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Tony Fasel  
Pronto Imports  
P.O. Box 425  
San Fidel, NM 87049  


Some short stories, about places we went to, people we met, great wines we tasted, tasty dishes we were served and historical places we visited. Please enjoy and give us your comments on: discussion group or

The Picture above is the passenger ship "Wilhem Tell Express", on Lake Lucerne, Central Switzerland

Click on show all and scroll down

For more information on Jean René Germanier's Swiss Wines, please go to blogs 56-152-214-215-216-217-218-248-249-361-417

For Stories on Provence, go to blogs 38-46-105-110-224-229-345

For cheeses please go to Blogs: 35-68-114-115

Joey Lent at Chef Paul's


It just so happened, that in the late'70's, while running the day shift at our restaurant in Berkeley, called " La Bohème", a gentleman, with a guitar slung over his shoulder, walked in and asked for management.

Having lunch at the back table, I asked him to sit down and offered him a German draught. He accepted and introduced himself as Joey Lent, freelance guitar player "à la bonheur". He seemed to be a nice person, talked well and mentioned, that music, on a low level, would improve our business. I said "go ahead" and then he started playing and kept on playing for about 45 minutes to an hour. Everybody in the restaurant, who came for lunch got an extra treat of music without cover charge. Applause galore and Mr. Lent was hired on the spot for 2 nights of entertainment.

He also played, after 'l'ouverture" of Café Bohemia in Hayward and in 1999,  was the main attraction at our wedding luncheon at Chef Paul's Restaurant, on Piedmont Ave. in Oakland.

We became very good friends over the years and visited his private Jazz Club, on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, many times with friends from Europe, but also from the good old US of A.

We started to talk to each other lately, and reminded each other of the good times we had over the years. He married Molly, his longtime girlfriend several years ago, mainly, after I gave him the good example by marrying Martha in 1999. What great memories.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony 



After my mother passed away in Switzerland,I moved some of the furniture I wanted to bring over to the United States, to friends in the State of Berne who had a barn where I could store them.

Importing wines from Switzerland, especially from the State of Valais, it was easy for me, to have the pieces of furniture dropped off at the winery, to be added to the pallet of wine which would be shipped to our wine warehouse in Oakland California.

For pieces of furniture, over one hundred years old, there is no import duty and taxes imposed, by the U.S.custom, and therefore, the shipping costs were greatly reduced, to the cost of about 6 cases of wine. They were strapped securely on top of the cases of wine.

The trunk you see, is a reproduction of a very old chest, my great grandfather owned and was lost, during a fire at his mountain chalet in Le Chatlard, very close to Gruyère, in the State of Fribourg in Switzerland. As per my recollection, the fire happened in 1890, which destroyed most of the property he owned. It is an oak chest, with original handles and locks and being used, as a hope chest for winter blankets and coats, stuffed with lavender sachets to keep the moths away.

Amazingly, the two suns carved on the front panel, are also the sign of Martha's clan, here on the Acoma Reservation. An antique Louis 16 country style table, my old antique desk and a number of other pieces of furniture were brought over from Europe the same way.

Please go to: Odd Lamps, Candlesticks .... on the same web-site

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony



Since we are writing about items of furniture we cherish very much, here is a little story about a transatlantic trunk (Überseekoffer in German), which became my favorite companion for many years. According to my mother, it belonged to her grand uncle, who was a merchant seaman and for many years  travelled the Mediterranean Sea. It became my steady companion  and is now on permanent loan, to our niece Laura, in her living room. A real place of honor, for a world travelled old trunk.

It went back to Switzerland once, filled  with items I had collected over the years and then returned to us, with ceramic dishes, my mother had given me for our household in Oakland. Again strapped to the top of wine cases we had ordered from our friends in Vétroz-Switzerland.

Several years ago, I decided to make a coffee table out of it and to celebrate the travels, did not remove the stickers, which were attached, during my first trip to the United States of America, aboard  the passenger steamer called "The United States." 

Again, it serves two purposes. as a beautiful and unusual coffee table, and also as a storage place for winter clothes and blankets, stuffed with Lavender sachets to keep the moths away.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Famous Porsche 910. Picture taken in Laguna Seca


 Joe and I in Laguna Seca 1970


Going through old photo albums the other day, I came across a picture taken at Laguna Seca in 1970 with my friend Joseph Siffert, who crashed and died in Brans Hatch, England, during a Formula One Race, on October 24th, 1971.

My ex-partner and friend Klaus and I, used to drive down to Laguna Seca to watch the yearly Fall Races, and in 1970, Seppi was down there, racing in his famed Porsche 910 Series, with the renowned number O (Zero) on the side panel.

His famous racing helmet with the Swiss Cross on the front was the talk of the day. We had the pleasure, Klaus and I to see him and have lunch with him at the Cafeteria, right next to the race tracks.

We never thought it would be the last time we would see him alive, because, roughly a year later, he died on the 15th lap at the International Formula One Race in Brands Hatch-England.

See Blog 87

May he rest in peace.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Madonna Estate Wines


We met Buck Bartolucci, owner of the Madonna Estate about 15 years ago through a mutual friend of ours, and little by little, we started buying Estate grown wines from him, either with the Madonna label, or also with our own label, Cottage Creek or Silverwood.

Great wines, and a true representation of the Napa varietals as they are known worldwide. Cottage Creek was our main label and everybody was praising the quality of the Cabernet Sauvignon and also the Chardonnay. Silverwood came later, and we did several vintages of Buck's Pinot Noir and also Merlot under that label.

At least once every two months, we used to drive up to Carneros with truck and trailer to pick up another load of his great wines. They have a visitor center and also a well stocked tasting room with friendly and well versed employees behind the bar.

Please drive to Napa and turn left at the intersection towards Sonoma. It is the second winery on your right. If you see Buck, say hello from us. See blog number 151, and also blog 161.

Mount St John Winery, Madonna Estate. 5400 Sonoma Road, Napa, Ca. 94559

Tel: 707  255  8864  

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Lucca Mia Extra Virgin Olive Oil


We all know, that cold pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Italy is very good for everyone's health, tastes very good, especially with Balsamic Vinegar, but besides that, it ought not to be too expensive but affordable for everyday purposes, i.e.,mixed in your salad, or as an additive in the center of your dining room table setting.

Lucca Mia, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, cold pressed is one of them and the best we found so far in a very reasonable price range. It is not only being sold in one liter bottles in most San Francisco Bay Area Stores, but also for the restaurant trade, in  One Gallon Jugs.

Great pricing and quality go very well together, and if you are out there shopping, do not be afraid to ask  your grocer for the Extra Virgin Olive Oil Brand called "LUCCA MIA". You will be pleasantly surprised at the quality and pricing of this product.

Bon appetit,

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Seppi Siffert's Grave,in Fribourg-Switzerland right after the burial




Ferrari 1956 250 GT

Sipping my piping hot coffee from Mr. Espresso yesterday morning, I came across an article about a car auction in Monterey, California, with a picture on the front page, a 1956 Ferrari 250 G Tour de France, which sold for 260 Million US Dollars.

Red of course, as they all are, but what a price?? Unbelievable. It reminded me of a time, when Ferraris were in line and driving them was easy.  After my schooling, in early 1960, I worked in Geneva, Switzerland for an American Food Company called Libby McNeill and Libby (aquired by Nestlé in the meantime) and used to go back to Fribourg to visit my parents on weekends.

Seppi Siffert was in the fancy car business at the time, especially Ferraris and Aston Martins, and once in a while he called me up to ask me if I could help him drive a car back he had bought, from Geneva to Fribourg.  The first part of the Freeway, from Geneva to Lausanne had just been built, and it was a lot of fun to drive at high speed, since no speed limit had been posted at the time.  200 km an hour (125 miles) was the norm, and especially with fancy cars like that.

