Sunday, February 27, 2011

Culinary-Hide-and-Seek: Metti una sera a cena supper club Berlin

This post is about my third supper club experience. I am so sold on the concept. Every single evening was unique, interesting, tasty, funky and different. This time it was Metti una sera a cena, a supper club in Berlin by an Italian couple who frequently travel between Venetia and Berlin. Metti una sera a cena translates into 'let's get together and have dinner' and I think it is the best way to describe the concept of supper clubs: sure, it is about the food - if you were not interested in food, you would've not come in the first place - but it is also about meeting new people and having a great time with a group of people you might have never met otherwise. It is sort of like a lucky bag, as you never know what to expect, and, like the lovely host said, it is sort of like facebook in real life! 
There were 8 guests which is a perfect size as you all get to share one table and get the opportunity to talk to each and everyone, and mind you, there is always so much to talk about over a dinner. There were people from the US, from Switzerland, from Great Britain and from Berlin, and English was the language of the evening. There was expertise in lots of interesting fields, a lot of humor and just a general love to talk about food. Restaurant tips were swapped ('I am pretty sure it's called Bora') and lifetime-dreams (the farm!!!) shared. And last but not least, I learned what it is like to have dinner with Stephen Hawking. All in all, a great bunch of people!

But this is a food blog right? So what about the courses served then? Well, I am kind of running out of supperlatives, it feels like I already used them all during my last posts on supper clubs. It really amazes me what two laymen working in a tiny kitchen can achieve! The quality of my photos however also amaze me, but in a negative way. Sorry about that, for whatever reason, I am not satisfied with the pictures I took and they  really don't do the lovely arranged dishes justice.
The dinner started with an Aperol which, just like the wine, I had to skip that evening (Note to future-me: make sure to be able to drink alcohol next time you go to Metti una sera a cena!!!). 
The appetizer was a stockfish cream on croutons. The croutons were perfectly crisp, and the stockfish cream fluffy and balanced in flavor. The drizzles of olive oil were impecable, after all the chefs are Italian. 

The first course was a Leek and Saffron Risotto with Gorgonzola Cheese. I make risotto quite often myself, as I like its texture a lot, but boy do I have to sharpen my risotto skills! This must have been softest and smoothest and silkiest risotto I ever had, as a matter of fact, I think this was my favorite dish that evening. The hosts really put a lot of effort into choosing their products, so the gorgonzola was actually bought in Italy and brought to Berlin by the chefs. I wish I could make monthly trips to Italy just for grocery shopping...

Schie con Polenta was the second course, a dish which gave away the home region of the hosts, as it is a dish typical for Venetia. The briny shrimp were laced with garlic and accompanied the creamy polenta nicely. 

As an intermezzo, we were in for a treat of parmesan ice cream. Here is another great thing about supper clubs which my sister who was with me pointed out: Supper clubs give you the opportunity to eat and enjoy dishes which you might have not necessarily ordered from a restaurant menu. Raise your hand if you would have ordered parmesan ice cream! See? You get the point. A wild estimate of 70 % of the guests probably wouldn't have gone for the parmesan ice cream were they to choose an ice cream at a restaurant, but all of us were positively surprised by the ice cream at the supper club. Ice cream with unusual flavors vs. guests: 1:0!

The dessert was Sicilian cannoli filled with mascarpone cream with sprinkles of orange zests and lavender blossoms accompanied by a fruit tartare, made of amongst other fruit Kiwi which, again, were imported straight from Italy! 

Grappa (again, I missed out this time) and coffee was served to round of the dinner, and finally, the hosts were also able to get out of the kitchen and share a drink with their guests.

  copyright of all photos j.

In case you hadn't already guessed by the lovely arranged food, the hosts are both artists, and the dinner takes place in their living room cum studio cum gallery which makes a lovely and inspiring setting for a dinner. Cooking, after all, should also be considered an art!

Thanks to the hosts for a unique and tasy evening, and thanks to the other guests for contributing to making this dinner a night to remember!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hello Goodbye

The last two weeks were busy, really busy. If the last two weeks were a piece of knitwear they would be a 2 meter long, 2 meter wide square knitted with size 1 needles... On the positive side, I got to meet my friend M's little daughter L. who is the cutest baby born in 2011 (J. being the cutest one born in 2010). Her eyebrowes are as soft as milkfoam and her little ears make me think of swedish cinnamon rolls. So, in order to celebrate this "hello", I made some cherry oat muffins which I gladly shared with M.! But there was also a sad goodbye, yet a temporary one: one of my best friends moved to Australia! Australia, that is that far away place on the other side of the globe, the place my Dad tried to dig a tunnel to when he was a kid. I think about 1 meter along the way, he gave up, but that is still further than never having tried at all!
So Australia it had to be, and though she will be deeply missed here, I sooo grant her the nice weather, the beach, the barbies and the G'days! Her favorite cake being lemon cake, I decided to give the soaked lemon pound cake a try to take along to her potlach farewell party. People seemed to like it, as there was hardly any left by the end of the evening, but then, people might have just been really hungry. Yet, it also bore my examination, and so I was lucky to have made an extra couple of muffins patiently waiting to be photographed the day after the party!
So, in honor of the last two weeks filled with 'hellos' and 'goodbyes', here is the recipe of hello-goodbye soaked lemon muffins! And just for the record (pun not intended), I am a huge beatles fan.

 copyrigth of all photos j.

Hello-goodbye soaked lemon muffins (also works for pound cakes (does this recipe name ever end?))

