Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mano A Mano With La Mano Verde

Passion Fruit Creme Brulee
Did I mentioned flamed at my table?
     Okay, if you read the last installment of the F the Huffington Post series about Germany's all vegan and amazing Kopps, you know I mentioned creme brulee flamed right at my table. If that doesn't give you any indication of how impressive the menu at La Mano Verde is, I'm not sure what will. While Kopps focused on veganized rich version of German dishes, Mio Matto focused on Italian delights (and Veganz focused on groceries), La Mano Verde focuses on healthy and flavorful dishes. The menu flirts between raw, gluten free and cooked option as well as decadent desserts, like creme brulee flamed at your table. While I won't pick my favorite German restaurant that we visited, I would give La Mano Verde an award for most impressive dessert presentation of my life. I would've taking a picture, but it was already awkward having someone flame my dessert at the table.

Raw Raviolis
 Raw And Delicious!

     This was our first foray into Berlin cuisine so I didn't take a picture of the menu so you'll have to forgive my not-as-appealing name like raw raviolis. I will confess, the menu was an Ipad where you click English or German and proceed to look that way so I thought I was safe in not photographing it. Alas, I was wrong. However, I looked at their menu, but as I guessed, the focus on seasonal cuisine and rotate their menu. The closest thing I found was Ravioli Rouge & Blanc which features: Chioggia beetroot ravioli made with cedar nut cream on a bed of fennel, apple and horseradish salad. This didn't have the red and white beets in it, but everything else seemed to fit. Oh, and forgive the shadow, I was working on my taking flash photos in romantic restaurants approach.
Raw Appetizer
Wish I could Remember What This Was Called!
    Okay, this is starting to get silly. I have no clue what this was called. Perhaps some kinda of vegetable terrine or lasagna. Stop, judging me.  I kinda dropped the ball on this review, but look at that presentation. The sauce and pesto really brought this dish together. Oh, look at those German beer out of focus. While it's tempting to go with wine, the beers on draft from La Mano Verde were outstanding. I think we might have had 2 or three to try and sample the menu. The special one did declare that she loves German beer so take that. Though I lean towards to hoppy and sour beers right now, German beers tend to have a high malt presence and not my favorite style, but these beers were impressive. I'm not sure if it was the freshness or the brewery, but I came around. 

Orange Glazed Tempeh Medallions
    We decided to go raw for the appetizers and go cooked for the dinner. Raw is like having a salad, right? One of the best tempeh dishes I ever had was from Sage's. Guess what? It was orange glazed and I've been looking for that dish like I look for the perfect powder turn, so it was a no brainer on what to order. This dish might not have been the windmill I've been searching for, but it was still impressive. I wish it was served with some flavored rice dish instead of sauteed greens, but that's just me. It's hard for me to break my grains addiction and go with something lighter like a bed of greens. The orange glaze popped and complimented the nuttiness of the tempeh. I was left wanting more.
Pumpkin Filled Raviolis Topped With a Homemade Nut Cheese
Perhaps Spinach Ravioli?
      I guess you thought I was kidding when I mentioned we wanted to taste as much pumpkin based foods during this. It was October after all. This gives you the level of my posting procrastination. While Kopps was fried and had a cream sauce, this dish was light and fresh. The seasonal ingredients really get to shine. I can't really compare the two, since frying seems like cheating, but both were impressive. 
Mango Raw Cheesecake With Berry Coulis
Beautiful Presentation

      With presentation this beautiful, do we need anything else. Instead of a cookbook, La Mano Verde should do a presentation book, but I would settle for an English version of their cookbook (or a german person to translate!). The mango raw cheesecake was delicious and had the bright mango flavor. Now unto the passion fruit creme brulee, this was a dessert. As I mentioned they get an award for presentation, but the taste deserves a mention. Creme Brulee is a vegan rarity. I had it in France, at Philly's Vedge and here. This was outstanding. Worth the visit alone. Up next will be the final restaurant of Berlin and move over to Paris. Yet another place mentioned in the terrible Huffington Post article, but had amazing vegan food. Maybe if I keep posting they;ll issue a retraction?