I drove some Aston Martin's and also some Ferraris back for him, but unfortunately I don't remember the exact models and vintages. It might have been a 1956 in the mix. Who knows?? What a great time to remember and the thoughts I had, yesterday morning, when I saw the picture of the 1956 Ferrari on the front page..

To my friend Seppi, rest in peace.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony 

US and CH Flags


We don't do much politics here, since we are mainly wine and food lovers and like to talk about travels, nice people we have met and good wines and foods we tasted. Sitting around, the last 3 nightrs, enjoying great food and superb wines, we were watching the GOP Convention on Fox News and also on MSNBC. Always try to get the the opinion from both sides.

Several sayings by famous people were picked up by us and we would like to relate them to you in a few words.

1) Radio Commentator: St Andreas Fault in California will be changed to Bush's Fault, after the Election.

2) Famous former Secretary of State: Country and Ideal: The United States is not only a Country, but alsoan idea and an ideal place to immigrate, since it is a place where a person can really excel through their own efforts and will power.

3) Radio Commentator from the right to a radio commentator from the left: You have a Watermelon Head, Green outside (environmentalist) and Red  inside (Socialist).

4) Loafer Mentality: TV commentator. A large part of today's youth, seems to  take everything for granted and demands "FREE STUFF".

We will do the same next week, when the Democrats are trying to outdo the GOP in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Amarone Tommasi 1979


Many years ago, a friend of mine, and at that time Manager of a restaurant called Caffee Venezia, on University Ave. in Berkeley, California, asked me for some very good Amarone, as he had a group of customers coming over the following weekend for a special event.

I found the wine and  he bought 2 cases for that special occasion. He became a steady customer for my Italian Wines.

Amarone is a very heavy duty wine from the Verona/Valpolicella region of Italy, in other words, just south of Trentino and very close to Venice. The vintage of the Amarone was a1979 and having 2 bottles left, both with pretty low shoulder, we decided to open one with our spicy and well seasoned lambchops and salad. Wow, what a wine, a little bit too powerful for the well peppered chops, but nevertheless a delight.

The wine was imported many years ago by a company named Rolar Imports in Great Neck, New Jersey and has an Alc. by Vol .of 15%, produced of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara Grapes and made (to perfection) by the winery Tommasi in Pedemonte, near Verona.

The grapes were carefully selected from only the top and sides of the bunch and left to dry on trays 5 months before vinification, in accordance with traditional methods in the Valpolicella Classical Zone area.

What a delight.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony 

Buena Vista Pinot Noir


As indicated several times before, (see Blog 161) our out of town guests always requested a wine tour to Sonoma and also the Napa Valley.

One of our favorite places in Sonoma was the Buena Vista Winery, and armed with bread, cheese, and sausages, we settled down, on one of the outdoor tables, behind a good bottle of their great Sauvignon Blanc.

Every time we visited the winery, we always bought 2 bottles of one of their varietals, which, either won a medal, or received high marks by the famous wine critique, Robert Parker. One bottle was consumed of course, as a match to one of the many meals we prepared, but the second bottle was stored away in our wine cellar to mature and take on age.

A lot of them were served, with fancy meals, when friends came over to the house, but some remain hidden on the shelf in our wine storage area.  Here are some of the varietals and vintages we came across yesterday, and I am sure, will be consumed and appreciated very shortly. Drink a good wine as long as it is good.

1981 Buena Vista Zinfandel  -  1992 Buena Vuista Cabernet Sauvignon  -  1993 Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon  -  1994 Buena Vista Pinot Noir  -  2000 Buena Vista Tres Los Chamizal Zinfandel.

Concerts are being held at the winery on a regular basis.

Around the corner and down the block, you will find another winery who produces great Sonoma Wines, called Grundlach-Buntschu. Stop in on your way home.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony




U.S and CH Flag


As we did with the GOP Convention, picking four items out of all the speeches in Tampa, we decided to do the same with the Democrats in Charlotte.

1)  Administration: GOD and Jerusalem!! We don't think it was smart to take it out, since they had to put it back in within 12 hours.

2) Bill Clintion: Quote by him he received from a very good friend of his: I was born in a cabin I built myself!!! Very funny, might use it in the future.

3) Business: In the last 4 years, business capacity of the U.S.of A. has dropped dramatically. We are now in 7th place, behind Switzerland, Singapore, Finland etc.

4) 16 Trillion Dollars: equals 16 zeros behind the 16, or 16 Million Millions???

Wow !!!!!! but otherwise, it was a good convention.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony



Corbaia 1993


Half a dozen years ago, Martha and I, together with Martha's Brother Jim and his lovely wife Denise travelled through Switzerland and via Lugano, decided to pay a visit to our good friend Terenzio Biscardo in Tuscany.

We were importing Terenzio's wines at the time and one of them, was a Super Tuscan called CORBAIA from the Castello di Bossi, a winery in Castelnuovo, a few miles outside Siena.

Having Jim and Denise over for dinner last night, we decided to add an Italian  flavor to the menu, by serving one of the Super Tuscans by Castell di Bossi, vintage 1993.

What a wine, perfect with the BBQ steaks and the tossed green salad. What a match!! A blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot.

After close to 20 years in the bottle, the wine was still subtle, very fruity and just a hint of acidity.  Grapes were the dessert, crowned by an Italian Liqueur, very smooth, called Sambuca & Caffé from Paolucci.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony 


He was in his mid- 20's, a nice young man, our neighbor down the road and driving back to his military unit in Oklahoma, when he was involved in a fatal automobile collision. 

The National Guard Unit he was serving with, brought him home for the last time. Small U.S. Flags were placed on every home entrance along the way to honor him.   He lay in state to allow family and friends to say good bye, and yesterday he was laid to rest.

His name was Curtis Garcia and the funeral convoy passed our house in solemn procession. About one hundred cars full of friends and relatives gave him their last farewell. What a sad story and what a sad end to a such promissing young life.

Watching the cars pass by, Martha and I had tears in our eyes, our hands held over our hearts.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony



Chapel of Helmetingen with the Lac Noir (Black Lake) in the background





It has not been easy for American tourists to travel to Europe, due to the very weak dollar, especially Switzerland, where the cost of living is very high. Gasoline prices are also going through the ceiling, compared to what we have pay here in the United States. One gallon of regular will cost in Switzerland US$  7.40 and for super or high octaine, the price jumps to US$ 8.00 per gallon.

On your way through Switzerland, stop in Fribourg, the capital of the state of the same name, for a short visit to that beautiful medieval town. Half of the city walls are still standing, and most of the old buildings in the older part of town were built using standstone around the17th century and 18th century.There is a little resort, hiking in summer and skiing in winter called Lac Noir or Schwarzsee in German and there are three roads leading to it. The most beautiful and picturesque road is via Giffers, with a short detour via Pierrafortscha, my birthplace.

Leaving Fribourg, take route 12, via the bridge of Zähringen and turn right at the other end.  Pass Bourguillon and then turn right onto Chemin de Brünisberg. You will see Pierrafortscha on your left and then the little chapel of Helmetingen, built by a local family several hundred years ago. My parents had  their wedding ceremony there. Continue to Giffers and then to Lac Noir, our favorite outdoor place in the world.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Lac Noir in Summer



lacnoir%202.jpg                                      Lac Noir in Winter


Schwarzsee, Lac Noir or Black Lake, a name given to the lake because of the reflection given by the surrounding mountains on the surface of the lake. My favorite retreat in my youth and also in later years. Skiing in winter, hiking and climbing in Spring and Summer, Chamois, Deer and Mushroom hunting in Fall. Chanterelles and Boletus, what a sauce it would make with cured venison. As already mentioned, I became a hunters helper at the age of 8, spotting male Chamois for my uncle and his friends.

