Cold. Only 59°F but after seven or eight winters here one hopefully begins to recognize when it is upon one, and yes, it seems that now's the time. I was even wearing jeans and a jacket, if you can believe that.

Luckily, someone came back from their American vacation with a bottle of pineapple habanero hot sauce from 12 Bones Smokehouse in Asheville, NC, and it's a good'un. Surprisingly dark and smoky but still sporting that slow tropical burn that we likes so much. I'll be trying to make this bottle last as long as possible, but it may be worth trying to recreate this in the MoopLab.




First, the good news. Mara went to Pure Markt in the Frankendael Park this weekend, and bought some lovely French saucisson, this one with large pieces of chestnuts in the mix.


This low-lit pile of undifferentiateable matter is warm figs and gorgonzola wrapped in bacon with a cherry vinaigrette over arugula and several other field green-y type lettuces. And it convinced me once and for all that fresh figs are a hoax.

I buy some every year about this time because they're in season and thus relatively inexpensive (these were 25 cents a piece) and give them a chance to live up to their reputation, but all I end up with is anemic, tasteless Fruit Product that really needs to be reduced, caramelized, wrapped in bacon, or some other flavor-extracting trick to happen to it in order to be edible.



monk-y pea, monkey etc.

Last night's dinner was fresh capucijners (well, they were fresh when she delivered them, then I froze them) from Klary with speck and caramelized onions, plus some roasted potatoes for to be dunked in the condiment of your choice. And don't worry about that sad and lonely piece of bacon back there (below), he ended up finding a lovely home with a loving family: let's just say Mara and I were awarded joint custody. Chomp (thanks Klary)!

The capucijner is a field pea with a purplish-blue pod and they's dang good eatin. For more about capucijners in English, maybe check out Skippy's Vegetable Garden.


In other news, TIHAI has been picked up for the Something Raw festival in January, which means that the Duck may end up getting solidly into the black for this production, which in turn would be a large step toward restoring his faith in pretend professional composer-dom.


you are(n't) getting very sleepy.

Not relevant at this very moment, but by the time it is, it'll be too late to ask you: does anyone out there among the three of you A) go to sleep listening to podcasts, and if so B) can you recommend some? Lately when I can't sleep this is working OK for me.

To clarify: I'm not really looking for something completely enjoyable. I'm looking for something to put me to sleep. It has to be smart enough so as not to offend my critical sensibilities, long enough to where it won't end just as I'm falling asleep, aurally low-key enough so as not to startle (so, no monotone voices cutting to squally or squeally transitional music), and it must avoid the subjects of money, eternity, politics, religion, love, and family. Any suggestions? I'm all ears.


On Sunday I made this Surinamese chicken soup again, with a couple of modifications: no lemongrass and no galangal, and green plantains instead of the potatoes. Then, the next day, I added two tablespoons of chunky peanut butter and the same amount of roasted coconut water and reheated it. A thoroughly good variation, approaching the taste of authentic pindasoep.




Was just thinking about my Berlin schwarma experiences and wondered where I might find Amsterdam's best shoarma. Some people think here.


off the road again.

Above photo: on my way out the door, heading to the bus station.


I was up most of the night due to a bad chicken shwarma (let's leave it at that), an awful chicken shwarma, in retrospect...a nearly deadly deadly shwarma (ok, got it). Today I am left feeling only extremely tired and mildly annoyed, but that's a whole ton better than I felt at 3am.

So by the time I got to HBF this afternoon (LENGTHY ASIDE: this consisted of dragging my funsucking black hole of a suitcase behind me for about an hour over the quaintly cobblestoned streets of West Berlin, chuggada-clackety-chuggeda, repeat. I never ever want to hear that sound again, especially not coming from me. Why was I forced to engage in this profoundly uncool travel method? The S-Bahn was closed in some key stations, and the U-Bahn is mysteriously unhelpful in getting to HBF), I officially hadn't consumed anything since yesterday afternoon other than lots of peppermint tea.

After clickety-chuggading past some more impressively gargantuan buildings, I was then faced with the tricky decision of eating at the station or eating on the train. I couldn't remember what the train food was like back in 2004...It seemed like the station was the better idea b/c at least I would have some measure of control over the options. And I really, really, really didn't want to be stuck in a sausage-only situation.

