baddieworld

Every day life, food & strangeness in a big city

Baddie and the Galette des Rois

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“Be a King / Queen for a day!” – an utterly irresistible invitation if I ever heard one. And it involved some golden-looking puff pastry called “galette des rois.” So lured, I followed the seductive whisper from the homepage to the actual physical home of the Galeries Lafayette Berlin. None too soon, I stood before a small improvised counter in their gourmet section, bountifully  laden with all manners of gleaming galettes: marzipan, chocolate and hazelnut, or apple flavour, all beckoned equally. As I reached out to the tasting tray to enjoy a free sample of the latter, a trio of blushing girls asked the madame for assistance. After some confusion, it turned out that they were not looking for a French “galette” but for the rhyming German “toilette”, proving indubitably that sometimes life is sillier than fiction.

In any case, it wasn’t long before I was the pround owner of a galette au pommes, which I proceeded to scoff down with coffee and glee. Oh bless its yummy fluffy pastry nature!  Soon this much (little) was left:

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Feeling generous, I decided to share the rest with Mr. B.  So he had a slice, and I had a slice… and spotted something black peeking out from mine. Now, you, gentle reader, might have recoiled at the sight, and thrown away the piece of galette in disgust. You might have thought: “Bug!” or somesuch abomination. Not I! My first (and only) thought was: hmm… maybe there’s a raisin in there… and proceeded to joyfully bite in. But hark! My teeth encountered a hard obstacle – one end quite white and ceramic and… “Oh God!” I thought rapidly. “Someone’s false teeth?” But no. It was long and thin and … “Some object they used for cake baking? And dropped in by mistake?” I was getting pretty nauseous by this point, so I quickly spit it out…

… and discovered it was a figurine of a stout little man. Dressed in yellow:

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“Oooohhh” I cooed in total incomprehension. Mr. B looked at me like I had lost all my marbles. “Uhm… what do you think it is?” we stared at each other. “He’s not the king, that’s for sure” he offered decisively. “Maybe he’s… a citizen” I mused. “Maybe it’s a game, and there are others hidden in the other galettes. Like, his people. His wife …. His horse…. Maybe a castle!” Mr. B was by this time snickering and I’m pretty sure I heard “a castle” repeated in a disrespectful tone. “Or maybe I am special.  And I will get a special prize from the Galeries for finding the little man. Like a 500 Euro prize!” I was getting more and more excited about this. “I must know what it all means!” So of course, I went to check it out online.

This is what I found out: that the galettes are traditionally eaten in France around the beginning of January in honour of the three Mage Kings and the epiphany (hence the “rois” appelation). That there are different types and fillings customary in different regions of France. That master pattisiers from  places such as Ladurée and Lenôtre come up with most original and mouth-watering interpretations of this dessert. That there’s a loooooooooooong history behind the whole thing And while they were even served at the table of Louis XIV, after the revolution the whole monarchy-symbolism thing has gone a bit sour… but you can read all about it somewhere else. Well I guess the connection to royalty is still represented by the fact that the galettes come with a shiny golden paper crown. This I tried to place around the pastry and then on top but couldn’t get to retain shape so I sheepishly ended up throwing away.

But most importantly, that traditionally a figurine of baby Jesus was hidden inside – and whoever found it had mysterious responsibilities – never got to reading that far, so if anyone ever finds out exactly what those responsibilities might be, do let me know. Some time ago though, someone decided to switch baby Jesus to some other theme-based figurines… Including smurfs and geese, according to my in-depth research. Anyhow, to cut a long story short, there’s nothing unsual about finding such trinkets – called fèves – in a galette. For those of you who play Trivial Pursuit, there’s even a name for the impetus to collect them: “favophilie“. And no, sadly it does not come with a prize from Galeries Lafayette.

3 Cups of Cheer: Cosy Places in Berlin

1.  a cup of aromatic sencha with fresh ginger in a charming chipped cup at

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ChénChè Teahousewell hidden and a true delight for all senses (Mitte)

2. a mocca and an Earl Grey cup accompanied by a (strong on the) chilli chocolate cheese cake at…

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  Aunt Benny – über-hipsterish yet nonetheless yummy (Friedrichshain)

3. a Hawaii Kona Extra Fancy „Captain Cook“ rare coffee brought on a lovely little tray with a mini-cafetiere, a tiny jug of milk and glass of water, raw sugar cubes, and a biscuit treat at…

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Berliner Kaffeerösterei – welcoming and special (Charlottenburg)

Beautiful Berlin: A Winter’s Tale

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Du Bonheur Bakery and Cake Shop – the DKA returns!

