Swiss Train Passenger Perspective Landscapes

TrainLandscapeSwitzerland-06281If you live in Switzerland and have no car you ride the trains a lot. It’s one reason why I like living here, because the time in-transit can be used for something. When you’re driving here or there or biking, you have limited attention and ability to do anything beyond watching the road. I stated doing train passenger landscapes on the train last winter. I wanted to create some slightly blurred landscape images to layer into the Toy Warz storyline I’ve been developing with Bratz and Monster High dolls.

Toy WarzToy Warz

Here for example, you can see how the blurred background trees give just a little landscape texture to the background, mixing in will with the foreground but giving some sense of depth and context to the central image. I wanted to give a bit the post-apocalypse feeling and the texture layer of clouds could be blended into the narrative of the image. Expanding beyond that, I was also looking for image to give more texture or shadows in waves, to mix on either side of portraits or or to direct the eye of the viewer from top to bottom.

Relative Motion

These image have been taking mainly from the route from Zurich to Winterthur and from Zurich towards Chur. I started expanding on this theme and realized I just like the landscape images, in particular when I pan while shooting. The effect is that the background landscape is sharp while the foreground elements like trees and houses are blurred. It’s an experiment of image capture and relative motion of the train to the landscape, mixed in with a long shutter speed, it gives a nice surreal feeling to the shots. If you shoot while the train is curving away from the foreground, you get an added wave texture to the image. Some of these I’ll use for the Toy Warz backgrounds, but I also love them as a series on their own.


Stencil Bastards II – Zurich

Stencil Art Bastards II

The Stencil Bastards II show is currently going on (12. July – 30. August 2013) in Zurich and it’s well worth checking out. Featured artists include:

C215, M-City, Epsylon Point, Stf Moscato, Snub23, Penny, Czarnobyl, Pisa 73, Stew, 9Periodico and Zibe.

Curated by Christian Guemy, the show is hosted by the Starkart Gallery, which is an excellent venue for such an experience. A DJ played delightful strange beats from the garage while I wandered through the different rooms and basement of the house, where each artist takes over part of the space with their art.


Video Poetry Berlin-Zurich Rough Cut

 The first rough cut from my video poetry collaboration with DJ Cue is up. The music was composed by DJ Cue (Bobby Cuevas) while I provided the visuals and recorded ambient audio. This was made possible thanks to Talenthouse.com and their Creative Invite collaboration platform. This is a rough cut, so it doesn’t include the poetry dialogue that I will eventually add (actually, I’m looking for a woman with a nice classic German accent to do some voice recording), but it’s a nice visual representation of what I’m trying to create. Video imagery includes the abandoned Bärenquell Brauerei in East Berlin, Barbara running through Zurich Bahnhofstrasse (shoot organized with Ethan Oelman), and also a quick look from a underground club night in Berlin, part of an Alternative Berlin night tour I did in the city. Thanks to everyone involved, now that I’ve setup my computers in my new apartment I can get back to shooting and creating on a more normal basis. Enjoy…

Dancing with Water & Urban Affairs – Ethan Oelman Zurich Show

Dancing with Water & Urban Affairs, a show by Zurich photographer Ethan Oelman at *Galerie 16b. I’m planning to visit the Vernissage. I’ve assisted Ethan on one of his water shoots and made a companion video with the material called Birth-Kraft (http://vimeo.com/18276591) and also an interview where Ethan explains the background of his Dancing with Water project (http://vimeo.com/20802817), so I’m looking forward to seeing the images in a gallery setting.

It’s raining in Zurich today, so it should be a perfect environment to attend the Vernissage, today Friday January 20th from 17.00 – 21.00. Water will be pouring over the streets, and then I’ll experience the water and urban photography. The show is at *Galerie 16b and runs till the Finnisage on January 27th.