And that's why we're looking at a plate of schweinsbraten mit sauerkraut und kartoffelklöß. I never had any plans to eat the kartoffelklöß: when Mara and I went to Germany for Christmas back in 2001, these things almost destroyed us. Klöß is a perfect name for them: eating one, or God forbid, more than one, is like trying to flush a whole still-rolled roll of TP down the toilet. The toilet gets klößßed.

Steering this post permanently away from intestinal distress, this sauerkraut was actually some of the best I've ever had, kind of more thick-cut than what I'm used to, and nicely spiced with caraway, which is sneakily becoming one of my favorite spices.


Wrapping things up: Berlin was good. Traveling is good, this trip reminded me very much of my old exploring days, when I lived to be dropped in the middle of a strange city and quickly sniff out all the cool stuff. I mean, some unignorable things have changed: I don't have the budget I used to, or the metabolism, or the ect ect ect. But I ignored all of those details a bit, and for a little while went back in time.

One last thing: traveling by train is better than traveling by plane, but I think a car is even better. Being in the back seat of a car with the window down, heading out of town for fun and adventure is a feeling I miss. Luckily I've done a lot of it at some point in the past, b/c the feeling is familar and sweet. It helps to have a driver you trust behind the wheel and to not be involved in the navigational or logistic details.

Above: about half of the amazing kitchen at the place I was staying.


operation kino.

I just saw Inglourious Basterds, with a German audience, and I must say, I underestimated the potency of my idea. I also overestimated my ability to understand the 50% of the movie that is not in English, so I'll need to see it again soon, but wow. I will not need to ask myself, "But what would Germans think of this?" They laughed, a lot: it's a funny movie. I missed about half of the funny parts b/c they were in German. But the ending is not funny, and the general feeling that I got from the audience was something like satisfaction...hard to explain, or even say if I'm right.


prince albert.

I've been looking for free WiFi all day that didn't involve buying a caffeinated beverage, and finally I found a place called Albert's on Karl-Marx-Allee that hooked a brother up. The above is not a picture of it. This is:

I can't believe I've only been here a week, it feels like forever, and frankly I'm ready to come home. For a lot of reasons. I've had a totally great week, but as Rusty Cuyler would say, "Now's the time!" I miss my best friend. I miss vegetables. I miss my bike. I miss my bed. I miss clothes that are much cleaner than the ones I'm having to choose from every morning. I'm out of money. Ect. Ect. Ect.


I was having a bit of deja vu when I wrote most of this. I was sitting at Prater again, like I was yesterday, in the same spot, doing the same thing, at about exactly the same time of day. My morning, however, was thankfully completely different.

I started with deja vu as well, due to poor long-range planning. If I'd combined yesterday and today more intelligently, I could have killed many more birds with my two giant dangling stones.

So today I was heading down to Checkpoint Charlie as soon as I left the house. My plan was to have a bit of phở for a healthy-ish and quasi-cleansing lunch at a place called Viet Bowl:

This was not the best phở I've ever had, in fact, I'm pretty sure we round-eyes can make more authentic phở than this. But when assessed as a light and brothy beef soup with lots of herbs and ginger, it wasn't bad at all (really, what is bad when served with a bottle of sriracha), and it was the right decision for lunch today.

The plan continued with a walk northwest up to the Holocaust memorial. In short: interesting, in that it made me carefully consider what kind of memorial would really be appropriate enough, what kind of scale would something have to have, etc. This felt a bit on the underachieving side, but was physically kind of beautiful.

There are almost 3,000 of these variously-sized (bronze?) slabs, ranging from like half a meter high to say three meters high. The first picture is taken from outside the arrangement, but then you can walk down into them, which is where the second picture is taken from.


This issue of scale brings up another Berlin characteristic: it's too big to capture on my little camera. Like Rome, or Paris, or New York, the size of things is grand and impressive, and there's very little an extremely amateur photographer like myself can do to convey this feeling of being towered over.

Speaking of grand and impressive, this is the Krakauer (grilled Polish sausage) I just ordered here at Prater for an early dinner. This...this is my last sausage. And it was a good one...talk about snap, this one had it.