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One thing leads to another and so I recently stumbled across this delicious blog called Foodie in Berlin … it’s full of great tips which made me ecstatic … for about two weeks. Because of course when I discover a great food guru living in Berlin, it is unavoidable that she will move to another country (!) within the month. Aaargh!!!

Anyway, from Foodie in Berlin I learned about this cute bakery / cake shop in Mitte, which was praised for its cannelles, among other things. For those not in the know, cannelles are yummy little treats, crispy dough on the outside, some sort of hard vanilla filling… ok may be totally wrong about the ingredients – just go try some, it’s worth it! But most importantly, through another blogger I found out that they have kouign amann – a specialty from the Bretagne, all pastry and caramelized crust… incidentally, they are the long name for my favourite thing in the world, the DKAs! (hitherto tragically only found at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in NYC)

Naturally I had to hurry and see this small miracle for myself – today. I went there for lunch, and had it outside, at a charming table surrounded by plants and bees (wasps?) and overlooking a terribly uninspiring Brunnenstrasse.  The very nice gentleman behind the counter brought me this pot of tomato / mozarella salad with a  slice of warm bread, accompanied by fresh elderflower lemonade. It was all served very prettily.

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This was followed by a little koign amann. And I do mean little – the thing was tiny – about half to a third of the size of the ones from Dominique Ansel. Which meant that it was more compact, and there was less fluffy dough on the interior, which was a shame.  But while I prefer the NYC version, the KAs from Du Bonheur are lovely too, and they might just become my new indulgence…

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Du Bonheur is located on Brunnenstrasse 39,, 10115 BERLIN, a few steps away from Bernauerstr. U-Bahn. It is open Wed-Fri: 8.00-19.00  and Sa & So: 9.00-19.00.

On Gardeners

They say there’s a thin girl living in every fat girl’s body. In me, however, what is deeply, shamefully hidden, is the dream of being a competent gardener. Gardeners, especially if you ask the average British person, are the epitome of all that is good. During their mild summer evenings and long weekends, they can be found pottering around in their little green patch, outfitted with a charming, wide-brimmed straw hat, a pair of gardening gloves and a flowery apron. They will hum as happily as solitary bumblebees and smile as warmly as sun-kissed daisies. Come Monday, they will exchange said outfit for a dark three-piece suit and start a long commute to their office. Fortunately, work will be little more than a blissful space where they can meet fellow enthusiasts. No tea-break will go by without an animated conversation on the state of their darling hydrangeas or the fertility of their cherry trees, and advice will be swapped on the best fertilizers or the recipes to get rid of pests. Gardeners are even-tempered, and tend to take things calmly, whether rain or sunshine. They are industrious, gentle creators, basking in the love of their vegetal offspring. Such a communion comes naturally. Or does it?

It would certainly appear that way – perhaps because what no one likes to talk about are the black sheep of the talented gardening family. Although, in all honesty, a single good look around would reveal that they are legion. The ones who, despite their best intentions, make a right big mess of it, time after time. The ones who weep in the shadows, wondering why their fairy godmothers could not award them at least one green thumb. The clumsy, the careless, and the downright criminal. It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it.  I myself belong to this dark side and so may have the questionable pleasure of introducing my blighted relatives to you, one by one.

First, there is the lazy gardener. This distant cousin of the good gardener enjoys having a green oasis, yet would prefer to get no mud on his well-manicured hands, or let even one droplet of sweat mar his smooth brow. The lazy gardener could, of course, employ someone to do his dirty work for him, yet more often than not the solution to the problem seems to lie closer to home. If you ask for his secret, he might advise you to produce a few infants, pray fervently that they grow up at an alarming rate, and then start bribing them with candy in exchange for mowing the lawn and pruning your plants. Small children adore dirt anyway, and in order to develop social skills, what better playmates than a few bugs and twitching worms? Exercise is also necessary, and carrying big heavy water pots will serve to develop those tiny muscles. It’s a win-win situation, and his children will thank him for it later.

