Catalana/ El Goloso

As with other European cities, Erfurt is being invaded by chi-chi restaurants that serve fancy schmancy-tricky food. Catalana is one of them. Catalana restaurant and its sister bar, El Goloso, has been an institution in Erfurt for almost ten years now, and serves excellent but expensive tapas.

The one thing that I would comment about these restaurant types is that they would not be out of place in Barcelona. What I mean is, I could be in Berlin, or in Erfurt, and I wouldn’t bat an eyelash if you told me I was actually in Frankfurt. They all seem so interchangeable. I couldn’t put my finger on why was this dish so unique. What was so special about what I was eating?

Case in point: There is a German joke attributed to Otto von Bismark that says if the apocalypse is upon us, you move to East Germany, since everything happens 20 years later here. Dude, I can only say YEP. Even the food trends. Molecular cooking is all the rage in Erfurt now. I understand it, I use principles of this in my cooking too, but restaurants like Catalana are really overdoing it with the lemon/lime foam sauce, the just-so-rare-beef, the crispy leaf veggies. Or maybe I’m just bitter for shelling out six euros for a plate of air and chewy beef?

In a nutshell, food is good, but you eat at Catalana because the food is just so damned photogenic.



Maaaan, I miss living in a country with a Chinatown. I didn’t realize how desperate I was for authentic Asian cuisine until I ate at Selera, a Malaysian restaurant in Frankfurt. It’s like realizing that there had been a drought after the first rain.

My friend M and I with our boys in tow had a quick lunch at Selera while I was waiting for my train, and boy, was I knocked off my feet! Selera serves more Chinese-Malaysian dishes, but I was as happy as a bug in a rug after eating my first bite of Char Kwe Tiauw, pictured above. Then we had the steamed shrimp rolls, and I was in heaven. And the shrimp shumai? TO DIE FOR!! I washed it all down with salty plum soda, which is known to Pinoys as Champoy. Can you tell I inhaled the food? The best part was that it was really cheap! A dish costs 5 euros on average. The conspicuous absence of non-Asians during the busy lunch hour is a very good sign!

I promised my friend that I would go and visit her again in Frankfurt, if only I could eat at this restaurant! Thanks M for taking me to this place!


Münchener Strasse 52, Frankfurt (Street right across the train station)

Phone 069 24009601

Open from 11 am-11 pm


Is it wrong to like a restautant for its atmosphere rather than its food? This is what Giardino, located in Weimar’s Oppel’scher Garten is really good at. Located in a picturesque garden, the highlight is the historic 19th-century pavillon, with a ruined fresco painted on the dome.

salmone giardino

We tried the noodles in cream and salmon sauce, and the Capricciosa pizza. While they were well prepared, they weren’t anything to write home about. Maybe I was distracted by the scenery and the warm summer night? The restaurant wasn’t cheap, as a meal would set you back at least 10 euros.

Another thing I like about this restaurant is that it is very kid-friendly, and they hand out lollipops to the customers’ children, just like they do in Rome.

They also hold cultural events in the garden, which is very typical of Weimar. Come for the music, stay for the garden.


Oppelschergarten, Seifengasse, Weimar

Open from April-September, 9 am-11 pm


Pardon the absence, I was busy entertaining a dear aunt, who visited me all the way from the US.

While I haven’t done any real cooking lately, I’ve been eating out in Germany’s towns and cities, and this week will probably be filled with restaurant reviews.

I came across Udagawa quite by accident. I was in Berlin on my way to the shopping center in Wilmersdorf, and was starving. I noticed a strip of Japanese-themed shops along Kantstraße and noticed this shabbily-renovated restaurant staffed and filled with Japanese people, and a table of Germans with this huge pile of Tonkatsu on their plate.

My Asian alarm went off, and made a beeline to the counter. To my surprise, the giant chicken Katsu that you see in the picture cost only 5.50 euros. That is a steal! It was so huge I shared it with my kid, a picky eater, who to my eternal gratitude ate the Katsu after some convincing on my part.

It  could have needed a bit more salt, but really, I have no complaints. As I was leaving, a group of Japanese college girls went it. It seems really popular with the Japanese crowd, and if I have the chance, I’ll try this restaurant again.


Kantstr. 118

10625 Berlin

Opening hours 12:30-11 pm

Phone (030) 312 30 14

Food and Germans

I went to Leipzig, a bit too early for an appointment. I had time to kill, so what do you do? Go to one of Leipzig’s many free museums! And as luck would have it, The Zeitgeschichtliches Forum Leipzig has a temporary exhibit on the eating and drinking habits of zee Germans.

