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Monday, November 1, 2010

The Original American Feast: Thanksgiving

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Probably one of the most important things I contribute to this world is providing the American Thanksgiving meal to a bunch of expats and German converts. Every year the requests start trickling in as early as August to claim their seats at the table of the most loved feast of the year.

Why? What is it with this meal that makes people so crazy? I guess as an American, it's like eating a plate of nostalgia with a decent portion of sentiment on top. But it's simpler than that, it just tastes so damn good. And you only get it once a year. (Well, unless you come from a family that basically repeats the whole idea for Christmas dinner, which the Fracassa's do not.)

It's the combination of things on that plate and the way they all work together that has impressed the subconscious so deeply that we have become slaves. We must taste that taste every year, at least once.

I must say that I love my role as the Thanksgiving provider to my extended family here in Berlin. Feast screams Thanksgiving in style and form and we must obey.


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Monday, September 6, 2010

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Where to begin? It's been awhile since I've made an entry here and I'm sorry about that. I believe I also broke a promise to post the recipes from the BBQ back in July and I'm sorry for that as well. I was supposed to write those up on the plane traveling to Detroit but instead got sidetracked by the inflight movie selection. I'll make it up to you, I promise. I've decided to include more recipes in general so be prepared.

It was always a generic "back to school" assignment, an essay entitled, What I Did on My Summer Vacation. As a kid I remember this assignment to be excruciatingly painful because summer was over and why rub it in?

Funny that I return to that format for this blog post but I guess it's a lot more fun to recall things from an adult perspective- using photos to help in the process and now that drinking alcohol is allowed.

stylish service at the BBQ

The Feast BBQ turned out to be really great. It was during that heat wave we were having and I wondered if anyone was going to brave the steamy temps to eat our food- but they did! People brought their own blankets and water and we provided the rest. I had some bum coal to work with but with a little help from friends and our Turkish neighbor (who seemed to be a professional) it turned out fine. Oh, and the the nectarine white sangria was a big hit, chilling us out in every way. In the photo, Andrew laments over the dwindling sangria supply.



the old barn

First stop: my parents house.
It is a known fact that there is always a special meal prepared for all arriving family members and friends. My meal was grilled lamb chops, oven roasted potatoes and a green salad from the garden. Perfection. No, there aren't the world's smallest farm animals in that barn, just a few old Schwinns.

alberto & lamb chops

My Dad does the grilling- I'm not allowed to cook when I'm home. Not that they don't trust I will do a good job, rather they are certain that I will leave a disastrous trail of dirty pots and pans and mess. Well, it's true but I'm an artist, no? ;)

romeo fracassa designed bbq

This is a one-of-a-kind grill designed and made my my Uncle Romeo. Yep, that's a beer keg split in half, attached to a post which is connected to a hand poured cement base. This is the deluxe version with the lid- growing up we only had the bottom half of the keg. That one eventually got grilled to death.

michigan sunset

Next stop: Northern Michigan.
I was off to a family wedding in Bay Harbor, Michigan. I would have to devote an entire entry to this because it was such an unbelievably beautiful affair in every imaginable way. Instead, here is a sunset over Lake Michigan as the pre-wedding party was coming to a close.

view from the porch at pee wee

On to Pee Wee!
Named after my Mother (her childhood nickname) Pee Wee is the family cottage that my grandfather bought in St. Clair, Michigan sometime in the 1930's. Ever since then it has been passed down the line for all to enjoy. I spent pretty much every summer weekend here as a kid with aunts and uncles and a myriad of cousins and friends of the family. Those were great days but Pee Wee still gives us love and comfort, seemingly now more than ever. The next generation is swinging from the rope and jumping off the dock into the chilly, rushing river now but you'll find us big kids making the pilgrimage there whenever we possibly can. Long live Pee Wee!


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An afternoon snack of grilled flat bread, hummus and minted cucumber tomato salad.

dinner

Grilled Red Snapper with fresh herbs and citrus. Remind me to get one of those fish shaped grill baskets for Pee Wee, it would have been much easier to flip 'er over.

Marlow & Daughters

Final Stop: NYC/Brooklyn
Just way too much good food to document here but I will let you in on an all time favorite. Thanks to a like minded, equally food loving friend, I have had the pleasure to dine at Diner on most of my visits over the last few years. This time, we walked down the street to Marlow & Daughters, the shop that has the same owners. It was quite a one stop, over the top shop with everything one could possible need for cooking up dinner at home. (phew... that was a long one.)

fresh butchering inside

There was something very "turn of the century" about this moment. This is what I would call getting up close and personal with your butcher.

dining at diner with JL

Damage done.

zucchini blossoms at the Turkish mrkt

Upon returning to Berlin, I was greeted by the last few days of summer (unfortunately that was the beginning of August) and made it over to the Turkish market off the canal. Perfect timing for zucchini flowers. Not pictured: those flowers sauteed with lots of garlic in extra virgin olive oil and served up on crusty Italian bread. Heavenly.

