German Pasta

I was staying in Berlin in December, for a few days attending a conference. The last time I had been to Germany was in 1985 staying for a couple of days in Munich on the way back from a camp in Yugoslavia. This was my first visit to Berlin and the first visit to a unified Germany. I was staying at the NH Collection Mitte ‘Checkpoint Charlie” in the heart of what was East Berlin. I had various meals and snacks while I was there in Berlin.

I did feel a little guilty going to an Italian restaurant while staying in Germany, but when you realise that Vapiano is a German restaurant franchise company headquartered in Cologne. The chain’s restaurants offer Italian food adhering to the fast-casual principle, it certainly has some German food credentials.

The service was simple, in that you ordered from a screen, took a buzzer, and then collected your food from the kitchen. I had started with soup, after finishing that, I then went back to the screen to order some pasta.

I ordered the linguine with beef tenderloin, shrimp, lobster sauce, carrots, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, onions, spring onions, basil, brandy. I liked how you could use the type of pasta in your dish and add extras if needed (such as cheese).

The pasta was perfectly cooked and the rest of the dish was very tasty, though I didn’t really taste the lobster in the lobster sauce. 

It was certainly an interesting pasta dish and I enjoyed it. In some ways it was a strange combination of ingredients, though you often have prawns and steak together as a surf and turf. Would I have it again, probably.

Frites at Frittenwerk

I was staying in Berlin in December, for a few days attending a conference. The last time I had been to Germany was in 1985 staying for a couple of days in Munich on the way back from a camp in Yugoslavia. This was my first visit to Berlin and the first visit to a unified Germany. I was staying at the NH Collection Mitte ‘Checkpoint Charlie” in the heart of what was East Berlin. I had various meals and snacks while I was there in Berlin.

One lunch was chicken shawarma poutine from Frittenwerk. I had liked the look Frittenwerk and it also was busy, which is a good sign I think about a place. When I was planning my trip, I had anticipated focusing on German food, but though I had some good German food when I was there, I also had other cuisines as well. This is why I ended up ordering Canadian poutine in the German capital.

I had considered ordering a traditional poutine, but in the end went with something different. I didn’t really fancy cheese and gravy. The chicken shawarma poutine comprised a large portion of fries with marinated chicken, tomato and avocado salad, paprika and chilli dip and lemon ajoli.

Frittenwerk poutine

This was a quick, hot lunch, that was relatively inexpensive at €9.70.

The dish was made to order and as I waited it arrived very quickly.

It was a tasty dish and I really enjoyed it. The chips were nice, the chicken was tender and tasty, the sauce certainly was zingy. In all very nice.

Nourish and Flourish

Though I have coffee from Coco di Mama quite regularly, it is generally not a place I choose lunch from. Not that I’ve had bad food from there, on the contrary I’ve enjoyed eating lunch when I’ve being there. I think the reason is that there are quite a few choices in the area (of our office) so with that many options, I rarely frequent a single place. However it is the best place for coffee close to the office.

Having little time to get some lunch, the first place I ventured to was Pret, however they were doing well and only seemed to have tuna salad left on their shelves. I decided to head to Coco di Mama, as I thought if I can’t get a salad, I will have a pasta pot.

They were quite scarce on salads as well, my colleague nabbed the last chicken caesar salad. I looked over and went for the vegan nourish and flourish salad pot.

Nourish and Flourish Salad from Coco di Mama

This was mixed leaves, with orzo pasta, tomatoes, mixed seeds, peppers, radishes and other ingredients. I had a balsamic vinegar dressing with it. I also bought a bread roll to go with it.

It was rather tasty, fresh and delicious.

The story behind those green boxes

As we leave Christmas behind, I am reminded of the visit I made to Waitrose just after Christmas to get some coffee and milk. As I looked down the aisles I noticed amongst the shelves lots of large green boxes.

For many of us, planning our Christmas meals, we order main courses, sides, party dishes and desserts from our favourite supermarket and then as the big day approaches, we try to get through the crowds to pick up our orders. Often these orders come in plain boxes, and in the case of Waitrose green coloured boxes.

The reality is that not everyone comes and collects their orders. I also suspect sometimes people pick up their boxes, having only paid a deposit and leave the one or two they don’t want before leaving the store. What is the story behind those forgotten or left behind green boxes? We may never know, but it did get me thinking about what those stories could be?

Was the order placed and then personal circumstances changed so the order was never picked up. Was it something drastic and awful? A sudden admission to hospital, redundancy, something worse! The meal might not have been cancelled, just reduced in size and numbers. They didn’t need as many joints of meat as they ordered, that boneless stuffed leg of lamb gets left on the shelf.

Maybe it was less dramatic, maybe that unexpected invite meant that a massive festive feast was no longer needed. The need to cook a large meal disappears, the order is ignored.

Could it have even been forgotten, maybe an order was placed elsewhere and a solitary green box was ordered and then forgotten.

Amongst the green boxes on the shelves was a vegan party pack comprising red onion bhajis, crisp sweet potato nibbles, and some dips. Was this ordered and then left behind? Were the vegan friends that were originally invited over for Christmas drinks and nibbles now unable to attend? Had the daughter broken up with the vegan boyfriend? We will never know for sure.

In a large green box was a large shin of beef. A huge joint that required extensive time, five plus hours, in the oven to cook. Maybe this isn’t what they thought it was, maybe they thought it was a pre-cooked beef shin that had been slow cooked and only needed heating up in the oven.

