It was my wee sister’s birthday on Monday so I cooked up this cheery guy. Carrot cake with whipped mascarpone frosting.
Happy birthday wee sis!
It was my wee sister’s birthday on Monday so I cooked up this cheery guy. Carrot cake with whipped mascarpone frosting.
Happy birthday wee sis!
For the last three weeks I have been travelling in Europe with Fran (a Christmas present from our amazing husbands) having adventures and, of course, sampling the local cuisine wherever possible.
While the baking in Germany was exceptional, and there may be related blog posts to follow, the best sweet by far was in Prague.
Climbing the hill from the Charles Bridge to the castle, we spotted a cafe whose doors read “Support Tea, Tea Supports You”. This place not only serves a great cup of tea, but is also where we were introduced to Honeycake. Being a fan of honey in general, I have tried several “honeycakes” before, but this cool, pillow-soft confection in Prague beats them all, hands down. It was not too sweet, not too rich and somehow, slightly wholesome feeling. Not having much of a sweet tooth, despite being a baker and confectioner, I have never before returned to an establishment for a second slice of cake within a month of having the first, but that evening I found myself climbing the hill once more in search of honey cake.
Naturally as soon as I got home I started scouring the internet for recipes and, thankfully, came across this recipe for “Russian honey cake”. I made a few tweaks so I’ll write out my own version here in full:
dough – 125g slightly salted butter
a generous tablespoon of good quality honey (I used Hood of Ormiston’s pure Scottish blossom honey)
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 cups plain flour
filling – a 397g tin of Carnation condensed milk
3 eggs, beaten
2 generous tablespoons of honey (same as above)
170ml sour cream
topping – 2 digestive biscuits
75g walnuts or walnut pieces
For the dough – In a heavy saucepan or flameproof casserole dish, melt the butter over a low heat then stir in the honey. Beat the eggs and sugar together then add the bicarbonate of soda, making sure to completely mix it through. Add the egg mixture to the pan and stir to combine with the butter. Keeping the heat low, add the flour a little at a time and mix to make a smooth, uniform paste (sort of like the start of a white sauce). The paste will be thick by the time all the flour is added. Take off the heat and leave to cool. While the dough is cooling, preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180C). When the dough is cool, dust the work surface liberally with flour and divide the dough into 5 equal pieces. Roll the dough until it is about 2mm thick, then use a 22cm baking tin to cut a circle out of the dough (a 20cm tin would would just as well). Repeat for the other four pieces. You should then have enough left over dough to roll one more circle – making 6 layers in total. Bake each circle of dough on a flat baking sheet in the hot over for about 4 mins until they are a deep golden brown and cool on wire racks.
For the filling – put everything except the sour cream in a pan and stir over a medium heat while it thickens. Lumps will form at first but as long as you keep heating and don’t stop stirring it will eventually thicken to a uniform texture, slightly finer than semolina. Pour into a cold bowl or container and leave to cool a little.
To assemble – When the cakes are cool, but the filling is still slightly lukewarm, assemble the cake. If you wish your cake to be pretty, I suggest you trim each of your layers back to a uniform 22(or 20)cm, but if, like me, you can’t bear waste and only the family are going to eat it, just leave them as they come. Top each layer with a thin layer of sour cream and a slightly thicker layer of the honey filling before sandwiching on the next layer. When you reach the last layer, you should also top this with a thin layer of sour cream and a slightly thicker one of the honey filling. Top make the topping, pop the biscuits and walnuts in a food processor and blend to a fine crumb. Scatter this evenly over the top of the cake and press lightly down.
Leave for at least one hour before serving so that the cake layers soften up a little.
I find I enjoy this cake best with a cup of Oolong tea.
Tastewise, the only difference between this home made cake and the one I ate and adored in Prague is the subtle flavour of the honey. There is some magic in the honey from Czech bees that isn’t quite replicated by our local workforce. Still, I think the taste of a local honey really sets a thing in its right place and this cake is right for Edinburgh.
This recipe is very closely based on the one from the second Leon cookbook and makes a great dessert or afternoon snack that gives you a real, noticeable, energy boost. You don’t need to be on a raw vegan diet to enjoy this!