The End

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Photo Journal: Shellac, Photos and Food

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Giovanna's Mother prepares the Gnocco Fritto dough, rolling it out with a rolling pin from Giovi's Grandmother.

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It was incredible how the whole family worked together to set up the Gnocco Fritto station. They had never worked in my kitchen before and seemed to somehow know where everything was - and if they didn't, they minced no words asking for what they wanted. Nice and direct, just how I like it.

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Nat, Giovanna's husband and Giovanna's Father, Claudio, were no slouches either.

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We converted the cellar into a gallery and Joe Dilworth exhibited his collection Empty Spaces. It seemed perfect for the cavernous space.

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I bought me one.


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Ray played his collection of 78 shellac records and told stories about the songs and composers.

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Orlando brought her sweet self and her cupcakes.


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There was a nice little crowd, it made me very happy.


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Elizabeth Rushe was around as well. She played records Saturday night but I was too busy dancing to take photos.


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Andrew held down the fort while I chatted away with the guests. Christine did too but still looking for that photo...?


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Neukölln is a mixed neighborhood. There seems to be tension sometimes between those moving in and those who have been. I find this totally understandable but at the same time refuse to let it get in the way. This event put Feast on the street for all to enjoy and we had the pleasure of meeting some of our tiny, lovely neighbors. They loved the pancakes.


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Ray enjoys his first Slider.


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My end of the deal, the casual fun food, seemed to be a success. Sunday's menu of pancakes, coney dogs and sliders was sort of a silly display of American food but I tell you, the peeps loved it.

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It wouldn't have been complete without a tall glass of homemade cranberry mint iced tea.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Italian Street Food: Bringing in the Professionals

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She wishes to remain anonymous. One of the best cooks this side of the Po and just south of Wildenbruchstr, has agreed to not only bring her authentic Italian expertise to Feast, but has now also agreed to bring her Mother. This cuoco di mistero has fed me some of the best home cooked meals I've ever had and yes, this includes those cooked by my own parents.

Normally we offer Little Dish on Friday nights here at Feast but in special celebration of 48 Hours Neukölln and as the first installment of the food part of Shellac, Photos and Food, we will be hosting Open Dish instead. We will be opening our door to all a passerby, welcoming them to come in and have a taste or take a taste away.

I consulted this mystery cook earlier in the year about the special menu of Italian street food that I wanted to offer. I can't say that I really knew what Italian street food was, or that I even had had any (gelato surely did not count) but since every culture has street food, I thought the Italians must have their own version and it must be better than all the rest.

Being the master she is, she immediately started brainstorming out loud, going back and forth (in Italian) contemplating the best recipes for my event. She was trying to describe one in particular that seemed perfect for what we wanted but was having a difficult time explaining it in english. She ended by saying with the sweetest Italian accent, "...and then you fry it and it looks like... like a little brain when it's finished." It sounded delicious.

Come and give it and others a try this Friday night, from 6:30pm until 11pm at Feast. And I wasn't kidding, the mystery cook's Mother will be here too.

Monday, June 21, 2010

On the schedule: Joe Dilworth

photo: Joe Dilworth 2010

Joe Dilworth is one of those people who you aren't quite sure how to categorize: is he a musician? a photographer? a photographer who takes pictures of musicians? a DJ? ...a teacher? He's one of those multi-talented types, I guess.

Recently it seems Joe is breaking some new ground with his photography. The photo above is from his recent trip to Shanghai and there is more where that came from. I don't have the knowledge or the vocabulary to properly explain why or how his photos inspire me, they just do. He seems to sneak in somehow and grab a nugget of honesty.

Joe will be exhibiting Empty Spaces in Feast's Cellar Gallery during Shellac, Photos and Food. It's a collection of photos of decaying structures: eerie and beautiful. This particular group of pictures resonate with me, bringing me back to my hometown of Detroit- the capital of eerie and beautiful.
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Cellar Gallery - Empty Spaces by Joe Dilworth
Fri 19:00 — 23:00
Sat 13:00 — 19:00
Sun 13:00 — 19:00

On the schedule: Raymond Wolff

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I first met Raymond Wolff when I was asked to participate in the Mobile Academy's Black Market for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge back in 2007. I was asked to be the "expert" on American Cuisine at the event, making me feel quite like a big fish in a little pond- there weren't (and still aren't) a whole lot of American cooks in town.

We, the experts, were lined up on one side of very long tables set in Hebbel Theater's HAU II main room. They were dimly lit by candle light and the seekers of knowledge would visit us for an exact time of 30 minutes- asking us various things about our area of expertise. FAQ "What is American cuisine?" I spent the evenings defending against stereotypes of hamburgers and hotdogs.

