Beautiful Berlin (Or: That Time I Ate All The Food)

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Last weekend I went to Berlin to visit some friends and family (my brother and sister in law live there, so I try to go once a year). And boy did I eat. This also happened the last time I went – I don’t think Berlin is famous for good food, but it should be!

The sun shined gloriously most of the time I was there, and we even had to take our coats off at one point as we sat in the sun drinking an apfelschorle, after walking around for hours playing tourist (Checkpoint Charlie: check; The Jewish Memorial: check; Under den Linden: check; East Side Gallery: check).

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I’m not very good at remembering to take a picture of my food before I eat whatever I’m about to eat, so alas, I have no photographic evidence. But I have addresses! And some were just too good not to share. So here goes 🙂

DINNER

I’ve been to Berlin twice before, and last time I went, for my brother’s birthday, we had THE BEST Mexican food this side of the equator. I kid you not. I find that good Mexican food really isn’t all that easy to come by in Northern/Western Europe, none that I’ve tried anyway, other than really mediocre Tex-Mex that could very likely give you salmonella (true story).

But thankfully Maria Bonitas is nothing of the sort, and I highly recommend that you try it, should you find yourself in that neck of the woods. It’s a tiny sort of ‘hole in the wall’ restaurant, with a few seats inside, if you’re lucky, and two or three tables outside during the Summer months. Located in Prenzlauer Berg, their motto is ‘Eat More Tacos’ – and we did. I had the tinga de pollo burrito (slow cooked chicken with caramelised onions and refried beans), with guacamole and tortilla chips. Portions are massive, almost so much so that I wish they had a ‘I’m very hungry but maybe slightly more medium-hungry than that’-sized portion, because as good as it is, I didn’t manage to finish, this time or last. Although the boys seemed to have less trouble. Long story short: well worth the trip, and I’m most definitely going back 🙂

Tacos

BREAKFAST

On Saturday we had breakfast in a lovely little place that is well worth a visit, Malinikoff, a sort of German-French café on Helmholtzplatz. I had a croissant with butter and blackberry jam which I’m still dreaming about, blackberry jam is my jam (pun intended). I also had a big old cappuccino, a fresh pear juice, and lots of bread and butter. The others had soft-boiled eggs and fresh fruit with yoghurt, but I was too wrapped up in my carb-fest to try any of their stuff. Apparently their food was also delicious, and the service was super friendly (a rare treat in Berlin 😉 ).

SNACK TIME

Another little gem is the Hokey Pokey ice cream parlour, which just happened to reopen after the Winter hiatus on the very Saturday we were there! We had the salted caramel ice cream, which was so good that we’d planned on going back the next day. But then it rained and we got side-tracked by other culinary delights. I’m told they also sometimes do a salted caramel with sour plums ice cream, which is apparently to die for. Next time!

LUNCH

We also visited the street food fair in the KulturBrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg, which is on every two weeks on Sundays – and luckily for us fell on the Sunday we were there. We had these amazing pulled pork burgers from a big green van, the name of which I’ve unfortunately forgotten (but it’s this green one, at the bottom!). The others had the Southern pulled pork burger with coleslaw and BBQ sauce, and I had the Classic: homemade burger bun, BBQ sauce, succulent pulled pork with green salad and slices of crisp apple. It was the bomb.com, and totally made up for the rain and wind and frozen legs and feet, and we ate them huddled around a gas heater under a parasol. No regrets.

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LOPPIS (flea market) AND GLÜHWEIN

After the street food fair we strolled around the flea market in Mauerpark, and I unexpectedly found a stall selling Danish salty licorice (!!!!), so I was VERY happy. I also bought some fridge magnets with dancing cows and robots on them, and some old tins. Although I’ve imposed an ‘old tin-embargo’ on myself, because I have such a ridiculous amount of old tins in my apartment that it’s becoming a problem, I feel as though all bets are off when you’re abroad. The Mauerpark flea market is on every Sunday, and includes an outside food area with a little inside bar, where we took refuge from the rain and wind and had a glühwein. When we came back out the sun had reappeared, and we had the market mostly to ourselves compared to how crowded it normally is, so the rain had done us a service. Although it wasn’t on this Sunday, during the Summer months there’s also outside karaoke right next to the flea market, which is really fun and entertaining and well worth a visit, and provides a nice break from the usually very crowded flea market lanes 🙂

MORE DINNER

Berlin is divided into a number of boroughs, and although we walked around a lot of Berlin, for some reason most of our meals were consumed in Prenzlauer Berg (probably because we were staying there, and also because there’s a lot of good food around that area, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it?). But for our last meal in Berlin (this time around), we ventured all the way to Mitte, for cocktails and burgers at Hans Im Glück. This is apparently a chain, and is a bit gimmicky, but what it lacked in ‘artisanal feel’ (I’m sorry I just said that), it made up for in cocktail and burger originality, so who gives a hoot. We were seated amongst a bunch of tree trunks that go from floor to ceiling, and which serve to break up the massive restaurant and make it feel a little more homey than I imagine it otherwise would, and although the place was super crowded and there was a long line of people waiting to be seated, we had no problem hearing each other over the hubbub. I had a spicy veggie burger with garlic mayo, and a ginger and elderflower virgin cocktail (I decided to go forego the boozey cocktails because we had to get up at 4.30 to catch a 5 am train the next morning). They also had a really delicious burger with goat’s cheese and fig sauce, and I’ve definitely been inspired to up my burger game at home.