From the Holocaust memorial, the plan went awry. On paper, it went like this: get the hell out of the touristy area as quickly as possible because it was robbing me of my will to live. The only definite antidote that I knew of was Prenzlauer Berg, but I've already been there a few times this trip, revisiting places from our 2004 Berlin trip like Schwarzsauer and Frida Kahlo. So I thought I'd aim for the north end of P-Berg and then slowly make my way down southeast through Friedrichshain, where I'm supposed to be at 7pm.

My problem was, I aimed too high, and walked for a good 90 minutes though the equivalent of Admiral de Ruyterweg (for non-Amsterdammers...imagine an endlessly repeating succession of kebab stands, electronics shops, keymakers, dry cleaners, Internet cafes, pedestrian bakeries (meaning run-of-the-mill, not baked pedestrians, you knew that), drugstores, and "everything for 1 euro" places). It turns out that not all of Berlin is cool. Which was useful to see firsthand, I might not have believed it as thoroughly as I do now if I hadn't walked it myself.




My day did not become more efficient after my Giant Schnitzel. Check this: so the reason I was buying a memory card in the first place was because I thought I lost my other one. Why did I think I lost it? Well, it wasn't in my camera, because the camera was telling me "No Memory Card" when I turned it on. So I looked EVERYWHERE for it, etc, not finding it. This is called foreshadowing.

Today I finally found a place to buy a memory card, and I bought one, and opened my camera to put it in and start photographizing, and...guess what I found??? My old memory card! This did not bode well. So I stuck the new card in the camera, and...I bet you can guess what the camera said. That's right, it said "Too Many Trips to The Beach, You Dumb Fucker. I've Got Sand Or Other Debris in My Card Slot." Or something like that, I was too mad to remember.

Like any good thriller, this one has a false happy ending. After blowing really hard into my card slot for about 5 minutes, my camera finally recognized my card. Yay! I can take pictures!

So I head down to Checkpoint Charlie, to take a picture for Mara, because she and I both have a soft spot for this 80s movie called Gotcha! in which Checkpoint Charlie plays a pivotal role. And I take out my now-functioning camera to take a picture and...my battery runs out. I did manage to snap one barely-aimed photo:

It is 4 o'clock by this point, and I have accomplished almost nothing besides raising my blood pressure and buying a memory card that I didn't really need. I won't even describe the hilarity that ensued when I then went to an internet cafe to print my train ticket (which I eventually succeeded at doing). Time for a beer, no?

This is Prater Biergarten in Prenzlauer Berg, it's huge and extremely pleasant. My beer is also huge and extremely pleasant. There's no table service, just a beer window and a food window, which I am going nowhere near, because I know all they have is sausage and pretzels, which I'm sure would be great, but...I'm trying to come home at roughly the same size I was when I left.

People drink an assload of beer in Berlin. You can buy it anywhere, at any time of day, and drink it anywhere. And people do. On the subway, on the street, maybe even in their cars, I don't know. One wonders how this works, this everyone drinking all the time everywhere.

Randomly: Berlin is much much bigger and much prettier than I realized. The last time we were here, we stayed in Prenzlauer Berg exclusively. And though it definitely has a certain appeal, I'm not sure "pretty" is one of the first words you'd use to describe it.

Mitte, on the other hand, as long as you stay away from Friederichstrasse and the gross tourist/commerical stuff, is very pretty in a big-city way. But European, like Bologna or parts of Milano. And all of it feels very urban and exciting, in different ways than our little Amsterdam does, and that is a good feeling for me.

I'm not saying I'm on the moving to Berlin train with everyone else, but I certainly understand the appeal. I'm going to keep it as my cheap and close-by NYC...an exciting place to visit. I've got a couple of gigs scheduled here in February, so it's nice to know I'm coming back soon.

time, travel.

At this moment I am doing something I am pretty sure I've never done before: computing outside. I know, I know, I always had problems with this concept myself in the past, but A) everyone else is doing it, and B) I need to take care of some things online and don't feel like going back up to the attic...it's almost sunny today. Oh, and C) tiny_a has a screen that's actually visible outside. Go tiny_a!

