Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Pret à Diner Berlin and Food Hype in the City
Finally not only watching cooking shows on television but also cooking in real life seems to have become a national sport. Across city and country borders as well, but especially within these Prussian city borders. When five years ago the question was who at all was serious with cooking or talked about food, the question today is who doesn't do so because everybody does.
Presuming that any food that is made by oneself is better than what is offered by the food industry, I welcome this trend of getting more engaged with food, with ingredients' quality and origins, consumption ethics and so on.
What I dislike about the wave is that some people (and i don't mean those who have to do it for a living because it is their profession) start to make a hype of the fact that they too, deal with food. After all and to some extent, shouldn't that be a natural thing? Has the hype gone so far that these days you write diplomas on supper clubs or on foodblogs? And that some people write full-time about eateries and their cooked meals but without any journalistic approach? I slightly feel that we are overestimating the food-dealing-matter and of course, I am not innocent in this regard but fully part of the stream :)
Together with the trend came up some alternative dining and food experiences: restaurants in clubs (dining clubs?), dinner en blanc, bread exchange, pop-up restaurants, supper clubs, recipes based grocery shops and running dinners.
For sure I forgot some and there must be a lot more that I haven't heard of yet. A cooking tandem? A foodbloggers' fleamarket? A neighbors' cooking competition? Who knows.
(Whereas the traditional, politically influenced Volxküche has nothing to do with the trend because the trend primarily seeks being in vogue. Another alternative institution from the time before the wave is the pay-what-you-want-bar but I am not sure if it is still running.)
I did not seek many food events but can tell about three of the more or less positive experiences that I made.
Auf Haxe - as far as I understood this running dinner started with a facebook group. On an evening you cook together with the partner of your choice one course for two unknown couples. Then you will be invited for two other courses by other couples.
Now that the event has gained some reputation and enough participants, you will be linked with people that live in your neighborhood. At the end of the evening there is a party for all participants and whoever else wants to join. It was a funny experience (see me flipping tarte tatin), not competitive at all and a chance to meet literally all kinds of folks.
You want to join this event in your city but there is no such thing yet? Lucky you, you can be the one to initiate it :) Someone always has to make the start and in these times of online networking it should be easier than ever.
Pret a diner - the vastly expanded pop-up restaurant and dining club chose "in the mix" as subtitle for their last Berlin event and mixed were my feelings about it, too.
Built up on a unique location (an old coin mint in Mitte) together with a temporary gallery (circle what?? the works were more eye-catching than interesting) in the entry, it offered Michelin chefs' cuisine, sumptious decoration, a band that performed two songs but billed without leaving you a choice and an amateur, thus totally overstrained service crew. The problem of the concept is that it is indecisive about whether it wants to celebrate extravagance or down-to-earth-ness.
I guess, it is worth visiting if one is keen on a special setting rather than on the food. We took the vegetarian menu by Stephan Hentschel of Cookies Cream which I found not surprising but promising enough that I would like to visit the chef at normal business. The bar next room and the cocktails list were beautiful.
Will update with better pics if I get hands on them and write about a supper club in the next post!
See a little introduction into past and present underground restaurants here.