The back garden had the air of a children's party, of a lazy Sunday picnic. Scattered tables on the lawn held apricot cake and espresso cups.
Parents stooped to read the plaque explaining the Slavs and Tatars sound piece (a jagged, synthesized muezzin's call to prayer) while the speakers, laid out on the grass like an open book, beckoned children to romp. By the lake, a father explained the motion-triggered water sculpture while the boy stared spellbound at the sky reflected in the still water.
The lake itself, I learned later, was an artificial one, constructed from a meadow. To stand at its edge and spot the rear sides of the adjacent villas felt utterly natural, though really, we were all interlopers: we had art to thank for allowing us to sample such rare air. As before at the Haus am Waldsee, art for a moment seemed pale placed alongside life — but I did come around to the art.
'Quintor des nègres' played as we drank our tea on the veranda, part of the Argentine artist Carla Zaccagnini's installation, Le Quintor des Nègres, encore. A fountain fashioned of Cypriot copper plashed in a back room. A horror-film score punctuated the still dramas of forests and housing project in Patrick Alan Banfield's twin-screened vyLö:t. The pleasing cacophony continued upstairs with the video and soundtrack of a woman DJing classical music LPs in Anri Sala's Unravel.
If I thought the magnetism of the grounds represented a personal failure to be serious, I was pleased to read curator Juan Gaitan remark himself on this tension: "It is an intimate space, and more demanding in terms of one’s focus on contemporary artworks. The artists are competing with the house, the surrounding lake, and so forth."
Before we left, we filled our pockets with cherries, and when we went home, we made Rumtopf.
Tis the season! Two favorites: Vierfelderhof (blogged here a couple of years ago) in Spandau, with its organic strawberries, charming outdoor cafe and small menagerie of animals. And Hofladen Falkensee, which is mounting a strawberry festival this weekend. Alongside mounds of strawberries, the farm promises pony rides, face-painting and local fresh game.
The waiter is solemn and handsome. The menu is a repurposed Insel Verlag hardback. The library hush is appropriate for a bookshop café. An elderly Charlottenburger flicks languidly through an art catalogue, her wooden necklace as eye-catching as a parrot. Across the room, two spectacled parents play Uno with their grade-school son.
Elegantly vaulted beneath the arch of the railway viaduct, the space is echoing yet intimate. I tuned it out a number of times, until finally I stepped in.
The menu is brief and unfussy: a trio of Austrian bread dumplings done three ways; Weck jars filled with Greek yogurt, toasted hazelnuts and honey, or with Quark and fresh fruit; a flaky chorizo and red pepper quiche matched with a small, perfect salad. At teatime, there is also a wicked selection of cakes, matched by coffee from Berlin roaster pioneer Andraschko. Early risers: The café opens at 9am every day; its breakfast options include perfect eggs and present a pleasant alternative to bewildering, expensive brunch buffets.
Later, you will inevitably be drawn into the adjacent bookshop, where you will admire the spaniel napping on an armchair and leaf through the latest Alice Munro. The Autorenbuchhandlung Berlin has a venerable history, founded in the late 1970s by authors including Heinrich Böll, Elfriede Jelinek and Günter Grass as a protest against an increasingly homogeneous book-selling environment. Then as now, the bookshop (and its mates in Frankfurt and Munich) preserves a literary culture that prizes breadth and depth.
But for now, the only thing to do is savor your lunch and enjoy the serenity of the summer light.
We spoke of hydroponic gardens and of Barnim water buffaloes, of tasting sets and of a Hohen Neuendorf villa that houses a Viennese coffee house, while the brother-and-sister duo behind Mulax plied us with sour pickle sorbet and house-made crackers topped with golden pike caviar from the Müritzfischer.
As the name might suggest, Verabredung zum Essen is a casual, lively, mostly German monthly meet-up organized by Slow Food Berlin. Open to members and non-members alike, the group is united by a passion for local foods grown and prepared with care. Our meal that night included tiny dense-fleshed carrots from the Mulacks' own garden in Mariendorf, Uckermark beef cooked sous vide for three days, and slow-boiled eggs on tender spears of pale asparagus from Beelitz.
Later this month, we'll convene again at the much-ballyhooed brasserie Lamazère at Stuttgarter Platz in Charlottenburg and oh, how I'm looking forward to another sparkling evening! Find all the details on menu and registration here.
This Easter, happily, we were tourists in Berlin. Dinners at Aroma, Meierei, and Lentz, lunches were long picnics on the lawn. The peacocks sport full plumage on Peacock Island. The sand dunes in Grunewald rang with the sounds of a spontaneous accordian concert. The cherry blossom have turned into confetti.