Saturday, March 27, 2010

Food Floor - KaDeWe in Berlin

Last weekend, the workaholic & I hopped a train & went to Berlin. The hotel we were staying at was not far from the zoo, and not far from the Kaufhaus des Westens - KaDeWe. This is one of the remaining department stores where you can really get anything your heart desires. We walked in next the the Tiffany's counter, which is a self-enclosed store, just like Omega & Mont Blanc. We didn't stop to look; it was lunchtime & we got in the next elevator, went to the 6th floor & found: food. An entire floor of International, but mainly European, food. After looking at the overfilled grill, we passed by the Paul Bocuse stand, and we finally settled on crepes. For me, the Parisienne, for the workaholic, the Marseille.

Mine had crawfish and mushrooms in a cream sauce, his had tuna and olives in a tomato sauce. A good crepe, but a crepe all the same. I wanted more. So we got our things & started to walk.

We passed by the cheese counter. I asked what the layout was. "Here we have goat cheese, these are organic cheeses, here's the Bavarian cheese, next to it the Austrian cheese, the Swiss cheese, down there" (and it was 4 meters away) "is the English cheese, around the corner, we have Italian cheeses, and next to those the Spanish ones. The French cheeses are at the counter over there." And the lady motioned to another island, larger than the one she was staffing. "If there's anything you need, please let me know," she concluded - words not often heard in the German language. We bought some Roncal, because I've been having difficulties getting it with my online supplier. Then we went to look at the French cheeses. I photographed the French butters, mainly because they have over 10 different kinds.

Then we noticed that they have a cheese bar. A little nook where shoppers can sit, have a glass of wine and savour cheese, while the rest of the store hums with movement.

There was also a very well stocked wine department, which had a cooler room instead of a cellar. That was where they stored the Rothschilds and other rarities. You need a salesperson with a key to enter. I bought a bottle that didn't need to be locked up. After looking around a bit, we found the fish department, right next to the packed oyster bar. We watched the fishmonger as he skillfully made fillets out of wild flounder.

As the fishmonger told the purchaser the price, the woman simply said, that's fine - I won't eat anything for the rest of the week. 150€/Kilo is a steep price for such a flat fish.

What surprised me was the fact that I could find Canadian lobster. I've been following the lobster market from afar this season, lamenting the fact that I couldn't come home for some crustaceans. But in KaDeWe, I found some. It was in a can though, so I couldn't go through with it. Not to mention the prices did not reflect the Canadian lobster market I'd been following. Yes, other people follow stocks, I follow lobster prices.

Afterwards, we found the ham section. There was a section for Italian ham, for ham from central Germany, ham from northern Germany, ham from southern Germany, and fair selection of pata negra ham from Spain. For those of you who don't know - I love my Spanish ham. See last years post as proof. I bought some 20 month old ham to go with my roncal and wine & almost made my way out of the store. One thing got in my way - the Veuve Clicquot stand, with the Grand Dame champagne that is normally never available by the glass. We stopped, shared a glass & took our treasures back to the fridge in the hotel.

Yes, there was a lot more to see in Berlin. We made it to some tourist attractions. But for me, this was on my list of "Things to do before I leave Germany". Going to KaDeWe is now off of my list. Going back to KaDeWe has replaced it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

La Grande Dame de Berlin

I spent last weekend in Berlin. Friday night, I packed a bag, set my alarm clock and got on the 6am train. Just in time for lunch in Berlin. After dropping off my bag, I set out to the Kaufhaus des Westens, also known as KaDeWe, also known as the best food floor in the world. Yes, it outdoes Harrod's. I'll post on that later. What I'm posting about today is the Veuve Clicquot stand.

There are stands for a few of the big champagne houses, Moet, Jacquard, and Veuve Clicquot. The Veuve stand had the most seating room and had the friendliest smile behind the counter. The workaholic and I went for Veuve, mainly because we never drink it. We had a glass of the regular champagne, as well as a glass of Grande Dame. I've never seen Grand Dame for sale by the glass before, maybe because it retails for over 100 Euros. This was our unique chance to try a glass of the 1998 vintage, and it did not disappoint.

After having the lovely lady with the smile explain to us what made this Grande Dame so special (very fine bubbles, notes of apricot and tobacco - yes, this is a good thing!) we tried a glass. Opened in front of us, poured so I could taste if it was corked, I was served a glass of very fine champagne. The Workaholic ordered a glass of the Brut as comparison.

Agreed, very fine bubbles. A beautiful brut: notes that a good chardonnay strives for and a wonderfully complex bouquet on the palate that made me savour every sip. The only problem is that I was under sensory overload with 1 glass. Maybe it's for the best because the stuff is rather expensive.

More on Berlin & KaDeWe later...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Memories of a Sandwich - Avocado

Years ago, I went to San Fransisco with my sister. I'm sure the photos are in a box somewhere and if I were to look at them, I'd see us in the Japanese Tea House, us at the pier, us in a cable car and then buying shoes. I can remember all of these things. I also remember the avocado sandwich. Some sandwich bar in a surfer town north of San Fransisco had avocado sandwiches on their chalk-board menu. We ordered them. I loved mine, my sister got sick, presumably from hers. Niether of us will forget those sandwiches - I because it was the first time I had heard of the clever idea of an avocado and a sandwich all in one. My sister won't forget it because she got sick & I constantly remind her of it. To this day, she seems fears avocadoes in bread.

Today, I'm working from home. The train line was shut down this morning due to a medical emergency. Although I was annoyed, I resisted the urge to scramble for an alternate route to work, which would have taken over 1 hour and resulted in me being fed up before I even look at my emails. Instead, I walked back home, told my boss & my coworkers where I was, and I knew that I'd finally get rid of the avocado on my counter.

Avocado Sandwich
2 slices of rich 4-grain bread
1/2 avocado, sliced
1 Tbsp tomato spread (bruschetta spread)
2 small tomatoes, sliced
4 slices of grilled eggplant
1 Tbsp feta
1/2 Tbsp mayonnaise

Mix mayonnaise and feta. Set aside. Spread bruschetta spread on 1 slice of bread. Place avocado slices on top. Layer eggplant on avocado. Place tomato slices on top. On the other slice of bread, spread the feta-mayonaise. Place lid on sandwich & slice.

This wasn't a Proust-like moment. The taste of this sandwich did not transport me back to Northern California. But it reminded me of my sister's Achilles heel and it made me laugh.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Daring Cooks - March - Risotto

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

It's been a busy month. I haven't posted, I've been at work instead. I'd rather be posting. Frankly, if I hadn't completed the challenge the day it was revealed, I would have never got around to it. I was in the process of making a chicken soup with leftover chicken scraps from my freezer and I saw that this month's challenge involved making your own stock for risotto. So I cheated a little. It's The Daring Kitchen. I haven't adhered 100% to the recipies to date, why start now? I had the start of Jaden Hair's pho on the stove, from a previous challenge. This stock can be used for risotto, no problems. The thing is, I'm not really into risotto at home. Many people view it as aperfect comfort food - it has carbs, is creamy and warm - but I prefer to make fake risottos. I use quinoa. So 2 cheats. 1, I didn't use the proper stock (but it was homemade) and 2) I used quinoa instead of rice. Nonetheless, I was happy. I managed to accomplish at least one post for the month.
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