Fondue Fanatic

happy fondue season

Let me say first of all that I’m a fondue purist. After living in Switzerland for 11 years, and eating my fare share of cheese fondue, I am well and truly converted to eating only “real” fondue. I was (nearly) appalled when I moved to Holland and people talked about making a fondue and dunking MEAT into it, or pieces of vegetables! What??? No way. Not in MY fondue you won’t!

A real cheese fondue, as far as I’m concerned, and as far as a few million Swiss are concerned, can only have bread swirled through it and eaten. Period.  If you want to involve other foods, then dip OUT the cheese onto your plate, if you please.

There are a few other rules regarding cheese fondue:

It should only be eaten during cool weather. Fondue is not eaten in the summer. I’m very happy that tonight we opened this year’s fondue season!

Fondue should be creamy and all one mixture. This seems to be a Swiss rule and not necessarily a French rule. I’ve had cheese fondue in the French Alps several times and each time I have been served a fondue that has been cooked too hot and the fat has separated from the cheese and sits as a clear yellowish layer on top of the mixture. It’s awful. But this seems to be the French way. I just don’t get it.

It is perfectly acceptable to let the last bit of fondue burn on the bottom of the pot (caquelon). Swiss people will let this burn, turn brown, then cook an egg on top of it, scrape the whole lot out and eat it on a plate. By the time I get down to the bottom I’m so full I can’t even think about doing something with the remaining crust, but I’m sure it’s tasty.

If you drop your bread into the cheese you have to pay a forfeit of some kind. It could be drinks. It could be that you have to sing a song. Just be careful and don’t drop your bread!

It’s ok to use dark heavy bread in a fondue. This is actually my preference. I have read several American recipes for cheese fondue and they all call for “french” or “french style” bread. I can only imagine this is because it’s the closest you can come in the US to decent hearty heavy bread. You need bread that’s not going to fall apart when you dip it. Tonight we used a very dark bread with nuts in it. Perfection!

Each piece of bread must contain a bit of crust on it. Cut the bread yourself to make sure this is true.

A fondue should only be kept bubbling in a “caquelon”. This is a heavy ceramic pot that will happily keep your cheese bubbling without burning (unless you want it to burn). Under the caquelon sits a burner of some kind. I used to always use those disposable gel burners, but got fed up with the smell and mess. Last year I bought a gas canister burner which is fantastic. You can control the heat and you can easily refill it with lighter fluid. Worth buying if you fondue more than a couple of times a year.

You must drink either white wine or hot tea with fondue. The Swiss believe that if you drink anything else, the cheese will become a hard solid ball in your stomach and make you very sick. Everyone knows a friend or (distant) relative that this has happened to. I prefer not to take my chances and simply drink wine. To make fondue you have to use white wine anyway, so just continue drinking the bottle!

Optional: dip your cheese covered bread into a little kirsch; grind some fresh pepper onto your plate, then touch your cheese covered bread to the pepper (just a little!); kirsch can be added to the fondue during preparation, or not, to your own taste; same with garlic, but I recommend keeping the garlic in.

I shouldn’t have to say it, but of course no double dipping!

Tonight I made a fondue with 50% Vacherin Fribourgeoise and 50% L’Etivaz. I’ve never tried the L’Etivaz before but it was a special at Tromp (see previous posting) and the samples were delicious. I have to say, this is definitely the creamiest fondue I’ve ever made. It was so smooth and all of melted almost immediately. I followed the typical fondue recipe, although I used more than the usual 200g per person. I find that’s not enough for a main course. 250g per person seems more reasonable. Anyway, it was a damn good fondue, even better than my normal Moitié-Moitié version. Wikipedia has some good info about different versions of fondue. And here is a typical recipe.

Going back to this L’Etivaz cheese, here’s a quote about it that I found online, which exactly sums up how it tastes to me: heavenly.

