It’s not like I didn’t have a billion other things to do when I got back from my extended world tour/pre-honeymoon/wedding/no-honeymoon/endless-waiting-in-security-lines except run out and harvest unripe tomatoes before the first frost. But, well, sometimes things just gotta be done.
Berlin is not easily gotten to or from. I had to go to Paris for a night on the way back to the ol’ US of A.
Seriously. I had to be near the airport because the trip to and from Paris can be brutal, traffic-wise and expensive. After a brief search on the google I found Le Manoir de Gressy which was “five minutes” from Charles de Gaulle. It had a “gourmet” restaurant but I figured I’d just walk around town and eat somewhere cheap and normal. Maybe have a glass of wine with the locals and regale them in broken French of my recent travels and festive wedding in Scandinavia.
Welp, the taxi took 35 minutes and cost more than going into Paris. There was hideous traffic. In. The. Country!!! There were nothing but potato fields and traffic. It was insane. But fine, we finally got there. The very tiny town looked lovely. I hadn’t gone online looking for anywhere to eat because what place doesn’t have its fair share of little boîtes to eat in?
Gressy, that’s what.
Not one goddamn restaurant, not even a little grocery store, nothing. What do these people do?!? The walk in the town took 45 seconds before I was at the edge of it. There was a lovely little park with a pond with swans and coots, I mean, aside from me, bird coots, and a very bucolic, tiny and well kept neighborhood but nothing else. I could take a taxi to a neighboring town to eat but, no.
Now I was trapped in a beautiful little town, in a beautiful grand room with nothing to do (except possibly write a blog). And wait 3 hours to eat in the “gourmet” restaurant.
There was me and a very loud bickering American couple. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Christ. So very gourmet.
Random crap that comes to mind
Leaving Chicago, Arriving in France
I love this place Chez Paul. I do not know what possessed me to order a hamburger. I don’t even eat them in restaurants in the US. Although possibly our adorable waitress who spoke perfect English inspired me. She did her semester abroad in…wait for it…Milwaukee!!! The hamburger came essentially raw, topped with essentially raw bacon on top and ESSENTIALLY RAW SALMON on the bottom, I discovered this after I’d eaten a few bites of it. I removed the bacon and salmon and choked down another bite or two. This was the only food that The Royal Indian Mounted Food Police and I did not share. I got sick after this. I’ll spare you the details but it went on and on and on and on. Possibly this is why I did not gain weight in Paris. I can tell you the location of every toilet between the Bastille and le Place de la Concorde.
Fondation Louis Vuitton was the site of a spectacular exhibition of Impressionist paintings owned by the insanely wealthy Mozorov family in Russia. The insurance for this show cost $1,000,000,000. Seriously. The collection was amazing, chock-a-block (an expression I feel is not used as often as it ought to be) with stuff like this.
Unfortunately the reality of it was mostly this.
What I thought was truly amazing was the display of the process of the design and construction of this SPECTACULAR Frank Gehry building, if I can even call it that, structure, maybe. On the left is the maquette he presented to the design committee. It looks like someone emptied out their wastebasket after an upscale birthday party.
We took a brief detour to the fabulously glorious city of Bordeaux.
My view the entire way back to Paris on the train.
Back in Paris we had dinner, a pre-nuptial extravaganza at Le Train Bleu the glorious Belle Epoch restaurant in the Gare de Lyon. I had eaten there 10 years ago and while I loved the place, I recalled the food as iffy. The place is stunning, the food and service less so. We don’t recall exactly what the amuse bouche was but I don’t think my bouche was very amused by it. Our saltless food was delivered and we never saw the waiter again. Ever. I had lime curried monkfish—salt free, in tapioca. This is not a good idea, tapioca, in case you’re planning a menu like that. The dessert was good, if you like that sort of thing. It’s worth a trip to the bar. Don’t eat there. Bring your own salt shaker if you do. And for god’s sake, skip the tapioca.
One exciting thing I discovered at Le Train Bleu was that in the glorious mural on the ceiling was Hyéres, the town where I had my apartment. It was the termination of the Train Bleu line and a favorite resort area of the jet set, I suppose you’d call them train set, of the time.
Some puzzlements in Germany
Copenhagen has a kind of peace that is not found in Paris or Berlin.
Germany, hither and tither
We met most days at Galeries Lafayette near Brandenburger Tor after work (He worked, I swanned about) for drinks in their wine bar with the unpleasant German bartender. Really I don’t know why we went there, you needed a flare to get his attention.
Last day. This is the spectacular National art gallery. The architect, Mies van der Rohe was in his 90s at the time. Apparently the largest collection of contemporary art in the world. Surprising since not that long ago they were burning contemporary art.
Bye bye Germany, bye bye husband
I left Berlin today. Currently in some strange small town in the French countryside near the CDG airport but I am taking a moment to reflect on our various German meals. Mostly we at Asian, Indian or Italian food. There is more of than sort of thing that German. They may eat like this at home but when they go out, it’s not for German food.
Macaroni and cheese with caramelized onions and senf, mustard. Doner, while Middle Eastern in origin is quintessentially German. Like curry wurst.