*Galerie 16b
Ausstellungsstrasse 16
8005 Zürich

Photo09 Zurich – Rejection Stings for An Instant

Bratz-0420.jpgThere’s a cool photo exhibition in Zurich each year. Depending on the year it has a new name, in 2007 it was called Photo07, in 2008 it was Photo08 and this year they’re calling it Photo09 (although it’s taking place in 2010). The concept is sort of the year in review, present the body of work of different Swiss photographers in one big show. Basically, each photographer presents their work from the past year in a giant old industrial hall. The images are the focus, and you walk through the visual menagerie stopping to check out interesting images and passing on others. It’s in the Maag event hall in Zurich, the cool thing about the show is that it features anyone, pros, amateurs, fashion photographers, hobby photographers, it’s just a really cool collection of visual imagery. All in all it’s a cool night out to attend the show. I checked out Photo07, was in Detroit during the 2008 show, and decided to submit a portfolio and image concept for Photo09.

I went about the submission process like it was an engineering conference, which means that as long as you pay the registration fee and present some work, you can show or talk about whatever you want. I figured, based on the Photo07 show that it was the same concept, present my photos of the past year in a layout which I think best represents my Vision09. The organizer of a conference like the SPIE Smart Materials get-together doesn’t know what will be ground-breaking research and what is worthless crap because they can’t predict the future and progression of science, and therefore generally won’t deny serious work (although to be fair, some conference organizations just want to make money and will take anything).

So long as the organizers think you’re on the level, you’re free to display your vision. I figured it was the same thing at Photo Zurich – and maybe it was at some point, but that was before the show got popular, and this year they had far more submissions than space to display them. So naturally, people had to be cut from the list. I submitted a portfolio and concept presentation to Photo09, which basically encompassed my year in photography for 2009. This was an interesting year since I had a nice combination of income, travel, and free time to think about life. My Vision09 includes images from Bratz in Rome and California to portrait shoots with Jurgita, her cousin Margarita, myself, and the Barbie Hunter Alexandra was there as well. It seemed like a cool collection of images which couldn’t be denied, but it was – and I’m fine with that.

It’s sort of discouraging to get a rejection letter for your first photography show, my first journal submission was accepted by Smart Materials (IOP Publishing) with barely a correction request. The divide between Art and Science is nonexistent for me, so I figured I would at least get in to Photo09, but on the other hand, I’ve had an equal number of articles rejected as published in scientific journals. It was actually a very apologetic rejection letter I received, so well-written in fact, I had to ask my girlfriend to confirm that they had indeed rejected me. The German was so eloquent to my non-fluent eyes that I didn’t know if I was being asked to not attend, or if I had gotten in and they didn’t want me to feel too good about myself. On the one hand this sucked, but on the other hand, it meant I wouldn’t need to pay the 250 CHF entrance fee plus the costs associated with printing out my display images. Which, in the end means it’ll make paying the credit card bill for that Zulu shield I ordered from South Africa much easier to rationalize (yes, it’s for a photo shoot).


Rejection from Photo09 stung for an instant. I’ve never been actively interested in what people think about what I shoot (not to the point that I would cry for not getting in a show). Each image is a failure in my mind, to accurately communicate the emotions and visions from my brain, so I wasn’t hurt that the editors at Blofeld Entertainment GmbH didn’t want to show my pictures. However, since I went through the editing process of putting together a presentation concept for Photo09 in Zurich, I figure I should display it somewhere. Since the web is one of my main platforms of choice to display imagery, I figure I’ll do it here (Vision 09 on Issuu). I’m slightly scared to see what  the Vision will bring in 2010.

[issuu layout=http%3A%2F%2Fskin.issuu.com%2Fv%2Fdark%2Flayout.xml showflipbtn=true documentid=100111205313-4caedf8cc7714e0e846ea819535be68b docname=vision09 username=Boltzmann loadinginfotext=Vision09 width=500 height=225 unit=px]

The Amazing Amazee Booster Party

Amazee_Climber.jpgPart I: The Amazing Amazee Booster Party


We always tend to start with a beginning, and find our way towards an end. Photography is simply a lazy Artistic form of communication. Sit in front of a computer doing Photoshop every night, and you run the risk of living a predictable plotline.

When your mind is locked in a tired day-dream-suspension of animation, where it’s impossible to focus and you imagine that a bed would be your best friend, then it’s time to say “yes.” Time to take an iced bottle of Vodka from the freezer, step into your Docs, and stroll confidently into the night. No other reasonably sane option you see, just have faith and propel yourself “forward”. My destination of the night was the Amazee Booster party at the Technopark in Zurich.