Equally reluctant to don the gloves and pick up the shears and shovels is the laid-back gardener. She will look out her window to the wilderness that used to be a neat little garden and now abounds with rodents of all size and shapes, birds ranging from shy sparrows to plump pigeons, and all manner of other creatures, and grin indulgently. The uncut grass will grow to savanna-like proportions, and foxes will twitch in outrage and take offence at the merest suggestion that the wall is not theirs to patrol day and night, or the ground theirs to burrow in. The small stone fountain will be chipped and full of cobwebs, but the lively robin will still love to bathe in it, wings a-flutter, after a good rainfall. The rosemary bush may be something out of a witch’s tale, crawling with spiders, but that’s all part of the derelict charm. The laid-back gardener will glance on it all and find it good.

Last but not least comes the worst of the lot – the garden killer. This specimen need only look at a plant with an ounce of interest, to ensure its speedy and certain demise. The garden killer means well, yet somehow manages to achieve disastrous results. His are all the dreary empty pots of flowers on the concrete balcony, cruel reminders of the relentless heat of summer and the unexplainable withering that followed. His is the incriminating, empty patch of scorched earth on the lawn. That patch that never fully recovered after he thought it might be a great idea to grill directly on the grass. Also his are the nervous-looking thin blades of grass emerging from said bald spot, after desperate attempts involving countless packets of seeds and sprinklings of purified water. His are the shriveled roots, the fly-ridden stalks, and the yellowing leaves. His is the hope that never dies.

So there you have it then – the delinquents of the gardening community. They are the ones whose clumsiness hangs to their fingertips as firmly as burrs to a sheep’s tail. They are the secretive ones, whose love of plants never dares speak its name. Yet this need not be so. Speak up, my brothers and sisters. Raise your chins high, and wear your names as a badge of honour. For every Lord Vishnu the Creator, there must be a Shiva the Destroyer. For every spot of light, there must be one of darkness. And for every one of them, there are a thousand of us.

Süsskramdealer Berlin

My summer project (as if I need one) is to visit Berlin’s nicest and cutest coffee-shops and bakeries. Today I started off my hunt with the Süsskramdealer (sweetstuff shop) in Friedenau.

The Süsskramdealer is a tucked-away spot near Bundesplatz. It is actually divided in two spaces: one room (occupying what used to be a historical cigar shop) is a type of  Ye Olde Sweets Shoppe – old-fashioned stuff and lots of specialty chocolates are on sale in a dark-wood interior complete with metal scales and a wacky clock. The other part is a white-furnished shop and cafe, selling everything from cookbooks and wrapping paper to quirky items such as frog-princes, as well as all sorts of intriguing implements in addition to their small but delicious assortment of cakes. Quite friendly staff and very pleasant to sit outside with a cup of strong coffee.

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Fassbender & Rausch Chocolatiers in Berlin

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The Cronut

Just as I was thinking that my meetings with strangers have dwindled to an unsatisfactory degree, something that surprised even my blasé self happened this Saturday. It started with me going to my favourite bakery very, very early in the morning. It was around 8:15 when I left home and 8:45 when I got there, and quite an experience to walk through the empty streets of Soho at that time of the day. I had to go this early, you see, because they had only a week before come up with a new sweet that was an instant hit.

It’s called a Cronut, and it’s a weird breed between a croissant and a doughnut, which is apparently pretty hard to make – deepfrying all those layers of pastry is a bummer, or so say the experts.  Now all the reviews were raving about it, and since I love all their stuff I was literally drooling to get one, but the first two times I got there last week (around 1 pm and 12 respectively) they were sold out. I was helpfully told that these things need to be prepared 3 days in advance, and so the bakery has only a limited number, which usually sells out within the first hour of their opening. And that there’s always a line when they do open (at 8 am) and that some people just get the whole tray. This mythology predictably just contributed to its allure and made me want it more.

So then, here I was, on that fateful Saturday morning, and miraculously, here it was, too…Well. As I was queuing for my cronut, I must confess to my shame I did listen carefully to what the three customers ahead of me were ordering, praying fervently they wouldn’t be one of those “tray people” … when I got to the counter, and I ordered a cronut, mentioning it was the third time I came and the first time they had it, the guy smirked and uttered the dreaded words: “we’re sold out!” But no, it was just a joke (one in very bad taste!). Anyway, just to be on the safe side and get my fill of this little wonder, I ordered two. I ate one…

IMG_1905 IMG_1907 IMG_1910but  – shock! horror! – didn’t actually enjoy it so much. It’s ok, but filled with a lot of cream – which if you remember from my other post is not my thing. I actually had to force myself to eat it, and would not buy it again. Give me a DKA anytime. So anythow, now I was thinking what to do with the extra one I had, which was in a paper bag. I didn’t fancy carrying it around with me – to the NYC ballet box office, and then up to The Cloisters. The bag didn’t even have handles! So then I figured I might offer it to a homeless person, who might enjoy it and would probably not pay over $5 dollars for an over-hyped type of pastry.

