By Viktoria Rajnak
Photos by Viktoria Rajnak
In the heart of Geneva, well-hidden in a gorgeous inner courtyard, Le Baroque Restaurant just opened its doors. Its predecessor, Le Senso had a classic, Italian, conservative decor with white tablecloths.
It has been completely transformed into a contemporary club-like place.
The canapés are deep purple velour, along the wall hang heavy velour curtains, the lobby bar is covered in leather with metallic studs and the big hanging neon violet crowns light up the place and are reflected in the high ceiling. How pretty when the snow sits on the glass roof!
People surround this main bar, where the DJ mixes very well. I had dinner in the lobby, the calmer place of the two.
The main restaurant is a couple of shades darker, the music pumps louder, and you can expect to see people dancing.
The music caters for all tastes and so does the food.
The concept is festive dining, much like La Mangeoire in Courchevel, or Villa Romana in St Tropez.
This is where the pre-party is, and if you’re craving more, dancing continues at Le Baroque Club, just a stone throw away, until the early morning hours.
Viktoria Rajnak is a frequent contributor to GenevaLunch
By Tambako the Jaguar on flickr
Tambako the Jaguar, a Neuchatel photographer who frequently visits Switzerland’s zoos and shares his beautiful photos of animals on flickr, visited the young bear cubs in Bern last week (18 June).
The bears were born in December and are named Urs and Berna, but for now even the Baerengraben zookeepers are unsure if they are male and female.
Background story, Bern’s bears, GenevaLunch
You’ve probably passed it right by on the supermarket shelf: those shelves of Thomy tubes full of mayonnaise, mustard, tomato purée, and even chicken liver paté. But the star of this particular show, as far as I’m concerned, is the tuna mayo. It might sound suspicious at first, but give it a try.
Just take a piece of dark bread, squinch a little squiggle out onto the bread, throw on a slice of Comté or Gruyere or some other hard cheese, maybe top it all off with a slice of cucumber, and voilà. Fast food, but very far from the MacDo idea of speed!
If you work at home, as I do, or simply have an office fridge and not much time, this is a culinary lifesaver. Some may balk at the idea, and when I smuggled a tube to a US friend, she confessed to have tried it, let it linger in her refrigerator for some months, and then eventually chucked it. But another friend, when she heard of my impending summer visit, was quick to say: "Oh lord, don’t forget the tuna mayo. What’s in that stuff, anyway? Crack?"
And thus was born our new nickname for our favorite product: Crack Mayo.
I’m not sure Thomy would approve, but I’m addicted.
If you have a favorite market, shop, product, café, bar, or restaurant, or if you’re looking for a favorite item and can’t find it, give me a shout.
Photo, courtesy Nestlé
Film Review: "Lie of the Land". News update: This film won a prestigious BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Awards) in the UK last night (20 April) for Single Documentary. It is also in the international competition section of Visions du Réel.
Photo: courtesy of the Visions du Réel festival, Nyon, Switzerland
Note that the programming for this film in Nyon has been changed. It is now being shown Wednesday 23 April at 17:00 in Capitole 1 (not on 21 April at 16:00 in Capitole 2).
"It’s what it is all about, isn’t it? Life and death. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," said the farmer surveying his fields in "Lie of the Land." The farmer was referring to the natural order of things – we are born, and then eventually we die. He could, however, have been talking about the death of farming in the UK. Forced by market prices to kill healthy animals which are no longer in vogue, forced by government requirements to fill out endless forms, and forced by the supermarkets to reduce costs drastically, this film showed us the British Farmer’s anger and frustration at the demise of his industry.
"Lie of the Land" by Molly Dineen is a timely film. The farmers she interviewed despaired as they saw more and more imported food products being brought into Britain. In a week when countries around the world are recognizing the need for food security, when riots have started to emerge over the price of basic foodstuffs, the issue as to whether a country can feed its own people is very topical. It hasn’t been that paramount in the last 30 years, but in the last 30 days it has.
The documentary, featuring the lives of three farmers, includes scenes of calves being shot and the skinning of an animal. They are graphic but Dineen quite rightly did not shirk from showing them. The point the farmers were trying to get across is that farming and the production of meat involves harsh realities, and the problem with modern society is that we are now divorced from those realities.
The farmers questioned modern-day thinking as to why the British public get upset about the rights of a fox, but seem to be indifferent about other country issues. The message was that we have a romanticized view of rural life. We never see a butcher walk through a village delivering meat with a carcass on his back. We like our meat to be in neat sanitized, plasticized containers and most importantly at a cheap price. That cheapness has come at the expense of the farmers.
