Sunday, 28 November 2010

Advent dinner. -1°C.

We just said goodbye to our friends M, M and little J. Only Mrs. M had been to our "new" apartment before – only briefly in summer – so it was about time to have them over and make them dinner. J was nervous when he first came through the door and wanted to check the whole apartment thoroughly before he could settle – and by the end of the evening he felt so familiar here, that he said good night to each room separately before they left :)

We went shopping for dinner supplies to the Boxhagener Platz food market yesterday. It is a little bare now in winter and all the stall keepers where shivering and rubbing their hands together in vain. It's funny that -2°C can feel so cold already! We got a bunch of beetroots for a pasta sauce, (€1,50 for about 5 kilos!), goat cheese, also for the pasta, a big loaf of bread and of course some licorice and salmiakki from the regular candy man there.

While preparing for the dinner tonight, we slowly realised that we have about double the amount of beetroots that we need for the pasta... And as we're serving the food, we see that we also have double the amount of dinner. So we're eating beetroots for the next week / week and a half. Seasonal, regional and healthy!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A visit to the kitchen (and Wedding)

J turned three today, hooray! So we were invited to his birthday party in Wedding, and I made chocolate and oat treats to bring with us: they were super easy to make and went down a treat!

We bought J a train cart that goes with his wooden train set – that we then had to watch him play with the whole evening. M had made a cool chocolate-banana birthday cake, topped by a lego construction site. We had such a nice time hanging out with M, M and J, that as usual I feel we don't see them enough. Wedding is really, really far from Friedrichshain, it seems! We invited them for an early Sunday dinner, so we get to see them soon again.

Next week our flat-mate finally moves out and my mom takes over our living room for the weekend...

Chocolate and oat treats (makes about 30)

100g organic butter
100ml icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
4 tbsp Fair Trade cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla sugar
300ml oat flakes
1 tsp water
100g Fair Trade, organic dark or milk chocolate
Icing sugar and cocoa powder for decoration

Combine sugar and butter in a bowl and mix to an even paste. Add cocoa powder, cinnamon, vanilla sugar and oat flakes (and a teaspoon of water if it seems too dry), and mix again. Melt the chocolate carefully using a water bath. I don't have a layered pot, so I boiled water in a regular pot, put the chocolate in a cup and placed the cup in the water. Because chocolate burns easily, a water bath an easy way to melt it. Pour the chocolate in with the rest of the ingredients, make sure the mixture is even. Let it cool in the fridge for about 10 minutes. Prepare two bowls; one with icing sugar and one with cocoa powder. Roll (the amount of a heaped teaspoon) of chocolate dough in the palm of your hands into balls, drop them into one of the smaller bowls to then coat them in icing sugar or cocoa powder. Store the treats in fridge if you don't eat them right away.

Recipe from Chocochili.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

A missed opportunity for an early Christmas

Working still: yesterday I was home at 1am, tonight at half past ten, tomorrow back again.

I'm really bummed that I'm missing the Finnish Christmas market in Kreuzberg today and tomorrow... But Monday marks the beginning of Christmas – most of the Christmas markets open on November 22nd! This year I will make sure to finally try roasted chestnuts, to avoid Glühwein (yuck!) and to find another hot drink to keep warm with at the markets. The Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in Prenzlauer Berg has a Nordic them and serves Finnish and Swedish glögg – far better than English or German mulled wines. Bring on the snow!

Thursday, 18 November 2010


When we heard the news yesterday at the office that Germany is being targeted by terrorists, one of our interns freaked out. She was really chocked when everyone else just shrugged their shoulders and laughed at her. I've never lived in a city or a country directly threatened by terrorists, but somehow I can't take it very seriously. Well, of course it's serious, but I'm sure it's more likely that I get hit by a car tomorrow, than by a bomb... Still, maybe I'll avoid Alexanderplatz even more than usual for a while.

Work, Harry Potter and potatoes

Work, work, work – blahblahblah. Yes, I've been spending a lot of time at the office. Yes, the weather is miserable and rainy.

Luckily we had booked tickets to the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1 already a month ago. Before going to the cinema we met our friends M&M for baked potatoes at Bixels, a restaurant in Mitte that only serves baked potatoes (and salads). Thumbs up! They were really delicious and the toppings were all more exciting than I would think to do at home, so definitively worth €5-6. But then again, I'm a sucker for spuds :)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

November sun

Mauerpark and the last warm day of the year?
The Bearpit Karaoke seems more popular than ever.
It's mid-November and we got to enjoy a temperature of +18°C and sun today! Wohoo! But isn't it just typical that our friends H and C left for Helsinki this morning, and all they saw in Berlin was rain... After they left we tried to make the most of the weather anyway by going to Mauerpark for a stroll. We haven't been there for months and were certainly reminded of that it really is the best Sunday market around: there's so much music, so much food, such a good atmosphere, so many things I could want. Sure, it can be a bit crowded, but that's a good excuse to stop for something to eat or drink while people watching. We found a birthday present for A's mom – like two weeks in advance –so for once we won't have to panic about finding and sending someone a gift on time!

As it happens, I found a new favourite fast food today in Mauerpark, the Turkish gözleme: thinly kneaded dough, fried on a rounded pan, folded over and filled, then served with a salad. Ours was filled with spinach and cheese, then wrapped around some fresh salad. The gözleme had a lovely crepe-like taste with a touch of great grill aroma and was fresh and light to eat. I feel an addiction coming on!

Keeping up with the gözleme orders required four strong women.
Gözleme with spinach, cheese and salad, €3.50

Happy travels!

