Thursday, December 6, 2007

Neu York, Neu York

For for my few and far between non-NYC-based readers, there were many highlights to my time in New York (madly finishing my NYU masters thesis, having my gloves stolen by an evil cabbie, and the Moishe's poppyseed hamantashan (hardly any filling!) excluded):
1. Lunch at Google: You've heard about the quirkiness of the Google offices and it's all true: scooters in the halls, free snacks and espresso machines everywhere (I pilfered my share!), and a sprawling (by Manhattan standards cafeteria with about a million choices and a cookbook author signing books and doing a cocoa-crusted scallop tasting.
2. A totally unBerlin evening, beginning with (as Anne called it) "grownup cocktails" at Pegu (even a simple vodka tonic gets me funny looks in Berlin) and dinner at Momofuko Ssambar (Japanese custard with maple and trout roe, roasted brussels sprouts with mint, pickled chiles(?), and fish sauce, steamed pork belly buns, pork short ribs with miso or ???, and a PB&J-inspired dessert of concord grape jelly, crunchy peanut butter, and saltine ice cream).
3. A meal with Diana at Prune has become a tradition when I visit New York. I know not everybody gets it, but Prune's food is perfectly in tune with me. Maybe next time I'll be able to branch out from the fried oyster omelet (served with remoulade and a brilliant sauce of powdered sugar mixed with tobasco). We were also harrassed (again!) by drunken Santas taking part in the annual Santa Con pub crawl (Berlin is much too serious for anything so silly) and went to a Christmas party at Sotheby's with a viewing of the purchasable Magna Carta.
4. The marinated white anchovy sandwich at 'wichcraft (with a soft-cooked egg, roasted onion, and salsa verde), which earned me a free sandwich (it's only taken me four years to earn this with my "frequent customer card"). I spend most of an entire day in 'wichcraft -- they have good snacks and coffee and surprisingly decent music to drown out the NYU undergrad's insipid conversations and free wireless.
5. Lunch as study break at the Jackson Diner (lunch buffet!) and for my last hurrah, pork and chive dumpling noodle soup on a cold night in Chinatown.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Frohe Weihnachten

Christmas in Germany is still a bit of a mystery to me and I'm going stateside in a few days so I won't be able to report on most of it first-hand, but I can tell you that the madness starts on the first day of Advent (December 2 this year), which is also when the Weihnachtsmaerkte (Christmas markets) get going. I'm currently in a bit of a German Christmas flurry as I have to soak it all up in less than a week (ie, buy meaningful, typical, and this year sustainable (the fam is doing a sustainable (except for the massive amount of airmiles on my and mein Freund's parts) Christmas) presents). I was pretty revved up for the Weihnachtsmaerkte. You always see such great photos in travel magazines...all winter wondery and overflowing with holiday cheer. In my experience, the Berlin version is more cold, grey, and drizzly than winter wondery, but it was still pretty cheerful. I managed to visit four markets this year so I have definitely had my share of cold toes and Gluhwein (literally, glowing wine, as in mulled wine): very important for the toes. The first market was at Domaene Dahlem in west Berlin and was possibly my favorite, if only because I got my share of Weihnachtsgans mit Gruenkohl und Kartofeln (Christmas goose with kale and potatoes) (and a bite of Hefekloesse mit Plaumenmus (yeasted dumpling with plumbutter!), pictured in the background). I also scored these delightful wooden animals ... very overdue baby gifts for some new tiny cousins I've acquired.

Another Christmas highlight was this insanely cute Advent calendar (Adventkalendars are huge here) that mein Freund made for me! I have a feeling Saint Nikolaus is going to really fill his (ugly German hiking) shoes this year! This is another German (and other Christian-y places, I think) tradition....Saint Nikolaus (think Santa in a pope hat) goes around and puts little treats in the shoes of good kids (and Freunds). From what I've read (thank you, Gridskipper), he has a not-so-nice acomplice, Knecht Rubrecht who deals with the naughty kids by leaving switches instead of treats. Like I said, I don't quite get this German Christmas thing (they also have two Christmases: the 25th and 26th even though the main celebration is on the 24th???). Not that I, equal opportunity celebrist that I am, fault anyone for too much celebrating ... we'll be having latkes (called Kartofelpuffer here and are not considered a Jewish food in the slightest, but are served year-round at street festivals and such) for our Hannukah dinner on the 4th.