“Brunch,” I was told my first day in town, “is big in Berlin.”
Having just come from New York, a city where weekend brunch is practically a religion, I almost snorted, wondering how different or striking this meal could possibly be in Berlin.
As my host led me down the cobblestoned streets of the city’s fashionable Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, however, I quickly realized my folly …
Good thing I was in Berlin — I’d been told before getting here that there’s good Vietnamese food to be had in this city. Vietnamese immigrants, after all, have been a fixture in Berlin since as early as the 1950s, when East Germany began extending invitations to North Vietnamese to come over for training programs.
Where to go? All signs pointed to a spot in East Berlin’s Lichtenberg neighborhood named Dong Xuan Center …
I’m a big believer in eating in red-light districts.
In Asia at least, that’s where you can often find good food that’s fairly cheap in settings that are open deep into the night.
It turns out that this sometimes holds true even for gentrified neighborhoods that once were red-light districts — at least that’s what I discovered during a recent jaunt to Frankfurt’s Bornheim, a city district once called “Das lustige Dorf” (“The Merry Village”) because of the evening hotbed that it was more than 100 years ago …
I used to think there was nothing better than waking up in the morning to the smell of bacon frying in the kitchen.
And then I woke up one afternoon from a deliciously languorous nap, having fallen asleep with a book on my chest, to the smell of bacon frying in the kitchen.
The bacon was just the first sign of a terrific meal ahead. What was on the menu? Kasseler mit puree und kraut — smoked cured pork neck with sweet buttery mashed potatoes and bacon-inflected sauerkraut …
Of course I landed in Frankfurt hungry. Starving, really.
Not to mention exhausted, grumpy — and did I mention famished? Which is, as you might guess, not the best combination.
With the goal being to feed me — and fast — we decided to step into a place that popped up on a road nearby. Now, as someone who tends to like researching places before I pick up a fork there, I wondered, would this random choice near the woods of Raunheim, Germany, be OK?
The sound of its name — Bembelsche, which means jug of apple wine, the local specialty — was promising though. And schnitzel was on the menu.
So hey, we thought, this can’t be bad …
A girl’s first time in Germany and of course, old-school taverns are a must. In Frankfurt, that means one kind in particular — a traditional Äpplerkneipe, or apple wine bar. And if you’re going to check one out, it’s simply got to be Fichtekränzi.
Dating back to 1849, this place — one of the oldest apple wine bars in the city — oozes tradition. The menu is packed with schnitzel, sausage platters, pork knuckles and more, and the setting, though filled with the young and well-heeled parking their fashionable rumps on long wooden benches, is decidedly rooted in the 19th Century.
I know all this now — but before getting there, I hadn’t been told much about this place by the native Frankfurter showing me around, so I wasn’t sure what to expect as we slowly wended our way down the banks of the tranquil Main River, along a series of narrow lanes, before turning into an alley.
What lay beyond? I couldn’t wait to find out …
Tropical girl that I am, the Winter Olympics have never held much fascination for me.
Yes, there’s figure skating — which I adore — but the rest of it usually goes by in a bewildering blur for me once the games start. (Of course, all of this could change should I ever decide to get off my tush and actually go skiing for the first time.)
Olympics-inspired food, however — now that fascinated me. So when our Let’s Lunch crew decided on an Olympic spirit-themed lunch to toast the opening of the Sochi games, I was in.
What to make? A certain Russian sweet and sour beef soup seemed just the thing for snowy conditions …
A few months ago, I came across a term that intrigued me: Kummerspeck.
The German word means “grief bacon” (and we all know how much I love bacon). Despite its bacon reference though, the word has a rather negative connotation — it refers to weight put on due to emotional overeating.
Nonetheless, the word fascinated me — and the Let’s Lunch crew, as it turned out. So off we went, dreaming up ideas for the perfect kummerspeck …
My mother discouraged snacking when I was a child. (A policy I’m hugely thankful for now that I know just how little willpower I have.)
These bite-sized morsels were adorable — panda-shaped cookies filled with oozy strawberry filling, thimble-sized chocolate “hamburgers,” tasty biscuit sticks I’d pretend were cigarettes as I held them between two fingers, slowly nibbling them down to nubs. But my favorite was something very basic: Crisp Choco, a milk-chocolate pizza-like pie made with compacted chocolate cornflakes.
In the grand scheme of things, this snack doesn’t seem terribly sinful — it’s not a rich molten chocolate cake or mound of bacon, after all. But it was a treat that we looked forward to — one I count as a guilty pleasure I now allow myself just a few times a year.
So when my Let’s Lunch bunch decided on sharing a guilty pleasure for our virtual lunch date this month, Crisp Choco it was …