Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kantine Cuisine, Pt. 2

My kantine quest continued at the Rathaus Neuköln, a slightly less grandiose building in a correspondingly less grandiose neighborhood of Berlin. After a briefly awkward period of standing around in the lobby looking for indications of where the kantine might be, we found it on the top floor, instead of the traditional basement. They were closing up shop when we arrived, and so the kantine was largely deserted save for a few stray senior citizens. Finding the ambiance somewhat lacking in charm, we turned to the food in hopes that we might find some authentic gems of German homecooking. 

We were excited to find that the daily menu included the famed Käsespätzle, a dish consisting of a special type of soft egg noodle combined with a sauce of Emmental cheese and onions. Ever since I got here I’ve heard people rave about spätzle, though I was trouble grasping exactly how it is different than plain old pasta with cheese. I was hoping this experience would answer my question, but I was left scratching my head. It tasted like lukewarm spaghetti with crunchy onions, tossed with one of those Knorr "Fettucine Alfredo" sauces that comes powdered in a packet. I have to give the kantine some credit because it was the end of the day and everything was clearly a bit cold and old. Though it could have been worse, I'm now more determined than ever to figure out what exactly is so alluring about this staple of German cuisine. Now brace yourself for the unattractiveness of the next course:
The nameplate above the trough of broth (I'm sensing a theme) that these dumplings were submerged in was marked simply “Fleisch,” aka “meat.” Despite this rather enigmatic title, we got them anyways because they were on the section reserved for traditional food, and proceeded to douse them with the customary and ubiquitous white sauce (someday I will figure out what this is). Maybe it's in my mind, but the potatoes in Germany seem to taste so much better, and these were no exception. Though my friend was amazed by the deliciousness of the dumplings, in that they were reminiscent of a meat loaf she grew up eating, I found the unnaturally smooth texture of them disconcerting. I wish I had taken down the German name for these particular dumplings so I could have done some research. Though this kantine experience was considerably less pleasing to both the eye and the tastebuds, I still left full and satisfied. As much as I like to critique and make fun of German food, one serious plus is that it never, ever, leaves you hungry. 

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