The New Convivialist

In the cava hills

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Ambling leisurely down the main drag of the Catalonian village nestled in the foothills of the Montserrat mountain range that we call home for the next week, we realized we were warm. Actually warm. This being our first day in Spain after a few months holed up in Berlin, enduring its notoriously gray winter months, this sensation was something of a revelation. Paul and I had walked out the door of our residence down the hill in the late morning, naturally preparing for the elements as we were accustomed to doing each day: by piling on as many sweaters as would fit under a long green wool jacket (in my case) or a short black polar fleece with Gore-tex overcoat (in his). The wrapping of scarves, pulling on of two pairs of gloves and final addition of sensible hats made us models of outdoor-preparedness in Germany. And in the late morning in this particular valley of a mountainous region, I can’t say I was unhappy with our sartorial decisions. We had, however neglected to take into account a key factor that exists in Spain that does not in Berlin: sunshine. More specifically, the strength of the sun. The strength of the sun when one is situated directly below it and on a mountainside. Elated at the sensation of heat via actual rays of sun, we simultaneously, without speaking, peeled off our hats and gloves, unbuttoned our coats and wished that, without daring to utter the words, we had sunglasses.

The village itself is small. Not many people appear on the streets on a weekday morning, though I imagine this changes in high season or on weekends when hikers and tourists en route to the Montserrat monastery seep into the area. Only a handful of stores, mostly practical, dot the calle principal. A tiny grocery store, a pharmacy, bookshop, simple restaurant and two or three convenience stores could barely provide a half hour of ‘shopping’. But we, happy to be in a new surrounding, browsed the tiny shelves of every convenience store with care, mostly in search of ‘jamón serrano’, but also for anything novel that we might be able to feast on, literally or visually.

About halfway through the walk downhill we peered into an empty, cave-like storefront. There were no doors to speak of, just a darkened interior, seemingly cut into the stone, the left side of which was lined with large stainless steel drums, each with spigots on the bottom. More enticing than the visuals of the space was the smell emanating from somewhere even deeper within the cavern: something dank and musty, sweet and bacterial, one that can be deemed neither a stench nor an aroma. These are the most enticing of all olfactory sensations that humans experience: those by which we are simultaneously repulsed and attracted. Like with a good, ripe camembert, we are a little horrified at how it smells, but unable to turn away, in fact, just the opposite: we want it in the ultimate way the nose’s desires can be satisfied. We want to ingest it. By the smell of this particular cave, it was obvious wine production was in process, but probably of a rather low quality, of dubious sanitary standards, or both.

As we tentatively entered the storefront chamber, unsure whether or not it was even open to the public, a petite woman emerged from another small room on the right side. Her jaw was slack (frozen?) and didn’t move as she spoke, making her already jumbled mixture of catalán and castellano even more difficult to understand. I asked if they had any cava available and she pointed us to two of the large vats – one labeled as 15 degrees and 2.10 per liter and the other as 13 degrees and 1.80 per liter. She asked if we wanted to try- why not? It’s almost noon. I responded , and she grabbed the first tiny glass she could find handy with her surprisingly large paw, and went to the back to rinse it out (to my relief). She poured us a small beaker of the first cava. Tiny sip. Not good, but drinkable. When it was apparent we weren’t quaffing it with delight, she took the beaker and filled it full with the next one, claiming it was softer and lighter. Read: even worse. As we choked nearer to the bottom of the glass, Paul noticed two small fruit flies inside. I laughed and showed the woman and she responded, grabbing the glass and throwing its fly-ridden backwash over her shoulder onto the floor: “No es nada- están en el grifo.”

Truly, I didn’t want to buy any of the subpar cava, but I felt obliged to do so, given that this wistful, lonely woman had gone out of her way for what may be her only two customers all morning. As I paused and pondered, she gave me a taste from yet another vat, this one a smaller barrel. “Vermouth,” she explained, “para martini.” Yes, it was deep brown and intriguing, a great deal better than the cava, but, still, I didn’t exactly have an itching desire for the liter and a half minimum quantity of vermouth. But, my rusty Spanish failing me, I acquiesced: vale, ok, I’ll take it. The woman happily filled up a 1.5-liter water bottle (after kindly emptying it of its previous contents- whatever they might have been) with the sweet vermouth and took my seven euros twenty-five. Upon leaving, she pitched me an array of colorful necklaces and pins displayed behind her cash register, explaining she had made them herself and if I wanted to come back and purchase a little something for myself, they would be there, waiting. At once charmed and guilty, I couldn’t possibly feel swindled for the unwanted vermouth after this pitiful offer. Blinking in the momentarily-forgotten sunlight, I emerged from the cave to Paul, who had long-since made a discreet exit from the shop, with a knowing look on his face: “so she got you, did she.”

 

 

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Flourless Chocolate Cake – an original recipe

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Happy Valentine’s Day. And all the more happy because the holiday doesn’t knock you over the side of your head here in Germany. But my skepticism towards this Hallmark Holiday doesn’t necessarily preclude partaking in Valentine’s-related things that I actually do like, such as cut flowers and flourless chocolate cake. Especially flourless chocolate cake.

We are usually under the presumption that such an endeavor as baking a flourless chocolate cake is a signifier of a special occasion. Yes, the rich, dense, deeply chocolatey cake or torte is one that impresses a guest or a lover, but it also need not be complicated to make. In fact, this particular flourless chocolate cake comes together so easily you don’t have to wait for the next 14th of February to make it. Why not the 18th of March? Or the 4th of August? Or tomorrow?

Now, this cake is not of the species of flourless chocolate ‘bomb’ that sort of crusts on top, the kind that can be gently tapped open with a spoon to reveal a chocolate lava flow. Those are great. But ours is different. I liken it more to a steamed, creamy texture, probably due to the inclusion of the coconut milk. The texture was unexpected ­-we just threw in the coconut milk because we had some leftover in the fridge- but nevertheless welcome and comforting.

It was both in an effort to save money and because we have both been under the weather for the past week that Paul and I stayed in last night. To be perfectly honest, though, as soon as the mere mention of baking a flourless chocolate cake appeared on the table at, oh, around 6 pm and my chocoholic boyfriend dashed out the door to pick up some chocolate reserves, you couldn’t have paid me to go out to the finest restaurant in town.  We even found an appropriate film to watch while eating our two slices of cake each (my god, to write that- are we already that much of an old married couple?) – Spinning Plates – a documentary featuring three very different restaurants in the US and the specific challenges they face. Fascinating, concise and highly recommended!

