As some of you know, I have decided to close my law practice. To celebrate the transition, reflect on what I’d like to do next, explore, and get lots more writing done, I have decided to do some heavy duty traveling in Europe. Here is my online travel diary!
My first stop during this trip was Switzerland, just outside of Geneva. Already having seen Geneva and finding it a bit bland and expensive, I thought I would explore some other areas. My first night there, my cousin with whom I was staying suggested dinner a French restaurant—in France. With sky-high prices in Switzerland, resident expats often make the 15 minute trek across the French border to dine, and so we did.
Dinner was a low-key auberge in the village of Cessy, which is nestled amongst wooded hills in the shadow of the Jura mountains. The auberge façade was nondescript—it was tucked in the village’s main square next to the village boulangerie. Plastic tables and chairs out front were full of local guys hanging out on their Saturday night. We walked through the bar in the front to the simple yet pleasant dining room. We both ordered kirs, and checked out the menu. I spied the 42 euro prix fixe menu, and decided to go all out. My cousin ordered à la carte. “I am going to clean every plate they put in front of me,” I resolved. And so I did.
- Amuse-bouche: Cold carrot and cumin velouté garnished with olive powder.
- First course: Terrine de foie gras, fig chutney, mâche and arugula salad. My cousin ordered a mixed greens salad garnished with Iberico ham. All of those words put together make me happy.
- Second course: Sea bass (with skin! I love skin!) posed on a small bed of spinach, red bell pepper, and rice, and floating in a sea of a delectable, foamy wasabi sauce. Oh boy, that sauce. It was delicate, subtle, savory, with only the slightest hint of heat. The balance among all of these dish elements was exquisite. I thought that was my main dish, but no! The main attraction was yet to come!
- Third course: Veal garnished with fennel, onions, and morel mushrooms with puree de pommes de terre. Cousin ordered one of the daily specials: Cochon noir, or black pig, served with puree de pommes de terre, sautéed vegetables, and a sauce made from the pig juices. I was curious to learn more about the Cochons Noirs, and discovered that they are accorded AOC status, and are a particular species of pig bred in the town of Bigorre in Gascony, France. You can read more about them if you’re interested. The dishes were, as you can imagine, perfection incarnate. I have come to gain this true affinity for fennel, and in this dish, its sweetness complemented the earthy umami of the morels and the lush veal perfectly.
- Fourth course: the cheese plate: Abondance, Selles-sur-Cher, Livarot, Camembert au Calvados
- Fifth course: dessert: candied chestnut ice cream garnished with chestnut liqueur. I love anything with chestnuts, and this was no exception.
I stayed true to my promise and finished every last, delectable crumb on every one of my five plates with no regrets!
The restaurant ambiance contributed enormously to positive experience. Restaurants in France often do only one seating, so it is easy to slow down and really enjoy the meal. Our server was wonderfully attentive, even though he was also serving at least 8 other tables! He kept our bread basket full, maintained impeccable timing in serving and removing dishes, answered questions, presented and cut the cheese board, engaged in pleasant banter at the right moments, disappeared at the right moments. In comparison, most other service just seems brash.
I felt joyous and buoyant as we left the auberge that evening. The stars shone in the clear sky as we crossed the border back into Switzerland. Happiness was nestled in our stomachs.