In the winter time, the ski area has really expanded in the last 20 years. Ski lifts up Rigisalp, Les Recardets, and Schwyberg and just to name a few, and then some car races with skiers on the frozen lake. Everywhere you look, you can reconnect to another ski lift, and as far as I can remember, the skiing is fantastic.

In Summer time hiking and climbing of course. Up the Ettenberg to the Hohberg Lodge, and from there to the Salzmatt to start the climb up to the Kaiseregg ( 2185 Meters). The return trip via Riggisalp to the main lodge Gypsera, at the west end of the lake. The Spitzfluh nearly became my destiny over 50 years ago, when I slipped, hunting Edelweiss and nearly fell to my death. Glad I did not, otherwise I would not be able to tell the story.

Whenever I visit Switzerland, I never miss a short trip to Lac Noir, just to dwell in old memories and get a boost to move forward. If you are a hiker or just a tourist, you won't regret your visit to the Schwarzsee. Take my word for it.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony


Schwarzsee in Summer



lacnoir%204.jpg                           Schwarzsee in Winter


Lac Noir, like a number of hidden resorts in Switzerland, are located in a Cul de Sac, with no additional, drivable exit. The same way back as you drove in to reach Fribourg, or, 6 miles down the road, in a small place called Zollhaus (custom House), take a right at the intersection and drive to Berne, via the small village of Sangernboden, and the up the valley to the world famous resort called Schwefelberg Bad. Great skiing in winter, and of course, as in Schwarzsee, great hiking in summer and hunting deer and mushrooms in fall.

Here again, a great place to visit, in summer or winter time, with fancy hotels and plush restaurants. From there, up the Gurnigel pass (1608 Meters)  to a small village called Riggisberg, and them left, via Kirchenturnen to the city of Berne.

From there on, as your heart desires, Switzerland is open for you to explore and enjoy.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony




Elephant in Africa


We usually don't get involved in controversies, since we are writing about travel-food good wine and nice people. This time though, we ought to mention a subject which should be brought to the publics attention.

Many years ago, a very good friend of ours lived in the Congo and worked at the German Consulate in Lubumbashi (formerly Elisabethville). After a stay of several years, she moved back to Switzerland in the early 1970, bringing back some elephant tusks, she had aquired  during her stay on the black continent. We talked about it on several occasions about the ivory and she mentioned, that under Belgium law, export of ivory  and the killing of elephants was strictly controlled by the Belgium authorities.

Things have drastically changed since then, and there is an eye-opening article in the latest edition of National Geographic Magazine dated October 2012, that last year alone, 25,000 elephants had been killed and left to rot on the savannas of central Africa. All for the sake of ivory. most of it is exported to China and other parts of the southeast Asia.

What a shame to let that happen. Wholesale slaughter of such a fine animal, just for the sake of ivory. Make's us sick to think about it and the majority of the western population does not seem to care. We did not know of such a large number but thanks to the  National Geographic Magazine, we became aware of it.

Let's do something about it. Lets band together and try to save the African Elephant. By the way, Elephants from Africa have large ears, Elephants from India have small ones.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Indian Maiden watering Corn


 Indian Maiden tending her Corn

Thirteen years of married bliss.

Well, last Thursday was the day, September 27th, 2012. Exactly 13 years ago, on September 27th, 1999, Martha and I were married in Oakland,California and celebrated our wedding at Chef Paul's Restaurant on Piedmont Avenue.

That gorgeous Indian maiden, became my wife and after so many years of courtship. It was worth it, and I have never been as happy as I am now. She let me be and I let her be, we never forced each other to do anything the other did not want to do. If she wanted to go somewhere and I did not, she went alone or with friends.  We never went to bed, mad at each other, we always settled matters in a kind way, prior to closing our eyes.

We were and still are very fortunate to think the same way on many topics, like religion, politics, food, wine and especially the people we associate with. Besides that though, we help each other out and it is never my time to do the dishes. If they are there and she is busy, I will do them. She helped me along, with all the physical mishaps I had during my life. Broken leg, and surgeries of any kind or form, etc etc.

What a woman, the best a man can hope for, especially a man from the old Swiss countryside. Two totally different cultures, but what a match. She always tried to understand me and I do the same with her. The love of my life, I must say and lets hope, will be together for another 50 years.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Sunflowers in Fall


Fall seems to be the time when a lot of people tie the knot, especially late September-early Octoer. We think it has a lot to do with the picking of grapes, wine harvest  and the anticipation of great vintages. People are happy, the heat of summer is over, and the more pleasant weather has moved in.

As already mentioned, under very romantic terms, Martha and I tied the knot on September 27. May cousin Monique in Switzerland, tied the knot and married Gaspar also on September 27, many years ago. Our very good friends, Gudrun and Chris from Switzerland, got married on October 4th in Las Vegas a week after our wedding in 1999. She was my best woman at the wedding. Our friends Bryan and Michelle also got married on October 5th, several years ago.

Happiness and well being seems to go well with couples who marry in September/October.

Many years ago, my dad told me and reminded me, never to marry a woman from Tavel and surroundings, because these people are "different" he said. Tavel is only 6 miles away from Fribourg, my hometown, and I, on the other hand, married a woman way across the world, on the other side ot the Atlantic. So, old fairy tales don't seem to work all the time.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony




About 12 years ago, we were shopping at a food store in San Francisco and came across, in the canned section, a tuna called Dave's Albacore Tuna, in a 7.75 oz can. Very pricey, close to ten dollars for "cat food". It must be very good Martha said, and after purchasing it and using it, the same evening in our Salad Nicoise, we realized what a great product it was. One piece of tuna, but what quality!! I was able to talk my buyer at Piedmont Grocery in Oakland to bring it in and it became an immediate success with a great number of our friends.

Here is a description from the label: 100% Dolphin safe.

"The best tuna I have found, is unbleached, hand caught (not net caught) and with no oil, water or salt added. Dave's Albacore is the tuna to eat". Dr Michael Colgan.

Pure Mild sold white Albacore filets, packed in its own natural juices. This high quality Albacore is rich in omega - 3 heart healthy oils. No water, oil, or salt is added.

Go out, buy a can, and if you cannot find it on the shelf, ask the store owner to bring it in for you. . Tel:  1888 454  8862 .

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony


Italian Colors, Oakland, California


Steve, Alan, and I met many years ago at a place called The Equinox Restaurant in Montclair-Oakland, California. Steve worked there and Alan and I stopped in for a glass of wine and to check out the girls. Being in the wholesale wine business myself, I was able to sell some of the wine our company carried to the restaurant.

Several years later, Alan and Steve opened a restaurant around the corner called Italian Colors, and since living in the neighborhood, it became one of our favorite hangouts. Here again, they became my customers, since we were importing Italian Wines from our friends, Conexport in Bussolengo-Italy. Our Chianti Riserva, Borgo Pretale, the Prosecco from Banear but also our white wine Signano from San Gimignano became very popular with the "Colors" crowd.

Our favorite dish was the Herb and Lemon roasted Petaluma Chicken, and to shock people, we said, that it tasted like Baby Bald Eagle. There was always a friendly crowd at the Colors, and to our surprise, it was there, we would meet our good friends on a steady basis.

Please do go and taste their Petaluma Chicken or anything else on the menu your little heart desires., or make reservations at 510/482-8094. Mention my name and ask for a table with a view over the lake. They will order one pronto.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony


the right way to taste coffee. Ristretto Coffee Set


My mother, back in Switzerland, used to belong to a knitting club, organized by the Protestant Church in our hometown in Fribourg. Once a year, there was a charity fair, where all the handiworks, from knitting to stitching etc., were sold and proceeds, benefitted the local people in need.

