Sunday, 28 October 2012

Berlin Baby!

One of the reasons that I have stopped posting on Tonight's Menu daily is our recent holiday in Berlin.  It's not Berlin's fault, I had a great time, but being away from the blog gave me time to think about how I was using it.  After almost a year I felt like I was in danger of repeating myself and that wouldn't be fun for me or you.  From now on I'll be posting less frequently and only if the meal deserves a mention*.  It seems only right however, that I tell you a little of what we got up to while on holiday, especially the week's worth of food that we consumed. 

If you haven't been to Berlin you really should give it a go.  We have a built-in reason for choosing Berlin as our destination as Z's brother lives there, but you don't need a family connection to justify a trip, especially now that Jet2 have opened up a route from Yeadon International Airport.  There are only three flights a week and they are quite late, so we ended up arriving just as R was ready to go to bed.  Luckily we were mob handed.  The three of us (Z, R and I) flew with my Mum (Granny), while Z's Mum (Nana) and Step-dad (Grand-Phil) had arrived the day before.  Getting R settled wasn't too tricky, even though he was giddy at the attention he was receiving.

As there were so many of us we hired a flat in the middle of the city to call home for the week, this meant we could come and go as we pleased and weren't beholden to hotel catering.  The flat was massive with the potential to sleep 18 people yet it only had a small kitchen, so most of the evening meals were prepared by me and Grand-Phil.  Other than space, our only other limitation when cooking was the lack of ingredients in the rather small and tightly packed "super" market in Friedrich Strasse U-Bahn station.

To say we didn't have a lot of choice, we still managed to eat well.  Pork chops with sage, meatballs, roast mixed vegetables and pasta with a fresh tomato sauce were all cooked by us at some point.  We also had sausages with sauerkraut as part of our final meal**.  Of course not all of out meals whilst on holiday were eaten in the flat. 

As we were doing the tourist thing we had lunch in a bar or cafe almost every day.  The first of these was in De Berliner Republic on the banks of the Spree.  They had some good traditional fare for us to choose from, along with around eighty different beers.  The grannies both had flammkuchen, Germany's answer to the pizza.  Z had pickled herring and Grand-Phil and I both went for blood and liver sausages.  Everybody's food was good but the sausages were a lot softer than either of us had anticipated, more like hot pate than black pudding.

blood and liver sausages

Later on in the week I managed to track down one of Berlin's most notorious food institutions, Currywurst.  Yes it's a sausage covered in curry sauce but not as you would find in the UK.  The sauce is more like a heavily seasoned ketchup, closer to the school dinner curries of my youth than the curries we eat at home, but it works.  I had mine sat outside Adebar, Mitte, in the pouring rain and it was perfect***.


It wasn't all sausages though.  For Z's birthday, her brother and sister-in-law took us to Kuchi, a Japanese/Oriental restaurant with a fantastic menu.  Everything from soup to sushi was on offer.  I had braised pork with rice, Z had a Thai Green Curry, while Z's sister-in-law had a great looking plate of sushi.  Z's brother outdid us all though by ordering Mr Duck's Special Plate. 

left: Sushi. Right: Mr Duck's Special plate

It almost needed to be ordered on the strength of its name alone.  I was like an over flowing bento box, filled to the gills with the best that the menu had to offer.  We finished the evening at Keyser Soze, a bar that would be well at home in Leeds.  Proudly shabby, selling all of the best German beers and with a sound track which was diverse enough to include NWA and Dolly Parton.

And that was that, a week in a fantastic city soaking up culture and over thirty different beers.  Our flights home were in the evening, so we had time for one last meal.  We wandered around looking for a likely restaurant and happened across Café Spreeblick in the Nikolaiviertel district.  The clientèle were all of a certain age and the food that was on offer was of the same vintage.  Wonderfully traditional food.  If we had been in Leeds there would have been Fish and Chips and Filled Giant Yorkshire Puddings.  I ordered stuffed rolled beef with potato dumplings.  It was a fantastic and fitting final meal for this trip, so good in fact that I'll be cooking the dumplings myself in the not too distant future.

Of course, we will be going back to Berlin so it was farewell not goodbye.  I really can recommend a visit although I wouldn't bother with the Checkpoint Charlie Museum if I were you.

*no more writing about leftover spag boll you'll be pleased to hear.
**when in Rome etc.
***one of the things that I have noticed having been to Berlin on a few occasions it that they do like to be outside.  Even in the depths of winter you can happily sit outside a cafe tucking into coffee and cake because they are set up for it.  They know that the temperature is going to plummet, so every chair has a blanket and every table is under an umbrella.  We should do this more in the UK rather than moan about how cold it is.

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