Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lunch al fresco (if you can)

According to a study commissioned by the Federal Health Office and reported by, 27% of the Swiss population aged 14-65 were smokers in 2009. But among 20 to 24-year-olds, 39% percent smoke. Cough.

Despite these numbers, take a walk along Lake Zurich, and it can feel like everyone smokes. I can hardly walk two steps without choking. It’s really too bad, since Switzerland is so clean otherwise. But it’s hard to enjoy the fresh air and nice weather when it’s clouded by cigarette smoke.

Lately, like half the residents of Zurich, I’ve taken to eating my lunch by the lake. This is quite challenging for a non-smoker, but last Friday, I managed a milestone: I sat on a bench by the lake along with three other Swiss-German speakers, and no one lit up for the entire 45 minutes. I could hardly believe my luck.

But normally, I sit down, take two bites of my food, and someone starts smoking. So I play a strange game of musical benches, which never really ends well. However, I have done some completely unscientific research that I would like to share to help you choose your next outdoor dining bench:

  1. Sit next to people who are eating. Most people here won’t light up in the middle of their lunch, only yours. So choose people who are just sitting down to eat, not those who are finishing.
  2. Don’t sit by people who look like they are 20-24. Your odds of breathing smoke will be almost 40% instead of 30%.
  3. Do not sit by people eating McDonalds. Not only does their lunch stink, their cigarettes will too. These people seem almost 100% more likely to smoke than those eating something from Tibits.
  4. Analyze the wind (if there is any) and plan your bench strategy accordingly. If possible, sit on the edge of the bench closest to the direction the wind is coming from.
  5. Find a secluded rock by the lake.

Anyone else have issues with smoke or strategies for avoiding it and still being able to enjoy lunch al fresco?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Great Ethnic Food in Zurich

After years of complaining about the lack of good ethnic food in Zurich, things are looking up for The Frau.

She’s discovered hands-down the best Indian restaurant in Zurich. She’s discovered a Thai place she likes. Not to mention a couple of her old standards, which she’ll also regurgitate here.

Cheti’s Curry Seefeldstrasse 7 8008 Zürich

Now this is good Indian food. And also not a bad price. For lunch, The Frau paid CHF 25 for a plate of chicken tikka masala complete with rice, side dishes, and a beverage. Wow. The Frau is getting to used to Swiss prices. Still. What a deal for Zurich. Service is friendly and fast. English is spoken too.

Tiffins Seefeldstrasse 61 8008 Zürich

The line out the door says it all. Besides daily specials like Singapore Noodles, this fantastic little Asian restaurant has standards like Sweet and Sour Chicken. And their mango/ginger beverage is well worth the CHF 6. Best of all, the dishes are reasonably priced, a small take-out portion can be as little as CHF 10. To snag a table at lunch, arrive before 12 or make reservations.

Restaurant Stadion Skarabaeus Seminarstrasse 71 5430 Wettingen

The Frau will forgive them for serving Schnitzel at lunch. Unfortunately, until more Swiss learn to appreciate fantastic Lebanese food, you can only order Lebanese food at dinnertime here--lunch is traditional Swiss. But the dinner is worth the wait. Two people can get 6 Mezzeh, or 6 small Lebanese dishes to share. And if you come with a party of 4, you can choose 12 dishes. Taboule. Hummus. Lebanese meatballs. It's all fantastic. Not a bad deal either: Mezzeh for two is CHF 45 and Mezzeh for four is CHF 95.

Wagamama Talstrasse 83 8001 Zurich

The Frau first discovered this Asian food chain in London and was thrilled when they came to Zurich. While their service may sometimes be strange—they will bring a main course and appetizer at the same time—the food is good and the green tea is free. Yes, free. Become a member of their club and you get great offers—free appetizers, free drinks, sometimes even buy one main dish, get one free. Their restaurant is always rather warm, so wear a t-shirt!

Hiltl Sihlstrasse 28 8001 Zurich

The best place for vegetarian food in Zurich. The Frau has been going there almost since she moved here and is never disappointed—except when it’s hard to find a table! But there’s a reason for that—the food is that good. And don’t forget to have the brownie with ice cream sometime. Hiltl also offers cooking classes in English.

