baddieworld

Every day life, food & strangeness in a big city

Category: Baddie’s Berlin

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!

KA and elderflower lemonade

koing amann & elderflower lemonade

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.

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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Give Us Our Daily Bread…

Searching for something akin to the Belgian chain Le Pain Quotidien (which has promised to come to Berlin and hasn’t – waaaaaaah!) I stumbled across the information that the best bakery in Berlin is located in Ernst Reuter Platz, and is called (fittingly) Brot & Butter.

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We went there to check it out today for brunch and boy oh boy were our tummies grateful!

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It is part of an intriguing super-expensive but super-cool store called Manufactum, in which, we established, half of the products are made by some nuns in some monastery or other. Under the supervision of a monk, of course. (Oh, there’s no escaping the dastardly patriarchal rule!) They have everything that can delight, from pencil-sharpeners with a screw for adjustments and own leather etuis, to noodle-pressing benches. And we only visited the ground floor!

The bakery itself is next door, and is more of a Delicatessen shop, with cheese, preserves, liqueurs and the like, but they do offer some meals, like breakfast or light lunches. You can enjoy these (or not) on the communal, blond wood tables by perching on one of the high stools provided for this purpose. (Is there anyone else who hates high chairs as much as I do? Is there anyone who thinks they are not the most uncomfortable seating options in existence? Does everyone agree that every. single. high. stool. out. there should be destroyed with a big axe? Alrighty then. Go get ’em, tigers). The atmosphere is cosy though, with most customers belonging to the well-dressed, well-off but not too snobby category, and the service friendly enough, if a little slow and confused.

We had the “sweet breakfast” (sweet bun, butter, marmalade) and “small breakfast” (selection of bread, cheese, ham, butter and marmalade) and some seriously overpriced coffee. The food, however, is heavenly. There were three types of bread we tried, and they all impressed through taste, texture, freshness, and appearance. So much so that we ended buying some to bring home. Highly recommended.

Note: they are open Mondays to Saturdays only. There is also a bookstore next door, for spending some pleasant time book-browsing.

Bonus: you can also watch the cute young (male) bakers prepare the dough and everything. Ha!

Androgynous Angels

Not surprisingly, Berlin is taking major part in the European Month of Photography, with loads and loads of amazing events happening. Mr. B is passionate about photography, and knows about my own interest in transsexuality / androgyny, so he suggested we go see French artist Bettina Rheim’s Gender Studies exhibition.

Located in the beautiful area of Savignyplatz, with its old buildings, boutiques and artsy spaces, the Camera Work gallery can be reached through a passage way next to the majestic entrance of Kantstrasse 149. Finding our way to the back yard, passing by other visitors in the wintery dark, gave us the impression that we were discovering a well-kept secret, with only a few other people in the know.

It is certainly a secret worth knowing. Over fifteen years old, the gallery not only presents photo icons such as Man Ray, Horst P. Horst, Peter Lindbergh,  Diane Arbus and Helmut Newton, but also exhibits young, up-and-coming artists who are just starting their careers. (Incidentally, Camera Work AG boasts  one of the most comprehensive collections of photographs and photo books in the world.) The space is by no means extensive, but appears airy, and bright. The extra-tall ceiling and the loving way of exhibiting photos, allowing them enough distance between each other, definitely helps. The lighting is perfect, and the white walls frame 25 large portraits which form quite a breathtaking ensemble.

The exhibition’s focus is the topic of transgender, “people who evade the categorization of male and female”. Its posterboy is, literally and symbolically, supermodel Andrej Pejic, by now almost a household name.  Andrej P’s photo is exactly what you would expect: a captivating, perfect blonde sending a sultry look to the camera.  In a way, it sets the tone for the rest of the portraits – they are characterized by almost unbearable beauty, sometimes in a conventional sense, and sometimes less so. The people depicted are all relatively young, and mostly pose facing the camera, engaging through open and earnest gazes.

Not all is perfection though: tatoos, minor imperfections covered up with band-aids, or post-op scars, everything is inscribed in the skin. And yet from a place simultaneously inside and outside, beyond what is written on the body, comes a gentle, encompassing light. Dressed in be-ragged off-white linen, the subjects stare cleared-eyed and candidly, until confidence or shyness becomes irrelevant. From photo to photo, they take on a saintly, or angelic quality. Falling angels, perhaps, with hints of vulnerability in their exposure, their compulsion to still cover up, their chipped dark nail polish.

