October 8, 2013 1 Comment
July 10, 2013 7 Comments
Anna Durkes in Kreuzberg makes gelato. It’s smoother than your average Berlin kugel and creamier, its richness coats the mouth like butter.
The shop isn’t your average eis laden. With an island of cream painted metal furniture looking like oversized stick insects in repose at its center. On one side is a pale blue wall with hovering plugs to power some hanging lanterns which have bright orange power cords. In the window there are a couple of oversize plastic cups in the same shade of orange as the cords.
Flavours are concentrated around nuts and chocolates, to the point that a pair of young women come in and after saying how nice the shop is, leave because there are too many chocolatey types and presumably they were in a sorbet frame of mind. Read more of this post
June 22, 2012 Leave a comment
My old DVD rental place on Haverstock Hill has closed down and an Italian ice cream shop has opened instead. Gelato Mio. In Berlin, Layla and I have a reliable one scoop daily habit that we indulge with a trip across the street to Der Eisladen.
On our first week in London, I took her to Gelato Mio, to provide some consistency to her life. A scoop for me and one for her (dispensed with a paddle because in London they are always trying to re-invent the wheel) came to just under £6.00.I find the ratios often don’t work here. Ice cream = pleasure seems like a logical equation but the real equation (at least for me) is ice cream @x price = pleasure. Once I pass a certain price threshold then I start picking away at the experience and decide it might not be worth it after all.
The balance (as with everything in life) has to be right, so you can charge more but you have to offer something superlative. Morelli’s in Harrods makes some of the smoothest most delicious ice cream I have had anywhere. I don’t give the expense a second thought, I even go down there just for ice cream sometimes. Read more of this post
May 27, 2012 13 Comments
I say this because ice cream is the number two most popular thing to eat here after sausages. You can’t find a cluster of restaurants without an ice cream shop. Everyone does it, young old, suited, barefoot, they are all licking away. There is no shame in ordering a spaghetti ice (vanilla ice cream pressed through a potato ricer and topped with a strawberry sauce to mimic tomato sauce and white sprinkles to suggest Parmesan) no matter what your age.Ice cream in Berlin is cheap. One scoop is usually around €1 (although two years ago, I remember it being €0.60 at the shop across the street). The bright, crayola box flavours are often wacky; black vanilla, sweet woodruff or the mouth puckering German darling, from everything to face creams to health tonics to….ice cream – sea buckthorn. At €1 a scoop, I am game to try most of them, cast off my shoes and waggle my toes happily at the simplicity of it all.Whenever I am in Prenzlauerberg for a meal (A Magica tonight) I often skip dessert and go for a decidedly fancier scoop with a lot of American / British flavours like Rocky Road, Banana Peanut Butter and the one for which the shop is named: Hokey Pokey. But also a lot of superb single flavours – Sicilian pistachio, Indian Mango, Hazelnut and so on. Read more of this post
March 29, 2012 2 Comments
Heston Blumenthal and Raymond Blanc are both self-taught. Unhampered by other people’s ways of doing things they were able to develop their distinctive food personalities. What they don’t say (but I think is equally important) is how naive they were starting out. Had they both been told that they would be working towards multi-michelin stars and helping to change the face of food in Britain I’m sure that they would have seized up with fear and found something else to do.Now, almost two years on (In July) I see my own naiveté in this blog. I optimistically set out to find the equivalents of my London darlings in Berlin (you will find a list of them on my favourites page). More often than not I came up empty but at no point did it occur to me to stop because what I was looking for didn’t exist.I was in London for almost a week recently and riding at the top of a bubbly red double-decker bus, I smiled at what I had been endeavouring to do. London is a city of choice and excess where anything you want can be yours for the taking – provided of course, you’ve got the money to pay for it. A good portion of these affluent folks are young, 20-35 young (a lot of trustafarians to be sure accompanied by a minority successful in their own right). Dinner on Tuesday at Yauatcha, I was flanked on one side two girls their cheeks still plump from childhood, their nails perfectly painted in pretty pastels and on the other by a young couple (the female part of which also had a manicure – prettiness appears to be celebrated in London). At Nopi on Wednesday the crowd was a tick older but a decade younger than you would ever find anywhere charging those equivalent prices in Berlin.I think I might have nailed it, the reason why I can’t find enough of the places I like here; informal, no tablecloths, laid back but knowledgeable service, small plates and above all seasonal, flavourful good quality food with international awareness. It’s because if there are moneyed people here they are older. They all flock to places like Grill Royal or Borchardt. Places where waiters hinge at the hips, use crumb scrapers and behave like petty bureaucrats grossly misusing their teeny tiny allocation of power- sticking you in the basement by the toilet (Borchardt) if they don’t like the look of you.I didn’t have a clue about any of this in 2010. When everyone I knew sent me to Sasaya when I asked for Japanese, I wasn’t convinced. ’There must be better than this. There must be a place like Dinings here…surely?”
