We’re Back

We could not have asked for a better vacation! The weather was beautiful. The food and wine were amazing. {We even managed to find some Italian craft beer!} I think we can confidently check Italy off the list and put this trip in the ‘W’ column.

Tomorrow I’ll get back to our regularly scheduled programming, but since I have a mountain of laundry to do, groceries to buy, and a dinner party to throw together before we go to a concert tonight, today I thought I’d share just a bit of eye candy to feed your wanderlust.

Kiwi+Peach: swiss alps {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: swiss alps {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: lake como {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: milan {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: cinque terre {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: cinque terre {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: pisa {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: florence {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: florence {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: rome {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: pompeii {wanderlust}

Venice Food Guide

The Kiwi and I are getting so pumped about our Tour of Italy. {We leave in 4 days!} I cannot stop thinking about all the delicious, delicious food we are going to be eating. I’m just a little excited. Can you tell?

Since I have Italy and traditional Italian food on the brain today, I thought I’d share a few of my tips for where to eat in Venice. The Kiwi and I have both been to Venice pretty recently {him for the 2011 Biennale, me in April with my mom}, so we are not including it on the Tour. However, I do think that Venice is a must-see town if you’re in the area. Unfortunately, apart from the squid ink risotto, Venice is not necessarily known for great food, but I’m going to fill you in on a secret. Venetians love their cicchetti and they do it very, very well. This might as well be called “A Cicchetti Guide to Venice,” because every place on my list in a cicchetti bar.

Cicchetti bars were traditionally where folks stopped on the way home from work for a glass of wine and a bit of socializing. Here’s the rub though, folks didn’t want to be drinking all this wine on an empty stomach because they might end up in the canal before the dinner bell even rang. So cicchetti are small bites that you can have with your wine, but that won’t spoil the dinner that is waiting for you at home. Or you can do what we did–order several and make it your meal. {We saw Venetians doing this too. It’s kosher.} The best part about this is that they are generally pretty cheap and you get to try lots of different things!

So here is how it works. You walk into the bar and give the folks behind the counter your best ‘Salve!’ Most cicchetti bars are family run and the person you see behind the counter has probably been there since 5am. Smiles are nice. There will be a glass case full of cicchetti. Have a look at what they have to offer and get to pointing. “Uno {point}, due {point},” you get the gist. They will hand you your food and wine, and then you can find a spot to eat standing up with all of the other locals. I’m not going to lie, this is not for the faint of heart. You probably won’t have a clue what you are eating and it might not look like something you want to put in your mouth, but do it anyway. I never had a bad cicchetti. Not once.

Enoteca Al Volto
Calle Cavalli, San Marco

This was our first cicchetti experience and the owners were so incredibly sweet helping us figure out what to do/order. There is a restaurant part as well, but I can’t vouch for it as we just had cicchetti. The food was delicious {try the marinated artichokes, or the crostini with a big hunk of blue cheese drizzled with balsamic} and the atmosphere cozy. The whole ceiling is covered in wine bottle labels. A great first experience.

opposite the Fish Market, San Polo

Right opposite the fish market, the offerings change daily based on the catch of the day. It is pretty much a one man show. The owner gets the fish from the market fresh each morning. Then he cooks up some incredibly tasty bites and when it’s gone it’s gone. I think it’s safe to say that the bites here are a bit more of a modern take on traditional cicchetti recipes. I am not a I know little and less about wine pairings and usually defer to the Kiwi on that front. That said, I can remember that white wines go well with fish. This place has some great local whites that were just perfect with our little bites of brioche with smoked swordfish, mascarpone, and cherry tomatoes and a lemon marinated anchovy couscous that tasted like no anchovy dish I’ve ever had before {meaning that it was good and not crap}.

Cantina do Mori
just off Calle Arco, San Polo

This is said to be the oldest cicchetti bar in Venice. It used to be where people would go to refill their bottles of wine from these huge ‘kegs.’ {That’s not what they are really called. I can’t for the life of me remember their proper name, so I’m going with keg.} Anyway, it is now a bar that offers some heavier cicchetti. There were lots of sliced meats on crostini and fried veggies. Along with these bites they have some great wines that are still served from the ‘kegs.’

