Tag Archive: Food


Sticking with the East Berlin theme of my previous post – which hearkens back to a city very near and dear to my heart, where I spent 2 months in the summer of 2009 – I have fond, nostalgic feelings for a particular restaurant that provided me my first tastes of Southern German or, more particularly, Swabian cuisine (Schwäbische Küche).

Schwarzwaldstuben - Mitte, Berlin

Fond nostalgia is the feel Schwarzwaldstuben (translation: Black Forest Lounge) is going for anyway. They have kitschy-cool décor and the food is German-ala-nostalgia in many ways.

A look toward the bar at Schwarzwaldstuben

My German teacher at the Goethe Institut, Detlef, was the one who recommended this place as his favorite for German specialties in Berlin. He seemed to waffle on whether it was truly Schwäbisch or had some other regional loyalties (due to a Fußball jersey he saw hanging there). I, however, have found several online sites calling it either Swabian (the Anglicized name of the German region) or Southern German. So, there you go. I’ll just play the “dumb American” card if I get called on an inaccuracy here.

Menus

Schwarzwaldstuben is quite hip and if you go at the right/wrong times, there can be a wait. There are tables, a bar, and even a nice sofa and stuffed chair section.

Comfy seating available

The place and menu is such that you could order a little pot of coffee (their coffee is quite tasty) and sit and read for awhile (although probably not at dinner time when space is at a premium). But if you’re going there, though, why not make a meal of it?

Meine Kaffee mit Milch

The first time I went, I had Maultaschen (Pronounced: MOWL-tah-shin), large German-raviolis of sorts. The Maultaschen were served with an amazing German potato salad (if I recall correctly) and the flavors were a perfect match.

Maultaschen with potatoes and a great salad

The meal was a-m-a-z-i-n-g! You can’t get Maultaschen just anywhere, so I highly recommend this place. Charlie had them at another restaurant and they were quite different (more fried, I’d say).

Bionade (a naturally carbonated beverage)

I also had Bionade (Pronounced: BEE-oh-nada) to drink, which I recommend for the non-beer inclined (but the beer is reportedly a draw there, too, it’s Rothaus … as the signs outside make abundantly clear).

Schwarzwaldstuben from the outside (the beer-type is advertized more than the restaurant's name!)

I went with a group from my class at lunchtime. There was space for us, but I believe Detlef had called ahead. We sat at a big ol’ booth by the mural. I must report that not all nationalities find Schwäbische Küche as tasty as I did!

Zhishu waves hello

The next (and last – so far) time I went, I decided to try another delectable Southern German dish, Käsespätzle (translation: Cheese Spätzle). Now, I think it cannot be disputed that I like cheese. I really do! This cheese-centric dish was really, really tasty, but almost too greasy even for the most wicked of caloric sinners. The cheeses were of good quality, but there was so much, I lost the Spätzle in the mix.

Käsespätzle (and a listing of what was showing in Berlin outdoor theaters I was flipping through)

For those who are unfamiliar with this classic German side dish (although when combined with cheese, for instance, it can become a centerpiece), Spätzle (Pronounced: SHHPETS-leh) consists of miniature dumplings. Or, like what would happen if a dumpling and a pasta noodle had a baby. They are irregular in shape.

Closer up on the Käsespätzle. The bonus was that it was a big enough serving to make two filling meals.

Another valid reason to visit this restaurant if you’re ever in Berlin is the surrounding neighborhood. It’s in Mitte (City Center), but the streets immediately around Schwarzwaldstuben are very cool and have a different feel from those as you get closer to Museuminsel (Museum Island) further downtown. If you want a walk past some historic locales (and want to peek into a few picturesque Hinterhöfe [courtyards common to Berliner architecture]), take a walk down Auguststraße, for example, which is just a few blocks from the corner of Linienstraße and Tucholskystraße, where Schwarzwaldstuben is located.

A view of the corner

Advertisements

The Church of St. Elizabeth, or the "Blue Church" in Bratislava

My husband and I spent less than 24 hours in Bratislava, Slovakia. At least 5 of those hours it was pouring. At least 7 of those hours I was sleeping.

