Monthly Archives: November 2012

mental health retreat in Bayreuth, Germany

This is Avery.

someone let us go to Vegas

Yeah she’s pretty much my spouse.

The two of us flew out here to begin our abroad adventure on the same day, September 9th. Since then, we’ve been going through similar life processes in different cities… for lack of a less cliché term, we’ll call it soul searching. Last week we realized together time was much overdue, so I booked a bus ride and a carpool to get to Bayreuth.

Journey

Bayreuth is like San Rafael- seemingly conveniently close to big cities, but really just out of the way enough to make it difficult to get to using public transportation. Eurolines got me to Berlin for $46, and a carpool took me the extra three hours south for another 20 euro. (For budget travelers, carpooling.co.uk is the best resource to find car shares going anywhere in Europe!)

Traveling from Copenhagen by bus is uncomfortable, as the night bus stops two hours into the trip to (surprise!) load everyone onto a boat, where people sleep on the floor from 1:30-4am to keep some semblance of a night’s sleep, and then back onto the bus for the rest of the way to Berlin. The girl driving the carpool from Berlin probably hated me because I passed out in her front seat pretty much the minute she picked me up from the Mexicoplatz train station. Being a boring co-pilot is a really consistent bad habit of mine but something I’m probably never going to kick.

Richthofenhöhe

Yeah I have no idea how to pronounce this either. The family Avery is au-paring for lives in this area, where they have the most wonderfully comfortable house in a suburban neighborhood in a hilly context that reminds me of Marin. The Dierkes family is an incredibly warm family that loves to entertain, and their house reflects it, with a big open living space on the ground floor with a connected living room (Vonzimmer in German), dining room and (the best part) HUGE kitchen, and big bedrooms upstairs with cozy lofts in each of them. Oh, and heated floors. This is what the Copenhanish attempt to make their city feel like when they have a fraction of the space to do so.

Predictable

Within an hour of being reunited, Avery and I started cooking. We made a pot of spicy minestrone soup that ended up being enough for four meals and cheesy garlic bread… mmmm. We were granted free reign of a giant, stocked kitchen!! Bliss.

On this particular night we opened a couple of beers and watched Night at the Museum with Sophia and her dad. Easy night at home in a small town with chips and beer on the couch. It’s like we never left Davis.

Winterdorf and Irish Coffees

We went shopping and of course, everything we brought home was edible. We bought Christmas presents for ourselves, a bottle each of Tullemore Dew Irish Whiskey and Baileys (among curious bacon chip snacks and an almost obscenely large log of marzipan, oops). We called them Christmas presents because we asked the cashier to wrap them up, expecting brown paper bags, and instead got frilly packages with bows.

Sooooo we made our favorite, Irish coffees complete with whipped cream, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Again, just like Davis.

We met some of the people from Avery’s class at the Winterdorf, a bar set up in the plaza of an outdoor mall downtown. It was a really cool concept, mostly open-air with lots of heating lamps. Even though it was in the thirties outside, it was crammed with so many bundled up people drinking warm alcohol in mugs that nobody really noticed that it was maybe thirty-four degrees outside. Most everyone was drinking glühwein, hot mulled wine that pretty much exists all over Europe under different names. (In Denmark it’s glogg– and probably costs four times as much.)

MaisselWeiss Brewery Tour

On Sunday afternoon, Ave and I biked down to the Maissel Weiss Brewery Museum for a tour. It was 100% in German (ha) but only cost 4 euro and came with explanatory packets in English so we could follow along and pretend like we knew what was going on (Avery’s actually pretty good at German now after living here for just three months, but obviously I had no hope).

Since taking our Brewing and Beer at Davis during our final quarter senior year with Prof. Charlie Bamforth, walking through breweries has been so much fun- rarely you learn technical terms in lecture that can be applied in such a fun context. Avery hugs lauter tuns, Ani loves mash filters. Everyone likes saying ‘wort’ in a British accent.

The museum was right down the street from Avery’s house, and contained all this old-school equipment that was used almost a hundred and fifty years ago to make beer! It’s incredible how far we’ve come since. Brewery workers in the 1870s crawled into the copper lauter tuns to clean it after every use. Now, lauter tuns are a) much bigger, b) stainless steel and c) clean themselves. They used to blow cold air over wort after boiling to cool it down. Today, that’s called a refrigerator.

The COOLEST part was the hop room! Bags on bags on bags of hops, and decorated further with dried hop plants. Although it’s hard to believe they use that many in these beers. They said about a handful per liter like it was a lot, but they have no idea what New Belgium Ranger is (I predict five handfuls). I miss California and those Sierra Nevada Torpedoes (mmmm Cascades) so much. Nobody here understands.