Another anecdote… In each square in Venice there is a old well. Each well is different. Way back when, if folks needed water they’d go to the well and fill their copper pots with water to take home. The walls and ceiling at Cantina do Mori are completely covered with those old copper pots.

also just off Calle Arco, San Polo

This is family run cicchetti bar is part of the slow food movement. I found it really interesting because they cook and prepare your food right in front of you when you order. The cook in me really enjoyed seeing how all of these spreads and bites are made. It takes a bit more time, but it’s definitely worth the stop. This is a lunch place and closes at 2.30, so get there early.

{Other Venice Advice}

I am not usually a big fan of organized tours. {My exception is bike tours, but we can talk about that another day.} However, I wholeheartedly recommend the Cicchetti Tour. Our guide, Cecelia, was a local whose knowledge of food culture and slow food blew me away. Plus it’s nice to be told what you’re eating one in a while, yea? Cantina do Mori and ProntoPesce were on our tour, but, as we were there the week after Easter, we apparently were not going to the usual places because they were closed for the holiday. So they may or may not be on yours.

If you’ve had enough of cicchetti bars and want to actually sit down to eat your food, Lauren over at Aspiring Kennedy has some great restaurant recommendations too.

Stay in one of the residential areas {the Dosoduro, the Cannaregio, or the Castello neighborhoods}. We stayed in an apartment in the Dosoduro and it was great! Nothing is really that far of a walk in Venice, but if it is, hop on a vaporetto.

Put down your map, get off the main route, and get lost. You see so much more that way!

Linked with Travel Tuesday

Berlin Food Guide

How the Kiwi and I had lived in Germany for over a year and a half and not been to Berlin is beyond me. Every time it came up we would look at each other say “We have to go!”. So earlier this month, we took advantage of one of Bavaria’s many holidays and went. It was amazing. While I expected the art in Berlin to be much more progressive, I had no idea that the food and beer culture would be too. Munich is a very traditional city and we love that about it. However, sometimes its nice to get a craft beer or try a modern take on German cuisine as opposed to the strictly traditional.

photo credit:  the kiwi

We took the overnight train from Munich and arrived at the crack of 8.30am. We needed some breakfast. After dropping our bags at the hostel, we made our way to a cafe I’d read about on Foodie in Berlin called Aunt Benny. While it was a bit of a hike from our hostel {it looked so close on the map, I swear}, it was so worth it. We split a slice of ginger carrot cake and and a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and had a big seedy, toasted bagel each. I had the sun dried tomato cream cheese with mine and the Kiwi had cheddar and olive with his. It was incredibly filling and you couldn’t beat the atmosphere. I kind of wanted to move in.

Kiwi+Peach: Berlin Food Guide, Bagel at Aunt Benny Kiwi+Peach: Berlin Food Guide, Ginger Carrot Cake at Aunt Benny

We also learned our first lesson in Berlin…the place is huge. When in doubt, take public transit. Your feet will thank you later.

That night we hit up Street Food Thursday at Markthalle IX. The huge market hall was full of vendors selling street food from all over the world and hipsters eating said food. Every single thing we had was delicious. We tried all kinds of goodies like spicy korean sushi, mac and cheese with smoked brisket and beer pickles, a shaved smoke pork sandwich, and a pretzel covered in bacon.

Kiwi+Peach: Berlin Food Guide, Mac and Cheese with Smoked Brisket and Beer Pickles at Street Food Thursday Kiwi+Peach: Berlin Food Guide, The Kiwi's Picks at Street Food Thursday

We also tried some of the Heidenpeters beer that is brewed right in the basement of the Markthalle. While Bavarian beer is some of the best beer in the world, its very limited in its varieties. You have a helles {a pilsner}, a weissbier {a wheat beer} and a dunkles {a dark beer}. There is no craft beer culture. There are no IPAs. At least that I have found {and believe me, I’ve looked}. Needless to say, we were excited to try some different varieties. I tried the unfiltered blonde and the Kiwi tried a Belgian style dark beer full of caramelized malty goodness. Needless to say, both were delicious.