I think my devil-may-care attitude is a result of my shit-may-suck morning. It all started when I left the house. I thought my first task was simple: find an electronics store, so I could buy a memory card, so I could take pictures of all the fun things I was going to do today.

This proved not to be the case. I could not find a single place that sold useful small electronic things. Or even useless electronic things. During that task I stopped for a refreshing non-alcoholic bottled beverage. Surprisingly, the cap was not a twist-off, and in the process of trying to open it without a bottle opener, I cut my hand badly enough to require the stealing of a napkin from an outdoor table to staunch the flow of blood.

Bleeding and lost, I soldiered on, walking in search of the more commercialized areas of town, which meant that I was purposely wandering around in the least-interesting sections of the city...no recipe for mood-lifting, this.


So, ehm....three hours later, still no memory card, but in the interest of improving my mood, I have just eaten a wienerschnitzel the size of my head. Well, OK, nothing's that big, but...it was large (though flat). To further improve my mood I will now go to the Holocaust memorial and then see some of the ol' Berlin Wall. Since I'm here and everything.

And later, things might get really exciting: I'm going to hang out in the Potsdammer Platz metro station and see if I can record their floor-cleaning machine. I heard it the other night at about 23:30 and I really couldn't believe someone wasn't playing music. But then the dude cleaning the floor drove his machine into an elevator and the music stopped. And when he came out again upstairs the music started again. So, yes. I'm the dude in the subway with the device that looks like a bomb (my sampler). Wish me luck!


By the way, the place I had my schnitzel at is called Schwarzwaldstuben. Isn't that great? My waitress and I hated each other, but everyone else there was nice. It serves Swabian food, more on this later.



Above: there is a gallery about every 15 feet in Berlin, but this one across the street from where I'm staying is one of the only ones that has really grabbed me. The piece above is a wooden canvas with maybe 75 miniature shelves on it, and the image is constructed from tiny piles of black ash arranged on these shelves. The exhibit is called Disappear, and that's exactly what this piece will do if a strong gust of wind shows up...look at the floor underneath the image to get an idea of what's already gone.


Just got back from Rutz, and, yes, my sausage blockade came down like, OK, a wall, there I said it, and yeah OK I was just about as happy as all those 1989ers were.

If this place was in Amsterdam I'd be there once a week. OK, once a month considering my current budget. But they had good lighting, Ella and Louis on the stereo, and perfect service from a frankly completely lovely blonde local. And the first thing I ordered was easily the most perfectly cooked thing I've eaten in a long time.

I don't have any photos, which is too bad because it was gorgeous, so we'll have to live with the menu description: "roasted black pudding from Berlin, mashed potato with leek, grübl vegetables (9,50 euro)", and elaborate from there.

Luckily, it was thirteen times lighter than it sounds, and that's what made it so great. The vegetables were baby carrots, cauliflower, shallots, and peas...and the unmentioned sauce was a red wine reduction that deserved its own bowl. But really, as a whole, it was perfect. And a useful lesson in how to plate sausage appetizingly (hints: cut, sear, and separate).

Before any of this came out, ze waitron brought a plate of also amazingly light, fluffy, crusty olive focaccia that must have been treated with a significant amount of butter...that's the only explanation for the incredible flaky/crunchy crust.

Anyway, as you know, this site is not about restaurant reviews. But if I can find a way to justify the financial side of things, I'll be back at Rutz in the next couple of days: it's really a different class of restaurant. And I found out only at the end of the meal that the entire menu is available at the bar. And it's literally five minutes away.


the wurst is over.


Get it? I love sausage. But I hit my limit on Friday or so and still somehow managed to accidentally have a bratwurst yesterday. But I mean it now, no more sausage.


Pictured above: the bar at Reichenow, the massively cool farmhouse where we spent last week.

So, today was supposed to be my first obligation-free day in Berlin, but a nasty night of sleep has curtailed my ambitions for the day. I guess for now I'll just content myself with the fact that I wasn't one of the people packing their suitcases in my room between 6am and 9am this morning...I'm happy to still be here, even more so now that I've moved out of the main communal sleep area and into my own little alcove that has a makeshift wall and curtain to separate it from the pack.

If I manage to rally, some friends are playing at Ausland tonight, it should be great.