In came Raymond. He was recommended by a colleague of his who I spoke with the night before. I thought she most likely was won over by my offerings of atypical American style snacks. Maybe Ray was just hungry? Well, it turned into a fascinating 30 minute conversation and Raymond Wolff seemed to be more of an expert than I.

Since then, I have had the pleasure to get to know Ray as a friend. He has been a supporter of Fortuna's Feast before it was even conceived. He lives down the street so has become a regular character in the establishment. On any given Friday Night Little Dish or the occasional Sunday Brunch- you may find Ray having an American style meal of some sort and telling a gripping, real life story to anyone lucky enough to be sharing his table.

During Feast's 48 Hours Neukölln: Shellac, Photos and Food, Raymond will grace us all with his collection of 78's and most definitely stories only a historian can tell.

Rixdorf/Neukölln on 78rpm Recordings - Raymond Wolff
Sat 15:00 — 21:00

48 Hours Neukölln: Shellac, Photos and Food

Fortuna’s Feast will be participating in this years 48 Stunden Neukölln in the most unique ways! This time, the edible creations, though present, will take a back seat to the cultural events. We want to engage a few of your other senses .

Highlights include:

Featuring composers from Neukölln/Rixdorf and/or songs having anything to do with this area, Mr. Wolff will play his rare collection of 78 shellac records spanning the entire spectrum of the 78rpm-making era (1900 to 1960). Between sets he’ll share his knowledge with a bit of story telling.(Feast’s main parlor, Saturday 3-9pm)

Berlin based photographer from the UK, Joe Dilworth will present his recent work, Empty Spaces. Dilworth breaths new life into decaying structures through the eye of his camera. (Feast’s cellar gallery Friday-Sunday)

MotorFM’s, Elizabeth Rushe, host of Off the Record will provide the soundtrack for the evening after parties and Nat Fowler (Oxes on Boxes) does his thing too. (Feast’s cellar gallery Friday thru Sunday)



SCHEDULE:

Friday, June 25th

Feast’s Parlor
6:30pm-11pm

FOOD: Open Dish featuring Italian peasant style street food. Dine in or take away as you wander the streets of Neukölln just as you would Rome.

Cellar Gallery
6pm-11pm

Empty Spaces
Berlin based photographer from the UK, Joe Dilworth will present his recent work. Dilworth breaths new life into decaying structures through the eye of his camera.

Cellar Gallery
9pm – open end

After Party
To start, MotorFM’s, Elizabeth Rushe, host of Off the Record will provide the party’s soundtrack and Nat (Oxes on Boxes) will follow up with his thing.


Saturday, June 26th

Feast’s Parlor
1pm – 10pm

FOOD: Lazy Cafe featuring tasty summer salads, soups and sandwiches. Cupcake menu by Projekt Puder Zucker. Dine in or take away.

3pm – 9pm
Music Historian Raymond Wolff
Featuring composers from Neukölln/Rixdorf and/or songs having anything to do with this area, Mr. Wolff will play his rare collection of 78 shellac records spanning the entire spectrum of the 78rpm-making era (1900 to 1960). Between sets he’ll share his knowledge with a bit of story telling.

Cellar Gallery
1pm-10pm

Empty Spaces – Joe Dilworth
(refer to Friday schedule)

Cellar Gallery
10pm – open end

After Party
MotorFM’s, Elizabeth Rushe

Sunday, June 27th
Feast’s Parlor
12noon – 7pm

FOOD: Weser Street Coney Island
Ray plays American oldies and Suzy serves up pancakes, coney dogs and sliders. What are those? Come and see.

Cellar Gallery
12noon-7pm

Empty Spaces – Joe Dilworth
(refer to Friday schedule)

Cellar Gallery
7pm – open end

Closing Party
Nat (Oxe’s on Boxes) plays Slo-Mo-Mo-town and we’re not talking about Stevie Wonder.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Moveable Feast

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The sun was shining and there was warmth. To which god did the couple pray? I wondered. It must have been a fairly influential one because making this happen in Berlin, in this less than magnificent May, took some serious pull.

Charmingly rough around the edges, Villa Luise in Kladow was the location of a wedding celebration for about 100 people. Fortuna's Table (the moveable version of Fortuna's Feast) had the pleasure to be the caterer and also the responsibility to keep the guest's glasses full. It was to be a BBQ and hopefully like none other the mostly all German crowd had known before. No wurst here, tut mir leid.

The menu: simple and full of fresh delights, definitely heavy on the American influence. The staff: hard working, gracious and pleasant- also heavy on the American influence.

It was a wonderful success on all counts. Congratulations to the new couple!

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For more images of the wedding, click on a photo to instantly access flickr .