Little did I know that fate had something else in store for me. Briefly after getting on the subway to go uptown, I noticed an interesting ad and got up to take a photo. As I was doing so, this girl sitting underneath it piped up to tell me she liked my dress. I smiled, thanked her, and retreated back to my seat and my book. A few minutes later, still concentrating on my reading, I had the niggling feeling that someone was trying to capture my attention. I looked up, and lo and behold! it was indeed the selfsame girl, who had been saying “hey, how are you” to me a few times now. I looked to my left, and then to my right… yep, no one around. Interesting that she would not be deterred by my book – or by anything else!

The short conversation that followed was along the following lines: she asked me where I was from – I replied Europe. She wanted to know what I was doing in NYC and how long I had been here for (a bit like an immigration officer, come to think of it). If I had made many friends. If I went to many parties. If I would like to go to parties with her. If we can hang out, since I looked very cool. If I could give her my phone numnber. If we could be friends on facebook. I did answer all her questions truthfully, and we ended up talking about what she was doing in town, and shopping, and all sorts of things. I had to disappoint on the hanging out front though, since I revealed I was about to leave New York in a few days. So I declined sharing my number … but instead,  I asked if she would like a cronut.

I’d like to think the second cronut has found a happy home. And that there are more people who would fearlessly approach strangers they deem cool.

Museum of the Moving Image

I spent 4 hours in the Museum of the Moving Image today and could have blissfully spent more, but I was tired and they were closing. This is a fantastic place, spread on 3 futuristic-looking white levels.

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It’s choc-full with everything from magic lanterns to Cher’s wig worn in that movie about witches…

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television sets

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master Yoda before he went digital

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doll used in the Exorcist for the spinning head scene

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make-up stuff

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De Niro’s wigs in Taxi Driver

miniature of the Tyrell skyscraper from Blade Runner

There is a comprehensive exhibition about the history of movie-making, but what I found most remarkable was the focus on music videos – a real eye-opener. Also, there are plenty opportunities to have fun because of all the interactive choices – you can choose the soundtrack to Vertigo, create your own animation, dance your way in a light show, or even dub Babe… the sky’s the limit, as they say.

Johhny Cash art project

Johhny Cash art project

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Carole Lombard

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James Stewart et al.

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“Everybody would like to be Cary Grant”

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Kayne West – Power music video

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interactive dance room

The Cloisters

Opinions on The Cloisters – that branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art all the way up North near 190 Street, so out of the way that I doubt casual visitors to NYC ever reach it – are divided. I’ve heard lavish praise – and I have heard the European-born naysayers who question the point of visiting what is essentially a complex built in the 1930s pretending to be medieval monasteries. What the latter category doesn’t seem to know is that The Cloisters is actually assembled from architectural elements that largely date from the twelfth through the fifteenth century – 5 different original monasteries in total, and has a rather impressive collection of original art objects – the most notable of which being the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries. It’s also very pleasantly situated, especially if you take the meandering path through the park with the view of the Hudson river to the side, and fragrant, colourful blooms on the other. It all conspires to make you realize that this is not NYC as you know it.

The Cloisters should not work but it does. There’s obvious excess – all the arches and doors for one thing are naturally more than an actually monastery would have or need.  There’s also an abundance of art pieces – from illuminated books, to tapestries, paintings, sculptures, church treasures and stained glass – if you can think of it in conjunction with medieval sacred places, they’ve got it. Very much in the manner of the British going off and returning with cultural loot from all over the empire, the Americans bring all that is typical of the 12th to 15th century period in Europe back home, mix, stir, and add a twist of lemon. Yet The Cloisters, as the MET – I would argue, not coincidentally – does something very well: it creates spaces that give the sense of a fundamental reality, despite (or perhaps because of) the jumbled array of pieces juxtaposed and mixed within.

It is a lovely place no matter how you look at it – although it does get rather crowded in the afternoon. I recommend the Garden Tour which is about plants in medieval times; apart from seeing the actual quaint little garden, the energetic guide imparts a wealth of information on everything from the language of flowers to what monks really cared about. Or something like that.

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