Yeah…not so much…Originally, when I went for dinner, I found Sasaya to be too dark, the classical music too loud, the smell..boiled rice mixed with seaweed made my nose crinkle and the trouble in securing a table seemed exaggerated. I returned for lunch last week (much to the bemusement of the friends who had recommended it to me 2 years ago). I found I prefered it during the day, the rainbow theme is easy to spot and playful (the music is still too loud and they really need to crack a window open somewhere). Read more of this post
Friedrichshain: Aunt Benny’s, Cafe; Kinkibox, sewing cafe; La Récréation, Ceramics; Hops & Barley, micro-brewery; Olivia, Chocolate & Cafe; Goldschmiede, jewellery
October 8, 2011 2 Comments
At this juncture, I would say that I know Mitte inside out; Prenzlauerberg very well; I am surprisingly well-informed on where to eat in Kreuzberg; Charlottenburg is pretty shaky; Schöneberg, vaguer still; Friedrichshain had been blank (with the exception of Cupcake which I visited only once); don’t even get me started on places like Wilmersdorf it might as well be a different city, in fact from what I hear – it kind of is.While the weather was ‘Fa la la la la, la, la, la, laaaaaa‘ glorious, I took out my new copy of Tip’s Speisekarte (in which I got a mention on a special they did on food bloggers – Yay!) and plotted out a few addresses to try out. Then I printed out the google map and off I went with a girlfriend to explore.Yes, I’m a geek of epic proportions. Something it’s taken me a long time to embrace but now that I have, you know what? Geeks have much more fun.Annoyingly, two of the places I had been looking forward to trying were closed on Tuesday (Factory Girl! and Melt) but Aunt Benny’s was open. It has a similar aesthetic to places like The Barn or Bäckerei from the Alpentstueck group, namely, black painted walls, designer bare bulbs, good staff / service. I was still full from tasting a lot of mediocre food along our tour (places I won’t name because they were unoriginal even in their shortcomings) but I couldn’t resist the chickpea and kidney bean salad with rocket in a large weck jar.At that point the tour was over and it had been disappointing. The extraordinary number of young Europeans on the streets told me that there was more to Friedrichshain. Layla nodded off in her pram which gave me ample time to follow my nose.
(Note to self: always rely on the nose!)
I turned up some truffles, not all culinary but you don’t mind if I go off brief every now and again?
First up: La Récréation, a ceramic workshop with dishes so pretty they made me think of pastel coloured, Pierre Hermé macaroons. I wanted to buy a set then and there and thankfully was impeded from doing so by a man who actually was buying an entire dinner set.
July 28, 2011 13 Comments
They were smooth and creamy with not even the slightest hint of stinginess. The flesh was a deep orange and sweet but balanced with a prick of sour . I never ate mangoes like that again. They just don’t exist anywhere else. The only time I found any fruit that bore any resemblance to those fondly remembered Egyptian ones was when Selfridges ran a Bollywood promotion in 2002 (yes, when a mango is that good, I can give you specific dates), they were selling small Alphonso mangoes for close to €5 a pop. Those came close……and then, I had the mango ice cream at the Amorino stand in front of Galeries Lafayette and I was transported to those dark hot nights as a little girl in Egypt, staying up late and eating mangoes.
I researched the brand a little on the internet. It’s a chain. Started by two Italian guys that look like they are in the fashion business rather than the ice cream business. On their website, they talk about how they only use organic ingredients and traditional methods and the chefs oversee the making of ice cream daily (blah, blah, blah). But with 43 shops in France alone and a further 15 in Europe, I’m pretty sure they’ve got a factory somewhere churning the stuff out. Read more of this post
July 13, 2010 5 Comments
So goes the ancient Greek aphorism.
“Myself” is like an ant on speed. (That would be pretty funny!) I am always flitting about working my way through the thousand errands I have listed in my head. When I was younger, I used to envy sloths and layabouts for the apparent ease with which they could slump on a sofa for an entire day and channel surf or read or basically do things that in no way contributed or improved the status quo.
Or nap during the day.
Even when I was positively shattered from sleepless nights with little L, I still could not sleep during the day. I would lay in bed with the curtains drawn and listen to the blood rushing in my ears, my mind filling up with things I need to do until the errands seemingly trickled out of my ears! Enough! I would leap out of bed and begin.
I used to fight these impulses and try to be more relaxed about it all (I take this parenthesis to note that to me, the word “relax” is probably the most irritating word in the English language!). Clearly I lost that war. About 5 years ago, I decide to embrace my apparent short comings and you know what I discovered? Being neurotic is actually fun! I enjoy going to Ikea and building shelves while bopping about to the tunes on my iPod. And I prefer making my own cookies or pasta or whatever. Just now, having mopped 200 sqm of wooden floors, I am basking in the after glow of a job well-done.
But, to borrow from the Greeks yet again – I am a bit like Sisyphus and his rock. Although, unlike Sisyphus – I can take a break. But I can’t relax in my own home as the minute my bottom makes contact with the sofa – I am up again to tend to some urgent matter that just can’t wait!
Instead I go down to the ice cream parlour downstairs. It’s called Eis Laden and serves organic ice cream in the most bizarre array of flavors including; avocado, sea buckthorn, hot mango (with pieces of chili) – in fact they boast 130 different flavours! By looking at their website, I have learned that they have been around for 13 years, are a family business and have 3 stores in Berlin.
I love that it is a bit on the naff side. I say this with complete affection, by the way! The logo incorporates an upside down triangle, in a certain shade of blue that to my mind simultaneously evokes communism and the early 80′s. Inside it’s painted an odd shade of yellow and one wall is clad in some tiles (which I actually like). Outside they have some sort of truck base that they use as benches.
The side-walk is always full of people enjoying a “kugel” (scoop) of ice cream for the bargain price of…€0.80 per scoop! My plan is to make my way through their entire list, one scoop at a time.
I love to sit on a bench, savouring my ice cream and watching the world go by, in the 10 minutes or so it takes me to get through it I think of nothing at all…
Flavors I have tried so far; chocolate, sea-buckthorn, lemon sorbet, walnut, rice pudding (wowsers! you have to try this one!)