Saturday, September 04, 2010

A Stroll Around The Neigborhood

It was another kind of dreary day here.  Overcast and a bit chilly with occasional drizzle.  Still, not too bad a day to be out walking around a bit.  And it certainly didn't deter the locals.  When we went looking for a place to eat lunch we spotted this place where everyone seemed to prefer eating outdoors.

A Hearty Breed

Being of a somewhat less hardy breed, we decided to eat indoors and just watch the weather, not sit in it.

On The Inside Looking Out

This was a pretty big restaurant but not too many people were inside.  It was kind of fancy too so I suspect it does more of an evening business.

A Fancy Lady

I wasn't being fancy, though.  Just a beer for me, and a little light lunch.

A Beer And I Am Happy

The light lunch part didn't work out too well, though.  The waitress seemed surprised when I "only" ordered a bowl of spicy beef soup.  Like it was supposed to be some kind of a warm-up or something.  What it was was a large bowl of spicy beef chunks with just enough soup to cover them.  More than enough for a meal.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman opted for a vegetable lasgne, thinking it would be healthy.  What she got was a large portion of what looked to be a creamy cheese covered pasta.  She said she could only find one small piece of broccoli in it, but I guess that was enough to qualify it as a vegetable lasgne.  I don't know why there aren't more fat people here considering the size of the meals and all of the beer they put away.

After our lunch we took a stroll down to an island in the Spree River.  Quite a lively little area it was, too.

See The Spree

There were all kinds of food stands, bars and outdoor eating areas here.

More Hardy Souls

Once again I decided to pop inside.  This place had kind of a 60's diner atmosphere.

Where's The Fonz?

A Bear, A Beer, A Bar Man

Lots of bears in Berlin.  I think it was an integral part of the coat of arms of some ancient ruler.  One day I will look it up, but I am too lazy today.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman And Another Bear

We continued to walk around the area to see what we could see.  In keeping with the big eating theme was this stand selling very large bagels.

Would You Like That With A Pound Of Cream Cheese?

This stand was selling sausages and cheese and offered free tastes as well.

More Food

There were also stands that sold bottles of wine so you could get your sausage, cheese, bread and beverage than go find yourself a table by the river and have a little picnic.  It would be nice if New York set up some kind of an area like this.  Instead we have parks where you can't eat or drink, huge tourist traps like the South Street Seaport, or big expensive restaurants.  And that is better than a lot of the riverside which is either commercial or a highway.

We walked around a bit more and I, of course, had to have my picture taken with this lovely lass.

Pretty, But No Personality

After walking around all afternoon we decided to just have our dinner in one of the hotel restaurants.


Brandenburg is a pretty fancy restaurant, but not at all stuffy.  Very friendly staff.  We had kind of given up on the idea of eating light.  After all, we are on vacation and can always diet when we got home.  The Mysterious Chinese Woman was going to just have the scallops appetizer.  The waitress said you only got two of them so we decided to split an order for an appetizer.

Just One

Two of them would, indeed, been enough for a meal.  I said it looked like the cook spit on them but this was kind of an artistic thing meant to, I guess, look like sea foam.

I had enough beer for the day so I ordered a bottle of German white wine to go with the meal.


For dinner I ordered liver with potatoes, apple slices and onions.

Pile It High

The Mysterious Chinese Woman thought she would get off easy ordering baked cod, but even that came with a heavy cream sauce.

Might As Well Just Give Up Trying

The free breakfast at the hotel presents another challenge. It is like a brunch that you would get in Las Vegas. Okay, a little bit smaller, but not much.  And this morning they even had free Champagne. Or at least something sparkly.

Today we are going to try out the subway and visit the zoo.  The Mysterious Chinese Woman also wants to visit some big shopping center. I will post about that in a few days.  I lose my internet connection here pretty soon (17 Euros for 24 hours) and probably won't get hooked up again until we are on our boat.

Until then, be well and remember, it can't be the beer and food that makes you fat.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Berlin, We Are Here

Well, it was a long and very unconfortable journey to get here.  Long, well, that can't be helped.  Uncomfortable, that is another story.  We flew Lufthansa, which I had always associated with being a classy airline.  The flight to Frankfort,where we changed planes, was the most uncomfortable commercial airplane that I have ever been on.  They had obviously refitted this plane so they could get in more seats and it was horrible.  Not only was there no leg-room, but some of the seats had, well, who knows what under them so if you sat behind them  you had no room to put anything under the seat in front of you and little room for your legs.  If you did manage to fall asleep you got woken up and told to put your seat in the upright position if the person behind you wanted to use their tray-table to eat dinner or something.  I am not looking forward to my trip home.

On the other hand, the flight from Frankfort to Berlin, also on Lufthansa, was very comfortable.  Wide seats and plenty of leg-room.  Of course that was only a forty-minute flight whereas the flight to Frankfort from New York was about seven hours.