100g whole almonds
6 pitted dates
50g sunflower seeds
pinch of salt (if you are cooking for someone who is a raw vegan this needs to be Himalayan pink salt, I use Maldon at home)
4 tbsp coconut oil
2 very ripe avocados
3 tbsp tahini
6 tbsp cacao powder (for non raw vegans any good quality cocoa powder will do. I prefer green and blacks.)
4 tsp agave nectar
To make the base, gently melt the coconut oil in a bain-marie then blitz the almonds, dates, sunflower seeds and salt in a food processor. Once the pieces are relatively small, pour in the coconut oil and run the machne until it is all combined.
Line a 18-20cm loose based tart tin with greaseproof paper and press the almond mixture on top to form a flat base. Place this in the freezer to firm up while you do the next bits. Wipe the food processor with kitchen roll – you don’t need to bother washing it yet.
Peel the bananas, mash two and slice the other two into circles no thicker than a pound coin. Peel the avocados, discard the stone and pop the flesh in the food processor with the tahini, cacao powder and agave nectar and blend until completely combined.
Take the base out of the freezer and spread the mashed banana on top then arrange the sliced banana neatly on top. Cover with the avocado layer, making it as smooth or as rough as you like, then put it in the fridge until you are ready to serve it (it’s best if you can leave it to chill for at least 30mins).
Thanks to Ianthe for the photo!
I have been playing a lot of Skyrim recently. A lot. And I strongly suspect I am not alone in that. But you can’t always be at your Xbox. Sometimes you have to be at work, or having a cup of tea with a friend in the real world. Fear not! Now, you can take a little piece of Skyrim with you!
A friend pointed me at this rather excellent blog which provides everything you need to know to make a Skyrim-style sweet roll, but I thought I could do one better. Why stop at one snack when you can have two, eh? So, here follows my recipe for the “Honey Nut Treat” and it couldn’t be easier!
200g raw pistachio nuts
350g dried apricots
3 tbsp good quality honey
2 tbsp pineapple juice or lime juice
Blitz everything together in a food processor until it reaches the “sticky mess” stage then, with damp hands, roll the mixture into balls slightly smaller than golf balls. You can eat them like this, or for a more authentic finish, thread them in threes onto bamboo skewers. Either way, keep them in the fridge until you are ready to snack, or at least over night before packing them into a lunch box, so they firm up a bit.
And without further ado, more cakes!
I’ve been making a lot of interesting cakes and then going on to make more interesting cakes instead of sitting down and blogging about them. I apologise for being so easily distracted, and by way of apology, here are some pictures!
Stay tuned for more pictures!
I spent a fun week in the kitchen last week working on new flavours of marshmallows. The raspberry and peppermint marshmallows are old favourites now but I’ve been formulating new recipes in the back of my mind for weeks as I busied myself with other things, so as soon as I got a few spare hours I pulled out my notepad and gelatine and set to work. I started by making the faithful peppermint and raspberry flavours to get in the right frame of mind then began concocting simple blackberry marshmallows, sweet elderflower, lightly fragranced lavender, indulgent chocolate malt and warm, spicy cinnamon marshmallows. I had a great time, and the last batch was ready in time to be piled into a pretty jar and lined up with the rest next to a pot of hot chocolate at my Halloween feast on Monday. My favourite (especially dunked in the thick hot chocolate) was definitely the cinnamon, although raspberry still holds a special place at the table for nibbling. The party guests seemed to favour the cinnamon and peppermint for melting in their hot chocolate and the chocolate malt for munching solo.
In the evening, we crossed Berlin via the sensible and timely S-bahn to our second hostel in the east side. But this was no ordinary hostel. It was also a boat! It was on the river Spree, just behind the east side gallery – which is the standing portion of the Berlin wall, covered with art works. It was an incredibly fun place to stay and the staff, one lovely Canadian lady in particular, were supremely helpful.
