A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in the cantine, working my way through a bowl of overcooked pasta with olives and tomatoes, trying to read L'écume des jours (I always feel terribly alone in such a huge room among other people and reading makes me feel less self-conscious) while the woman next to me was telling her male colleague that the water in Berlin is full of hormones and other stuff that boosts your circulation which explains why children today are reaching puberty earlier and earlier and have hair everywhere you don't want to see it. She explained that in her family they only buy bottled water from Aldi - not Volvic or Evian because you never know what the French put in their water. Her daughter is 6 months older than her niece but still looks like a child because of what she drinks; her niece has now switched to Aldi water too but of course, it's too late for her!. I abandoned the huge bowl of pasta and decided that Thursdays in the cantine are simply too depressing for words and that it would be better to return to Marc Ann's, even if the service is unfriendly, for a panini with goats' cheese and herbes de provence, a latte and a slice of tarte aux mirabelles. I always take my usual seat at the window and watch the passer-bys on the street. The décor inside makes me feel like summer has returned and there's a wonderful calmness as I eat and flick through photography magazines.
This week, I even made it to Barcomi's with another D. and a fellow cheesecake fan. Chrissi had told me about Cynthia Barcomi's cafés a while ago and tempted me with her amazing baking book but somehow I've been in Berlin for two and half years without once setting foot in one. We decided to try the place in Mitte, tucked away in the most charming little side street near Hackescher Markt, lined on both sides with the most tempting little boutiques. To get to Barcomi's, you go through a courtyard which was still glowing with the last rays of the sun when I arrived. Inside, you find many little tables pressed close together as well as comfortable black leather barquettes. At the back is a take out deli and glass counter containing huge, beautiful cakes - carrot cake, chocolate New York Cheesecake, brownies, scones - you get the picture! D. and I both ordered a large caffe latte and a piece of New York Cheesecake (sadly not Berlin cheesecake but I guess I have to invent that!) which was rich, creamy and oh so good! Every mouthful seemed to taste better and better. Our time there went too quickly of course like all afternoons full of chatting and cake.
If you're wondering, no both pieces weren't for me!
Cool neon lights leaving Barcomi's
After the coffee and pie, I returned to work with a heavy heart only to find that another wonderful blogger had chosen to present me with an award and asked me to tell you seven things about me which give me great pleasure but which you don't yet know about - oh la la!
1. Merci Sarah! C'est trop gentil!
2. Please check out Sarah's lovely blog Juste pour le plaisir
3. The prize logo
Seven things I love but which you don't yet know about:
1. Having a shower in the evening (never in the morning), putting on my pyjamas and slippers because afterwards it's cosy and comfortable to watch a Woody Allen film or read.
2. When I'm alone in the apartment, I love to get all of my evening dresses out of the wardrobe, put them on the bed and try them on with heels. It brings back all the nice memories of when I wore them and makes me feel special.
3. Going to the cinema in the afternoon during the week always gives me the impression of missing school. I love being in the empty screening room when everyone else has to work (sorry!).
4. Finding beautiful papeteries like this one at Hackescher Markt makes me daydream for hours. I love looking at the wonderfully coloured paper, feeling the texture of the envelopes and long to buy another gorgeous fountain pen to add to my collection or take up calligraphy again. Ahhh!
5. Re-reading Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans for its humour, wonderful descriptions of school, creative use of English and for the hilarious pictures by Ronald Searle (see below).
6. Eating Grießbrei (semolina pudding) with plum jam and cinnamon after reading a post from one of my favourite blogs.
7. Making savoury tarts. Ju made me an addict when she made the most wonderful salmon tart for my birthday party two years ago. Everyone told how delicious her quiche was and she explained "Ceci n'est pas une quiche mais une tarte salée. Une quiche est seulement avec des oeufs, de la crème, des lardons, du fromage." (It's not a quiche; a quiche is only with eggs, cream, bacon, cheese). Since then, I can never call something a quiche (in English and German, basically every savoury tart can be called a quiche) without a bad conscience and explain to sceptical Germans that what I'm making is, in fact, a tart. The one below has been a favourite of mine for ages and I hope you enjoy making it too- just don't call it a quiche, OK?
Leek and goats' cheese tart
For the pastry
125g cold butter
200g plain flour
1. In a large bowl or a mixer, rub the butter with the flour until you have breadcrumbs.
2. Add in the iced water and mix or stir with a spatula until the dough form a ball. Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for 1 hour.
For the tart
1 pack of goats' cheese
2 leeks (only the round parts, not the hard green ends)
!/2 pot crème fraîche
salt and pepper to season
1. Fry the leeks in a pan with some oil until they are lightly golden.
2. In a bowl, mash the goats' cheese with a fork and mix with the eggs and crème fraîche. Stir in the browned leeks and season with salt and pepper.
3. Roll out the pastry of a work surface covered with lots of flour so that it fits your pie dish or tin. Cut off the excess around the edges with a sharp knife.
4. Pour in the goats' cheese mixture so it fills the tart evenly. Bake in the oven at 170° for about 40 minutes. When it's ready, remove from the oven and leave to set for a few minutes for serving.
Apparently, I now have to offer the prize (and ask them us their pleasures) to seven other bloggers I appreciate. I choose:
- Abbie from Have bear, will travel
- Lisa from Style Strategies
- Pia and Julie of Book Travellers (that counts as two, right?)
- Julia of Ju* Carnets
- Rose of Ce que dis Rose
- Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums
Outside the night is mild and clear with the thinnest moon on the horizon. I don't much feel like going to work tomorrow but hopefully the rest of weekend has other nice things to offer. Take care!