A Berlin Christmas Gift Guide

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It's that time of year again!

The fresh scent of pine, glüh wein and sugared almonds perfume the air. The sharp, icy days nip at your cheeks. And the Sun disappears for its annual slumber... hmm...but don't despair...

The Weihnachtsmann is coming!

Well... that's as long as you've been good this year?!

Now, I have always liked to think myself a good present planner. I try to tap into peoples wants and desires and have the memory akin to an elephant. So this year I thought it a good idea to put together a festive little list to help others during this time of hectic christmas shopping, last minutes woes and 'one day left to go' desperation.

I'm basically one of Santa's little elves.

Christmas is after all, all about sharing, so here are some of my favourite (of course mostly food related!) Berlin gifts to help you plan your 2017 Christmas gifting.

Gifts are appropriate for Berlin locals and visitors alike. Not sponsered.

All suggestions are small, local businesses, so by following these tips you can feel very virtuous in the fact that you're supporting small businesses. Therefore it's kind of a present to you too. 

1. Stollen from Lindner. Christmas isn't Christmas without this sugary, buttery German classic. Will be found in every German home at this time of year.

2. 'Winter Light' tea from Paper & Tea. This gorgeous store sells wonderful tea blends and stunning stationary. Either would be a perfect Chrimbo gift.

3. 'Rhubarb & Mint jam' from Zeit für brot. Perfect for making toast a little more exciting.

4. Pralines & Truffles from Sawade. Scrumptious chocolates handmade by Sawade, Berlin since 1880. A delicious little piece of Berlin history.

5. Classes at Ceramic Kingdom. Learn how to make your own bowls and mugs here! I had the most fun and am now the owner of some very 'unique' pieces shall we say! Variety of courses available. One off daytime events also possible so could be part of a special Berlin stay!

6. Spices from the Turkish Market. A little bundle of vibrant spices for the avid cook would make a lovely present and at the Maybachufer Turkish Market you can find spices in abundance and for great prices. Perhaps team these with an interesting wooden spoon/ chopping board that can also be found at this market.

7. Candles at Oblique. Who needs Jo Malone (now part of the hellhole that is LOreale) when you can support such a beautiful, local brand. Candles to die for. 

8. Gift Voucher for Goldhahn & Sampson. The foodie's dream pressie. Can be used for goodies including food items, kitchen utensils or cookbooks. Or even for one of the regular cookery classes that are available. Check website for details.

9. Crazy Bastard Sauce. A gift for those that like to eat alllll the scovilles, or at least say they can. This sauce will put them to the test. Details for buying online and Berlin stockists available on the website.

10. Bite Berlin food tour Gift Vouchers...ahem...Gift vouchers are always a great idea. Pretty effortless for you but all of the enjoyment for the receiver. BUY YOURS NOW :-)

11. Bonanza Coffee. Truly special coffee perfect for the Coffee fiends we know. Perhaps head to Mauer Park and find yourself a vintage coffee bean grinder and this would be some gift!

12. Our/Berlin vodka for the boozers amongst us. Perhaps find a Spreewalder Gurke in a can (local pickle) to accompany it and you have a pretty cute gift!

13. Aventyr Not so much a specific gift idea as a wonderful little spot where you can find truly unique pieces from all over the world. Homeware to underwear. For all ages & preferences.

14. Bite Berlin tote bag anyone? Number 13- lucky for some! I drew the Frenchie!!! <3 #shamelessselfpromo Contact me at info@biteberlin.com to purchase.

15. Berlin Museum Passes for one of the cultured souls you know. Either the annual one for someone that lives in Berlin or day passes for those just visiting. 

16. Christmas cookies at the Markthalle9 Christmas market or if you aren't here during the advent weekends, then head to the Kadewe food hall where you'll find food heaven on earth.

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS & A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

World Hummus Day

Hummus.

I could happily eat hummus everyday. That creamy chickpea nectar is not only good for your health, it's good for your soul.

Well, my soul at least.

You know that question that people ask, usually in magazine interviews, a question that I find sometimes keeping me up at night, racking my brains- 'what would your last supper be?' That death row meal. I think mine actually might be the glorious hummus, teamed with its great friends: fresh bread, pickles and fiery white onion that I inevitably regret munching later on.

