Notes from Berlin: Spargel and a Fat Landlady

Written By Scott Joseph On May 24, 2013

Berlin dicke

On Saturdays in Berlin, the Winterfeldt Markt is the place to go. You’ll find fresh produce, cheeses, barrels full of olives, smoked trout, herring sandwiches, and, if you prefer, dry goods, such as scarves or socks. Even if you’re not in the market for anything in particular, the markt is a fun place to stroll.

Berlin spargelWhen I visited earlier this month, I was met with stand after stand with massive displays of white asparagus — spargel — so big and thick that it looked like stacked cordwood. It turned out that it was the height of spargelzeit — asparagus season. I was disappointed that I was staying in a hotel and wouldn’t be able to take some back to a kitchen to prepare.

But I wasn’t disappointed for long. As we strolled back to the hotel, we began noticing that all of the restaurants along the way were featuring special spargel menus to showcase the popular vegetable.

And that evening, at our dining destination, Dicke Wirtin, near Savignyplatz, our server proudly presented her restaurant’s spargel offerings. How could we not?

Dicke Wirtin means fat landlady, and the restaurant’s logo features a cartoon of said lady, in flower-print house dress with a cigarette dangling from her pursed lips. The restaurant itself is well kitsched, too, a parlor decor with too many knickknacks on shelves along the red papered walls. We were on our guard that perhaps we’d been suckered into a tourist trap. But it seemed as though we were the only non-German speaking guests (not that there couldn’t be German tourists to trap). And the food turned out to quite good.


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Notes from Berlin: A Perfect Moment

Written By Scott Joseph On May 24, 2013

Sometimes, not often enough, things come together to form a perfect moment. That’s what happened in a place called Brel in Berlin’s Savignyplatz. 

Savignyplatz, in Berlin’s Charlottenburg neighborhood, is a green square with numerous cafes and restaurants ringing it. We had just had a wonderful dinner at Dicke Wirtin, just off the platz, and were looking for a nice place to have a cup of coffee, perhaps a digestif and maybe a bit of dessert. We were somehow drawn to Brel.

So were dozens of other people. The place was packed, and everyone seemed happy, eating, drinking and listening to the piano music coming from an upright in the small dining room. 

The bar was crowded, too, and there was only one seat available, down at the end next to the waiters’ service area. But the bartender, an affable and welcoming young man, came from around the other side, grabbed an unused stool from a nearby hightop, and plopped it next to the other one. We plopped ourselves down.

Brel is named for Jacques Brel, the composer who famously was “Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” though he is no longer any of those. It was a bit strange to be in a French restaurant in Germany, but the atmosphere, which made it feel as though perhaps it was the 1920s, made me think that it might have been something found during the Weimar era. I felt I had gone back in time.

Shortly after we had ordered our coffees and a Grand Marnier, plus a tarte Tatin that the waiter warned us would take 20 minutes to prepare, two seats opened at the other end of the bar, a space that had a commanding view of the entire bar and much of the dining room. We replopped and the bartender brought our drinks down to us, just before delivering the tarte, which was an odd variation of the classic dessert, more like a cinnamon dusted flat pastry with apples and pears and other fruits on top. Strange, but delicious, especially the beany vanilla ice cream.

And then the moment occurred. From the other room the pianist began to play “Mack the Knife” from The Threepenny Opera. The entire restaurant was mesmerized.

So there we were, sitting in a French themed bar and restaurant, in Berlin, listening to the music of a German composer, sipping coffee and liqueur, and enjoying a fine dessert that followed a terrific dinner just down the street.

I just smiled.

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Notes from Berlin: KaDeWe

Written By Scott Joseph On May 20, 2013

Kadewe wurst

BERLIN – The official name is Kaufhaus des Westens but nearly everyone calls it simply KaDeWe. Indeed, the shortened name is all that shows on the side of the seven-story department store, the second largest in Europe after Harrod’s.

The first five stories of KaDeWe (kah-day-vay) hold the typical fashion and design elements found in any upscale department store, in Europe or the States. But it’s the top two floors that make it unique — and a must-do destination for any foodies visiting Berlin. Those levels are designated almost entirely to food and wine, with dozens of small service counters, each representing a cuisine or food specialty. If you’ve been to Harrod’s food stalls you’ll have an idea of the concept and quality but not the scale. KaDeWe’s food floors dwarf Harrod’s.


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Written By Scott Joseph On May 16, 2011

More certainly doesn’t look like the sort of place where you’d find traditional German fare. Instead of the typical rathskeller or beer garden atmosphere, this trendy restaurant in a bohemian neighborhood of Berlin is ultra modern with red the dominant color — walls, upholstery, lamp shades — and decorative touches like beaded curtains.

There are some nouvelle items on the menu — or whatever the German translation for nouvelle would be — but the best items are the ones that seem as thought they are from recipes passed down from the chef’s grandmother. And they very well may be.

I really wanted to try the Wiener schnitzel so I could compare it to the one I had enjoyed a few days earlier in Vienna, but I just couldn’t pass up the veal meatballs, and I’m glad I didn’t. They were big and, um, meaty, with a dense texture, and graced with a salty sauce made of capers. Parsley potatoes and a salad accompanied.

My companion had roast beef with sauteed potatoes served with a mild remoulade sauce. Both dishes were quite homey and filling (and because we visited in the dead of winter, we appreciated the warmth of the meal).

The staff couldn’t have been friendlier and more accommodating. When we first arrived, the only seat available was one near the front door, which didn’t appeal to us (see reference to winter above). Instead, we chose to sit at the food bar — an option that is often my first choice anyway — and we were thoroughly entertained by the bartender.

More is at Motzstrasse 28 (I always remembered it by calling it the mozzarella street; it worked), Berlin. Phone is 030-23635702. Here’s a link to More’s website.

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