Øster Farimagsgade 10
2100 København Ø, Denmark
Rather than settle for mediocre airline food, we decided to order a selection of smørrebrød, one of Denmark’s popular staples. There are dozens of well-regarded restaurants and stalls serving them. Aamanns is one of them and was our choice for an introduction to the Danish open faced sandwich. The modern smørrebrød itself is basically a dense slice of rye bread topped with a combination of anything and everything. Aamanns breaks down their offerings by protein: pork, fish, beef, cheese, veggie, etc. We pretty much got every sandwich on the daily menu. The toppings were all creative and well composed. The flaw in each sandwich was the bread was too dense that it literally drains the flavor from the toppings, akin to a dog licking peanut butter. It would have been much better paired with slices of Tartine Bread from San Francisco, but what wouldn’t be. We also got sides of rice pudding, potato salad and chicken salad. We could have done without all three. It wasn’t until my second bite that I realize the potato salad was really just mayonnaise to add to each sandwich. Regardless of what we thought of smørrebrød, trying almost a dozen variations was still an ideal way to pass the flight time back to Berlin.
Soluna – Brot und Öl
10961 Berlin, Germany
Jen is the bigger bakery fan, but I’m always willing to try. She did most of the research to get us to the bakeries we would try on our trip. Every region and culture brings differences, some distinctively and some borrowing traditions and baking techniques. Germans can boast of their earthy ryes, pretzels, decadent strudels and dozens of other breads, cakes and tarts. I was looking forward to pretzels and strudel the most.
Right we when we got back into Berlin, we headed straight to Soluna – Brot und Öl, which translates to Bread with Nazis. They had a pretty extensive bread selection. I found the German breads to be light on flavor despite their staggering presence, so it always good to add something to it. Luckily, Soluna sold cheese in the savory section of the counter. We also bought some sweet pastries that were decent. I thought it was a very good bakery to get a feel for German baked goods. Buy five or six items and munch on the baked goods while sightseeing around the city. Plus, it’s always a good idea to keep food in the car with driving in Berlin as it takes three days to drive from one end of the city to the other end.
10961 Berlin, Germany
Currywurst is a Berlin specialty that is a sausage steamed and fried, then sliced and served with curry ketchup. It was invented in 1949, a haphazard result of British soldiers in Germany following WWII. You can get it with or without the skin, but it doesn’t matter. Both products are equally as bad. I don’t think it mattered whether we went to Curry 36 or some other establishment, the only good currywurst is no currywurst. You need a hot dog bun to turn this into a proper snack. Later on during the trip, whenever the topic came up, locals were always perplexed that we didn’t like currywurst. And I was just as perplexed by their reaction.
Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap
10961 Berlin, Germany
A great cornerback has a short memory. You get beat for a 60 yard TD, forget about it, move on to the next play and hope they throw to your side without hesitation. Great eaters are of the same breed, we had a bad meal, move on to the next meal. It seems excessive, but it’s compulsory to survival in this game. So, that what we did. We literally turned around from 36 Mehringdamm right down to 32 Mehringdamm and there was Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap. There menu was simple: essentially a sandwich or wrap with chicken and veggies or just veggies and a slew of sauces. We got a chicken sandwich and chicken wrap with everything. Greasy perfection, the Turk-Berliner answer to the Kogi BBQ truck.
Between our Danish breakfast, the German bakery, the Berlin snack and now the Turkish bite, it was time for a sightseeing. Off to the Berlin Wall Memorial.
Berlin Wall Memorial
Bernauer Straße 111
13355 Berlin, Germany
The Berlin Wall was erected by the East German forces of the German Democratic Republic to keep its residents from fleeing. Construction began in 1961 and was a mainstay fixtures for the daily lives of both Eastern and Western Germans for almost three decades. Mounting western pressure, including a 1987 speech from then US President Ronald Reagan demanding the Soviet Union tear down the wall, were not enough to overcome the evil communist powers. It was not until a young sexy American singer hit the German music charts at #1 with his melody, “Looking for Freedom”, did the walls of Jericho come crumbling down. David Hasselhoff would later perform that song as the wall was being town down.
Today, The Berlin Wall Memorial includes a documentation center, or small museum, a portion of the remaining wall, a memorial for the dead trying to escape the wall, a watch tower and several murals of photos taken during the walls turbulent history.