Perhaps it was in fact hummus that Jesus and his disciples dined on during the principal Last Supper, its origins are found in that part of the world after all.

First recordings of hummus were discovered in cookbooks from the 13th Century in Cairo and it is a significant part of cuisine across the Levantine world. 'Hummus' means literally chickpeas in Arabic.

It is a dish that has been enjoyed by ancient rulers and despots, spanning a milennia, so you know it has to be good and deserves respect.

Upon my nerdy food googling this morning, I learnt that tomorrow (May 13th) is World Hummus Day!

So it is only right that we celebrate this wondrous and ancient dish and with this post I share with you all my favourite spots to enjoy it in Berlin tomorrow.

Akroum

Though not found on the menu above the counter, their hummus is delicious and fresh. Just ask for hummus 'gemahlen' (ground).

Azzam

Just opposite Akroum on Sonnenallee, you'll find the famous Azzam. Busy and sometimes a little hectic, their hummus always hits the spot. I like to have it with the spicy potatoes.

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Sababa

Gorgeous Israeli dishes, their hummus with aubergine is always a triumph.

€€

,Zula

Another Israeli restaurant, the hummus with mushrooms is my go to, but they have a variety of toppings to join their super creamy hummus.

€€

Kanaan

A perfect place to go in the Summer with their funky outdoor space in Prenzlauer Berg. A Palestinian and Israeli run restaurant, which just touches the soul. As well as the hummus, the Sabich with a Yemenite pastry is fantastic.

€€

Brunch at Refugio

This cafe is part of a Sharehouse for refugees and homeless in Neukölln. The cafe is run by volunteers and offers a weekend brunch with Levantine fare. The hummus is beautiful. Citrusy fresh, it will brighten up your heavy head on a Sunday.

 

Rhubarb season means Rhubarb Hummus

This is a crazy little hummus recipe I came up with some two years ago, as rhubarb began to decorate the supermarket shelves and we realised Spring had finally sprung.

It was then chosen for one of the Telegraph's rhubarb reader recipes and I cannot describe the excitement I felt. My name on the Telegraph website was one of my proudest moments.

Then just two days ago a friend notified me to the fact it had been featured again in the latest Telegraph article on the Hummus crisis back home in the UK.

So as I sit here, glowing in the fact that I am now a seasoned cookery writer, (I mean I'm basically Nigella, right?), I thought I would share this recipe that has come to mean so much to me. Plus rhubarb has returned to us, so its perfect timing.

The idea for this slightly unusual hummus popped into my head one day on considering the similarities between rhubarb and the vibrant spice Sumac. I find both flavours tart with citrus notes and since I love to add a little sumac to my regular hummus, I decided to give a rhubarb version a try- and it's great! The addition of roasted rhubarb gives the humble, earthy chickpea dish a tangy undertone that is delicious. I served it simply with fresh vegetable crudités but it would work equally well with flat bread or perhaps as a side with some taboulleh.

Enjoy!

3 sticks of rhubarb

Large can of chickpeas (800g or 2x 400g)

Rapeseed oil 1 tbsp

paprika 1/2 tsp

sumac 1/2 tsp

cumin 1tsp

coriander 1 tsp

salt to taste
lemon to taste
1/2 orange or satsuma
tahini
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped


To start, chop and trim your rhubarb into 1 inch pieces, removing any stringy fibre as you go.

Throw the rhubarb into a baking tray and drizzle over the rapeseed oil, spices, a little salt and squeeze over the juice of the orange half. Mix with a wooden spoon so that the rhubarb is evenly coated.

Pop in the oven at about 200 degrees Celsius and roast until soft, this will take roughly 15/20 minutes.

While this is happening pour your chickpeas into a saucepan, liquid and all, along with the garlic cloves. Bring to a boil and then a low simmer until the garlic has softened. (I find this makes the garlic mellower).

Drain most of the chickpea liquid away into a small bowl as you may wont re-incorporate some liquid when you get blending later.

Once your rhubarb is softened remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, reserving a couple of pieces to garnish. Now tumble the rhubarb into the pan with the drained chickpeas and garlic. Drizzle in about 1/2 tbsp of tahini, (you can adjust this to your preference, adjusting my hummus can become almost obsessive!), add your lemon, a little sprinkle of cumin, sumac and also the juices from the pan the rhubarb was cooked in.

With a hand blender/ processor etc blend until you have the consistency that pleases you. I prefer something creamy but with still a little body to it.

Adjust the flavours to your liking- perhaps more salt or lemon or even some more of the spices.

To finish, spoon the hummus into a serving bowl and drizzle with a little more of the cooking juices, some olive oil, sumac and serve with crudités.

Berlin restaurant inspiration- Sabich

'Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.' Harriet Van Horne

One of my greatest joys in life is to cook here in my little Berlin kitchen.

Exploring the vibrant neighbourhood of which I live and sourcing ingredients- fresh turmeric root from the Vietnamese Supermarket just down the road or pomegranate molasses from the Turkish market on the corner from my house, or fantastic organic produce from the Biomarkt across from me.

A cuisine that has become more and more present here in Berlin is that of Israeli origin. As someone that follows a largely vegan diet, Israeli food is a dream.

In my mind, tahini is nectar of the gods and an ingredient found in abundance within the Israeli kitchen.

Sabich is something that was introduced to me by some of the amazing Israeli restaurants we have here in Berlin such as Kanaan and Sababa. It is essentially a sandwich with unctious roasted aubergine, luscious tahini sauce, sliced boiled egg teamed with a crunchy salad.

The ingredient which makes this dish altogether magical is the 'amba' sauce, you will not always find it included, but in my opinion, is what makes Sabich so special.

'Amba' is a fragrant mango sauce made with cumin and turmeric and its flavour reminds you that it is also used in Indian cuisine with the name 'amba' derived from the Sanskrit for mango. It is also present in Iraqi cuisine and with Israel being a melting pot of many cultures including Iraqi, this is likely how it came to be part of their cuisine today.

With this blog I shall share with you my interpretation of this wondrous dish, taking aspects of all those I have sampled here in Berlin and putting them together.

Enjoy!

Serves 2

Shopping list:

2 eggs (omit for a vegan version of Sabich)

bunch of fresh parsley

1 yellow pepper

2 tomatoes

1 cucumber

2 spring onions

vinegar

olive oil

pitta bread

tahini

1 fresh mango

300g dried mango

cumin (1 tablespoon- whole seeds or ground)

turmeric (1 tablespoon of ground)

fenugreek (1 teaspoon of ground)

2 cloves garlic

rice syrup 

2 aubergines

pickles (gherkins, turnips etc) to serve

Method

First get your aubergines on the go by slicing them either into 1cm thick rounds or simply each aubergine slice in half length ways, scoring the flesh and then (either way) placing them on a roasting tray and rub with olive oil. Roast for roughly 25 minutes or until soft and golden in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius.

While this is happening, its time to make the amba sauce.

Prepare your fresh mango by slicing in half around the stone and removing the flesh with a spoon and roughly chop.

In a small saucepan add 1.5 cups of water, 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of rice syrup and the juice of 1 lemon and put over a high heat.

Add the fresh and dried mango, bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the mango is softened.

Pop your eggs onto boil according to how you like them!

Roughly chop the garlic and then fry in a small pan until soft, adding the cumin seeds, turmeric and ground fenugreek. Add to the mango.

Take it off the heat and carefully pour into a blender, adding salt and pepper, whizz until smooth.

For the salad- roughly chop the tomato, onion and pepper to bite-size pieces. Peel the cucumber and de-seed, roughly chop as the other ingredients and add everything to a bowl. Roughly chop the parsley and throw into the salad. To dress- add a glug of olive oil, vinegar, lemon, salt and pepper.

Tahini sauce- into a small bowl, pour in a cup of tahini. Add a little water and with a fork mix into the tahini until it looks like something has gone very wrong and its curdled. Keep stirring in a little water at a time until it is creamy, smooth and lighter in colour. It should be of a pourable consistency. Add a good squeeze of lemon and salt.

