31 March 2008

That's Amore!

Over Easter weekend we went to Napoli.

And I fell in love.

Before our trip I thought I had eaten good pizza. At times I would even say I have had great pizza. I've lived in New York, a pizza city if there ever was one. I have explored pizza joints all over Chicago (Gino's East is my favorite there.) On past trips to Italy we have also raved about the wonderful, fabulous pizza we have had.

So I am not new to loving pizza.

But never in my wildest imaginings could I have ever expected the rush of love I experienced when I took my first bite of pizza in Napoli.

Eating pizza in Napoli was a revelation.

It begins with the crust. The foundation of pizza-ry goodness. I have had thick and chewy crusts. I have had thin and crispy crusts. But never have I had crusts that were thin and chewy with a little crunch and a wonderfully yeasty, fresh baked taste that almost made me cry with joy.

And then it is topped with just a touch of simple, fresh tomato sauce. Tomatoes with a bit of salt and pepper. Not too sweet from the added sugar that is required when tomatoes are perhaps not quite ripe enough. Not too heavy with  an excessive number of spices and unnecessary flavors. Just pure, fresh tomatoes that allow you to taste the Italian sunlight.

Next comes the cheese. They use the freshest mozzarella available. And if you are willing to spend a little bit extra, you can get the buffalo mozzarella. And yes, we were willing to spend the little bit extra that is required.

Finally, it is topped with 2-3 small leaves of fresh basel, placed dead center on top. Somehow those small leaves spread their essence throughout the whole pizza.

After cooking for a short time on a stone in a super hot oven, it is rushed to your table while the sauce is still bubbling.


It is perfection. Pure and simple perfection.

"Ah," we said to each other, "this is what pizza is meant to be."

We had pizza for lunch and dinner every day we were there. If pizza for breakfast was an option, we would have had it then too. Didn't even matter where we ate it. Although some places within Napoli were better than others, every place had better pizza than anyplace else we have ever been.

And it really is no wonder. See, Napoli is where pizza was born. It is what they are known for. It is an intrinsic part of their identity. They take pizza so seriously in this city that they have a pizza association that tests the quality of the pizza on offer. If the quality is subpar, the restaurant is no longer allowed to serve pizza. So really, regardless of where you go, it is hard to go terribly wrong.

Since returning from Napoli I have been researching Neapolitan pizzas. My goal is to figure out the secret. How do you make this heavenly pie? What ingredients do I need to mix? What process do I need to follow?

Experimentation shall begin. My goal is to replicate the taste of that pizza as closely as is possible. Because flying down to Napoli every time I get a yearning for pizza might get a tad expensive.

More stories (and lot of photos) about our trip will follow. After I finish the two freelance writing projects I am currently doing.

28 March 2008

Little Dog, Big Personality

This is GLH's favorite commercial. He laughs every time he sees it. He especially likes the parts where the dog is in a store and has to sing under his breath.

Check it out:

And yes, the woman is driving her car on the "wrong side." It's a UK commercial.

20 March 2008


Thus far the only problem I have encountered with "retiring early" (e.g. moving to a country where I am not allowed to work) is that I sometimes lose track of what date it is.

Which explains why we received such a puzzled look from the Check-in Desk Clerk when we arrived to check-in for our flight to Naples. Apparently we were 25 1/2 hours early.

We checked to see if it would be possible to just fly down early. Would have worked with the hotel, but the extra cost from the airline would have been 1800 chf for each of us. We decided to store our luggage in a locker at the airport and go back for our scheduled flight tomorrow.

So, not having a job explains why I got confused about the date.

What's GLH's excuse?

18 March 2008

How 'bout Them Apples?

Noticed this today at the grocery store. Interesting use of "branding" methods.

I wonder if you can get stickers in the shape of the Swiss Cross? That way you could stick them on your shoulder, or perhaps even your forehead, before heading out to the beach. Similar process to the one used above most likely.

How Much?

It's happened.

The US dollar is now worth less than the Swiss franc.

16 March 2008

Baked Tofu?

Who knew you could bake tofu?

After a few weeks of traveling, illness or general excessive busy-ness, I once again tried a new vegetarian recipe. It's one of the recipes from earlier this week when I attended the vegetarian cooking class and came away smelling of "Eau de Garlic."

I made it this evening, with a greatly reduced amount of garlic...

250 grams tofu, cubed
4 tbs tamari (similar to soy sauce if you cannot find tamari)
3 tbs sesame oil
4 tbs water
1 1/2 tbs grated ginger
1 medium onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, diced (or 3-4 if following the original recipe!)
pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you like)

Mix all ingredients in  bowl, cover and marinate in refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour or as long as overnight.

Preheat oven to 200C or 400F. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until tofu has browned.

Serve with Quinoa and Salad. Rice would also work.

When I arrived at the class and found out it would be baked tofu, I was extremely concerned. I really, really don't like tofu. However, I really liked this recipe. And when I served it from GLH this evening, he eyed it suspiciously. But he loved it and even said we should add it to the list of recipes for when we have guests for dinner. He even forgot to mention it would be a great side dish for steak!

