We were huddled under the awning on a rainy summer’s evening at Shaniu's House of Noodles (which, in my mind, is the glorious House of Dumplings). Ash was writing down the Cantonese name for the off-menu beef and Szechuan pepper dish she had ordered for us (and which we had devoured in a thrice); Giulia was telling me about the readable, well-researched book she had just published on moving to Berlin. One regret, she mentioned, was not having enough space to write about finding American ingredients in Berlin. “You should write a guest post!” I said, and lovely Giulia, she did.
Demerera sugar. Cane sugar. Sugar in the Raw. It’s the bane of my existence as an American! What the Germans call brauner Zucker is nothing like the sweet, wet, clumpy masses I grew up with. No, my brown sugar had to be carved out of a block with a large spoon (or a chisel if you didn’t have a microwave and piece of apple handy to soften it up). It had to be pushed down into a measuring cup with the spoon, a sandy-sweet lick its own reward....
A rainy Tuesday seems the time to reflect on a radiant autumn. This tiny girl has now started school.
Lately, every sunset in Berlin has been remarkable: after the show's over and I've drawn the curtains, I bask in the glow of sunsets from other Berlin neighborhoods in my Instagram feed.
The other day we baked a cake and celebrated a friend's birthday on Peacock Island. It's perfect in the autumn, for conker-collecting and more. The wind off the Wannsee was so strong the candle went out twice before we got it to burn long enough to sing a fast round of 'happy birthday'. The birthday girl wasn't halfway through when an avid peacock darted over and - yes! - seized her chocolate cake in his beak. A minute later, only crumbs were left.
On Sunday, we spent an idle afternoon at Cafe Botanico, about which more soon. For now, this crate of black walnut drupes and a head of mottled hydrangeas to mark the mid-point of the Cold Dew term.
I'm sure I'm not the only Berlin foodie vibrating in anticipation of what's easily the most spectacular food event to be organized in our fair city: Stadt Land Food. As with the Berlinale, the pickings in this festival of good food are so rich as to be dizzying.
We had an early dinner at Markthalle Neun last Saturday, eating slices of Sironi pizza between sips of Heidenpeters' Holy Holunder while the market closed up around us. The festival program was everywhere, and we all fell silent as we scrutinized the listings over scoops of sour cherry ice cream from Rosa Canina. Following are a few personal highlights.
The Hidden Chefs series, organized by Kavita Meelu, stands out as an unmissable chance to meet old favorites mid-step as they go in new directions: Kristof Mulack of Kreuzberg supper club Mulax cooks up an 8-course "radical regional" dinner at the Long March Canteen; Dylan Watson of the much-fêted Jung Grün & Blau will present a liminal autumn menu from his new project, Ernst; meanwhile, Susan Choi of Mr Susan and Stefan Endres of Würgeengel will serve up a meal including "German, Korean and American cultural references". New to me is Ben Pommer, a native Berliner recently returned to his home town, whose six-course meal features thoughtful cocktail pairings.
Countless other gems events are tucked into the rest of the program. Here are a few from my diary:
In Potsdam, as in Paris, stone profiles play hide-and-seek between the trees. Broad gravel paths, verdant lawns hazed with weeds, and curlicued ironwork gates evoke a world more distant than the half-hour journey from Berlin might lead you to expect.
(My favorite thing: skip the hassle and bustle at Potsdam Hauptbahnhof. Stay on the regional train to the Park Sanssouci station. Alight with two or three others and make your way alone to the long avenue of trees leading to the Neues Palais.)
In Potsdam, I find figures amidst the scaffolding too. A flock of courtiers have been coralled between the two wings of the Neue Palais. The wind piping through the open metal rods that enclosed them made a haunting music too beautiful to believe. Summer's ending, do you feel it too?
Afterwards, on a whim, we climbed the many steps to the stately Drachenhaus. The cartoonish dragons decking the pagoda-like octogon will delight a small child. We liked the blue ceiling painted with stars very much. Look, the fried feta cube straight from the deep-freeze won't wow you: that's why the view of the ruined Belvedere in the distance is there.