“Basically, this is 19th Century Gruyere, made by a group of 76 devoted Gruyere-loving families who felt that the government regulations were allowing cheesemakers to compromise the qualities that made good Gruyere so special. So in the 1930’s, they pulled out of the government’s Gruyere program, and “created” their own cheese – L’Etivaz – named for the village around which they all lived. L’Etivaz is made essentially as Gruyere was 100 years ago. It may be made only when the cows are doing their summer grazing in Alpine pastures in glorious mountain meadows filled with wild flowers and herbs. It must be made in traditional copper cauldrons, and only over old-style, open wood fires. The resulting cheese is superb – a bit creamier, less sharp than the above-mentioned Antique Gruyere, yet exceptionally smooth and flavorful. Aged for over a year, L’Etivaz has a firm texture, a melt-in-your-mouth butteriness, and a lingering lilt of succulent Swiss mountain cream on your tongue.”

Happy fondue season everyone!

Saturday morning in Amsterdam

The Utrechtsestraat (Utrecht Street) is my favorite street in Amsterdam. It is only 6 blocks long, but has everything I could ever need: food, music, clothes, books, etc. If I could afford it I’d live in that neighborhood and do all my shopping on that street. I’d eat in restaurants there and buy flowers from the shop on the canal bridge. Unfortunately I can’t afford to live nearby (unless in something the size of a postage stamp) and can only afford to shop there occasionally. I used to work at the end of the street and at least once per week spent my lunchtime walking Utrechtsestraat and picking up lunch. There’s Stacey’s where they have the best pumpkin soup I’ve ever had (besides my own). And Loekie where they make the very best melted goat cheese sandwich in the world.

This morning I was early in this neighborhood (9:15) and the only people out and about were shop keepers opening up and early morning tourists taking photos of the shop keepers opening up. I was there to get my hair cut at Kinki. Afterwards I walked up to Tromp (sorry no website), a cheese shop, to buy cheese for fondue this weekend. Trying not to be too much like a tourist, I pulled out my phone and took a few photos:

I couldn’t help thinking about my niece and her cheese making. Maybe one day her cheese will be in this shop!

I will definitely have to bring Mom to Utrechtsestraat when she comes to visit. Maybe she’ll also find out that melted goat cheese is lekker too.

We did it!


Yesterday DB and I ran the Echo 5km race that was part of the Amsterdam Marathon day.  I didn’t walk.  I didn’t have pain in my legs.  And I came in about 1/2 way through the women runners, at 32 minutes and some seconds.  Wow am I happy!

DB did really good at 26 minutes en nog wat.  He REALLY ran fast.  So fast that he was in pain at the end of the day.  As a matter of fact, it’s now Monday night and we’re both sitting here on the couch with ice on our lower legs.  What a pair.

I have to say, if you want to increase your mileage with running, run a race that’s just farther than you normally run.  With the crowd of people, the excitement of the day, the encouragement from everyone, you easily go beyond what you think you can do.  Those 32 minutes just flew by and I never would have thought it was 5km.  It was over before I knew it.  It was pretty cool to start from within the Olympic Stadium and to finish there too.  You really felt like you were a part of a big event and that it was something special.  Since it was my first race ever, it was sure special to me!

I have some photos posted on flickr here and I’ve also made a flickr group for others to upload their photos of the event.  Tomorrow morning I’m back at the gym and am so curious how my body will feel.  Will I be able to keep up the running and hold off the shin splints?  I think the weight training and extra stretching has really helped.  And the fysio of course.  I’m certainly excited about heading for 10km now!

Tomorrow is the BIG DAY!

Olympic Stadium Amsterdam

Tomorrow we will run out of this stadium in the midst of throngs of cheering people!  Ha!  We’re only running the 5km and not the marathon, or half marathon.  But still, people will be cheering!

This morning DB and I went to the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam and picked up our race numbers to pin on our shirts and our timing chips to tie to our shoes.  I’m excited and nervous.  This morning I went to the gym and did some cross training and weights and only about 5 minutes of jogging just to see how the ol’ legs feel.  They feel pretty darned good!  I might just pull this off after all!