We arrived at the boat footsore and tired after a full day of sightseeing and asked our awesome Canadian hostess to recommend a nearby restaurant for dinner. She directed us to an Indian restaurant across the river called Amar which was exactly what we needed. The staff there were very cheerful and welcoming, providing complimentary shots of non-alcoholic drinks as we sat down and bringing our food promptly, which was much appreciated. Although three separate waiters did forget to bring us plates to eat off of. I started with aubergine pakora, which I would have shared with Mark if he liked aubergine (His loss, they were epic!) and then followed up with the lamb kadai which was lovely, tender meat in a hearty, fragrant sauce. Mark had the lamb tikka and we shared a rice and naan bread. And to drink? Tequila sunrise of course! I know it sounds weird, and I only ordered it because it’s my very favourite cocktail and I was very much in the mood for one, but it went extremely well with the curry! It was also huge. Serious value for money there. All in all, one of the best Indians I have ever had and such a vibrant environment to enjoy it in.
Well fed, but still tired, we ambled back across the bridge to bed.
Early the next morning I was woken by the most amazing thunder storm over the river, only to drift back to sleep and be awakened again by a quack at the open porthole. Holiday bliss!
Our destination for brunch was another recommendation from that dear, hardworking, Canadian. An unassuming place called Salon Schmuck on Skalitzer Strasse, across the river in Kreuzberg, with white garden furniture for outside seating and comfy mismatched sofas and arm chairs indoors. The music was chilled and suited to my tastes for a relaxed day – foo fighters, killers, etc. The drinks menu (alcoholic and non) was extensive. As well as the usual lists of tea, coffee and saftschorle, there were fresh pressed fruit and vegetable juices, chai lattes (hot and iced) and the best chocolate milk Mark and I had ever had. It was blended with ice and tasted dark chocolaty, rather than the sugar-sweet stuff we get over here. The breakfast menu was almost as interesting as the drinks and there were one or two lunch dishes as well. As far as I could tell, no self-respecting cafe in Berlin stops serving breakfast much before 16.00. I went for the cinnamon french toast with bacon, maple syrup and fruit salad, imagining a delicate dish of the kind that leaves me hungry in the one or two Edinburgh cafes I have been to for brunch, but with the added bonus of fresh fruit to cut through the richness. I could not have been more wrong. The three slices of french toast, topped with a pile of German bacon (which was like wafer thin fried ham), surrounded by a mountain of fruit, and served with a bowl of maple syrup, took me most of an hour to eat, although I must admit I was defeated at the very end. Mark’s breakfast was also substantial, but somewhat unorthodox – a great big bowl of chili with sour cream and bread. Stuffed with food, comfy on our sofa listening to the tunes and the patter of rain outside, we decided to camp out at Salon Schmuck a little longer, order a second round of drinks, and get stuck into a good book (or laptop).
After a while, though, we really did have to stretch our legs and walk off some of that bacon! Disregarding the rain – it was warm enough not to bother us much – we had a nice wander through surrounding Kreuzberg. The contrast between Kreuzberg (and Friedrichshain north of the river) and Mitte is pretty amazing. As we took the S-bahn between hostels I could easily believe we were now in a completely different city. Where Mitte had no litter or graffiti whatsoever – spookily so, actually, as there were no bins to be found. At one point I saw a woman abandon a broken umbrella in Mitte and when I looked back it had disappeared – the east side of Berlin was full of it. Even so, it didn’t really feel dirty, just untidy in a sort of well-loved way. Like a student flat. The people in the east were much more what you would expect to see from Berliners, in fact, I felt under a lot of pressure in Kreuzberg in particular to be ‘trendy’, something which I am most definitely not! That’s not to say there were less tourists in the east – I heard several British accents and spied many a map and guidebook – it just seemed to me that people there dressed for the environment. Naturally, I didn’t take any pictures of the buildings, bars, parks and railways. I did however, take a pictures of the biggest copy of “the very hungry caterpillar” I have ever seen. It was fully a meter long and remains the highlight of my afternoon adventures in Kreuzberg.
