Dad's here! He's come all the way over from the States to see his grandchildren, his in-laws, and, to his presumed delight, to get the condensed cultural and culinary tour of the Hansestadt. I drove him from one end of the city to the other on his first morning, to put things in perspective. And because perspective makes one hungry, we stopped at my favorite spot downtown, Café Paris for lunch - mmmm pork neck braised in wheat beer and served with cabbage and pretzel dumplings - nothing Parisian about that! A hearty fall dish in gorgeous fall colors that says, "Herzlich Willkommen" to Germany in a deep throaty voice.
The Hamburg harbor, second only to Rotterdam in Europe, 7th largest in the world. Ships 900,000 tons of bananas through its waters annually. That's a lot of bananas. (Random factoid learned on today's harbor tour with Dad).
On my quest for the best fisch brotchen, the ubiquitous fish (either fried fillet or pickled herring) sandwiches found at every street fair, boardwalk and convenience store in northern Germany, I followed the ships to where they unload their fresh catches - a series of warehouses near the old fish market (now famous as the place to get your drink and dance on between 5am - 9am after a long night out in the red light district), a series of unassuming dock stalls serving three dozen different varieties of pickled herring, specifically, matjes, an acquired taste, and a northern Germany birthright - I think they are fed these slimy raw fish as infants, like baby seals. Because I have not yet acquired the taste, Dad and I stuck to the fried white fish.
Um, yes I realize that this fried fish is buried under 30,000 tons of remolaude and the potato salad is made with 400 gallons of mayonaise and no, we weren't in eastern Europe for lunch. Delicious backfisch, fried fish fillet (under the 30,000 tons of remolaude) and German potatoe salad (1 kilo potatoes, 400 gallons of mayo, a handful of chopped onions and gurkens.) Jealous?
The view of the "rathaus" or town hall and the Alster lake from the Nicolai kirche, St. Nicholas' Cathedral, bombed by the Brits in 1943 in one of the early raids on Hamburg; only the spire and parts of the foundation remain. It's now a memorial, dedicated to civilian victims of war and violence.
The St. Michael's (Michel) clocktower, dominating the skyline, symbol of the hanseatic city.
With still an artery or two left to clog for dinner, we go in for the kill. No babysitter? No problem! We ordered out from Hatari, Pfälsische stübe: reindeer antlers on the walls, food from the Pfalz, a 350 lb. linebacker-sized portion of käsespätzle and saurkraut...Though of course no where near as good as Swabian Frank's, a close second.
And a "German pizza" a flammkuchen - which literally translates as flaming cake - a thin matzo-like crust covered with créme fraische and sprinkled with onions and speck (pronounced schpeck - or German bacon cubes - well, that's my translation anyway. Bacon cubes! You like Germany just thaaaat much more now, don't you?) Eetz Fraaaanshhh! Nein! Deutsch! Eeeeetz Fraaansssshhh! Nein! Deutsch. Quick - what region? Ding ding ding - Alsace! Whether you call it flammkuchen or tarte flambée, eet eez tres bon! Nein! Sehr gut!
To add fuel to the fire of that debate, we washed it all down with a bottle of Cremant. Mmmm. Dad, what'd you think?
"I think I'll sleep well tonight."
Me too. Gutten Nacht!