Our German Christmas Feast
-a food tradition
There’s only one dish for Christmas Eve really: beef!
First of all, you might know that we Germans have our big Christmas on Chrstmas Eve rather than Christmas day. In fact, we call it the ‘holy night’ and then cound the following two days: ‘1st day of Christmas’ and ‘2nd day of Christmas’. Thus, Christmas Eve is all about presents and food -and quite a lot of people still go to church.
Traditional German Christmas dishes
At school, I learnt that the British have turkey as their traditional Christmas (Day) dish. In Germany, we have quite a few Christmas dishes. Some have roasts, others goose or poultry (turkey is less common however) and some even have “Bockwurst” (special sausages -what else?!) and potatoe salad. Our Christmas Eve dish has been beef in red wine sauce with red cabbage and dumplings forever…
The “Extrawurst” -special treatment
At some point, I dicided that I didn’t feel like beef anymore. Maybe I never really liked it as I once vomitted all over the table when I was little -actually my brother pulls my leg every year with that story…
Anyway, I don’t really like the taste of beef and also there was BSE.
Therefore, I usually get a special treatment: vegetarian Schnitzel.
To be fair, nowadays I have a bit of meat too…
Boxing Day / “2nd day of Christmas”
Christmas Day is usually very calm in our house and we eat the left-overs from Christmas Eve. On Boxing Day however, the house gets really lively: many relatives come over and Mum always shines with her delicious goose and rabbit dishes -she even does her own dumplings!
Every meat has its own sauce and even though there are ‘rules’ which meat comes with which side, we all love to mix and match.
So this is (our German food) Christmas…
The magical remote control
-my sentimental attachment to my English phone
When was the last time you got a new phone?
What’s your phone like?
What’s your WhatsApp?
Above you see my phone. No, I’m not joking. I am a 28-year-old money-making media person with a social media twist and this is my phone.
I was a promotional Pay-As-You-Go contract during the World Cup 2006. To be honest, I don’t even know what it’s called neither could I find it online. We I did find was a blogpost about an updated version for the World Cup 2010.
To be fair, I DO have another phone. My German phone, a Sony Ericsson w810i -not that much better in times of smartphones though.
Back to the Alcatel. It features:
You might think I’m awkward and weird but wait until you run out of battery next time…
So why would anyone steal this phone? Exactly. No one would:
The lost and found story
Besides me always being lucky, here is how my little English phone found its way back to me.
It is an ordinary Tuesday. Football is on: England vs. Germany. Just before the match starts, I receive a phone call:
"Do you want a spare ticket for Depeche Mode tonight -it’s free?!"
What a hard decision but soon I’m on my way to the O2. Wisely, I dropped my backpack with my MacBook at a safe place.
The concert was great and everybody danced, screamed, jumped and had a good time.
For some (awkward) reason I had 100 free minutes to “Your Country” which apparently was Germany (on an English contract!) granted by my network. I decided to call Mum from the concert -which left her in some kind of shock I suppose.
After that my little phone was ‘lost’.
Besides that, someone lost her wallet (no, not me this time). When I got out of the cab, I wanted to make sure nothing else got lost on the back seat. However, the driver (who we intentionally picked as he had a sweet cheeky smile) distracted me by asking me to shut the door properly.
It was only the next morning when I finally realized that my little phone was gone.
After a long last working day at Comptoir, receive a Facebook message:
"The taxi driver called. He’s got your phone and will drop it at mine tonight."
Man, that was a relief! Have you ever been a day without your mobile?
The charge for the fare was about half of the phones value (I’m talking recent top-up credit) but I would have been super sad without my little English remote control. Also, bear in mind that those remotes don’t do clouds or any kind of synchronisation of your contacts.
Lebanese (food) seduction
-impressions from working for a Lebanese restaurant chain
Before that, I had never tried Lebanese food. It took one dinner at Levant and I was Lebanized!!
Since then, I had the joy and the pleasure to have my lunch at Comptoir Wigmore Street and I discovered divine dishes.
I’ve always been loving halloumi cheese which I first tried on Cyprus (where it comes from). Hearing about a halloumi croissant however, clearly surprised me. When I first tried it, I was amazed and instantly addicted.
Before my proper breakfast, I started my (work) day with a hot ginger and fresh mint water which I soon got known for (inline with giving me a slight awkward look). Another no brainer is my daily carrot and ginger juice -a fresh home made boost in the day!
In my little naughty moments, I had a mira lemonade (made with mint, lemon, orange blossom and ice)… so amazing! Also, it’s a drink that “refills itself” as my friend said. When the ice melts, you will still taste great flavours rather than just water. When I felt really naughty, I had a cranberry and chocolate brownie or osmaliyah (filo pastry filled with cream) and a nice latte with a froth head and chocolate on top (Oliver, you’re the man).
Half naughty treat
A little less naughty -as fat free- is the frozen yoghurt. Normally served with dates and honey, I had it plain with just sesame seeds as I am fructose intolerant.
One of my standard lunch choices was cheese sambousek (Lebanese cheese, parsley and cinnamon) served with a yummy harissa dip which gives you and extra kick and organic rice as a side.