So, my experience in the country and its capital is not broad. But I really, really want to go back. And you should want to, too.

Me on the train between Wien and Bratislava

Why, you ask?

Lots of reasons are good ones:

1) It’s an easy and cheap train ride from Vienna.

2) It seems way more “Eastern European” than Austria, for sure, and even more than the Czech Republic, both of which it borders.

A narrow alleyway in old Bratislava

3) It still has a tinge of the Soviet/Eastern Bloc/Old Communist feel to it, which is intriguing.

Bratislava cityscape

4) The old city of Bratislava is enchanting with stone streets (that glisten in the rain).

Nighttime in Bratislava's main square

5) Prices are cheaper than in many of its neighboring countries.

A gelato shop in old Bratislava

But the reason I most want to go back and the reason you need to go at least once is this:

Halušky.

Three Halušky varieties from U Remeselnika

Specifically, the most popular national dish, Bryndzové halušky, which consists of small gnocchi-type dumplings covered in a sharp sheep cheese with bacon on top. Oh. my. goodness.

It’s warm and creamy. The cheese has just enough sour bite to make the bacon a perfect salty complement. The gnocchi are small and firm (sort of like Spätzle, maybe). We had the halušky with other toppings (one was cheese with some sauerkraut-like topping), but the bryndzové is the best we tried.

If there’s a place I can get this in a three-state radius of me, it might tide me over. Otherwise, I’m booking my plane ticket direct to Slovakia the next chance I get. That halušky was some good stuff.

I’d had a tiny sample of it when I was in Prague. Further, my guidebook highly recommended it. So, we had it for lunch as soon as we arrived in Bratislava.

A view into the courtyard of U Remeselnika

That was the best we had, I think. Halušky #1:

Charlie and I shared a trio of Halušky at a folk-craft-center cafe, U Remeselnika

Then I had halušky that night for a late dinner at a great restaurant in a downtown basement. (And Charlie wished he’d ordered it, too!)

We winded down narrow Bratislava streets to reach Prasna Basta, where we had dinner

(We did also try an amazing smoked trout appetizer.) But the star of the meal was Bryndzové Halušky #2:

Lots of traditional Slovak food on the menu at Prasna Basta

Prasna Basta was busy, maybe because of a glowing endorsement of its “charm” in the Lonely Planet guide.

From our table at Prasna Basta

And their halušky was really good, too! But it was too dark to get a clear picture of it.

Then, when we got to the train station an hour early for our departure the next day, we had an early lunch of halušky at the next door eating and drinking establishment.

It sure wasn't fancy, kind of "other side of the tracks"

It wasn’t much to look at, but their Bryndzové Halušky was still great! Bryndzové Halušky #3:

Bryndzové Halušky from the Antic Caffe, next to the train station

It’s just that good. (And the breakfast at our boat-hotel, aka Botel, was just so bad that we were quite famished at 11 a.m.)

Even though seeing all the cheese and bacon drippings I’m no longer wondering how I gained 5 pounds on my trip, I am still begging you: Please tell me where I can get Bryndzové Halušky in these ol’ United States!

The best-seller listed above, The Help, was recommended to me by my friend Kristina. It’s pretty popular presently. I think it’s a bit unfairly reviewed here, but the review provides enough information for you to get a sense of the story, if you don’t have the time or interest in reading it. I think, however, that you should read it. It took me a few chapters to get over the affected writing in the “voices” of the characters, but it turned out to be the characters that won me over.

A few of my recent trips have given me a better taste of the South than I believe I had previously. I was enchanted by New Orleans’s French Quarter while there for a conference this past November. To get to my 50th U.S. state before I turned 30, Charlie and I traveled down to Charleston, South Carolina for Easter weekend. Boy, the South sure can be grand. But I felt myself conflicted while appreciating the glory and architectural splendor of the South, all the while remembering the history of slavery that brought that kind of affluence, as well as the ongoing struggle to end the disparity between black and white. I didn’t live through the Civil War or the Civil Rights movement, but why did it still haunt me as I visited the pretty parts of southern cities with a long, checkered past?

