A Taste of Geneva [Gal About Town: Fashion and Travel at Your Fingertips]...

Geneva, Switzerland was one of our first destinations in our three-week, whirlwind European holiday. We flew into Geneva from Manchester, UK (A VERY lovely airport, I was impressed by it’s décor, calm atmosphere, and cleanliness) via EasyJet. It had been about five and a half years since I had flown on EasyJet, one of Europe’s most economical airlines. The are the Southwest or JetBlue of Europe, offering fares at amazing prices, with most being somewhere in the double digits. I often advise that if you are travelling to multiple cities in Europe, first check if EasyJet (or RyanAir, another discount airline) flies between the two cities. It’s amazing how often taking a plane is actually cheaper than taking the train. EasyJet does tend to nickel and dime, but in the way almost all airlines are now: checked baggage is extra, more legroom is extra, etc. But, unlike RyanAir, use of their bathroom is complimentary (seriously). I have to say, this flight on EasyJet was much more pleasant than the last, and much more pleasant than most of my Southwest flights as well. The plane was clean, well maintained. The staff was quite lovely and helpful. And I didn’t feel like a stuffed sardine. While the flight was short, as most within Europe are, for being so inexpensive it was very pleasant. If you have the choice between RyanAir and EasyJet for flying in Europe, I would pick EasyJet any day. Once we landed in Geneva, we were shuttled to the main terminal and waited to go through customs. The line was long, but honestly, I was just really happy to get my passport stamped in Switzerland. Traveling by train is wonderfully picturesque, but you do not get any passport stamps when moving from country...

The Food of the Times [Fierce Foodie]

I have a penchant for reading cookery texts, from M.F.K. Fisher on transatlantic shipboard cuisine in the 30’s to Apicus on Roman cuisine. I enjoy imagining what a paste of stewed calf’s brains seasoned with pepper and cumin, and cooked with broth, wine, milk and eggs might taste like. Foods come in and out of fashion just like modes of dress, and tastes evolve with the inclusion of other cultures. There was a time when the now ubiquitous pizza was considered exotic or when the tiny breast meats of thrushes and other small songbirds were looked upon by many as delicacies and not potential SARS carriers. Today’s modern cooks have nearly unlimited access to ingredients and cuisine, but very limited time for cooking. Luckily fresh garden produce goes from kitchen to table with little or no cooking. My mother, the green thumb of the family, has donated many a zucchini to my pantry. This recipe makes great use of them and also includes fresh basil and mint. Zucchini ribbon salad with ham (courtesy of Good Housekeeping) Ingredients 2 pound(s) (5 small) zucchini, ends trimmed 4 slice(s) (1 ounce each) deli ham, sliced into 1/2-inch ribbons 1 lemon 2/3 cup(s) salted pistachios, shelled 1/3 cup(s) packed fresh basil leaves 1/3 cup(s) packed fresh mint leaves 1 clove(s) garlic Salt Pepper 3 tablespoon(s) extra-virgin olive oil 2 tablespoon(s) water 8 slice(s) whole wheat baguette, toasted 1 1/2 ounce(s) goat cheese, softened Directions With vegetable peeler, peel zucchini into wide ribbons. Transfer zucchini ribbons to large bowl and add ham. If making ahead, cover and refrigerate up to 1 day. From lemon, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze 2 tablespoons juice. Cover and refrigerate lemon peel. Prepare pesto: In food processor with knife blade attached, pulse pistachios until finely chopped. Add...

A Wine Drinker’s Guide to Beer [Elbows on the Table]

Until this past year, my beer knowledge was limited to Natty Light kegstands on University housing porches. In years when my bank account hovered well below sea level, I enjoyed Guinness for dinner but mostly because it had lots of iron, was cheap and filled me up like eating actual food. My gastronomical education leaned more towards wine and spirits. Being the social sort, I’m able to hold my own with the snobbiest of wine connoisseurs and the most discerning of scotch drinkers. Evenings with paramours or girlfriends naturally gravitate towards the cocktails and great bottles of wine for the table. But then I moved to Hollywood where every other restaurant is now a gastropub. Quite simply, fried, spicy, bread-heavy, fatty food is just better matched with beer. While even the most elite of gastropubs often only carry passable wine, the most makeshift location will have a beer list that rivals a Berlin beer hall. I make no assumptions that I know anything about beer beyond what amounts to a pre-school education, but I do know food and what flavors pair. I have tried every kind of bougie junk food with all kinds of craft brews and have fallen in love with what you can do with the two. So, instead of being that annoying, pathetic person who drinks a glass of bad Cabernet with a burger, you can follow the simple tips below to know what pairs best with what. There are two types of beers and a plethora of styles within them. Depending on the fermentation, a beer is either an Ale or a Lager. Lagers: Pale lagers are the most produced and consumed style of beer in the world and for a good reason. The flavors are pretty mild allowing it to pair...

On Wine Tasting: Sex, Solvang and When Good Wine Tastes Bad [Elbows on the Table]...

Vacations in my adult life have been merely a guise for my love affair with food. Last week I celebrated my 20-something birthday by going to the San Ynez Valley. The valley, made famous by the movie Sideways, grows some of the best burgundy style grapes in the country (your Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Grenaches). Santa Barbara’s wine region is about two hours north of Los Angeles tucked inside a dry, mountainous region about 12 miles from the coast. For anyone who has always wanted to dip their toe in the ocean of wine knowledge, this is the best place to start. As far as I am concerned, there is NOTHING sexier than wine. It is all about passion and intoxication and sensuality. I cannot think of another activity in the world that can get a person laid quicker than a bottle of good wine paired with a succulent meal. It is also the quickest way to make friends and the most painless way to get your family off your back. Pair enough good food with enough good drink, everyone is happy and full of adoration. You can, without a doubt, hyperbolize one’s food appetite to one’s sexual appetite (although anyone who has been on a date can attest that the two are not mutually exclusive). When compared, my love of food is the kind of sex where you rent a hotel room and come out with a $2,000 cleaning bill due to broken lamps, torn curtains and turned over furniture which must be followed by a time of celibacy because you are positive at least five sins were committed on top of the act. It is intense. The real beauty of California is that besides the major cities, the state is basically countryside....

Le Marché de Noël [Secret Life of an Expat]

France took the Christ out of Christmas long, long ago. The word Noël comes from the middle French nael, which comes from the latin natalis [dies] which means [day] of birth. To wish someone a Merry Christmas, one would say Joyeux Noël. There is no all-inclusive “Happy Holidays” greeting in France, but in keeping with the French (at least the French I talk to) denial of any religious connection to their many religiously scheduled and named school vacations and national holidays (All-Saints, Easter), wishing someone a Joyeux Noël is merely wishing them a good vacation. In that way, it can be said to anyone whether they celebrate or not. This year, I scoured Paris for something Christmas-y to write about, but beyond a lot of blue and white lights (I know, counter-intuitive, right?), it seems the best things we have going here are the display windows at the big department stores, and they are a little scary. Then I realized that what I was looking for was all happening in my back yard. I live in a somewhat boring suburb of Paris, but the powers that be are good with community events, and every year there is an adorable Christmas Market. Maybe this is what you expect a market “in the old country” to look like? With chickens and rabbits (bottom right) and a veritable cornucopia all spread out on hay. Well sorry, this is just a display. The bananas are plastic.But the geese are real. There were lots of animals in attendance, professional show offs: geese, goats, sheep, cows, even a donkey. Seeing all these agricultural animals gives you a sense of plenty and makes everything feel more, I don’t know, wholesome… Lots of vendors sold the traditional foods you would buy at...