Sunday 17 May 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 17/5/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Kiss and sell

If you’ve been tuned into Monocle 24 over the past week (or reading the weekday companions to this bulletin) you will have heard a few jubilant voices celebrating the reopening of Switzerland. While there are still some segments of society that are yet to throw open their gates and shutters (zoos, outdoor bathing clubs, brothels and escort services), the return of shops and restaurants has given cities and villages a much-needed jolt not to only their economies but also to neighbourhood life.

On Monday we reopened our full operation on Dufourstrasse in Zürich (Monocle retail and café and our sibling mens’ shop Trunk) and from 7.30 there was a steady stream of regulars and newcomers welcoming us back and picking up on conversations and purchases that had been paused for the past eight weeks. For the moment it’s not quite business as usual as there’s still physical distancing (we draw chalk diagrams on the sidewalk to help with queue flow – more on the chalk boom down the page) but hopefully Switzerland will soon follow Denmark and Austria’s lead and collapse it from two metres down to one. Then again, those people who are out to satisfy their cravings for coffee and social life are not that bothered about the risks. Keeping one’s distance is now more of a courteous demi-step to one side rather than a great circle route around on-comers. Indeed, a week in a reopened society has revealed that a lot of the guff about the “new normal” is just that. Below are a few observations about what makes a neighbourhood go round and how life has a habit of slipping back into its old grooves. And thank heavens!

1. Mayors around the world – Achtung!
One of the smartest “lifting” measures from the streets of Switzerland has been the move to open up public spaces for trading. To help compensate for months of lost sales, cities are allowing restaurants and cafés to commandeer pavement for more chairs and tables. This being Switzerland, it comes with a strict set of rules but nevertheless it’s delivered an instant hit of street life.

2. Chalking up
Wander around Swiss streets and you’ll note that chalk sales must have skyrocketed as scribbling on the pavement is far more exciting than tapping away on a screen. Some works are worthy of their own stand at the next Art Basel.

3. Kiss, kiss, kiss
If you’ve been concerned about all the nonsense talk saying that the handshake and social kiss would be greetings of the past, worry not. A bit of time in Geneva and Zürich quickly reveals that the triple kiss is alive and well.

4. Tolerance makes a community
Allowing children to chalk the sidewalk or letting neighbours add a bit of greenery to the public streetscape can only be a good thing and should be permitted. Moreover, it’s worth thinking twice before reporting your neighbours for turning the music up or barbecuing into the wee hours.

5. A plan for Perspex
You might recall my column from a few weeks back about the looming plastic crisis. Given the amount of Perspex barriers that have been erected, a smart entrepreneur would be getting on the front foot to figure out what to do with all of those screens and sneeze guards when they’re dismantled. Hopefully very, very soon.


Brand and deliver

“I think we’re the youngest 70-year-old restaurant in the world,” says Brian Canlis, who, along with his brother Mark, is the third-generation owner of their family restaurant in Seattle (writes Will Kitchens). Canlis (pictured), arguably the most storied restaurant in the city, hasn’t been slowed by coronavirus.

“I think most old restaurants’ business model or strategy is to do the thing that made them famous in the first place. [They] use nostalgia as a strategy. We don’t,” says Brian. As coronavirus fears swelled in Seattle a few months ago, the Canlis brothers pivoted. They shut the dining room and launched three new concepts (all with their own logos, brands and uniforms): a bagel shed for breakfast, a burger drive-thru for lunch and a delivery service for dinner. For one week, queues of burger-hungry drivers clogged the neighbourhood a mile back. But as the need for physical distancing became clear, Canlis refocused its efforts solely on delivering meals – with resounding success. Canlis hasn’t laid off one of its 117 employees. Servers and bussers now deliver some 550 meals across Seattle nightly. 

Much of Canlis’s success is owed to its creativity (and its food, of course). Along with meals, Canlis sends out wine pairings, cocktail kits and CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes of produce and meat from local vendors. They even deliver bingo cards which are stamped during a livestreamed Friday-night game show – tuxedos and all. Piano playing, a fixture at Canlis, can be livestreamed too. “People are dying for a reason to take their sweatpants off and get dressed. [They’re] putting on the piano, lighting a candle – and we send flowers with every meal,” says Brian. “Where these moments were created on our dining-room floor, now they’re being created in everyone’s homes.”

