Posts Tagged ‘joel’

I’ve spent much of the past few years in Victoria enjoying the wonders of local craft beer. I love it.

Topping my list of Victoria craft breweries is Phillips Brewing Company, whose Amnesiac double-IPA is a wonderous invention, Lighthouse Brewing Company, and Spinnaker’s Brew Pub.

In the not-too-distant-past, I went on a triple-brewery tour in Victoria with a group of friends. Three breweries in one glorious afternoon. In the more recent-distant-past, I accepted a new job in Basel and packed up my life to move overseas.

Switzerland isn’t known for it’s beer. This is strange to me, considering that it borders both Germany and Austria, which are famous for the “Bavarian Purity Law” and have high standards for quality beer. Then again… Switzerland also borders both France and Italy, renowned for their wine. So the Swiss go with vino instead of ale.

The “national” ale of Switzerland is an aweful thing called Feldschlösschen.


This stuff is aweful. It should really be called Feldsucken. It’s the equivalent of Molson Canadian. For the first few weeks of life in Switzerland, I was making regular trips over the border into Germany just to buy large cases of decent beer.

And then I met Rafael.

One Saturday afternoon, as the family and I – plus Martin and Anne – were wandering through the small streets of old Basel, I found a man with a table full of beer set up in front of a specialty liquor shoppe. I recognize a craft brewer when I see one, and I made a beeline for his booth.

Dude is serious about his beer

Dude is serious about his beer

La Brasserie Trois Dames is a young Swiss Venture, started by Rafael Mettler. And he makes quality beer.

We sampled every single one of his beers right then and there in the street, and then I purchased … well … lots. It turns out that he is Swiss, from the French district, and he lived in Vancouver for two years, working with many local craft brewers in Gas Town, and on Vancouver Island. In 2007, he cleaned up at the British Columbia Beer Contest (Victoria), taking home the Best In Show award, and Gold and Silver awards for several brews. Heck, the label for his “Pacific Ale” features the Vancouver skyline!


He mentioned that there would be a party event at the brewery in Sainte-Croix at the end of October, and that I should come down for it. The perfect excuse for a boys’ adventure – travel by train to a small Swiss town in the French quarter and bathe in beer. Mmmmmm. Joel and Martin put up little resistance.

So on Saturday morning, we packed up and headed to Sainte-Croix. The train ride was beautiful, and we had an amazing view of the Swiss Alps breaking through a layer of clouds. Awe-inspiring.

At one point on the trip, everything switched from German to French. Announcements on the train. Signs in the towns. Conversations of people near us. It was great for me – my French is quite good – but it threw Martin and Joel.

The Brasserie Trois Dames has restored my hope in Swiss beer.

À votre santé!


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Tim and I planned a traditional Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate our first Canadian holiday as expats.  While most of you were enjoying turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie a week ago, the boys and I were still zombies recovering from the 9-hour time difference.  After a week of adjusting our sleeping patterns, visiting countless grocery stores, specialty food stores and ethnic grocers for the necessary ingredients and up until the wee hours preparing food, we sat down to overloaded plates on Sunday night.

 Tim had to resort to desparate measures for the onion cutting! I was five feet away and still weeping...oh wait, I was crying from laughing so hard!

Tim had to resort to desparate measures for the onion cutting! I was five feet away and still weeping...oh wait, I was crying from laughing so hard!

To join in the festivities, we invited a few friends (okay, we invited our only friends) and set out to provide them with a real Canadian experience.  In total, we had 3 English, 2 Germans, and 5 Canadians crammed in around our IKEA breakfast table jutted up against our friend’s matching IKEA breakfast table (so there is an upside to everyone having the same furniture as you…).

Other furniture coming soon!

Amidst the chaos of making a meal for 10 people, you don't get "before" pictures.

Thanksgiving is of course a holiday commemorating the pilgrims who discovered the Americas and gave thanks for the first harvest, so I knew that Europeans wouldn’t celebrate it. What I wasn’t expecting were the guests who had never tasted pumpkin pie! EVER!  The lack of interest in pumpkin pie means you don’t find the canned stuff in grocery stores here but Tim suggested we boil and puree our own pumpkins…what a great idea! It turned out fantastically and when you think about how easy it is to make pumpkin pie, it’s really not all that much work to make the puree yourself.