Amazee is a grassroots social networking and project management website. It’s a Swiss Startup and was having a booster party to energize funding and interest into different projects. Since it was a good time to say yes, I decided to attend. I like stepping into a comfortable set of street clothes and heading out when I feel drained by life. Sometimes you recharge the batteries of the body by pushing it further – see what’s in the shadows and alleyways of the night. Try hard enough and you’re sure to find what you were looking for – Cape Noct mon ami. The day is a time to hide and play out the pleasantries of society, the night is the time to take place on the Greek stage and act out all the monologues which embarrass us in the sunshine.

I got to the Amazee party sometime after 8pm. I didn’t actually know anyone, which was one reason I said “Yes” and decided to attend. The only requirement was a bottle of vodka/run/champagne and some booster money. I figured it was a good time to step out of my comfort zone and see how my social skills really are when fumbling with my not-exactly-fluent German. I figured I would go there and push my German language abilities are far as they would go. Parties are the best place to test these things, between the alcohol and noise you really see if you have any actual conversation abilities, or if your German is just a bit better than gibberish, fit only for asking for directions in Berlin or ordering drinks at a bar. Naturally, the Amazee people were as you would expect at an internet startup party, cool and easy to talk with.

Of course, one has to be careful when discussing things like, “internet parties.” When you say, “I attended an internet party in Zurich” everyone thinks something like, “What, you went to a Craig’s List sex party last night?” So you say instead, “I was hanging out with hip Swiss StartUp people at a company party.”

Amazee had recently been contacted by lawyers for Amazon.com, who asserts that the name Amazee is too close to Amazon, and therefore Amazee must change its or face litigation. This is like McDonald’s getting pissed at Burger King for selling french fries. It’s like Apple computer suing iRiver just for making an awesome music player. It makes no sense. Those who ask those in the know, know that Amazee derives it’s name from the word Amazing, which accurately describes the Amazee grassroots web platform. At least Amazee an original idea. Where does Amazon.com come from? The name is taken from a fucking rain forest in South America. Amazon.com is one of the least original names of the DOT.COM boom era, slightly more original than Buy.com and far less clever than Yahoo. The actions by Amazon.com is nothing but imperialist bullshit and internet strong-arming. However, this internet stand-down is slightly relevant to the night, as there was a white board at the party and people were putting up possible alternative to Amazee. I was slightly intoxicated and a moment of false clarity manifested in my mind. There was a pen, so I went slightly mad coming up with new names:

Zaema, Kadamos, Gadakis, Zukama, Kamkan, Zakahann, SAMO (apologies to Jean-Michel), Freudzeud, Zukama, Adazoo, Edokann, Eomasan, Uberkann, Zanasan.

It’s such a shame I took up engineering instead of marketing and brand management as a career, but that’s why I publish a blog. The party was breaking up around 2am, and a few of us decided it was too early to go home. We headed towards Hive, the logical location if you’re coming from the Technopark and looking for a place to groove, but the beats were uninspiring and we took a cab to Helvetiaplatz and walked into Kanzlei, to seach out the Digital Shaman.

Part II: The Shaman’s Trance

The City Whispers – Zurich Graffiti

zurich_graffiti_i_smallGraffiti speaks across the walls and streets and later I see it all at once in my heads. All the hope and hate and colors and concrete are there in front of my eyes. Shadows on the streets, whispers in the heads. I walked around Zurich shooting graffiti the other day. The excursion was slightly cold and very cool. I walked towards the old Lowenbrau brewery, just beside the river. I’d seen the place thousand times from the train, but never took the time to explore it on foot. just like I’ve visited Zurich a thousand days and nights without ever really walking around with a camera. There’s always things to find, new things to inspire and learn from. I forget this sometimes, but love finding it again.

zurich_graffiti-5I love graffiti because you never know what you’ll find. On the wall of Lowenbrau is a poster of Obama’s Hope, staring off into the future. On the opposite side on a wall a sticker reads, “911 was an inside job.” Across the river from the brewery I see the Star of David and a Swastika sprayed next to a sidewalk leading up to some houses. There’s an equal sign between them. Social commentary on the action of the Nazi and Israeli governments perhaps? Who knows, it’s open to interpretation, some might say intimidation. The next week there’s a story in 20 Minutes about anti-Semitic leaflets being stuffed in mailboxes, someone said it was like the 1930’s. Hope and hate a few minutes walk from one another. In between a 911 conspiracy. Who knew the streets of Zurich were so crazy and political. Is it everywhere – waiting to be seen with the right eyes at the right time? Then there’s the socialists, the hammer and cycle are often found on buildings, usually not too far from an anti WEF image. Thoughts in time, what’s the reason? The abstract works are the best, no specific message, just shapes and colors, your mind doesn’t need to translate the universal language, just enjoy the views.


