Hokey Pokey, Ice Cream, Prenzlauer Berg

 You need to have a compelling reason top open an ice cream shop in Berlin.

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

Centro Italia, Cash & Carry, Prenzlauerberg

As I was getting out of my car in the parking lot in front of Centro Italia, a beat up old Alfa Romeo came careening down the hill – gravel flying off to one side.  He switched off the engine before he had parked, crunching into a spot and pulling the hand brake loudly. He slammed the door so hard the windshield rattled.  He had a tan, he wore his hair longer than people normally do in Berlin and walked to the entrance of the cash and carry in long quick strides.

I can understand his urgency, it was ten to four and Centro Italia closes at 4 on saturday.Finding good Italian food is a challenge in most cities, not just Berlin (in London I recommend the River Café, Locanda Locatelli for a sophisticated  glamorous approach, or Zucca).  Sure you can find mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, pizza, limp pasta with arrabiata sauce or a grainy Bolognese.  But that’s like pretending those refrigerated plastic trays of sushi have any relation to the real deal.  Italian food is so varied and nuanced, you only have to look at the number of grape varieties they have – thousands, to understand why an authentic Italian meal proves so elusive. Read more of this post

Anna Blume, Brunch and Cakes, Prenzlauer Berg

When I lived in Prenzlauer Berg for one month last March, I used to pass Anna Blume on a daily basis.  It had gotten so much coverage in the guide books and blogs that I had Anna Blume fatigue, before even visiting it.  That coupled with a lot of  bad reviews from people who had been hyped up by the profusion of write ups and then let down when they finally visited.  

On Tuesday I took a break from the 3 days of non stop hostessing and took the M1 tram up to Prenzlauer Berg, intending to go to Meierei.  A funny notice on a doily informed me that they would only be reopening on the 6th of January.  I decided to finally give Anna Blume a try.   Read more of this post

Meierei – Alpine Deli, Prenzlauer Berg

Here is a conundrum, Meierei is a place I go to a lot but normally I don’t like this kind of food…

…It’s an Alpine Deli.  Enough said.

But let me say a little more -

Read more of this post

Thyme Supper Club, Prenzlauer Berg

I attended the Thyme Supper Club in Prenzlauer Berg on Friday evening.  Hosted by Caroline and Tobias in a grand old apartment with burgundy walls featuring Tobias’s paintings.

I had a frightening initial ten minutes when I  realized that all the other guests were speaking German!  “Do you speak German?” one asked? “No” I answered. I got a perfunctory nod and the group returned to their native tongue.  “Eh Gad!”  I thought, this is going to be one long meal…

The evening quickly righted itself when a spunky English-speaking young woman walked in.  We got to chatting and after a few minutes we realized we had already met each other virtually!  She was the author of Sclachtplatte and when she figured out who I was she exclaimed “Oh My God! You’re the Foodie in Berlin?!”, to which the whole room went quiet and stared.  Could this have been my shot at 15 minutes of fame?

The table was set for 18, a large paper lamp dangling over it served as the main source of light, with a few candles licking at the shadows in the corners of the room.

A fat glass full of fresh thyme was the centerpiece for the table.  The spartan centerpiece was indicative of the evening to come.  The food was elegant and self-confident.  Well sized portions, sitting naturally on the plate – prettier than you would serve yourself at home but not aspirational.  I am underlining this point because it is extremely difficult to achieve and your confidence as a cook must be profound to trust that you have done enough (recommended reading on this subject is a Platter of Figs by David Tanis). Read more of this post

Bonanza Coffee Heroes, Prenzlauer Berg

Bonanza Coffee Heroes caught my eye the first time I walked past it.  It has a distinctive white neon sign, a distressed “we will be ready to open any day now” interior and of course the eye-catching sign outside that proclaims “Don’t die Before Trying” – no exclamation point.  They are very serious about coffee here, no chocolate milk, no decaf. They do coffee, a strong, dark coffee with delicate acanthus-like designs in the foam.

I have since come across loads of write ups for this place.  It uses a synesso cyncra which invokes a “Wow!” reaction in coffee geeks world-wide.  Apparently there are only 3 of these machines in Europe, according to Berlin Unlike.  Bloggers positively rave about it, like Cafe Kultur Berlin or the reviews on Bean Hunter.

And YES, they do make some wonderful coffee and in the words of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – “We are not worthy…” of the über slick machine.

But you know what?  The service can be abysmal!  I just don’t understand why often in Berlin if you are a cool, coveted, trendy ”           ” fill in the blank shop, the perception is that you have carte blanche to behave like an idiot? Read more of this post

The Sweet Workshop – (Werkstatt der Süsse)

With a name like Werkstatt der Süsse, I had to go in!  Guido Furhmann might as well have called it Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and while we are at it – just call me Charlie. Read more of this post


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