October 23, 2014

alpine escape

I'm sitting in an Italian style espresso bar, by myself (!!!!) enjoying a latte machiatto with a dense foam top dusted with an entire packet of sugar. It only looks like a dusting because half of the packet slipped down a little well in the middle of the foam and settled to the bottom of the glass. That will be a nice last sip, like melted coffee ice cream. 

I should be drinking iced tea - not that they have any here - because that is what I'm going to tell you about in this post, how iced tea helps reinvigorate me when I'm alone, but after panicking over a wallet that was lost and then found (with the cards, but none of the cash), caffeine was on call this afternoon. And, ooo eee, it tastes good. 

A L O N E. Not a state I find myself in very often. Yes, I have some time to myself when Alice is sleeping or Zach is home on the weekends, but that isn't really alone time, when she's just around the corner snoozing and threatening to wake up just as I'm in the middle of something really productive. Up until recently we didn't have a babysitter and it was me and Alice, mano y mano, everyday, all day. I love her to pieces and I miss her when she naps, but man it's tough some days to be on and ready to sing and dance and weather playgrounds in the cold. Now, thankfully, we have a wonderful babysitter who steps in on Thursday afternoons to entertain our babe and give me a break. Thank heaven for little girls, and thank heaven for babysitters. 

Now, let's' chat about iced tea. In one of those sacred alone moments discussed above, in August, when we were in Zermatt with my parents and Alice was napping, Zach and I hiked up from town to Pension Edelweiss, which is perched, awfully precariously, over town. (Somehow even though I was with Zach, the absence of Alice, made me feel very much alone) The hike is straight up. We huffed and puffed the entire way up and leaned a little too heavily on our hiking poles, but we made it and the little peach hut with red umbrellas was a welcome site. We grabbed a table right on the edge and ordered what can only be considered a reward for our efforts. Zach got a fried egg with ham on toast and a cappuccino, and I ordered an apricot tart and an iced tea. Homemade, the iced tea was amber in color and chilled, and amazingly refreshing. It wasn't cloyingly sweet, but it was definitely sweet, sweetened with what tasted like a bit of orange juice and sugar. I don't sweeten hot tea. The temperature captures the senses enough to negate the need for sugar. But the coldness of iced tea on the other hand can make the tea taste strong and bitter. If you're going to sweeten it, which I think you should, it's best to add the sugar while the water is boiling and the tea bags are seeping, that way it fully dissolves and you aren't left sipping sugar granules. 

I wish I could tell you about the apricot tart, which is supposedly what the Pension Edelweiss is known for, but it was attacked by bees within seconds of landing on our table and we had to set it on another table far, far away. 

After our hike in Zermatt the next time I found myself alone, this time truly alone, was a couple of weeks ago. Alice was with the babysitter and I set out to rediscover the Zürich I knew and loved before Alice was born, which really just meant heading to one of my favorite cafes for some quiet time with a book. The weather was amazing, as all Indian summer days are, and there was a free bench so I sat down with my face in the sun and took in the scene, which is when I spotted a woman drinking an iced tea and I knew I had to have one. Actually, I ended up having two. Once again, the tea was sweetened, perfectly, and I was refreshed, mostly mentally, but also physically. Eager to recreate this feeling at home I asked the waitress how they made their tea and she willing told me that they use the Bio Alpkräutertee (organic alpine herb tee) from Coop (one of the two main grocery stores here) and let it simmer with mint, orange and lemon and a bit of sugar. I found the tea, I bought the mint, lemon and orange, and I think I managed a damn good replication at home. 

* As I mentioned the tea I used is the Bio Alpkräutertee from Coop, which is great if you live in Switzerland, but if you don't try and look for an herbal tea. This one has mint, lemon balm, verbena, Lady's Mantle, chamomile, sage, thyme, and nettle.  

* This recipe is for one large mason jar, about 1 liter

- 4 tea bags
- one orange, cut in half, one half juiced and the other sliced
- 3 tablespoons of sugar
- one lemon, sliced
- a few springs of mint 

Place the tea bags and sugar in a large mason jar (or pitcher of equivalent size) and pour in the boiling water and orange juice and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Add a slice of orange, a slice of lemon, and two sprigs of mint. Let the tea sit for about ten 8 minutes and then remove the tea bags. Let the tea come to room temperature and then place it in the fridge until chilled. Enjoy with a new batch of orange and lemon slices and mint.