It chronicles how people ate in Post-war Germany, and how food and shopping habits developed in both East and West, and after re-unification.

Highlight for me was seeing “Das Buch für Gute Speise,” the oldest German cookbook, in the flesh! I’ve downloaded it a few years ago and have been wanting to cook some recipes from it, but I haven’t really found the time. Maybe I will! I also ended up buying a book, which will be reviewed in this space in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

Zeitgeschichtliches Forum Leipzig
Grimmaische Straße 6
04109 Leipzig
Tel: (03 41) 22 20-0
Exhibition will run until February 2, 2014


Erfurt is a town that has an intact city center that dates back to the middle ages. Walking through its cobblestoned streets, it is not hard to imagine what it was like before there were cars, the internet, or the invention of the deodorant.

But I digress. What is a medieval town without a hokey medieval restaurant? I’ve been to Christoffel a couple of times, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience, as long as you don’t take anything too seriously. From the court jesters to the use of faux olde Deytsche, Christoffel is a fun place to spend an evening.

The portions are huge, and I’ve never been disappointed by any of the grilled meats that they have served. The photo above is a platter of eat-all-you-can ribs, and I was so stuffed that I had to take home two of them.

This is the place to take an American visiting Erfurt. It has a very Disneyland/Ren Faire vibe to it, and be forewarned none of the dishes are authentic medieval (gasp!). If it were, we should be eating turnips and horsebread. Although sometimes I do wonder if the guests actually buy that. I get the impression that they do.

Wirtshaus Christoffel

Michaelisstraße 41

99084 Erfurt

Field Trip

As a kid growing up in Manila, class trips in the fourth grade usually meant a visit to a factory of some sort. Living in the South, that meant that a visit to the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Laguna. You were always given a bottle of refreshing Coke at the end of the visit to quench your thirst. Gotta start them young!

I got that very distinct feeling after visiting the Oettinger brewery in Gotha. What, with the summer weather and the beer at the end. Basically a grown-up version of visiting the Coca-Cola bottling plant. Oettinger, based in Munich, is the largest brewery corportation in Germany. With five breweries spread across Germany, it makes sure that transportation costs are kept to a minimum and that beer could be transported to stores within the next three hours. It doesn’t mean that it’s distribution stops there. It is also one, if not the only,  German beer you will be able to buy in a provincial airport while waiting for your Cessna that will take you to a remote island in the Philippines.

Now, there is something that you have to understand about Oettinger. Because it is able to keep its overhead and bottling costs low, it is very cheap. Being the preferred cheap beer of alkies (PBR?) it has a horrible, if undeserved, reputation. There’s a joke that an Oettinger truck met an accident on the highway, and nobody stopped to loot the beer.

tanksIt’s interesting to see food and fermentation on a massive scale. I’m reading Michael Pollan’s Cooked at the moment, and all I could think of was tiny bacteria that was responsible for brewing 2,500 hectoliters per tank. And there were about 26 (?) of them.

They also export “Made in Germany!” beer to Africa and China. Where Oettinger has a somewhat better reputation (?). Being a journalist I had to ask some very uncomfortable questions.

Me: “Do you change the formula of the beer for the foreign market?”

Braumeister: “No.”

Me: “Why is Oettinger so cheap?”

Braumeister: “We try to keep transportation costs to a minimum, that is why we have five breweries in Germany.”

Me: “Then why does Oettinger the but of jokes?”

Braumeister: (Pause. Silence.) “We were recently featured in Galileo where we were voted as the best beer in Germany. I guess the cheapness of the beer basically…”

I see what you did there Mr. Braumeister. Well played!

He must have hated me after that. I must confess that i tend to be a tactless, nosy busybody, in case no one has noticed it yet!

beerI guess the best part of the field trip was that I got to take home two cans of beer from the reject bin. I mean really slight indentations in the can that you can barely notice. They have got scanning software that recognizes imperfections in the cans and they are immediately sorted out of the bottling line. The yellow ones are for the Chinese market, the white ones for Africa. Since I don’t drink beer, it’s nice to have some in stock for guests.

The only thing that was missing was a roadside stall stop for buko pie.


Zweigniederlassung der Oettinger Brauerei GmbH
Leinastraße 61-63
D-99867 Gotha


What does the word suki mean? For a person who runs a household, everything.

