What’s that on the menu?

Summer has, for my entire life, been travel time. Granted, it isn’t quite summer yet, but I haven’t been in Minnesota for the past week. I’ve been in Switzerland. As I write this, I’m in the capital city of Bern, where my partner Mick is attending a genetics conference. We’ve spent a good portion of each day figuring out what to feed ourselves and I’ve just had the most interesting meal of my trip so far.

Mick, his colleague Katie, my friend Susan, and I just finished dinner at Restaurant du Nord, a few blocks from where we are staying. It advertises itself as serving modern European food. It has an air of hipness, a sleek design, amazing staff. The menu offers only locally-sourced food, which we had to ask several questions about since none of us are adept at German.

This is the menu item that caught my eye as soon as I saw it: “Surprise et solidarité”. I had to ask what that meant.

The waitress explained that the menu item would be a surprise for the customer based upon what they had available and it would be in solidarity with the desire to not waste food. The chef would make a meal from food leftover from the preparation of meals earlier in the day, or from the night before, so that it could all be used up. And they would explain what was on my plate when they brought it to me.

I was absolutely in. While my dinner companions found other menu items to love, I went for the surprise.

Here’s what arrived on my plate a little while later:

There were slices of roasted veal, chili potatoes, a few other pieces of assorted vegetables, jus. It tasted amazing. Tender, simply prepared. A willingness to be surprised gave me a very tasty meal and saved food from being thrown away.

Knowing that an enormous amount of food gets wasted every single day in the United States and elsewhere, I hope this sort of offering appears in more restaurants. What a simple, brilliant idea that helps promote a way we can be smarter in our use of available food, we can be broader in our ideas of what is acceptable to serve and to eat.

Thank you, Restaurant du Nord, for a wonderful dinner!


  1. Love it, Kathleen! I can’t “LIKE” this enough. The plate looks gorgeous, and what a good idea. AND, I love your adventuresome attitude. I wonder how many folks actually do take the Surprise et solidarite each day.

    We traveled in Switzerland almost 7 years ago. Loved the beauty of the countryside and enjoyed the people. I hope you’ll get to do more sight seeing. Hugs, xoA


    1. Hi Annis! I, too, wondered how many people ordered that item and kicked myself for not asking the staff before we left. This country is really beautiful and everyone has been incredibly kind. It’s our first time here.


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