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7 posts from March 2009

Of an afternoon (or, The charms of an old-school cafe)


You'll note that ruffled newspaper just tucked behind that upholstered chair, and can you imagine the sort of cafe it is now? I've never visited for their cakes, which tend to dryness, nor for their tea, which sits in a hottish glass from which an inevitably damp paper tag dangles. The Buchwald Cafe -- or, more properly, the Konditorei und Cafe G. Buchwald -- is famous for their Baumkuchen, though I don't think much of it.

I go for the wallpaper, those sturdy ugly chairs, that atmosphere exuded by grey-headed pensioners busy over their cake and coffee, and that man in a light corner idling over his newspaper, and the sense that Berlin is still encased in a dreamy, dusty layer.

Yes, what a crank I am! But even I enjoy lazing in their postage-stamp of a garden overlooking a quiet cobbled street and the Spree, and you might like to know about it now that the afternoons are turning light. Thank you to Max and to Bleistifterin who alerted me to the place.

Konditorei und Cafe G. Buchwald
Bartningallee 29, Berlin-Tiergarten (map)
Open M-Sat 9am-6pm, Sundays & Holidays 10am-6pm
Tel. +49 (0)30 - 391 59 31

Leaving the Letterpress Studio

Berlin's doors can make my heart skip a beat. Can you see how the glass in the two panes is different?

Save the Piano Salon!

Longtime readers will know my deep fondness for the piano salon, and that fondness remains undimmed though motherhood has meant fewer nights out for Fauré.

Imagine, then, my distress to learn a threatened rent hike of 250% might spell the end of those effortless, magical evenings. (Effortless, that is, for those who get to just turn up; Christoph and the musicians work their tails off to make the concerts sparkle.)

If you know of a ground-floor place with about 200 square meters available for rent in or around Prenzlauer Berg, drop Christoph a line. And in any case, do go along to the evening of sonatas by Beethoven and Schubert performed by Sayaka Shoji and Julien Quentin tonight, and get there early.

Bärlauch, Bear Leek, Ramsons, Bear’s Garlic, Wild Garlic...

Buds on the trees, Bärlauch in the markets. You could just put these delicate green harbingers of spring into one of Stefanie's cups and leave them to unfold their garlicky scent, but of course it would be more sensible to put them to work in the kitchen. Pesto is a popular option, or you could mince the leaves and mix them with softened butter to spread on good bread -- but what I find myself fantasizing about is a redolent bowl of creamy wild garlic soup.

Class advice & Fish chowder (Winter meals)


Readers, I need your advice. I'm scheduled to teach two classes on American cooking this fall/winter. What do you think I should focus on? Leave your suggestions below!

I first tried the fish chowder, pictured above, while preparing for a class where I assisted EC. Now that the weather's gone wintry again I'm dying to cook up another batch.

Jasper White's recipe was the basis, though I added chopped carrots and celery for color and extra flavor, and also splashed some white wine over the onions as they fried. For those puzzling out the German labels at the fishmongers, Kabeljau and Nilbarsch worked well for me. And for those looking for a good fish shop, the one in Schönhauser Allee is uncomplicated and reliable.

Scotland highlights


I'm lucky to have in-laws who live a ten-minute walk from the beach pictured above. Our recent visit to Scotland's northeast coast was full of quiet charms. Most tourists dawdle in Edinburgh and Glasgow or head straight for the West Coast and the Hebrides, but Moray is definitely worth the detour. I've stolen a leaf from Heidi's book and done a brief round-up below.


Moray highlights: We were greeted by a line of lowing Aberdeenshire Angus cows when we turned into the car park of the Kinloss Farm Shop. The wide array of cakes and slices are all homemade. // Elgin's High Street is slowly dying, but a few gems remain. Gordon & MacPhail is an encyclopedia of whiskies, and its shelves are also laden with sweet treats, including Huntly Herbs' organic raspberry jam. // For kitchenware, MacKenzie & Cruickshank in Forres is fantastic. Can you imagine how thrilled I am to finally own pudding basins? // The Burghead Snack Shack, with its bacon butties grilled to order, is kind of incredible. // The Loft is located down a winding country road. Their nut cutlet (despite that unpromising name) is the best vegetarian main course David's had in ages. // Meanwhile, the Kimberley Inn in Findhorn offers a cozy fireside and stunning views over Findhorn Bay. The beer batter for their fried fish is crisp and flavorful. // Afterwards, you might go to the Blue Angel down the road for a slice of organic almond chocolate cake and a cup of tea. // Wester Lawrenceton's Caerphilly and sweet-milk cheeses are stunning. You can find them at Gordon & MacPhail's or at Elgin's monthly farmers' market. // The Harbour Lights in Lossiemouth brings a Slow Food sensibility to their freshly prepared dishes made from mostly local ingredients. // The Allarburn Farm Shop has the smartest jute bags I've ever seen along with crowdie and locally-made sticky toffee pudding. // And just drop me a line if you're planning a visit and would like to know more!

Edinburgh highlights: I needed at least two hours to look at everything very carefully at Edinburgh's Farmers' Market in Castle Terrace. Favourites included the hog roast, the lamb burgers, Valvona & Crolla's sourdough bread, and the Puddledub bacon. // Sasha loved the rattling plates in the Dean Gallery cafe, while I was partial to the fruit scones. The Redpath room (part of the Four Scottish Painters exhibit) is fantastic.

Home (A journey through Scotland)

The above was taken on the train from Edinburgh to Elgin in the still-grey Cairngorm Mountains of Grampian. Lovely to be away, but lovely to be back! More on Scotland in the next day or two...