Love in the Time of Cholera

Hot Chocolate
Hot Chocolate

Food, drink, and friendship go hand-in-hand. This is an ode to Timo, my dear and brilliant Finnish companion whose awkward social skills, shy smile, and unflinching devotion to substance win me over again and again and again.

This is an ode to Timo, whose near-aversion to alcohol means that he drinks hot-chocolate to my Italian bitters, just like a little boy. This is an ode to Timo, who taught me to make crème brulee and bakes me vegan brownies just to prove he can. This is an ode to Timo, because he is courageous, because he cares, because he is. This is an ode to Timo, because sometimes it’s scary for a girl to live abroad all alone, so far away from the language and customs that are familiar, and not knowing who she can really trust. This is an ode to Timo, because sometimes it’s not always easy for a girl to be brave, and sometimes she just needs a guy around to let her cry, and who will say the dumb, simple things that we need in life to help us see it through.

Thanks, dude. I’m glad you exist. And I’m glad that we found each other—all the way from Helsinki, Finnland and Holliday, Texas. Sorry if this embarrasses you, but I just had to say it aloud. And, what’s more, you’ll get over it, because I know you’re a sucker for me/weird/cute.


Three’s Company | Dinner in Berlin

Perhaps nothing civilizes us and fosters kinship more than dining together. Breaking bread–when attended to with care and attention–nourishes the body, intellect, and emotions. Two girlfriends recently dropped by my East Berlin apartment for a simple, and simply elegant, meal. White wine, field greens with homemade honey-dijon dressing, and a seasonal vegetable soup with brown rice doth a meal make! Special details–like a grandmother’s candlesticks and fresh-cut flowers–made it pop. Warm thanks to Alina Rudya for the below images.

Drizzling greens with local-honey + Dijon-mustard dressing.
Locally grown vegetables, spices, fresh lemon juice and olive oil, topped with dollop of soy yogurt.
Fresh flowers from the cute, family-owned shop on Torstraße.
I love this kitchen.
With the lovely Rita, from Lisbon.

New York Times Publishes ‘(Vegan) Brunch Options Abound in East Berlin’

I first published this for The New York Times ‘In Transit’ section. 

Photo Credit: Roland Anton Laub
Photo Credit: Roland Anton Laub

Germany’s traditional gastronomic portfolio is as meat-centric as they come, but Berlin’s contemporary food-culture has started shrugging off its carnivorous past in favor of, well, plants. An enduring bohemian spirit and newfound cosmopolitanism have cultivated fertile culinary ground for the city’s emergence as the continent’s vegetarian capital. Here, cruelty-free cuisine holds special sway for weekend brunchgoers — in Berlin, where you dine for Sunday morning das Frühstuck carries as much social import as where you partied on Saturday night. Three East Berlin establishments offering vegan brunch options rise to the occasion.

Kopps, a new kid on the block in the much-hyped Mitte district, is an upscale dining spot specializing in plant-based versions of historic Deutschland dishes. The head chef Björn Moschinski’s innovative re-creations include Veganer Hackepeter (sans minced pork) and Kräuterbutter (with coconut oil instead of cow’s milk). His kitchen emphasizes quality, regional produce sourced from small farmers in nearby Brandenberg. (Brunch buffet served Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 10.90 euros ($14.25).)

Café Morgenrot is a last-stand workers’ collective in the now gentrified Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, where the current proliferation of designer baby strollers rivals that of Park Slope in Brooklyn. Morgenrot, however, holds true to East Berlin’s socialist roots — with bric-a-brac décor, radical politics, a weekly feminist knitting circle, and a mostly-vegan weekend brunch where patrons pay according to a sliding-scale system. (Brunch buffet served Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 9 euros sliding scale.)

Ohlàlà Tartes Shop, nestled on an unassuming street in punk-inflected Friedrichshain, features enlightened vegan interpretations of classical French fare — from crêpes and quiche, to pain au chocolat and pain perdu. The mauve-painted cafe is the creation of the Parisian ex-pat and burlesque dancer Clarissa Orsani, who constructed Ohlàlà’s spacious open kitchen with her own two hands. (Brunch buffet served Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; seating unlikely without reservation.)

Hora de Feliz | Guest Contributor Ellen Roggeman

Coming straight to you from Mexico, regular Eating with Abs contributor Ellen Roggeman dishes on South of the Border-style happy hour–which, in Spanish, translates as hora de feliz! A United States native recently married to a Mexican man, Ellen has lately been spending a good deal of time outside her native country. One thing she longs for that intoxicatingly evokes the flavors of home? Whiskey. In this video, she puts a cool twist on an old favorite–the hot toddy. Oh, how I miss you, my darling!