And then of course, the tasting afterwards was awesome, with Weiss beers in the usual concave glass. More on the different glassware for different beers later- until then, no more standardized 16oz. pint glasses!

Following the Lonely Planet guide

We stopped to pick up pizza for dinner one night at a small pizza place Avery found in the massive Lonely Planet bible she has, called Hansl’s Holzofenpizzeria. It was small and very clearly family-owned, smelled FANTASTIC, had an amazing selection of toppings (must try the seafood next time, Ave!), and a giant old-fashioned oven. We got beers and sat at the counter to drool over the pizzas being made and then strapped all five of ours to an extremely clutch bookrack on the back of the bike Avery’s been riding.

Just one of the many amazing meals I consumed this week.

To sum up, things I loved about Bayreuth:

  • It was small! The concrete jungle that is Copenhagen definitely put the homey suburbs in perspective.
  • The university looked like Davis! Avery pointed out all the things that had made her feel at home- eggheads, a very arboretum-esque lake running around the outskirts, even red busses.
  • BEER WAS CHEAP!! No more sacrificing taste and going with Carlsberg or rather just the weekly bankrupting for seven dollar beers. Bavarian beer is both affordable and delicious.
  • The Dierkes family. Quite possibly the warmest and most hospitable group of people I’ve been lucky enough to become acquainted with in awhile. They made me feel at home for a week, even calling me “Panda” (thanks for that Avery) and letting us throw a Big Fat American Thanksgiving in their house. But more on that later.

Thanksgiving, Prague, and more beer adventures to come!

tschüs (definitely had to look that one up),

LC

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Filed under Beer, Cooking, Germany, Restaurants, Travel

manfreds & vin: part II of scandinavian restaurant crash course

I came across Manfreds while rolling around Copenhagen with a hangover one morning with Josie looking for food.

I generally don’t like paying to eat breakfast at a restaurant, since it’s my favorite meal of the day, and I usually really enjoy making it myself. I basically live off of fried eggs, bacon, and different varieties of cheese, and don’t know who I am without my dad’s hash browns. Everyone I’ve ever lived with has pretty much perfected the art (rewind to the morning of my 22nd birthday earlier this year, when I was awoken by scrambled eggs, pancakes, fruit, and an Irish coffee) so I’ve never had much motivation to leave the house and pay for IHOP.

But every once in a while, a crisis occurs when I’m too tired to know how to feed myself and so, on this Copen-heinous Saturday afternoon after staying out too late, we decided to try Manfreds, a much talked-about restaurant, take-away, and biodynamic wine bar, which was just a 3-4 minute bike ride from our apartment.

We walked in around 12:30, getting the last two covers for brunch before the kitchen switched gears for lunch. We both ordered a heaping plate of sausages, fried eggs, bacon, and bread with a glass of freshly squeezed blood orange juice for about 119 DKK (~$20 USD). It definitely did not disappoint. It was obvious the kitchen used quality ingredients, the yolk in the eggs was runny and perfect, the bread was sourdough-y and very reminiscent of San Francisco, and (AND!) it came with bacon.

However, had we not gotten chef’s counter seating for this particular meal, and had our friend David not met us halfway through to order lunch, this experience may have been completely different. We ended up staying at Manfred’s for approximately three hours drooling over what those boys were doing in the kitchen while David let us eat his food. Watching the chefs cook was probably the most fun I’ve ever had watching food being made that was not ultimately for me to eat… a perfect definition, we realized later, of ‘foodporn.’

So, when I overheard our waiter talking to the couple next to us about how the majority of the chefs working at Noma and all associated kitchens were student volunteers, I immediately asked how I could get involved. Which is how I ended up with a position as a stagiaire. And now, I’m pretty sure Manfreds is my favorite restaurant in Copenhagen.

Manfreds, the sister restaurant of Relæ which I covered in an earlier post, combines all the quality with just enough class to create a very awesomely non-prissy atmosphere that guests love. Oliver Strand at the New York Times sums it up in a recent review much better than I can expect to:

“If Noma transforms Nordic food into high art, and if Relae renders it accessible to a wider audience, then Manfreds & Vin turns it into a party.”

It’s remarkable to me how they pull it off. At Relæ there was a consistently high level of stress to deliver food to Michelin standards. But at Manfreds, as the sous chef told me, it’s extremely important that the kitchen can relax because it carries over quickly to the guests- the staff should enjoy the experience just as much as they are.

Anyway, the menu format for all this goodness is a choice between a larger ‘daily special’ or a rapid succession of smaller courses for the table to share (like Chinese! But smaller). Ever get a dish that is presented in a way that makes you afraid to touch it and want to take pictures of it instead? This food is the opposite. It’s plated in a way that invites you to dig into it, basically ‘food on a bed of other food,’ with added treats hidden at the bottom of many of the small plates- creamy goat cheese under yellow beets, walnut emulsion under blanched broccoli, or mustard with egg cream under the tartare. The dishes change every day, based on what the kitchen has and what the chefs feel like experimenting with.