(I don’t mean to sound ignorant of the great human evils inflicted in any geographical region, North or South or West or Midwest, Stateside or otherwise. A look at the history of any place is a look at triumphs mingled with errors and horrors.)

This book took a long stroll through the kind of questions I had: How might a white person have experienced the tumult of the Civil Rights Movement in the South? How might a black person have? Was there ever good mixed in with the pain?

As I read the book, I thought of Jestine’s Kitchen. It’s an extremely popular (and rightfully so) restaurant in Charleston, famous for its Southern cooking. The restaurant is named after Jestine Matthews, the long-time household cook of the restaurant owner (and the previous generation of that family).

The reflective front window of Jestine's Kitchen

You see, as the story goes, Jestine helped with at least two generations of the family, as she lived to be 112. The restaurant’s Facebook page has a summary of her story. And the food is so good. The fried green tomatoes, the sweet tea, the fried chicken … all delicious. We loved the desserts we tried, Pineapple Bread Pudding and the Coca-Cola Chocolate Cake.

Jestine's famous Coca-Cola Chocolate Cake

But when I learned about Jestine herself and about the apparent love and loyalty between her and her long-time employers, I just couldn’t figure out how a relationship of “unequals” in many ways, socio-economically and in the power structure of employer-employee, could seem (to a total outsider of course) to have been so loving and appreciative.

Of course, I’ll never know about Jestine, but the book The Help gives a variety of examples of the potential both for wickedness and for love, compassion, and bravery that humans possess.

a normal sight for me

a normal sight for me

As a student in an intense New Testament Ph.D. program, sometimes I feel my interest-world closing in around me. I learn more and more about this collection of 27 books—and especially the one, awesomest text of them all, the Gospel According to Mark—but in so doing I become dumber and dumber about other things. For instance, I used to know what a mole is in chemistry. I used to play the trombone. I used to draw and paint and work in a church archives. Most of the time now, I read about the New Testament, write about the New Testament, and grade unending stacks of papers on the New Testament.

Cuban food

Those of you who know me, of course, know that I buck against this singularity of focus. I listen to podcasts religiously and attempt to be full of facts regarding the world around me. I love German and am starting an adventure to be better at it. I have pop cultural interests: TV shows, music, and movies to which I have degrees of allegiance. I like to read and have broken my former, pitiful trend of only reading for school by reading at least six novels since October.

Baltimore Bomb, anyone?

Baltimore Bomb, anyone?

But the interest that I don’t have to put forth effort to sustain is most broadly categorized as an interest in adventure. This craving for the new and strange takes two much more specific forms: 1) a fascination with (or addiction to) travel; and 2) a desire for weird, special, or interesting food. These two expressions of my love for new experiences are fantastic in combination!

A Philadelphia mosaic

My travel destinations need not be exotic. I’m happy with a trip to Halo Farm and the Trenton Farmer’s Market just down Route One from our home.

I’m thrilled with a new museum exhibit or a ticket to a play in a nearby theater. I’m even more ecstatic when a trip for a professional conference gives the opportunity to get in tune with the pulse of a new town and try some local specialties. I love to camp and hike and go to the beach. I love a good roller coaster and the shrill scream that belongs with it.

In the Cascade, Idaho snow

Not only to I love travel and eating while I’m traveling (or home, trying out a hidden, local gem), but I have opinions about these things. If you travel somewhere I have been, you’ll probably have to hear about these opinions. So, a travel and food blog has been something that has been percolating in my brain for a few months now. It also gives me increased license to indulge my penchant for taking food photos (often to the chagrin of my long-suffering husband).

So, when my trip to Berlin came together, I thought that this would be a perfect time to begin. I’m going to want to update friends and family, but might prefer the interactive format of a blog better than a weekly mass email. Honestly, though, I hope it won’t stop here. Charlie and I have gotten really good at finding an adventure around every turn, something that punctuates our everyday life with some spice, literally or figuratively. Here it goes.