Roast beef in horse radish sauce. Wiener with lentils and fried spätzle. On the menu the wiener sounded exotic.
Rhinderfleischgulash mit spätzle. Some sausage or other and fries. Side of grated horseradish.
Last meal. Schweinshaxespanferkel, fried dumplings (too dry) and sauerkraut with orange, coulda lived without the orange. Schnitzel with cold potato and cucumber salad, good, if weird.
Auf Wiedersehen Deutschland, wir sehen uns wieder.
I’ve walked by this little place a bunch of times and always thought it looked cute and it always smelled great so I screwed up my courage and went in for lunch. OMG, what a freaking adorable place. This is right straight up my alley. Totally old school. The menu was on placards on the bar which is where you order and then go sit somewhere. It’s run by 2 old guys (OK, probably younger than I am) and is named after a German Jewish writer whom they had read and discovered, when they were starting the business, that he’d lived next door and died in 1939. It looks ancient but is really only about 15 years old.
One of the guys spoke to me in German and while I didn’t really understand what he said, I got “today’s special” out of it and said OK not knowing what exactly it was I was getting, praying it would not be eel stuffed, smoked fried herring or anchovy soup. It was roast beef with horseradish gravy and beets. It was good, simple. By the time I left, the place was completely packed. After I left I read about it. It’s an artist’s hang out. I should have worn a beret.
In Scandinavia it is completely normal and utterly common for people to leave their babies in elaborate strollers outside of venues—stores, bars, restaurants. It seems insane to us Americans, there it really is normal. This baby was in a stroller sleeping outside—and it was cold—during our entire meal.
We were in what was a sort of food court. The part we were in was supposedly Mexican. On the menu were many kinds of hot dogs. I think of hot dogs as quintessentially American, like US American not Mexican American. I’m not quibbling. It’s totally fine with me and I was intrigued, I wanted them. We shared a BBQ empanada which now that I think about it doesn’t seem very Mexican either. And then we shared “hot dogs.”
The sausage itself was being made right there, right then. It turned out to be more bratwurst than hot dog, OK, not at all hot dog. And the toppings were not even vaguely hot doggish. But they were delicious. I just wish that baby hadn’t been abandoned there. I’m sure it was fine but, you know, being US American, it seemed so wrong.
More colleagues. But this particular batch was vegan, well she was anyway, him not so much, but so then we all were. I have to admit this made it a little difficult (for me anyway) so my better half whipped up a batch of falafel (from scratch, dried beans even). I do not impress easily but I was impressed. There was a rough patch when I thought he was going to toss his grinderizer out the window as it was not grinding as appropriately as he felt it should be but we (he) got through it.
It was a great meal and I am sure they liked it. The falafel was amazing.
The NYT recipe for shrimp creole that I used said “four servings” but there were like 28. So yeah, leftovers and I thought, “Lasagna!” You can make nearly anything into lasagna, FYI. However, there wasn’t really enough to make a full on shrimp creole lasagna, I thought, so I improvised by adding some Italian sausage.
When I was done I suddenly had enough lasagna for another 78 people, approximately. The miracle of the loaves and shrimps. I like to think that I learn lessons as I go, but apparently not.
I did get an Mmm from the Royal Indian Mounted Police when he tasted it for the first time so there’s that.
The old ball and chain invited a former colleague over for dinner. I had never met her but I knew that she was a good cook and that she appreciated good food. He asked me to make shrimp creole and I added a cake and salad to the menu. Making this cake was maddening. You try making a cake when the oven is barking orders like this at you. And then there was the issue of frosting it. I just hate frosting cakes. First there’s the crumb coat annoyance and then there’s the moment of panic when you think you don’t have enough frosting. You cannot begin to imagine what the kitchen looked like.
This recipe for shrimp creole called for making a dark roux which for those of you who don’t cook is a mix of butter and flour, in this case sautéed until it is brown. Sound fun? Fifteen minutes of constant stirring.
At the last minute I decided to make croutons out of an end of a loaf of bread that was lying around. The salad was just going to be oil and vinegar on lettuce. Why not add a little something extra? OK, chopping up a stale end of bread—little bits and crumbs skittering all over the goddam place is a really great addition to an already messy kitchen. Then I sautéed the mess in garlic oil, which I had to make first, of course. At some point in this I thought to myself, “Why the fuck are you doing this to yourself?!?”
During the meal his colleague leaned to her husband and said, “Diese Croutons sind lecker!” These croutons are delicious. That’s why the fuck I do that.
Recipe link below
I thought this recipe for shrimp creole was really good, if a lot of work and the Royal Indian Mounted Police made fresh creole seasoning which was freaking awesome and somehow he was able to make this without the massive mess I’d have created… recipe here.
The Danes seem to be nice people. They are very polite and patient. No horn blowing or motor scooters zipping in and out of traffic in Copenhagen unlike certain other places I could mention. But jeez, the stuff they eat. I was having difficulty dealing with just looking at the menu until I got to the smoked eel. I nearly passed out.
Rhubarb herring. Herring, with 3 kinds of herring. The mind reels.