That evening, we headed out into Friedrichshain to another modern German restaurant I had read about – Schneeweiss. The boat hostess suggested she book us a table, and as she had yet to go wrong, we agreed. I don’t think we would have got seated if she hadn’t. Every smooth white table in that smooth white restaurant was reserved when we arrived, a little early, for our reservation. The decor was, as expected, white and icy, with beautiful forest and deer motifs on the windows. To start, I ordered a moscow mule from the cocktail menu – white and icy to match the room – and prayed that “gurke” was cucumber and not gherkin. Thankfully, my high school German did not fail me and it was very tasty! Mark and I both chose the braised beef dish from the menu. Local beef slow cooked and served with mashed potatoes, spring onion, roast salsify and celeriac and a thick, rich jus. Meltingly tender and satisfying. From my perusal of the menu, I was very excited by the special pudding – fresh madeleines, blueberry jelly, handmade blueberry marshmallows and elderflower sorbet. It looked amazing, but was far too sweet for my taste. The jelly was jam, the madeleines were saturated with sugar, the marshmallow was sticky and it was served on a smear of dulche de leche. The sharp sorbet was all that saved it from being nauseating. Mark, sensibly, had the apple strudel with custard.
Our last full day in Berlin dawned dry, so we jumped at the chance and rented a couple of bicycles from the hostel. Our route took us along the east side gallery and the bank of the Spree, crossing the river and canal mid-way through museumsinsel and onto Unter den Linden. Then it was pretty much a straight line through Mitte, then beautiful Tiergarten and into Charlottenburg to meet up with the Spree again as it flows into the gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg.
By this time the sun had come out in full force and we were beginning to wilt in the heat. High time for lunch! To Mark’s lasting enjoyment, we took Leibniz Strasse to Kant Strasse (the second street after Goethe Strasse) in search of Jules Verne – a cafe with a breakfast menu full of dishes named after his books. It’s actually a little hard to find, being as it is tucked away round the corner on Schluter Strasse, but this means its outdoor seating is away from the main road. Not really in the mood for breakfast, we both chose from the blackboard list of daily lunch specials. I had matjes (a very mild salt herring) with fresh herbs and a potato rosti and Mark had the pasta with sausage. And, just when it was most needed, cool refreshing grun bier!
Trying to locate Jules Verne resulted in a minor detour during which I spotted the only cupcake I had seen in the entire of Berlin. Always self sacrificing in the name of research, I proposed we move along the road for dessert. Der Kuchenladen was a bright little cake shop which claimed to specialise in cupcakes as well as other handmade desserts. Everything looked amazing but, despite the lure of the German cheesecake, I had to try a cupcake. There were only two kinds on offer and one had a great big half apricot on top. That’s the one for me, I said. While moist, tasty, and very generously sized, this was much more muffin than cupcake. Studded with chunks of fresh apricot and lightly iced, it was very tasty…for a muffin. Mark had the blackforest cake which had, beneath a full foot of cream (well…almost…) the tastiest cherry layer I have ever had in such a confection. A very good cake shop, but not really a cupcakery.
Our return journey took us through the bottom of Tiergarten, behind the zoo, where you can see several of the animals being exhibited including some very grumpy exotic birds, watching as their round, German cousins flit in and out of the bars. Then, not entirely intentionally, we cycled through Potzdamer Platz and back to the Spree again at Kollnischer Park where reside the Berlin bears Schnute and Maxi who were sensibly hiding in the shade. By the time I got back to the boat and saw the lovely pink colour of my arms, I wished I had had as much sense!
After a cooling shower and several bottles of water, we ambled out in search of dinner. Not having any strong preferences we sought somewhere close, cheap and shaded. Just across the street from Amar was a small Italian restaurant with plenty of tables outside and a few inside. For 10 euros we got two plates of pasta, bread and a bottle of water. Just what was needed. I didn’t take any pictures, but you can probably imagine what spaghetti bolognaise looks like.
We didn’t intend to have dessert again, but, as we sat at the window enjoying our dinner, more than a dozen people walked past with ice creams and frozen yogurts in all sizes and colours (but only one shape – scoops). Just round the corner we discovered a little hole in the wall ice cream shop with a queue the width of the street. Luckily the queue was fast moving and we got our lovely cold ice creams without too much extra sun exposure. The flavours that we tried included rhubarb frozen yogurt and ginger ice cream. As it was our last night in Berlin we decided we should explore the local nightlife, but first we’d head back to the boat and put our feet up – just until the sun went down.