Canlis’s efforts have been so successful that the brothers plan to keep the delivery service running even once the dining room re-opens. To Brian, Canlis’s creativity doesn’t rub against their grandfather’s vision for the restaurant. Instead, their taste for innovation – and for having fun – is entirely in line with what Canlis has always been about. “We believe that you don't just put your toe in the water,” says Brian. “You dive in.”


On our toes

The UK prime minister Boris Johnson has a way with words (writes Josh Fehnert) but not always a good one. Last week his government deployed some wilfully vague vernacular by updating the clear and actionable advice to “stay home” with the much more confusing proposition to “stay alert”. Right. The word “alert” entered the English language from French (à l’erte) and Italian (all’erta), originally as a 16th-century instruction to mount a watchtower. It’s a military background befitting of Boris’s bristling, bellicose rhetoric but ironically the UK government seemed at great pains to ignore almost every threat it saw from France and Italy as Covid-19 swept through Europe. A little alertness in March might have gone a long way but instead Britain’s borders remained obliviously open, as did the prime minister’s palm to handshakes.

Vigilance and alertness seem odd requests from a government that’s been caught napping so often. Then, there was the rest of the speech Boris set out in over-gestured obfuscatory exhortation. Britain’s mud-clear path “towards” un-lockdown was a painful-to-listen-to odyssey of “steps” and “phases” that stumbled unevenly in the direction of a “roadmap”, (again) “towards” a plan. Yikes. If you were in a car when you got those directions you’d turn home. A week on and what that change in messaging means is still painfully unclear. Most of us, however, are acutely alert to the absence of a plan.


Easy does it

After working with Hermès, Déborah Sitbon Neuberg launched menswear brand De Bonne Facture in Paris in 2013 (writes Louis Harnett O’Meara). The firm has since made a name for itself for its casual silhouettes and quality fabrics. Here she tells Monocle about her fitness routine, cutting down on booze and her mother’s homemade cakes.

How are you finding all the extra time at home?
It’s nice to have time to cook more. It’s also good to take more care of my home: I’ve been ordering flowers and trying to make it a nicer place to work and live in. I also go for a walk for an hour every day. I go out without my phone and just stroll around; it’s given me time to discover some beautiful new streets in my neighbourhood.

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle or with a jolt?
I start Sunday with my cat; she sits on top of me to be petted. Then I’ll feed her, make myself a decaf coffee and start reading. I turn my phone off and try to only turn it back on later in the day. On Saturdays I leave it off entirely.

What’s your soundtrack of choice?
I listen to a French national radio station, FIP. It plays good music and is always surprising – very eclectic. I’ve made this little corner in my room where the sun comes in; I just open the window and listen to it on my balcony. It’s the best thing. I can’t believe I haven’t done it all these years I’ve lived in my house.

What’s for breakfast?
Recently I’ve been having these Jewish Tunisian cakes called bolo that my mother makes. They’re like biscuits with chocolate inside; I dip them into the coffee. She has a delivery guy send them over to me and I’ve been eating them every morning.

What news do you wake up to?
I’m not very connected to the news. I’m interested in watching documentaries or reading.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I do yoga. I do these really relaxing routines for 30 minutes to an hour. Afterwards I feel so much better.

Do you have lunch in or out?
Typically, I would have it out on Sundays. I would go to visit a family member or I have lunch with a friend at a really simple place. Nothing fancy. I ordered a pizza delivery a little while ago because I really felt like having one. But usually now I cook for myself.

Any larder essentials you can’t do without?
There’s this vanilla yoghurt that you get in French supermarkets called La Laitière. I can’t live without it in my fridge. I don’t know why but ever since I was little, I’ve just needed this yoghurt.

Do you have a glass of anything to recommend?
I stopped drinking a few months ago. First, it was a dry January thing, then dry February and then dry March – and then all through April. Instead, I’ve found recipes for mocktails. There’s one with grapefruit syrup and basil that I make for myself and another one with rooibos tea, fizzy water and lemon.

And what was your ideal dinner menu?
A nice Chinese duck dish: maybe sweet and sour or Peking duck. That’s my favourite.

Is there a dinner venue you can’t wait to get back to?
There’s this place called La Cantine du Troquet. I’ve never been there but it’s quite famous. It’s a mixture of a bistro and high-end food. I was just walking in front of it yesterday and really wanted to go in.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
My friend told me some tips. So I now put olive oil on my hair and use it as a face mask and then I use a coffee scrub for my body.

