I spent more time with my manuscript than doing taxi adventures in 2014, so this list is a little thin. I hereby resolve to make it fatter in 2015.
In any case, I wanted to tell you about a few of my favorite dishes from this past year – some taxi driver-recommended, some not, all for 10 Euros or less, and all worth slowing down for.
1. Grilled Squid at Long March Canteen: “Long March Canteen breaks with the tradition of Chinese restaurants in Germany,” their website reads. “We serve neither sweet and sour pork nor rice. No red lanterns decorate the ceiling.” Recommended by a passenger in TaxiBerlin‘s cab, Long March is known for its dumplings, but Chef Afon’s Zhejian-style grilled baby squid with soy and scallions (8.50 Euros) impressed us most of all. (Wrangelstr. 20, 10997, Kreuzberg, +49 178 8849 599, longmarchcanteen.com. Reservations recommended.)
2. Walnut Gelato from Rosa Canina: I’m embarrassed to admit it’s taken me until this year to visit Markthalle Neun, the wonderful street food market/farmers’ market/cantina in Kreuzberg that’s become a focal point for foods and producers from Berlin and Brandenburg. A lot of deliciousness is concentrated here, particularly at the Rosa Canina ice cream stand, where their walnut gelato (1.20 Euros) tastes as pure as any in Italy. (At Markthalle Neun, Eisenbahnstrasse 42/43, 10997 Kreuzberg; In Prenzlauer Berg, Pasteurstraße 32, 10407 Berlin and Hufelandstrasse 7, +49 163 808 2002, rosacanina.eu)
3. Montebore at the Heinzel Cheese Talk in Markthalle Neun: A sheep milk cheese from Vallenostra/Val Barbera in Piedmont, Italy that was one of the many treasures local food writer/cheese expert Ursula Heinzelmann shared with us at her Heinzel Cheese Talk in October. If you love cheese and live in Berlin and have hedonistic tendencies, I urge you to attend one of Ursula’s monthly tastings. Not only does she tell you about the producer and the history of each cheese, she pairs each with a wine that brings out its most outstanding attributes. Tastings cost 10 Euros and are worth much more. (To find out about future tastings, join Ursula’s mailing list ursula.heinzelmann[at]t-online.de; ursulaheinzelmann.de)
4. Lamb Antrikot at Maranda: Like many of the better budget Turkish restaurants in Berlin, this little grill in Kreuzberg does not serve döner kebab. Though Musa, who has been driving a cab in Berlin for seven years, likes to stop here for köfte when he’s on duty, I prefer Maranda’s lamb ‘antrikot’ (8 Euros), which, like all the meat here, is butchered in-house, grilled to tender by the very skilled man at the barbecue, and arrives in thin, juicy slices around a mound of bland rice. If you want to maximize your pleasure, ignore the over-sweetened sauces on the side and alternate bites of lamb with bites of the white bean and herb salad that comes with the antrikot plate. (Wiener Strasse 8, 10997 Kreuzberg, +49 (0) 30 7003 8694, http://www.yelp.de/biz/maranda-restaurant-berlin)
5. Empanadas de carne at Sudaka: Chakall is the chef at this Argentine restaurant in Schöneberg, and he has a reputation in the local papers for being a bit of a publicity-hungry show-off. He can show off all he wants as far as I’m concerned because he makes the best empanadas I’ve tasted outside Argentina. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I had tears in my eyes after my first bite–the seasoning in the filling, a mixture of cumin and paprika and just enough salt, reminded me of the empanadas at the Festival de la Empanada in Famaillá, Tucumán, the likes of which I never thought I’d taste again. (Goltzstraße 36, 10781, Schöneberg, +49 30 21 91 31 77, sudaka.de)
6. Pizza Napoli at Il Mercante del Sud: Capers, olives and anchovies on a thin, brick-oven baked crust you have to fold as you would a New York slice – it’s a good thing, especially for 7.50 euros. Il Mercante, next door to an American diner that always looks packed, is an unassuming option on a posh block near Hackescher Markt. Though they serve salads and house-made pasta, too, I’ll be going back for the pizza, and the personale italiano. Note: Prices are lower at lunch time (before 4pm). (Große Hamburger Str. 21, Mitte, +49 (0)179 919 57 41)
7. Smoked Butterfish at Rogacki: It’s no secret that Paul and Lucia Rogacki started this magnificent deli with a little smoked fish stand in 1928 – and that to this day Rogacki houses one of the best fish counters in Berlin. Though you can now find all manner of cheese, bread, fowl, sausage, salami, ham, potato salad, and everything you could possibly need for a picnic to end all picnics here, their fish is what inspires me to cross town. Their butterfish, to be precise. When I asked Mom to describe it, she said, “Oooooh, yes! It’s a very melt-in-your-mouth kind of fish. It’s cold-smoked, right? Velvety. The texture on your tongue is very sensual. I don’t know…it just tastes beautiful.” (Wilmersdorfer Str.145/46, 10585, Charlottenburg, 030 34 38 25-0/030 34 38 25 66, rogacki.de)
8. Mom’s first Currywurst at Witty’s: Mom came to Berlin for the very first time in 2014, and I couldn’t let her leave without trying Currywurst, which I’ve started to think of as the food mascot of Berlin. At Witty’s, they make the wurst and the curry ketchup (and everything else) in-house, and it’s all organic. (Witty’s actually claims to be Germany’s first organic snack bar). Though initially dubious about the concept of Currywurst, Mom, who is the daughter of a professional sausage maker, ended up deciding this one was “pretty darn good!” (Wittenbergplatz 5, 10789, Charlottenburg, 030 2119496, wittys-berlin.de)
Do you have a favorite dish/food moment from 2014?