Tibits Seefeldstrasse 2 8008 Zürich

If you’re looking for the ultimate salad bar, Tibits is the place to go. Some people have yet to realize that in a spirit perhaps only Starbucks has also mastered, there’s a Tibits right next to the Tibits. The newer Tibits is in the old NZZ cafeteria and is a much more spacious inside.

Restaurant Lemon Haselstrasse 17 5400 Baden

Forget Stars & Stripes, this is the place to go for a proper hamburger. Or barbecue ribs. Or nachos. In other words, American food. Is that considered ethic? Sure. We’re far enough from home. Another thing the Frau liked about this restaurant was their bread bar. You just help yourself to any breads you want along with dipping oils. For free.

Da Pippo Giuseppe Salvatore Untere Halde 11 5400 Baden

A pizza for CHF 13? A soft drink for CHF 3,50? A cute restaurant in Baden’s old town with friendly service included? What can The Frau say, this place had tasty pizza and they asked her if she wanted to take what she couldn’t eat home. She did. It made the deal even sweeter to get two meals for that price.

What restaurants do you like in Switzerland?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Party Pooper

I tried. For five years. But I just can’t like Fasnacht (the Swiss version of carnival).

There are things about it that I love. I love seeing Swiss people smiling in the streets. I love the costumes. And I love watching everyone let down their guard and throw confetti with abandon. But I do not love that the very people that criticize me for recycling a glass bottle on a Sunday or eating popcorn during a movie think it’s just fine to beat drums and blast horns until 6 a.m. for three consecutive nights outside my apartment.

Every country has hypocrisy. Fasnacht is Switzerland’s.

I would probably love Fasnacht if it were more Swiss. Like if they stopped banging the drums at 10 p.m. on a weeknight. (I’d even put up with midnight.) That seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Especially since I’m not supposed to flush my toilet after that.

But when it’s 10 p.m. and you’re tired, and you know that despite the blasting fan, the earplugs, and the pillow over your head, that you’ll still be hearing the banging until 6 a.m., it doesn’t exactly make you love the holiday. Parties are fun. Except for the ones you can't leave.

Not to mention, the moment I emerge from my apartment, bleary eyed and exhausted, some Fasnacht clown will want me to pay for the privilege of listening to their music by buying a placket. Sorry. The thing I will pay for? A ticket out of town.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Going to the Movies in Switzerland

I went to the movies. Big deal. Well, it was. I hadn’t been to a Swiss movie theater for a few years, mainly because it’s such a pain to buy a ticket. Most Swiss plan to attend movies at least a week in advance and buy their tickets accordingly. So if you’re a lazy American and just want to show up before the show, good luck getting a ticket. Anyhow, going to the movies again reminded me just how different the experience is in Switzerland.

I went to see The King’s Speech on Saturday, which was luckily in E/d/f. The key letter being “E”, which meant the film was in English with German and French subtitles. Most movies in Switzerland are shown in their original language since most Swiss people are very particular (i.e. snobby) about seeing a movie in its original format. The sentiment in multi-lingual Switzerland is that people who watch dubbed movies are not sophisticated.

Swiss movie theaters have assigned seats. Your ticket has a seat number and you better sit in it, or you’ll disturb the order. Enter a Swiss movie theater that is only half-full, and you’ll find its entire audience clumped together in the back half of the theater, since it would be wrong to sit in an empty seat that you weren’t assigned to.

Then there are the snacks. My husband and I went to see the 5:30 p.m. show, so popcorn was our dinner. I snacked hungrily during the beginning of the movie, the popcorn tasted great, but each bag crinkle and chew made me feel self-conscious; no one else was making a sound; they had all put their treats away for the intermission, when the movie suddenly stops mid-sentence, and when it is finally socially acceptable to eat popcorn or an ice cream bar.

Today at the office, my Swiss friend was telling me how his partner went to a movie last week and he was glad he didn’t go with because the people sitting behind his partner were chomping on candy throughout the whole movie. Really? I said,…that’s…uh, terrible.


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