Saturday, April 18, 2015

Miss Hospitality?

I'm taking a break from German lessons and am back in Switzerland after our house purging trip. What should I do with my time? I didn't actually make a conscious decision to start entertaining more, but that is what has transpired. I thought it would be fun for me to write about the different occasions and include the menus. If I make you hungry or drool, I apologize. 

I met several other American transplants when I first arrived and attended a "Living in Zurich" class. One of the group suggested getting together for a monthly coffee at each others' apartments - taking turns being hostess. The group has changed as people have left and others have arrived. When I hosted, I also invited two Brits and an Irish woman to my coffee.  It's my place - I choose the guests!  There is often very little coffee consumed, but that's what we call these gatherings!

I should have taken pictures of the guests, but sadly did not. A friend took a picture of the table with refreshments. Since two of my guests are "gluten free" and one also eats no dairy, I made sure there was nothing there they could not eat. My menu consisted of spiced nuts, cucumbers slices topped with goat cheese and smoked salmon, fresh fruit salad, and chocolate covered strawberries. We also had a raspberry lime sparkling drink which was quite tasty, hot tea and wine. No one opted for coffee! 

Here are some pictures of the group of women at some other coffees.

Halloween theme

Farewell "high tea" for Julia (front with the big hat) since she was moving to London. That's why we are wearing silly hats or "fascinators".

Not ideal planning, but the day after I hosted the coffee, we also hosted two couples for dinner. The women were both at the coffee, but finding a time when all six of us are available can be a challenge. We took the first available opportunity. Marisel brought her famous guacamole (well only famous here among friends, I suppose) and chips. I had snack kabobs of cherry tomato, mozzarella cheese balls and basil and also the same with goat cheese. (Marisel can have goat cheese, but not dairy.) The main meal was served family style without separate courses. 

chicken in a beer and prune sauce (much tastier than it sounds)
tomatoes and mushrooms filled with a chorizo stuffing
roasted potatoes

Following Marisel's dietary restrictions, Eva brought a gluten and dairy free chocolate cake that was very tasty and a fruit salad.

Fred, Eva, Roger, me and Tom
Again, I didn't think about taking a picture of us. Here we are at a previous dinner together at Marisel and Fred's apartment. We also had Christmas dinner with Marisel, Fred and their children. 

Christmas dinner - photo by Alicia

Fred, Roger and Tom all work for Zurich Insurance, but that is not why we're friends. I met Marisel the one and only time I went to the "Lunch Bunch" of the American Women's Club. It was her only time to attend too. We'd both just arrived in Zurich. Marisel introduced me to Eva and the rest is history.

Easter weekend was not made for traveling this year. Instead, we invited dear friends, Ruth and Michael, to come spend the holiday weekend with us. We met in 1997 when we both lived in Belgium. (They're in Belgium for their third time now and about to retire back to Michigan.) Since I knew they would not be with us for Friday dinner, I used the day to chop ingredients or prepare some of the dishes that I would serve later in the weekend. They arrived late on Good Friday evening and we shared some wine and (Swiss) cheese while chatting away. In the morning, I baked the breakfast casserole I had assembled the day before, serving it with English muffins and a tray of fresh fruit.

tour guides

The weather was rainy and chilly on Saturday - not conducive to going up a mountain or taking a boat ride. Instead we went to the Swiss National Museum in Zurich that was hosting the paper cutting exhibit. Tom and I had seen it before, but I'd wanted to see it again. This was a perfect outing for a nasty day. We took a short tour of Zurich to see the Chagall stained glass windows in the FrauenmΓΌnster, have lunch and buy some Swiss chocolate. They brought us some of our favorite Belgian chocolates, but we also wanted them to taste our Swiss favorites. 

lunch at Zeughauskeller

After our time in Zurich, we came back to the apartment and were welcomed by the smell of the crock-pot working its magic. I had a wild boar stew cooking and served it later with bread, applesauce and raw veggies with a hummus dip. 

busy in the kitchen

Everyone slept in on Easter morning. We had more of the fruit, Swiss Easter eggs (sold already hard-boiled and dyed) and breads. The weather was nicer allowing for pretty mountain views on the way to Einsiedeln, a short drive away. We visited the abbey church there: we can say went to church on Easter, just not to a service.

in front of the abbey
higher elevation = snow remaining!

We all had vegetable "rosti" for lunch.

Michael and Ruth

On the way home from Einsiedeln, the mountains were out in their glory. We made a detour to an excellent spot to view "our" mountains. It is a traditional photo spot whenever we have visitors.
photographer was in a hurry and didn't get much of the mountains behind us - darn!

Easter dinner menu:
garlic soup with garlicky croutons
roast leg of lamb with rosemary, carrots and onions
Belgian endives (seemed an appropriate choice to me!)
roasted potatoes

Of course, there was wine involved in the meals.  Tom's job was to choose the proper pairings - he made fine choices. I never got around to making any dessert. We just picked at the chocolate we bought. No one needed anything more. 

Deirde, Rowena and Helen
My next hospitality event was a few days later in the week. I hosted my Friday tennis group for lunch here. Since there would only be five of us, I cooked everything rather than have it be potluck. I served asparagus soup, leek, tomato and smoked salmon quiche, spinach salad and cafe au lait pudding. Helen arrived with a chilled bottle of champagne that no one turned down! Again, no photo from that day, but here is a photo of some of them on the court.

Hosting Robin and Chris was the conclusion of my hospitality extravaganza. Chris does a tremendous amount of business travel (for Zurich Insurance as a matter of fact) requiring us to block dates well in advance.  The plan was to go hiking first and then come back here for dinner. The weather was iffy so we waited until afternoon to start out. We walked out our door, followed the path across the farm and up into the hills behind us. It's a rather steep climb at first, but we eventually get to the "Horgenberg" or Horgen mountain. It's not really a mountain, but is higher. It's very nice to be able to take this kind of hike without traveling somewhere first. We got drizzled on, but not much more. 

Here we are towards the beginning of our hike. The lake is visible behind us, but we still have more to climb.
Robin and Chris

you know who!

You never know what you'll find along the "wanderweg". Here is a contraption on the corner of a field. It is for cows to be able to scratch themselves. 
Robin pretending to be the cow
When we got home, I pulled out the prepared tomato/mozzarella/basil kabobs (sound familiar? they're simple and good) and something I've named "Greek salad on a stick". There were three ingredients on each stick: any combination of tomato, feta, kalamata olive and cucumber. Tasty! We grilled chicken that had been marinating while we were out and ate it with a peanut sauce. We also had grilled vegetables and salad. To top off the meal, we had carrot cake, the dessert I had planned for Easter. I had the ingredients and needed to use them! No matter where we are or what the plan is, there is always a lot of laughter involved when we're with Robin and Chris.

All of these events happened between March 27 and April 11. Also in that period was Tom's birthday with his special dinner. It was a busy time, but a lot of fun too! (and I'm not getting on a scale for a while!)