We woke up the next morning very well rested and, after checking out of our room and leaving our bags in the lobby, wandered back to Salon Schmuck for a farewell drink and a more modest breakfast of bread and jam and boiled eggs. Then it was back for our bags, a stroll along the east side gallery to the S-bahn and a fast, efficient, train to the airport. After one more scoop of ice cream at the train station of course. Which was blackcurrant flavour and, despite coming from a train station, heavenly!
Okay, so, as will quickly become apparent, this is not really a “cake tour” at all. I was actually on holiday this time rather than my usual “business trip” type excursion. Nevertheless, despite it’s being mostly savoury in nature, the food in Berlin is well worth a mention. Poor Mark was, however, on a business trip and as his conference was in the Mitte area, we took a room there at the baxpax downtown hostel . While a little on the pricey side for a hostel, the private double room we had was perfect for what we wanted – although the shower was one of those irritating ones where you have to push a the button every minute and a half to keep going – and the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. It was also ideally situated for exploring the Hackesche Markt area of Scheunenviertel (literally ‘Barn Quarter’) in Mitte. This was apparently the old Jewish quarter, but as with almost all of the rest of the city, it was mostly rebuilt after the war. It’s now a great shopping, eating, wandering district with little courtyard complexes like Hackesche Höfe and Heckman Höfe for exploring. Dominating all views, however, is the beautiful gilt dome of the Neue Synagoge.
Despite the area around Oranienburger Strasse being packed to bursting with restaurants, I found myself on the corner of Friedrich Strasse on the bank of the Spree river before I noticed I was in serious need of refreshment. I picked the cafe Julius Meinl simply because it had shaded tables where I could sit and watch the river and the boats where they split to go around museumsinsel – exactly what it sounds like, an island full of museums – and only found out when I went in search of the bathrooms that it was attached to a huge elegant hotel and day spa. It was only today, when researching for this blog, that I found out Julius Meinl is actually a relatively well known Austrian coffee house. Anyway, knowing none of this at the time, I settled down under an umbrella to peruse the menu. It was here that I first encountered these cheeky little spherical birds – which may just be well fed sparrows but I’m not enough of an ornithologist to say for sure – who crowded round Berlin’s eateries and bakeries eating crumbs from your feet if not quite your hands.
Being as it was my first meal in Berlin, I had to try Berlin beer, right? Well, on the menu was Berliner Weisse bier – perfect. However, when I ordered it, the waitress replied “rot oder grün?”. She explained that the difference was the red was raspberry flavoured and green was a German word beginning with ‘w’ that I didn’t know and she didn’t know the English equivalent for. Naturally I ordered green. In fact, I think I ordered it with such enthusiasm I scared her a little, but man did I make the right decision! I can’t really explain what this tastes like…but it hit all the right buttons for me, especially at lunch time in the sun. I loved it so much I looked for it on the menu at every restaurant and cafe we stopped at in Berlin only to come to the conclusion that perhaps it was a slightly down market or diluted drink as only the places we went for brunch seemed to serve it (which is a bit too early, even for me. Also, it is incredibly green!).
As the fact that this was an Austrian coffee house was unknown to me, I think I did pretty well in picking the only dish with “Austrian” in the title to accompany my grun bier. Austrian style dumplings stuffed with bacon with sauerkraut and gravy. Although that’s all the menu said, when I finally chomped my way to the third dumpling – these things are dense but oh so satisfying! – I found to my surprise that it was not stuffed with German bacon (which is more like ham really) like the other two, but with something that was more like if you made char sui out of really crispy bacon. All thoughts of leaving the third one unfinished vanished.
