Chicago Williams, BBQ, Mitte

Chicago WIlliamsWhile I would argue that America’s soft power has taken some considerable hits over the last decade, its food culture is thriving abroad.  It crops up in the most unlikely places- like on Hannoversche Strasse.  A street that even a die-hard Mitte resident will struggle to locate.  There on the former site of BarCelona next to the cutsie Maialino is Chicago Williams.

Its walls are bare brick.  There are meat hooks to hang your coat on.  And a giant Beelonia smoker, hunched against the back wall like some sort of dormant beast.  Behind it,  “Don’t mess with the chef!”  is spray painted onto the wall.  (Because you might end up in the smoker?).

You place your order at the bar.  There is a wonky shelf, affixed at such an angle that the carefully stacked ceramic beer mugs seem sure to slide off with a crash.  There is a lot of humor in that shelf.   2 slushie machines whir and churn like fat hula dancers promising perfectly icy Margaritas.   When I try to order a diet coke for my husband I am told that it’s bad for you and they don’t serve it but would I like an Africola instead?
“What? And a platter of smoked meat is good for you?” I quip.
“It’s good for your heart.” Comes the answer. Read more of this post

New! Bite Club, Street Food Party on the Spree

Bite ClubThe upcoming Bite Club Berlin has prompted me to do something I’ve yet to do on Foodie in Berlin – write about something I haven’t been to yet.  But I have a feeling… “The way you know about a good melon.”

It’s logical really, think what a success Street Food Thursdays at Markthalle Neun has been (4,954 likes on Facebook!).  Now add a body of water, music, balmy weather, ropes of naked light bulbs and the persnickety tweaking (in a good way) of Tommy Tannock and ‘fireball’ Miranda Zahedieh and you are bound to get something really really good.  That you wouldn’t want to miss!

I’m travelling and won’t be able to make the first one but you better believe that when I return to Berlin – this is where you will find me. Read more of this post

Glass, Contemporary Food, Charlottenburg

Glass BerlinPinch me.

I had a meal last night, a meal I would not have expected to find in Berlin for a while yet to come.  And I had it in Charlottenburg.

I was invited to the evening by Gal Ben Moshe‘s PR agent, Regine.  I know Regine personally, her portfolio of clients is enviable – her firm does PR for Tim Raue for example.  When I write this to Gal, he replies “She does PR for Tim Raue. But she also does PR for me.”  His confidence, his directness – part of it reminds me of my good friend Ilanit who comes from the same part of Israel as Gal.  The other part, well the other part makes me wonder “Is this night going to be as good as he believes it to be in his mind?”

And you know what?  It is.  It absolutely is.Gal Ben MosheGal came up with the name Glass 3 years ago, later, when he saw this location which had previously been a gym with blacked out windows.  He knew this was where Glass would be.  A kitchen had to be built.  It’s small, with a central island where the chefs come together for plating.

“Hmmm.”  I wonder aloud “This makes me think of Grant Achatz’s kitchen.”
Alinea? Yes, I worked there.”
“You worked at Alinea??” I retort, incredulous. How has this guy worked at Alinea and not even mentioned it? Again that confidence. One that can only mean he is not going to try to prove he is good by association, he is going to let the food speak for itself. “How do they do that crazy dessert that is plated on the table and moves? Is it magnets?”
“The tables tilt.” he explains “And yes, magnets are used.” In fact the tables at Glass are the same as those at Alinea. Same manufacturer.”Glass, BerlinWe are invited to sit down in the dining room. This time, I have been allowed to bring a guest and my date for the evening is Marguerite. Next to us is Ashley, a wonderful photographer based in Berlin and Saleema of Brocade PR.  We are a riotous group as we realize we have much in common (chief among them, a love for BBC Radio 4′s desert island discs).  The noise stops with the arrival of each new dish.A picture perfect dish of vegetables

Read more of this post

Opening of Sra Bua by Tim Raue, Pan Asian Food, Mitte

Opening of Sra Bua BerlinI have no idea how I got on the Sra Bua opening party mailing list. But somehow I did.

It’s conceivable that somewhere on the invitation it said ‘black tie’ but I was too busy marvelling at the mysteries of PR lists.  I put on my pink corduroy trousers, (my favorite pair of orange jeans from Comptoir des Cotonniers being in the wash).  I paired them with a blue t-shirt and a blue and white striped sweater.
The red carpet at Tim Raue opening The extensive red carpet was my first clue that I might have gotten it wrong. The wall of big men, in black overcoats, earpieces and walkie talkies that closed in on me with a look on their face that said “The Brandenburg Gate is that way honey.” was the second one.  Some Sra Bua tastersInside, I find that they have kept the interior of former Uma intact, minus the central point of the horse which has been replaced by another sculpture.The red carpet from the insideAs I have arrived at 7:30, I initially have good access to the miniature signature dishes being passed around. Half an hour in though, it’s become a free for all. Tim Raue, himself is being jostled around by elegant guests with feral eyes shoving past him to get at the food.  If he’s here, who is in the kitchen, I wonder?  The kitchen at Sra BuaDaniel Lengsfeld, I find out.  (A former Tim Raue sous chef that went on to cook at a place called “Katz Orange“.)  Because Sra Bua (a Kempinski brand restaurant of which there are already 3 in existence  around the world) is merely interpreted by Tim Raue.  On most days you will find him on the pass at his 2 Michelin star Restaurant Tim Raue.Salmon with grapefruit Sra Bua Read more of this post

