Month: May 2015

Schloss Charlottenburg

The Charlottenburg Palace is in the West end of Berlin and has an expansive garden/park area. We decided to enjoy a picnic here on this warm, sunny Sunday.

Unbeknownst to us, we were picnicking in an area of the park where we shouldn’t have been. However, an exceedingly polite groundskeeper informed us of that fact and let us know we could move to the designated picnic area.

He had his work cut out for him; there were dozens of people doing exactly what we were doing but he was easygoing and happy to let us know that we were welcome to stay as long as we moved.   He was so nice that I was rather happy to have been informed of our infraction by him.

#schlosscharlottenburg

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Allergies be damned

How could you not pause to take a picture of this?

Currywurst: Zur Bratpfanne

Location

The Zur Bratpfanne Imbiss is located in the busy shopping district of Schloss Strasse in Steglitz. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk from our apartment. The couple of times we’ve walked by it has always been busy.

What Did We Have?

We both got currywurst with casing  at 1.80 euro a piece and an order of fries with mayo. Small fries are 1.50 euro and medium fries are 2.00 euro. Mayo is 0.30 euro extra.

Amanda’s Review

When it comes to currywurst I look to the sauce first. I like it a touch sweet and not too thick. I like it to blend well with the mayo when I dip my fries, and to allow the taste of the sausage to pop through just a touch.

I did not like the sauce at Zur Bratpfanne.

I thought it was too viscous and not quite sweet enough. It was definitely too thick for my liking. My mayo wouldn’t swirl with it at all! It had a consistency like marinara – something I believe is negative, but Chris saw as a plus.

The sausage itself was fantastic, though. Not too dense with a nice snap to the casing and a good grilled taste that I could pick up even through the dreadful sauce. It was good enough to improve my overall rating from a 2 to a 3.

Overall rating: Currywurst: 3 out of 5 | Fries: 4 out of 5

Chris’s Review

Amanda’s negativity was the direct opposite of my reaction. Unlike other currywurst I’ve had before, the sauce here was thick and savory and complemented the curry powder well.

We both agreed that the sauce was more like a hearty marinara spiked with curry powder; but, unlike Amanda, I felt like that was a plus.

The sausage was of the highest quality, perfect consistency, perfectly grilled with a nice snappy casing. I think I  would be hard pressed to find a better quality sausage (currywurst or otherwise) in any other imbiss in Berlin. The next time we go, Amanda will be having the plain grilled bratwusrt while I enjoy one of my, so far, favorite currywursts.

The fries were well cooked (double fried as they should be) but were just slightly tough on the outside.

Overall rating: Currywurst: 4 out of 5 | Fries 3.5 out of 5

Waiting in line for #currywurst. #zurbratpfanne #steglitz

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Currywurst Introduction

Currywurst is a Berlin invention that is now popular throughout Germany. Simply put, it’s a fried pork sausage that’s been sliced and slathered in a ketchup-like sauce and topped with something called curry powder. The “curry” in currywurst has little relationship with traditional Indian curry. The curry powder used here usually has paprika as a main ingredient and isn’t as hot (the German palate in general is pretty mild).

When ordering currywurst you can ask for it mit darm or ohne darm (with sausage casing or without) and the traditional sides are brot oder pommes (bread or fries).  I like mine with skin and with fries and mayo. You can also request for it to be spicy but I usually don’t ask for it this way as I like to see what a place’s baseline sauce is like.

Currywurst is traditionally found in the hundreds of Imbisse (snack stands) around the city. The variations of the sauce are endless and can range from sweeter than traditional American ketchup on one end of the spectrum to savory like marinara on the other end.

Currywurst is so popular here there’s even a museum in Berlin dedicated to it.

We’ve tried several currywurst stands around Berlin and I’ll be posting our findings from this very important research throughout our time here.

The goods. #currywurst #pommes #zurbratpfanne

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Roasted Carrot Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds carrots cut in half and then cut lengthwise (You don’t have to peel carrots unless they are especially gnarly; I usually don’t.)
  • 4-5 shallots coarsely chopped (You can substitute with one large yellow onion.)
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 1 small pinch dried chili or red pepper flake (optional or use more if you like heat)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 quarts stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 3 tablespoons ginger (use more or less depending on taste)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a roasting pan add the carrots, shallots, thyme, marjoram. chili flake, salt and pepper, and olive oil. Mix everything well and then turn the carrots cut side up. Roast in the oven for 1 hour.

Once the roasting is done, bring the stock to a simmer in a medium pot and add the entire contents of the roasting pan into the stock. Add more salt and pepper if needed and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the ginger and take off the heat for 5 minutes.

Use an immersion blender or put the contents into a regular blender and blend until smooth.