Dineen didn’t set off to make a film about the state of British farming. Her original subject was the banning of fox hunting by Parliament in the UK. The issue took over 700 hours of parliamentary debate and brought 400,000 people from Britain out in force to demonstrate on a Countryside March in London.
The opening shots of the pro- and anti-hunting lobbies marching in Trafalgar Square showed some of the usual pro-hunting sterotypes: the tweed-suited squires, the Barbour-jacketed women and the shaven-headed (or dreadlocked) anti-hunting protester. Yet amongst these were thousands of ordinary workers, farmers and British citizens from rural areas who were so frustrated with many other government countryside policies that they had made the effort to come to London to show their anger. Dineen thus felt compelled to investigate this anger further.
A measure of the success of a good documentary is that the subject matter should create debate and raise questions, and the beauty of this festival is that the director is often on hand afterwards to answer them. Dineen was in Nyon on Saturday and did this, not only on the technological side of making the documentary but on the impact the film has had since it was shown.
Documentaries should also feed our imagination. "Lie of the Land" does all of this superbly. It also asks that we question where the source of our food comes from.
Geneva Lunch will be reviewing films and providing Visions du Réel festival news throughout the week.
Nyon documentary film festival reviews, 14 April 2008
- "Playing between Elephants" Friday 18 April 16:00 ( Capitole 2 Fellini), repeated Tuesday 22 April 11:00 (Salle Communale)
- "Megumi" Friday 18 April 14:00 (Salle Communale), repeated Sunday 20 April 16:00 (Cinema Capitole 2 Fellini)
- "Driving Men" Saturday 19 April 14:00 ( Salle communale), repeated Monday 21 April 20:00 ( Cinema Capitole Fellini)
The poster for the forthcoming Visions du Réel film festival in Nyon shows a chaotic shop interior. The shop, crammed full and selling all manner of items, is a perfect metaphor for this week-long event. There is always something of interest, whether it is a film rebuilding a Tsunami struck village, or a humorous documentary on one woman’s relationship with men. If you have never thought about attending a festival like this, and assume it’s just for film professionals, then think again.
"Playing between Elephants " takes us from Vaud to the heart of village life in Aceh in Indonesia after the Tsunami. The title reflects an Indonesian saying that when elephants are locked in a fight, the mouse-deer dies in the middle. In this case the mouse-deer (the village chief) doesn’t die, he lives to tell the tale and what a tale it is.
The chief is stuck in the middle of a battle between what his villagers want when rebuilding their village, and what a UN agency want. This film provides a small but fascinating insight into the work of the international aid industry and all the complexities that such a project entails. It is worth seeing not just for the film-going public but for those involved in such work themselves.
Although the film focuses on the village chief, we also see the issues that both sides have to deal with, and through their respective cultural values. The organizational headaches involved in such a project are shown and these are not without humour. There are a few heart-in-mouth moments, one of them the sight of very heavy trucks driving building materials over a rickety, precarious river bridge to the village. The creaking of the structure, the nuts and bolts loosening up every time the vehicles drive over, convinces you the bridge is going to collapse at any moment and tragedy will ensue. Miraculously it doesn’t and it, like the village chief with all his worries, lives to see another day. There are some wonderful touches in this film: the village chief lying down defeated by a problem wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a roaring tiger, the foreman giving out instructions, the translator unwilling to translate them, villagers being called to work by a megaphone.
The more sombre film "Megumi " deals with the kidnapping of an 11-year-old girl (Megumi) who disappeared in 1977 when walking home from school. Set in Japan, it tells the story of North Korean authorities kidnapping her. The film focuses on the girl’s parents and her brothers who are constantly campaigning to find out where she is. The documentary recreates the scene the day she was taken and films the parents struggling with quiet dignity to find an answer, ever hopeful that she will return home to them. This film leaves a lot of unanswered questions, in particular why the North Koreans kidnapped Megumi and other children. It is a topical subject as there are still ongoing disputes between the two countries on these and other abductions. Filmed on the streets of Japan, on the train and in the lives of the people involved, with strange, sad background music, this documentary brings a small corner of Japanese life onto Nyon screens.
The film is a complete contrast to "Driving Men" by Susan Mogul. It centres around the men in this American filmmaker’s life who have driven her around in their cars. In the opening shot of her two feet on the dashboard of a car,it is revealed why Mogul is usually the passenger and not the driver. Through time we see different men at the wheel with Mogul constantly filming them while they talk.
