Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

We are Berliners!

Our final stop on the National Lampoon's European Vacation, er our trip to Europe (at times it had the comedy of errors feel that the movie did - imagine shopping for clothes in a country where you speak none of the language due to the airlines screwing up and losing your baggage!  And then nothing fits....).

Anywhoo, Berlin was both the start and stop of our trip.  Though we basically saw none of the city on the way out to Poland, we did have the opportunity to spend a day there on the way back.  We rolled into town after a 5 hour drive from Dachau - not the most positive and uplifiting experience, but one that certainly fit with our theme of touring places with historical significance.  I think what fascinates me about Berlin, other than our familial origins, is how truly new this city is.  From the early 1960s until 1989/1990, it was geographically, politically, socially, and physically defined by a wall.  That wall came down and ushered in a different era.  The city has worked to redefine itself since as a model for tolerance and cosmopolitan style mixed with history and diverse cultures.  You're equally likely to find a kebab place near a biergarten.

My cheese plate

We stayed near Potsdamer Platz which, until 1990 was behind the Iron Curtain.  In the last 20 years it has become an office building mecca.  I'm sure there are those that lament this type of change, including our bike tour guide, but it's fascinating to see the Western development mixed with the traditional East Berlin buildings as well.  Our first meal was at a restaurant located in the Sony Center - a place that demonstrates all things good or bad about capitalism in Potsdamer Platz.  The restaurant, Josty, had a great outdoor patio area where we dined.  I don't think the food was the best or most traditional we would ever have, but the standouts were a sausage/potato soup that Ray inhaled and a mixed cheese plate with a variety of local (read; German) cheeses.  For me, the one I kept going to was a caraway-flavored wine cheese that was like cheese and rye bread all in one.  I know, doesn't sound awesome, but trust me, it was.  For my main course,

I had a bratwurst in onion gravy with a side of bacony potatoes.  I swear that pork fat was running through my arteries this whole trip!   The highlight of our evening was seeing a rollerblade team skate through the Sony Center.  Yeah, I really puzzled on that until we found out the next day that on Saturday they were doing a rollerblade marathon(!)

Our next, and only full day in Berlin, we elected to take a bike ride around the city focusing on both the Cold War history and a few monuments to the Holocaust.  If ever you have the opportunity to tour Berlin via bike, we would highly recommend Fat Tire Bike Tours.  I hoped for a hot Aussie tour guide, but instead got a rather nerdy Canadian.  

The one (of 2) sections of the Berlin
Wall still standing

Oh well...  He managed to interject pithy comments and sarcasm for the benefit of native English speakers.  We enjoyed the sights, but I will say this - Checkpoint Charlie is the cheesiest tourist trap in that city.  Seriously.  It's the worst example of capitalistic influence there.  Aside from that cheeseball event, it was quite enjoyable  During the ride,  I was distracted by the Danish woman in our tour group riding her bike in a micro mini - REALLY!  You'd stare too and marvel how she managed to a) keep her bike upright and in a straighter line that I could and b) keep her lady bits covered.  During our lunch in the biergarten, I asked her about drinking and biking and she said that's pretty much what the Danish do - she only owned a bike. The food in the biergarten was some of the best we'd had - a basic Bavarian pretzel and a sausage in a roll.  Uncomplicated and perfect.

Feeling virtuous from the 6 mile ride (yeah, it was a 4 hour ride and we drank beer in the middle, but go with me), and needing a way to induce a food coma since our hotel room kinda sucked, we decided to have one last traditional (read: heart attack-inducing) meal.  After combing our neighborhood for options, we settled on a small bistro near our hotel.  The menu looked appetizing and it delivered.  We had one of the best meals of the trip - Ice had a breakfast delight (I have no idea of the name but it was something he would definitely eat for breakfast) - sauteed bacony potatoes, sausages, and 3 eggs over medium. 

I decided to go for "lighter" fare - a sauteed pork chop, those same potatoes, and a salad.  This was after our appetizer of tomato soup (me) and sausage/potato soup (Ice).  The pork chop wasn't tender, but it was seriously juicy - made me want to suck on it like a pork lollipop.  It was served with a thin peppercorn sauce that complimented the potatoes and pork nicely.  Oh yeah, and they did a nod to healthy with a cucumber slice, tomato slice and one lettuce leaf.  Yeah, neither of us could finish our meals, but they were darn tasty.

And so closes another adventure in travel and eating.  This trip, a journey to the part of the world from where my family traces their lineage was amazing.  We were able to experience such a variety of cultures and countryside (hello - 1500 miles of driving through Europe!) that, had we not driven, we never would have seen.  I anticipate that my cooking will begin to show influences of the cuisines of Germany, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic (due respect to Poland, we only really had a danish and McDonald's there - thanks American Airlines).  I'm sure Ice won't complain since his words about the food was, "I'm home!"

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