The airports in Germany are kind of interesting. At the gate in Frankfort they have these things like they have at JFK where you catch the train-to-the-plane.  Only instead of inserting your Metrocard you insert your boarding pass and it opens to let you on the plane.  Then at the Berlin airport the baggage carasol is right where you get off the plane.  It looks like each carasol handles the baggage for just two gates.  And then after you get your baggage you just walk through a door and and you can exit the airport.  Very quick, very easy.  And at no point did we go through customs or have to fill out any declaration forms or anything.  There are a few points where they check your passport and you do have to go through security when you switch planes in Frankfort.  Quite a strange experience.

The person from Viking was right there to greet us and our van was right outside.  A quick ride and we were at the Berlin Hilton.  A no hassle check-in and we were in our very nice room.  Spacious, nice flat-screen TV, comfortable beds, very, very nice.

My Night With Hilton - Berlin, Not Paris

The Berlin Hilton is in a very nice part of the city.  Plenty of restaurants, a close walk to the Spree River, lots of old buildings, a subway-stop right outside the door - just perfect.

Right Out The Door

We got into Berlin mid-afternoon and had a short meeting with a Viking representative.  Then, because we couldn't sleep on the flight over the Mysterious Chinese Woman and I took a bit of a nap.  We got up around 7:00 PM, took a quick shower and headed out for dinner at one of the nearby restaurants, and there were plenty to chose from.  We just walked about two blocks until we saw one that looked crowded and went in.

Our Choice


Most of the restaurants had outdoor seating but it was kind of chilly and drizzling so not too may people were eating at these tables.  Inside was another story. This place was pretty packed.

Everyone Was Inside

And they do like there beer here. Almost everyone was drinking beer, and lots of it.

Beer For My Men

And this was perfectly fine with me.

Beer For The Bar Man

The Mysterious Chinese Woman was more interested in the menu.

Hmm, Perhaps The Innards

And I am not kiding about the innards, apparently they are some kind of a local specialty.

Waiter, There Are Innards On My Menu

I opted for something a bit more mundane, a baked pig knuckle.

Umm, Delicious

And this was delicious. The skin and fat were really crispy, almost like that deep-fried fat that I like so much when I am in Mexico. The inside was nice and juicy and tender and the cabbage was great.  Way more than I could eat, though.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman had a pork dish with the same cabbage and a potato dumpling.

Just One Dumpling, But A Big One

I really liked this restaurant and if I was going to be in Berlin longer I would go back again in a minute. But we are leaving Sunday morning and I will be lucky if I have digested this meal by then.

So far I really like Berlin.

I have an internet connection in my hotel room until tomorrow afternoon (17 Euros for 24 hours) so I should be able to post once more before boarding our boat. Then probably not until Monday.

Kind of a fall-like crispness in the air, but not bad at all.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eating Izakaya

The Mysterious Chinese Woman and I got together with my brother-in-law Jim last night and we decided to eat Izakaya.  Well, eat and drink.  An Izakaya is a Japanese drinking establishment that also serves food.  The word Izakaya is a combination of two words, "i" which means "to sit" and "sakaya" which means "sake shop."  These are becoming increasingly popular here in New York.  In fact one stretch on St. Mark's must have about half-a-dozen of them.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman and I took the subway to Astor Place and headed towards St. Mark's.  On our way we passed by Continental, and how can you not stop in there for a $2 beer or 5 shots for $10.

Continental, The Cheap Place To Drink

They have a very strict door policy here, both the Mysterious Chinese Woman and I got carded.  It is kind of a deep dark place and wasn't very crowded when we walked in.  Old Betty Boop cartoons were playing on the back wall and the bartender was busy punching toons into the jukebox.  So busy, in fact, that she didn't pay any attention to us for about ten minutes and totally ignored a guy at a back table that walked right past her to go to the bar to order a round of drinks.  Then when she got back behind the bar she decided she needed to powder her nose.  Service is not their strong suit here.

Oh, and the $2 beers don't include Brooklyn Lager.  They are $4, but still not a bad price.  Maybe I should have stuck to the shots.

After my beer and three cartoons we headed right around the corner to Yakitori Taisho, a little downstairs (these places are almost always downstairs) place.  And they almost always have red lanterns out in front.

Yakitori Taisho

It was pretty crowded, with a line, when we got there and then we had to wait for Jim so I stuck the Mysterious Chinese Woman in the line.  When Jim arrived there were no tables in the front so we were ushered into the back room.

Just Down The Hall

You can't say that they went overboard on the decorating, but then that kind of adds to the ambience.

You Call This Ambience?

They didn't really put a whole lot into decorating the walls, either.

Form Follows Function, Or Something

It actually looks kind of like the modern day version of where Zatoichi, the blind swordsman, might hang out.  Of course then there would be at least half-a dozen dead people on the floor before this peaceful man finished his meal.  You would think people wouldn't hassle a guy who can pick flies out of the air with his chopsticks.

I guess in a place like this it is the people who provide the atmosphere.  That and the sake.

Atmospheric People

Because of the large amount of cabbage they serve with everything, we contributed more and more to the atmosphere as the evening wore on.

One of the attractions of Izakayas is the relatively inexpensive food served in small portions so you can share and sample a lot of different stuff.  We had an assortment of food that included chicken gizzards, pork belly, pork with kimchi (which I didn't think was Japanese), a bunch of chicken stuff on skewers, squid, and lots of cabbage.

