It is coming to the end of my sixth day in Geneva – I’m here for about three weeks on a work trip – and I find myself marking each day by the meals I have, especially dinner, easily the highlight of each day, possibly because each day is work and then dinner and then back to one’s hotel room. On my first day here, my colleague – who’s been to Geneva many times – introduced me to Upper Crust, which specialises in ready-made subway sandwiches with generous fillings. For dinner, we had beef pho at one of Geneva’s ubiquitous Chinese/Vietnamese restaurants; the pho turned out to be marvellous fortification against the chilly evening wind. On the second day, a colleague who works in Geneva and her husband hosted us for dinner at their apartment, and her husband made some baked (roast?) chicken and summer veggie soup with sausages that really hit the spot on a cold damp night. On the third day, this colleague herself made us some chicken rice for dinner! The rice was painstaking studded with ginger and chicken skin, and the chicken itself was presented resting on a bed of bean sprouts and lettuce, ringed by tomato slices. The meal was accompanied by a light stew of braised straw mushrooms and eggs and a clear soup that went very well with the chicken, fully up to the standard of professional hawkers in Singapore :) On the fourth day, this dear colleague and her husband brought us to a different Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant, where I again had beef pho, which turned out to come in a beefier, tastier stock. On the fifth day, we went to a restaurant whose 梅菜扣肉 (essentially pork belly braised with preserved mustard cabbage) my Geneva veteran of a colleague kept raving about. Together with that, we had stir-fried pak choi and Sichuan chicken and white rice, and it was like a slice of home, it was. The stir-fried pak choi was some of the best I ever had, the Sichuan chicken tasty and the pork belly was just a little too lean, but still mouthwateringly yummy. If you’ve tasted preserved mustard cabbage, you’ll know how it combines a delicate sourish taste with a tender juiciness that makes it extremely appetising, and this dish really just demanded the rice to finish it with. What a wonderful meal we had! And today, just this evening, we went to an Italian restaurant near our hotel – another recommendation from that Geneva veteran – and I had a very good spaghetti aglio followed by some homemade tiramisu, which was of just the right texture and brimming with coffee liqueur. The Italian restaurant comes highly recommended by me: the pizzas that my colleagues had came from a wood stove and were simply delicious, with just enough crust, not too much cheese and generous portions of ingredients; the music got my colleagues and I listening and commenting in an almost synchronised manner about how listenable it was; the service was superb; and certainly not least – I am still burping up coffee fumes :)
Geneva has been memorable because of the food I’ve had, and also because I’ve inhaled more second-hand smoke here in the past few days than I have in the last year in Singapore, because the buses and trams here are so punctual and technically advanced and I like the way they stop at every stop and don’t open their doors until a passenger presses a button to alight or enter the bus, because I saw a distinguished gentleman whose thin face was dominated by a moustache of fearsome bushiness bristling sideways past his ears, because the sky here is so calm most days – it’s been milder than I would expect here apart from a couple of gray chilly drizzle-pocked days; on the first day I think I could have gotten a tan from the sunshine streaming in through my hotel room window – that jet trails often linger and linger, because sirens – of the police and the ambulance types – are frequent day and night beyond all plausible explanation and lastly, at least for these six days, because my colleagues and I had to look all around the area near our hotel and then cross the river to the shopping district before we came by seemingly the only place in Geneva that sold Rolex watches, a place with a door lady (yes, a lady whose only job was to ask if you were visiting their store – which was the sort of place that makes me feel that I should use a more exclusive word than ‘store’ and that sadly but understandably that more exclusive word is beyond my limited peasant vocabulary – and open the door for you if you were so doing) and snotty saleswomen.
Oh, and today Joseph Stiglitz gave what to me was an eye-opening and scintillating talk at a session of the International Labour Organisation Governing Body. Man, you should have seen the staid old assembly hall hoppin’ like a rock concert venue before U2 took the stage. I took some notes, so should be able to relate some of the topics he touched on in a later post :)