Mogg & Melzer, Delicatessen, Mitte

The hallway outside Mogg & MelzerI once attended a wedding where I was thoughtfully placed next to another woman with whom I had a lot in common. The two of us should have had a convivial evening. Instead we were like two positively charged magnets, repelling each other no matter how hard we  tried.

Equally confounding was my experience with Mogg & Melzer. A delicatessen in a former Jewish girls school, the hallway dressed in emerald-green tiles that go positively Wizard of Oz in hue when they catch the sun.  A place that serves a chicken liver creme brûlée.  What’s not to love?The space at Mogg & MelzerExcept I found the pastrami sandwich dry and didn’t touch the bland coleslaw.  The volume of the music was better suited to “I’m home alone packing up the flat” than a public space where people were trying to socialize.

That was 3 months ago.  I went back again this week.  And although I was irked that the solitary waitress was asking about my drink order before I had even taken off my coat (for the rest of the meal she would be mostly MIA) the two women in the corner were sharing a shakshuka that appeared to be delicious.Caesar salad, Mogg & MelzerThe menu reads really well.  I was torn between the golden beet & goats cheese salad (€6.50) and the Balsamic lentils, baked Crottin de Chavignol & wild herbs (€11).  (I’ll readily admit that when I read the descriptions, I imagined La Fromagerie calibre salads.) The menu at Mogg & MelzerI went for the lentils with the crottin. I received a plate with a stingy ladleful of lentils, doused in too much balsamic vinegar served on a papadum (?) . The wild herbs turned out to be a few leaves of bagged salad so generic they hardly needed a special mention on the menu. I forgot the lentils came with a crottin until I started to prod what looked like a mummified egg yolk perched on top.Lentils with goats cheese
That was the crottin? This crottin? And if it was the famous Crottin de Chavignol of the Loire Valley, how had its mottled exterior turned smooth and why exactly was it orange – instead of white or even white with blue?

Can I chalk up my lukewarm experience to a dud dish? 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

WestBerlin, Coffee & Cakes, Kreuzberg

IMG_1314I got a big kick out of the post I wrote on The Barn because so many of you left comments.  I like when this blog generates a dialogue and I get a chance to exchange thoughts directly with some of you.

When I first came to Berlin in 2009.  The only place you could get a flat white was Bonanza Coffee.  Like The Barn today, they did away with any modesty and strutted around like they had invented coffee.  I remember being shamed when I asked for a decaf and I haven’t been back in 3 years.Coffee and CakeIt’s a very different landscape in Berlin these days.  There are plenty of great coffee places around.  They get coffee.  They have a slick machine.  Square Mile or Monmouth beans.  The baristas with the trendy hair cuts that waffle on to each other about the beans and the tiny nuances they are detecting.  And they are nice to you.  You don’t have to fiddle nervously at the bar, wondering if you are going to get the lingo right?  If they can smell the instant coffee you had 3 days ago when you were absolutely dying for some caffeine and your grinder was on the fritz (Really? You have a grinder? You’re such a coffee nerd.)

IMG_1313I mean – sometimes you just want a coffee?  Am I right?  A good cup of coffee, somewhere nice.  You don’t want to feel like you are being screened to join your local Scientology branch. Read more of this post

Galeries Lafayette, Food Hall, Mitte


IMG_3846
My husband gave me a Nike Fuel band as a gift.  It stayed in the box for about two weeks.

All I could think of when I saw it was: Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart dumbstruck that anyone would willingly don a shackle that monitors their movement, when she had to forcibly endure a home incarceration bracelet.  Martha Stewart whose business lost $50.7 million against revenues of $43.5 million in the 3rd quarter of 2012 and still felt upbeat enough to take the FT’s reporter along to check out ABC for inspiration on what to do with twigs. (I want whatever anxiety suppressing drugs she’s on!)

When it became obvious I wasn’t going to do it, my husband took it out of the box and loaded it onto my computer.Nike Fuel Band“See you can Twitter it and Facebook it.  You can even see what your friends are doing!”  I was going to explain to him that my friends are not 17-year-old girls and they would probably appreciate something that kept count of how many diapers they’ve changed or noses they’ve wiped and which counts down days since last pedicure, but I didn’t have the heart to deflate his considerable bubble.IMG_3843I’ve been wearing it regardless because around 10 o’clock in the morning, I press the white button and it says G*O*A*L and the letters do somersaults to a line of reggae colours at the top.  That is the why this bracelet will succeed, not because it motivates you to exercise but because it gives the wearer compliments.

