Shameless puppy posting!

Puppies frolic at Murren Cafe Bistro.

We didn’t take one home, but we wanted to. We watched this litter of pups and their mom frolic at the lawns, under the tables and inside the restaurant of the Cafe Bistro at Murren high in the Swiss Alps.

Tapping out a novel in under a month and the joys of rewriting

Books, books, books, books.

FRIDAY, PART ONE – WRITE A NOVEL IN A MONTH? SURE, WHY NOT? I spent half of my day in restaurants yesterday, three hours of which was at our town’s new Starbucks for a writers meeting. The stated goal was to get as much writing done as possible while quaffing towering latte’s and downing cheesecake and other baked yummies, but I wrote exactly one word and spent the rest of the time chatting over one of the other writer’s novels.

The gal is a genius and doesn’t even know it. She has crafted a mystery thriller that was good enough to hold my attention for 40 minutes, which, because she doesn’t know me well, she does not realize she has achieved something in the order of a miracle.

I have a very short attention span. The point of this is to say that she was a little downcast at the prospect of rewriting. She has laid down the story in the sweep of Nanomo, a one-month challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in November.

At other writer meetings, I’ve heard a Manitoba gal read off a stream of her novel’s narrative that came across in a rapid-fire distinctive voice. Here is more talent that may not be aware of her own merits.

I lived in the world of hyperactive-rewrites for almost 10 years as a journalist and hope both these gals do not shelve their roughshod drafts, and keep rewriting, even if it takes a year or two, and in the meantime to look for an agent or publisher. As they say in writing classes, we’re not writers, we’re re-writers. Everything needs polishing and re-polishing. Too many writers wait for some magical moment to start looking for a publisher, missing what could be amazing formative years in a writing career.

Hold on to that day-job while doing all this rewriting, though. The publishing world is a cruel and competitive one.

I reached my 50,000-word count early on (see hyperactive-writing-comment above) and finished my novel at 72,000 words, which I will now spend at least six months editing and then we shall see where that goes.

Friday’s dining, part two.

Toni's Ristorante in Biel/Bienne - a winner!

THREE HOURS IN ONE RESTAURANT WAS NOT ENOUGH – FRIDAY IN BIEL/BIENNE CONTINUED …..But back to the restaurant stuff. Three hours inside a restaurant was not enough for one Friday so at about 7 p.m., Dave and I walked two blocks to Toni’s Restaurant, which sits in a white-washed ancient building on the border of Biel/Bienne’s cobblestone-laid medieval town.  We have not always had the best luck with restaurants lately, so my expectations were set to “gag.”

When we entered, we found a cocktail party on the main floor in full bore. The staff had to search for someone with some English who explained that yes, the restaurant was open (the wine-tasting event downstairs made us suspect it was booked up for a party). They led us upstairs to an empty, but utterly charming restaurant made up of a warren of small rooms (although there was one large room that could accommodate a party of 20 or more).

Empty dining rooms make us nervous that the locals know something we do not, but we pressed on. The waitress showed us into a room where she indicated we take the table of our choice, which, by the way, is what we saw her do later when other patrons arrived. Is this a Swiss custom? I do not know, but it is a nice one. We took the table overlooking the empty outdoor cafe (it was cold outside) and some nasty new construction that is sure to ruin the ambience of the old town’s borders.

But never mind about that. The menu only comes in Italian, German and French, and with the waitress’ limited command of English and our even more paltry assortment of French words, we managed to steer Dave away from ordering horse steak for dinner. When he exclaimed no to the horse, the waitress said, “It’s okay, we have bunnies to eat, too.”

I have no objection to others eating horse or bunnies (ugh), but as a childhood vegetarian, it took me something to just come around to eating beef (pork and chicken came later, fish even later in my 30s after moving to Canada’s west coast, the Mecca of seafood).

We safely ordered beef tenderloin at 43 Swiss Francs a plate. That’s about 50 bucks Canadian. Ouch. The meal came with a savoury carrot soup delivered in a tiny demi-tasse bowl and sumptuous olive bread. When the steak arrived, we were surprised to see it sitting solo on a large plate, surrounded by sautéed arugula and topped with paper-slices of parmesan, but we dug in and  my-o-my, it was the best beef we’ve had here yet.

It was a little odd that it came without the usual potato or vegetable accoutrements, however, it was a generous portion and in fact, it felt good to just enjoy the beef. It is pan-fried, not grilled or broiled, and the seasoning was subtle.

We later enjoyed a 12.75 Franc dessert of mango sorbet and hot chocolate cake with chocolate-cream filling. Words cannot do justice to the mango sorbet. It was richly laced with what must have been fresh mango, because the weight of the fruit chunks gave no indication they had ever seen the inside of a freezer. The chocolate cake was delicious, too.

We ordered just the one dessert for the two of us to share, but it turns out we could have ordered two. The portion was small, but just right for topping off a substantial steak. The restaurant gets a five-star rating in my books. Fabulous food, wonderful wait-staff, top-notch relaxed atmosphere, great layout for quiet dining, and yes, by the time we left the restaurant, it was packed. It seems the Swiss dine at a later hour that we North Americans.

If you want to read more about this restaurant, or find its locale so you can test my appraisal of its merits, click here.