 

Recipe: Flourless chocolate cake with coconut milk

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200 grams dark chocolate, around 50% cacao content, chopped

125 grams butter, cut into small pieces

100 grams coconut milk

four eggs, separated

100 grams sugar (ideally raw sugar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

60 grams unsweetened cacao powder

 

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (350°F) and grease a 25 cm (10”) spring-form pan.

2. Place the chopped chocolate and butter in a double boiler and melt slightly over medium heat. When it’s about half melted, add the coconut milk and continue stirring until everything is smooth, but be careful not to overheat. Remove from heat. 

3. Meanwhile, separate the four eggs into two small bowls. This is where it comes in handy to have two preparing the cake together. One person can beat the egg whites, either by hand with a whisk or with an electric beater, until frothy and slightly stiff. The other can stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture, followed by beating in the egg yolks, one at a time, until completely incorporated.

4. If the bowl of your chocolate mixture has grown too small, transfer to a larger one. Slowly stir in the cacao powder until incorporated. Gently fold in the egg whites until incorporated. Pour batter into the prepared spring-form pan and set in the center rack of the oven. Check after 25 minutes by inserting a toothpick in the center. As soon as it comes out clean, remove from the oven (not overcooking is the key here!) and let cool on a rack.

5. When completely cool, remove from pan and serve, with some whipped cream if desired. The next day, the flavors and textures are even richer.

 

 

Ukrainian Varenyky

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Before we can even begin to discuss Ukrainian food, please follow this simple set of instructions: chill a tumbler and a bottle of vodka in the freezer until they are both opaque with frost. Remove and pour yourself, oh, about 20 cl (I do hope you’ve chosen a large enough glass). If you are a man, drink in one fluid swill. If you are a woman, you are permitted to sip, but not too leisurely.

Good. Now that the most important element of our mise en place is taken care of, let’s talk about Ukrainian dumplings. The process of making Pelmeni (meat-filled dumplings) and Varenyky (vegetarian dumplings) from scratch is admittedly a time-consuming one, but also fun and even meditative, so if you have time, I would recommend inviting few friends, chilling a larger bottle of vodka and whiling away a few hours over small rounds of dough.

This is just the way we did it in friends’ Theodora and Benjamin’s cozy kitchen a couple weeks ago. Both are excellent cooks, interested and skilled in an astonishing range of cuisines, but at my urging Theodora kindly demonstrated some classic dishes from her native Ukraine. During our lengthy dumpling preparation, Benjamin proved just as capable with quintessential Eastern European tastes, producing palatable appetizers of smoked trout toasts with cucumber dill salad and serving up perfectly spicy Bloody Marys, all while tending to a rich stock simmering steadily on the stove.

Theodora emigrated with her family from Ukraine to Germany in the early ‘90s. Though she describes her own parents’ cooking as eclectic, growing up she managed to learn the ways of the traditional cuisine on visits back to Ukraine with her grandmother, who would think nothing of spending a few hours in the kitchen making Varenyky from scratch. Compounding the difficulty of this feat was the fact that the inside of Gran’s house in rural Ukraine was without running water. Taking into consideration our contemporary habits of popping a pack of ravioli in a pot of boiling water, this indeed sounds challenging. But on a visit outside to the well to get some water, one also would encounter parsley or dill plants the size of small trees growing in the garden, alert and ready for picking.

In Berlin we are blessed with a great number of resources for Russian groceries, including one in particular that I’ve been meaning to visit for ages, a 24-hour supermarket in Charlottenburg. So, if you get a hankering for Varenyky at, say, 3 am on a Thursday morning, rest assured you can pick up a jar of preserved tomatoes like the kind we used as a side dish, or a package of pickled cabbage, which we fried with onions as the dumplings’ filling. Even still, Ukrainian dumplings can be made easily with very normal ingredients found just about anywhere in any season: flour, eggs, ground meat, root vegetables and, of course, dill. The combination of flavors like beets and dill will taste definitively Eastern European to most. When you recall how many different cuisines have a proprietary version of dumplings (I’ve already written about a bunch of them- for example, here and here), you realize that they represent a kind of lowest-common-denominator food. Roll out some dough thinly and fill with basically whatever you have lying or growing around. Close it up somehow (this usually depends on what the filling is and where you come from, but interestingly enough, I experienced the same style of dumpling closure for both Pelmeni and Chinese dumplings). Boil in a broth or water and serve hot with a simple sauce.

Call them what you will, but dumplings have that satisfying and simple constitution that makes them the go-to comfort food the world round.

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Recipe: Ukrainian Dumplings (Varenyky and Pelmeni)

Note about amount: you can scale these up if you want to serve lots of people or freeze leftovers, very handy given the lengthy process

For the dough:

2.5 cups all-purpose flour (plus a few more tablespoons as needed)

½ cup water (plus a few more tablespoons as needed)

1 egg

1 tsp salt

For the Pelmeni filling:

1 carrot, finely grated

1 onion, very finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely grated

approx. ¼ kilo ground beef

lots of salt and pepper

For the Pelmeni finishing:

butter

dill

For the Varenyky filling:

1 onion, finely chopped

1 package (500 grams) sauerkraut (‘kapusta’) or cabbage

For the Varenyky finishing:

1 onion, finely chopped

lardons or bits of bacon

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1. Make the dough: Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl, turn out onto a working surface and form into a mound. Make a hole in the center of the mound and crack the egg into it. As you begin to mix the dough together with your hands, gradually add the water. After a few minutes of mixing, it will come together. Knead for a few more minutes. You may need to add a bit more flour or water depending on how sticky or dry it is. You know it’s ready when it is smooth and elastic. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic and set aside to rest in the refrigerator (at least 20 minutes) until just before you roll it out.

2. Prepare the fillings: For the Pelmini, finely grate a carrot and two cloves of garlic (yes, Ukrainian cooking uses a lot of garlic and onion, but if you are drinking vodka, you shouldn’t have to worry about their effects). Finely dice one onion and mix together in a large bowl with the ground meat and lots of salt and pepper.

For the Varenyky: finely dice one onion. Warm one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet and sauté the onion until soft. Add the package of sauerkraut or the cabbage (we used a 500 gram package of a polish brand of ‘kapusta’) and continue to cook over medium heat for about five minutes.