Zurich isn’t generally known for it’s street art. Berlin, Dresden, these are the cities which come to mind. There you find fantastic visions around every corner. In Zurich the streets are clean, the punks are few, and political demonstrations are anomalies, except for the 1st of May. But if you walk the streets and take a few turns you’ll find the voices on the walls. Images that were once in someone’s head and got translated to poems of the pavements.

The abstract comes out, the aliens faces, the eyes staring back at you and then looking across the city. The graffiti reminds me that Zurich is an inspiring place. Everything looks clean and orderly, but there’s also revolt inside the Stadt. There’s dissension, there’s hope, there’s inspired art. For some reason this fills my heart with joy. Sometimes I think that a city without graffiti doesn’t have a soul or just has nothing to say, or is under a social boot. I don’t think I’ve been in my any small mountain village in Switzerland and not seen at least a small sliver of street revolt on the door of a Kiosk or the side of a train. It’s not always in your face, shouting at you like a Coke advertisement, but the voices are there if you go listening for them.

zurich_graffiti-4Ah, but who is saying what, you wonder. Not everyone is talking to the walls with spray cans, you only hear the most determined voices. That’s fine, I’m not looking for SAMO’s ghost or Van Gogh’s ear lobe. There’s Andy Warhol in the Kunsthause and galleries around Zurich, but I love graffiti because the environment is always changing, and part of the art, the texture of the images changes with the lighting and the season. You never know if it”ll be there the next time you walk by. I think of fleeting moments in the time that can never be recreated or improved upon. Perfect.

zurich_graffiti-9Beware of cities which are too clean, without stickers on the lamp posts or writing on the walls. Beware of people who always clean off the walls with out hearing what they say. Not all graffiti is good, a lot of it sucks. I vomit every time I see nothing but tags. In Zurich most of the stuff around the train tracks is just kids writing their names in colorful ways, who cares. What I like is seeing a horse in scuba gear, alien faces below windows and giant lizards crawling up the sides of buildings. The coolest find by far was this piece of newspaper on the wall near Escher-Wyss-Platz. Basically it’s an astronaut painted on newspaper, with a map included. Pure imagination, priceless inspirations.

Zurich Notes – Photo 07 Photography Show

Photo 07 is a photography show in Zurich, held once a year to highlight Swiss photographers and their work from that particular year.  So, actually the name changes every year; Photo06, Photo07, Photo08, etc.  It generally takes place in the Maag Event Hall near Hardbrücke, the cool Zurich club district.  In short, an old factory is rented out and hundreds of photos are put on display by the represented photographers for anyone interested.  A pallet of Faces magazine was sitting unattended for pilfering, the same as you’re likely to find at a Kunsthaus-techno party or other art-type exhibition around Zurich.  You can also grab free literature and promotional cards from the photographers.
There’s no real theme for the iconic Zurich photo show, the only qualification being that the photographs were produced during the year of the show.  This lends a broad subject matter, everything from photos that are “supposed” to be out of focus to tables bleeding black blood, fantastic aerial shots and high fashion.

This also means there’s no pretentiousness about the presentation of the work.  The goal of the night is to exhibit Swiss photography, network, hang-out, basically just chill and have a good inspiring time.  The work of a high-paid fashion photographer can be found next to that of high-adrenaline hobbyist.  It’s all about the images.  Of course, because the show highlights the work more than the artist, I can’t remember a single name of anyone who exhibited at Photo07.  So, it’s fortunate that a list of all of them can be found on the Photo07 site.  There you can find the contact info for Sandor Rozsas, who can produce sharp photos if kindly asked.  You can also find out about Oliver Oettli, who’s glamor works sometimes includes pink plastic dolls from IKEA.