Toast or heat your pittas in the oven. Once the aubergines are nicely roasted, take from the oven and assemble your Sabich. You could simply just stuff the pitta with all the ingredients and munch away, but I like to make it pretty by placing the whole aubergine half on top of the warm pitta, drizzle with the sauces, scatter over the sliced boiled egg and a little salad on the side, pickles, eating it with a knife and fork. Perhaps this is sabich sacrilege but it makes me happy.

בְּתֵיאָבוֹן! (enjoy your meal!)

Vegan version without the egg- just as yummy in my opinion!

Vegan version without the egg- just as yummy in my opinion!

Berlin foodie hitlist

So you've made it to Berlin for a little trip and there are so many amazing things to do and see that you just don't know where to start.

Of course the most important matter at hand is what to eat and where.

It's all too easy to get a little lost when you visit a new city and if you're only there for a few days or so, you need a little guidance. It's always best when you know someone that lives there, a friend that can take you by the hand to all their favourite spots and lead you away from all the tourist hellholes. You may be thinking, that's all well and good but we don't know anyone that lives here in Berlin.

There you'd be wrong.

You have me!

And this blog is for you- an easy, concise plan of foodie action for when you are in Berlin for a holiday and want to make the most of your trip without any culinary mishaps.

Follow these steps and you will have yourself a truly delicious, vibrant and an extremely Berlin holiday.

You'll find a balance of the German classics, that one may be craving on a visit to the Hauptstadt, and the more diverse foodie finds that reflect the multi-cultural bounty that is the Berlin food scene.  

Enjoy!

Kadewe- the foodhall

The stunning department store that is the Kadewe (Kaufhaus des Westens) hosts Europe's largest foodhall and it demands that you visit. Far more affordable than its British rival (Harrods) and the Wintergarten canteen on the very top is special. Awesome view of the city and the food is just immense with a great variety. The strudel here with vanilla and blackcurrant sauce should not be missed.

Rogacki- the deli

This is a little piece of history. A family owned business since 1928, they have been providing Berliners with delicious morsels such as smoked fish, sausages and even oysters for years. Go during a month with a 'R' in it and enjoy yourself some oysters with a nice little glass of Riesling. Also, for a little trivia- Anthony Bourdain went to Rogacki during his episode on Berlin food.

Berliner Weisse at Zwiebelfisch

This is charming little bar in the chic neighborhood of Savignyplatz in Charlottenburg. This area was extremely popular amongst artists, poets and other Bohemian types in the 70s before this scene moved over to East Berlin after the fall of the wall, and Zwiebelfisch encapsulates that. You can enjoy some traditional German bites here or just a little tipple- the red or green Berliner Weisse is a Berlin classic you can try here.

Strudel at Einstein

Though this is an Austrian delicacy, of course it can be found extensively in Germany and Cafe Einstein Stammhaus provide a pretty scrummy offering.

Schnitzel at Austria

Another Austrian dish adopted by their Germanic cousins and after extensive research, it is the schnitzel at Austria that is my favourite in Berlin. Crispy coated and the size of your head, this will satisfy those that are craving the Teutonic classic.

Schwarzes Cafe

This 24 hour cafe/restaurant/bar is a typical Berlin establishment. Cosy with an endearing shabbiness where you can enjoy extremely good afternoon Kaffee & Kuchen (coffee/cake) or a midnight cocktail. Alternatively you can have an afternoon cocktail and a midnight coffee and cake.

Clärchens Ballhaus

This Berlin institution built in 1913 as a ballroom is still used for dancing to this day along with a great German menu and also pizzas. Try the classic Königsburger Klopse and then join in for a little salsa.

Currywurst at Konnopkes

Because no trip without the Berlin Currywurst would be complete!

Brunch at Dots

Delightful little cafe with all the necessary brunchtime treats such as pancakes, avocado toast and eggs.

Fassbender & Rausch

For the chocolate lovers amongst us! In a beautiful location, opposite Gendarmenmarkt, this chocolate shop is a must. Check out the Berlin landmarks made entirely from chocolate and there is even a chocolate restaurant upstairs.

Dong Xuan Center

Go to Vietnam for the day and experience the cultural richness that the prominent Vietnamese community in Berlin brings to the city.