On this particular week the dish of the day was a pork leg with beans, cress, turnips, and sauce. It sounds simple… but it’s not.

Meanwhile… the set menu consisted of 8 different dishes or so, meant to be shared for 245 DKK per person (~$42 USD):

We prepared: lamp carpaccio with radicchio and onion with toasted buckwheat, poached eggs with brown butter potatoes, crispy breadcrumbs, truffle sauce, and chives, beef tartar with watercress (as the chef asserted, “It’s in between veal and actual beef, its ADOLESCENT COW!!!”), goat cheese and yellow beets with vinaigrette, creamy walnut emulsion with blanched broccoli, chicken hearts with grilled radicchio and onion again, smoked veal bone marrow (there are no words that can describe how good this smells) baked carrots with seaweed sauce, baked carrots with wood sorrel and sorrel puree, turnips in butter with olive sauce, pork legs with a ‘broken sauce’ of mustard and sherry with another ambiguous tasty brown sauce, beet tartare with smoked goat cheese, chives, and crispy bread.

(I will also take this opportunity to say that smoked chicken hearts are delicious and I ate every single one that got sent back. My cholesterol levels will soon kill me.)

So clearly, the place has a lot going for them in terms of what comes out of their kitchen. Like Relæ, everything is tasty, but also challenging (just like every beer on tap at Mikkeller); the chefs don’t want to serve you food that you’re used to. However, what I thought was really valuable about my experience at Manfreds was understanding how the staff worked to impart the feeling of hyggeligt-ness. It took working there for a few days to figure it out, but now, I have an idea what makes this restaurant feel different from many restaurants in the States.

A favorite TV show of mine, Louie, has been called a DIY comedy, in reference to the fact that its star, Louis C.K., is not only its lead character but also its director, producer, writer, and editor. And it’s a great show. It seems a little slow at first, but definitely grew on me over the years. It’s now one of the only shows I can watch without getting up to clean something or sleep. Louie is the opposite of the typical television sitcom- he just wants to provide, with much comedic effect, a simple look into his own life. It’s organic and unrefined.

It’s interesting how a show that is so raw and handcrafted can carry such an appeal. I think viewers appreciate that Louis C.K. contributes to every facet of the show’s production, rather than delegating tasks to a wide base of employees. Because of this, the experience is so much more personal.

A similar effect can be found in an experience dining out. While I’ve recognized this sort of individuality and warmth in family owned restaurants and other small businesses alike, I can now attribute that feeling to the style of operations on the inside.

At Manfreds, the chefs bring out the food (and present it lovingly as if to say ‘hey, I made this just for you’). Both the sous chefs and the underlings scrub the floor, scrape down the grill, and polish the stainless steel countertops. There’s no hostess working for minimum wage and tips at the front- instead, everyone makes sure that anyone walking through the door feels welcome. It’s reflective of Danish socialism; individual responsibilities here don’t really fall into compartments, they’re committed to helping each other out and want to help the system work as a whole. And, if anyone is faced with the slightest difficulty, everyone will help to pick up the slack, for example:

“Fuck! I need to make soup but I don’t have a bowl.”
“Come on Kris, just put all your vegetables in a bag, vacuum seal it, put it in at 68 degrees for half an hour and then thermal blend it, duh.”
“Yeah Kris what were you thinking??”

(I mean, that’s exactly what I would have suggested.)

They’re like a new breed of problem solvers. And since each of them sees every dish pretty much from when its ingredients arrive in crates to the dishes being put through the dish pit (hence the 16 hour days), it makes Manfreds about as DIY as a restaurant can get.

So… dinner anyone? Flights are less than $800 round trip from SFO right now. Seriously.

Manfreds & Vin
JÆGERSBORGGADE 40
2200 COPENHAGEN N
+ 45 3696 6593

Tips on visiting Manfreds:

  • Learn to share. There’s enough to go around.
  • The wines are not very expensive, but they are extremely rare- each bottle is natural, meaning no sulfites. Have at least a few glasses.
  • Order the tartare, as ‘it is an institution of Manfreds!!’ Check the NY Times review above for a up close and personal picture.
  • Manfreds is a total boy’s club. Like two girls work here. Enjoy the leather aprons.
  • Pay attention to the herbs- the biggest flavor is sometimes in the smallest things.
  • Also, their disco wine cave is an inspirational vision so do make sure to check it out. It makes me dream about building my own with, like, a shark tank in it, or something.

I plan on eating here as soon as my bank account isn’t in the negatives.

vi ses senere,

LC

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Filed under Cooking, Copenhagen, Restaurants, Travel