3. Remove dough from refrigerator and divide into two pieces. Roll out the first piece very thinly on a clean surface dusted with flour. Using a biscuit cutter or the top edge of a wine glass, cut 2-3 in (5-7.5 cm) rounds in the dough. For a really fun way to roll out dough and stamp the rounds, take a look at the ladies’ preparation in this video about Ukrainians cooking in New York City.

4. Fill the round with a tablespoon or so (however much you can fit without it bursting open) of filling. If you are making Varenyky, fold the round of dough in half to create a half-circle, and pinch around the edges, using water if needed to make the edges stick to each other. When you reach the two ends of the circle’s radius, pull both sides of the dough down to meet each other and pinch to seal (see photos). If you are making Pelmeni, the beginning is the same. Form a half circle, but then, starting from the left bottom edge, pinch with your left thumb and fold the pinched dough forward slightly with your right fingers. Continue along the length of the edge, from right to left (see photos – I found this one trickier to master). Repeat with the other half of the dough and filling and set aside folded dumplings.

5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. If you have some handy, you can also use broth. We used half chicken stock and half water to cook our dumplings. Toss the dumplings into the boiling water and cook through until they float, and then a couple minutes longer- the meat-filled ones will take a few minutes longer than the vegetarian.  With a slotted spoon, remove the dumplings from the pot and place in a bowl or serving dish.

6. For the Pelmeni, sprinkle a couple tablespoons of butter over top, along with some fresh chopped dill as garnish. For the Varenyky, we sautéed a chopped onion and some lardons in a frying pan and then slicked it over the finished dumplings as a sauce.

To lighten the dish, serve with whole jarred tomatoes and a simple side salad of cooked and grated beets, with grated garlic, chopped dill, walnut oil and a squeeze of lemon.

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Looking Forward and Glancing Back: A Cocktail for the New Year

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Now that 2013 has faded away and with it all the requisite year-in-reviews for restaurants (here, here and here) and pop music (here), 2014 has taken the stage with lists of its own: Oscar-hopeful releases and politico-cultural predictions by just about anyone who thinks you’ll listen.

I myself will not make any recaps or predictions other than a libationary one: if 2013 was the year of the Manhattan (cocktail), then let 2014 be the year of the Big Apple.

The Big Apple is a little something I invented for the dark days of winter. It has the whisky and angostura punch of a Manhattan, but with an additional soothing element of hot-spiced apple juice. I do like a good Hot Toddy in the cold months, but sometimes I find it lackluster without loads of honey or sweetener. The Big Apple, on the other hand, won’t disappoint with its full and spicy flavors that match perfectly to bourbon whiskey.

Admittedly, I started drinking this cocktail before we rounded the corner into 2014. It was just too perfect for that period between Christmas and the New Year. While I think it is best suited as an after-dinner drink or nightcap, why not serve it up at a January brunch? It is mildly refreshing, given the apple juice, thus suited for heftier dishes like eggs, potatoes and bacon. It’s also easy to make for a group. Just slow-heat a big ol’ pot of apple juice and simmer with spices for as long as you like. Therefore your mix is ready-made– just add the alcohol and go. (A fair warning, though: during the day I think a couple of these would sufficiently knock you out until nightfall.)

Happy New Year!

Recipe: Big Apple hot cocktail

For the hot-spiced apple juice:

1 liter apple juice or apple cider*

2 cinnamon sticks

a large pinch of whole cloves

a slice of fresh ginger

-Simmer this mixture in a saucepan or pot over very low heat for at least 20 minutes, longer if you like, for a spicier flavor.

For the cocktail:

Hot-spiced apple juice

1.5 oz or 44 mL (1 shot) bourbon whisky

1 dash Angostura bitters

cinnamon stick

-Ladle some hot spiced apple juice into a small mug. Pour in the whisky and dash of Angostura bitters. Stir and serve with a cinnamon stick as garnish.

*If you are in the US, I would highly suggest using apple cider for this drink. In most countries in Europe, though, if you say apple cider, it means the alcoholic kind. The closest we have to what you want in Germany would be naturtrüber Apfelsaft, basically an unfiltered apple juice. Using this just adds to the overall spiciness and depth of the drink.

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Old School Christmas Cookies

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If there’s one time of year to get traditional in the kitchen, let this be it. Growing up, this meant pulling out the shoebox of ancient aluminum cookie cutters and rolling out batches upon batches of Ethel’s Sugar Cookies. There were years when my mother made up to five or six times the instructed batch size. Once my sisters became bored with the cookie production (usually after about 10 minutes), I would continue, maniacally rolling, cutting, and decorating for hours until the red and green toppings had dwindled to sugary dust.

The recipe for Ethel’s sugar cookies is from a Betty Crocker cookbook, called the ‘Cooky Book’. I think the odd spelling of the singular form of ‘Cookies’ is a testament to just how old that book is. Pages and pages are dedicated to Christmas cookies, and there are two recipes for the classic Christmas sugar cookie: our family’s standby, Ethel’s, and another called Mary’s. Once, as a child, I convinced my mother to try out the Mary’s, just for fun. They were fine, but did not come close to the perfectly simple vanilla sugar flavor of Ethel’s, which seemed only to get better into the first weeks of January.

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The recipe is incredibly easy. You’ll see that it calls for a mixture of ‘shortening’ or margarine, but please ignore this and go for all butter. That book was printed back in the day when people thought margarine was a health food. Another recommendation from years of making Ethel’s is to leave the dough to chill in the refrigerator overnight. It will seem very hard when you take it out to roll, but the chilling time is important to give the flavor a chance to develop and keep the dough from getting too sticky as you work with it.

This year we will be staying in Berlin for Christmas. I managed to whip up a double batch of Ethel’s last week to have plenty of sugar cookies on hand for our holiday party over the weekend. Some I decorated with colored sugar, others more maturely with tiny rose leaves or vanilla sugar with cardamom. Alas, I (inadvertently?) neglected to put them out on the buffet. Oooops. At least it ensures we’ll be eating Ethel’s into January, just as it should be.

Recipe: Ethel’s Sugar Cookies

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New York Impressions and Gift Guide for Food Lovers

I returned from my spontaneous Stateside trip earlier in the week with a bout of food-related illness that I attribute to an ill-timed visit to Veselka in Manhattan. Otherwise a wonderful last minute dip into authentic New-Yorkism with dear friends Ashley and Emy, perhaps a bowl of Ukranian Diner borscht was not the best choice two hours before boarding an intercontinental flight. Further details really not necessary. But suffice it to say that during the last days the only holiday dishes that have been on my wish list have been white rice and vegetable broth.

