Eat Street, Street Food, Poble Sec

L1103226Yesterday I went to the inaugural ‘street food festival’ organised by BCN Mes and held at CREC in Poble Sec. The reason I am using inverted comas is that the majority of the food stands have a bricks and mortar location in Barcelona.  Which is unlike street food at say Broadway Market (London) or Street Food Thursday (Berlin). All this is relevant because the line of people waiting to get into Eat Street is 3 people wide and two blocks deep (Barcelona blocks are big). It’s epic.L1103221Which is what I am thinking when I approach the girl with the worst job in the world (explaining to the sweaty hungry people that “No, she can’t let them in because there is a crowd control issue.”) I’ve got two hours before the twins are up from their afternoon nap, tentatively I explain that I write a blog and could I please get in to take some pictures? “Press was at 13:30.” she turns away. I bite my lip and hover a moment until an actual photographer turns up, towering above the both of us, pointing his massive lens menacingly at her and waving his press card – “your choice, let me in or you don’t get covered.” He’s obnoxious, he wears her down, I duck in behind him.
Eat StreetAnd so it is, sometimes another person’s hard time is another’s lucky break. Good thing too. I am amazed at the turn out. At how ready everyone seems to be for something just like this. And why wouldn’t they be, everyone else has been doing the food truck thing for ages?  (I get the impression that setting up a food truck or a temporary stand at one of the many markets may be difficult?  And perhaps the food culture in Barcelona is too ingrained compared to that of Berlin which in the last few years has exploded in the most impressive way?) Read more of this post

Public Market, Vilanova i la Geltrú

Mercat Public, VilanovaRight now, the proverbial deer and I have a lot more in common besides our big brown eyes.  After spending three years complaining that there is nothing to eat but chicken and mince I am now at a loss for words (and recipes).  Catalunya is rich beyond anything I’ve ever seen.  The variety of food, be it from land or sea, is astonishing and bewildering.

Tomatoes and beansEveryone knows about the Boqueira Market in Barcelona but I find that easing myself gently into, say, the Public Market of Vilanova is a good start.  To begin with, it is entirely made up of the local population, most of whom will only converse in Catalan.  There is an elderly woman with long white hair pinned up in a loose chignon selling Cava, tomatoes and green beans.   I buy 5 of her bruised ugly tomatoes, confident that they will prove to be the best I’ve had all summer (they are) and all the while she rattles on in Catalan and calls me ‘nena‘ (girl child).  The effect of which is momentarily transformative.  For almost five years now, I’ve been a mother.  My mind is resolutely practical, entirely unflappable, with an astounding amount of ‘fear not little one for here is an adult with a plan’ stowed away to be doled out with great generosity as my girls peel at that many layers of life.  When this lovely Cava seller calls me child, I have a glimpse of my mind, uncluttered and wide open as it had been once upon a time when I was the little girl. mackerel Read more of this post

Paletas, Popsicles, Around Berlin

PaletasIn London, I spent a good three hours flipping hungrily through the food books that have been published in my absence. While looking through one called “A delicious life – New Food Entrepreneurs” – I came across PaletasZeit für Brot, and ART Sucre.  Right there in black and white and in hard cover.  Berlin shops sharing pages with the likes of Mast Brothers.  Go Berlin! Read more of this post

The Thai Market, Outdoor, Wilmersdorf

Nose to tail eating Thai styleBerlin is a city of extremes. On the one hand, you’ve got bureaucrats, trying to out best each other at making you squirm.

Even postal workers are in on it, you should have seen the maniacal happiness in the eyes of the postal worker while I ruffled around in my wallet to find my driver’s license.

“You’re not getting that parcel without your passport. No point looking in there – I need your passport – that’s the only way.”IMG_4128

I don’t take the bait (any more). I calmly (kind of) step out of line and take my time, without the heckling. Find it and line up again. Nor do I take (visible) offense when the same postal worker peers at the license – then me – repeatedly as if I am buying a gun, rather than picking up my Amazon book.IMG_4124

So in this context, I am dumbfounded – no other word will do – to find a place like the Thai Market. Where women (I didn’t see a single man cooking) sit cross-legged and cook. Where everything is either €5 or  €2.50.  Where dishes are washed in pails of water.  Fried chicken languishes in the sun.  Hands don’t get washed for the 5 hour duration that the women are cooking.IMG_4123

Of course if the horse meat scandal in Europe and the rat meat scare in China have taught us anything, it’s that we are  not as in control as we would like to believe, no matter all those inspectors going around swabbing door handles.  (Did I ever mention that fending off said health and safety inspectors and bribing her with brownies and granola was one of my jobs in my other life?). Read more of this post

Big Stuff Smoked BBQ, Arte Sucre (Macarons) & More, Markthalle Neun, Kreuzberg

Big Stuff Smoked BBQSylee suggested we meet at Markthalle Neun on Saturday.  “I’m obsessed with the place!” she enthused.