I plan to carry my trusty Sony-Ericsson with me to take photos along the way.  I’m very curious what it will be like.  This morning there were bus loads of foreigners who have come just for this event.  I also heard that 2/3 of the runners are not Dutch.  Running marathons has become a tourist industry!  People flying around the world just to run marathons.  I’ll be happy just to drive around Holland and run a few 10k’s.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a full update and photos and hopefully a happy ending!

Learning something new

I wrote about a week ago about getting in contact with fellow knitters in Amsterdam. Well, I finally got off my lazy butt and went out and socialized with some knitters. And I met Nancy Marchant, who’s designs I’ve been admiring for quite some years. On Thursday night (18th) Nancy held a class in brioche knitting at De Afstap in Amsterdam. She also showed us her stack of berets like a stack of colorful pancakes. Nancy was very nice and patient and worked hard going back and forth between Dutch and English. There were two of us US types, and 4 Dutchies. Nancy’s been here 30 years and says her Dutch is terrible, but don’t believe it. She’s way too modest. It was a really nice evening and I hope to see Nancy again, along with other knitting fools, at De Jaren on Monday nights for the local Stitch ‘n Bitch gatherings.

Nancy Marchant

Now I’m all psyched to make the beret myself! I even ordered the very expensive, but very beautiful Noro yarn that makes up the varigated colors. Luckily I can buy it locally from Wolhalla. AND I have a GREAT idea for reversible socks in brioche stitch. I wonder if there’s already a pattern out there somewhere…. Here’s a photo of berets and my little brioche swatch made that night.

brioche stitch

I also learned about the Dutch Stitch ‘n Bitch Day that will be held 3 November in Rotterdam. DB doesn’t want to go (quel surprise) so I will drive myself and enjoy a blissful day of fiber fun.

You may be wondering how I’m getting along with Mom’s sock. Well, I was half way down the leg when I realized that it would be too big. So I ripped the whole thing out and started again. I’m now down to the heel flap:

Mom's sock

It’s not a very tall sock, but I think that’s ok. The heel flap is done in Partridge Stitch (purl the wrong side, slip every other stitch on the right side). I should have this first sock finished by Thanksgiving, which is good, because she needs to try it on before I start the second one!

Battles in concert

Sunday night we went to see Battles at the Melkweg.  Like a lot of concerts DB buys tickets for, I really didn’t know what to expect.  I had seen a little clip of their Lowlands performance on TV and they sounded interesting, so why not go and check it out? I’m really glad I did!

These are 4 guys doing some very interesting stuff with electronics and guitars and a drummer who finished the concert looking like he had run a marathon.   It was a non-stop wall of sound.  I won’t try very hard to describe their music, because I don’t know of any other bands to compare them to, and I think it’s best if you just listen to them and you’ll see what I mean.

There were points in the concert where I thought “ok, you’ve made your point with that little snip of sound, now get on with doing something with it!” but just when I started to get annoyed with the disparate bits not fitting together, suddenly it DID all fit together and sounded amazing.  They work by building little bits of sound, then fold those bits together in clever ways and make you go “wow, how did they do that?”  It’s intelligent music.  It’s not always easy music.  But I was always interested in what would come next.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to get their official website to do anything.  Maybe it’s a Mac thing or a Firefox thing.  But here’s a link to their wikipedia page where you can find other links to sites and to pieces of music you can listen to.

Here’s a YouTube video clip.  This is called “Tonto”.  There seem to be a lot of clips of “Atlas” but I like this one better.  Still, it’s not the same as seeing them live.  They are really a band you want to see live.

Changing perspectives

My mom says she’s coming to visit next year. Well, no tickets have been purchased yet, but it’s sounding pretty promising that her and one of her sisters will come stay with us next year. This really changes how I look at things around here!