Before I foray into my New York holiday impressions, I will share with you some gift suggestions for the food-lover in your life, whether that be your great aunt, boss, sister, godson, best friend, brother-in-law or significant other. These are products from around the world that will not only impress during the holidays, but will also pay their rent all year round. I love food-related gifts: they’re unpretentious, (usually) won’t break the bank, and will never end up unused in the bottom drawer.

So, here goes:

riess-convivialstFor your sister, perhaps: Riess Cookware, edition Sara Wiener. This playful, yet sophisticated set of bakeware is designed by notable Austrian chef Sarah Wiener.

 

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For your great aunt, perhaps: spice grinder by Menu. Danish design that keeps it simple, featuring a ceramic mill, grippable silicone finish for finishing off the dish right.

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For your best friend, perhaps: Mast Brothers Cookbook. Best friends are always chocolate fiends, right? Or at least they should be if they are any best friend of mine. Try this new cookbook by Mast Brothers, Brooklyn-based chocolate manufacturer. The recipes run from savory to sweet to insane.

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For your boss, perhaps: Seagull Tiffin lunchbox. He or she loves cooking, so why not encourage the gift of homemade lunches for the New Year with this practical and plastic-free tiffin.

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For your little godson, perhaps: Sabadi Hot Chocolate Set. With these adorable and tasty hot chocolate sticks, you just need to add hot milk and stir. Fun for kids, and healthy, too, made from raw chocolate and local Sicilian herbs and spices.

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For your brother-in-law, perhaps: Four Grain Bourbon from Hudson Whiskey. This is the bottle I brought with me when I spent a summer alone in the Norwegian countryside. It’s that good. Your brother-in-law will think so too, neat or on the rocks.

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For your significant other, perhaps: notecard from Rifle Paper Co. My boyfriend and I never exchange Christmas gifts. Best possible from your significant other is a sweet note, on an equally sweet card.

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And…why not. For yourself, perhaps: Shirt Collar Apron by Aiste Nesterovaite. This Lithuanian designer makes the only apron I know that is neither folksy nor industrial. It is simply elegant, made from thick fabric, and with an air of formal attire. If you’re hosting a dinner party in 2014, this apron will outshine whichever outfit is underneath.

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Now that a few days have passed and I have a bit of perspective my recent trip, I can reflect on the whirlwind that is New York as a visitor. I lived in New York for about five years, with many longer visits over the last three, which makes eight years of intense relationship with that huge apple. Given the fact that my visits have become less frequent and I no longer have a real ‘home’ there, my perspective on the city has changed immensely. Naturally, living in a much smaller and tamer city like Berlin will make the contrast even more stark, but there are a few things in particular I noticed this time that I found to be a new degree of shocking, dreadful or delightful.

1. No other city smells as great as New York during the holiday season.

I was walking down the subway platform in a dingy Midtown station and was suddenly overwhelmed with a surprising smell. No, not of trash, armpits or rat urine (though that wouldn’t be all that surprising), but of balsam, pine tar and forest! The multitude of tree and wreath vendors throughout the city might take up precious sidewalk space, but the intoxicating aromas extend even down through the subway vents and underground.

2. That place is expensive.

I know you know. But, no, really: It. Is. So. Expensive. It was the first time ever since being in New York that I essentially ate all my meals out or on the go. Even being as thrifty as I am, with an occasional dumpster dive, it was shocking.

3. Since when did it become appropriate for a server at a restaurant to ask you to leave after an hour at dinner so that they could have the table for another party?

This one really gets me. I know, space is a premium in New York City, and that includes restaurants. Places are tiny and hype is rampant, making waits for a table border on intolerable. But in the very short time I was in the city, this push-and-shove happened to me THREE times. The most appalling was on a weeknight at a small, popular Brooklyn restaurant (apparently one of Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s faves, I later found out.) After my friends waited outside for more than an hour, we sat down at a table for four and placed our order reasonably quickly. Since the place is BYOB and the menu is small, this was relatively uncomplicated. We dined in two courses, the second being slower as we became more full. The server tried two or three times to remove an unfinished platter of shared food from the middle of the table. We stopped her at all instances, but finally she just said outright: “I’m really sorry, but I have to ask you guys to leave. We have a party of four that’s been waiting outside for an hour.” As if we hadn’t. It was later in the evening, and as I glanced around the dining room, I spied three tables for two lining the far side. Empty. It would have been tight, but had I been in her position, I would have pushed two together and made it work, rather than very rudely asking paying customers to leave their table after no more than an hour and a half. Not to mention the fact that I hadn’t seen my friends in over a year, and all we wanted was to sit in peace and talk. We were all so taken aback by the request that we just stared, slack-jawed, and complied, but on the subsequent walk back to the subway I deliberated the alternative ways we should have behaved.

4. Those Salvation Army Bell Ringers went out and got themselves some SASS!

If you come from the US, you’ve seen them on city street corners in December, ringing their bells, calling for your loose change to fight poverty. While charming, the fundraising routine of the Christian charitable organization has started in recent years to seem, well… tired. With so many other distractions, not to mention our space phones, we barely look up if something doesn’t REALLY call for our attention. Well, on the streets of New York, those Bell Ringers just got younger and got some serious moves. They are no longer just ringing bells, but also lip-synching pop songs, singing and dancing to wrestle our attention away from our mini screens. And it works!

5. Where has the middle class gone?!

I am exaggerating certainly, but more than ever before I noticed an extreme wealth discrepancy in the city. Perhaps it’s the holiday season that brings in the tourists, but I have never seen more people strutting along 5th Avenue with Bergdorf Goodman bags and, conversely, more people begging or helpless on the streets. The unbridled consumerism of December only reemphasizes the stark contrast of New York’s haves and have-nots.

6. Music is EVERYWHERE.

For better or worse, I’ve become used to silence. Silence while I sleep, silence on the train, and best of all, silence while I buy my groceries. I think it’s a quintessentially American thing to pump music at high decibel into every possible corner of commercial space. Case in point: while picking up a couple of snacks at a Manhattan Whole Foods, rather than checking out some new products that could potentially be tasty or fun, I suddenly felt like I was suffocating. I had an irresistible urge to run for the exits as fast as I could. Why? Ahhh, yes, the music, if that’s what they call the cheesy techno-pop that pounds throughout the gourmet emporium. What’s so bad about a little quiet while deciding between the Lacinato versus Siberian kale?

