Brunch at Espacio 88

SKye Coffee Espacio 88My sister was visiting me from London last weekend and it coincided with a weekend of fun events in Barcelona. A pop up brunch at Espacio 88, the 2nd Eat Street by BCNmes and a weekend of open artist studios in Gracia and Poble Nou.  My perfect day begins with a great coffee so the two of us were there, cup in hand by 10:30 a.m.  I had a bagel from the guys at Cloud Street Bakery, split down the middle with two fat slices of foie gras, a drizzle of maple syrup and a fried egg, topped with shaggy rocket and some crumbs of briny feta cheese.

Foie gras, fried egg, maple syrup bagel Read more of this post

Yasmine & Zoey

I’ve gone from being a mother of 1 to being a mother of 3.

Inconceivable.

No words.

(Ok, well maybe a few)

On Monday the 30th of July two gorgeous and tiny baby girls were handed to me .  (Yup, it’s that easy, you go to the baby shop, find two you like and 4 days later you go home, powder your nose, sell exclusive picture rights to Hello and People magazine, then whiz off to get a tattoo of their birth co-ordinates on your arm. Then a few short months later, you don an  itsy bitsy teenie weenie white bikini and text the nanny  nannies ‘Back in 2 days, how are the twins?’.  EASY!) Read more of this post

Phoebe in Berlin, Chinese Supper Club, Friedrichshain

Expectations are a funny thing. Honed over years of living to have the smallest margin of error possible. People rely on preconceived expectations to a greater or smaller degree, depending. I rely on them a lot, have become adept at gathering information and vetting the personalities who may have offered me the tip to come up with as accurate a picture as possible.Consequently, I am not often surprised. Or let’s put it this way, I am rarely positively surprised.

Caroline and Tobias of the Thyme Supper Club recommended Phoebe in Berlin’s. Their words “It’s something different. She’s a professional chef, not an enthusiastic amateur. She does French food and Chinese. The Chinese is special, not like any Chinese food we’ve ever eaten before.”It wasn’t.

It took a couple of months, a flurry of emails and one cancellation for enough people to be interested to make the Chinese themed evening viable. Good things are worth waiting for and the shifting date meant that I didn’t go into overdrive imagining what it must be like. In fact when the email finally came: “Hallo! Happy to see you! Tomorrow night 7:30” it caught me totally off guard, I didn’t even know if my husband was in town to watch Layla.We were asked to leave our boots at the door and invited to help ourselves to a pair of slippers from an overflowing wicker basket (love that, stealing that! I too make people take off their shoes but I don’t provide any slippers).Phoebe is from Taiwan, where she ran a successful French restaurant (Louis XIV) for over 10 years. Her apartment is large, bright and Ikea free with plenty of unfamiliar decorative pieces that give the place an Asian flair. Not Asian like you or I could achieve, trawling the shops around here, more like bits and pieces you might find in a Mandarin Oriental in Taiwan.Phoebe struts decisively in knee-high black boots with waist length hair and an awesome air of authority. I have an odd thought, primal in nature: ‘if we went into battle, I would follow Phoebe’ – which is weird really, because normally I would expect people to follow me into battle. All these thoughts tumble into my consciousness in the hallway, in a matter of seconds.Phoebe has already left us to speak to the journalist that is doing a piece on her supper club for a Norwegian publication. She is showing them ingredients that will feature in tonight’s meal. She speaks quickly, gesturing a lot, often hard to understand. Even though I am speaking to other guests, I catch snippets of what she is saying “this is like lychee, we dry it…this is a special pepper…good for skin, gets rid of water.”I had been expecting a nice Chinese meal but this sounds medicinal, mystical.

When the rest of the guests arrive, we are invited to start with the canapés. Peeled tomatoes in vinegar, to get the appetite going we are told. Deep fried green olives in a Parmesan and wasabi crust. Ricotta and soy panna cotta with a sprinkling of cracked pepper in a pool of vivid grassy olive oil. Read more of this post

Kjosk, Mini Street Food Market, Kreuzberg

This was a Sugarhigh tip: a mini street food market in front of Kjosk.  Kjosk operates out of a white double-decker bus on a corner plot which used to be a garbage dump.  Presiding over the scene are graphic black and white depictions of hanging animals, 3 stories high, painted on the outside of the adjacent apartment building.