Every Saturday, unless something more important used to be on the agenda, eight women from the knitting club and friends of my mother, would gather, in a rotating manner, in one the participants living room. They used to sit there, knit and drink coffee and discuss the weekly political events. The Kaffee-Klatsch lasted usually from 2 to 4 in the afternoon, and of course, coffee was served in a very special way. "Kaffee und Kuchen" (coffee and cake) was the motto, and a little clear brandy was part of the event.

Mostly, seasonal fruit pies were on the menu, cherry in June, apples, pears, strawberries etc., the rest of the year. We did not have an Espresso Machine and therefore, my mother used to make double strong and served in small ristretto coffee cups. (See picture above) The clear brandy, either kirsch, pear or plum was served in small, belly formed shotglasses. A crystal Duck, called "Canard" was filled with clear brandy and enjoyed with sugar cubes.

Kniting was the in-thing and these ladies could knit, talk and enjoy mom's coffee without even looking at what they were doing. A lost art, and what a peaceful and enjoyable way to spent an afternoon among friends.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

NB: Si vous cherchez une bonne machine a café à Espresso....If you are in the market for a good espresso coffee machine, please go to



Can you be good friends, with someone you disagree politically or religioulsy???? Was the question???

We think so, but unfortunately not under certain circumstances. Most couples think the same way on both issues, but we have very good friends in Switzerland, just as an example, who think religiously the same way, but not politically. Great marriage, they disagree on many issues, but never in a serious way.

We had very good friends, back in the good old days in Berkeley, who walked off the table, in a restaurant by saying, we cannot associate with people like you  anymore, who do not think the same way we do. Sad, very sad.....

It is so enchanting and interesting, to sit around a dinner table, or a campfire and have a serious discussion over politics, religion, and economics, without getting into someone elses face. You prove to me, that I am wrong and I will agree with you on your point of view. What a fun evening, with good food and great wines.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Having an open mind helps to understand or try to understand another's point of view.  However, often times the other person does not see it that way, they either have tunnel vision or cannot comprehend a point of view.  Great minds like Voltaire, the French philosopher and Frederik the Great, (Friedrich der Grosse) King of Prussia, would often discuss over dinner their point of view about world events, fine arts, plays, etc.  These discussions often led to days at a time.  There is something so fulfilling when you can meet someone with whom you can share views with so that time suddenly seems to vanish.

Your friend Martha


Gabriel and Tomorrow


Sitting in our patio here in Acoma, with friends from Europe, enjoying a glass of Prosecco and some paté de foie gras, talking about the beauty of the area, which is so different from whatever our friends are used to, in good old Switzerland. Looking at the emerging stars, they commented on the little angel we had sitting, next to our cat Mr. T. also named Tomorrow, and the way it really fitted in with the wall, the setting sunset and the stars above.

We told them that his name was Gabriel, he was an Archangel, a protector of the property and a very good friend of Mr. T, his assistant. Being believers in the All Mighty, we said yes, he is also the Patron Angel, of all who work in the field of communication, postal workers and the clergy. There are a total of 15 archangels, Martha said, but we picked Gabriel, many years ago back in California, because he is the defender of the element of Water and of the West.

He fell down, broke several parts, survived well and now he has also a faithful companion in our cat,Tomorrow.  He sits on the wall at sunset, and we are sure they talk to each other all the time. What a pair and what a joy for us to watch them together on the wall.

Your friend and Contottiere, Tony

Dalai Lama's Wine


We came across an article, in the Sunday Edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, dated July 1st 2012 some time ago, describing a 40 mile hiking trail which starts in Martigny and up to the Vineyards of the Dalai Lama (

I spent, many years ago, part of one Summer and 2 years later, part of the Fall in that region, serving as a trooper in the 17th Regiment of the Swiss National Guard. We walked the path several times, trying to dislodge our friendly enemy, the soldiers from Valais.

We never knew, that several years ago, a Buddhist Monk named Dalai Lama had purchased a small vineyard in the Swiss Alpes, the highest vineyard in the world. We talked to our friends, J.R. Germanier Winery in Vétrox and decided, that next time in the area, we will attempt to reach the Dalai Lama's vineyard and drink his wine. It must be awesome to stand there, with a glass of white wine in your hand, and drink to the health and longevity of the Spiritual Leader of the people of Tibet.

Farinet's Trail ends at "the smallest vineyard in the World", now owned by the Dalai Lama. The wine cask is kept at the bottom of a locked well.

In order to see and read the article, please go to:

and enjoy it.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony 

Map of the Upper Valais


Owning a vineyard and making wine is proof enough to be a wine lover. Even a Lama, Dalai (Spiritual) or Panschan (Civic) Leader of Tibet must enjoy excellent wines.

For mountain climbers, hikers or nature lovers, the perfect spot to spend a week, drinking wine, wandering around (sober) and enjoying the scenery. Land in Geneva's Cointrin Airport, rent a car and drive east, along the Lac of Geneva and then up to Gruyère for a Fondue au Fromage. Return to the Lac and keep on driving east to the Château de Chillion and the up the Rhône Valley to Martigny, Vétroz, where you are going to meet our good friends and wine makers Jean René Germanier and company. From there on, to Sion and to Flanthey, where you will make a left turn to the beginning of the hiking trail. The trail starts just a few miles north of Cran sur Sierre and up it goes, all the way to the artificial lake of Tzeuzier, with its famous dam.

First arrow on the picture shows you where the trail begins, second arrow where the vineyards start and last arrow to the north, where the dam and lake of Tzeuzier are located.

Enjoy the trip and enjoy the wines.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony


René J. my good and old friend from Fribourg-Switzerland

BLOG 391(400) ELECTION DAY 2012

Election day 2012. Lets hope the right man wins!!! And also who is able to get us going, as a free nation, under God and the Constitution.

This is the 400 Blog I am writing and coming across some pictures of old friends, I realized, that I have one friend, who is not a relative, who is still alive, and still keeps in touch with me on a weekly basis and with whom I went to Kindergarten with.

What a thought today, on Election Day, to come up  with that subject and an urge to write about it. We were 6 years old, when we met in Kindergarten in Fribourg, Switzerland many years ago. Attending private school  at  Maria Ward, a school run by Catholic nuns, also called "Englische Frauleins" in German or the English Maidens in English. Kindergarten one year and then 6 years of primary school. From there on, we went to college together for three years, and then I moved to a different school for another 3 years and lost sight of him for a little while. After that, he worked for a bank all his life and retired at the age of 65. I on the other hand, became a bank robber, not in the real sense though, but nevertheless, I moved from place to place and ended up, after many interludes on the East Cost and West Cost, on the Acoma Reservation in New Mexico, Amerika.

We kept in touch over the years, and everytime we were in Switzerland, we paid each other a visit. Even now, after all these years, I receive weekly e-mails from him. What a nice thought on Election Day, and may the best man win.

He is the second guy, the one with the cap. I am the one right next to him on his right.

Your friend and Condottiere ,Tony  



Martha at work

BLOG 392 ELECTION DAY 2012 - 2


The Woodchopper

Everything was arranged,  a wonderful dinner with our favorite Omaha Top Sirloin Steaks, Rice Pilaf, a green salad and a great bottle of one of Lolonis, 1992 Mendocino County Merlot and Martha's Cheese Cake. Unfortunately, the Elections did not exactly turn out the way we want them to be, but no matter what, we had a great dinner.

Martha's Birthday is coming up and she will be turning forty in a few months. After dinner, she looked at me and said, with a twinkle in her eyes." Since we just received our cedar wood for our pot-belly stove in the dining room, I think I should go out and work out to look nice and slim for my upcoming birthday. Would you take a picture of me???". I said of course, and after your workout, we will have a bottle of Prosecco, your favorite from your friend Terenzion in Tuscany.

She went out the same evening, and even the following morning to do, as she put it so nicely "my workout hour". I must say, she is a hardworking woman and the good part is, that she enjoys it very much.