My plans for Tuesday and Wednesday are modest: a tiny bit of shopping, a tiny bit of eating, and a tiny bit of socializing. And probably a lot of walking.

My eating goals are simple. Probably KaDeWe for oysters. And then there's a Michelin one-star restaurant down the street that is thoughtful enough to have an informal and afforable bar menu for the likes of me. So I'm going to pop in either tonight or tomorrow and try not to have any sausage.

No more sausage, no more beer. Got it? Unless I lose control at Lebensmittel im Mitte.



downstairs, upstairs.

Above: downstairs, where we played last night. Below: upstairs, where we sleep.


room with a view.

Must. Get. Outside. Look at it out there! This is the view from my home base for the next five days, in Mitte.

The down side would be that our room is basically five mattresses on the ground in an attic. But you can't beat the price.




I really thought that our massively groovy and gorgeous German country villa would have Internet, but they didn't. Now we're in Berlin proper, and I am once again wired. Photos and such to follow.



meesterschap, etc.

I'm spending a week in Berlin starting tomorrow, but today Amsterdam might as well have been begging me to stay. The weather was gorgeous, 72, sunny, and breezy. To better enjoy the bountiful bounty, we went for a big-ass walk through the Jordaan to take care of some pre-Berlin errands (batteries, strings) and to hunt for some secondhand cabinet fixtures (the kitchen is undergoing a no-budget makeover).

Since we were in the hood, right across the street actually, we stopped at Burgermeester (pictured above). Mara had been before, and had liked it (with caveats) but this was my first time.

Because we were keeping it light, we stuck to the Mini Trio, which are basically sliders. Our personal selection featured (left to right): the Meester Biefburger (with grilled zucchini and eggplant plus a surprisingly appropriate tarragon mayo), the Spaanse Lamburger (lamb from Texel plus chorizo and jalapenos), and the Tonijnburger (tuna plus a not-so-discernable fennel salad and a chervil mayo). They were all good, the lamb was extra good, I could have had two more of them.

A couple things must be said. There is almost nothing about this place that has anything to do with my favorite American burgers. No beer. Sure, I've had burgers without beer before, but it's not my preference. No fries? Come on, that's just perverse. I'm not even the biggest fry fan in the world (I'm an onion ring man), but I was tinily annoyed at the near-iconoclasm of this gesture. No specifying how well you'd like your burger cooked? At this point your competition is Burger King.

The good news is, Burgermeester is a good bit better than Burger King. And yes, I'll probably go back, but only because my expectations are now properly set: this is a European burger, and though it's well-crafted, it truly only satisfies about half of my burger craving.


know how you can tell I'm sick?

I'm watching Road House (it's on TV). It's undeniably one of the best worst movies of all time...so so delusional.




Booooooooo. I'm sick with some kind of terrible sinus thing that hurts and itches, and Mara is not far behind I think. At least the weather is rainy and colder, which makes feeling shitty much easier.

Above is a jar of Malaysian crack (also called coconut jam, but it's more like a translucent coconut custard) I bought on Tuesday at Dun Yong. The ingredients are eggs, coconut milk, and sugar, and that's exactly what it tastes like. As I understand it, it's a common breakfast item in Malaysia, spread on buttered toast. Mara prefers to just transfer it directly into her chomper via an index finger. You should get some.


I need a soup recipe...I'm sick, as I may have mentioned. My refrigerator contains carrots and cauliflower. Maybe an onion. Any suggestions?

UPDATE: I ended up making a Surinamese chicken soup, which ended up being exactly what I was in the mood for. I include the recipe for myself, it's unlikely that anyone outside of the Netherlands or Suriname could find the secret ingredients.


surinamese kippensoep.

1 chicken
3 liters of water
1 bag of soepgroenten
5 allspice berries
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground laos (galangal)
1 tsp ground sereh (lemongrass)
5 cloves garlic
2 carrots
4 new potatoes
2 tbsp Surinamese or Javanese mango chutney (which is nothing like Major Grey's...)

Combine, simmer for 3 hours, remove chicken, allspice, and bay leaves. Shred chicken and add it back to the soup if you want...I didn't, saved it for something else. Salt to taste.