Vanilla eclaireI wore it to Galeries Lafayette yesterday to buy Layla her weekly eclaire. She believes that their food hall makes the most sublime eclaires. I think they make damn good ones for Berlin, my favourite is coffee and hers is chocolate.  Yesterday the lady at the patisserie took a liking to her and gave her a chocolate macaron.

I’ve never written about the food hall here.  It’s small, but I love that by focusing on France, it makes sense.  You know what to expect.  Cheese, of course.  A good butchers, expensive but if you are clever, you can pick up some chipolatas or Merguez sausages and liven up a pot of lentils because sometimes (often) I just need a break from all the wursts.  The chiller cabinets stock things like thinly grated carrots with some raisins and a few parsley leaves masquerading as salad. Or expensive pots of yogurts or puddings.IMG_3842 Read more of this post

The Barn – Roastery, Mitte

The Roastery
I was sitting inside the child friendly Ginger and White in London when I read that Ralf Rüller had banned prams in his coffee shop. “Big deal!” I thought and soon tweeted – it’s not like prams fit in the teeny tiny Augustrasse shop. Only much later, while I sat with a group of bristling mothers, did I understand that there was a new bigger shop, The Roastery and that it also did not allow prams. Nor did they let you use their toilet, allow dogs, provide sugar, use soya milk and if you wanted to use your computer – you had to wait in line for the one table where it was allowed.IMG_1275

“Do you know that they deleted all the negative comments off their Facebook page?” one said “I mean if you are going to do social media, then you have to do social media!”

A big no!Even more confounding was the chosen location; the Mitte end of Schönhauser Allee – the other end of which is Prenzlauerberg.  Prenzlauerberg.  As in the bastion of designer babies and prams.  The styling of the babies and The Barn is nearly identical with a preference for wood (Prenzlauerberg babies don’t play with plastic), clothing in muted hues, even for the girls (especially for the girls) and no sugar allowed (The Barn because it thinks that  sugar would ruin a perfectly balanced coffee and the parents because they are trying to channel Gwenyth Paltrow).  Not allowing prams in that part of town  is like banning gambling in Las Vegas: absurd.

I set out for a weekend coffee in my SUV (3 kids people, need a big car) with Layla in the back so as to avoid the “what to do with the pram” conundrum.

There housed in a now defunct pharmacy was an extremely large coffee shop. I could have easily driven the Lexus up to the counter and placed my order without making a significant dent in the enormous space. Clearly the pram ban is not a space issue.

The set up is meticulous. The milking stools are lined up straight, with their legs crossed in a way that makes me think of how women used to be taught to cross their ankles demurely in finishing schools.  There is a young man exerting tremendous concentration over each cup of coffee.  He seems to be weighing every loaded portafiler then scooping out minute quantities of ground beans.  I have a lot of time to observe all of this because perfection takes a while.

IMG_1284At some point, a customer returning his empty cup drops a balled up paper napkin onto the floor, Rüller, who is operating the roaster, hones in on it immediately. He can’t leave the roaster (I know this because he’s already warned me in an overly weary tone that I must mind my child and that should she trespass into the space he will not be responsible because his first priority is the beans) but I can feel his irritation.

It lays there for maybe 5 minutes, all the while Rüller is shooting it harried glances. Until finally he catches the eye of one of his cowgirls, holds it, then casts his eyes down to the ground. She bends and covertly scoops it up. Read more of this post

Goose to Go from the Ritz!

IMG_3803Christmas this year. Phew! Literally no relation to all Christmases past. I don’t know what happened?

Actually I do.

I had twins and sent Layla to Kita for the first time, where she brought back all manner of horrendous disease. After nursing cold after cold for 2 months solid, she finally settled on a whopper, 5 days and nights of coughing. One night she was up for 3 hours straight coughing in my arms and falling into fretful fits of sleep for short periods of time. It broke my heart and my back. I called my husband back from two business trips, needing reinforcements, only to have him go down within hours…

So although I had ordered a German reared mini-pute from Bio Company (4.9kg for €89) I had neither the time nor the inclination to cook it (who would have eaten all that food? My mother and I? Each bouncing a fractious 5 month old baby on our knee?).Teddy Bears at the Ritz

And my dad was in town, lured by all my tales of how I make the best Christmas dinner ever, EVA.

That’s when I came across it.  A pamphlet from the Ritz advertising “Goose to Go” for 6 people €149.  “Per  person?” I asked the waitress at Desbrosses who was standing in front of a blackboard that said brunch at €89 per person (per person!!!).

“No.” she told me per goose.The goose

And it came with…
Red Cabbage
Kale
6 stuffed apples
6 large knodel
cooked chestnuts
gravy (beautiful gravy)
a bottle of Terasses

In a huge insulated Ritz branded bag. Read more of this post

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