The Aftermath

We also tried three different kinds of sake that ranged from fairly sweet to dry.  All were good and served well-chilled.  Then we finished up with a couple bottles of Yebisu, a Japanese beer that is put out by Sapporo.  One of my favorite beers for just quenching my thirst on a hot day is Sapporo.  Clean and crisp and in a big can.  Japan's answer to Budweiser, but I like it better.  The Yebisu is a darker and more flavorful beer and isn't bad at all.

A Yebisu For You, So Don't Be Blue

All and all it was a most enjoyable evening and the Mysterious Chinese Woman certainly looked like she ate and drank her fill.

Ah, The Look Of Contentment

If you are in the mood for a differnt kind of bar food, plenty of sake, and a pretty genuine Japanese pub experience, these Izakayas are a good choice.

Yakitori Taisho on Urbanspoon

Several articles came out in various papers today announcing the amazing (not to me) finding that people who drink tend to live longer than people who don't.  Even heavy drinkers tend to outlive teetotalers.  They are not sure of the reason for this but my guess is that non-drinkers tend to be miserable people who don't know how to have fun and just shrivel up and and die.  Only my opinion, of course.

I love Paris Hilton's explanation of why she had drugs in her purse.  The purse wasn't really hers.  The money in the purse was hers.  The chapstick in the purse was hers.  But the drugs weren't hers because it wasn't her purse.  And, you know, it wouldn't surprise me if she beats the rap with that lame excuse.

It looks like I am getting out of town just before we experience any affects from Hurricane Earl.  I guess I will have to queue up the Dixie Chicks "Goodbye Earl" on my way out the door.

My next post won't be for a few days and should be from Berlin.  Until then, skip the vitamin pill and have a Bloody Mary with your breakfast.  You will live a longer and happier life.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wobbly At Waterfront

I dropped into the Waterfront Ale House, as I often do on a Friday or (that is an inclusive "or") Saturday afternoon when the World's Friendliest Bartender, Gaid, is on duty.

World's Friendliest Bartender - Gaid

I was pleased to see that Sam, the owner of the place and the captain of the Fuhgeddaboutit BBQ team had won some serious accolades at a recent competition.

Grand Master And Best Beef

I started out with a Lunganitas Lucky 13 Mondo Red because I had never had one before and it was the first thing I spotted on the chalkboard that lists the 19 draught beers that are available.  It was a bit on the heavy side for such a warm day, but it was pretty tasty.  Kind of a cinnamon spicy flavor.  But noticeably strong.  It goes off at a hefty 8.56% ABV and tasted it.  And this kind of explains what happened next.

Gaid, knowing that I generally like Brooklyn Brewery's beer, offered me a taste of Brooklyn Detonation Ale.  The Brooklyn Brewery has a habit of putting out limited run beers that can be infuriatingly good.  Infuriatingly because eventually they are all gone and you can't get anymore.  I still mourn the long gone Buzz Bomb Ale.

After the Lucky 13 the Detonation tasted refreshingly light.  A nice hops bitterness that was well-complemented by the floral aroma and taste of fresh hop buds.  One review commented on its "disturbing drinkability."  And I can attest to that.

A long-time follower of my blog, who goes by the name of Splunge, dropped in and we then proceeded to chat and buy each other rounds of beers and talked with each other and Gaid and basically kind of killed the afternoon.

The Good Life

Eventually the Mysterious Chinese Woman managed to track me down and tried to drag me away.  However, the mighty team of Splunge and Bar Man prevailed and induced her to stick around and party with us.

Hey Bartender, One More Round

I don't remember how many of those Detonations I ended up having.  At least four, and probably more.  Eventually Gaid's shift was over and his replacement, Peter, came on duty.  He looked at my, by now, glassy eyes and asked me if I knew I was drinking a 10% beer.  Well, it isn't quite 10%, but it is 9.2% ABV.  Stronger than the first beer that I had that I thought was strong.  And I had been drinking these like, well, like beer.  Damn, they were good, and disturbingly drinkable.

Oh well, I got a wee bit hammered but it was all for a good cause.  Splunge and I agreed that we should do it again sometime and the Mysterious Chinese Woman abstained from voting.

This morning I put on the coffee and went out to get the papers like I usually do.  But when I got home I decided I needed a morning beer more than I needed my morning coffee.  Luckily I had a few in my refrigerator and decided upon a Magic Hat Wacko Seasonal Ale.

Beer, Not Just For Breakfast

Not one of Magic Hat's better offerings, in my opinion.  And why, because they used beet sugar, they felt the need to color the beer with beet juice is beyond me.  It looks like you are drinking some kind of a Hawaiian fruit punch or something.  There isn't anything distinctive about the beer either, kind of blah tasting.  But after spending the previous day downing the heavy, heavy fuel it was a refreshingly innocuous 4.5% ABV.

By the way, Splunge said that he first went to the Waterfront Ale House to eat their ribs after reading about them in my blog way back and has been coming here ever since.  He agrees with me that they have what are probably the best ribs in town.  And New York is a pretty big town.

Waterfront Ale House on Urbanspoon