Whether or not you live in New York or have been to New York during the holiday season, I hope you can relate to some of these observations. Give thanks for those that you experience yourself. Or, better, those that you don’t have to experience!

 

 

Meatballs with Rosemary White Wine Sauce or Frankie’s Polpette

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This is a recipe I’ve wanted to share for a long time. It is about a meatball, but not the kind with tomato sauce or spaghetti or anything having to do with a slow-cooker. It is a somewhat more refined meatball, but still one that can be made en masse, lending itself easily to large events or holiday gatherings.

The preparation is Italian in origin, but with a little practice, you will find that you don’t need Nonna herself in the kitchen to make a stellar batch. For our monthly Dritte Mitte aperitivo, a heaping bowl of polpette has become a mainstay, one of a handful of dishes that feeds up to 100 people. The bite-sized meatballs satisfy, with a savory yet citrusy and herbaceous undertone. They also look impressive, but do not pose an enormous burden in the kitchen. One of our quintet, Frank, has mastered the art of polpette. Though he is no more versed in Italian cuisine than your average German guy, Frank has with practice become the primary responsible party for the preparation of the polpette each month.

A good ground meat is the first order of business– either all beef or, as is more common in Italy, a combination of beef and pork. Next comes a loaf of plain white sliced bread, with the crusts cut off, soaked in milk and hand-mixed into the meat. A few eggs, a good dose of grated parmesan and lots of salt (plus strong hands) is all it takes to finish the basic recipe. The balls should be rolled on the small size, so that they can be cooked through rather quickly, and tossed in a dish lightly dusted with flour. A frying pan is warmed to medium heat with a slick of olive oil, filled (not crammed!) with meatballs and fried to a light brown. Pour a glass or so of white wine into the pan (with practice you will know when), along with a sprig of rosemary. Let it all cook, the crisp flavors of the wine and the rosemary infusing the meatballs. Once the liquid has reduced, squeeze in a bit of lemon juice into the pan, stir, and turn out into a bowl. Repeat and repeat and repeat, depending on how many or how hungry the group is.

Since I think intentionality is always important when someone does something well, I asked Frank what he thinks about while he lovingly rolls his perfect balls of meat. He responded, not missing a beat, “I think about the fact that I’ve never eaten one.” You see, Frankie is gluten-intolerant, thus both the bread and the flour in the recipe unfortunately prohibit him from testing the results. That’s right, I thought. He’d never even tried them. After two years of rolling polpette every month, you would think that once, just once, he would succumb to meaty, citrusy temptation and stuff one into his mouth, in a moment of blind insanity. But no, never. Maybe it’s actually the mystery of the polpette, the unrequited anticipation of the taste, that makes Frank so excel at their preparation. When you can’t actually eat that thing you have taken so long to cook, the end result is abstracted, and no longer food, but something higher– art?

 

Frankie’s Polpette : Recipe

1.5 kilo ground meat, combination of beef and pork

4 eggs

one loaf of sliced white sandwich bread, crusts removed

milk, enough to soak the bread

100 grams parmesan, finely grated

4 teaspoons of salt, or to taste

a few large sprigs of rosemary

olive oil

approx. 1 bottle of white wine (just cheap table wine)

juice from two lemons

 

Process:

1. Soak the bread in a small bowl of milk until it softens. It may be easier to do this in stages so that it really soaks through, taking small stacks of bread and pouring the milk over them into the bowl.

2. Crumble bread between your fingers and begin to incorporate into the ground meat. Add the four eggs and mix everything with your hands.

3. Add the grated parmesan and then the salt (don’t be shy with the salt), mixing well so that everything is evenly combined.

4. Roll the raw meat mixture into small balls in your palms (bite-sized). Place balls into a lightly-floured dish and toss to coat. Set aside prepared meat balls.

5. Heat a frying pan to medium and add a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Fry together as many meatballs as the pan can hold, without crowding them. Shake or stir gently with a spoon until the meatballs are lightly, evenly browned and almost cooked through.

6. Add a cup or so of the white wine, as well as one large sprig of rosemary (whole). Shake the pan occasionally and cook until the wine has reduced and the sauce appears to have thickened.

7. Squeeze some lemon juice into the pan, stir and pour out into a large serving bowl.

8. Wipe out the pan and repeat the cooking process with the rest of the raw meatballs.

italian meatballs recipe

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Autumn Means Apples and a Recipe for Tarte Tatin

apple picking berlin

Autumn means apples. More specifically, apple picking. At least where I come from. Though, unfortunately, not where I currently reside.

After what felt like days spent in futile research for locales in the Berlin area suited for selber pflucken, I managed to find a small farm where one is allowed to roam the orchard, chomping and picking away through rows of Boskoop and Elstar. I only truly realized how typically American apple picking as an autumn activity is after noticing that there were more English speakers than German at this small orchard about an hour and a half outside of Berlin.

Now, many of you from the Northeast of the United States are familiar with that wholesome tradition of bounding out into the wild countryside on a sunny October weekend, in search of the kind of apples you just don’t find in the supermarket. You want not only to pick the apples yourself, but also to be guided out into the orchard by a friendly, suntanned farmer (ideally in the back of a hay-filled pickup truck or similarly-decorated vehicle) and given a hand-hewn wooden crook with netted basket on the end, to pluck the best trappings at the top of the tree. The apple trees should be large enough to climb, their branches dripping with red or golden-colored fruits. While onsite, you should eat apples from as many different branches as you possibly can without paying for them. If that means taking one bite, and throwing it aside, so be it. That’s the glory of apple picking. Because if you don’t eat it, its fate will be on the ground, in apple mushdom.

But the process of actually picking the apples is only the start, and, dare I say, a minor part of the experience. I have already mentioned farmer- driven hay rides. But let us not forget a stop by the cider house, to watch the rotten apples being churned to delicious cider (it’s not just for kids!) right before your very eyes. Buy a few bottles to bring home (you’ve rented that expensive car, after all – better fill it), and drink one on site, to wash down the two or three apple cider donuts that you will inevitably purchase and immediately consume. But, please, do me a favor and skip the fudge counter in the gift shop. You really don’t need all that white sugar after eating three apple cider donuts on top of countless apples back in the fields. You will only regret it later when the sugar crash hits during the car ride home.

