Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Germany: Restaurant Vau in Berlin and Recipe: Squash Blossom Quesadilla

Restaurant Vau - Berlin

     I knew that the only activity we could muster enough energy to accomplish was a nice, leisurely lunch.  We had arrived in Berlin hours earlier and none of us had slept that evening on the flight.  We needed a good, multi course lunch that would relax us and set the stage for our week long adventure in the city.  After much research, I secured reservations at Restaurant Vau - a Michelin starred eatery located in the heart of the Gendarmenmarkt neighborhood of central Berlin.  
     Bleary-eyed and casually dressed, we entered a serene courtyard.  The main dining room was off to our left but it was completely empty.  I could understand the reason.  It was a beautiful day and the relaxing atmosphere of the courtyard would definitely enhance the meal.  The waiters were a bit standoffish but we pushed that aside as we opened our menus.  The lunch menu consisted of twelve items; three of which were desserts.  At first glance, it was impossible to determine if the other nine items were appetizers or main courses. They were neither or they were both; it was up to your interpretation.  Here is how it worked.  You could order one course only, or two courses or three courses...or as many as you liked.  If you only wanted the desserts, order the desserts.  If you wanted an all beef lunch, then order as many of the beef offerings.
    We settled on three courses each and no one ordered the same offering.  Sipping excellent German wines, a "waiter" appeared with our first course, set them down on the table and began to explain each dish.  Very quickly, he realized that we did not understand his rapid fire German.  He pulled back the plates and for a brief second we all looked at each other and wondered if they were going to disappear.  Thankfully, he placed them back on the table and this time, explained to us in perfect English the composition of each dish.  Dear Daughter has the shrimp salad with radish carpaccio.  Dear Husband has chosen the house-smoked ham with cabbage and I could not resist buffalo ricotta with a carrot salad.  One bite and we all forgot that we are sleep deprived.  One bite and we all smile.  "It is amazing how good food can make you feel so good," quips my foodie daughter.
     Before we could finish the first course, the second course arrived.  Yikes, we are not ready.  We are still savoring the last flavors on each dish.  Our English speaking waiter looks visibly embarrassed and quickly turns around, taking the plates back into the kitchen.  He comes back out to our table and explains that normally businessmen dine here for lunch and it has to be quick.  He further tells us as he pours us each a second glass of wine that he is always telling his cooks to move faster during the lunch hour.  It then dawns on us that this is not the waiter; this is the chef!
Roasted Cod with Krautfleckerln

Beef with Green Asparagus and Fondant Potatoes

Tagliatelle with Oxtail Ragout and Arugula


     The second course was as good as the first.  My oxtail ragu had an incredible depth of flavor.  Dear Daughter had opted for the cod with kraut and noodles and the combination of textures and flavors was unlike anything we have ever had.   Even Dear Husband's relatively benign dish of beef with asparagus and potatoes was prepared with amazing creativity and flawless execution.  We all felt that it was one of the best meals we had ever had.  It was that good.
     The courtyard was thinning out as we were finishing our third course, each opting for a dessert.  The chef stops by the table and spends about ten minutes talking to us about Berlin and asking us questions.  When he learns that we are from Pennsylvania, he excitedly tells us of a trip he is taking the next week to Nazareth, PA.  Question:  Why would  a Michelin-starred chef be going to Nazareth?   Answer:  He is going with a group of other chefs, first to New York to see the food scene but then to Nazareth to buy a guitar.  Evidently, he cooks and he plays in a band.  Who knew? Upon learning that we have rented an apartment in Berlin for the week, he wants to know why we would not stay in a hotel.  I explain to him that we like to cook and hope to find some interesting markets.  With great enthusiasm, he proclaims that the best market in all of Berlin is just down the street from our apartment.   "I love to go there with my fiancĂ© on Saturday mornings.  We buy lots of food and then go to my favorite wine bar.  Then I have to go to work.  But on Sunday, I cook...for myself."
     Dear Daughter was right.  A good meal does make you feel amazing.  I later find out that our chef, Kolja Kleeberg is a bit of a celebrity in Germany.  Dear Husband laughs at the irony.  I finally get the chance to speak to a great chef and I didn't even know he was a great chef! I do now.

     Back at home, I was giddy as I received this week's CSA shipment (from Clarion River Organics):  green onions, red beets, several small zucchini,  a bag of pea shoots, a small batch of peas, swiss chard and squash blossoms!  I love squash blossoms and knew immediately that dinner plans would have to change.  This was a great opportunity to make Squash Blossom Quesadillas, a super simple dish that just makes sense and is festive.  Enjoy!

Squash Blossom Quesadilla


Squash Blossom Quesadilla

Squash Blossom Quesadilla
from Leite's Culinaria

Ingredients:
Corn tortillas
Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1T Chopped Cilantro
Squash Blossoms - carefully take out the pollen stem


Swirl a bit of oil in a skillet and heat on medium.  Place one tortilla in the pan and let it soften for about 15 - 20 seconds.  Flip.  Scatter the cheese on one half of the tortilla and top with a few cilantro leaves.  Place two blossoms on the top and let the ends hang out just a bit.  Fold and continue cooking until cheese is melted.  I flipped mine a few times.





2 comments:

  1. I've never had squash blossoms, they look beautiful. Not sure where I'd find them in my current state....

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