Instawalk: Berlin Fast Food

with all this recent news about instagram being acquired by facebook, i decided to check out my instagram history. historically i haven’t been too big of a user, just 240 pictures in about 18 months, but my first real pictures were from my 2010 trip to berlin to see the final Virginia Jetzt! concert. i noticed i took a lot of pictures at schnellimbisse (fast food places), so decided to make an instawalk out of them.

presented with original captions, in the order they were taken:

Döner and apfelschorle. Doesn't get any better than this!

This was my breakfast every school day for two years, except with a regular coke

Currywurst mit pommes, Ketchup und Mayo. A bit too cold for mezzo mix but oh well.

Good call @georgrehm on the döner place in the hackescher hof edeka. Nom!

So not hungry, but forcing down some currywurst lol. Hmm konnopke(?) is better IMHO.

as you can tell from these pictures from just a long weekend, i love me some german fast food!

Imported Spotted Dick in a Can

o ye famous englishe dessert with ye funnye name. (ok, excuse my poor attempt at pseudo-middle-english; according to wikipedia, spotted dick emerged in the middle of the 19th century, but who can resist? not i.)

it’s been one of those things that i’ve seen on menus in england but have been too chicken to ask for, so when i saw it at the local wegmans (which has, incidentally, become my favorite grocery store), i had to try it, even if it was in a can and cost $5.19 (*shaking fist at the pricey-but-always-tempting imported food aisle*).

I guess they make more than just ketchup!

to be honest, i had no idea what to expect. “sponge pudding” sounds so vague, and the background picture of the label could be anything.

For something canned, it sure is complicated to prepare. I think you have to open the top first because the cake settles to the bottom and sticks to the lower lid?

now mind you, i love raisins and got excited when i saw the list of ingredients, but when i opened the can (THIS END FIRST), i was umm, taken aback:

Not what I expected, though perhaps I had my hopes set a bit too high for a canned cake. Picture taken after I had run a knife along the edges.

it did, however, smell quite raisiny! i popped it in the microwave as directed and sat down to eat.

Here goes nothing!

it tasted sort of like it looks, like a rum raisin cake without the rum. the cake (can i call it a cake?), for being steamed, was quite dry, with the only moisture seemingly provided by what i imagine was a prolonged submersion into a raisiny simple syrup. the taste was quite passable (again, as long as you like raisin), but the texture left a lot to be desired. i managed to finish half before tiring of it, thus ending my spotted dick experiment. unless someone tells me that spotted dick is really an amazing dessert whose essence you cannot capture in a can, i will not be ordering this any time soon.

Too crumby, on the verge of mealy.

according to the wikipedia article and a recipe it linked to, it looks like you’re supposed to eat it with vanilla custard. i think, actually, that might have helped a lot with the moisture and a reduction in the overpowering raisin taste.

for the record, my favorite steamed cake is (and i had to google this for the chinese, thanks wikipedia) 馬拉糕 (ma laai gou, pronounced like “ma lie go”), aka “Malay Steamed Sponge Cake” which you can get at dim sum restaurants. mmm!

Handmade Omelets on Cathay Pacific

and here i thought they made them in big machines!

more unsavory truths about airplane food

Crab + Mallet = Yum

i couldn’t leave baltimore (there for the first time in over a decade) without getting some seafood. and get some seafood i did!

thanks to the TripAdvisor app, i found the #5 highest-rated restaurant (which happens to be very close to Fort McHenry), L.P. Steamers, and popped on in around 3:10 PM* after not eating or drinking anything all day except for a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee at 9 in the morning. suffice it to say, i was hongray. however, i had no idea what i was going to be in for.