Friday night we had reservations at Renger-Patzch for a fancy dinner. The menu is fresh and seasonal and it changes weekly.  Despite how it sounds, our starter of blood sausage and lentils was my favorite part of the whole meal. And not because the rest of the meal was bad either.  Quite the opposite.  I had the lamb while the Kiwi had venison with slightly dehydrated plums wrapped in bacon. Plums wrapped in bacon, I said.

On Fridays and Saturdays Markthalle IX is home to a great market {hence the name} where you can get fresh produce, meat, and flowers, but it is also the permanent home of Big Stuff Smoked BBQ. On Saturday they are only open until 4, so we headed that way for a late lunch. Thankfully they still had some food by the time we got there. I had the pulled pork sandwich and the Kiwi had the pork belly sandwich. Oh. My. Stars. It was like I was back in the South y’all. It was moist and tender and smokey and perfect.

While at Street Food Thursday, we saw a flyer for the Lange Nacht der Kulinarik {Long Night of Cuisine} that Saturday night. What perfect timing? A bunch of different restaurants, cafes, bars, and specialty food shops in the neighborhood where we were staying had special samples to offer. While this is not a weekly event, I’m including the places we visited, loved, and would have gone back for a proper meal had we had time just in case you might want to check them out.

Our first stop was Brauhaus Südstern where they had brewed up two lovely IPAs and a rye ale. We got to try these three beauties and the braumeister told us all about their brewing process. He also talked a bit about the growing craft beer culture in Berlin which I found really interesting {Unfortunately, it was all in German, but I got the impression that they would have translated the presentation had it been necessary or someone had asked}.

We needed some food at this point, so we made our way to Wahrhaft Nahrhaft where they had the grill set up out on the street and were grilling bratwursts and supposedly corn too {they were out by the time we got there}. The Kiwi maintains that was the best brat he has ever had and I agree. It was tasty and cheap.

Next we checked out Schwarzer Hahn and it is one that I really wanted to go back to for a real meal. The special was the most tender, melt in your mouth pork I’ve ever had with mustard cream cucumbers. I’d be curious to see if the rest of their menu is as mouth watering.

Our last stop was Cafe Sellberg where we got to try a ‘sampler’ of their three most popular cakes. If that was their sample size I’d like to see the normal size–they were huge! Neither of us were fans of the cheesecake or carrot cake which was disappointing, but they are on the list because of their out of this world brownie. It was the perfect balance of cake vs fudge and had just the perfect amount of crisp on the top and sides.

On our last night in Berlin, we wanted to fit in one last great meal before we got on our overnight train to go home. I read about Lokal, a modern German place, on Berlin Food Stories {I’m linking to their write up because Lokal doesn’t have a website} and really wanted to check it out. I’m so glad we did. We didn’t have reservations, but didn’t have any problems getting a seat as we were there when they opened for dinner at 6. I don’t think they were quite ready as they were still printing the menu for the day, but they welcomed us regardless and took our drink orders. The rustic, minimalist design was cozy and beautiful–I didn’t mind waiting for a menu {okay, maybe I whined a bit}. The drinks were good {spicy ginger beer}, the starter was good, the main was good; I was kind of sad to leave, Lokal and Berlin.

{Other Berlin Advice}

If you want a crash course in Berlin history do the free walking tour. While free in name, the guides do work for tips, so you tip them how ever much you think the tour was worth. Our guide, Sam, was a british expat historian working on his doctorate at Humboldt University.  Excellent, quality information and  a very entertaining way to spend an afternoon.

Do the Reichstag, if not for the history, for the views. Its free, but you do have to register. Registering in advance online is definitely the way to go so you don’t have to spend an hour waiting in line like we did.  However, if there aren’t any appointments online for the days you are going to be in Berlin, don’t worry.  Go to the the reservations booth {the one you have to stand in line for} as there will undoubtedly be availability. At least, that was our experience.

Linked with Travel Tuesdays