Category Archives: Food

The Eternal Search for Delicious Brunch

I am eternally searching for the best restaurants in Berlin. The latest, greatest, most delicious, most undiscovered place where I can sink my teeth into something divine. Berlin happens to be a happening brunch town, if only you can find the right places to go. Sundays offer up all-you-can-eat buffets to dine to your heart’s content, but where is it worthwhile spending such a luxurious period of your life? There are, of course, the staples (or at least my staples!):

  • Anna Blume for their beautiful brunch tower and over-sized tea mugs
  • Pasternak for their creative and unique buffet filled with Russian goodies (many of which remind me of my grandmother’s cooking) and mouth watering desserts
  • Frida Kahlo which tends to disappoint during all other mealtimes, but they seem to have gotten the Sunday brunch buffet filled with eggs, rice, beans, chicken, pancakes, etc right!
  • Barcomi’s which has your standard bagels affair with delicious dessert options.
  • Nalu Diner for a typical American breakfast complete with diner pancakes, bacon, eggs how you want them, and killer hash browns.

But say you want to take a step away from the norm…where would you go? Inputs welcome.

 

Advertisements

Experimenting with Juice

When A moved in, he bought us a housewarming gift – a beautiful juicer. And over the months we have been experimenting endlessly with juices of every kind, usually the “everything but the kitchen sink kind”. We’ve started to lose direction. Our juices have started to lose their identity.

JuiceNation

JuiceNation

Once a week we make our way to the local farmer’s market, (every Saturday) at Kollwitzplatz and stock up on whatever goodies they may have. Summer is obviously the best time for this as there is an overabundance of berries and fruits and veggies to your heart’s content! We stock up and get home and chow down. Then, whatever is leftover becomes juice.

We used to pick more carefully – selecting flavors and nutrients – then we became a bit more “it’s all gonna mix once it’s down there anyway! So I am here to take back the identity of my juice!

Strawberries from July

Strawberries from July

After much reading and inspiration from friends who “juice” (we will verb that, thank you!) and recipes and ideas and concepts across the internet, I’ve decided to experiment a bit with juice as a meal replacement. Many people advocate for the benefits of detoxing with juice, or juice cleanses (read, 3 days with nothing but the sweet stuff,) but that seems a bit intense for my purposes and I think I could also benefit from the overload of nutrients to replace the otherwise starchy food intake I’ve been known to have.

Juice Number 1 was a search through the kitchen for the right ingredients (anything that’s still good, which might taste good with the other selected ingredients – NOT the kitchen sink at all!) I knew I still had fresh spinach from the market, and I was eager to try out a spinach juice since it’s packed with iron and protein and all sorts of other goodness. So I pulled out the spinach, apples, a peach, wild blueberries, some lime, and fresh ginger root.

The Amanda Spinachberry (or something like that!)

The Amanda Spinachberry (or something like that!)

I used the following quantities (more or less, I didn’t measure exactly!)

  • Spinach (6 Cups – give or take)
  • Apple (2x)
  • Peach (1x)
  • Blueberries (3/4 cup)
  • Lime (1/2)
  • Ginger (Large Chunk)
The end result was delicious, despite it’s rather scary looking deep purple color. It was incredibly healthy (lots of green), sweet (from the apple and peach), and a bit spicey (thank you, ginger!)
Today I replaced breakfast  (about 8:30 AM) with this concoction and only around 11 did I start to feel a bit hungry, so I made some green tea chai to stave off the hunger until lunch. Now I’ll have to run to the grocery store to stock up on goodies for tomorrow’s breakfast!

Hi, I’m Amanda. And I’m a Sugar Addict.

This is how I feel most days.

This is how I feel most days.

One of the most difficult things I’ve tried to do is break free from my sugar addiction. It’s a daunting task I’ve attempted to undertake on a couple of occasions – and only met with limited success. A few months ago A and I agreed to cut sugar out of our diets. It was a difficult first couple of days, however once I realized how much more energy I had it was an easy habit to keep. My goal was short-term, only enough to help what I thought were some skin problems due to sugar intake and to fix my energy levels, (read, gray skies got me down,) and so after two weeks of feeling proud I had been successful, I let sugar slip its way back into my heart once again.

