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29 posts from November 2006

Haus Schwarzenberg (entryway)

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2007 at a glance

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(photo from the Di/G Berlin website)
I quite like the idea of apprehending life at a glance – I once made a graph mapping my first quarter-century – and so found this calendar very appealing. The year is displayed on a single sheet, one side purple with days in English, the other black with German days. Along with the calendar itself you get a packet of 100 punched-hole post-its to encircle a date and describe what's happening on it; as months pass, the post-its move like foliage across an unchanging plain. Prices range from 5-18 EUR depending on whether you're a shop or an individual and on where you're based. I found it for 10 EUR at Bizzi in Stargarderstraße.

The calendar is DiG/Berlin's 2006 offering in their 'products for the masses' series, which includes a replica of Berlin's beloved TV tower, and a font they designed free to download. Commerical projects include posters for Ken Park's films and the logo for the European left-wing party European Left.

Bizzi, Stargarderstraße 17 (map)
Open Mo-Fr 11 am to 7 pm, Sa 11 am to 4 pm

DiG/Berlin, + 49 30 28 59 99 59, info@dig-berlin.de

Aïoli (& Atame)

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I never tire of the ritual of making aïoli, its unctuous pungence, its diversity, enlivening slender lengths of red pepper, roasted chicken, potatoes and – mostly simply – bread alike. (Today, we ate it with our pizza.)

For a long time I shied away from raw egg in recipes, then gradually became bolder, my one concession to salmonella hobgoblins being an insistence on absolutely fresh eggs. When possible, I buy them from the Spahrs' stand at the Kollwitzplatz market, where Mr Spahr stands ever-cheerful in all weather, backdropped by a banner displaying cheerful chickens. They have a choice of sizes from small to extra-large, and large eggs are 20 cents each.

I realize there is much controversy about Provençal aïoli versus its purist Spanish cousin, and many pages devoted to which spelling applies to which variation. I have always made the former, which I have understood as French, and was, thus, subject to the jitters that accompany mayonnaise.

It's something I never thought I would make a couple of years ago, daunted by its temperamental reputation, but recently I ceased working at Hackescher Markt, and so could no longer nip around the corner to Atame with its generous earthenware dish of the stuff, made, mysteriously, in the French way though it's a tapas bar. And so I had to learn.

This is what I settled on. My approach to recipes is one of triangulation, choosing one as a starting and modifying it according to the strictures of two or three others, and this too is a blend of many sources.

Aïoli

  • 1/2 C (113 g) peanut oil (not roasted or dark! the oil should be light and tasteless)
  • 2.5 T (38 g) best-quality olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk at room temperature
  • pinch of sea salt
  • half a lemon
  • two flawless garlic cloves, trimmed and smashed to pulp in a mortar with a tiny smidge of salt
  • boiling water (perhaps)

Mix the oils together in a container with a spout that will let the liquid drip out slowly. I use the trusty oil can I bought in Lucca (see photo above). Put the egg yolk in a small bowl and add a pinch of salt. Use a whisk or hand-held electric beater to whisk the yolk for about 30 seconds, then begin adding the oil first drop by drop, then in a thin trickle, whisking steadily all the while. If the mixture curdles, add a quick splash of boiling water; I actually do this anyway once two-thirds of the oil is in, as I'm not so fond of the glassy quality of  mayonnaise pur. Once all the oil has been mixed in, add the garlic and a squeeze of lemon, stir thoroughly, then add more lemon and salt to taste. Keep covered and refrigerated and consume within a few days.

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For those in Berlin with a hankering for garlic, Atame's take is to be highly recommended.

Atame, Dircksenstraße 40 (map)
They've got no set opening hours, but are usually open every day from noon to late.

Blumencafé

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The fall snap was in the air, David had run out of coffee, and I wanted a baguette for dinner tonight so we ventured out into the gray day to stop at the bakery and then to visit Blumencafé across the street.

Adjoining a flower/plant shop, flowers crop up in the rose petal ice cream, as garnish for salads, and even on the little dish bearing the bill (anything from a fragrant trumpet lily to the few modest – truth be told, disappointing – sprigs of heather we got today).

My favourite thing is to come with a friend, order a generous pot of tea along with something to nibble, and soak up the soothing atmosphere, broken only by the squawks of the resident parrots who cavort next door, startling the newcomers.

The Blumencafé uses primarily organic ingredients, and they have a range of breakfasts served all day and a changing display of cakes, along with snacks like olives and sundried tomatoes or roasted almonds – though I must say I come more for the atmosphere than the food itself.

This afternoon, seeing David yawning while paging  through the menu, the waiter brought him an espresso on the house. Afterwards, we browsed through the shop and watched the parrots gnaw at the wooden doorframe with their fierce beaks. The woman there tried to shoo them first by shaking an upturned broom (unsuccessful – the parrots retreated for a moment, then sidled back and resumed gnawing) and then by spritzing them with water (outraged, they swept across the room to a little perch on the other side).

Before we left, we bought a sage plant that the woman promised was winterhart and would do fine on our balcony over the winter; she advised us to pluck sparingly from now until the spring.

Blumencafé, Schönhauser Allee 127a (map)
Open M-Sa 7 am to 8 pm, Su 10 am to 8 pm

Poetry Hearings 2006

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A brief post by way of congratulations to Alistair Noon, for another envigorating installment of Poetry Hearings!

Etienne, Etienne

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Etienne so far for a market respite, for a restoring onion soup with textbook-crisp croutons, for Breton galette with potato and chèvre, for other things soon.

Etienne, Husemannstraße 2 (map)
Tel. +49 30 700 87 076, info@restaurant-etienne.de
No set opening hours, but open most days from late morning to late night

Update 2008: Closed! (A similar French restaurant has taken its places with drastically higher prices.)

Yams at work or in general

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I take a tireless pleasure in the non-recipe; pepper toast (toast bread, spread thinly with butter, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper) is just one example. Another, recently recovered, is yams. For what to do with that late-morning lull, where lunch is not yet appropriate? And why waste that oven, on for a lasagne or a tray of scones?

Wrap a scrubbed yam neatly in aluminum foil and place in an oven that's already on at whatever temperature, taking care to keep the foil's seams facing up, or place on another piece of foil for more security. And then forget about it for an hour or an hour and a half, and then remove it and undo the foil and pierce the flesh with a fork to see it sink in without the slightest resistance. Then rewrap and leave on the kitchen table, indeed in the oven, until next morning when you take it to work and enjoy, reheated or not, at your desk. Butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar, are unnecessary frills you might opt for.