The actual presentation of the works is left up to their owners and might range from well-matted to frame-less prints seemingly freshly removed from the cutting room floor.  The display surface was uniformly white Styrofoam – cut into giant blocks, which fit nicely with the concrete flooring and dark industrial setting.

The coolest and most enjoyable art is the type you can interact with.  And one of the first exhibits was a giant foam column with a permanent marker on hand for every anonymous person to draw or write whatever they felt like.  Naturally I produced a strange looking creature with large Alien-like head and human nose.

After walking through the avant-foam maze of faces of colors you end up near on the other side of the cool-factory ambiance and can chill in the lounge – by the bar.  The perfect setting to sit back and reflect on the experience you’ve just witnessed.

Photo07 was a cool experience, situated conveniently in between Christmas and New Years, the show is an excellent reason to wander into the crisp December Zurich night.  I’m looking forward to Photo 08 in Zurich, and might even submit a portfolio to the show.

Zurich Scribbles – King’s Kurry and Indian Palace

My parents were in town, which means I was eating out with them every other night.  We happened to have a taste for Indian, and took in a few of the Indian restaurants in Zurich: King’s Kurry and Indian Palace.

King’s Kurry is popular throughout Zurich, and is generally recognized as the place to get Indian food.  It’s located at Freyastrasse 3 (map), near the Wiedikon Bahnhof.  The interior is really cool, probably the most exotic Indian place I’ve visited between Zurich and Detroit.  The ceiling is sky blue, the knives and forks look like cool futuristic surgical tools and the bowls look pieces belonging to a collection from MoMA in New York.

Like in every Indian restaurant, King Fisher beer is on the drink list.  You can get all the tasty favorites like tandoori, palack paneer, samosas, dosas, chutney, mango lassies, and pakoras.  As an experience, King’s Kurry is top notch.  The lassi comes with a K drizzled on top, the cool triangular tandoori plate, the curved-handle bowls; all pretty cool and for sure made the meal a memorable one.

Ordering at King’s Kurry was also an experience, the waiter seemed to talk to at a rather quick pace, and when the topic of appetizers came up, in the confusion – it seems we ordered samosas, nan and rice.

Apparently we’d actually ordered the King’s Plater.  A nice collection of pakoras, tandoori chicken, fish, chutney, and dosas.  This offered a nice collection of different tastes, it was a bit much as the main meal was still coming, and the pakoras were cold.  Apparently it also came with a price tag of 55 CHF, which we discovered when the bill came.  If we’d known the price we would have just indulged in a side of samosas.

Talking quickly and bringing out a side dish is not uncommon is some places.  It’s especially common in places like the el Greco restaurant on Zakynthos (in Greece).  At el Greco they dropped off some oiled peppers as a side order and then charged us 2 Euros on the bill.  This way the restaurant makes a little bit more off of the tourists who will be gone the next week.  2 Euros is ok, 55 CHF is a bit much for a blind-sided appetizer.

It’s more a matter of principle than the cost, you shouldn’t have to order and then carefully check every single charge to make sure you’re not buying something unexpected.  So long as the extra charge is small, it’s ok.  As a tourist you want to be carefree and enjoy your time.  For the restaurant it’s a question of long time customers versus short term profits.

Tourists represent shot-term gains, they’re there, spend a lot of money (hopefully) and then leave.  Locals represent long-term revenue, so if you screw with them you screw with your ability to make a consistent profit month to month and year to year.  At King’s Kurry, half of us were tourists, half were foreign locals, who probably will never go back.

The tandoori was good, it came on a large black triangular plate, if you’ve been heavily medicated, the tandoori will probably induce visions of UFOs and Martians coming to abduct you.  The tandoori was yummy, but not much better than what I’d cook at home with tandoori mix.  The rice was some of the best I’ve ever tried and the nan was also quite kick-ass.  I ordered the palak paneer with three chilies, and it was at my limit of hot. This is absolutely outstanding for Zurich, where most places are mild for the European palate.