250 gr of butter
200 gr of sugar
5 eggs
250 gr of flour
4 organic lemons
2 tbs of baking powder
80 gr of confectioner's sugar

Take the butter and the eggs out of the fridge about 1-2 hours before you start baking, so that they are at room temperature. Preheat the oven at 170 °C when you start with the cake. Grate the four organic lemons to get a fair amount of zests. Mix the butter until it is very fluffy and creamy, then add the  sugar and the eggs one by one. Add the zests and the flour mixed with the baking powder. Put the dough into a loaf pan lined with baking parchment or fill it into small muffin pans. Bake the pound cake for about 50 to 60 minutes, the muffins are done a lot faster, say between 20 and 30 minutes. Make the test of doneness by sticking a knife into the cake: if it comes out clear, the cake is baked all the way through. In the meantime, take the four lemons and squeeze them until you have 100 ml of juice. Bring the juice and 80 gr of confectioner's sugar to a boil and let it cool off again.
Once the cake/the muffins is /are out of the oven and still really really hot, immediately start to soak the cake with the cold syrup. It might look like way too much syrup, but just keep on pouring! Wait until the cake has cooled off, then take it out of the pan. Cut it into slices and enjoy!

I really liked the tartness of the cake, which you can easily adjust by using more or less confectioner's sugar in the syrup. If 250 gr of butter is not enough for you, you can top of the cake slices or the muffins with a generous dollop of sweetened crème fraiche (crème fraiche mixed with (vanilla) sugar). Some people smoke, some people drink a lot, I prefer slowly killing myself with fat.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A short history of food-related matters: the Frankfurt Kitchen

I love going to museums. Good thing I live in Berlin where there are plenty to choose from. A museum which somehow managed to escape my attention is the "Museum der Dinge" - that is "the Museum of Things". What "things"? you might ask - paintings, sculptures, cars? None of the above and yet a little of everything. The Museum of things is a museum of 20th century product culture. It comprises the archive of the Deutscher Werkbund, an association of designers, architects and artists established in 1907. It was meant to function as an institution bringing together designers and manufactures of every-day products. It also tried to educate people on things both functional and in style. For this purpose, they selected examples of the prodcut in question, put them in so called Werkbund-boxes (see first pircture below) which teachers could borrow in order to discuss the products' use and style in class. I am somewhat sceptical about being able to teach  'good style' which I think should remain the individual's choice. Heck, if I look through photos of myself during the last 15 years, there certainly were a fair amount of style-desasters, but looking back, I think I needed those in order to find my style. 
And yet, the Werkbund had an excellent eye for great design, awarding the best cutlery, tea pots, bowls etc. every year. If you come from a family of collectors, you will immeadiately feel at home at the museum with its maze-like aisles full of china, cutlery, glasses, etc. Especially if you grew up in Germany, you will  also recognize many of the every-day prodcuts on display from the last 100 years.

The most interesting "thing" in the museum however, especially if you are a foodie, is the "Frankfurter Küche"- the Frankfurt kitchen: Designed in 1926 by Austrian designer/architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky (what a cool name by the way), it used to be the state of the art kitchen in the 1920s. Kitchens which used to be the center of every house and apartment were now being outsourced to a special room, where only the cooking and preparing was done. The kitchen turned into a functional room and was no longer condsidered to be a living room, where families spent most of their time and also took their meals. 
The Frankfurt kitchen was both plain in design (you will be very much reminded of the famous Bauhaus school when you walk through the museum) and ultimately functional: tests had been made to see which working stations should be placed where. According to the movements the good German housewife made and the ways she went from the sink to the living room, back into the kitchen, to the sink again, then to the dust bin, to the stove, to the sink and back to the dustbin, the kitchen was designed in order to faciliate the work as much as possible. 
The kitchen had standardized measurements and modules and was built into about 10 000 apartments and houses in Frankfurt.Up until today, its influences can be seen in German kitchen design.

 copyrigth of all photos j.

Now there is only one thing left to say: Go visit the Museum of things! I deeply recommend taking a guided tour, as you easily get overwhelmed by the thousand and thousand things on display!

Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge
Oranienstraße 25
D-10999 Berlin

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cheese crackers

Although I live in Germany, I don't really like sausages. Kind of makes sense that I don't like Schlachtplatte which always comes with sausages. But even cold cuts on sandwiches are not my cup of tea. I am more of a cheese person. Goat cheese, Manchego, Gruyère, Cheddar - I like them all. And cookies, I looove cookies, I am sure you already took notice of that. So, why not combine the two? Salty cheese cookies, or, to be precise, crackers is what I made last week. Sooo yummy! Cracker really is the right word because they make fabulous crackling noices when you chew them and at the same time, they somehow melt in your mouth - a funky texture combo!

copyrigth of all photos j.

Cheese crackers

150 gr of flour
150 gr of grated cheese (Swiss, Gruyère, Cheddar or any hard cheese of your preference)
150 gr of butter
1 egg yoke
sesame seeds or any other kind of seeds

In a bowl, mix the flour with the grated cheese. Add the butter, cut into small pieces. Add the eggyoke and mix everything thoroughly. Cover the dough with clingfilm and put it in the fridge for about 30-60 minutes. 
Now, roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut out cookies using cookie cutters such as round shapes, hearts, fish, etc. Preheat the oven at 200 °C. Repeat until no dough is left and place the cut out cookies on a backing sheet. Sprinkle the cookies with sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or the seeds of your liking. Bake the cookies for about 15-20 minutes, until they have a nice, golden color. 

The cookies are a great snack, go very well with an aperitif, or are perfect for a picnic in the park!
I was soo sure that I had a heart-shaped cookie cutter, but once again, my memory proved unreliable. I still hope that this recipe is accepted as a valentine's recipe in the valentine's blog event hosted by Alice, as I am sure lovebirds would  like to feed each other these crackers!