Berlin Pedestrian Light
Famous Hat Guy!
 Berlin Wall Art

Checkpoint Charlie With American Spy Building In The Background

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ich Bin Ein Bjorn!

Pepperoni, Artichoke and Mushroom Vegan Pizza
Pizza. Pasta. Passion! 
     Bjorn Moschinski is a vegan rock star. Not only did he formerly direct the venerable Kopps (my next review!), pen three cookbooks, appearances on TV, but he also has a new Italian venture called Mio Matto, which is conveniently located above the Veganz store. Pretty awesome especially as self-taught chef, I might have a cook crush on him. Anyone wanna translate a cookbook from German to English? Not to mention a conversion from metric to the loving and anachronistic imperial system, because, you know, we Americans love paying tribute to Cesar and the Romans in the form of a measuring system. Regardless, someone needs to tell Huffington Post to pull their heads out of their asses and that, yes, Germany has a celebrity vegan chef. Does that suffice? 

     Enough about america's misguided measuring system and back to food. The special one loves Italian food and so few vegan options exists (except for New York's recently moved and hopefully still open Three Brothers Pizza) so it was a no brainer to check out his new place. Even though it was raining, after a drizzling day at the Berliner Dome, including hundreds of steps to the top and an obligatory umbrella purchase, we splashed down to Mio Matto. Luckily, it wasn't too far from one of the trains. Best of all you can feed two bellies with one stop! Lunch and then shopping inside an all vegan grocery store and shoe store. Pretty sure this is a must when visiting Berlin. And a big middle finger to the Huffington Post, an all vegan Italian place. Boy, it sure was hard to be vegan in Berlin. This city makes New York nervous. 
Pasta Bologense Sauce
Pasta and Passion!

     The Mio Matto motto's is pretty simple Pizza, Pasta and Passion. There's no surprises here. As usual, the special one and I went into divide and conquer mode, though we had to not go overboard because we had dinner reservations for Kopps. We bought wanted the pizza, I saw several different ones that looked interesting, but I decided to go with the pasta bologense because it sounds fancy; it's essentially a meat based pasta sauce. Don't get me wrong, it was tasty, but damn that pizza was fabulous. It was one of those lunch dates where I couldn't stop staring at the special one's meal. The pizza was perfection, a crisp crust, cooked perhaps in a wood fired oven (I'm guessing here) with some of the best vegan cheese I've had. Not to mention the artichokes and the pepperoni. I'm not sure what they are using, but damn Bjorn knows his way around the kitchen. This was perhaps one of the best pizzas I've ever had. All hail Bjorn! 
Decor of Mio Matto
Rustic & Fancy!
     I'm not sure if you can use rustic and fancy in the same sentence, but like the food the decor of Mio Matto shows the attention to detail of Mr Bjorn. As you can see in the picture, wood panels were prominent with a purple tiled roof, complete with chandlers. Yeah, like I said rustic and fancy. Although we were there for lunch, I hard it turns fancier for the dinner service. Like the desk clerk told us, you need at least a week to see (and eat!) all of Berlin! If you're thinking of a vacation, Berlin is the vegan mecca with pretty rad tourist things to visit.

Thomas Henry Ginger Beer
     Along with the food, I was really hoping to try Europe's ginger beers. It's no secret I'm a ginger fanatic, so trying every ginger beer I come across is a given, despite the impressive German beers on tap. This (Thomas Henry) was the first ginger beer I was impressed with, it lived up to one of, if not my favorite ginger beer from maine root. Spicy just like the label says or as I say, like sticking a straw into ginger. 
German Strudel Pudding 
     Remember when I said we had dinner reservations and we had to go light? Yeah, I like to contradict myself in the same review. I couldn't pass this up and almost two weeks of navigating 3 countries public transit system was taking a toll so a latte and this german pudding sounded awesome. The whole trip I've been photographing the menu so I could remember everything or at least connect the bites. Call me lazy. Either way, I didn't at Mio Matto so I declare it to be a german pudding strudel with peaches. Pretty awesome, I dare say. It was the perfect ending to a meal and heading down to Veganz and to tourist trap of checkpoint charlie! 
Mio Matto 

Veganz to the right!

Berlin Dome
One of the few building to surviving the WW bombings!
Berlin Wall Art