Friday, November 30, 2012

Bastard Breakfast

After a literally heart wrenching blutwurst experience, I was in need of a palate cleanser.  I decided I needed to skip a day, as there was no way my body could handle another meat and potato extravaganza. Instead, I’m going to write about a very pleasant part of German food: breakfast. The German breakfast, or at least the Berlin breakfast, is not what you might expect. It’s not a giant sausage with a side of potatoes or a 15-egg omelet with a side of potatoes. It’s actually an artfully arranged platter of cold meats and cheeses with a little bread and fruit, and sometimes a boiled egg in an eggcup or some homemade jam. This particular mixed platter from the lovely café Bastard is the most beautiful I’ve eaten in Berlin, though it had more fruit (but such good fruit!) and less meats and cheeses than most. For me, this is kind of the ideal breakfast situation. I’m not a big eater in the morning, more of a coffee and spoonful of yogurt type person, but I would never at any time of day reject a cheese platter. Combined with my obsession with cured meats and my newfound appreciation of quark, another staple of the Berlin breakfast platter, it’s really a win-win for me.
inside the classic Kreuzberg brunch spot and bar Ankerklause 
However, I get that I’m not on the same page as a lot of Americans on the breakfast front. I think that as a nation, we are probably more into breakfast than anyone else. Especially when it comes to brunch, we make it a production in a way that I’ve never seen in another country. I think when comparing it to German breakfast, the difference boils down to the matter of hot vs. cold food. In Germany, apart from scrambled eggs, which I see on a lot of menus, breakfast is mostly a cold affair, and usually a savory one. I might be wrong, but I think a lot of Americans might hate this fact. We like our bacon and pancakes and hash browns, and we like them greasy and hot off the griddle. Of course, in every country there’s going to be people who skip breakfast and just drink a cup of coffee, but I’m talking about the kinds of breakfasts that we go out to, like Sunday brunches or hungover morning feasts in our neighborhood diners. 
@ Ankerklause, another healthy and cold German breakfast fav: muesli with fruit and yogurt
Brunch is actually a huge thing in Berlin, which I was so glad to find out about.  There’s just something about brunch that I love so muchit’s such a ritual and it always feels like such a special occasion, like you’re really treating yourself. Still, I’ve found the brunch here to be lacking in hot food as well, which seems important for brunch. I enjoy it, but I have to say it doesn’t really hit the spot after a long Berlin night out quite like a proper American breakfast would. I think the huge population of American expats here would agree, which must be the idea behind the amazing “California Breakfast Slam,” an American-style brunch party that takes place in a bar in Neuköln on weekends. As the waitress there said as she brought me a ridiculously good plate of California-style huevos rancheros, “Americans have breakfast on lockdown.” Anyways, I’m done bragging about our breakfasts. The moral of the story is that breakfast is the one meal in the German repertoire that might leave you slightly hungry. In a cuisine that seems to base itself on fullness and satisfaction, this breakfast is a bit of an anomaly. Yet it makes sense that the traditional form of breakfast in Germany is still alive and thriving. In today's culture we put so much more of a stress on health and fitness, and it seems that there's a place for the German breakfast in that world. Even though cured meats and cheeses aren't the healthiest thing ever, so many of the trendier places, like Bastard, are using local, organic products as much as possible, and revamping the traditional breakfast in a more elegant way. With this discovery, I think I'm getting ready to move on from the realm of really traditional food to the newer, more modern German places.

Reichenbergerstr. 122
10999 Berlin
Tel: 030 548 21 866
Mo-Su 9:00-6:00

Kottbusser Damm 104
10967 Berlin
Tel: 030 693 5649
Mo 16:00-4:00, Tu-Su 10:00-4:00

Fleischerei Domke

The second I stepped into Fleischerei Domke yesterday afternoon, I knew that it should have been the starting point for my entire project. Fleisherei Domke is not a restaurant, but a butcher shop equipped with a couple of high tables and a metal counter, around which hungry people stand eating schnitzel off mismatched china plates. 

For exactly 4 euros, you can get a heaping plate of real German home cooking, like cabbage roulade, goulash with noodles, and my old favorite, dumplings in white sauce. While I was waiting a bunch of people came in alone, ordered, and ate quickly in the corner, as if indulging in a guilty pleasure. I got the sense that each person that entered (all older, and decidedly German), thought of this place as their own secret spot.

I decided that this would be the perfect spot to try blutwurst, aka blood sausage. What better place to order an intimidating meat than at an old school German butcher? This place was obviously the real deal, and I trusted them completely. After I thought about it for a while, I decided I should stop being disturbed by the idea of blood sausage, because I love sausage and salami of all kinds, and I’m sure a lot of them contain some animal parts that I’d rather not know about. Still, something about the idea of eating that much blood worried me, but I ordered it before I could change my mind. 

I was surprised when I saw the plate the kindly butcher woman doled out from the vat behind the counter. I had expected a dark red sausage in a casing, but instead got a pile of dark ground sausage atop a steaming mound of sauerkraut and plain boiled potatoes. I sidled up to the counter and dug in, and was pleased to find that the sausage tasted great, and nothing like what I’d imagined. It was very cinnamon-y and peppery, and actually tasted a lot like chorizo. 

This is the point at which I had to stop. I had been eating for about 20 minutes when bad things began to happen. As much as I ate, it seemed like the meat pile wasn’t getting any smaller. Before long, my taste buds were still saying “yes,” but my arteries were screaming “no.”  I started to have terrible heartburn.  It got so bad that I had to get up immediately and bring my plate to the counter, with my tail between my legs. I couldn’t bear the thought that the German butchers would think I was a wimpy American who couldn’t handle their special sausage, and so I did what any normal person would do: I took it to go and threw it away three blocks later when I was sure no one was looking. And with that, I scurried down the street, clutching my heart, to go eat a salad.

Fleischerei Domke
Warschauerstr. 64
10243 Berlin
Tel: 030 2917635
Mo-Fr: 06:30 - 22:00, Sa: 07:30 - 22:00, Su: 10:00 - 22:00