Saturday, October 3, 2009

Deutschland Über Alles (in die Küche)

One of the most compelling reasons I travel is to experience food of other countries, in those countries. Sure, the increasing globalization of our society has made it possible to dine on cuisines from nearly every geographic region of the world, if not down the street, then across town, in nearly every major city in America.

Nevertheless, there's nothing like the local cuisine in that locale.

As an example of that postulate, I give you...Berlin. A city of broadly cosmopolitan cuisine -- döner kebab here, Currywurst there, Jewish cuisine (yes!) and loads of Asian outlets -- still, the most compelling menus in that amazing city are the quintessential German offerings.

Herewith is a sampling of the finest.

First, as illustrated above: the roast chicken at Henne. This old school Wirtshaus/Biergarten is located where once the Berlin Wall carved its political scar through the city. Kennedy was invited to dine here on his famous visit, but had to decline. His letter of regret occupies a place of honor above the bar. The place serves a variety of German cuisine, but those in the know order only the chicken (Henne) with a side of gorgeously runny cold potato salad, spiked with pickle. As you can see, it's a crispy gift from the gods best enjoyed with a cold Schultheiß beer.

Next up, the pig's trotter; known as Berliner Eisbein. Invariably served with Sauerkraut and Kartoffelsalat (potato salad) and a generous slug of hot mustard. This pink divinity is one of the hog's richest gifts, full of flavor given its fat content and moist on account of the same. The best I've had in Berlin is at the tradition-soaked Mutter Hoppe restaurant, in the faux ancienne Nikolaiviertel. As you can see here, it's hard not to go completely piranha on the meat-laden bone!

After all this meaty wonder, one must have dessert. And the ultimate Berliner sweet is the Kaiserschmarrn, or, in English, Emperor's mishmash (gotta love that translation!).

As our friends at Wikipedia state: "Kaiserschmarrn is a light, caramelized pancake made from a sweet batter with flour, eggs, sugar, salt and milk, baked in butter. Kaiserschmarrn can be prepared in different ways. The batter has more than the usual number of eggs. When making Kaiserschmarrn the eggwhites usually are separated from the yolk and beaten until stiff, then the flour, the yolks mixed with sugar and the other ingredients are added, including nuts, cherries, plums, apple jam or small pieces of apple, or caramelized raisins and chopped almonds. The pancake is split into pieces while frying, shredded after preparation and usually sprinkled with powdered sugar, served hot with apple or plum sauce or various fruit compotes, including plum, lingonberry, strawberry or apple."

This lovely example is from the estimable -- and quite gourmand -- Lutter & Wegner chain of Austrian restaurants in several locations around the city.

After a few days of this food, I promise that you, too, will want to shout to the world: "Ich bin ein Berliner!"


  1. Jake lived in Germany for awhile and still to this day speaks wistfully of the meats, breads and sauerkraut. You can find places that come really really close, but I think sometimes you just can't top food from its own hometown.

  2. Sweet. I will be in Berlin in a fortnight. Thanks for the info T.