Sonnenallee for Middle Eastern cuisine

This street is nicknamed 'Arabic Street' and hosts a multitude of fantastic Arabic restaurants. Azzam. Al Andalous. Akroum. To name a few spots! The heavenly scent of baklava fills the air, get off at Rathaus Neukölln and follow your nose.

Food Markets

The markets are a must for any trip of Berlin, they teach us so much about the culture of the city and are just plain delicious. There are quite a few in Berlin, almost every day of the week there is a market somewhere to be found- so below is a list of my favourites.

And of course, join one of my food tours!

New Year, New You

So Christmas has been and gone and 2017 is upon us. New resolutions are set and this is going to be your year!

Yes, we said the same thing last year but this time its true, new start, new outlook, new me.

Either way, after much indulging...well- gorging during the Christmas period, however you want to put it, January is a logical point to take a little extra care of our bodies. Go for a few trots around the park and shoot back a ginger shot or two.

´Veganuary´has been the buzzword of the last couple of years and the start of 2017 is no different.

For many, the thought of eliminating meat and dairy from their diet for a month will not go down well. Feelings of fear, confusion and disgust will be commonplace. Yet that would be ill-founded!

Vegan food is easily as delicious and satisfying as their carnivorous counterparts and with Berlin being the Vegan capital of Europe, I thought it only apt to account a list of some of my favourite vegan spots in Berlin to kick of the new year.

So this is for the vegans, vegan-curious and even those that cannot imagine a plate without a pound of flesh upon it.

Enjoy.

Alaska Bar

This bar is Vegan Heaven and that is no exaggeration. Classic tapas devoid of meat, dairy or eggs but all the taste. Tortilla with aioli, croquettes, patatas bravas and even more. Enjoy with a little glass of Vermouth. This place would fool even the most dedicated meat eater.

 

Black Sheep Cafe

Charming all vegan cafe nestled within the leafier section of Neukölln on the border of Treptow, it is definitely worth the treck. Bagels with marmite and cheese, (a classic from where I'm standing!), beautiful cakes and pastries- and they brew their own Kombucha to give you that healthy kick we all need right now.

 

Chay Village

Vietnamese classics such as crispy pancakes and steaming plates of Bun Xa. No meat can be found here with nearly all options now being completely vegan, this is one of the best spots for Vietnamese food in Berlin with or without meat.

Let it be

Another all vegan option, offering a wide selection of burgers and crepes. Sweet and savoury crepes and fantastic fries and wedges to accompany these junk-food fantasies, this place is perfect for anyone with a fast-food craving.

Lily Burger

With a selection of vegan burgers to rival their regular meaty options- this place is great if you are with those that cannot commit to Veganuary. Their vegan mayo is so convincing I had to ask twice if they were positive it was not just a regular jar of Hellmanns.

Sababa

Israeli cuisine in all its glory. Roasted aubergines, silky tahini sauce, pillowy pitta breads and fresh salads- their vegan options are sublime.

Chutnify

South Indian cuisine with all the flavour and punch that most Indian restaurants in Berlin lack.

Plenty of vibrant vegan options here such as traditional dosas with sweet potato and the Bombay bhel (pictured below) was like nothing I have ever tried before! Teamed with fresh and fragrant chutnies- go, go, go!

Michelberger Hotel

This restaurant is a little bit special. Gorgeous ambiance and they always have one really beautiful vegan option. The lack of choice makes things easier and it never disappoints.

Brammibals

DONUTS! Oodles of donuts, all different flavours- now who cannot be happy with that?

BergmannCurry

Vegan Currywurst is not too easy to find, even in the Vegan capital, but this little stall has one for all you vegans wanting to try this Berlin classic.

Monella

Amongst all the regular pizzas, Monella offer a couple of good vegan options. Not being a massive fan of the phenomenon that is vegan 'cheese', they don't mess around with food substitutes but rather celebrate naturally vegan ingredients- beautiful tomato sauce, roasted vegetables, pine nuts etc.

Pele-Mele

Great place for lunch. Bagels, ciabatta and juices

Superfoods & Organic Liquids

As it says in the title- this is one for the healthy vegan. Super salads bursting with vitamins and green smoothies galore.

The Best Christmas markets in Berlin

It's that time of year again.

The time of year that the heady scent of Glühwein and Bratwurst fills the air and you cannot help but wonder how it can be Christmas again already.

