I like to say I travel for food instead of saying I travel to eat. Many people probably think there isn’t a difference, but there is. At least that is what I tell myself.
I don’t set out on a trip with the goal of eating copious amounts of food, but I do set out to explore as many unique food experiences as I possibly can. If that means also eating the food, well so be it. I won’t complain.
It’s hard to explain how inspiring it is to make a brand new food discovery that you haven’t seen in your travel to 20 countries if a person just doesn’t get it. But I’ll keep trying because it’s experiences like these that motivate me to travel to new places.
I promised to follow up my last post on Berlin’s Christmas markets with a recap of the two favorite foods we discovered on this trip.
Let’s start with dinner and then we’ll end with dessert.
Picture the best grilled cheese sandwich possible and then take that times 10. This sums up Raclette. The series of events that led to the discovery went something like this.
“What is that?”
“I’m not sure.”
“What is he doing?”
“Hold up. Is that cheese? Yes, it’s cheese!”
This is how it works. From what I have gathered, it is a food and method with Swiss roots. Raclette is a semi-firm cow’s milk cheese that melts beautifully. A large wheel of the cheese is turned on its side and set under a warmer with a small flame.
The warmer broils the very top layer of the cheese. Once it is ready, the browned and melted cheese is scraped from the wheel and into a soft and crusty baguette. Then this version is topped with seasonings and pickles.
The wheel gets put back under the warmer for the next round and you are handed one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches on earth.
We found this only at the Berliner market, by the way. Refer to my last post for more details on the specific markets we visited.
The scenario that unfolded when we discovered Baumkuchen (tree cake) was about the same as the Raclette.
We walked up to the booth, questioning a long bar that was set across the table with a cake that seemed to be wrapped around it. The cake had what looked like waves over the surface.
At that point, only about 1/4 of it was left and we watched a woman cut slices off of it , and then cut the slices into bite-size pieces and douse it with powdered sugar or chocolate syrup.
Then we spotted the oven in the back and became even more intrigued with how the cake was made. Knowing they would need to make another before the one being served from was gone, we spent our afternoon at that market swinging by the booth to check on the process.
Finally, it all became clear.
Baumkuchen is the German version of a spit cake. The bar is covered in foil and then a lever is lowered and the bar is dipped into a trough filled with cake batter. Once it is coated, it is raised up out of the batter and the lid is closed and baking begins.
It continues to spin like a rotisserie throughout the process and this is what creates the waves, or what looks like a Christmas tree when you hold it upright.
Once that layer is browned and baked, the bar is lowered back into batter for another layer and the process is repeated over and over until the cake is complete.
Slices are cut from the base and in each piece you can see the thin layers created by the dipping and baking.
It’s one of those special foods that I’m not going to be recreating in my kitchen anytime soon. That only adds to my excitement over the experience. We’re still talking about it a year later. We found this treat at Gendarmenkt.
These two foods are all the reason I need to head back to Berlin’s markets in the future. These experiences perfectly sum up what I mean when I say I travel for food.
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