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.
Cacia e pepe. Maybe. I think that’s what this was. Although it wasn’t made the way I’ve seen it made before and they used pickled green peppercorns like the ones the french use on steaks instead of the cracked black pepper which I seem to think is what is supposed to be used.
This is Tra di Noi an Italian restaurant we like but which is run by Russians so I’m guessing they do things their own way, I mean, you know . . . Russians. Whatever the confused dish it was; it was completely and utterly sublime.
I don’t see cacia e pepe on menus in the US but then maybe my restaurant-going in the US is pretty limited. I’ve only had it in Rome (or maybe Florence or some damn place in Italy) and Frankfurt and it is truly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.
They wanted to put truffles in it but I was like Jesus God No!
It feels like I smuggled myself in. All the rigmarole, the calls, emails, printed out testaments to our relationship, twisting of fingers, sleepless nights, anxiety about every various thing that once could anxietize over, the pre-emptive COVID test, the clerk at Aer Lingus riffled through my stack of proof-of-relationship without looking at it and sent me on to the Aer Lingus lounge. It was mostly empty but there was this guy who managed to slam dunk 4 tumblers of scotch in 5 minutes. We landed in Dublin while it was still dark (and raining) I couldn’t see a bit of The Ol’ Sod and it didn’t feel in the least bit Irish, nothing was open at 4:30 in the morning.
And then it was off to Berlin. No customs since I’d been through customs in Ireland, and I was out the door. No COVID test, no dramatic presentation of proof-of-relationship, no explaining that yes, I know there is a 30+ difference in our relationship. Can you imagine that in the US?
And then there was the tearful reunion with the Royal Indian Mounted Police. It’s been eight months, 20 days and 7 hours.
The napkin dumplings were not exactly Vogue-cover pretty and neither were these 2 exquisite top-10-meals-in-my-life. Cheese stuffed gnocchi, and mushroom risotto. Both of which were right straight out of this world. Of course, I had to pick the truffles off the gnocchi…cannot stand truffles (they were not listed on the menu, I looked). Fortunately the Royal Mounted Police fed them to his horse or something—they did not go to waste is all I care about. And I don’t mind a hint of it but not huge slices of it all over hell and back. The risotto however was just plain eyes-rolled-back-in-my-head delicious. I took one bite and said “We’re coming back here.” I’d love to know how they got it to taste like this. We’ve booked a table for Monday.
And while the truffles did not go to waste, certain things are going to waist. Starting to feel like this painting I saw in the Gemäldegallerie.
I was asked to make green chicken chili which I love and is totally simple to make but it requires mild green chiles as I may have mentioned. Failing that (but not without trying, not available here in Berlin: Mild green chiles, white beans, gotta have those) I decided on red chicken chili and for a real lustrous chili I planned on using red pepper couli with the other chili ingredients. Roasted red peppers are just absolutely one of my favorite things.
Roasted red pepper soup was one of the mainstays of my restaurant. I’ve made it hundred of times. And I’d seen these luxurious jars of peppers on my first recognizance tour of Edeka, our local grocer, and knew I was gonna buy a jar sooner or later and make something. I just could not pass these glorious things up. I didn’t know what I was going to make but, you know, there’s always something. And then here was that something.
So chicken chili. I got out one of the myriad cutting and grinding devices that sit along side the 100s of pounds of copper in the home of our local mounted policeman and processed up a cup or two of them and slopped them into the pan with the chicken. I added chili powder and, you know, whatever. An hour later I tasted it to adjust the seasoning and WTF?
They were pickled peppers. This might have tasted good if I hadn’t dumped a half cup of chili powder and 4 TB of ground cumin into it. We ate it and I have to say he wasn’t grudging about it. But, ugh. Edible is as far as I could go in describing it. I did eat the leftovers for break fast but, you know, I’ll eat anything. Well, not anchovies.