November 07, 2012

4,562 miles to Margaritaville

Zürich is as far away from Margaritaville as you can get; if not in miles then in attitude and the appreciation of a little spice and zest. New Haven on the other hand was much closer. We grew accustomed to saucy and spicy enchiladas at Mezcal and we pretty much lived on burritos from the burrito cart when we were in undergrad and in my case grad school as well. My mouth is watering just thinking about the warm tortilla wrapped around pulled pork with a sprinkling of cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole, cabbage, sour cream and hot sauce. The cabbage is what makes the burrito cart burritos stand out, it is so unexpected yet it adds a wonderful crunch to the otherwise smooth burrito. mmm.

I could go on all day about burritos and enchiladas, but this post isn't really about either, instead it's about the lack of both and any other typical Mexican menu dishes in Zürich. That doesn't mean there aren't Mexican restaurants, because there are, but they are all super disappointing. We've tried Tres Kilos in Seefeld and Desperados in Weidikon and we've walked away from both feeling more than a little homesick. The food is bland and bares little if no resemblance to the Mexican we love. If you order fajitas don't expect a steaming plate of sauteed beef and peppers with tortillas and toppings galore because instead you'll get a steak on a plate with a dollop of guacamole on the side. And hot sauce? Ha! Hot here means mild everywhere else. 

We didn't want to give up on Mexican all together while we live here so when we heard of a restaurant in Horgen we decided to try it. The restaurant is on the second floor of a chalet style building on the road that runs alongside the lake. We walked upstairs into a space that is far more conducive to cordon bleu with rösti than to chimichangas, but we were far from home at that point and hungry so we decided to stay. It was terrible. Zach's chicken mole was flavorless and the white sushi-esq rice underneath wasn't doing much to spice things up. My enchiladas (I'm a sucker for enchiladas) could hardly be considered enchiladas; where was the salsa verde and why was the chicken grilled and not pulled? We ate a few bites to calm our hunger then paid the inevitably enormous bill and vowed to only eat Mexican that we make ourselves. 
And that is what we do. Funny enough all of our friends reached the same no-more-Swiss-Mexican conclusion and so together we cook and eat Mexican. It is the perfect potluck cuisine. If you try and tackle it yourself you're just about fed up after you finish the rice and tomatillo salsa, never mind the tamales and tacos. We've had about three Mexican potlucks at this point, the last of which was at our haus and which was a little more than a dinner - it was a birthday!!

Zach turned 30 in the middle of October and we celebrated with a Mexican potluck. We promised to make margaritas, spicy meatballs and carnitas and asked that everyone else to bring a side and to come thirsty. 

I got thirsty before everyone arrived and so did Zach so we helped ourselves to a margarita and started the party in the kitchen while we juiced more limes and swung our hips to Call Me Maybe (on repeat, of course). Our friends arrived and the margaritas continued to flow and cheesy dance songs continued to play. A couple margaritas in and I was having my own dance party and showing everyone my shoe collection. I started with the high hot pink patent leather pumps and then progressed though to the high sandals and black peep toe heals, all of which got their time on the dance floor. 

I blame the fashion show, the dance party and the death stare I sported the following morning all on the margaritas. These were not your typical sugar laden cocktails, no, these were the real thing with only the three necessary ingredients: tequila, cointreau (or grand marnier) and lime juice. They are tasty, but rather deadly, beware. 

Margarita, the real deal
makes one

2 shots tequila
1 shot cointreau
1 shot lime juice

mix, shake, stir, pour into a glass with ice and a salted rim. 

It turns out we underestimated the amount of tequila we'd need and we overestimated the amount of lime juice, which probably wasn't a bad thing considering I'd run out of shoes to show off anyway, but it did mean we were left with a jug of lime juice. There was no way I was going to throw it away either. Have you ever juiced over 30 limes by hand? We self diagnosed carpel tunnel and almost wore a brace to finish off the last few. 

Once I could stand to think about lime juice without becoming nauseous I set about looking for recipes. Almost immediately I came across this recipe for a lime tart on David Lebovtiz's blog (when in doubt go there first). I knew I had to try it, as a second birthday celebration of sorts. Zach loves any lemon desserts, but the last time I made a lemon tart it fell short of his expectations - too creamy, too sweet and not tart enough. 
This lime juice tart is perfectly tart and and tangy and just really damn good. We both thought it was way better than the Pierre Herme lemon tart that I made a few months ago, which was heavy with butter and guilt. 

