Food Shopping in Berlin

The first international job for Blanch & Shock has come in the shape of an invitation to Berlin from Light Collective, with whom we had the pleasure to work last year on a dinner inspired by the spectrum of colours. The dinner was served at Castle Gibson - where the entrepreneurial BBC reality show Dragon's Den is shot, and for this version, we are to take over a disused power substation in western Berlin. We build our kitchen on Thursday, supplemented with a staggering amount of equipment which Amy and Mike bravely drove over from London in our new van. For now though, we have been trawling the city for hard-to-find ingredients and esoteric cooking equipment (a spätzle maker...) and planning the menu as we unearth its content. We are used to knowing what we can get hold of and where when we are in London and we are faced with the possibility that the menu may change significantly at the last moment if the food seasons differ drastically to our own or we fail to break the language barrier..

Armed with technology, GCSE German and a diverse catalogue of abstract food-related hand gestures and noises, we set about translating what we thought we wanted into a new menu.

A dry-aging cabinet in FILETSTÜCK, an elegant brasserie and butchery in Prenzlauer Berg, where delicious looking Irish beef was lined up on perfect slate slabs and the air was perfumed with the smell of caramelizing meat, coming from the tiny kitchen in the back of the shop. It was 11 o'clock in the morning, which went some way towards dismissing our hunch that good food was going to be hard to find.

At LPG Biomarkt,  also in Prenzlauer Berg, we found locally grown organic vegetables, including the famed Teltow Turnip, foraged wild garlic leaves, sea buckthorn in many guises (including Gummi Bear) and chunks of Beef Belly, which we hadn't encountered before in London.

At FrischeParadies, a smart food emporium to the east, we found fresh fish, Samphire, and an array of colourful varieties of fish roes. We lost our trains of thought in the meat department, transfixed by huge, vacuum-packed slabs of beef from around the world. Mike lovingly held an entire fillet of Australian Wagyu, and for the briefest of moments we considered blowing our entire food budget on it and serving it on its own, with a pot of mustard. Or taking it home and eating it ourselves.

In spite of the warnings from people concerned about our finances and state of mind, we headed to KaDeWe in the west of the south west of the city. KaDeWe is the biggest department store in Europe. it has been since 1925. The food hall on the top floor is a massive collection of 'stalls' and departments groaning with food - fish from around the world, a condiment section that could be measured in acres, and once again, a meat department at which the rest of the world seemed suddenly insignificant. Apart from beef from Argentina, Australia and USA, and more amazing-looking Wagyu 'Entrecôtes' (at €280. Per kilo) there is an offal department with such delights as Sheep Lung and Veal Oesophagus (for stock) and a whole game stand, with Boar, Venison, Antelope, Rabbits and poultry hearts and stomachs.

We tasted smoked Freshwater and Sea Eels, admired the colour clash of tropical fish amongst those we recognised, drank expensive coffee and made a mental note to become staggeringly wealthy and spend the rest of our lives shopping in the great food halls of the world.

Next: The Dinner


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