There are of course all the typical tourist places to take them: Anne Frank house, Van Gogh Museum, Vollendam, etc. But there are also the small things, the day to day life things, that I start to look at differently knowing that Mom is coming and maybe she’d like this

Kop van Jut

For example, last night we went to eat at what has become our favorite eetcafe. An eetcafe is kind of a Dutch version of a diner. Good basic food at a reasonable price. We will certainly bring Mom here when she comes over.

And in the mornings when I bike to work I bike through the negenstraatjes (nine little streets) and through Het Spui. On Friday mornings it’s a busy place at the Spui with all the book sellers setting up their stalls for the day. We could have breakfast at Dante or Cafe Luxembourg and watch the city wake up and the book market set up. Then we can wander through the market and see what old books we can find.

Nearly every morning before I walk through the doors of the office I stop at the Coffee Company on the Nieuwe Doelenstraat and get a latte to go. I’m always thinking how nice it would be to have the time to sit there and enjoy my coffee while looking out at the canals and people. Now, when Mom comes here we’ll go sit there and have a cup of coffee and just hang out. Won’t that be nice?

Oh, and there’s the biological market in de Jordaan, and the Albert Cuyp market, and tea at the Blauwe Teahuis in the Vondelpark. And and and…. By the time she comes here I’ll have so many things on the to do list she’ll have to make some decisions………

Running injury prevention

This morning I’m getting ready to go to the gym, not to run of course, but for yoga and cross training.  Since I now have “shin splints” I’m not running for a little while.  At least not until the 5km race in one week!  I was sitting here drinking my coffee, looking for inspiration and something to make me believe that this injury really is preventable in future.   I’m beginning to have hope after reading this terrific article I found on sports injury bulletin.  They give a lot of exercises to do to prevent this kind of injury and in general lots of good advice.  It’s a better article than I’ve seen on the usual suspects’ websites like Runners World and Cool Running.

I only hope that with the help of the physiotherapy, icing, cross training, stretching and exercises, that come next Sunday I can really make it to the end of the race within the 40 minutes limit.

After the gym this morning, DB and I are going to bike the race route and see what it’s like.  We’ve had lovely Fall weather lately.  Right now the sun is shining and the air is cool and crisp.  Perfect for being outside on a bike!

Flying Panthers strike again

Last night we went to see De Vliegende Panters (the Flying Panthers) in Carre.  They were very good!  Man, those guys can sing!  They were funny and fast and never let up for the entire 90 minutes.  I didn’t catch everything of course but even my Dutch family didn’t catch everything, so that made me feel a little better.  They started, and ended, their show in English, which was quite funny.  It was actually Denglish, the combination of both worlds, leading to literal translations and hilarious errors.  If you also find that funny, check out a book called “I always get my sin”.  It’s a book of errors Dutch people have made in English.  For example, “This is not to do” for “Dit is niet te doen” which really means “This is not doable”.  Or “This wrinkles a bell” for “Er rinkelt een bel” which really means “This rings a bell.”  Etc.

Anyway, it was a great show, I was really impressed and I’d definitely go see them again!  And I’m also going to try to find lyrics of their songs somewhere……

Running is not really healthy

As you readers know, I’m training to run a 5km race on Sunday 21 October.

Yesterday I went to see a physiotherapist because my lower legs hurt so much that I couldn’t run. In fact, I haven’t run in over a week. This is pretty depressing.

In my last running post I was happy and up beat and positive that all was going well. Two days later my lower legs hurt so much I couldn’t run during my Tuesday training. I mostly walked. I thought, well, just give it rest and do some cross training and all will be well. I put ice on my legs, which seemed to help. But then this last Tuesday I tried again and the pain is enough to tell me that something is really wrong.

The physio said I have shin splints. Again. Damn. She massaged my poor muscles, which hurt like hell. She gave me some exercises and stretches to do and said to come back on Friday. The funny thing is that neither of us can figure out how this happened. I was doing everything right! Everything was going so well! But anyway, here I am, just hoping that I can get better fast enough to still do this 5k. Of course I won’t run at all before the 21st. And even if I have to walk half of it – I’M GOING!