It’s evolved considerably since my last visit.  The USP’s of the stands are distinct from one another and reel the Markthalle Neun consumer mercilessly hook, line and sinker.The pulled pork sandwich At Big Stuff Smoked BBQ, there is a line of hungry punters wrapped around the corrugated shack, as tinny Charleston music blares from speakers located somewhere behind the chicken wire that makes up a big part of the shop.  The Italian girl at the cashier is wearing a flat cap, her sweater sleeves are pushed to the elbows exposing a full arms worth of shirt sleeves – she looks like she should be hitching a ride on the back of a Ford Model T truck circa 1920.  I inch ever closer to the guy with the black latex gloves pulling pork apart for the sandwiches.

Sadly for me, Big Stuff has had a good day and they have sold out of everything except the pulled pork sandwich, so I miss out on the matt aluminum tray loaded with mounds of sauerkraut and squirts of bbq sauce (€12 for the regular, €16 for the large).  I get the pulled pork sandwich (€5.50) and a side of smoked potato (€1).  It’s good.  Not shredded to the point of resembling candy floss the way I experienced at Pitt Cue in London but delicious in a less complicated way.  My mother has her sandwich with a glass of ale from Heiden PetersA beer from HeidenpetersI appreciate that the brains behind Markethalle Neun have been considerate enough to provide ample seating, with feisty coloured plastic chairs so I don’t have to scan the hall long before finding somewhere to sit.Mini macarons from Arte SucreLayla choses to get her sugar fix from Arte Sucre in the form of mini macarons (heaven preserve us from trending sweets: whoopie pies, cake pops, marshmallows – I mean you!). As I try to identify and retrieve the perennial coffee flavoured one, the French woman selling them begins to rattle off flavours: lemon, cassis, chocolate, mandarin mint…

Mandarin with mint? I think, intrigued as I immediately commandeer that flavour and take half a bite.  The other half I hand to Sylee.  “These are good right?”.

Her eyes grow round. “Really good.” she agrees. I turn on my heel and return to Arte Sucre, this time to buy a pretty box of choux buns (6 for €7.80) to go with our excellent coffees from Kantine 9.

Choux pastry buns Read more of this post

Broadway Market, Hackney, London

I was reading Simon Kruper’s column in the FT “What makes London different?“.  I had been mulling over the same question.  On a daily basis, I am confronted by an uncanny openness of different cultures.  An Indian Tesco’s employee showing two Hasidic jews around the stationery shelf, around the corner a Halal fridge, two shelves away from that row upon row of ethnic foods.  Unlike mainland Europe, you don’t have to erase your origin or culture to live in London.  Rather, everyone get’s to be who they are and somehow live together more or less peacefully (136 murders a year in London as opposed to 536 in New York – researched by Simon Kruper).It’s not only in supermarkets that things are peaceful.  Traffic is refreshingly non-aggressive.  If you see someone indicating that they want to drive in front of you, you don’t accelerate, (inconceivable, isn’t it?) instead you slow down.  They in turn, flash their hazard lights in thanks or raise a hand.  And you know what?  Everyone still manages to get where they want to get to without getting their panties in a bunch or abusing their car horn.I think all this amicable cohabitation of cultures contributes to the vibrant food scene.  Without unmasked prejudice floating about, people are curious to try new things while others are encouraged to share what they know.I got myself to Broadway market.  Where I had 3 destinations; Banhmi11, Lucky Chip and Yum Bun.After all the accolades, Banhmi11 fell well short of my expectations.  This is one instance where I can confidently say you can get better in Berlin at CôCô.

Yum Bun was indeed yummy.  And I say this having had the steamed pork buns at momofuku ssäm bar a couple of times.  The apparent ease with which the slim girl behind the stack of bamboo steamers made up the buns inspired me give steamed buns and their filling of pork belly a go when I return to Berlin.

Read more of this post

Boxhagener Platz, Market, Friedrichshain

Every neighbourhood in Berlin has its own weekend food market, except where I live in Mitte. I am not going to count the clutch of stalls in front of Butler’s at hackescher markt as an authentic one. Ackerplatz market is technically in Mitte but it’s the Prenzlauerberg side of Mitte.  It’s annoying that I can’t trundle down the road with my wheeled shopping bag, on the other hand I am not restricted to one market by proximity sake.  I’m free to bounce around the different locations and enjoy the many faces of Berlin.

Kollwitzplatz market in Prenzlauerberg is probably the most known but I haven’t managed to fall in love with it.  It’s somehow too self-conscious of its good looks.  Winterfeldtplatz market is like a sensible pair of shoes, it does what a market should.  As with most market squares, there are plenty of cafes surrounding it.  It is a market I go to often, especially as I have a few friends living in the area.  Wittenbergplatz (across from the KaDeWe) is a bijou sized offering, with prices to match some of those in the pricey food hall across the street.  Still I often find interesting things there. The Market at Karl August Platz is another sensible place to shop.Boxhagener platz market in Friedrichshain is one of my favourites.  It wraps around a large sand filled children’s park, seemingly always full to capacity with children and young European parents.  It has a couple of the large Turkish stands that seem to sell everything at all times of the year but unlike in other markets, they don’t dominate the square.  There are plenty of small stands selling seasonal, organic fruit and veg.What sets it apart for me is that there are plenty of people having a go at something different (I get a similar vibe from Markt Halle Neun).  Wether it’s the ‘got dessert‘ marshmallow stand. Or the bruschetta stand.  The lady selling rings made of old keyboard buttons.   Read more of this post