I had a chuckle at the English guests telling me that my Brussels Sprouts with Pecan Brown Butter were “simply brilliant”. It just sounded so praiseful with their sophisticated accents and all.  And speaking of brilliant, Tim did an incredible job of his first turkey!  I think the opening line of the recipe directions pretty much sums it up: “2 to 3 days before roasting:”. Say WHAT?! Yeah, you read that right…he started working on preparations for the bird 2 days before dinner!  In fact, it goes further back than that because he had to first find a butcher who could order him a turkey.  After a fair bit of charades and basic German communication, the butcher got on the phone and called a local farmer, secured a turkey of our size and ordered it right there! Now that’s local.

The only other cultural oddity was the comments about my gravy looking “real”. I was perplexed. I’ve never heard of “fake” gravy.  Everyone in my family knows that I take gravy very seriously. The gravy is MY deal. As it turns out, the Swiss don’t even know what gravy is (I mean, who needs gravy when you have melted cheese slathered over everything?) but they typically have what’s called “brown sauce”…an imitation gravy made from a…(GASP!)…package! My mom might be having a panic attack right this very minute.  But it begs the question, if we balk at the brown sauce, I wonder what types of horrific culinary crimes WE North Americans committ?

Tim: How about slices of processed “cheese”?!

Hmmm…good one hun. The Swiss would surely frown upon one-ingredient-from-plastic-American-cheese.  Geesh, there’s only one deli in all of Basel that even sells bonafide Cheddar Cheese!


Roast Turkey with Apple Cinnamon Aromatics

Hazelnut Bread Stuffing

Maple Ginger-Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Simple Mashed Potatoes

Brussels Sprouts with Pecan Brown Butter

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

“Real” Roast Turkey Gravy

Fresh Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream & Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

All in all, it was a hugely successful Thanksgiving Dinner with great food and fantastic company.  Once we retired for the evening (after hanging out with the English folks, I’m allowed to say words like “retired”, it’s great!), Tim and I reflected on what worked and what we can change for next year when we realized that we forgot to go around the table and share what we’re thankful for! Well, had we remembered, I would have announced that I am thankful for all the support these dear friends have given Tim and I as we make this huge life change. Thank you Martin & Anne, Joel & Sina, and our newest friends, Stephen & Ruth! We appreciate you all.

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On the weekend, we (Martin, Anne, Michael the Irishman, and myself) went to Freiburg to visit Joel and his girlfriend Sina.

Joel is an old friend of mine from Victoria. He moved to Basel more than five years ago. He’s partly to blame for me being here now. When he heard I was moving to Basel, he promptly decided to leave the country. He now commutes in from Freiburg (Germany) every day. Not too shabby, considering that the cost of living in Deutchland is much more affordable than in Schweiz.

Anyways, so we went over on the weekend to go “scootering”. That’s all they told me. I had NO idea what it was (nor did Martin!), but I was up for an adventure.

Riding up the mountainside with Joel and Sina

Riding up the mountainside with Joel and Sina

Eh? Never know what you're going to see on a sign here...

Eh? Never know what you're going to see on a sign here...

Every good adventure begins with pints of beer and shots of honey liquor

Every good adventure begins with pints of beer and shots of honey liquor

View of Freiburg

View of Freiburg

Instructions in German? Pffft. How hard can it be?

Instructions in German? Pffft. How hard can it be?

Downhill scootering!

Downhill scootering!

Well, that was a treat! An 8km downhill trail on push-scooters with mountain-bike-sized wheels! Fricken awesome.

Foreign music?

In other news, I was grocery shopping the other night in Switzerland and I heard a song of questionable content playing on the speakers while I sifted through aisles of cheese. I think that I snort-laughed.

With English lyrics, I bet that most people in the store figure that it’s just a nice foreign dance song with a cool beat. The next time you are shopping and you hear foreign lyrics – beware!


So I viewed my first “flat” tonight. I think it’s a keeper! But I won’t make any decisions until I view at least a few more. This ground-floor flat (they start counting the first floor on what North Americans call the second floor!) is super sweet. I would show you pics… but the listing doesn’t have any, and I forgot my camera. FAIL!

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