* by this time they were warning people that they were starting to run out of crab, so if you go, the safest bet would be around lunchtime to ensure they have crab available.

what i walked into was this (apologies for the blurry pictures):

i’ve never been to such a uhh, crabby place before! people had tables piled high with crabs and crab pieces, banging away at them with mallets. clearly, they were experts. if i eat crab, it’s usually at Chinese banquets, and admittedly, i’m not the best at getting the meat out of even those pre-cut pieces. intimidated, it was too late to turn back now. i was curious and famished — always a recipe for culinary adventures!

luckily i was seated upstairs (the only one for most of my stay), so even if i made a fool of myself, no one would be there to see. as i waited, a friend tweeted me this video:

definitely some help, but i wasn’t sure i wanted to try playing the video while attempting to follow along, potentially splattering crab juice all over me and my phone (they don’t give you bibs or a nutcracker!).

in the meantime, my soup (Maryland-style crab soup) and entree (the fried sampler) arrived and i went to town. the soup was delicious, even though i’m not normally a fan of tomato-based soups (had i known beforehand, i would have gotten the cream of crab, but i’m glad i tried this, not only because it has my top two favorite vegetables, onion and corn). the platter was daunting, but the best part was the crab cake. i’m a pretty big fan of crab cakes, so while i’m no foodie, i’d like to think i know when i’ve had a good one. and this was hella good.

Maryland Crab Soup

Fried Sampler: crab cake, fried clams, fried oysters, fried shrimp, fried scallops, slaw, fries

Crab cake

and then the crab came. unceremoniously slid off a tray onto my table, it just sat there, staring at me, me staring at it. (smaller than i expected, which was good given how much of that fried sampler i just ate.)

luckily the waiter came and asked if i needed a lesson. i said i watched a video, but a lesson would be great. much to my delight, he actually did most of the work for me!

"First you split off the legs, then you..." (I lost him after that, especially after he said, "These are the lungs; you just scrape them aside.")

when all was said and done, maybe it’s because i just watched Alien a couple weeks ago, but all i could think about was the facehugger.

And this is how he left it for me. Not cute.

but, knowing how delicious crab meat is, i dug right in. a little hammering with the mallet, a little cracking of shell with my fingers, and before you know it, i was all done! (the best tip from that video really helped: use a claw as a hook to pull meat out of tight spaces.)

All done!

sure, my hands still smell crabby five hours later, but it was well worth it. i was stuffed when i left, but hearing the people who just arrived at the next table order six large crabs and two jumbo crabs (along with an order of oysters and some beer — if i heard right, they just cleaned them out of all their crab for the day) made me want to sit down and order another. it’s a two hour drive; maybe next weekend i’ll make another trip down and this time try cracking the shell myself.

p.s. do you think it’s rude if i bring a container of Old Bay Seasoning with me next time i go to a Chinese banquet? i forgot how good that stuff is!

Eataly

i’ve always wanted to go to Eataly, and given that i had no dinner plans and it’s less than a 10-minute walk from the hotel, it was a no-brainer. it’s definitely not what i expected. i envisioned an expansive Whole Foods-like place, perhaps with lots of wood accents and well-sectioned-off dining areas, but as you can see from the pictures, it’s small(-er than expected) and cramped and slightly chaotic. but you know, i think that just helps to accent what you’re going there for: the food.

you’re not going for the ambiance or the decor, you’re going because you want to eat well-prepared, fresh food, and from what i saw and ate, that’s definitely what you get. i spoke to the local couple sitting next to me at the Il Pesce (the seafood restaurant) bar and they said that the pasta selection (fresh and dried) and the produce (and vegetable restaurant) were great as well as reasonably-priced, and that the best eatery at Eataly (see what i did there?) was indeed Il Pesce in their estimation (=i chose well!).

i had the filet special of the day (Monkfish with Venetian Black Rice and Endive) and couldn’t resist trying “Live Maine Sea Urchin”. i’ve never had sea urchin before but it was amazing! definitely something i will get if i ever see it on a menu again. it’s sort of like a firm briny mousse that they seasoned with lemon and maybe a dash of oil? not sure, but it was delish. i normally don’t spend so much on food ($25 for the fish + $18 for the entree, yikes) but i figure a splurge every now and then is worth it (and it was).

(also, yes, i see the creepy man staring in one of the pictures. ack! i should have retaken that one!)