Once smooth, bring the soup back up to a bare simmer and add parsley (reserving a handful for garnish).

Serve immediately with a dollop of sour cream, creme fraiche, or mascarpone; garnish with the remaining parsley.

 

Die Rezepte

You will notice a new menu item at the top of the page called “Recipes.”

I have been gently encouraged by Amanda for years to write some recipes down for posterity. So, I’ve finally decided to take her excellent advice.

The first one will be coming soon; and any that I post will be filed under the “Recipes” menu so they don’t clog up the main purpose of this blog, which all about Berlin and Germany.

Since we’re in the middle of white asparagus season here, the first one will probably revolve around that.

coming soon

Coming soon

Kaffee und Tee

Coffee can be hit or miss in Berlin. Run of the mill places that use automated machines generally serve stuff that’s just a notch above dishwater and grocery store coffee, so far, has left something to be desired. The darker espresso roasts found in grocery stores are ground too fine for our french press and the coarser grinds that are sold are too weak.

I also have a completely untested theory that the hardness of the tap water in Berlin may be affecting our coffee making at home. The tap water here tastes good but it has a really high mineral content.

However, there is good coffee to be found. We’ve enjoyed Five Elephant a couple of times as well as the Barn, Oslo Kaffeebar, and Berliner Kaffeerösterei (website in German).

All these places  source their beans directly from farms around the world and roast beans in-house. While they all can be a little precious about their “coffee philosophy,” we can’t argue with the quality of the product of any of them.

Berliner Kaffeerösterei in particular sells dozens of coffees (and nearly as many teas) from all over the world and everything is ground to order. They also have a chocolate and cake shop; one could do quite a bit of damage to the wallet hanging around there for any length of time.

Rixbox, the snack shack outside our school on Alfred Scholz Platz, also serves good coffee and tea.

#kaffee #kreuzberg #fiveelephantcoffee

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Deutsche Bahn Strike

Beginning in the wee hours of this morning (Tuesday, May 5) and ending at 9 a.m. on Sunday, the Gewerkschaft Deutscher Lokomotivführer or German Train Drivers Union (GDL) is staging it’s eighth strike in 10 months. This one is set to be the longest rail strike in German history, lasting most of this week.

The GDL is striking for shorter work weeks, a 5% increase in wages, and the right to include more railway workers in its union. It currently represents around 34,000 members and wants to increase that number by around another 17,000.

The GDL isn’t even the largest railway workers’ union. That distinction goes to the Eisenbahn- und Verkehrsgewerkschaft  (EVG) which has nearly a quarter million workers. However, without drivers, the trains don’t run. These strikes have affected all German freight and passenger trains; including the S-Bahn system that exists in many German cities.

The below graphic shows all the S-Bahn lines in Berlin that are completely shut down or only partially running during this week’s strike (any line with an X means it’s shut down). Just over half of all S-Bahn lines are either completely closed or only partially running during the strike. Further, train frequency will be reduced from about every 10 minutes per train to every 20 minutes on any line that is running.

sbahn

This week, we’ll be joining the tens of thousands of other commuters on the U-Bahn (subway) and buses instead of relying on the S-Bahn system to get around.  Generally, we use the S-Bahn for about half of our journeys and it plays a key part in our getting to school. However,  the strike isn’t really going to cripple our mobility.  We’ll just need to plan ahead a little more and deal with the over-crowding that will inevitably result on the other modes of transportation that continue to run in the city. Berlin’s transportation system is safe, efficient, and relatively cheap; we really have no complaints. This week’s strike just means it will take an extra 10 minutes for us to get to school.

The GDL’s ongoing labor disputes have affected us before. Our visit to Berlin last October coincided with a strike that rendered most of the city’s S-Bahn system paralyzed. I had tickets to a Saturday afternoon soccer match and had to take a series of buses and trams instead of the S-Bahn that would normally have gotten me to the stadium in about 45 minutes. Because of the strike, it took me over 90 minutes each way.

Just before another strike two weeks ago, we took the train to Amsterdam.  We ended up having to take a bus from Holland back to Berlin.  The bus turned out to be comfortable, clean, and cheap; so much so that we would consider taking a long distance bus over the train when planning future travels. It isn’t always practical but the price often can’t be beat.

The railways aren’t the only industry suffering from labor disputes in Germany. Postal workers have staged one-day strikes at select outlets over the past couple weeks, bus and tram drivers in the state of Brandenburg (which surrounds Berlin) are striking this week,  and the couriers that deliver cash to ATMs in Berlin are also striking.

 

Müggelsee

One of the many lakes that surround the city.

Berliner Bürgerbräu #müggelsee #friedrichshagen

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