Café du Grütli: Fondue in Lausanne

The gloomy October weather in Lausanne didn't stop us from enjoying the city. It did, however, make us crave comfort food, and what better way to indulge in Switzerland than with fondue? Upon recommendation by a salesperson at the Globus department store, we headed to Café du Grütli on our last evening. 
I love restaurants run by a husband-and-wife team and we instantly felt welcomed by the friendly pair as we walked in the door. The humble and cozy cafe specializes in traditional Swiss dishes and despite an obnoxiously loud and drunk British man a few tables away, we appreciated our dinner. Bread and melted cheese may not be the most complete meal (at least from the point of view of nutritionists), but I can't think of a better combination. 
I was thrilled that Café du Grütli had Gruyère double cream on offer. (I was determined to try it after hearing David Lebovitz write about it.) A true Swiss dessert, double cream is not for the faint of heart. (In Switzerland, it is regulated and must be at least 45% fat content.) I like to think its richness is meant to give sustenance to hearty Swiss mountaineers. It comes with meringues and you can simply spoon the cream on top. While overconsumption of Gruyère double cream could definitely lead to a heart attack, I can't think of a better way to go. (Well, maybe with kaymak.)

Café du Grütli is located at Rue de la Mercerie 4 in Lausanne. Reservations recommended.


Istanbul Eats Food Tour: Some Highlights

While J. went to work, I kept myself busy. I'd never been to Istanbul and I had a lot to cover in a short period of time. First stop: a food tour with Istanbul Eats. It kicked off with tea outside an esnaf lokanta (tradesman restaurant). We stood in a leafy, crumbling courtyard, sipping tea and watching an older man feed some straggly cats a dish of milk. He jokingly informed us that the cats weren't fasting (it was Ramadan) and neither was he.
My love affair with Turkish food starts with breakfast. The food tour did not disappoint, taking us to another family-run lokanta, for a full-on Turkish breakfast. While not photographically-appealing, kaymak, thick buffalo-milk clotted cream, is a life-changing experience. I was so in love with this stuff, I even bought some before I left Istanbul, which I enjoyed on my flight to Lisbon.
As decadent as the kaymak was, we had more to try. Housemade jams, including rose, went perfectly with the cream and pastries.
The restaurant's owner brought over a hot pan to the table and scooped spoonfuls of fluffy menemen (an egg dish) onto our already full plates. "Pace yourself," I told myself, without heeding my advice.
 Menemen (egg dish) and savory rolls
Following our breakfast, we took the ferry to the Asian side for lunch at Çiya. The restaurant specialized in Ottoman cuisine- this meant lots of fruits and nuts incorporated into dishes, as well as stuffing and drying techniques. Here we enjoyed a plate of stuffed peppers. 
Still at Çiya, we tasted meatballs steeped in tangy cherry sauce (left) and sipped on Subye, a watermelon seed drink (right).
Lunch had to be followed by one of the best desserts of my life: sobiyet baklawa w/kaymak. 
This small pastry shop takes baklawa to another level, invigorating the often overly dry and cloyingly sweet pastry into perfection.
Kaymak-filled baklawa needed to be followed by coffee so we took a caffeine break down the street. We learned that nothing goes in Turkish coffee once it's ready (no sugar, etc. can be added after).
 After filling up on strong Turkish coffee, I got to be a kid in a (Turkish) candy store. Not just any candy shop but a 203-year-old store filled with both familiar and unusual "desserts." 
Powdery lemon Turkish delight (left) and candied fruits and olives (right)
Even though we had just had lunch, it was time for a tantuni break. Tantuni come from the southern part of the country and are wraps filled with delicious meat and veggies. Frothy, bubbly ayran on tap was just the thing to wash down these rolls with.
 tantuni, tantuni, tantuni
Our last stop of the day was at Kimyon, located in an interesting neighborhood. We tried a lot of different dishes here, some mouthwateringly satisfying (like this acidic turnip juice) and others that didn't quite win me over (like the pale soup below).
Head-and-foot soup, aka "hangover soup" (this was more of a cool experience than a culinary highlight)
I enjoyed Kimyon's take on Künefeshredded wheat, goat cheese, and pistachio topped with kaymak.
But the winner was this katmer (which our guide brought back from a nearby pastry shop): stuffed with? That's right, kaymak. Are you sensing a pattern here? Kaymak makes everything better.

The tour ended on such a high note, as we went our separate ways in Istanbul. 


Geronimo Balloons and Osteria Mozza Cocktails

For my mom's special birthday, we flew down to LA and had a great dinner at Osteria Mozza, starting with cocktails for the occasion.

I'd been a fan of Jihan's balloons from afar, and was excited to have the chance to deliver fun to my mom in the form of helium! I gave a general color theme and was very pleased with what they put together. I actually only bought two balloons but it looked cooler in the mirror! If you live in the LA area, check out Geronimo.