Dearest Rachel –
Just to set the record straight, I put the word ‘Here’ in the title because well, it is the last time I’m going to bother with room service, especially considering I’ve gone through basically anything on the menu that’s interesting (okay, I admit to debating about two entrees tonight, but we’ll get to that in a minute). But also, because to stop with the phrase ‘Last Supper,’ ehhh… that’s a little sacrilegious, wouldn’t you say?
Anyway, speaking of mild sacrilege, while I was going over the paperwork that I wrote about in my last letter, I heard the roar outside of what I thought almost sounded like a motorcycle gang. Here’s what it turned out to be:
And then, about an hour later, after I finished filling out the CDC questionnaire and writing to you about it, they actually came back.
I’m going to guess that this is how they kick off the holiday season here in Basel, although I have to admit they did have posters in advertisements about ‘Black Friday’ all over the place last week. They know what it is, and when it is, so I don’t know why they be holding this now. But hey, I’m not going to object to it. If I get to watch the parade, who am I to complain about it being a week late?
So anyway, on to dinner. And I’m running out of interesting options. Some things are nice, but are fairly pedestrian – a beef fillet, for instance, is a beef fillet, no matter where you are, and don’t get me started on hamburgers – and others, well… I think I’ve had enough veal for a while.
So it’s really down to two possibilities: Moules et Pommes allumettes (and yes, that’s how it appears on the English side of the menu. It turns out to be mussels and matchstick potatoes), and Braised Beef Cheeks in a Pinot-Noir sauce. I’m assuming it’s referring to literal cheeks, and not, say, butt steak; somehow, I don’t see that particular pun translating.
Neither one is quite at the top of my list, but both have a certain flair to them that make them worth considering. So which one to choose? Were I the Doctor, I would probably flip a coin; not that it would decide it, but that as soon as the coin was in the air, I probably would know which one I really prefer (‘Come on, heads!’).
Unfortunately, I have no coins; even if I had, I would’ve probably given them to that one guy in the Santa suit and Mickey Mouse head that I encountered last week on one of the market streets. I’m going to have to mentally flip a coin.
I think I’m going to go with the beef cheeks. If nothing else, dealing with all those mussel shells would be an awful chore.
And it turns out that allumettes, or ‘matchstick’ potatoes, are just what we would generally call french fries. I suspect what they call french fries would be more along what we would call steak fries. No big deal… other than the fact that I still think they could use some kind of sauce. Maybe I’ll just surround the entrée with them.
But first, a taste. Actually, first, to cut this beef with a fork; it’s that tender. It’s just a little fatty, perhaps, but very flavorful. This is not a part of the cow that I’m used to eating, and I suddenly don’t know why. I guess it never occurred to us. Is it a more expensive cut of meat, or do we Americans just have a problem with the concept of eating this part?
The sauce, like with the venison ragout, is rich and dark. I’m starting to think that these sauces have this texture and flavor in part due to the use of red wine to fortify them, and of course we never cooked with that before. That’s why it tastes so different from anything I’m familiar with. I’m going to have to take that into account.
Incidentally, I looked up ‘the good Luise’ to find out about it; it turns out that’s just the breed of the pear that was sitting on top of the venison, and had nothing to do with the sauce. Yet another lesson learned. Still, something to consider in attempting to recreate some of these dishes back home.
The sauce also works pretty well with the french fries, although they could still use a little something something. Maybe some melted cheese curds, eh?
No kidding aside, I know I say it a lot, but I do wish you could be here. Not just because I don’t really enjoy this whole ‘being alone’ thing; while it is rather efficient to be able to go in any direction I want without having to look over my shoulder to make sure that you’re following me, the fact that I know that you’re not there to follow me can be depressing beyond words.
I just wish that you could’ve experienced all the things that I have. I used to say that back when you were still around, about things that we didn’t share perspectives on (that whole male/female deal, you’ll recall, among other things), and I feel even more so now, that you’re missing out on these experiences.
And every time I say that, I’m forced to acknowledge anew that whatever it is you’re experiencing is so much better than anything I could (especially considering this last week of imprisonment; that, I’m not sure I’d wish on anyone – at least, no one who didn’t deserve it), or could even imagine. It doesn’t take that wish away, however.
Anyway, I’ll talk to you later. You take care, and keep an eye out for me – and Daniel. And anyone else who comes to mind.
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