We are waiting for another load of pine, since, after the latest elections, it will turn out to be a very severe and cold winter. It already started back east, and not in a very nice and pleasant way. Lets hope for the best, but nevertheless, we are set for a the winter.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

P.S.: Unfortunately, there is only one bottle left of that great Merlot in our wine cellar. Sorry!!! We all know, what happened to the winery a while back!!!!!


Maya Sun God


There is an old folk song, we as kids used to sing back in Switzerland. "E läbe nümme so lang, e läbe nümme so lang, am 21st Dezember isch der Weituntergang". I wont live that long anymore, on the 21st of December is the End of the World. Maybe there is something to it.

I wrote about doomsday, according to the long count of the Mayan Calendar. Go to Blogs number 20 and also number 80, but one thing I did not know, and it was mentioned in the news yesterday, that there is a mountain peak in France, called "Pic de Bugarach where it should be safe to hang out on the 21st of December, when we all move into the 'AGE OF AQUARIUS".

According to the article, the French Government will close off the area, to prevent a panic rush and the flood of journalists who will show up in the area that particular day. On line rumor goes, that on this day of destruction, Pic de Bugarach will open up, to reveal an alien spacecraft, which will save believers nearby, and that has the local authorities worried.

We will be sitting here in New Mexico, nice and warm, since we received a new load of redwood and juniper for our potbelly stove. Great dinner will be served, with champagne as a starter and old Bordeaux reds to finish up.

When we think of it, 5000 years ago, these Maya Indians were able to read the stars and had a written language, while my forbearers in Switzerland, were still living in caves,  grunting while using sign languages and killed animals with clubs and stone axes.

Good luck to all of you.

Your friend Martha and her Condottiere Tony

Martha's Lasagna


As you can see, in our previous blogs number 20  -  80  -  393, it is about time to settle down and think how we will spend our last evening, alive and well on mother earth, if the prediction of the dear Mayas will come thrue.

Friends and family, in different parts of the world, will get together, at separate tables of course, and fix a "fantastique" last meal, as presented in the Bible, so many years ago, approximately 2038 years ago to be precise.

Here it is:

Lasagna à la Martha (well know dish and the best throughout  the culunary world.

Tossed Green Salad with Tomatoes, Onions, Garlic and Capers, tossed in her famous, self made Salade Dressing

Apfelkuchen, again à la Martha or in English Apple Torte.

Beverages: Champagne Duval leRoy vintage 2000, there are just 2 bottles left. Cahors "Le Haut des Agland, vintage 1993, there are also only 2 bottles left with the main menue and of course: (see Blog # 108)  Pear Brandy from J.R. Germanier as a finish.

If we don't survive the event, at least we hope to survive the dinner.

Good luck to all of you, and please, loock up at the stars!!!!

Your friends and Condottieres, Martha and Tony 



Christmas Tree Picking


Talking to my "Beau Frère" Jim, last night, he mentioned they were watching a show on PBS, with Rick Steves called Christmas in Europe, and how it impressed both he and his wife, Denise, just how Christmas is celebrated in Switzerland.

Most people go to the tree mart to buy a Christmas Tree, but a few of us had the opportunity to travel through snow and ice and cut our own. For years, until my departure for Geneva and then the United States of America, I used to go on my grandfather's farm, with friends and associates to cut our own trees.

You had to have a connection or own the parcel of land  in order to cut your tree, else the local farmers would gang up on you, with pitchforks and axes!!!!! The tree was brought back to the house, dried, and then put into a stand with some water, to keep it nice and green. Real candles were added, togehter with other Christmas Tree decorations, including a Nativity scene, with the Baby Jesus and his parents.

The tree was lit on Christmas Eve, but watched very closed, and Christmas presents were given out after dinner, to all who were present.

The picture you see of me and my American Friend at the time, Sally Sullivan, was taken one year before my departure for Geneva. She taught me English, since I had been hired by an American Food Company called Libby McNeill and Libby.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony



On the Road to Encinal




The weather has been so fantastic lately, that, around noon, we have to go out  and take a little drive. Working in the office is fine, but at one point, the show has to go on the road. It is a beautiful area, but there is one thing I am missing, especially when the weather is so nice, to drive around, like in the old days, when I used to drive around to sell wine and talk to people, my favorite past time.

We take the van and our C.D. box is playing old and familiar tunes. Georges Brassens, who died in 1981, and one of my favorite French Singers was on yesterday. From the house, we drive east to San Fidel and then make a right turn to Cubero. From there 7 miles north to Paraje, on the Laguna Reservation. Another few miles to Encinal and them back to old Cubero on the old Route 66. A total of 27 miles for the roundtrip, at a very slow pace, just to enjoy the rolling hills and majestic Mt. Taylor scenery.

It is abount  One Hour's Drive, but what a pleasure, looking at the country side, seeing old and decaying pueblos from way back. The country side is unbelievable and gives you the feeling of being in the middle of the Wild West Country.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony


Pic Nic at Home in December




picnic%20one.jpgToday we are the 2nd of December, in the year of our Lord 2012. Winter will start in 3 weeks, but in the meantime, lets enjoy the good weather. Watching the News on Television, we realized we are blessed, at least so far. Northern California is inundated with water, rain and snow in the higher elevation, but especially the San Francisco Bay Area is hard hit. Floods and clogged water pipes everywhere.

Walking out into our front yard a while back, we realized that we are truly blessed. A beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky and the temperature hovering around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Time for lunch, Martha said and she prepared two Turkey Sandwiches, leftovers from our Thanksgiving Dinner. What a treat, and that in the early parts of December. Blue Moon Beer was on the menu, brewed, Belgian style, by a brewery in Golden, Colorado. An excellent white wheat and oats beer, called Belgian White, served at the right temperature. What a delight and one of the better beers we bought at Walmart in Grants.

It is snowing in Switzerland, raining in California and here, we have the priviledge to have lunch outside, in our winterized courtyard.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony





Café de l'amitié or Freundschaft Kaffee

Coming back from Switzerland many years ago, we purchased a wooden friendship coffe bowl to share, on special occasions with our dear friends. There are usually 4 to 6 spouts, one for each guest, having the honor to sit around our dining room table. A lot of fun and interesting talking points. It can also be used  on a regular basis with coffee cups and coffe maker.

Here are some tips for preparation.

3/4 coffee from Mr Espresso

1/4 Clear Brandy, Pear or Kirsch or plum (Irish coffe style)

3 cloves, one cinamon stick, 1/2 of a lemon and 1/2 of an orange (squeezed) plus 5 teaspoons of powdered sugar.

Sit there, tell jokes and hand it around to your guests, by turned the friendship coffee bowl slightly to the left, so the next person at the table faces their spout.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Our wine storage facility


Driving back from New Mexico to the Bay Area several years ago, Martha asked me, with  a slight look, where I was going to store all the old vintages we currently have on hand, since, the adobe house in New Mexico, does not have a wine cellar??

Right after our return, I went to work  on it and built, next to our PANTRY, see blog 347, a wine storage area, incorporated into our guest bathroom! Sitting there, anyone could admire the nice selection which was on hand, and not only reserved for special occasions, but also on a daily basis.


The chain Ikea had wine displays for six bottles, so I bought a large number of them to built our new wine shelf.The wine cellar is on the northwest corner and with a cooling system, the wines will retain 54 degrees, even on the hottest days. The thick adobe walls help matters along very well. We have storage for about 250 bottles and right now, there are about 150 bottles in stock, of that life giving and heart preserving RESVERATROL.

Please do check out Resveratrol and heart disease, and here again, it will show you, that a couple of glasses of red wine, will help you live longer with a nicely beating heart.