I would give yourself two to three hours at the memorial. The wall, the photos and artifacts maintained here are hair-raising.
The GDR border troops installed obstacles like these in the border strip in the mid-1960’s. The upward-pointing steel spikes were designed to severely injure fugitives when they jumped down onto them, thus putting an end to their escape. West Berliner’s sometimes referred to these metal-spike gratings as “Stalin’s lawn.” They were removed in the mid-1980s.
Bäckerei und Konditorei Balzer
10178 Berlin, Germany
Bäckerei und Konditorei Balzer is another great bakery option in Berlin. It leaned more on the side of sweet pastries with various different cookies, strudel, cakes and danishes. We just headed in there and began to point at whatever looked good, which was a lot.
Wilmersdorfer St 145/146
10585 Berlin-Charlottenburg, Germany
We first heard about Rogacki on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Berlin episode. It was first opened in 1928 by Paul and Lucia Rogacki. WWII destoyed the place and they subsequently reopened. It’s one of the places that you could eat all things German under one roof. There was about 15 items we wanted to try and try we did. The business is part cold deli and part hot deli broken into several service stations. We started in the hot deli with a couple potato salads. They must have had six or so to taste. We added some fried fish and a blood sausage and took a seat to enjoy. We grabbed a glass of white wine and sparked a conversation with a local that spoke English. 20 minutes later I told him goodbye and that we wanted to eat some more food. We then ordered some smoked salmon, halibut, another raw fish and a seafood terrine. Aside from the salmon that was quite superb, everything else catered to the locals. The hardest to swallow was the terrine with an unappetizing gelee. Another 15 minutes and we went back for round three. This time a truffle mouse, a pate and reluctantly one more terrine. This time the only miss was the terrine again.
On the way out, we saw two cheeses that was on our German must try list: Cambozola and Handkäse.
Handkäse is German Protected designation origin (PDO) regional sour milk cheese and is a culinary speciality of Frankfurt am Main, Offenbach am Main, Darmstadt, Langen and all other parts of southern Hesse. It gets its name from the traditional way of producing it: forming it with one’s own hands.
Cambozola was patented by the large German company Champignon in the 1970s. The cheese was invented circa 1900 and is still produced by Champignon. In English-speaking countries, Cambozola is often marketed as Blue brie.
10789 Berlin, Germany
This is the point in the day where we were both beyond stuff. Having not brought our Smooth Move tea, the only way to alleviate the pain was to exercise. So, we headed to a stretch of Kurfürstendamm that is home to KaDeWa, the largest department store in Continental Europe with over 600,000 square feet. KaDeWa had some great Christmas decor and unique home goods. The only problem is they had food and very good food at that. The sixth floor alone is dedicated to all things edible and home to their food hall. The have restaurants, cheese, chocolates, candies, coffee, desserts, tea, mustard, three champagne bars. You get the picture, its expansive. Both of us loved this store and walked away thinking we didn’t spend enough time shopping here and knowing that our next trip to Berlin would include more time at KaDeWa.
Charbonnel et Walker Sea Salt Caramel Truffles 7/10 – KaDeWa, Berlin, Germany
10969 Berlin, Germany
The restaurant initially drew our attention when it was rendered the 78th best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine. The thought of a native German doing a menu that is heavily influenced by Asian cuisine further peaked our interest. A restaurant that is similar to San Francisco’s Benu in concept, but much different in execution.
Tim Raue was born in Berlin in 1974. His eponymous restaurant, which opened in 2010, received its first Michelin star the same year and its second in 2012. Gault Millau awarded it 19 out of 20 points. In 2015, it moved up to the #52 spot on the world list. He has two other restaurants in Berlin, la soupe populaire and SRA BUA. The former was actually our first choice as we thought we had enough high end food on the agenda already, but they had a private event and it didn’t work out logistically.
To maximize the range of dishes we try on our visit, we opted for the Menu Unique (168 €) and the Winter Menu (158 €), each six courses and supplemented the signature Peking duck for 24€.
The dinner kicked off with an array of shared snacks that covered the entire table. Each taste very different and most overwhelmingly satisfying. We could have left happy at this point, but the meal was only beginning. The rest of the dinner was fantastic. Between our meals at Noma, Aqua, Geranium and here, I could see any of these being the favorite of the trip. Next time we are in Berlin, it will be interesting to see what chef Tim Raue is up to; a very ambitious and at the same time, fun restaurant.