Do you lay out your look for Monday on a Sunday evening?
No, never. But on Mondays I normally wear jeans and one of the shirts from my menswear line. Something casual.


Bahn Mi Sandwich

A Vietnamese-influenced take on the humble sandwich. Our version has plenty of bite, lots of fresh herbs and just the right amount of sizzle. Some marinating and pickling are required so start before you’re hungry.

Makes 2 sandwiches

2 large chicken thigh fillets, skin and bone removed 2 cloves of garlic, crushed 1 tbsp fish sauce 1 tbsp light brown sugar 1 tbsp carrot, finely chopped into matchsticks 120ml water 60ml rice vinegar (white wine or cider vinegar are OK) 50g sugar ¼ tsp sea salt

1 baguette, cut into 2 2 tbsps mayonnaise 15g coriander, roughly chopped 1 red chilli, thinly sliced


  1. Mix the garlic, fish sauce and sugar, and coat the chicken with it. Marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the fridge.
  2. To prepare the pickled carrot: Pack the chopped carrot into a small jar. Mix the vinegar, water and salt in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer over a low heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves. Pour the hot liquid over the carrots, in the jar. Set aside to pickle for at least for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  4. Heat a griddle pan until it is very hot and smoky; cook the chicken for 3 minutes on each side, until griddle marks appear. Remove from the pan and place onto a baking tray.
  5. Bake the chicken in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until it’s cooked through.
  6. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes, then slice into 1cm-thick slices
  7. Cut each baguette to open them up and spread the mayonnaise inside. Add the chicken and pickled carrot. Sprinkle with coriander and sliced chillies on top and serve.


Nippon tucker

For those of you looking to expand your culinary repertoire (we get it, you made some sourdough bread), we’d recommend a flick through Japanese Food Made Easy, a just-out title by Aya Nishimura. If her name sounds familiar it’s because she’s the dab hand behind many a Monocle recipe, including the one above. Her handsome paperback pares down the intimidating prospect of turning your own shichimi togarashi (a seven-chilli mix) or homemade gyoza into a process worth savouring. Among the recipe highlights to round out an extraordinary feed are delicate saké-steamed clams, a hearty Japanese curry and matcha ice-cream sandwiches.


Brew believer

Urs Egger (right) started brewing beer with friends, Roland Möhrle (left) and Marco V Camin (middle) in an old shed in Seefeld, Zürich, in 2005, long before microbreweries became de rigueur (writes Carlo Silberschmidt). “It’s a joyful and tasty hobby,” says Egger of his Flüegass Bier. The team focuses on this single type of beer that follows the Reinheitsgebot (literally “purity order”) – an ancient document bequeathed by the Holy Roman Empire that limits the number of ingredients in beer (true brewers take such things rather seriously). The result is an annual flow of 250,000 litres of elegant, crisp beer that is distributed to restaurants and shops in the area. How to enjoy sBier at home? By picking up a case at the brewery where Egger and his friends open shop each Saturday morning from 10.30 to 12.30. Scoop one up after your flat white at the Monocle Café at Dufourstrasse 90, maybe?


Grappling with saplings

There’s an ancient Greek saying that suggests that a society grows great when people with foresight plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit (writes Josh Fehnert). Deep. This image sees trees as a metaphor for our effort and an emblem of hope that the fruit of the labour (or in the case of some trees, actual fruit) will be worth the wait. It’s a pleasant idea, however, I think the average Athenian garden back in those days was a smidge roomier than city patches today (though many on my street look a little spartan to say the least). So, be careful where you plant those acorns and that there’s room for mighty oaks to grow.

“I try to advise customers not to plant a tall tree or too many of them where they’ll block the sun,” says Peter Milne of the Nunhead Gardener in sunny southeast London. While Milne stopped short of suggesting you should intentionally spite the neighbours by planting trees to shade their garden rather than your own, he warns of the perils of picking a spot unwisely. Overly large trees also inhibit the plants beneath them by sucking up all the water, veiling them from the sun and scoffing all the nutrients from the soil. So be careful what you plant. One way to control the height is to keep trees in pots, in which silver birches, magnolia grandiflora, acers and crab apple trees do well. Another sure-fire bet that’s hardy and thrives in pots is the olive tree. I imagine the Greeks would have approved too. Have a lovely weekend.


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