When I was hospitalized in Albuquerque for a week last winter, the password for anyone entering my room, was Resveratrol, inclufing Doctors, Nurses and Friends. They all learned about the good and healthy side of red wine, since I was the only patient allowed to have my bottle of red wine in my room, prescribed by my kind and understanding doctor.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony


Sitting here with good friends from the San Francisco Bay Area, we were having our dessert with a coffee liqueur as a supplement. Watching the news on CNN, the commentator mentioned the best places to live in the world in 2013. I remember about 15 years ago, the United States of America was rated the number ONE country for good living. Unfortunately, things have changed since, the good old US of A dropped to number 16 (sixteen). Wow my friends said, what happened. We don't want to go into details, since everybody knows the reason for such a drastic drop in popularity, but nevertheless, Switzerland moved from 2nd place, 15 years ago to NUMBER ONE,  followed by:

Australian, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Singapore, New Zealand, Holland, Canada and then Hongkong.

Unemployment is very low in Switzerland, and according to the news, nearly every household owns a firearm. No shootings or murders reported or recorded.

The education system is also very good and everybody can read fluently in 3rd grade some in 2 or 3 other languages. In Detroit and Chicago, 68 percent of the 8th graders are not efficient in reading and mathematics. What a shame. Lets hope things will change and people will go back to work to correct these failings.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony


We always knew that red wine was good for taste buds and especially health, but we did not know how good it was for everyone, especially for people over the age of 50. An article appeared on the August 3rd 2012 edition of THE WEEK  Magazin, section  Health and Science, explaining why we  should all enjoy red wine, at least once a day.

Wine may be a better beverage for maintaining strong bones than milk, especially for older people. Research found that when people stopped drinking wine, older peoples bones began to shed old cells, a process called resorption, more quickly than normal.  As soon as they resumed drinking their resorption rates returned to normal.

Lets not overdue it of course, but a glass or two of good quality red wine with dinner, is  one of the solutions for a healthy life. Wine is liquid food, as mentioned so many times, but now, it has also good health benefits.

As indicated before many times, RESVERATROL is the word. Please look it up.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony







Being a "Auslandschweizer", and a Swiss, living abroad, I tried to fly back to the old country at least once every two years, and using the rail, via Eurailpass, we were able, at no extra cost to travel all over Europe.

One great journey was with the Bernina Express, from the eastern part of Switzerland, to Lugano and Italy. .We took the train in Zurich Airport and then south, via Quinten on the Walensee (see Blog 88) to Chur in the Grey States and then, with the Bernina Express to Lugano.

From Switzerland to Tirano in Italy, the red train crosses the Alps on a spectacular route, that is recognized for its beautiful landscape and the ingenuity of its designers. It takes 4 hours to reach Italy, but the train travels through 55 tunnels, crosses 196 bridges, climbs the Bernina Pass (2253 Meters) approx 6800 feet and scales slopes with a gradient of up to 70 pro mile without cogwheel.

Beyond the human ingenuity displayed in the construction  of the route, it is the rich and diverse wonders of nature that are truly fascinating. Once it has crossed the famous spiral viaduct in Brusio, the red train pulls into Tirano.

What a beautiful train ride, and the return journey, back to Switzerland, can be via the Simplon Pass, or with a detour of any kind, your little heart desires.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Kitzinger Hofrat Franken Wein


It is the 4th Christmas Eve, (2012)  that we celebrate here in  New Mexico and what an evening it was. Cold, with snow flurries and icy road conditions. A friend of ours, Dieter D. was invited, and the three of us, enjoyed great wines and Martha's fabulously prepared smoked ham, with sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts. For dessert, we had Martha's homemade German lemon cake.

We served a Prosecco from our friends in northern Italy and with the main course, a Beaujolais vintage 2010 from Louis Jadot. Perfect match and to top off that great meal, a homemade Quince clear Brandy, 20 years old, from a very good friend of mine, back in Switzerland.

Dieter brought a Bochsbeutel white wine from Franconia, which we had last night. Great wine from Kitzinger Hofrat, Bacchus - Halbtrocken vintage 2008. We opened it and beautiful old memories came back to us from times past.  A hint of sweetness, but overall , this wine had all the variations of cold steel, from the supple Damascene blade to the Turkish scimitar.

Happy New year to all....

Your friends and Condottieres, Tony and Martha

GMC Van 2003 4 Wheel Drive

BLOG 404 230'000 MILES

On October in the year of our Lord 2003, I walked out of a wine shop on College Ave. in Oakland, California. A gentleman approached me, and pointing to my car, a 1980 Volkswagen Camper Syncro (4wheel drive) and with a smile, asked me, if my car was for sale. I told him, returning his smile, that everything was for sale for the right price, including my hatchet in the back of the car. He offered US$ 4000.00 and I said $ 5000.00 and with another smile he said "we have a deal". After a test run, he paid me cash for my Syncro, gave me a receipt which I signed and then drove me home.

Two days later we went to the auto row in Pleasanton and stopped at the GMC dealership, first showroom on the left side of the freeway. There was a white GMC Van 4 wheel drive we liked, with only 5000 miles on the odometer. After one hour of back and forth and talking to the vice-president of the dealership, we purchased the van for 20,000.00 dollars, interest included.

What a car, the best we ever had. We drove him, heavily loaded, 17 times from Oakland, California to our new place in San Fidel, New Mexico. It never let us down. I always said to Martha, that a car should be treated nearly as good as one treats his wife. It will never let you down. Of course there were some minor repairs, but overall, what a car.

Coming back from Albuquerque the other day, the odometer turned to 230,000 miles, and the engine is still purring like our cat Mr. T. (Tomorrow), sitting on my lap. With or without our old trailer we call nephew, he helped us in our wine business and pleasure rides. What a Van. Congrats to General Motors for such a good job.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony




Another year older, and what a dinner we had last night. Our niece came over 30 minutes before the feast and toasting to each other with a glass of Reserve de l'Aube Blanc 2010, we started to set the table for the upcoming festivities.  We were able to find some leeks here in Grants, New Mexico (surprise) so Martha was able to fix her renowned lasagna.

All our friends who are Martha's lasagna followers were here in spirit and we could hear their cheers echoing back from the dining room walls. A tossed green salad was served first and then we moved to the Lasagna. What a dinner!!!

Since we were having an Italian dish, we revisited the northern part of Italy with another bottle of Rivaia 1996. (See Blog 286 for a description of the wine) The shoulder was slightly low, but just slightly. The wine was decanted 30 minutes before being served. What a match to the solid food, the selection could not have been better. Acidity was still present, but barely noticeable, but the fruit was still very present, with an aroma of dried fruit, smoke and blackberries.

Dessert was served, Laura's Choclate Pie and Martha's German Lemon Cake with a shot of Cognac from Remy Martin VSOP.

We watched the Crystal Ball fall in Times Square, New York and then, retired for the night. Happy New Year to all.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony




Flower Vase made by TF


We really don't mean Flea Market, we mean Free Market. As you know, and after reading our blogs, our website is not exactly politically motivated. We are more into food, wine, historical places and enjoyable things. Politics can be boring; however,  it does affect us all in one way or another.

Things have changed, since I grew up in Switzerland and I still remember very well my father emphasizing the idea of self reliance and hard work. He always made sure, that we all had very good medical coverage, and I have been keeping that up  during all these years.

It is getting really bad, when people start demanding things for free, just because it is available through government grants and private donations. Europe is in a very bad shape, with the exception of the northern States, including Germany and of course Switzerland. We don't know how things will shape up in the years to come, but people should realize, NO WORK, NO MONEY, with the exception of small children, handicapped children and the elderly who already have put in their share and the people who can not fend for themselves, like sick and mentally challenged folks. Everybody else should work for their money, which right now they get for free.