I use public transport fairly little – as long as the weather permits I prefer to zoom around on my blue bicycle. I seem to be lucky to not even have noticed, but the S-bahn has had a lot troubles this year and as an apology BVG are turning our Einzelfahrscheins, one trip tickets, into day tickets for the weekends in November and December. The monthly passes are also 15 euro cheaper these two months. (Read about it here.)

Our friends from London were here for the weekend and told us that the trains in London have had problems, too, and because problems equal costs, they end up raising the ticket prices. BVG's action is much more to my liking!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Happy Martinstag!

All of a sudden there was a terrible racket outside the office today. I thought it was one of those post-teenage guys with a "cool" car and playing his music loudly – but as my colleagues ran out to the balcony, I realised it was something else. Our little street was taken over by a parade of children and parents, carrying colourful paper lanterns and singing.

Happy St Martin's Day, apparently!

Paris, je t'aime!


Paris was FANTASTIC. I've been there once before, but didn't really remember much of it, so I assumed I hadn't been too impressed. Now I was; everything was quaint, charming and everyone was friendly. I was there with my three best friends and we had so much fun – in fairness, you could probably have dumped us in Siberia and we would have enjoyed ourselves :P

I flew with Easy Jet (€107e, return, including a check-in bag) for the first time, and found it ok, pretty much like Ryan-air: they charged for extra luggage, they don't assign seats, they sell priority boarding and don't give you any food or drink on the plane, unless you are willing to pay. The flight was about 1 hour and 50 minutes long and everything was on time. I flew to Orly (sud) and had to take three trains to reach our hostel, near the Bastille. That felt really complicated compared to Berlin.

Our hostel, Auberge Internationale des Jeunes, was really basic, you could even call it crappy, but it only cost us €17 per night for a four person room. You get what you pay for... A friend of mine worked there when she lived in Paris, and actually tried to persuade me to cancel our reservations. We had already paid a deposit, so we decided we could handle it, and it really wasn't that bad: the room was very prison-like and the bathroom door was open on the top and the bottom halves, but it was also clean and seemed very safe. It was probably a good time of the year to be traveling: the hostel was pretty empty and all the landmarks we visited were bearable and not overcrowded.

We did very little proper sightseeing and didn't go to any museums. My favourite sight was the Montmartre area. I wish it had been a little warmer so we could have had some wine on the stairs of the Sacré-Cœur church... But we did drink enough red wine to make up for it on other occasions. We also ate many pain au chocolats, baguettes and drank many cups of wonderful coffee – seriously, it was delicious everywhere! Everywhere we walked we saw people being served amazingly big looking salads, and particularly the goats cheese caught our eye. We tried desperately to find suitable salad places when we got hungry, but never managed. On two nights we even ended up settling for pizza. On our last night we were strolling around the Latin Quarters and Notre Dame, and finally found a restaurant that served a salad with warm goats cheese (€14,50) and without meat. La Fourmi Ailée turned out to offer us the best meal we had all weekend, and in a really cosy atmosphere, too. To top it all off, the waitor was cute and to our surprise we found tofu lasagna on their menu (€13,50)!

Now I'm a big fan of Paris and want to take A there as soon as I can! Although we just got an invitation today to a wedding in London next spring, so maybe Paris can wait...

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Cyclist alert!

I had the most annoying cycle ride home from work tonight; my dynamo didn't want to cooperate and the front light was having a connectivity problem and kept going on and off at every bump in the road. I was sure I was going to be pulled over for a bike inspection: the police are watching us cyclists extra carefully right now, so make sure your lights work and that you have enough reflectors and a bell on your bike – or you could end up paying a €100 fee. At least I missed all the rain today, I didn't even see it, just heard peoples complaints.

When I got home A and I went out for dinner at our favourite Korean restaurant, Maru on Rigaer Straße in Friedrichshain. They do a kick-ass bibimbap and serve aloe vera juice, that I just can't seem to find anywhere here in Berlin.

We felt allowed to splurge on dinner a little, since we won't be sharing meals for a few days: I'll be spending a long weekend in Paris with my bestest friends. I'm so excited!

Old/new brunch favourite

There are a few things I knew I would miss when we moved from Prenzlauer Berg: the salty licorice from Bärenland, the excellent Chinese dumplings at Wok Show, the amazing pizzas at A Magica and, finally, the festive Sunday brunch buffet at Pasternak. This brunch is unbelievable: there's so much food, it's so good and it's so beautiful.

Since we moved to Friedrichshain I have wanted to try Pasternak's sibling restaurant, Datcha. On Sunday we finally did, after four months of thinking about it. The brunch costs €9,80 per person (compared to €12,40 in P'berg) and it's the same spread that I remember from Pasternak – the only difference I noticed was that it's a bit louder and busier in the Friedrichshain branch, which some might even prefer. When we finished our meal I could hardly button up my coat anymore! Dangerous place :)

Just avarage is not good enough

On Saturday we went for burgers and fries to White Trash Fast Food – a less than impressive restaurant in Mitte, loved by tourists. Sure, it's kitschy and unexpected, but the food is only average and all in all it just feels a bit forced.

After dinner and a cocktail we moved on to check out the monthly Nachtkonsum flea market. I must say that it, too, was a bit disappointing: not so much night and not so much shopping... The market opens at 17.00 and only goes on until midnight. Having a three euro entrance fee is crazy considering how many bigger and better (free) flea markets we have in Berlin... But I did buy a very pretty necklace, so no hard feelings!

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