In a society where the normative and stereotypical classifications of gender still tend to prevail, Rheim’s artistic study, and work in general, is indescribably important. Whether the effect is challenging, electrifying or purely aesthetic, this is an exhibition worth seeing.

It is on until the 1st of December at Camera Work, Berlin.

 

Love Thy Neighbour…

Two days ago, around ten in the evening, our door bell – which incidentally is less silvery chimes and more high security prison buzzer sound – made itself heard. Giving Mr. Baddie and me the usual mini-heart attack.

It was the elderly neighbour across the hallway, accompanied by the elderly neighbour from upstairs. “Excuse me for the late hour” I overheard her gushing to Mr. Baddie. “But you see, I am leaving tomorrow – for a few weeks… and my friend will be away too… “(gesturing to second lady) “so could I ask you to pick up my mail and newspaper? Here’s the key to my postbox. Or do you need the whole set of keys? errr…. well. You can keep the newspaper. And read it. But not the letters. Errr…”

It went on like this for about ten minutes, during which I strained my  ears to hear what was going on. It didn’t help that the ladies kept interrupting each other and both had heavy Eastern European accents. Or the fact that the utterances that came out were progressively more and more bizzare (who would think it’s ok to keep your neighbour’s letters? WHO?)

The most remarkable element of all this was not that it just dawned on her to do this at what most would see as an inappropriate hour. It was that we don’t even know this person. We might have said hello once but that is mainly it. We might have received a DHL parcel for her once, and she one for us, but not quite certain of her name, to be honest. And all in all I am pretty sure we are the newest “guys on the block.” We only moved here eight months ago. During which time…

We were asked by next-door neighbours if they can come and see our flat. More or less the next day after we moved in. As in “Oh hi folks, we’re your neighbours, and we have a favour to ask. We know your flat’s really nice inside – can we come have a look? It’s to get inspiration – you know, we’re going to renovate ours.” So because we are both very polite, we had two complete strangers visiting, oohing and aahhing about: the floor; the ceiling; the walls; the bits between ceiling and walls; the bathroom; the bathroom mirrors; the curtain rails… need I go on? Then they left. Que a month and a half of very loud drilling. From 8am to 8pm.

One joyful Saturday morning, there was a break in the drilling. “Buzzzz” went our doorbell in the eerie silence, making us jump ten feet high. My turn to open the door. It was the French wife (half of the renovating couple). “Bonjour” she greeted. “Could I borrow zom matchstix?”I stared at her, thoughts rushing at 100 miles per hour. (Gauloise emergency? arsonist tendencies? breakfast fondue?)

“Hmmm nooo….” I reply, watching her carefully. “Oh, zut. Anything small and sticky-like though? My workmen need to prop something up.” “I can offer you some toothpicks…?” “Oui, merci. I will leave them outside your door when I am finished.” (the pack? the used ones?) I retreat as hastily as humanly possible.

Not long after, around 4am (yes, as in 4 in the morning, or as some of us like to think, still at night) as we were sleeping happily and soundly, there is an ungodly BUZZ. Followed by a BUUUUUZZZZ. A never-ending one, since someone was frantically pressing the poor button. I get up, bleary eyed, and not a little afraid. (what could it be? someone dying? dead? fire? flood? the bubonic plague?) BUUUUUUUZZZZZ!

“Oh hello” I sigh, clapping yes on the male half of the Bob the Builder duo. He is in a state of terror / anxiety / exhilaration. He breathes heavily, looks happily in my eyes, grabs my hands in his, sweats, apologizes, and starts on his explanation, all more or less at the same time. “I am sooooo sorry” he frets “so sorry to disturb you, but I need to get to the airport asap, and I can’t leave the building because the front door is locked” (as it sometime is) “and I don’t have that key on me, and could I please just borrow yours for a second so I can get out?” Aarrrggghh. WHY don’t you have the key? And WHY can’t you freaking think of anyone else to bother? And frankly WHY can’t you take the easy way and jump from your balcony? (I am not 100% evil, it’s just 1st floor, and there’s a platform in-between and stairs, so no biggie). Anyway. Gave him the keys, problem solved, never seen him since.

Now you have to understand, even though we haven’t the foggiest about these people – starting from names and continuing with… well, everything else – at least we had seen their faces before they thought to ask us for something. But this, as it turns out, is not a prerequisite for such encroaching favour-seeking behaviour. Oh no.