Note about Quinoa: When I was a vegetarian in graduate school (for financial reasons that time) I ate quinoa frequently because it's cheap, a complete protein and very good. It's sort of similar to couscous. However, after I graduated and got a full-time job, I went back to my meat eating ways and forgot about quinoa until this past week. I am happy to be reacquainted. Although, you will not be surprised to discover, it is not "cheap" in Switzerland. You can find it at any Reformhaus (health food store).

15 March 2008

Are You Evil?

A Librarian took the Evil Genius Quiz. So of course I had to take it as well.

I'm not sure what to say...

I am 81% Evil Genius.
Evil to the Bone!
I am pure evil. I lie awake at night devising schemes of world domination, and I will not rest until all living souls bend to my will.

14 March 2008

Swiss Maintenance

Visitors to Switzerland consistently remark upon how clean everything is. How efficiently the public transportation runs. How everything that seems to be better maintained than elsewhere.

And it is all true. Switzerland is a well-maintained, well-ordered society. Litter is rarely seen. The roads are replaced before there are potholes. The trains run so efficiently that people get annoyed when it is a minute late. Even the public restrooms are quite clean and nice.

The Swiss are very proud of this. And they should be. It really does create a wonderful atmosphere and explains why Switzerland is consistently listed at or near the top when standards of living around the world are compared.

So perhaps I should have been prepared when my landlady informed us that a repairman would be coming to inspect the windows. It took him approximately an hour to work his way around the apartment. The process involved opening each window and closing it forcefully several times. Then he took a small tool and adjusted screws. More opening and closing. Followed by spraying some kind of a lubricant and opening and closing until the entire mechanism was well oiled.

I've never seen anything like this in my life.

Indeed, I was so amazed by this that I had to tell my friend, Laurie.

Who immediately "one-upped" me.

A few weeks ago she noticed some men around the garbage dumpster a short ways from her kitchen window. As she watched they emptied the dumpster and used a power cleaner to thoroughly wash it inside and out. Next it was turned over so they could inspect the wheels on the bottom. They were carefully tightened and perhaps oiled. They then took cloths and began polishing it. Scratches to the surface were buffed out. After finishing their work they reloaded their tools and left.

She thought it was done.

However, a couple of days later another couple of repairmen arrived. They re-welded the handles to the dumpster. Apparently the previous repairmen had noticed they were a bit loose and notified the second team to stop by to fix it.

You cannot even make this stuff up!

What stories do YOU have about maintenance in Switzerland?

12 March 2008

Public Service Announcement: Prevention of Garlic Breath

Happened across this on YouTube:

Has anyone tried it? Does it actually work?

11 March 2008

Garlic Overload

Earlier today I attended a vegetarian cooking course.

During the preparation section of the course I watched in amazement as an entire head of garlic (a big one, approximately 12-15 large cloves) was systematically chopped up and added to food intended to feed 8 people.

I gotta tell you. That's a whole lot of garlic.

It is now more than 8 hours later. And my mouth is still burning from the garlic. Seriously. I have already brushed my teeth quite thoroughly with an electric toothbrush 3 times. And every time GLH gets near me, he quickly backs off and waves his hand in front of his face.

If garlic does indeed have medicinal advantages, I think I am covered for a good year or more.

And I need not fear an attack from a vampire.

Don't get me wrong. The food was actually quite good and I will make the recipes here at home.

But my use of the garlic will not be quite as, um, enthusiastic.

10 March 2008


A few times per month we check the currency exchange rate between US dollars and Swiss Francs.

This past weekend we noticed it is virtually the same: 1 USD equals 1.002 CHF. WHen we first moved here a dollar was about .80 CHF.

Other notable exchange rates:
  • 1 USD = .65 Euro
  • 1 USD = .49 GBP
The dollar is definitely tanking. It has been for a while, but this is a major drop.

It means that it makes even more sense to purchase things in the United States and either bring them back from a trip, or pay for international shipping rates and possibly a customs fee. There will definitely be shopping during our trip in April.

It also means that we are very, very thankful that we are nowhere near retirement because our investments, predominantly in the United States, are also swirling the toilet bowl. We have time for them to recover before we will need them.

And, of course, it further means that GLH is already rubbing his hands together in anticipation our of trip to Las Vegas!

So, my fellow Americans, I strongly recommend you look elsewhere for your vacations for a while. A trip to Europe will be even more expensive. Not that it was cheap to start. (Note to family and friends: you can still visit us. Our weekly rates are very cheap! You just have to bring us peanut butter or cold medicine or something.)

And to Europeans, now is the time to plan that trip to the US you keep meaning to do!

09 March 2008


The migraine and any residual headache is finally gone. After a week of fighting it, I am finally past the pain and nausea. Thank God!

I'm working on a couple of posts for your reading amusement.

05 March 2008


I've had an unrelenting migraine for several days now. My prescription to deal with them from my US doctor has run out. The medication available in Switzerland is not working well. (Note to Self: must remember to refill prescription on next trip to US.)

Blogging will resume when I can shake this blasted thing...