I adjusted the recipe slightly to accommodate some gluten free friends that were nice enough to throw Zach a second birthday dinner, but that only meant changing the crust from a typical tart dough to an almond crust. It was good, the tart dough would have been better, but the beauty of this tart lies in the light and tart lime filling so we were all perfectly content. 
//Lime Meringue Tart //
by David Lebovitz
It is important that you use organic limes because you don't want icky sprayed pesticides ending up in your tart by way of the zest.

I didn't have much luck with the meringue portion of this recipe and ended up just winging it on the fly adding another egg white and a bit more sugar. I tried to heat as described but I think I passed the threshold from meringue to cooked egg whites. It worked out in the end, but I can't advise you on how to do it, so when you get to the meringue part follow David Lebovitz's instructions. 

8 tablespoons / 115 g butter
3/4 cup / 180 ml freshly squeezed lime juice (5-6 limes)
3/4 cup / 150 g sugar
zest of two limes
pinch of salt
3 large egg yolks
3 large eggs

2 large egg whites
5 tablespoons / 75 g sugar
pinch of salt
few drops vanilla extract

almond shell 
3 cups plain almond flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons water
use this tart dough recipe

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Combine the almond shell ingredients in a bowl. Grease a tart pan with a removable bottom and form the crust into the pan. Bake until the edges are slightly golden, about 25-30 minutes, but check after 15.

Turn the oven up to 375ºF. 

In a medium saucepan melt the butter with the lime juice, sugar, zest and salt. 

In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and yolks. Slowly pour some of the warm butter mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Then pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining butter and lime juice. Stir the mixture constantly over low heat until the filling begins to thicken and resemble soft jelly. Do not let it boil. It should coat the back of a spoon. 

Remove from heat and pour the lime curd into the pre-baked tart shell. Bake for 10 minutes. 

If you want to ring with meringue then follow these instructions. 

Eat the tart the same day you make it as it is not a dessert that gets better with age...
...unlike Zach and I of course...we get better with age!!


  1. Looks like a great party! Did you make the tart and a cake? Go Talley! I remember that when we moved back from London, one of our first stops was for a burrito at Viva Burrito, a favorite spot in Boston. You are absolutely right - best to eat Mexican food at home.

  2. I am DYING for a burrito right now. Eat one for me?

    I made a carrot cake for the party (see unfrosted in first photo) and then I made the tart for a second little party that my friend Jess and her mom had for Zach. Next time we have margaritas though I'm going to make the tart at the same time - they go together!

  3. Haha, mexican food is one of the things I think would be hardest about being an expat in europe. Life without mexican food (or thai/vietnamese food for that matter)? What a sad life! But it does sounds like quite the experience to be getting to taste swiss fajitas or mole, ha. And it makes for a good excuse to meet with friends for occasions like these! Happy late birthday to Zach, by the way.

    1. no mexican, thai, vietnamese or sushi. I miss them all! I can't wait until we go home for Christmas, I'm already planning my burrito with a side of tuna rolls and a thai spring roll. :)

  4. I feel for you, Talley. And I dont even know how good Mexican food can be other than what I make for myself. The mexican restaurants in Berne arent really worth visiting either. And besides being boring, they are also expensive.
    A margaritaparty really sounds like the way to go here.

    1. Lena! I was hoping you'd comment, but with good news - like a super awesome Mexican recommendation in Berne! And you're right - SO expensive. I was appalled to see that a single tamale costs 26chf here. Oy!

    2. Well, the mexican restaurant I have been to here in Berne is El Mexicano. Compared to Desperades, it is a lot better. And hey, I am a vegetarian, so maybe just the vegetarian choices are a bit disappointing?
      Perhaps you still want to check it out if you are ever in Berne?

  5. don't even get me started about mexican! sadly we don't have enough expat friends but I looooove doing Mexican dinners and you should just see how overjoyed Sebastian gets the second I mention it! But my big problem are the tortillas themselves. Where do you get them?? can't find a single web site that delivers just the basic brands you find in the US!

    1. when we open our joint cafe/bar/bookshop somewhere (maybe italy?) we should be sure to include one awesome-out-of-this-world taco meal on the menu. mmmm tacos! Great question about the tortillas - I edit the post to address this - I get them at the one Mexican store in town. They sell great corn tortillas in vacuum packs that they keep in the fridge. I'm still working on the perfect warming method, but they are good, at least better than the supermarket.

  6. OMG, you failed to produce some very memorable photographs I am sure...please tell me you documented the hot pink pumps and dance floor moves to Call Me song ever?

    Love this.