One sunny afternoon, as I was fixing myself a cuppa, what sound unpleasantly pulses its way into my auditory cortex? You guessed it. BUZZZZ. My peephole reveals a non-threatening looking and completely unknown to me teenage girl. “Hello” I greet her while opening the door. “Hi” she goes, unsmilingly. “Do you happen to have a mixer I can borrow?”

Silence. So many questions, so little point. As in: who are you? and what do you need it for? is there any household that can survive without one? what happened to yours? are you baking something secret – potentially poisonous? (did the Matchbox* Madame give my name as a safe contact? And are we ok with the Russian agents across the hall?) I stare for half a second, and then came to a decision. “No.”** I reply curtly. “Goodbye”. And close the door in her face.

There are limits, people. And that’s where I drew the line.***

*Matchbox 20 is one of my favourite bands, by the way. Just saying.

** Honestly, though, I don’t really have a mixer I can lend. For one thing, it’s a professional one, and insanely expensive, and would not let it out of my eyesight for anything. Never mind giving it to someone I had never seen before in my life. And 14. For another, it has an English plug, and one needs an adaptor.

*** That is, I drew the line. Mr. Baddie is currently getting the Russian lady’s newspapers and holding her envelopes against the light.

A Handmaid’s Tale Baddie-style

About what seems like aeons ago but must have been only 3 to 4 weeks, Mr. Baddie came home from football  in crutches. Turns out he had torn some ligaments in his right foot. I freaked out. And then I freaked out some more. And then we were told that he would not need a cast, or an operation, and it should get better in a month or two. So I turned down the freaking out dial a notch. But the reality of it was, if you have a torn ligament in your foot, there’s going to be pain. Lots of pain. And cursing. And clumsiness. And that was just me!

No, seriously now – there were better ways I wish we could have spent some time in summer. The first few weeks were particularly bad – because Mr. Baddie could only hobble around on crutches, and not go very far, so we spent a lot of time inside, me fetching like the proverbial labrador. Or Saint-Bernard? Anyway, the result of this confinement, coupled with the fact that I am on summer holidays, was that I began experimenting in the kitchen. I have so far made the following:

1. Rumpsteak with fresh rosemary and thyme butter, steamed green snap-peas seasoned with fleur-de-sel, and cherry-tomato in vinaigrette salad (own recipe, minimal work)

2. Iberico pork filet roast, in a sauce of cream and fresh chanterelle and parsley, accompanied by homemade Spanish croquettas filled with Serrano ham and Manchego cheese (very complicated, especially the croquettas, they need at least one day of advance preparation)

3. Homemade Churros with chocolate sauce. This was a midnight project during which both Mr. Baddie and I prepared the dough and then took turns coaxing the snake-shaped things out of a special device into the wok filled with hot oil. The whole activity bore an uncanny resemblance to the papanasi incident – with a prettier outcome. Very tasty.

a sweet dough, deep fried and served with icing sugar and chocolate sauce… heard it’s popular as a snack after clubbing in Spain – we had it at all hours 🙂

4. Homemade chicken schnitzel (mom’s recipe), with potatoes baked in the oven, sprinkled with olive oil, cumin seeds, freshly ground black pepper and sea salt (mom-in-law’s recipe); also, a puree / mousse of courgette hearts, fried with a drop of lemon; decorated with sprigs of sage and bits of lavender.

We have also purchased an electric grill for our balcony which has twice now proved itself to be an excellent investment. The yumminess of German sausages has been praised by better writers than I.

And last but not least we have ventured to the cinema (mostly by cab) to see Ice Age 4 (meh), Brave (yay), and The Dark Knight Rises (SUPER YAY).

where Mr. B and I go to the cinema. A LOT.

And, to end on a sweet note, we have also spent some happy moments in the absolutely amazing Gelateria of the Potsdamer Platz Arcades. They have the tastiest ice-cream ever, but here are some photos of other specialties:

including: a punchy espresso, a glass of water, melt-in-your mouth Italian pastry biscuits, a cold custard with orange flavour and creme brulee crusty top, and chocolate wrapped in blue foil

Warm dark chocolate cake with a liquid centre, creamy pistachio and vanilla icecream scoops, and lace-work of white chocolate – looking a bit like crowns 🙂