I know that sometimes when I have picked up an order, what I get is not what I expected and I feel a little disappointed. I can quite easily imagine ordering an expensive green box, looking inside, thinking, that is not what I was expecting, and leaving it in the store.

What are the stories behind the green boxes, we may never know.

Yo! Tesco

I don’t go to Tesco that often, usually using other supermarkets. However having enjoyed the Sosu Amoy Donburi Meal Kit which I bought from there I headed there to get another pack and do some shopping. I was a little surprised though to see this new Yo! kiosk in the store.

I didn’t realise that this was both a thing and that there was one in my local Tesco.

They did have a really nice selection of sushi on sale, and I was tempted. Maybe next time I fancy sushi, I might try it out.

Sosu Amoy Donburi Meal Kit

I had picked up this meal kit shopping at Tesco and had it in the cupboard for a while. 

Japanese style meal kit with individual sachets of miso cooking paste, teriyaki cooking sauce, furikake seasoning and sticky rice.

It was pretty easy to cook and rather tasty.

First stage was to preheat the oven to 180℃.

In a saucepan, I added the Sosu Sticky Rice and 250ml water, brought it to the boil, covered and turned to a low heat for 12 mins. When the rice is cooked the water will have been absorbed and the rice will be sticky and soft. I kept it in the pan with the lid on until I was ready to serve.

I took some boned chicken thighs, broccoli florets, and strips of butternut squash. I squeezed over the Sosu Miso Cooking Paste and mixed well.

This was baked in the oven for ten minutes.

I took the chicken out of the oven, poured over the Sosu Teriyaki Cooking Sauce, as a glaze, and returned to the oven for a further 3 mins.

I took the cooked rice and divided between two bowls, topped with the chicken, butternut squash, and broccoli and added grated carrot and sliced spring onions. I then scattered the Sosu Furikake Seasoning over the dish.

It was rather good, and I would get it again.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2022

In 2022 I wrote 236 blog posts. More than 2021 when I wrote 107 blog posts, slightly less than in 220 when it was 120. In 2019 it was 58 blog posts, 2018 just 36. 

At ten was Tasty Bao Buns was a review of a meal of bao buns I had at Master Bao in January 2020.

Shiitake Mushroom Bao - teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions and miso

Dropping five places, the ninth most viewed post  from January 2021 was about Truffled Cauliflower Cheese is no more… at M&S. It had disappeared, as I did want to get some for our Christmas lunch. Never saw it again in 2022 either.

Time for La Lola was the eighth most popular post, a review of my first visit to La Lola in St Nick’s Market in Bristol.

The seventh most popular post was about how the chain German Doner Kebab is opening in Weston-super-Mare. Well the post in January 2022 was about it opening, here we are year later in January 2023 and it still isn’t open.

Rising two places to number six was my review of Lidl Fritto Misto. Though I have bought the Lidl Fritto Misto from their Italy week quite a few times, the reality is that it’s okay, but not good. 

The fifth place spot was another on German Doner Kebab not yet open in Weston-super-Mare.

The top post from 2020 dropped six places to number seven in 2021. In 2022 it was my fourth most popular post, and it was my review of some Lidl Sol Mar Cod Croquettes

Having been the most popular blog post for both 2018 and 2017, second in 2019, and  dropping seven places in 2020, using from tenth place to third place was a post asking the question could you use Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was a response to the high ranking of another post about using sirloin steak in a Beef Wellington rather than fillet steak due to the way people were (at the time) searching Google. 

The post at number two, sticking there, was a review of Lidl Coffee Ice Cream. They are not huge tubs, but what you get is a tasty creamy coffee ice cream, with a little chocolate in there as well.

Lidl Coffee Ice Cream

So the most popular blog post on Time for a Coffee in 2022 was German Doner Kebab still not open in Weston-super-Mare another post on the kebab chain.

Quite refreshing to see posts from 2022 being in the top ten.

Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil Salad

Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil Salad

This is a very simple salad, that is quick and easy to make.

I take a ball of mozzarella and break it into pieces. You could cut it, but I think tearing it allows the broken edges to capture the dressing. Then add some sliced tomatoes. I like using heritage tomatoes if I can get them, but at this time of year I try and get a fully flavoured tomato. I then add some basil leaves, tearing the bigger leaves in half. I then dress the salad with some olive oil, white wine vinegar, and then season with salt and pepper.

Simple, yet delicious.

Pie and Mash

Prior to flying out to Berlin I was staying at The Thistle hotel close to Heathrow Terminal 5. I picked this hotel as it was convenient to the airport and they had autonomous pods that carried you from the hotel to the terminal. They also served dinner. When I looked over the menu there was a choice of things to have. For my starter I had the smoked haddock fish cake. After a disappointing chicken burger I had had the night before, I looked over the menu for my main course. I decided I would go with pie and ordered the steak and ale pie, with creamy mash potatoes, garden peas, carrots, and gravy.

pie and mash

The plate did look quite nice, and was well presented. The pie crust was a little soft for me, but the filling was meaty and tasty. The mash was quite creamy and the veg was cooked okay. The gravy was a little thin for me, and I could have done with more, but it did help make the dish.

Overall I had really quite low expectations for this dish, but in the end did enjoy the dish.

The hotel was convenient for Heathrow, but the food is pretty abysmal, especially for the amount you are charged. It is like poor quality pub food, but at hotel prices. I think if I need to stay at Heathrow again, I would probably choose a different hotel.