Entirely surreal and to me a so typical “only in Berlin” scenario.  Sure, big companies all over the world are trying to thrill us with pop ups, props and oddities of all sorts.  But this place felt uncontrived, authentically odd if you will.I read in this article in the New York Times that the Kjosk is the brainchild of Rosmarie Köckenberger and is simply a convenience store housed in a bus.  There are picnic tables, buckets of straggly plants, dirt – lots of it and a ping-pong table.

I didn’t expect much of the mini street food market.  I’ve been to a few of these Facebook food events this summer in Berlin and it’s usually not much more that a guy with a stack of Tupperware boxes serving food that has sat around for too long in the heat.  I’ve also been to the fancy ones, like Pret at Diner and have considered myself lucky to come back with my wallet even if the contents had been thoroughly emptied. Read more of this post

Blueberry Picking at Buschmann & Winkelmann in Klaistow

Two days of torrential rain in Berlin really and truly put the fear of winter into me. I had flashbacks of being trapped in doors for weeks. So on Saturday morning I resolved two things:1. To go on-line and look for flights to Miami.

2. Get out of the flat and out of Berlin for the day.Off we went to a pick your own (selbst pflücken) place Luisa had recommended in Klaistow.

What a place!  I’ve never seen anything quite like this in Europe.  They’ve made an amusement park out of it.  With giant bouncy domes; enough sand pits to shoot the next Pirates of the Caribbean; a petting zoo; boars; rams; a tree climbing area, complete with hard hats and ropes (Climb Up).

I didn’t find any blueberry toys or asparagus pens but there were strawberry bear statues and strawberry seats.  In their store, they sold blueberry everything: jams, jellies, liqueurs and candies.Buschmann-Winkelmann runs events from April through to December.  White asparagus, strawberries, blueberries, corn and pumpkins feature as highlights throughout the year.

On the 27th of August there is even a Line Dancing workshop (15:30 – 17:30 taught Enrico Adler, the 2007 Line Dancing Champion, yes, apparently there is such a thing.) followed by a Country Feast of barbecue with spare ribs and all the fixings.  I can’t even conceive how such an event, organized by some German folk from the country would go…but I can imagine it being a good laugh. Read more of this post

Foraging in Lobetal, Bernau Berlin

My friend Sylee organized for us to go on a foraging walk last saturday.

Wild plants have to fight to survive, so they pack a much heftier nutritional punch than commercially grown vegetables that are mollycoddled with fertilizers and the like.  Apparently, chimpanzees, our closest relative in the wild, eat a diet of fruit and foraged greens.  While the bulk of our diet is made up of grains, flours and meat.  This was generally the gist of the opening talk given to us by our foraging guide, Elisabeth Westphal.

Then we set out on the dirt paths in the forest around Lobetal Dorf.

After spending about half an hour trying to swallow, dry sometimes hairy leaves that tasted mostly identical and promised to fight “der Schleim” or phlegm.  I started to think “Don’t we live twice as long as chimpanzees, anyway?” and “Well, I’m sure if chimpanzees had a choice between hairy green leaf and say salad nicoise, they would probably choose the latter.” Let’s face it, they would probably eat toothpaste right out of the tube, given the choice.  And if slime is really such a problem, maybe we should call the ghostbusters?

But then we moved on to some more interesting edible greens.  Wood sorrel; a small, clover like plant, made up of three heart-shaped leaves, tender and sour.  I had visions of it on strawberry tarts.  The young shoots of pines, succulent, with a strong resin taste, I could imagine them in a salad of olives, capers and tomatoes.  Wild garlic flowers, a whisper of garlic, which I scattered straight onto the pasta salad I had brought along for lunch. Read more of this post

Marheineke, Market Hall, Kreuzberg

I walked down Mittenwalder Str, wondering if this street really led to the market hall?  It all seemed too residential; a fat cat in a window here an old woman smoking a cigarette there…and then I walked into the bright square, glaring sunshine bouncing up off the cobblestones, a cacophony of  squealing
children, water falling from a great height and general buzz of people soaking up the early summer.

How come no one ever talks about this place?  It’s cute as a button! All urban planned with trees offering shade, fountains and a playground for the children.

Read more of this post

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