Ackerplatz market, Däri – Milk Workshop, The Circus of the Cycling Spoons and loving Berlin right now

You know how when you fall in love with someone?  You are utterly goo goo ga ga over how great they are? Exciting, unpredictable (in a good way), friendly. Then you suddenly find them reckless, unpredictable (in a bad way), and what you took to be friendliness, is actually horniness (and they hit on all your girlfriends, all the time)*. Most times that’s when you expedite them to the nearest exit.  Except on the very rare occasion where you see them stripped down and you think, yep, I get you and I still love you (yeah, close your mouth dear, I’m as surprised as you are).My guess is that this is probably why almost 95% of love stories are about an unrequited / misunderstood love that is requited / understood for a blink before one or both of them dies. Romeo & Juliet? Had they lived, he would have probably become a shoe salesman and she would sport a bouffant red hair do.

Because it’s complicated, intangible even to express what it is, how it works, why it works? (Oh and if you ask me, the characters of  Miracle Max and his wife run circles around all the afore-mentioned lovers.)It’s easy to be in love with someone before all the dots have been connected but once they have, well then you find yourself thinking – “That’s just a stupid drawing of a couple of kittens playing with a ball of yarn. How kitsch, how dull, I was expecting something else, I saw myself with someone better…” dump.It’s sort of the same with cities, you visit once and you think ‘Ah, to live here, I would be the happiest person in the world.’ Then you do and discover that actually you can’t put up with all the dog poop (Paris); all the over 70s (Geneva); can’t afford it (London); all the Hogans sports shoes (Munich); all the motorcycles without mufflers…oh, oh…and the imminent financial collapse (Athens) – you get my drift.But Berlin, Berlin.  Well yes: the bureaucrats are exceedingly good at telling you, you haven’t filled in the right form; receiving a flyer that says I must go collect my parcel at the post office leaves me shaking with fear (they’re mean to me); and my eyes roll so far into their sockets every time the supermarket counter girls get up from their seat to make sure I am not wheeling out a lifetime supply of diapers, that I have to pull out my compact mirror to help roll the back into their place. Buuuuuuttttt……The rest of Berlin is fantastic.

You just need to step out of your door and let things happen to you.  No plan, necessary, no money even (although that certainly helps). Read more of this post

Market at Karl August Platz & Warm Cauliflower Salad

I am trying to make it to most of the markets in Berlin.  So I can (one day soon) write up the definitive guide and put it out there into w.w.w land so when a future me-like person, looking for a list of markets, moves to Berlin it’s out there.  My friend Misterrios pointed out that such a list already exists, here but like most lists about things to eat in Berlin, it doesn’t tell you which ones are winners, which ones are losers and there are no pictures.I remember when I first moved here, trotting up to the concierge at the Adlon Kempinski (thinking he of all people must know) and asking where the best farmers markets are

“There are no farmers markets here.” he replied.

“How can there be no markets?” I asked, “Every city has markets.”

“Ok, yes, there are markets but they sell the same stuff as the supermarkets but for a lot more money.” He answered.

I smiled and thanked him and thought, wow, what a tool?!Having been to a fair few now, I get what he means.

Markets in Berlin are made up primarily of wholesalers selling similar if not the same stuff you will find in Rewe, Kaisers, Lidl and so on, often more expensive because the big supermarkets have higher spending power and can push down the prices on the suppliers.  In between those wholesalers, there are a few stands that sell food they have grown.  Unfortunately, they tend to grow the same varieties that you find in the supermarket, so they do a bog standard broccoli, no purple sprouting broccoli or broccoli rabe.

You don’t go to a market here to get something similar to the Mexican sour gherkins you read about in Bon Appetit, or some picked crab.  You go with more sensible expectations, like buying some garlic that has not been grown with China (what is up with that by the way?) or some sweet onions or just some locally grown things that still have dirt on and maybe a few dead gnats bearing testament that it grew in the ground and not in some futuristic polytunnel in a galaxy far far away. Read more of this post

Winterfeldtplatz Market – Schöneberg


I have been looking for a Borough Market type set up here in Berlin, with the cool stands and the great food.  It’s true that Borough Market in London is eye waterlingly expensive and jammed full of people but I loved to go down on a saturday, get in a great breakfast at Brindisa, a coffee at Monmouth and then hit all my favorite stands and spend way too much money!  Ach, old London life…  How I miss you some days!

This is the Timeout Berlin’s Market Critique Choice and I am inclined to agree with them!  I still have loads of markets to visit, in fact this weeks Tip Berlin has a listing of notable Berlin markets (By the way, if there is anyone out there that feels like translating those pages for me, just holler!).  So far my forays into Berlin markets has been a bit of a let down so I was pleased to finally come across one that I would bother to come back to. Read more of this post

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