A lunch this dense required a lot more walking – beginning, of course, with gentle strolling. Luckily I was near the famous boulevard Unter den Linden which gave me ample opportunity to stroll, detour, get lost and then end up on Friedrichstrasse again. I actually found it impossible to get lost for very long in Berlin which meant I was comfortable in indulging my short attention span and wandering off to look at any shiny thing that caught my attention. Mitte is packed with amazing architecture, greenery and famous spots. However, I must admit that the highlight of my afternoon was seeing the Bugatti Veyron in a showroom on Friedrich Strasse. Mmm shiny…
Over the course of the day, I also got rather attached to Ampelmann and, as it was his 50th birthday, couldn’t resist visiting the official Ampelmann gift shop. Stay tuned for more on my Ampelmann related purchase!
That evening, reunited with my hardworking hubby and some of his fellow conference goers, I wanted to try a restaurant I’d read about in the Lonely Planet guide called Weinbar Rutz which was famous for Michelin starred Marco Müller’s modern twists on traditional German cuisine. Now, I did know it was a wine bar, given the name, however, I was led to believe it was also about the food… perhaps rather naively, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, the food was amazing. Flawless and exactly what I had hoped for from the description. Although, amusingly, one of the specials on the day we visited was Hereford beef! Also, it was not too highly priced, perhaps because we sat in the downstairs bar area…with all the wine. To go with our lovely German food, our group was drinking lovely German beer – some sort of medium dark ale with “rot” in the title of the brewery which I regret not getting the full name of – and water. This seemed to cause no end of problems. Every five minutes an impeccably groomed waitress would be at our table asking us if we’d like to see the wine menu, or if we had read the wine menu, or if she could tell us anything about any of the wines, or if we would perhaps like a glass of wine to go with that? It got a little tedious… in fact, I think it sort of ruined Mark’s meal. As for myself, it’s very hard to distract me from good food. And good food it was! I had the braised shoulder of ox with pretzel dumplings and spring cabbage. While it may have been ambitious to order dumplings twice in one day, these light little darlings were nothing like their Austrian comfort food counterparts. Crisp and fluffy at the same time they went perfectly with the meltingly tender beef and the rich gravy. The cabbage made it into a prefect well rounded meal. Mark had some amazing German black pudding – like Stornaway black pudding in texture but not in flavour – but I was so wrapped up in my own meal I have totally forgotten what it was served with. Mark is no use either. Not being the avid (read greedy) foodie that I am he barely remembers what he ate for breakfast today.
The following morning I left Mark to his work yet again and went out looking for pretty things. This time in the Alexanderplatz area of Mitte. I started by taking a walk around Museumsinsel, intending to head to Alexanderplatz itself, but, as I am me, I naturally got distracted and ran out of time. I did come across the absurdly incongruous Humboldt-box near the Berliner Dom. You could pay to go inside, but having no idea what it was, I declined. Also, pleasingly, I came across a man selling ‘wurst’ which he cooked on a rig attached to his stomach, stored in a cooler on his back and protected with an umbrella attached to his shoulders. Brilliant.
That day, Mark had time to join me for lunch so I led him to Schwarzwaldstuben, a beautiful Germanic pub I’d scouted the previous day in Scheunenviertel which is also given a mention in the lonely planet guide. With paintings of the black forest and fake, fuzzy deer heads on the wall, it was the ideal place to sit on a rainy day and eat rib sticking Maultaschen – spirals of pasta stuffed with sausage meat and then fried, mercifully served with a large salad. Sadly, I forgot to take any pictures of this amazing dish, engrossed as I was in eating it. Mark had the flammenkuche – a lot like a crispy pizza – and seemed to enjoy it equally well. I washed it down with Rothaus Tannenzapfle beer which may or may not have been the same beer I had the preceding night in the wine bar. If it was, the different environment was responsible for altering the taste to something a little maltier and substantial. As the weather was a bit on the soggy side, I spent the afternoon reading and sipping tea until I was called upon to meet the conference gang for dinner. They had been having drinks in a Vietnamese restaurant on Oranienburger strasse called Koriander – it seems to me that in Berlin, every restaurant, cafe and coffee house is also treated as a bar by its patrons if they feel like it, and there are no ill feelings for people who take up the tables and don’t eat the food. Inititally they had been intending to go elsewhere for dinner, but as the conversation got more heated (variations of “my software is better than your software” as far as I could tell) people started ordering food and the smells started an avalanche of food orders. Again, I took no photos. But the Ho Fun with chicken, peanut sauce and raw vegetables was amazing!
