It goes without saying that I visited the Grüne Woche (on until the 30th of January) food fair, after all I am the Foodie in Berlin. Going on a Saturday was insane but less so then going with the pram during the week (thanks to those of you who warned me against it).
The fair is a huge, sprawling affair over 26 Halls. I had assumed that it would be a professional trade fair that consumers could attend whereas actually it is just aimed at consumers. As the consumers are in Germany, there was an uncanny amount of cured meats, salmis and cheeses.
I had one shot at the fair so I resolved to see the entire thing in a time frame of 4 hours. I kept checking my watch to make sure I was on schedule and noticed that time was passing remarkably slowly. Not a good thing if you go by the “time flies when you’re having fun” adage.
I was clearly in the minority. My German co-visitors were having the time of their lives, free food a plenty, the exhibitors couldn’t put their samples out fast enough. I am pretty sure the Tête de Moine (AOC) gentlemen had carpel tunnel syndrome by the end of the day.
They were one of the highlights actually. I was expecting more like that. But it was more like a generic overview of commercial food around the world. Things picked up a little when I got to the Organic (Hall 6.2a). The stands were prettier and the crowds thinner (both it and the people in it). I picked up a scoop of organic hazelnut ice cream to cool me down after the packed German food halls that were full of bodies overheating from all the eating and drinking.
The Asian halls were jam-packed and from what I could see (albeit my short height is a disadvantage among the taller Germans) nothing exciting. It is all that pseudo-Asian food you find everywhere in Berlin, sweet, cornflour thickened and bland. Uncle Ben’s “Asian” food is how I think of it. Except Uncle Ben’s is probably better. Yowsers! What an acerbic comment! Well, yes, taste it, you’ll see!
It was somewhere in that disappointing mix that I found some hand pressed Argan oil that I was rather excited to finally try. It’s very nutty, reminiscent of hazelnut but not as pungent. They were also selling some that you rub on your face and apparently it keeps you young. The man selling it looked very youthful indeed (although rather on the shiny side).
If you can stand the smell of barnyard animals indoors then the visit to the animal hall is a treat. There were some gorgeous horses, cute black lambs and I managed to get a definitive list of Neuland butchers in Berlin (which I am laminating and sticking to my fridge immediately!) It was also in this hall that they were roasting an entire cow – or bull, couldn’t tell (that stand was a hit, of course).
If at any time you start to feel claustrophobic, make a beeline to the Russian hall, it’s empty. Probably because of antics like the teenagers that were offering salmon eggs on toast, only to inform the passerby’s after they had taken a bite that they cost €2. Honestly, the amount of caviar I saw in that room? You would assume that there was not caviar crisis, that if you turn on the tap in Moscow, Beluga sputters out. But it’s roomy, you can take stock and make a plan of what to see next or whether to call it a day.
As I was on a self-imposed information gathering mission for you, I went to every single hall. Even the one that sold pots and pans, the one that sold roofs and windows and the garden hall. Not much to write about on that. Not sure what all those things were doing at a food fair but they are there in case your needs extend that way.
What did I buy? A small bottle of Argan oil, some amazing olive oil from Morocco AOP (so good, I can drink it neat) and Tete de Moine (because I was going to a pot luck and it seemed like a nice gift but also because I felt for the carpal tunnel guy).
Bottom line, if you are expecting fancy, give it a miss. I was expecting fancy. To come over unexpected things that I would have to later look up in Encyclopedias. In reality, the Grune Woche is like a gigantic Oktoberfest (or what I imagine Oktoberfest to be like because I’ve never been) but with a lot more types of food thrown in and some appliances.