After a sampling of the King’s Kurry experience, the taste in my mouth makes me feel that presentation was more prominent than quality.  I’m not an Indian chef, but I can dish out a chana masalla or dal without much of a second thought.  I guess this is generally true, it’s easy to cook an awesome meal at home, you go out for the atmosphere.  In the US I go to Indian restaurants because the food is generally not that expensive and usually quite tasty.  Considering that it’s made of basic ingredients and wait staff are usually all related, it makes sense that it should be cheaper.  Otherwise I cook Inidan at home because it’s fast, healthy, and cheap.  For Zurich it feels like a lot to drop a wad of cash on a palak paneer, plus rice, plus nan.

When faced with the prospect of a future visit to King’s Kurry, I’d rather drop 250 CHF on a new dishes, a cook book, and recreate the the experience in the apartment.  Then the dinner would be more personal, and I wouldn’t leave wondering where all the money went.

Indian Palace left a completely different taste in my mind, although not the most originally named – Indian place (there’s many in Detroit) is my choice for going out in Zurich.  Inidan Palace is located at Schaffhauserstrasse 129  (map) near the Milchbuch tram stop.  The prices are about the same, a little less than King’s Kurry, but I enjoyed the experience far more.  I ordered palak paneer with potatoes, and the dinner was served in small bowls with a candle below to keep everything warm.  This is where King’s Kurry and India Palace diverge.  At India Palace the focus was on the excellent savory things we were eating – not on what the cutlery looked like.

Also like every Indian restaurant in the world (that I’ve been to) both places offer an Indian buffet during lunch, which is the thing to do if you want tasty Indian food in Zurich without dropping a wad of cash (usually the buffets are around 20 CHF).  A rather extensive list of Indian restaurants in Zurich can be found here.

Juliette Lewis and the Licks

A number of artists bring a certain power to the stage, but I saw Juliette Lewis and the Licks bring it to the people during their show at Rohstofflager in Zurich.

Most times you see a lead singer they’re a magnet for female groupies.  The groupies buy the $40 concert T-shirts and when the singer starts clothing line and she wears a white hat on-stage the groupies buy the $20 knock-off at H&M and support her make-up line.  During a show, the  groupies scream and drool when the singer takes the stage and set the energy level for the venue.

Lewis has the rather unique quality of inspiring a rabid following of male groupies, who jump through the crowd-sea with American Indian feathers around their heads – you see them rising above the waves on the shoulders of those below them.  The scene is hip, it’s energetic – visually as well as emotionally commanding.  The thing is, it doesn’t feel like she’s been molded to be a sex symbol or to embody any particular message, she exudes the pure-rocker aura that marks groups like The Doors and the White Stripes.

As a singer Juliette is sort of interesting in that, you don’t get the feeling that she sings because her manager wants a certain look – like with a Britney or a Spice Girl.  She’s already made her mark on the Silver Screen and you don’t get the feeling that she needs to be a star.

Interaction between an artist and the audience is tough, so much so that Pink Floyd: The Wall was written after  Roger Waters spat on a fan after a show.  Juliette is kick-ass in this way, during the Zurich show she surfed the crowd and was interacting on the level of a unique rock-star totally connected with the audience.  After the initial surfing someone’s hands where apparently too intimate because at 21:25 Juliette addressed the crowd:

"When I go out there, who’s the little fucker that tries to grab my tits?"

Her energy is something you don’t see during a main-stream multi-thousand dollar production by Justine Timberlake or even less known groups like The Spores from LA.  I checked out The Spores show when they were in Zurich.  We were packed into a maybe 40 person bar and just 5 feet from the stage.  Despite the puppet show and close proximity to the artists, I was just standing there, enjoying the music, but not being moved by it in my core.  I also had a headache and wasn’t in the mood to have the limits of my ear drums tested, but good shows should rise above such Earthly trappings.

Rohstofflager was an awesome venue for the Licks.  It’s situated in the gritty industrial-club district of Zurich.  It’s a place for people to pack in and get crazy or chill out and soak up the vibes.  My girlfriend took to taking awesome photos while I recorded the night with my sketch book.


At the Licks concert I was way back by the bar and later up in the balcony with my girlfriend, far away from the madness of the stage-front; but still felt totally connected to the music, which I was hearing for the first time.  It’s not just the music, at the show you also get her personality, those bad-ass energetic attributes which made her popular in movies like From Dusk Till Dawn and Natural Born Killers.