Every year seems to go faster than the last, the year's 'to do lists' left incomplete yet again, we'll do better next year.

So while you're here in Berlin, take a break from the trials and tribulations of the festive season to enjoy all the good things that come along with this time of year.

Roasted chestnuts. The ubiquitous Raclette with its melted ooziness over toasted bread or potatoes with pickled onions and gherkins. And the sometimes too sweet, but always warming Glühwein- mulled wine with oranges and cloves and of course the customary shot or schuss of rum. Just to make sure you don't freeze from the cold, naturally.

There is somewhere between 60 and 80 Christmas markets in Berlin and it could be said that once you've seen one, you've seen them all.

They do tend to have the same offerings of food and general bits and pieces, however some of the markets here in Berlin just cannot be missed and here I have put together a list of my favourite ones.

Merry Christmas!! Frohe Weihnachten!!

1. WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt- situated at one of, if not the, most beautiful squares in Berlin. This market is sure to put even Ebenezer in the Christmas Spirit. One of few that you have to pay to go in (just 1 euro), it is worth every penny. Carols fill the air, great food and drink, overlooked by stunning cathedrals and the concert house. Duration: 21.11.16-31.12.16

2. Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in der Kulturbrauerei- within an old brewery, this Scandinavian themed market is a must! Try the Swedish Glögg with a shot of rum and a sprinkle of sultanas and almonds. Duration: 21.11.16-22.12.16

3. Weihnachtsmarkt in der Sophienstrasse- something for the weekend, this market is only on Saturday and Sunday. I love its simplicity as it just runs the length of the street. Duration: Each Advent weekend

4. Weihnachtsmarkt Charlottenburg Schloss- another one in a beautiful location with the backdrop of Charlottenburg Palace. Currently covered in scaffolding, it still makes for a gorgeous Christmassy Setting. Duration: 21.11.16- 26.12.16

5. Spandauer Weihnachtsmarkt in der Altstadt- this one is a little further out but very much worth the trip. One of the oldest Christmas markets in Berlin in the old town of Spandau. Duration: Tue, 13.12.2016 till Tue, 27.12.2016                 

One to miss- Weihnachtmarkt am Alexanderplatz. I hate to be a snob but this one is just a bit much in my opinion. Heaving with people, it doesn't have the charm of the other markets.  

Ode to Autumn

 

And so it is this way every year.

One day you´re waking up basking in the late summer rays, and the next in comes the gusts of Autumns' cold breath- our annual reminder that Winter is just around the corner.

Berlin has grown cold yet again and thoze lazy, hazy days of Summer are long forgotten.

Alas! It´s not time to lament this period of eternal cloud (its started already, nooo), but rather to celebrate all that we have in store.

Pumpkins. Cinnamon Schnecke. Piping hot soups with crusty brötchen. Glühwein and iced star-shape cookies. The Christmas markets and their ubiquitous Raclettes.

The shorter days are not to be afraid of, but embraced. It's time to make the most of the hibernation to read our favourite books, finally learn how to crochet and of course to enjoy our most comforting foods.

If we can however, find it in us to crawl out of our cozy havens and venture into the dark, damp depths of the City, (and we do, I remind myself many times a day), then here is a list of some of my favourite spots to have a munch or a slurp.

They´ll be sure to warm your soul and give you that little spring in your step we need during these colder months.

Hirsch- the cosiest of cosy. Traditional South-German fare. A schnitzel and a schnapps will be sure to warm your cockles.

Michelberger hotel- exquisite yet unpretentious. Seasonal, local cuisine. A rustic countryhouse that lost its way and became a restaurant in Berlin. (Fantastic vegan options available).

Perlin- wine and tapas bar where you pay what you think it was worth. You can´t get more welcoming than that!

Viktoria bar- step back in time to the 60s and enjoy joyful service and equally as pleasing cocktails.

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Fraulein Kimchi- spicy, fermented cabbage will always warm your bones and add that to an awesome ramen burger with the BEST fries ever and you´ll be golden. (Fantastic vegan options available).

Beusters- beautiful Beusters and their beautiful cocktails. The Sloe-gin fizz is nectar of the gods.