Kitsch? Yes, maybe a little. The lowest on the totem pole of apple picking locales are simply over-priced traps for wide-eyed city folk wanting a day out in the fresh air. The best of them, typically lying far outside the reaches of the New York or Boston metropolises, are colorful, unpretentious hillside orchards marked only with a ‘U-PICK’ sign. A pile of half-broken baskets, a big scale, and maybe a couple of ladies selling fresh donuts and apple cider from the leftover harvest is really all it takes by way of ‘customer experience’. If the focus is on the farm itself, and caring for the apple trees, the decision to allow the public to come and self-pick being an option, the rest should follow naturally.

Long story short, I didn’t need the Disneyland of Apple Picking to satisfy my longing for a New England fall day. I won’t say that what we found was disappointing, but a bit lackluster when compared to what I know apple picking to be in my past. Nevertheless, we came home with a stash that’s still hanging around, with varieties I have never tasted before, from tiny plum-sized sour apples to huge and sweet crunchy ones.

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I have already written about my own (and – if I may say so – superior) apple pie. But this pie is currently being challenged by its French stepsister, the Tarte Tatin. My friend Benoit, with a fine reputation for down-home French cooking  (see previous canelé post), baked a classic Tarte Tatin to contend with my American-style apple pie. I’m not kidding; there was actually a well-attended competition. Complete with secret ballots. While the vote was close, I won’t say who the victor was, but only that I have secured his simple, mouth-watering recipe to share with you all here.

 

Benoit’s Tarte Tatin

Recipe

 

For the tarte dough:

-1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

-1/2 tsp salt

-1/2 tbsp. sugar

-125 grams (one stick US, or 8 Tbsp) chilled butter, in small cubes

-ice water

For the apple part:

-6 medium sized apples, peeled, cored and cut into quarters

-a pinch of cinnamon

-6 Tbsp (approx. 95 grams) butter

-1 cup (approx. 200 grams) sugar

 

1. Preheat the oven to around 200° C (almost 400° F)

2. Begin by preparing the tarte dough. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and cut in the small cubes of butter with a pastry cutter or two knives. When the butter is pretty well incorporated (crumbly feeling), drizzle some of the ice water, little by little and mix dough with hands. Add enough until dough just comes together without being wet or sticky. If too dry and crumbly, add a little more water. Shape into a flattened disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

3. Prepare the apples: peel, cut into quarters and remove seeds as needed. If you like, you can sprinkle with a splash of lemon juice so that they do not brown.

4. Prepare the caramel. Add the butter to an oven-proof skillet and melt. (Note that an oven-proof skillet is the ideal pan to use for Tarte Tatin. I don’t have one, so I simply used a medium sauce pan for the caramel and apple layer, pouring it out into a parchment-lined spring-form pan for the baking part. Though this is not the true Tarte Tatin way, it worked fine and the cake was still pretty when flipped.) Once butter is melted, stir in the sugar with a wooden spoon. Cook until the syrup bubbles and caramelizes, and turns a chestnut brown color, stirring occasionally. Benoit reminds to be sure it doesn’t darken too much or it will impart a bitter flavor to the end result. Remove from heat.

5. Arrange apple pieces in a layer over the caramel (largest on the bottom). Arrange the remaining pieces over the top. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Return the skillet to the burner at medium high heat and cook for about 15 minutes, covering after the first five. Every few minutes press down on the apples and baste them with the juices. When the juices are thick and syrupy, remove the pan from the heat. You will probably start to smell the caramelization of the apples here.

6. On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a circle, approx. 5-mm (3/16-inch) thick and 2.5-cm (1-inch) larger than the top of the pan. Lower the dough over the apples in the skillet, pressing the edge of the dough between the apples and the inside of the pan. Cut 4 small steam holes on the top of the dough.

7. Bake the Tarte Tatin for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden, with crispy caramel pieces bubbling up from under the edges. Take it out of the oven and let cool for 10 or 15 minutes, just long enough so that you can handle it. To make it look like a Tarte Tatin you need to turn it out onto a plate, so that the apple layer is on top.

8. Put tarte aside for a few minutes to let the caramel seep down and cool off a bit more. Serve with a spoonful of crème fraîche or ice cream.

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psssss: if you made it this far, I will share with you the results of the apple pie vs. tarte tatin competition…. apple pie by ONE VOTE! oh, YES.

Pad Thai: Recipe for the Original Street Food

tofu pad thai recipe

Having never travelled to Thailand myself, what little experience I have had with Thai cuisine has been stir-fry dishes from your average, “westerned-down” restaurant. No doubt there are some excellent ones out there: one of my favorites from my New York years is Sripraphai, a renowned Thai eatery hidden away in Woodside, Queens. But in Germany my usual experience is that even among decent quality Asian restaurants, there is a frustrating lack of spice and surprising flavors, a dumbing-down to palates that are accustomed to blander foods. Though there are a couple of great Vietnamese restaurants and one or two Korean places that are passable, authentic Thai restaurants in Berlin remain elusive.

This is precisely why I had been trying to find an excuse to visit the Thai Food Market in Wilmersdorf ever since I heard whispers of it through various food-loving friends. Admittedly it’s no big secret, having appeared on countless ‘insider guides’ and blogs to Berlin food and culture. That said, it always felt a bit off my own worn and beaten weekend path of Mitte-Kreuzberg-Prenzlauer Berg’s ternion. The excuse came the last two weekends in a row: the unmistakable dread of winter setting in, what feels like just a few weeks too early. There’s something special about the fleeting days of autumn, when the only really pleasant times to be outside are the sunny hours of high noon. It becomes that impetus that pushes you out of laziness or routine, in an effort to gulp down a few last outdoor adventures before winter conquers indefinitely.