Another favourite dish of mine was the halloumi man’ousha (Lebanese flat bread) that I cheekily enhances with extra halloumi and tabbouleh salad (parsley, cracked wheat, tomatoes, mint and spring onions with a lemon and olive oil dressing).
Make it big, make it tagine
Very popular dishes at Comptoir are the tagines, especially the meaty ones. I only had the Aubergine tagine which was really good. It was just to much for lunch for me. I like to finish my plate, however in the Lebanese culture this means that the cook did not give you enough.
However, working for Tony and the company wasn’t only about delicious food. The restaurants are full of interesting an inspiring people, both customers and members of staff. Besides different flavours, the restaurants fill your experience with different personalities, inspiring interior designs.
"So, was eating her job?" I hear you say. No no but who can work on an empty stomach. I was Tony’s personal marketing manager and helped out at Comptoir’s marketing. My responsibilities included, managing Tony’s social media channels and the development of his website, the launch of his very first cookbook "Comptoir Libanais" and to coordinate media and press events.
For example, we went to the Happy Foodie Festival.
I really enjoyed being ‘part of the family’ and thank everyone for the great work.
Spread the passion!
The Happy Foodie Festival
Happy birthday, foodie!
Have you ever heard of Rickmansworth?
I haven’t and to be fair I still struggle to pronounce it correctly -maybe that’s me being very German for once.
So why exactly would I go all the way to Rickmansworth (about 20min on the train from Marylebone) on my birthday?
Because the Happy Foodie Festival by Random House hosts loads of chefs, foodies, cooking demonstrations and obviously food.
The Food Hall
Located in a massive girls’ school (yes, I get lost a few times and the short cut goes through a chapel), the main hall is decorated nicely in food. I am particularly drawn to Tina Bakes and her cakes. My passion for tiffins is shared by Tony Kitous, author of the Lebanese cookbook “Comptoir Libanais”. Following a recipe from Levi Roots, the tiffin has an unusual ginger twist.
That isn’t the only spice twist however.”Chalfront Chillies" promise to ‘blow your mind. They show you that chillies can go with almost everything…
The Revival Rooms offer a nice tea break to wind down for a reasonable price.
Last but not least, The Carved Angel that try to seduce everyone with ‘forbidden’ fruits. I really like their (colourful) designs!
The Spice Panel - Around the world
Following the spicy twist of the Food Hall, I join the “Around the world” panel that featured Van Tran, Anh Vu (authors of “The Vietnamese Market Cookbook”), Steve “Stevie” Parle (autor of “Spice Trip" and presenter of the Channel 4 show "Spice Trip”) and Tony Kitous (author of “Comptoir Libanais”).
Well, if that isn’t a spicy mix!
With Stevie describing himself as the new ‘Spice Boy’ that is looking for more members for his group, giggles are on his side. Later he says how amazed he was when he first saw his own children starting to help Daddy in the kitchen.
Tony and his za’atar spice (a mix of oregano, basil thyme, thyme and savory) kick off. His passion about Lebanese food and the za’atar samples gain great popularity. He also receives applause when giving his bunch of flowers to a lady in the audience and every now and then you see him kissing some women on the cheeks after signing their books -charming Lebanese hospitality I suppose.
Anh and Van have very interesting stories about their childhood in Vietnam to tell, like when they didn’t have a fridge and they were buying fresh food products from the markets every day.
Shelina Permalloo - live cooking
"Why do you marinate the fish before you fry it?"
Shelina: (short pause) “Because the fish likes it.”
Very charming, upbeat and full of great and funny advice, Shelina Permalloo is definitely the woman when it comes to great and entertaining live cooking sessions. Last year’s winner of MasterChef, Shelina surely brings “Sunshine on a Plate" and into the kitchen.
Take home goodies
I’m pretty sure everyone who made the effort to come out to Rickmansworth will have bought something: (signed) cookbooks, cookery gifts and some nibbles, chillies and definitely (my birthday) cake or rather tiffin.
Take home message
Meet Evelyn Anyiri and Na’Omi Canart - part II
Na’Omi and Evelyn speak about the University of Westminster and its diversity, opportunities and a student’s learning curve.
They also give away what inspired them to run the Accounting and Management Society.
Tune in to get some great career advice!
Meet Evelyn Anyiri and Na’Omi Canart
Evelyn Anyiri and Na’Omi Canart were President and Vice President of the Accounting and Management Society of the University of Westminster during the academic year (2012-2013).
Not only that they set me on fire about all their activities and events, they infecutated many Westminster Business School students.
Here is an intro of what they did.
For coffee lovers
-my personal review
After several coffees, frappuccinos, muffins rather tiffins and many customer service/barista experiences, I decided to write about my favourite coffee shops in London.
London offers an incredible amount of coffee shops and whereas Germany only has one big chain -Starbucks- London has several like Costa, Néro, Prèt-A-Manger, Starbucks, EAT and Joe & Juice (although they rather specialize in juices).