If the Licks are coming to your town I highly recommend checking them out.  Juliette Lewis and the Licks are the real deal, pure bad-ass kick-ass rock vibes, just like the Shaman intended.

The Day of My Mortality

In honor of my Birthday the Swiss Weather Gods said unto the Swiss Weather Lookers,

"He’ll no doubt want to take the day off for his birthday and climb the mountains around Zurich.  This can not be allowed as he needs to write his dissertation."

It’s been snowing in Zurich every day or night since Monday, and will probably continue until Saturday.  The Avalanche Warning in the mountains around Zurich is a nice 4 out of a possible 5, and the highest I’ve seen around here.  So it was for sure the right decision that I took off work last Friday to snowshoe above Kandersteg.

The Laughing Lemon

Whipping by hand
I tend to write a lot of drivel about heading into the Alps, there’s no method behind it all, it’s just what floats around in my head. But it seems like a good time to digress and focus on more important topics. I’ve often thought about taking up chocolate science as a career, but much like joining the CIA, it just doesn’t seem to fit me. I’ve also harbored ideas of being a wine connoisseur and knowing how to taste the subtle differences between a pinot and a merlot, but like writing as a career – I’ve generally lacked the desire or drive to get serious about the subject.
That’s where the Laughing Lemon comes into play.
It sounds like the coolest cocktail you’ve ever heard of, but the Laughing Lemon is actually a cooking school in Zurich. I learned about the Laughing Lemon from Jack (he invited me to the Swiss wine class) who’s dating Kara, who is friends with Kate, who grew up in Ohio, but I met her in Michigan, and then we ended up sailing through Greece with Allison, who’s from Hawaii, and was dating Kevin, who cheated on her, and now I’m dating Iris, who was born in Virginia but grew up in Germany, and went to New York for college where she met Kevin and Evan (who’s wedding I attended in July) the non-sequitur thing is that it’s not the same Evan, and this Kevin is no relation to the one who cheated on Allison. Oh, and the Jack who invited me to the wine course is no relation to Jack McNulty – who runs the Laughing Lemon with Silvia Gautschi McNulty. The point here is that the Laughing Lemon offers a Chocolate and Wine class – which I signed up for without a second thought.
I took the class on a fine Thursday night last Fall. We started off learning about the history of chocolate in Switzerland and various facts like: soldiers used to eat high-purity chocolate to stay awake when on guard duty. Then we started tasting an array of chocolates with different cacao contents. Everything from the bitter dark madness to the white too-sweet-to-be-delicious variety. Then came the wine. We learned how to pair different wines to different chocolates. I can’t remember what goes with what, but it’s all written up in the information packet that one is provided with.
Then we got hands-on
Truffles are some of the coolest things that I had now idea how to make, and the creation of chocolate mousse has long befuddled my brain. So it was a bit of a godsend that we learned how to do both that night. Dipping in melted chocolate, whipping egg whites and gently folding the chocolate in so the mousse has the right texture, we went over all the little things that always intimidated me about chocolate creations in my kitchen.
We ended the class with a tasty-amazing-yummy dinner, consisting of rabbit cooked with peppers and dark chocolate used to thicken the sauce. Chefs who do this stuff for a living will tell you that an alternative thickener is blood – I like idea of using chocolate. For dessert we ate the truffles and mousse (goes well with prosecco/champaign), in addition to slices of truffle cake (I think it pairs well with a mild-bodied red wine).
All in all the Laughing Lemon cooking school is one of the coolest things to do in Zurich, rivaling a club night at Kaulfleuten, summiting the Glärnish, or even jamming to Karaoke from Hell at Mascotte on Tuesday night.
But the test of any class is not what you learn during the lecture, but what you’re inspired to do after you go home. I got inspired to bake a chocolate truffle cake.
They’re simple things to make; nothing but chocolate and butter and sugar and eggs.  Melt chocolate in a double set-up, it’s not rocket science.  However, not having an electric mixer of my own, a chocolate truffle cake is more work than you’d think. Egg whites just don’t whip up easily (like when Martha does it on TV) when you’re going it all manually with a whisk. In the end, it didn’t look like the one in any cookbook, but I’m not dead yet and still have time to perfect my technique.