I was surprised by how low-key the Thai Food Market was. I knew it was outdoors, but had expected something a bit more established, similar to how food trucks operate in Los Angeles, perhaps. When I arrived in the small, but quite green Preußenpark, however, if I hadn’t known to look out for the group of Thai vendors, I might have mistaken the ‘market’ for a series of private picnics. Because basically it is just that: the Thai ladies actually began selling their savory and sweet dishes as a result of interest in homespun picnics that would take place with their friends and family every weekend in Preußenpark. Each ‘stand’ is merely a series of colorful tarps, umbrellas, tupperware, hot plates and pots spread out to a varying degree, with two or three seated ladies gently hawking their wares to passer-bys. Which brings me to my nagging question of how these vendors actually slip by the health regulators!? Don’t get me wrong, I found the operations all to be exceedingly sanitary and overall clean-looking. Kind of like being in your grandmother’s house. If your grandmother had a habit of schlepping her entire kitchen to the park every weekend and cooking for you cross-legged on the ground. Regardless, I would guess that half of the restaurant kitchens or cafes in Berlin are not nearly up to snuff with the cleanliness standards of these women cooking on tarps spread out over the grass.

thai market berlin

My favorite stand was that of an older Thai lady, tiny and weather-worn, with a sizable line in front of her impressive spread. Sitting on her tarp with socked feet, surrounded by tubs and containers of fresh ingredients and bottles of sauces, it became apparent that she was making something to order. This was in contrast to most of the vendors who tend to have large pots of stir-fry already made or fried dumplings churning consistently out of a magical cast iron cooker powered by god-knows-what. The Little Thai Lady didn’t need to hawk. She was queen of her kingdom, taking in orders, single pan in hand, calm and focused, despite the ever-growing line in front of her. She was making Pad Thai, with either chicken or tofu, fresh per single order.

I had the opportunity to watch her in action during the course of a few rounds, as I waited to order my own dish. It was astonishing to observe how easily the Pad Thai came together when all the ingredients were ready and prepared, sitting in tubs waiting to be tossed in. A good dose of oil into the frying pan, and crack! a whole large egg straight on top. Let it sit, no need to be fussy. Pivot over to the enormous vat of cooked rice noodles, grab a handful or two on a plastic plate, reserve for later. Pivot back to hot plate. Break up the egg slightly, not quite a scramble. Grab handful of bean sprouts, another of green onions. Throw ‘em in. Noodles, yes, toss those in now too. Squirt, squirt: lots of lime juice. Now some tofu or chicken, pieces pre-cooked. To the left is a large vat of thick, brown sauce- pour two ladles over the noodles. Stir again, more furiously this time. Maybe another squirt of lime. Stir stir stir. Scrape out onto plastic plate. Top with more green onions, plus a slice of fresh lime and some cilantro leaves. Finally a couple good spoonfuls of finely ground peanut. Done. Repeat. And, mind you, all while never leaving a seated position.

Since Pad Thai is a classic street food in Thailand, I think the unfussy way Little Thai Lady cooks her version is probably pretty close to authentic. It was certainly delicious, with the perfect ratio of savor to sweet, plus a good dose of sour from the plentiful lime juice. And at five euros for a heaping plate, you can’t really go wrong. As we happily ate on the grass behind her ‘kitchen’, we continued to watch her frying away, guessing at how much profit she makes in a day. Probably not much, we gathered. Even with a steady stream of patrons, her preparation time must be significant. Although she had two able-bodied young grandsons on the side, to whom she would occasionally beckon for reserve green onions, they for the most part just lounged on a blanket, playing with their space phones.

Little Thai Lady was a true force. She was out there cooking in the elements – sure, to make a living – but also, I think, out of passion for her food and her culture. She does what she does well, and with care. What I saw was not a woman at work but an act of generosity, of bringing real Thai spice to some unsuspecting Berliners.

thai food market berlin wilmersdorf

After observation, I attempted to re-create Little Thai Lady’s tofu Pad Thai. It is my own humble recipe, but do give it a try. Feedback welcome!

 

Pad Thai with Tofu

For two large servings

-Pad thai rice noodles (Banh Pho)

-3 Tbsp. neutral oil

-1 package firm tofu

-1 cup roasted peanuts, crushed

-2 eggs

-2 small shallots

-2 big handfuls of bean sprouts

-1 bunch of Chinese chives, cut into 2-inch lengths

-Juice from 1-2 limes, plus extra wedges for garnish

-Fresh cilantro leaves

For Sauce:

-1 Tbsp tamarind paste

-1 1/2 tsp. fish sauce

-1 Tbsp. soy sauce

-3 tsp. brown sugar

-1 tsp. rice vinegar

-1-2 Tbsp Sriracha sauce (to taste)

-2 Tbsp. water

-1/2 tsp. chili powder (to taste)

1. Prepare tofu: I like to slice the block into three pieces, widthwise, and squeeze out water by leaving for 20 minutes or so between layers of paper towels, a plate on top to weigh it down. Remove paper towels and dice into bite-size pieces. Heat non-stick pan or wok to medium. Thinly slice one shallot and fry in a Tbsp. of neutral oil. When soft, add another Tbsp of oil and the tofu pieces and fry until golden. When about half-way cooked, you can sprinkle in some soy sauce if you want an extra flavor kick. Set aside over paper towels to drain oil.

2. Prepare sauce: in a small saucepan on very low heat, combine all ingredients and whisk together. Taste and adjust spice as desired. Remove from heat and let cool- it will become thicker as it cools.

3. Cook noodles according to package directions, immediately rinsing with cold water. Drain and cool in a colander.

4. Chop Chinese chives and slice the thicker white part in half lengthwise. Separate the very green ends from the lighter green/white parts. You will use these as garnish later. Wash bean sprouts and set aside. Squeeze the juice from 1-2 limes and set aside in a small bowl.

5. Now you are ready to put together the stir-fry. Depending on the size of your frying pan, you will need to decide whether to cook one serving at a time or two at once. While Little Thai Lady first cracked the egg into the oiled pan, I chose to pre-cook first a sliced shallot in the remaining 1 Tbsp of oil, and then the Chinese chives and sprouts.

6. After a minute or two, push vegetables to one side of the pan and crack the egg(s) into the other. Let sit for about 30 seconds and then break up with a spatula or wooden fork, incorporating into the vegetables. Add tofu, one spoonful of the Pad Thai sauce, and stir again. Grab rice noodles, by the handful, and toss into the pan. Add lime juice and stir together a little bit. Pour in Pad Thai sauce and stir well with spatula and wooden fork, until everything is incorporated.