Now coffee is a big issue to many people. There seem to be billions of possibilities to mix, roast, blend and drink your coffee. I used to drink Starbucks’ ‘White Café Mocha’ and Néro’s ‘White Chocolate Mocha’ as they use white chocolate syrup instead of vanilla (HUGE difference). Nowadays, I feel less ‘sweet’ and therefore I usually go with a normal latte (with chocolate on top though -I never get why chocolate is reserved for cappuccinos). During summer, I like to have frappuccinos.
Costa coffee is not really my favourite but I guess it is the chain where I buy most of my coffees. Reasons for that are:
Unfortunately, I don’t really like the taste of Costa coffee (also I believe that the University uses a different roast or prepares it differently) but most of the time I am simply to lazy/stingy to buy the coffee at another place. The best thing about Costa at the University is that they are happy to do my ‘special versions’ (chocolate on top of the latte/less ice in a frappuccino).
In contrast, the staff of ordinary shops is usually less friendly and open to my new creations (“That won’t taste nice!”). In addition, I had several problems with my ‘Costa Club Card’ (points were deleted and franchise stores couldn’t even swipe the card). However, that’s only my overall experience and I will always come back for the Tiffin!
The Italian flavoured coffee shop. Even though the coffee seems to taste slightly stronger and many of the baristas have an Italian background and who are wearing tops with “Italian” and “Milan”, there is no Néro store in Milan. Most of the baristas are very nice (unfortunately those at the busy stores were less friendly in general) and the ‘Iced White Chocolate Mocha’ is my favourite drink. I need to warn you: It’s like a whole meal! Néro usually adds free sprinkles on top (if you ask for it) and one barista even gave me the left-over of the 'Iced White Chocolate Mocha' mix -AMAZING!
Unfortunately, there is only one size of the (Iced) ‘White Chocolate Mocha’ and it is quite massive -either let it replace a meal or share.
I must say that Prèt-A-Manger wasn’t really recognized as a quality coffee shop until about three months ago. I did have a ‘Halloumi Wrap’ before -which is absolutely fantastic- but I’d never really tried the coffee. Once I had realized that Prèt uses mainly organic products and offers really healthy snacks, I was in love. And the coffee is YUM! Overall, the Prèt staff is very friendly and upbeat. Unfortunately, there are no iced (coffee) drinks on the menu.
Probably the most popular chain. I do like the 'White Café Mocha' (also the iced version), I like their additional shakers (vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and chocolate) and their logo. The idea of making your coffee experience more personal is honourable but the whole name thing is really annoying, especially because they barely get the names right and sometimes the baristas don’t even bother when you offer to spell the name.
Once, I was served by a really lovely girl who asked how my day was instead of asking for my name. When I replied that it didn’t go to well but I’ll make the best of it, she drew a nice smiley on my cup -great customer service!
The frappuccino happy hour was pretty disappointing. Our office had 1-8 drinks per day and we tried almost every flavour but all of them are super-sweet. Even when we added another espresso shot, it didn’t make much of a difference… My recommendation: 'White Mocha Frappuccino' (basically an iced ‘White Café Mocha’ but you have to ask for it).
In a nutshell,
all coffee shops have something (different/unique) to offer and I will most likely continue to by from all of them. However, I have my tendencies:
A Costa Chocolate Tiffin and a Prèt Latte and an 'Iced White Chocolate Mocha' from Néro on a hot day
My Whole Foods experiences
-certified 100% awesome
As heard in the WFM customer audio footage (http://londoncallingundisguised.tumblr.com/post/51638172742/wfm-audio), the Whole Foods Markets are said to offer high quality products at reasonable prices.
I wanted to try the food myself and bought a slice of pizza, a spinach feta roll, a pot of guacamole and a German Weizenbier (that I had never seen before).
The pizza certainly was divine. Full of juicy tomatoes, great dough and yummy cheese rounded up by spinach and mushrooms. The spinach feta roll had a nice hearty taste and I liked the sesame seeds that were sprinkled around it.
Everything was totally full of flavour.
Later I had a bread with the homemade guacamole dip. It is one of the bestselling products of the Whole Foods Market. Again, it was full of flavour and I appreciated the fresh taste of the avocados as they are the base of guacamole, it all comes down to their quality! Even though I did pick the “hot” version of the dip (on purpose), the dip was not very spicy. However, guacamole is not meant to be a spicy dip as far as I know.
At home I tried a “Steph Weiss” beer. Now that was a funny story. Even though I am German, I neither new the beer nor did I know if it was a typical Weizenbier or just an ordinary lager. Actually, I got most of the team members confused as they couldn’t figure out which kind of beer it was. Well as soon as I tried it, I knew. Just in case the team members from the Piccadilly shop read this: It is a Weizenbier ;)
I guess the crucial hint is the “Weiss” in the name and also the “Weissbier” caption on the side of the label.
All in all, the food was absolutely amazing!
The only downside was that I felt some symptoms of my fructose intolerance after I had the pizza. Maybe that was due to the fruity tomato juice or maybe it contains some honey (a popular natural sweetener) which contains 36% fructose and would therefore not be too good to have for me.
Anyway, the Whole Foods Market definitely produces quality food that is super delicious. Make sure you don’t miss out on your next visit to London!