a place a mussels, even if they are served in a month without a “R”!

When we left Les Halles, we were quite full, but we knew we still had two more places to go. After a stop at a Mexican style place we moved on to dessert in the Viadukt Markthalle. I like going to the Viadukt, which has an interesting history. In the area between a railway bridge in use and one now only open to pedestrians, an indoor market was opened. It’s fun to wander through the stalls and one of my favorite stands is the British Cheese Centre. But first to dessert. We were served a scoop of ice cream of our choice (I went for yuzu) and more homemade cookies and truffles we could ever eat at the St. Jakob Beck.

After that highly informative tour, we browsed through the market and bought some cheese for our picnic the next day. There was a cheddar from the British Cheese Centre and an aged cheese from Switzerland from Tritt Käse. We roamed around Berg und Tal, a slow food store which stocks mostly Swiss products. If you’re looking for something special, this is the place to go.

After all that food, we weren’t quite ready to go home so we went down to the lake to hang out, talk and watch the sun set.

The next morning we were up bright and early and after a minimal breakfast we were on our way again. Our first stop was at my favorite Japanese shop in Zurich. My sister introduced me to Shinwazen several years ago when they still had a restaurant. I am always a bit wary when eating Japanese food outside of Japan. Often times it is overpriced and doesn’t taste authentic. Shinwazen offered delicious and authentic food at a reasonable price. The owners, a Japanese woman and her Swiss husband, are delightful people and it is very important for them to sell only high quality goods from small traditional, family owned companies. This comes of no surprise as they have been members of the SlowFood movement for many years. I stop by maybe once a year to say hello, visit a workshop, buy a gift or when I’m looking for that special ingredient. When I told Alex about the store, she wanted to visit. We stepped into the small shop and were greeted by Mr. Baumgartner and his wife. We are immediately served a glass of what I call the yuzu sprizer, fizzy water with a bit of yuzu juice. I could drink that by the liter as it is so refreshing and just plain delicious. Both are exceptionally friendly people who take the time to stop what they are doing to say hello, answer any questions about a specific product or just to chat. We both walked out with a bottle of sesame oil and Alex added a bottle of the yuzu juice. I’ve had my eye on a small sake bottle which could also be used as a vase for quite some time, but I decided that’s for my next visit there.

After that, we did some shopping, browsing and then decided it was time for some ice cream. Hasta! (Heladeria Argentina-Suiza Totalmente Artesanal) just opened a shop in Zurich and we were game to try it. We stood in front of the delicious flavors and wanted to try everything. We decided on kulfi (almonds, pistachios and cardamom) and hazelnut, and I asked for a taste of bergamot which I will be having next time. Oh my, this ice cream was delicious! We sat outside and savored while we people watched and decided where to go to next. Our next stop was the Grossmünster and up to the top of one of the towers. Alex like to see the city she’s at from above and I’ve always wanted to climb it. So up we went. What a view!

We decided it was time for lunch and so we stopped by the bakery that makes the best bread in Zurich: John Baker. Coming from a culture in which good bread plays a very important role, I find is hard to find something I like outside of Germany or Austria. When I first went to John Baker I was sceptical. But then I found that they really do make good bread, the kind with a thick crust and real sourdough. The best part? They use regional and organic flours. From John Baker it’s only few steps down to the lake, so we made our way there for our picnic. We unpacked out goodies which consisted of bread, the cheeses we had bought the day before plus olives, hummus with preserved lemon and a soft goat cheese from the Globus delicatessa and organic apricots from Alnatura.

It was so lovely at the lake, as always, we almost didn’t want to leave. But we decided to wander a bit more around the old town and I’m glad we did as I saw narrow streets  I’d never been down and even was able to peak into a hidden courtyard. It was a hot day and we settled into the café at the Kantorei in a quiet corner for a cold drink and for some people watching.

Then it was time for Alex’ birthday gift. I know she likes seeing cities from above (check out her blog post on seeing Innsbruck from above) and she enjoys a good gin. Last year at the SlowFood Festival she tasted the Clouds Gin from Humbel and fell in love. I immediately knew where I would take her the next time she visited: the Clouds Bistro in the Prime Tower, Zurich’s highest building and Switzerland’s highest from 2011 until 2015. Then Basel built the Roche Tower  and that is currently the highest in Switzerland. During the construction phase of the building, I was lucky enough to take a tour of the building and the roof with my colleagues as our office had done some of the geology for the foundation. I had been to the bar and to the restaurant so I knew what to expect. We rode the elevator up to the 36th floor and stepped into the bistro. Right as we walked in a table in front of the window with the magnificent view opened up. We couldn’t get over the view and while we sipped our delicious Gin meets Sage drinks (Clouds gin, Martini Ambrato, sage and cucumber), we stared out of the window, took photos, talked, watched the surfers brave the “citywave” and then decided on another drink and small dessert. Alex ordered an iced Vietnamese coffee and I went for the iced chai latte. I don’t like to order chai lattes as they are often too sweet, but this was perfect. Lots of spices and not too sweet. Our sweet indulgence was a warm chocolate lava cake with sour cream ice cream and the perfect ending to our foodie weekend.

Thank you to Alex for our annual foodie weekends, and I look forward to next year’s adventure!

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