7. Turn Pad Thai out onto plate(s). Top with reserved green parts of Chinese chives, a few cilantro leaves and a wedge of lime. Spoon two heaping tablespoons of crushed peanuts over top. Serve with fork and spoon.

tofu pad thai recipe

 

 

thai lady in wilmersdorf food market

convivialist food blog

tofu pad thai

The Highs and Lows of Smørrebrød


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Some recent work trips have kept me away from writing, but, luckily, not from eating. When the purpose of a trip is not pleasure, often times the dining side gets thrown by the wayside in the name of expediency and convenience. It’s kind of like a road trip. While it sounds really easy from the outset to pack balanced, tupperwared meals and canteens of green tea, how often have you found yourself at the gas station convenience store with a big bag of salt and vinegar chips and a black, tar-like coffee? My last year’s worth of work-related trips, despite some European food capitals appearing on the roster, included dining experiences as varied as reheated pizza from a 7-11 in Stockholm, three days of subsisting purely on bread and cheese in Paris and overpriced fair food in Milan that might just pass as Italian in, say, Tenaha, TX.

Yes, yes, poor me, you must think. And you’re right; it’s not as bad as it sounds. As much as paying to eat bad food infuriates me, I admit that among these experiences, I have managed to eat some very nice things. The key is to know that a little bit of research goes a long way. Take Copenhagen, where I had the chance to visit for a design festival during the end of August. If you’ve heard anything about Copenhagen and food, it’s probably been something to the effect of “oooh, NOMA is there!” or “it’s soooo expensive!”. And both are precisely correct. With NOMA being the top-rated restaurant in the world two years running, and Denmark enjoying a boom of ‘New Nordic’ cuisine standards that draw chefs from around the world, Copenhagen is certainly the IT place for food lovers. Since Copenhagen really does live up to the ‘it’s soooo expensive’ reputation, I knew I couldn’t afford to truly partake and deem the hype justified or not.

Which brings me to Tip Number One for dining out of town: Google. Believe it or not, this ubiquitous search engine holds the key to all the ‘best of’ lists for just about any city around the world. Do yourself a favor: the day before you leave (or on your smart phone at your home airport, to avoid roaming fees) run a quick google search for the best restaurants, cafes, to-go and coffee shops of your destination. Avoid big, corporate-created lists like Trip Advisor or Fodors. Instead, focus in on a newspaper or magazine that you like and trust and see what they have to say. Or, find a local’s guide- a bit of digging will provide loads of rouge travel and food writers that are sure to share your own (good) taste. Note down a few spots that look good, and are near to where you will be staying. Paper and pen also work beautifully here. You never know when that smart phone will die or decide not to connect to foreign networks.

Tip Number Two: locate a nearby supermarket. True, not so seductive while travelling, but useful to cost-save and pick up a few staples that are a hassle to eat while on-the-go. Take Copenhagen, for instance. Upon emerging from the Metro and before arriving at my AirBnB, I spied just across the street a supermarket. I decided to pop in for five minutes and pick up some cheese, crackers, fruit and yogurt, which would prove later to be immensely appreciated as a late evening snack and for breakfast the next morning. I’ve always thought it’s even fun to browse grocery stores in new cities. You get a sense of what the locals actually eat, how differently their packaging looks and the real price of food staples as compared to restaurants and to-go establishments.

Tip Number Three: Instead of a hotel opt for a private apartment stay, AirBnB, etc. This is essential for getting an insider’s view into a city and for saving money on food. Nearly every AirBnB place, whether a private apartment or a shared one, will have a kitchen, giving you at least the option to cook and store food there. Even if you never do, just having the ability to boil your own water in the morning for tea makes you feel at home. Plus, any good AirBnB owner will provide you with a list of their favorite neighborhood locales, a kind of mini-guide to their city.

This is exactly how I came upon Aamanns Etablissement, where I lunched on Danish Smørrebrød one afternoon. Even before arriving in Copenhagen, I knew of the Smørrebrød, or open-faced sandwich, tradition as a mid-day staple all over Denmark. I thought little of it, however, as the similar custom I experienced while in Norway a few summers ago was actually pretty dull: a slice of bread with butter and a couple pieces of cheese, or maybe some canned fish. Fine, but it got boring fast. What I experienced in Denmark, however, was a whole new level of Smørrebrød. Granted, as a Michelin-recommended restaurant, Aamanns being my virgin Danish Smørrebrød experience perhaps biased my opinion of the dish.

The tradition of Smørrebrød began in the late 1800s, popularized as a basic meal for the working-class. It also proved to be something that worked all year round; with a thin slice of hearty sourdough rye bread as its base, a layer of butter, a slice of cured meat and some pickled vegetables, the ingredients could be obtained throughout the long Danish winters. Aamanns had the goal, with its casual deli and corresponding restaurant, Aamanns Etablissement, to offer a contemporary take on the traditional Smørrebrød experience. Focusing on locally-sourced ingredients, Aamanns takes the open-faced sandwich to a truly gourmet level with its perfect flavor and texture compliments.

We tried the dish of three seasonal herrings, which included: fried herring in wheat beer, fresh herring cured with mustard seeds and dill, and 
marinated herring with dill and Västerbotten cheese. Here one can sense, in a single sampler dish, the range that is possible with herring prepared and topped in three different ways, and offered a micro-glimpse into the Danish palate. This was followed with Smørrebrød topped with slices of potatoes, crumbled bacon, hazelnuts, cress, ramsons capers, and 
radish/chive mayonnaise. The cress was tiny and delicate, the mini-capers as well, and the bacon and hazelnuts provided the perfect crisp texture in contrast to the potatoes and mayonnaise. While this delicate meal did not come cheap, following my Tip Number Two of grocery shopping and eating in while travelling helps to compensate for a nice meal out. I also felt justified in the small splurge when, the next day at an opening, I was surprised and utterly delighted by a free buffet of Smørrebrød catered by none other than Aamanns. There, I ate even more inspiring and fishy varieties of open-faced sandwiches to my heart’s content. Washed down by free champagne, it was a version of ‘bread and butter’ that the working class of 19th century Copenhagen could not have imagined. Is it my catholic upbringing telling me that frugality somehow pays off in the end?

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The fabulous thing about Smørrebrød is that you can go as basic or as fancy as you want. While not everyone wants to spend their afternoon frying herring in wheat beer and gathering micro-capers from the fields, it’s pretty simple to keep a hearty loaf of sourdough rye bread on hand (sliced thinly!), some good quality butter, a bit of cured meat or cheese, and some pickled beets. Likewise, some leftover boiled potatoes can be cut up and topped with mayonnaise combined with chopped fresh herbs, whichever you have lying around. Or, if you happen to be located in New York City, you will be happy to learn that in 2012 Aamanns opened a Manhattan outpost, where you can sample all these Danish delicacies with American dollars on the other side of the Atlantic.

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lunch at aamanns copenhagen