Suki is a Filipino word, which in German, translates to Stammkunde, or a regular customer of a particular shop.

Gaumenfreude in Erfurt is a pop-up shop that sells their own mustard mixes, jams, condiments, and sauces. They also sell preserves from the region, things like Sauerkraut and pickles made the old fashioned way–without any vinegar used to preserve them!

I always buy their Bärlauch Senf or mustard. Bärlauch, a wild relative of leeks, is a German obsession in the spring. They collect them when they can find them in woods and parks everywhere. Of course they were going to pair it up with mustard, Germany’s favorite condiment.  I love this particular mustard so much I use it on everything! Dips, sauces, and as a seasoning for stewed meat.

Gaumenfreude’s stall can usually be found at the Erfurt farmer’s market on Saturdays or whenever there is a festival in the Erfurt-Weimar area. The man at the shop recognizes me already, and always gives me something to nibble on as a thank you. Last time we saw each other, he wanted to give me a cherry. But since I love me some pickles, I asked for one. 😀 The perks of a suki.

My Shopping Personality

Campo di Fiori, Rome

I’ve lived in three cities in three different countries so far, and I have noticed that how I shop radically changes depending on where I live. I’ve noticed the same about my parenting style and my personality, which is even more extreme because my personality when speaking German is radically different when I speak English.

In Germany, I am a skin-flint to the point of being wasteful! I hoard anything that is on sale! Anything that has a red tag on it, anything that I have a coupon for, goes into my cart. And then it goes bad in my fridge because I end up not using them. I tend to patronize the same stores, and only go to a different supermarket if I am in the area anyway, and need a few items. I go to Asian markets every couple of months and stockpile what I need.

In the Philippines, where nothing goes on sale, I tend to shop more seasonally, since seasonally available products are cheaper. I become a comparative shopper, meaning if something is cheaper at SM than at S&R, I will buy that thing in S&R, traffic be damned. I go to the wet market with a shopping list, something that I never do in Germany. I already have a menu planned for the day, which is different in Germany, because my menu is determined by my whim and what is in the fridge. What I end up hoarding are hard-to-find or European ingredients.

At the farmer’s market in Germany, I am trying to develop a suki relationship with a few of the sellers, especially the butcher and the herb seller. Suki is a Philippine concept of becoming a regular patron of a particular shop. Once you have developed this relationship, you become friendly to each other and the seller throws a few freebies for you as a thank you for your patronage.

In the Philippines, I used to live near the wet market, and so I became lazy and just popped into the market whenever I needed something, without planning the ingredients I would need for a particular dish.

In Spain, I lived near a Consum and a Dia, and there was a Lidl not so far away too, so I had a choice of places to go to. Since vegetables, olive oil and almond milk were cheap, they were a staple of my pantry. I ended up not cooking so much in Spain because I was out so often, I rarely had time. I tended to buy things that caught my fancy rather than cheap items, because I wanted to taste the difference between the “motherland” (Spain) and Philippines.

Polvoron, Chorizo, Barquillos, Chocolate…I needed to try them all!

How about you? Did you notice a difference in the way you shop in the different countries you’ve lived in?


The Mommy Files–ACE Water Spa

One of my favorite things to do in Germany is to go to the local swimming hall (Spaßbad) with my son, and spend the day swimming indoors, in warm water, especially when it’s cold out.

I was very happy to find out that this is also possible in the Philippines, with the opening of ACE Water Spa. It costs about 550 Php, or about 10 euros entrance. It is basically the same price in Germany, with the same facilities. They also provide a swim cap, probably to protect the filter system of the water, which you have to give back at the end of your 4-hour stay.

They also have a sauna, which many people unfortunately don’t know how to use. Scented pools, massage whirlpools, and a swimming pool. I was very impressed by the facilities. Unfortunately, no photos allowed inside, so all I have is a blurry picture of the spa from the viewing window.

They also have a restaurant and hotel, but it looks pricey, from what I gather from their website.

So if you are stuck in Manila during the rainy season, ACE Water Spa seems to be a good place to take your kids. Although at this moment, Manileños are enjoying (?) the summer heat. What I would not give for a glass of halo-halo!

Ace Water Spa

United St. cor. Brixton St. near Pioneer, Pasig City

and 399 Del Monte Avenue (near cor. Banaue St.) SFDM, Quezon City

Open from 6 AM to 10 PM (weekdays) or 11 PM (weekends)

Entrance 550 Php Adults, 250 Php for children under 4 ft.