The free market is the key and only through the free market the economy can grow and people can prosper. The money has to come from somewhere in order to pay salaries worldwide, and just go out and tax people who made it, just to satisfy a group, is not correct. Why should we work hard and try to achieve, if there is no reward at the other end. It showed under the communist regimes in Russia and Eastern Europe, that their policy did not work. China made a good move and it shows.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Painting by K.M.


Watching the news the other night, Martha and I discussed the role that area had played historically and also religiously.  Here are a few points we came across and would like to share with you......

1) The Garden of Eden was in Irak. 2) Mesopotamia, which is now Irak, was the cradle of civilization. 3) Noah built the ark in Irak. 4) The Tower of Babel was in Irak. 5) Abraham was from Ur, which is in Southern Irak. 6) Isaac's wife, Rebekah is from Nahor, which is in Irak. 7) Jacob met Rachel in Irak. 8) Jonah preached in Niniveh, which is in Irak. 9) Assyria, which is in Irak, conquered the ten tribes of Israel. 10) Babylon, which is in Irak destroyed Jerusalem. 11) Daniel was in the Lion's den in Irak. 12) The wise Men were from Irak. 13) Ezekiel (a wheel inside a wheel) preached in Irak. 14) Peter also preached in Irak. etc etc.

The word Mesopotamia means between the two rivers, between the Tigris and Euphrates. Irak means country with deep roots.

Here is something to think about.  Since The United States of America is typically represented by an Eagle, here is the following verse .

Koran (Sura 9:11) For it is written, that a son of Arabia would awaken a fearsome Eagle. The wrath of the Eagle would be felt throughout the lands of Allah and Io, while some of the people tremble in despair, still more rejoiced; for the wrath of the Eagle cleansed the lands of Allah, and there was peace.

For more information, please go to Blogs 318 through322

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Sauce & ingredients dish for Dolmas


Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmas in Greek and Yalanchis in Armenian) 

A great recepe from our friend Marilyn in Fresno

1) One roaster pan with lid. 2) Two cups of medium grain white rice  (Basmati). 3) Four cups of water. 4) Three large onions diced. 5) One bunch of curly leaf or flat leaf Parsley. 6) Lemon Juice from about 3 lemons. 7) One cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 8) Two stalks of celery plus leaves diced (inside stalks) 9) Two small cans of tomato Sauce.

Leaves come in a jar, tied with a string.Take them out, unroll them, leave them stacked flat while rinsing off the salt brine. Squeeze them  between the palms of your hands to get all the water out.

Cut off stems while they are stacked, as far down as you can. Stack them on a dinner plate, with the vein side up. The smooth side is the outside of the Dolma.

Put the rice, water, onions, celery, lemon juice, olive oil, 1 can of tomato sauce, and seasonings in pot and cook until all the vegies are cooked and rice is mostly done.  Then let cool. When cooled, get a tablespoon and the extra lemon juice, another can of tomato sauce and some olive oil. Take 1 leaf, 1 tablespoon of stufffing and roll up grape leaf.  Continue until stuffing is used up.  Stack in layers in pan. Drizzle a little olive oil, tomato sauce and lemon juice.  Put lid on and cook for 1-1/2 hrs. at 350 degrees.  Serve cold.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

One hour before my accident




Many years ago, and the memory of it, seems to be fading away, Martha and I travelled through Europe and also Switzerland. Very good friends of ours, owned a little chateau, with drawbridge and watchtower, 8 miles outside Fribourg my hometown . Bergfried and his wife Pat invited us to ride their horses, and also take groups of doctors out on a Sunday afternoon ride. We stopped at farm houses along the way and were served, besides a glass of Swiss white wine,  dried meat (Viande des Grisons) and bread.

The castle was built in the year of our Lord 1379 and reconstructed in 1641, by the local lord. It is owned today, by a very well known industrial family. SEE:

We met Bergfried and Pat through my aunt, who owned a farm next door, and being a bone doctor in Berne, he was a very good skiing partner of my bone doctor in Fribourg.

On that fateful afternoon, we were taking some doctors on a riding trip, when the stable boys horse kicked my horse, and with his left hind leg, hit my right leg and shattered my shinebone in 16 places. My horse took off, but I was able to control it. We rode to the next farm house, someone cut my boot off and we saw the damage. We called Bergfried at the castle right away, and he picked me up at the farm house with his 4 wheel drive Landrover.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony



In Bed at the Daler Spital in Fribourg




Drawing made by my very good friend Bahiga, as a cheeeerer upppppper

Bergfried carried me over the drawbridge and laid me down on the 20 foot kitchen table. He told me, it ain't looking good and called the ambulance to ferry me to the Daler Spital in Fribourg.  He cleaned the wound, and since there were no pain killers available, Martha brought me a full bottle of Cognac, which I started to sip right away. Arriving at the hospital, my friend and bone doctor Emil Bisaz looked at me and said. "My dear friend, we cannot operate on you tonight, because you are drunk, we have to  let you sleep it off and by tomorrow morning we will fix you up". Everybody had a good laugh and I was wheeled into a nice private room on the second floor.

I stayed at the hospital for 2 weeks, my leg in traction and then went  to my parents home to recuperate. Over the next five years, four more surgeries followed, two plates, one pin and then removal of the pin. All the surgeries were done by Doctor Bisaz, and so I had to fly back several times to Switzerland for the procedures.

For more input and stories, please go to Blogs 38 - 45 and also 103 - 107. My leg got shortened, but finally healed well and I never had a bone infection setting in. Did some exercises and kept on climbing mountains.

Pat and Bergried sold the place and moved to the south of France, living in a beautiful place in the Cevennes Mountains, west of Avignon. For more informations, please go to Blogs 44-45-46.

Every time I take a shower, I am reminded of it. Ugly leg, but it works well.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony




Saint Nicolas in Fribourg Switzerland


An old plea to Santa Claus from little children in Switzerland. Swiss German of course, and below you will find the English translation 

Sämi Chlaus, do liebe Ma, gäu e muss kei ruete ha. Gimmer lieber Finke, minner auto Cheibe stinke.

Santa Claus you dear man. Tell me I don't need a spanking, please gimme some new slippers, my old ones dont really smell too well.

Talking to my doctoor in Albuquerque last friday, sitting on a gurny type examining table, with my pants down to my ankles, I realized that I had similar shoes he was wearing.

Looking up at him, I said with a smile. Monsieur le Docteur, we have similar shoes and there is a little story behind it which I would like to relate to you.

Many years ago, I was the Santa Claus nominee in Fribourg and,  my cousins asked me to play the role for their children. I tried hard to play the role  well, and the little children were very impressed. Of course I was invited for dinner, after my scolding speech and the presents were given to the smaller folks, but in order to do that, I had to change clothes and remove the Santa Claus outfit.

The smallest of my cousin's boy was sitting next to me at the dinner table and leaning over he said in a quiet voice: " Uncle Tony, Santa Claus had exactly the same shoes you are now wearing.!!!!!

Wow, it happens to the best of us, and next time I will see Santa Claus, I surely will apologize. What a smart kid and what a fun evening it was.

My doctor started laughing and laughing, looking down at his shoes.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony



My Grand-Pa's redwine bottle stopper


Martha asked me the other day, if I would be kind enough to tell her the history of that cute little carved man on the bottle stopper we use for our red wine bottles.

Many years ago, I said, my grandfather, my father and my uncle Hubert, used to buy French Wines from Burgundy and also Chateauneuf-du-Pape. According to my dad, a shipment arrived from these regions, one month before the invasion of France by the German Wehrmacht, in May of 1940. Borders were closed and no traffic, whatsoever could cross into France, including banking operations etc. After the Germans had left the occupied territories in 1944/45, 2 invoices arrived from the producers of the wine, asking for payment. Payments were made, but the wines had been comsumed long ago.