So that is the story of how I ate my way around Berlin 🙂

 

P.S. / A FEW OTHER EATS WORTH A MENTION: Last time we also went to The Bird (there are two of these, the original one in Prenzlauer Berg and a second one in Kreutzberg which opened a year ago, but I would recommend the Prenslauer Berg one. The Bird is known for making some of the best burgers and steaks in Berlin, and I had the best club sandwich in my life there, and was really sad not to be able to fit one in this time around – but I just didn’t have any space left in my belly, and it’s such a popular place that you usually have to reserve a table well in advance); and Due Forni (according to my brother, the best pizza and pasta he’s had outside of Italy, Due Forni is a kind of grungy/punky cantina-style Italian restaurant with a massive terrace, slow service, but really good and cheap food, and very good tiramisu! My sister-in-law had the spaghetti carbonara, and it was seriously good). Both very much to be recommended!

 

 

 

Oatmeal Blueberry Pancakes

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Adapted from Orangette.

To say that I am not a morning person would be an understatement. But I love breakfast, so sometimes at the weekend I’ll make pancakes or French toast, or poached eggs. Food is pretty much the only thing that will get me out of bed on weekend mornings. Yesterday my boyfriend went and picked us up a Moroccan pancake at the market in Flagey (Brussels is ripe with markets, both at the weekend and throughout the week) – they are the best thing in the world. Full stop. I think they are my favourite food. There’s a little green food van called ‘SOUL KITCH’N’ that makes fresh apple and ginger juice, and sweet mint tea, and then the pancakes. They’re basically a buttery, salty, flaky type of flatbread, smeared with ricotta, olives, artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes, spicy merguez sausages, and drizzled with sweet and sour sauce (odd, but it really works). And it’s hard to explain how good they are. I’ll try to get a picture of the van and/or pancake next time (I found someone else’s online recommendation of the van, if you want to go check out the photos 🙂 ) – yesterday I was too caught up, first with being lazy in the hammock in the sun (!), whilst food was being picked up for
me (!!), and then eating said pancake (in the hammock!! In the sun!!!). Not too bad for a Saturday.

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Today is Sunday, and my sister’s coming round for brunch (at 2 p.m. though – I have a strict ‘don’t expect me to do or show up for anything before 2 p.m. on a Sunday’ policy). So I decided to make these oatmeal and blueberry pancakes, as they’re so so easy, and so so good. Especially drizzled with maple syrup. Or brown sugar! Brown sugar’s good too. The original recipe says to leave the oats and buttermilk to mush together in the fridge over night, but the longest I’ve ever let the mixture sit before making the pancakes is an hour, and I’ve never noticed that they were any worse for it. I’ve tried them with both fresh and frozen blueberries, and I much prefer using fresh berries, as the frozen for some reason burned a bit when I flipped the pancakes over (I think because they’re a lot wetter than fresh ones, and as such a bit more ‘exposed’, if you will, if that makes sense?), and also ‘leaked’ a lot more colour into the pancakes. The fresh berries stay sort of intact, and create little pockets of fruit that burst as you eat the pancake.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 180 g ~ 2 cups rolled oats/oatmeal
  • 480 ml ~ 2 cups buttermilk
  • 62.5 g (no need for this level of precision, but the original recipe is in cups 😉 ) ~ ½ cup flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 115 g ~ ½ cup ~ 1 stick butter, melted
  • Olive oil, for cooking (or another vegetable oil of your choice)
  • About 200 g fresh blueberries

Mix together the rolled oats and buttermilk. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt).

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Lightly beat the two eggs together, then pour them into the oats and buttermilk mixture, followed by the melted butter, and mix well.

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Heat up some olive oil a large non-stick pan, over medium-high heat. Pour about a ¼ cup of the batter onto your pan (I usually make four at a time, as they tend to spread a bit). After 1-2 minutes, when the pancakes seem to be setting around the edges, plop your blueberries around on the not-yet-baked side of the pancakes, before flipping them over to brown on the other side. I find that pushing each pancake onto a spatula with another spatula, helps me to not massacre the pancakes completely as I flip them over 😉

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Deposit the finished pancakes in a baking dish/tray covered in aluminium foil as you go along, and leave the dish in the oven, at about 100˚ C, so that they stay warm and don’t get too ‘floppy’ before you’re ready to serve them.

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Serve warm with maple syrup, brown sugar, or apricot jam (my new favourite topping for these – even if maple syrup is hard to top!).

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Yield: 22-23 little pancakes 🙂

P.s.: these are also delightful cold the next day; I usually put them in a tupperware container, separated by layers of baking parchment, and bring along another little tub with whatever I want to dip them in (tomorrow I’ll go for the apricot jam. I also think this will look less silly when I give in and eat them on the bus on my way to work, maple syrup tends to make a bit of a mess.)