Five reasons you should not miss the Désalpe celebration in Switzerland

What IS the Désalpe, you ask?  Well, one thing Switzerland is famous for is its cows, with their clanging bells.  If you have done a mountain hike in Switzerland, you have probably heard the tinkling of the bells (it really is a pleasant sound!), because the cows graze at high altitudes in the summer.  However, before it gets cold, the cows are brought down to be given a warm place for the winter.  Of course, why not celebrate this annual event?  Hence the “Désalpe” – kind of like “un-Alp”, meaning to bring the cows down from the alps.  Neat, eh?

Now, back to my five reasons.

Reason Number One:  You get to see a cow parade.  (bring earplugs for the clanging bells – not so enchanting up close!)
(Yes, many of the cows have fancy floral headresses!)

Reason Number Two:  You can try traditional Swiss raclette.  (Heated raclette cheese scraped onto boiled potatoes – delish!)
Reason Number Three:  You get to hear an alpen horn quartet.  The mellow sound they make is beautiful – I think it’s quite a difficult instrument to play!
Reason Number Four:  You get to see some traditional Swiss garb.

Reason Number Five:  Most importantly, you get to experience an ancient Swiss tradition.
I wish you all a good week – I’m off to Copenhagen!

northkate

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You must (fon)due this hike!

This is a hike I have had the privilege of doing twice, and it is not far from Neuchâtel, Switzerland, where I live.  In this hike, you essentially hike up and down what is called the “Creux du Van”.  The Creux du Van is a huge rock formation (apparently called a rock “cirque”:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creux_du_Van) that you spend a tough 30-45 minutes hiking straight up, followed by a leisurely hike down (1-2 hours).  Here is a link describing the hike:  http://activityworkshop.net/hiking/switzerland/creuxduvan.html . It is describing a slightly longer hike (don’t be thrown off – it doesn’t take 7 hours as it is listed!!!)

Despite the difficult hike up (known for its 13 switchbacks – believe me, you count them as you go) the view you are rewarded with (if there’s no fog) is stunning!  Not only that, but you are also greeted by the sound of swiss cow bells, because there are a few farms up top.  After the hike you can stop at Ferme Robert for a classic Swiss dish – cheese fondue!  Not a bad way to finish it all off, I can assure you.  Eat your fondue one of the typical ways, with a nice cup of hot tea.  Ferme Robert even has a little natural history museum upstairs, if you’re not already sold by their cheesy specialty!  (http://www.ferme-robert.ch/)
Here are a few photos I took on my first hike (the weather was so foggy the second time, I didn’t bother taking any):
Happy Monday!

northkate

Savory Saturday: Welcome to Canada!

I need to represent the cuisine of Canada every once in a while.

There is a great CBC article on Canadian regional cuisine and I am really feeling this poutine experience this Saturday. I am going to be unhealthy, sorry!

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Ingredients:

Servings:4

  • 1 quart vegetable oil (for frying)
  • 1 (10 1/4 ounce) can beef gravy
  • 5 medium potatoes , cut into fries
  • 2 cups cheese curds

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a deep fryer or deep heavy skillet to 365°F (185°C).
  2. Warm gravy in saucepan or microwave.
  3. Place the fries into the hot oil, and cook until light brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  5. Place the fries on a serving platter, and sprinkle the cheese over them.
  6. Ladle gravy over the fries and cheese, and serve immediately.

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Mmmmm, greasy, cheesy, Canadian goodness.

Yum yum, gimme some SOUP!

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It’s cold, and it’s snowing finally. This calls for soup, my most favorite food category in the world! I’m

Plus, since I have been a bad girl and have eaten too many chocolates, cheese and chips, I better make my soup a healthy one.

I’m thinking Italian, after my Italian companion and I recently reminisced about our trip 2 summers ago.

Bring on the Tuscan White Bean Soup with Swiss Chard!

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Ingredients:

1 bunch Swiss chard (or other dark leafy green such as kale)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 slices finely chopped prosciutto
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary (divided)
1 tablespoon thyme leaves (divided)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 bay leaf
3 cans white (cannellini) beans, drained and rinsed
1 32-ounce box low-sodium chicken broth (about 4 cups)
1 Parmesan rind
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Splash of balsamic vinegar (about 1 teaspoon)

Instructions:

Cut off the tough ends of the chard and rinse the greens thoroughly. Shake or pat dry and tear into bite-size pieces. Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Saute the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic for 3 minutes or until the onion is translucent, stirring often. Add the prosciutto, HALF the herbs, the red pepper flakes (if you choose), and bay leaf and saute for another 3 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the beans and saute for another minute or two. Pour in the chicken broth, toss in the Parmesan rind, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the Swiss chard and cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes or until the greens have wilted. Season with salt, pepper, the other half of the herbs, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Remove the Parmesan rind before serving (if you can find it!).

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and warm crusty bread.