Personalities are uncovered in conversation and through car interiors, from the smooth purr of expensive, automatic, immaculate saloon cars, to the gear changes, loud engines and grubby windscreens of others. You can only raise a wry smile when the men reminisce on their relationships with Mogul, platonic or otherwise. Some of them have a completely different recollection of past shared events. This film is quite self-indulgent and veers a little off course at times, yet the use of rock music and laid-back Los Angeles jazz reflects the mood of each relationship and makes this documentary entertaining viewing.
These films are just three of over 150 on offer at the festival which opens Thursday 17 April. The full programme, available in English is on the Visions du Réel website and includes a map of where each film is being shown. Tickets can be bought 30 minutes in advance of screenings. A printed brochure can also be found at Nyon’s cinema, tourist office and other venues.
Every Easter the fountains around Nyon are decorated by local schools, voluntary groups and organisations. From down near the lake, to up into the old town, you can find chicks, eggs, rabbits and flowers amongst all the displays.
One group used just painted plastic bottles for their work of art, a good way to recycle and very effective too.
There are fifteen fountains decorated in total, go check them out and Happy Easter!
More chocolate festival photos in the GenevaLunch “Versoix, Switzerland Chocolate Festival” photo album.
“Go on, only a few hundred calories!”
Paradise if you love the stuff and don’t have to worry about your weight, but purgatory if you do.
Everywhere you turn in this annual festival there are stall holders offering their wares, tempting visitors with plates of little squares of chocolate, all too good to resist.
There are also vendors with chocolate fish, chocolate rabbits, chocolate fountains, chocolate for children, dark rich chocolate for adults sold in dark, rich sophisticated boxes. Cakes with chocolate, ice cream with chocolate, chocolate covered apricots, chocolate in boxes from every cocoa bean producing country in the world. A chocoholics delight.
This annual chocfest in Versoix is very popular, so it is also very busy. The queue for the free visit to the Faverger chocolate factory was so long I couldn’t be bothered to wait. Maybe I missed the sight of Oompa Loompas operating the machinery or sailing on rivers of chocolate, but never mind.
There are other attractions laid on for visitors such as a “choco” train, balloons, food stands, and the obligatory Swiss band to entertain the crowds. This is a good day out for a family albeit a bit of a chaotic one. The chocolate tents can get quite squashed at peak times, so I would advise next year go early to enjoy it at its best. This way you can try all the varieties on offer in peace, even if you have to live off salad for the following few days.
Wensleydale Cheese, but not as we know it, Gromit
Photo reprinted with permission from Wensleydale Creamery
Eating a typical British meal at Christmas time doesn’t come top of my list in the Yuletide festivities. The fun part of living abroad is to see what other nationalities eat on celebratory occasions. It’s good to mix different countries’ traditions with some British ones.
Over the years I have tasted succulent bar-be-cued steak on Christmas Day in Uruguay, and delicious fish with fabulous Chilean wine on Christmas Eve in Santiago.
I’ve also had fun introducing other people over the world to to the delights of British Christmas crackers (the ones with corny jokes and mottos, not the biscuits).
Here in Nyon we live in an apartment building where our neighbours (I think there are over 20 nationalities in our block) often get together for a drink. Last year they set up a trestle table in the lobby and we all met over a glass of "Vin Chaud".
Conversation turned to what everyone was going to be eating and drinking for Christmas. Neighbours came forward with their traditions.The Polish family on the third floor explained how they serve lots of food over lots of courses, and put hay on the dining table to recreate a manger.
When it came to my turn I explained that Brits usually like to eat roast turkey with cranberry sauce, which can of course be tasty, but what really makes Christmas for me is a good sized chunk of Wensleydale Cheese. I then bemoaned the fact that I hadn’t got any as I forgot to ask anyone to bring any over from England, and I’d left it far too late to order some.
I then started to extoll the delights of Wensleydale cheese and how I was going to miss the crumbly, creamy delight. My neighbours’ faces went blank.
As I was born in Yorkshire and most of my relatives still live in the Dales, I then went on misty eyed about limestone walls, beautiful scenery and the cows dotted about the landscape and how their rich milk is a crucial contribution to the cheese.
I continued about the texture of Wensleydale, how it makes a perfect accompaniment to Christmas cake. There was no stopping me.
But then I saw the faces now looked even blanker, and nobody had any idea what I was talking about. So I stopped reminiscing and gave everyone the obvious frame of reference, Wallace and Gromit.
A Swiss neighbour looked at me and said, "Ah yes! now I remember from the film!"
I got excited, "So you know what I am referring to then?
He replied, "Hmm, I don’t think they managed to translate ‘Wensleydale’ into Swiss French. I think they said ‘Gruyère‘ instead.
Wallace would be mortified.