In Love in Istanbul, Incredibly

Hey, it's me! All smug and sated...and, let's be honest, super-tired in the morning.

While census calculations place Istanbul’s population at a handy 13-million people, the unofficial count tells a different story about Turkey’s teeming metropolitan capital:  The true number hovers closer to 20-million residents. If you can’t quite wrap your head around this figure, try doubling the whole of New York City and adding a few million for good measure. Istanbul, my friends, brings new meaning to the term megacity.

I was lucky enough to land there last week, where I was researching hamami–traditional Turkish bath houses–for a New York Times Globespotters article. Apart from many hours spent in humid, marble-hewn dens among naked, soapy women, I also feasted upon the Near East’s remarkable culinary riches. Lest you have any doubt, I ate well (and abundantly) in Istanbul.

So many small plates! So many tiny bites!

Pickled vegetables, herb salads, and preserved fruits ruled the day, served on small plates called mezze. Along with a host of baked goods and array of homemade cheeses, meals consisted of prolonged, delectable nibbling and conversations that stretched for hours. The most-pronounced difference between the morning and evening spreads on tables in Istanbul? Not much, unless you count the liquids. Turkish coffee paired with breakfast, while Raki–a traditional, anise-flavored spirit–rounded out dinner.  I’m not sure what I loved more–the staggering caffeine highs or libations-governed jollies.

Whatever drink you fancy, Istanbul is one of the world’s true cultural capitals–from its former status as Constantinople and Byzantium, to its current reign-on-high wonders. I’ll definitely be going back and, just maybe, I’ll invite you along for the ride. It’s spectacular. Trust me.

xx, abs

Special thanks to my Turkish host, Bekir, for guiding me on a crash-course into Istanbul’s imminently-cool hipster nightlife. Big hugs to my Danish travel companion, Isabel, for being a salve to my beleaguered, Berlin-weary soul–I’m back in Deutschland with a newfound lightness in my heart, thanks to you.

Guest Columnist Nikki Brown Dishes on American-Style Sweet Potato Fries

Guest contributor Nikki Brown is a self-proclaimed semi-vegetarian with a sweet smile that she puts to good effect when lobbing snarky jokes. Her comic sensibility borders on biting, and reflects her white-hot mind. We first met in a yoga class in San Francisco, where we were mutually awestruck by one another:  Nikki and I both carry a mutant gene that allows us to perform super-human feats of flexibility, such as dropping into the scissor splits on-demand. Apparently, Nikki has a few other gifts up her sleeve, such as the culinary arts. Before I became a Berliner, I used to love visiting her hyper-modern Haight Ashbury flat for dinner parties and potlucks, and in the following guest column, Nikki dishes on harnessing the farm-to-fork treasures in her weekly CSA delivery to create a sweet, sophisticated twist on a classic American staple: the french fry. 

It all begins with my Farm Fresh to You CSA box. CSA is an acronym for community-supported agriculture, and is a program that allows consumers to directly invest in local farms’ upfront yearly capital in return for weekly doorstep deliveries of seasonal, regional produce. Sometimes, this means more sweet potatoes than a girl knows what to do with. Fortunately, sweet-potato fries are creamy-sweet inside and crispy-brown outside, and there’s no better way to cook ’em.

What You Need:

  • Sweet potatoes (sliced into sticks)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Paprika
  • Salt & Pepper

What You Do:

  • Drench potato slices with oil, paprika, salt & pepper
  • Cook in 425-degree oven for 30-minutes, turning once
  • Serve with ketchup (lots of it, if you’re going for American-style fries)
Photo by little blue hen

Happy New Year from the World’s Hipster Capital: Williamsburg

Happy 2012, my lovelies! I rang in the new wave with my baby sister, Anna-Lisa, the girl I’ve loved passionately ever since the day she was born. For the past year, it has been a sad day in Sisterville–the Atlantic Ocean has been between us. We rectified too much time apart with a special, week-long jaunt in New York, where we holed up in the world’s hipster capital of Williamsburg and toasted 2012 with a bottle of bubbly at a swell joint called Juliette, a French-style brasserie in Brooklyn.

It’s not possible to communicate the full breadth of how much I love this girl: