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29 posts from November 2006

Ornaments aloft


A few weeks ago, utterly charmed by the idea, I signed myself right up for the 2006 holiday ornament swap, envisioning packets flooding in from the four corners, and cheerfully ignoring the busy-busy November that awaited me. And though, college-style, I'm getting everything off at the absolute last moment, I can't say I regret the rush. What a treat to make mail, where I am otherwise so relentlessly electronic, to indulge in the Deutsche Post's exorbitant tarifs.

Are they too untraditional? Can one justify rose and cerulean and mustard vis-à-vis December? I hope so. Meanwhile, three corners have come through (Portugal, Scotland, Norway), six to follow. Exciting times! And that's not even mentioning tonight's  Bordercrossings' launch party...


Weingut Caspari


Lucky us, wedding presents keep arriving, such as this lovely bottle from Kathy's favourite vintner. They've also got holiday flats at their inn adjoining the winery for reasonable prices: I'm already daydreaming of strolling along the Mosel. . .



Every month there are fewer such façades in Prenzlauer Berg.



I love Germany's quiet attention to the seasons, the produce that appears and disappears like clockwork as we move through the year, and I love seeing the stuff of carols and fairy tales in the shops, the bunches of mistletoe and the paper cones filled with roasted chestnuts that I spy and can't resist as I go about my daily errands, buying pumpkin and pasta for the night's supper. I can't think of a translation for Adventzeit, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, where each Sunday is ceremoniously numbered and marked by a visit to the Christmas market or to a choir recital. This bouquet came from the flower shop at the corner of Danzigerstraße and Schönhauser Allee; as they queued, customers nibbled on the Lebkuchen (soft gingerbread), Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) and Vanillakipferl (vanilla crescents) in the basket on the counter.

Carrot & parsnip soup


As Joanna was the friend who got me into soup, it seemed only appropriate to bring some over for her last proper meal in her flat before she moved to Bonn. In my ongoing quest to experiment with new root vegetables, I settled on carrot and parsnip soup, mixing up a vibrant batch to take over in my basket. We ate, mostly silent, I feeling morose to be losing another friend from this constantly revolving city, and then I packed up her kitchen while David covered the bookshelves in bubblewrap and Joanna sorted sheets into boxes.

Carrot & parsnip soup
(based on Epicurious' Potato, Carrot & Parsnip Soup)

  • 1/4 C butter
  • 2 large onions, peeled and chopped
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 liter chicken broth
  • 6 new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 1 C chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 C dry sherry
  • 2/3 C milk
  • 2/3 C whipping cream

Melt the butter with a few drops of oil in a heavy soup pan and cook the onions until translucent, about 20 minutes. Add the carrots and parsnips, cook for ten minutes, then add the broth, potatoes, parsley and thyme. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, then add the sherry and cook for ten more. Stir in milk and whipping cream, bring to a simmer and serve with crusty bread.

Voland (& Scho)


Just back from a celebratory dinner at Voland, our favourite neighbourhood Eastern European restaurant. On the bill tonight was the Ukrainian trio Scho. (Click here for the last few seconds of their final set.)

Voland's burnt ochre interior is coziest in late autumn and winter, and its solid Eastern European cuisine most fitting to these seasons. On the menu are the usual bliny, piroschki and borscht, as well as a delightful array of dumplings, including pelmeni and wareniki. The menu changes daily so the exact configurations vary; last night the meat-stuffed pelmeni were on offer with smetana (similar to sour cream) or butter and vinegar, while the wareniki were filled with potato or white sauerkraut and topped with sauteed mushrooms and crisp bits of onion. I'd never seen the Georgian speciality tshudu before. Ordering it, three flaky pastries arrive, one stuffed with meat, the other with potatoes, and the last (my favourite) with cheese. For dessert there are sour cherry dumplings, and bottles of Baltika are - barring delivery problems - on offer.

Voland, Wichertstr. 63 (map)
Live music on Friday and Saturday nights, with a cover ranging from 3 to 5 EUR; booking on these nights is recommended.


My first Thanksgiving in Berlin! Complete with syrupy sweet potatoes topped by a crispy marshmallow crust, a burnished beautiful turkey, and cranberry-studded stuffing. Hearty thanks to our hostess Tammi & photos to follow...