After dinner, when people started leaving to catch flights etc, and the remaining few were looking for something to do, I remembered that Fran had said that the cheesecake in Germany was something special. So, as she is an authority on such matters, I suggested an expedition. I’d been in one place earlier in the day – for the sipping of tea – which had at least four varieties and wasn’t much of a walk, although the rain made it seem further. Sadly, it was the sort of place that closed at 18.00. No problem, said I, the pub we had lunch in had cheesecake on the dessert menu! Onwards, then, to Schwarzwaldstuben. Which was packed to the gunnels and displayed a dessert board with a chalky smear where it used to read “kasekuchen”. Disappointed and soggy, we trudged on. Then, out of the gloom loomed an orange fronted restaurant/cafe with “kasekuchen” written on a permanent sign outside and with what we all guessed to be a polish flag hanging from it but at this point we were too soggy to care about the provenance of said cheesecake. In we filed and took seats at the only empty table large enough for our group only to be brusquely told that we had to vacate the table by 21.00 as it was reserved. Being as it was only just after eight, and all we wanted was tea and cake, we were happy to oblige. The waiter harrumphed off to bring us menus. I ordered the cheesecake and some tea. Then the next person order cheesecake and coffee, only to be told that there was only one slice of cheesecake. Only one! Never mind, they would get some other cakes and we could share. Sadly, the cheesecake that arrived seemed to have been frozen until recently and badly thawed. The cheese part had no texture to speak of, or flavour for that matter, and the sponge base oozed cold water when you bit into it. All in all, an unsatisfying experience.
The following day, Sunday, was our last day in Mitte. Mark’s conference was over and we had decided to go up the TV tower in Alexanderplatz for the panoramic views. Naturally, Sunday was impenetrably foggy. Not the sort to let a little thing like weather get in our way, we did it anyway. On the plus side, there were no queues and the fog did clear every now and again so we could catch fleeting glimpses of the closer buildings. There were also plenty of plaques around, explaining the buildings that we couldn’t see. They all started with the history of the building and the role it played in Berlin and ended with “…it was rebuilt after the war.” Probably worth a look on a good day, although it was a little expensive at 11 euros. However, we did get a money off book for Berlin’s other tourist attractions.
Now, my primary foodie target for Berlin was the famous Berlin Currywurst. Junk food, yes. But you can’t go to Berlin and not try it! We found a little van under a railway bridge opposite museumsinsel with crowded benches and a queue of at least a dozen people. How could a queue that long be wrong, I ask? Being chilled by the rain and more than ready for lunch were probably the optimal conditions for the ingesting of currywurst, which is exactly what it sounds like. A sausage with curry sauce, sprinkled liberally with curry powder. Amusingly, to me at least, the sauce was squeezed from udder-like bags hanging on the ceiling. And how did it taste, you ask? Pretty damn good! Salty, savoury, not too spicy. Junk food at its finest.
Post currywurst the rain was still coming down. The perfect excuse I though, to look at fish! The Berlin AquaDom was supposed to be pretty good, boasting the worlds largest cylindrical aquarium which you can go up through the middle of in a two-storey elevator (yep, the elevator has stairs in it) and an octopus which is the same species as Paul the psychic octopus. I know. Try to contain your excitement. The queues were pretty long, but it was Sunday.
Naturally, I had a great time, but I’m easily pleased by aquariums. The octopus was very active and there were several conga eels hanging from various tubes and a room full of jellyfish being subjected to bright coloured lights, but the highlight for me was the shoal of herring. Sounds weird, but they were in a cylindrical tank in the centre of the room, swimming round and round, and it was mesmerisingly beautiful. Did make me sort of hungry, though…
And that was only the first half of our holiday! Watch this space for the next installment.
Another long over due post. I made this awesome dude a few weeks ago. Sorry yet again about the terrible photography!