Saturday, July 24, 2010
Pfifferling und Makrel: Saturday at a Berlin market
This is the time of year -- late July and early August -- when my home mountains of southwestern Colorado start getting hammered by the monsoon cycles and its regular afternoon rain showers. That's enough to coax the chanterelle and porcini mushrooms from the cool, moist forest floor, and to lure the mushroom maniacs into the hills. It's also enough to make a Colorado boy in Berlin a bit homesick.
Happily, we have a homesickness cure here: The weekly market. Just about every neighborhood, or at least every district, has its own market in some prominent platz or plaza at least once a week, usually on Saturday morning. Today, we found our favorite thus far, the Winterfeldtplatz market in Schöneberg. Dozens of tents and booths huddle around a grand brick church, peopled by peddlers selling everything from sunglasses to sausages, flowers to cappuccinos. Nearly every produce seller has a big bin of chanterelles -- Pfifferlinge* in Deutsch -- with their earthy aroma and apricot-like color. We planned on just picking up enough shrooms to make a risotto (the scorching temps gave way to cool rain and cloudy skies, making the idea of standing over a pot of cooking rice tolerable). Then we got hungry.
So we got some kind of middle eastern spinach-cheese pastry thing, and some pancakes smothered with sugar, cinnamon, plum sauce and vanilla. And then we found the fish: Sizzling trout and mackerel and trout cooking on a grill. The chef recommended the whole mackerel, and he was right on. Wow. We were told that this was an imported delight; Berliners are known for smoked or pickled fish (indeed, one can find nearly any variety of fish, beautifully smoked), while the Bavarians specialize in grilled fish. The only complaint is that we didn't find out that the guy two booths down was selling a nice chilled white wine by the glass until AFTER we finished the fish. Next time. But while we ate, a very nice woman told us about another booth that sold homemade bratwurst to die for. We just had to try some. On the way, we saw some cookies made of nuts, and coriander and cardamom and dipped in chocolate. Couldn't pass that up.
Finally, we got a bagful of chanterelles for a mere 2 Euro. Homesickness: Cured.
*Pfifferlinge/Chanterelles apparently came into season here right when we arrived, and the things are as ubiquitous as donerkebap stands. A lot of restaurants even have Pfifferlinge menus, with chanterelle pastas, salads, and schnitzel -- pounded, breaded, fried veal -- smothered in shrooms.