So here I am again, once again on the ledge of “to sugar or not to sugar” and my mind is saying, “no more sugar!” and my heart is saying, “please just one more piece of marzipan!” So which is it – tears of marzipan or a straight road to fitness?

Anyone willing to join me in a 15 day sugar challenge? What if we up that to 30? Who’s in?

Lunch and Graveyards

A day or two into my trip (which was only 3.5 days, after all,) when scouring for another delicious meal option before hitting the recoletta cemetary and the Sunday Feria, I came across Tea Connection, which I had never heard of before, (but seriously wish they would import to Berlin!) I was staying in Recoleta and planning to hit the Sunday Feria later in the afternoon, so I decided to stop in to one of the few locations near my apartment and enjoy some more healthy grub.

First order of the day – fresh juice! I simply cannot get enough tropical flavors, (and yes, I know BsAs is not tropical, but they seem to have much better access to the good stuff than those of us stuck in the northern tundra!) So I placed my order for juice and yet another inventive and delicious salad. The trend was catching on! Lo and behold, my food arrived and I had my very own bottle of juice!

It’s like they knew everthing I wanted before I even had to ask! Even down to the healthy bowl of breadsticks – ha.

My own bottleajuice!

My own bottleajuice!

So I chowed down, regretfully too full to have a tea, (but knowing I needed to save my resources for the lattes and ice creams to come later in the day when my legs were too tired to carry me,) and wandered my way over to the cemetary for what I always remember to be my favorite Feria in all of South America! Every Sunday the park in front of Eva Peron’s eternal home is cluttered with street vendors offering all variety of goods from leather bags to hand knitted scarves, paintings, pottery, jewelry, stones, and knick knacks a plenty. And on the sunny and warm days the grass is filled with people sipping mate and catching up with friends, often with some kind of live music to accompany their afternoon.

It’s just a happy and peaceful place to be. And lucky for me I found just what I was looking for!

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

I spent a lot of time looking for a Tree of Life that I loved over the years, and never quite found one. So as I passed by this man’s stand who had created this piece of work personally, I told him how beautiful it was and continued on my way. Only to realize a few minutes walk away that, wait – what was I thinking, it was perfect! So I quickly walked back and tried it on, along with 4 or 5 other beautiful pieces of jewelry he had on display, and made my selection carefully.

After a successful morning I decided to treat myself to a mid-afternoon capuccino and a snack. I wandered away from the park in the direction of my apartment and stumbled upon a quiet cafe with white trimmings – L’Avant Garde. A nicely designed place to catch a break. I saw someone munching on some type of yogurt parfait and decided it was a healthy enough alternative to all the ice cream I’d been eating, so I opted in.

Capuccino and a Parfait

Capuccino and a Parfait

Another afternoon complete, and it was off to the pool to catch some of those rays my poor pale skin had been so severely deprived of!

Buenos Aires Lunch Style

After a 14 hour flight from Frankfurt to Buenos Aires (not including the previous travel time from Berlin to Frankfurt,) arriving in Buenos Aires only to discover they do actually now charge American citizens a “reciprocity tax” of $160 dollars (i.e. a “visa” to enter the country,) and an hour drive to my apartment from the airport, I was exhausted. I debated never leaving the apartment, ever, and just staying put to sleep away the day. But then I remembered, I was in Buenos Aires!

So I ingested some caffeine (Excedrin people, nothing strange here!) to knock out my headache, put on a new, cute summer dress I acquired in Berlin, and hit the streets. The minute I stepped outside into the sunshine and busy streets of BsAs (Buenos Aires), I couldn’t hold back my smile. I felt like skipping along the roads and shouting that I had made it!

For a girl who loves to shop and doesn’t often get to do it (it’s a non-profit world I’m in these days,) Buenos Aires is heaven. Fashion and style abound, and for the less noble (like myself) the leather is simply gorgeous. You cannot hold back from drooling over purses, shoes, and jackets galore.

So to me, a perfect day in Buenos Aires consists of wandering the streets of Palermo, popping into shops to my heart’s content, stopping for a mid-morning espresso or fresh squeezed juice, wandering some more, and finding a delicious place to hole away for mealtime. That is one thing there is absolutely no shortage of in BsAs – food! And it is the best you could possibly imagine. Fresh ingredients, crisp salads, delicious pastries, mouth watering steaks – and not to mention the more exotic choices which have found their way into BsAs kitchens such as Japanese or Moroccan.

I managed to find my way into a few new restaurants that have popped up in the last few years since I was here. On my first day I was lucky enough to stumble upon B-Blue Deli & Natural Bar where I delightfully realized my mango juice would be served my favorite way – freshly squeezed and oversized! Accompanied by a side of carrots and some healthy dip I couldn’t quite identify, but was delicious all the same.

Fresh Squeezed Mango Juice!

Fresh Squeezed Mango Juice!

Knowing I was in for a few weeks of eating meat almost exclusively, (Paraguay does not have quite as prevalent a vegetable market in local restaurants as one would think given their extensive agriculture,) I eagerly ordered a salad. And once again, I was wide eyed at the largess of the bowl put in front of me. After two years living in Germany, I have yet to find a place that does salads right by me, and by right, of course, I mean like this!

Salad Deliciousness!

Salad Deliciousness!

Mixed greens, avocados, almonds, tomatoes, and some type of honey vinaigrette – muah! Perfection. Knowing I had plenty of steak ahead to fill my days and nights, I relished this fresh and healthy delight, (and took note of the ingredients with a promise to replicate the same at home!) And this was the beginning of my quest for yummy delights throughout the city.

Warmth, sunshine, and delicious food – indeed I had arrive in my beloved BsAs!

Delicious Home Cooking

[Please be warned: Graphic Images of Meat to Follow]

I am lucky to have a live-in Chef in my home now. Well, I should say, the grandson of a chef who happens to love cooking. Either way, I’m lucky!

What does it mean to live with someone who loves to cook? No more “spaghetti is all I have time or energy to cook” days, no more sandwiches for dinner (when I’ve already had it for breakfast and lunch,) and no more picking at random things all evening hoping it adds up to a meal.

It’s not only him that gets the cooking bug, but having him here makes me want to cook more too. It is more inspiring to prepare food for two, and my adding-too-much-butter-to-everything-I-bake skills are vastly improving. (Sounds a bit like my previous post about perfecting the art of, well, anything! The more you do it, the better you get!)

So after seeing some delicious looking steak at the grocery store last week, and realizing we had fresh mushrooms and brussels sprouts left from the farmer’s market, Aleks and I put together a delicious steak dinner for two in about a half hour or less!

IMG_2193

Lightly salted, olive oiled, and peppered steaks set to sizzle alongside some lightly steaming brussels

Sautéing the mushrooms...in butter. Mmmm!

Sautéing the mushrooms…in butter. Mmmm!

Perfectly browned brussels with a touch of butter

Perfectly browned brussels with a touch of butter

Nothing like some good grill marks!

Nothing like some good grill marks!

Voila! Dinner is served!
Voila! Dinner is served!

 

The Customer is Always…Wrong!

If there is one thing you learn quickly living in Germany, it’s that customer service is not their forte. While you may be expecting a happy, smiling waiter to greet you with a pitcher of cold water, you will really recieve begrudging glares if you so much as dare to ask for “Leitungswasser” i.e. tap water. And Germans won’t be afraid to let you know how they feel about your request!

This may have a lot to do with the fact that this society is not based on earning tips, or customer loyalty, but they take pride in their product and assume if anything is not “right” about, it really must be something wrong with YOU. And they won’t hesitate to let you know, even if it costs them a steady contribution of approximately 3 EUR a day, (that’s almost 800 EUR a year, people!)

A perfect example of this is something that happened to me earlier today. Well, let me give you a bit of the back story first. I work on a busy government street in Central Berlin – a.k.a. Mitte. There are tons of cafes and restaurants nearby, but literally in the downstairs portion of our building there is “The Espresso Bar”. I stop in most mornings for an Obstsalat mit Joghurt, (Fruit salad with Yogurt,) on my way to work. This is usually quite a delicious treat filled with greek yogurt, sweet granola, and deliciously ripe mangoes and kiwi, among other seasonal favorites, (in Germany you very often won’t find someone serving a fruit or vegetable out of season – since that would mean they had to import from somewhere far far away, which is not eco-friendly!)

So on this particular day, actually two days in a row, the fruit was underripe and sour. I tried to eat it, but every bite made me cringe and I finally decided it was ridiculous to force myself to eat something that didn’t taste good. Since I’m a regular customer, I thought it would be worthwhile to let the owner of the cafe know that the fruit was particularly sour, in case she wasn’t already aware.

I arrived at the cafe and explained to the woman working there (not the owner) that the fruit was really too sour to eat, and I thought they should know. She offered me another and I told her that was really fine, I didn’t want to try the same thing with another since it was just not good. So she gave me my money back, which I was surprised by, and I thanked her.

I went in a couple days later and again asked for the fruit salad, to which the same worker informed me that it would still be sour and I might like to choose something else. I thanked her for her honesty and picked  a sandwich instead.

This brings us to today. I stopped in this morning for a croissant on my way to a meeting, (knowledgeably avoiding the fruit salad,) and then again at lunch to get a quiche. Now you see just how loyal of a customer I really am! While they heated the quiche I went quickly next door to buy a sandwich for my colleague, and upon returning to the Espresso Bar was somewhat hostily accosted by the owner of the shop.

Mean-Woman

Given this was all taking place in German, and while I can hold basic conversations auf Deutsch I was not prepared to have an argument, or defend myself to someone in my 3rd language, must less the owner of a cafe I visit regularly. She told me that had she been at the cafe the day I brought back the fruit salad that she would not have given me my money back. She saw the container, and since I had eaten some of it it wasn’t fair that I would try to return it, (because I am clearly hurting for the 3.50 EUR it cost to buy and desperately wanted to eat for free, of course!) She said something about me being a regular customer and knowing better, (my language skills were a bit hazy during this part of her rant.) She then proceeded to lecture me that since I work for WWF I should know that in the wintertime fruit and vegetables are not always sweet and I couldn’t expect them to carry “un-sour” (i.e. ripe) fruit during these months, that kiwi would always be a bit sour and it didn’t justify returning the meal.

I was completely floored. I have never been spoken to that way by a virtual stranger, in a language I can just barely get by in, who is the owner of a cafe I visit multiple times a week, sometimes multiple times a day! I tried to explain, in my broken German, that the fruit was sour, I didn’t enjoy it, and I thought she should know it wasn’t good so she could be aware for future customers. I said that my intention was not to ask for my money back, but to let them be aware that the fruit they were selling was not ready and perhaps they should reconsider selling it.

She then proceeded to defend the quality of the fruit and her vendor and to explain that she couldn’t open up every container and try the fruit herself so they had to serve it as it was delivered, (good to know they don’t actually make the salads on the premise itself, but order it “fresh” every day.) I asked if she could maybe speak in English so I could better explain myself, but both her and the waitress did not speak my language and so my efforts were futile.

Since I had already ordered my quiche and was waiting to pay when she began her tirade, I debated just walking out the door, or paying up and leaving. Without so much as an apology or kind word, I don’t know – something as simple as, “I understand you weren’t happy with the fruit salad, just know that in the future I won’t accept food back,” I decided withhold my ‘danke schon’ while paying for the quiche, and walked out. Never to return again.

It just makes it a little bit clearer why so many restaurants in Berlin don’t last long. Customers have no reason to stay loyal to one place over another, their business is not any more appreciated if they always frequent the same place or try out a new place every day, and rather than taking criticism or feedback positively as a way to help improve their business, they would rather point the finger at you for being in the wrong. So long, farewell, Espresso Bar!