Several bottles were left in my uncle Hubert's cellar, and after his passing, his widow, my aunt Hedy asked me to check them out. I remembered very well that little carved man, since it was used as a bottle stopper at my grandfathers house, right next to his seat at the dinner table.  I asked my dad, if he knew anything about it and he said yes of course. In his youth, during summer school vacation, my grandfather worked on farms, and in the Fall on a vineyard in the Vully Hills (the other side of Lac Morat) to make a few extra francs and pay for schooling. He received the bottle stopper from a co-worker, who carved these figurines and sold them at the winery.

The year was around 1875, and after my dad's passing, I became the pround inheritor. It is still used today on a daily basis, and every invited guest makes a comment of that little fellow with the derby hat, and each time I have to tell the same story.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony


Old "Lampe à pétrole" made by Tony in Switzerland. Shade from Switzerland, SHEEPBLADDER.


In the old days, I used to chase girls and sell wine, now however, I changed my menu a little bit. I am still selling wine, but besides that, writing wine-food-travel blogs for the joy of keeping my friends entertained, and also to keep my senior brain functioning properly. By the way, Martha does crosswords in English and I try to do them in German.

I also became involved with some friends of mine, their products, including companies like:

1)   : For anything you can think of....

2)   : Via my friend Carlo, for the best coffee you ever had

3)  : For your credit cards, if you are a retailer.

4)  :The most beautiful women's fashion on earth.

5)  :From Google. Everything your little heart desires.

Enjoy and have a great time.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Les clés du vin


La Clé du Paradis  -  The Key to Paradise

It is the term we use in the old country for a corkscrew and it has always been well received.

On her Wedding Day, my mother received "The Key" from her father-in-law who,  personally presented it to her at the wedding reception. Of course, the Key to Paradise was designed to be used only for good bottles of wine, and my parents got into the habit of doing so. It alway looked good on the dinner table, next to a great bottle of Pinot Noir from Beaune in Burgundy, and invited guests always commented on it.

The first corkscrew in the picture was given to me, many years ago, by my good and dear friend, Lynn. It is a walrus tooth with a silver cap. The initials are a capital OCP. It was  made for the original owner, her grandfather (ORVILLE-CARTER-PERRY). A beautiful piece and a wonderful present. I was touched by her gift, but she smiled and said candidly. " A Waiters Corkscew is easier to use. It  is true, it takes a certain amount of strength to pull out the cork with that fancy piece.

The last corkscrew was made by me. Bringing my antlers back from Switzerland, a small part broke off during transport, and having an old corkscrew with a broken handle, I replaced it with the antler. Works well and I receive many complimentary comments about the beauty of it. It is original and I made it myself, like so many other things.

So next time you are invited to our house for dinner, we will let you handle the corkscrew of your choice, since it will be your job to open that splendid bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

Coathangers made by Tony








As already indicated in the previous Blog 414, one of the antlers I brought back from Switzerland was broken during transport and with the shattered pieces, I started to make new items. The corkscrew was the first one, but with the remaining pieces, I also made other different items.

1) Coat hanger for my "Prinz Heinrich Mütze" Basball Cap or my western style Stetson. (Prinz Heinich Mütze is like a Greek Cap, except it is made in Germany.)

2) Bar utensils, as show above, a Bar spoon, a Cocktail Mixer and also a Candle extinguisher.

Everytime we have guests over, and they insist on having a cocktail, I use these utensils and also have to comment on them, due to their strange, unusual look.

As you can see, the first cap or coat hanger was made out of a deer's front foot In order to keep it bent, it had to be tied down until it stiffened.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony



Bottle stopper from Persia




Growing up on a farm in the Fribourg, Switzerland, my mother used to tell stories about our family and other relatives. Among 6 uncles she had on her father's side, one was really outstanding  because he became a world traveler and sailor. Working on merchant ships, he mainly sailed the Mediterranean, but also part of the Atlantic. Spending his off time with his nephew Samuel (my mother's father) he brought back souvenirs from that part of the world but also Africa.

I forgot his first name, but according to my mother, he loved goods times, women, and dancing. One Sunday morning, my grandfather, toegther with my mother, saw him leaning out of the first level window, and not answering their calls, they went upstairs and found him dead, leaning on the window sill.

He spent some time in Persia, the Nile Delta, but also Africa where he did some hunting. The gazelle antlers you see are from him, also the bottle stopper, with the peacock symbol, which he brought back from Persia (Iran)

My mother was a small child when he passed away, but his main travels were done between 1870 and 1915.

A very adventurous guy, someone I would have loved to meet and  travel with.

God bless his soul and my he rest in peace.

Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

One Liter Wine Decanter. Pewter from Switzerland


Wow, what great products. Available to anyone and just a phone call away or a short e-mail. Please contact us for more information: Tel.: 650 877 8460 or  505  552  9584

Jean René Germanier is not only a great vintner, but also a member of the Swiss Parliment in Berne, the Capital of Switzerland, representing his home Canton of Valais.

Fendant Les Terrasses , Vintage 2011.  Grape: Chasselas, Alc. 11.8%. Goes well with: Cheese Fondue, Cheese Raclette (see blog # 68), Trout, Salmon, Veal and other Seafoods. Price 12/750ml US$ 210.00

Dôle Grand Cru Balavaud, Vintage 2007/2009. Grapes: Pinot Noir and Gamay. Alc. 12.8%. Goes well with: Poultry, red Meats and Cheeses. Price 12/750ml US$ 240.00

Pinot Noir Grand Cru Balavaud, Vintage 2008. Grapes: Pinot Noir. Alc. 13%. Goes well with Turkey, white Meats, Salmon, (only for red wine drinkers). Duck and Bratwurst with Roeschti. Price 12/750ml  US$  240.00

Mitis Tardive, Vintage 2009. Grape Amigne, Late Harvest. Alc. 14.1% . Serve  with Foie Gras, Blue Cheese and Dessert. Price 12/375ml US $ 450.00.

Rouge de Terre, Vintage 2008. Grapes Gamay, Syrah, Gamaret. Alc. 13%. Goes well with Beef Steak, Pork, Sausage with Sauerkraut, Snails, spicy Chicken legs and Leg of Lamb. Price 12/750ml US$  240.00

Blanc de Mer, Vintage 2008. Grapes Chardonnay and Armigne. Alc. 13%. Goes well with sweet water Mountain Trout. Salmon,  Basmati Rice with Pork Chops. Price: 12/750ml US$ 240.00

What a delight, to come back from the slopes, have a Raclette (see Blog 68) or a Fondue au Fromage, with a great bottle of Fendant les Terrasses from JR Germanier.

Shipping and Sales Tax of course will be added if necessary.

They are really beautiful. Enjoy and have a great day.

Your beloved Swiss Wine Rep., friend and Condottiere, Tony   



Silver Bottle Stopper with geniune silver coin from Geneva, 1710


The first vines were planted, trimmed, and  the first wine was produced in Egypt around 3000 BC. (See Blog 10, Nectar of the Gods). Of course, the Greeks and Persians followed and then the Romans who brought the knowledge of planting vines to Central Europe, especially to Burgundy and also along the rivers in Gargonne, Loire, Champagne and Alsace. They started to export wine to England and Italy, and the wine trade really took off, around 270 AD.

The invasion by the Barbarians destroyed most of the vineyards, but monks revived the practice around 1000 AD, especially in Languedoc, Burgundy and Alsace. Around 1200 AD, Bordeaux reappeared on the scene, due to the export to England.

In 1863, an insect from the United States  called Phylloxera destroyed most of the vines. Fortunately, the wine production survived and is still going strong, especially with wine growers and wine lovers.

In France, but also over most of Europe, great vintages were 1989 - 1990 - 1999- 2005 - 2009.

Red wine should be drunk at 16 -18 degrees C. White wine at 1- 12 degrees C., Champagne and Dessert wines at 6 - 8 degrees C.


Your friend and Condottiere, Tony

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