The Prickly And Monastic Eater’s Utopia

Why I love Zurich so much

Photo Credits: The Blog

“Do not be afraid of spending quality time by yourself. That doesn’t make you antisocial or cause you to reject the rest of the world. Find meaning or don’t find meaning, but ‘steal’ some time and give it freely and exclusively to your own self.” 

To me, the words of Albert Camus are an absolute given. I love being alone, maybe too much. But not everyone views the opportunity to spend alone-time so opportune. My husband Javi, for instance, seeks company evermore. If he finds himself solo at mealtime, for instance, he’ll surely be chatting on his phone. 

When it comes to food, it’s undeniable that eating with someone we love can make the experience more magical. A tiramisu may be decadently sweet, may “lift me up,” as its very meaning claims to do. But when heaped on our spoon in the presence of good company, it can be that much sweeter and more uplifting. A Michelin meal eaten alone cannot not be delicious. But if we’re in good company, we can engage in the lively exchange of “oooh yours looks amazing!”, “would you like to try some of mine?” and “what are your thoughts on the wine?”—which can most certainly heighten the enjoyment.

Unless you’re selfish, controlling, demanding, envious and neurotic (guilty on all charges). What if you don’t want to share, or crave what the other has ordered? What if you want to order different shared appetizers than those agreed upon? And what if the company you hold is absorbed in the chatter and still hasn’t moved past their first bite, while you have polished off your plate and restlessly await the next course?

I ask myself, in the presence of even those closest to us, would we really be able to completely relish the creamy swirls of that tiramisu’s mascarpone, cocoa and espresso as it masks our tongue and throat and brain?

Unlike Javi, I yearn to eat alone. It’s freedom from observing eyes. It’s freedom to be fully immersed, with every one of my senses. Other than mind-blowing sex, can you tell me what other pleasure offers more uplifting and sensory engagement to which we “Ohhh!” and “Mmm!” 

I may be prickly with my disdains and the demands of my ego. I may be intolerable with my full share of intolerances. And so, when I can, while traveling for instance, I find a way to steal some time to eat alone.

If you can’t relate, then your understanding is appreciated and your judgment understood. But I invite you to consider a monastic approach to eating from time to time.

For me, the interesting company can be the food or the city itself. Of course I enjoy company when eating and traveling, but I also can’t deny how much I can savor without chit-chat and distractions that which is delectably set before me. I do love exploring a city hand in hand with my beau, but it’s also a gift to wander aimlessly down streets, clueless of time like a curious child needing to be fetched. 

But let’s be honest. Not all cities can make a meandering stranger away from home feel cloaked and at ease in their solitude. And to dine alone in public, to find the ease and the elegance we may wish for, that can be especially tricky. In all my travelings, no city has seemed so right for the monastically-inclined than Zurich. To the extent of my experience, it is the picky spiky prickly private eater/traveler’s paradise. In a city like Zurich, there is something so especially reserved, respectful, and refined that my stiff, scrupulous, selfish snobbery is rendered completely at ease. Here I feel loosened and adrift. 

Normally I can get dulled and warped over food that falls any inkling below what I think is spectacular. But in Zurich, quality, precision and elegance never fall short of paramount. Zurich is old-school elegance, in politeness and properness. It is down-to-earth but stately and chic. Here you see a classy woman with an Hermes bag riding the tram. It is formal yet intimate, private yet gracefully extravagant. 

Although I was accompanied by my husband the many times I’ve visited, I was still able to “steal some time,” and without any regrets, give it freely and exclusively to myself.

DINNER (tonight Nicole will be dining with Nicole):

With 1 Michelin star, 16 Gault-Millau points and 50 top Italian awards, Eden Kitchen, of La Réserve Hotel, was infinitely more than what these photos transmit. I had the luxury to be able to sit dignified, by myself, and study the intricacies of the first amuse bouche—a paté and savory mousse posing as olives and red peppers. And as if that and the glass of cos d’estournel were not enough to thoroughly spark and revitalize me, it was followed by a second amuse bouche, a savory cappuccino, then calamari in the form of cacio pepe pasta, a ris de veau and yes, a tiramisu. There was no need for a tiramisu’s uplifting but, you know, the world is never enough, under these circumstances. And to their esteemed Italian chef, Marco Ortolanid, I nod, I bow, I clap, I thank 👏👏 🙏 

The room entrance (rm #50) at La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich (reminiscent of a luxurious yacht)
COFFEEEEE:

Mathieu Theis and Emi Fukahori, founders of MAME, left their corporate roles to open MAME in 2016. MAME, meaning “beans” in Japanese, reflects their dedication to coffee and their insurmountably curated selection and wonderfully “finicky” precision in the making of an haute cup of joe. Their menu comes in the form of a flavor wheel. “We roast to showcase the characters of each coffee. We choose to have a specific roast profile for each espresso and a specific roast profile for each filter coffee.” Understandably, they’ve won 1st prize nearly every year at the World Barista Championship since opening.

LUNCH (FOR ONE):

Confiserie Sprüngli—where I swear you will never find a better egg canape, cheese tartlet, paprika flute or walnut confectionery—is perfect for the food monk who chooses to stand outside at one of their high tables and people watch. Did I mention their black forest pastry is a fruity version of a tiramisu?

I SHOP, THEREFORE I AM:

Trois Pommes is the most luxurious concept store in Zurich. However, it is its outlet—not too far from the city center—that always wins my prickly heart. Here is where I hunt alone. To scout out the most covet-worthy archival fashion. Here is where I have found gems from Alaia, Prada, and Miu Miu from the 2000s. Here is where I’ve lost all restraint and brought back pieces from Raf Simons’ Calvin Klein, Old Celine, and the first collections of Alessandro Michele’s Gucci. If you’re so lucky to go, do block off a thoroughly massive chunk of time to explore the entire warehouse. And, most importantly, do be a private huntress and don’t share our little 🤫 secret.

Opia was a serendipitous find—of curated local, Asian and Italian fashion, beauty products, handmade objects, and strangely, champagne. Here I found an amazing jacket by Marfa Stance and some “melting silver” earrings from a local designer, among various other pieces. I had a lovely chat with its owner, Claudia Desax, and didn’t have a bother in sight!

Having journeyed the globe as a flight attendant, Mayumi Matthäus encountered a myriad of fragrances and gained an acute taste and skill for scent. Within her small curated shop, Süskind, located in a medieval building in the heart of Zurich’s city, I found “heaven-scent” perfumes like Maison Crivelli’s Rose SaltifOlia and Laboratorio Olfattivo’s Tuberosis (for more on scents—> Heaven Scent) Named after the author of “The Perfume,” Süskind is where I languished for a few hours with patient and dear Mayumi. I left there oblivious of time or anyone, for that matter, and magnificently showered in flowers.

Although my stolen alone-time in Zurich cannot immediately be re-lived, I can etherealize those euphorias as I steal this time to evoke their graceful ghost. By myself.

HOTELS:

La Réserve Eden au Lac

Baur au Lac 

Dolder 

RESTAURANTS:

Eden Kitchen

Veltliner Keller

Kronenhalle (lunch dinner)—> C’est Pas Un Musee

Sprungli

SHOPS:

Suskind 

Trois pommes outlet (incredible archive vintage)

Opia

COFFE and CHOCOLATE

Mame

Garcoa chocolate

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A majestic rain of blooms sent from heaven to grace your body and spirit, i.e. a selection of breathtaking perfumes

We don’t give it up for free.
(And neither should you.)