Basel Street Food

Dearest Rachel –

So this isn’t really part of the series as such; but, since one still needs to eat, I might as well tell you about the food on the streets.

It’s not as if I’d gotten ravenously hungry over the course of my wanderings this morning, but, with all the passing by this and that closed establishment, I was starting to get a little concerned. Was there nothing going to be open in this town on Sunday?

Even the Dunkin’ Donuts (and yes, they have them here) were closed as I passed them on the tram. That’s a breakfast food in particular; of all places to be closed, that was the least likely. Not that I was interested in going there, as I can go there anytime I’m home. They have a handful of familiar American names here, but those are not places that I want to bother with.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with trying a burger here. I find the name of this place particularly amusing.

I’m always surprised they didn’t do the name forward and backwards like that character from the old Rankin Bass cartoon: Burger Meister Meisterburger

When I came by, the place was dark, but there was a young lady wiping down the windows. When I asked her what time the place opened, she responded with “Right now; it’s 11:30.”

I don’t know that I’ve ever been customer number one on a given day at any restaurant. Well, there’s a first time for everything, isn’t there?

So, after some deliberation – and presentation of my paperwork (good thing I brought that Covid certificate after all, so that I could eat inside), I was presented with the following: the Chef’s burger with chili cheese fries.

Hope he didn’t mind that I had to take it from him (sorry about that bad joke, I couldn’t resist)

One nice thing about being the very first customer of the day is that everything is served piping hot, right off the grill or out of the fryer, and you wouldn’t believe how I’ve missed that fresh, hot taste. The folks at the hotel room service try their best, but it takes a while to get up to me, and for me to open the door and let it in and take pictures of everything. By the time I’m actually eating it, it’s lukewarm at best.

The bun is big and fluffy but it doesn’t overpower the burger. That’s the job of the sauces, and there appear to be three; mayo, barbecue sauce, and some other secret sauce that I can’t quite put my finger on (although it drips all over mine). I don’t know if it’s the meat or the sauce, but there is a slight peppery aftertaste to it that I enjoy, but would probably bother you. There’s something in here that looks like bacon, but upon tasting it appears to be grilled caramelized onions. Finally, the pickles are dill, but also with a note of sweetness that I wouldn’t have noticed if one hadn’t fallen out of the sandwich (assuming this counts as one; it really takes two hands to hold safely). It all works together very well.

As for the fries and the chili, well I confess to having picked off most of the jalapeños. Still, the ones I couldn’t avoid aren’t terribly spicy. I’ll still prefer them removed, but I’ll eat those I can’t. I guess they feel it’s necessary, as the beef itself isn’t particularly spiced. Personally, I don’t mind that so much; the flavor is still there. You don’t have to knock someone on their backside when you make chili.

After a week of meals being eaten in virtual silence, it’s interesting to be eating while listening to piped-in music. And while I’m mindful of where we are, but it does give them whiplash is this song is moved from German to English to French one right after another. You would probably have nudged me during the English song, as it happened to be “I Used to Rule the World”; I’m sure you would’ve made a reference to Captain Sparklez when it came on.

I really wish you were here to make those little inside jokes like that. You don’t know how much I miss that.

Now, I’ve been out and about several times throughout today, and some of those trips have taken me past this or that restaurant or kiosk – and there have been a lot of them. But since this letter is supposed to be about what I did eat, I’m going to leave them out of the picture; they will be part of a larger, separate topic some time tomorrow. Four letters in one day is enough, even if one of them is actually from you.

Wellll… just one picture of a place I didn’t visit. I think you can guess as to why.

Wandering around after dark isn’t exactly dangerous, as such, as it is likely you’ll get lost. Especially if you have neither idea nor inclination as to where you’re going or what you’re having. Since I’d been to the Marktplatz and Barfusserplatz, I thought I’d ride past those stations, and see what was there beyond.

Big mistake. No lights of business out there to speak of, and I found myself wandering in a rather tight circle around the next station. Eventually (after nearly missing an oncoming tram), I hopped on one headed back to the restaurant district.

Even then, it wasn’t easy to decide. Some places were closed, and others had cuisine I could find at home (Chinese? Tex-Mex? Seriously?). Finally, I settled for a Rathskeller-type place, and,

after being seated at a cafeteria-style table with another fellow (who was wearing a sweatshirt with a New Orleans Saints fleur-de-lis, but seemed to think it was the logo for the St Louis Rams, so… not an American football fan. Not an American, in fact, as quickly became obvious. Definitely not the sort of situation for the socially awkward. But here I was; might as well make the best of it.

In any event, here it is, and don’t ask me to pronounce it: Basler Geschnetzeltes (basically, beef stew) with spaetzel in a dark beer sauce.

I don’t know if it has to do with all the cooking with alcohol, but the Swiss (or at least, the Baslers) have a knack for these rich, meaty gravies. I’ll probably have to look for a recipe online; this one probably involves either a porter or a stout. The meat itself isn’t quite as tender as the hotel’s offerings, but it’s sliced thinly enough that it doesn’t matter all that much; it’s still an enjoyable (and satisfyingly generous) meal.

Oh, and there a a handful of peppercorns sprinkled in there for good measure. That last bite had one, and boy, did that get my attention!

I decided to stick around for dessert, and that’s when things really got awkward. The other gentleman’s wife, son and two daughters showed up. Unlike him, they spoke no English, and me without any German. I was surrounded for a few moments, until the waiter moved the lot of them to the next table over.

I certainly hope that the Williams (another pear variety, it would seem) sorbet is worth it.

Well, maybe not that worthwhile, but it is good. There are chunks of pear in the sorbet, and it’s not a bland and dull flavor like our Bartlett or D’Anjou. Those have the virtue of being soft and melt-in-your-mouth. This is slightly sour, like a lemon ice, but not quite that much kick.

Oh, wait, there’s the kick! I thought I’d ordered the scoops, and I think I may have gotten the sundae! This concoction has 2cl of pear schnapps halfway down, and you really can’t miss it. Can’t say I’d have requested that deliberately, but oh, well.

I’m going to have to wash that down a bit.

Well, that was a bit of an adventure. Won’t say I’d recommend the experience, but sometimes, you have to try things once – whether you want to or not.

Anyway, there will be more to relate tomorrow. Until then, honey, keep an eye out for me.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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