Yesterday evening, Berlin was a place just a stone’s throw away from Oahu, Hawaii – at least as far as the spectacular sunset was concerned. When you looked up from street level, you saw people staring at the sky in amazement from their 3rd-floor balconies. Me, I stared up in amazement from a small boat taking a wedding party of about 35 guests along the river Spree in an evening cruise. Those river cruises sound extremely no-go touristy, but every Berliner who has ever overcome his cool and taken one, e.g. forced by visiting parents, will contest that it’s a really striking experience – touristy or not.
In any case: The fact that their wedding day was crowned by such a heart-rendingly beautiful spectacle created by sun and clouds on this autumn evening was pure luck for the couple, Katja and Rainer. However, their choice for that night’s dinner had nothing to do with luck. They had invited a cook they knew from back when to create the wedding dinner in a Kaffeehaus called Zimt & Zucker on Schiffbauerdamm. The cook had brought his team of aides, and when the boat arrived back at the mooring right in front of the restaurant, an array of Amuse Gueules were already waiting for us.
And this is where the story really starts. What followed was an evening of life-changing food consumption (LCFC).
Those Amuse Gueules consisted of: Trout caviar on apple puree and toast; egg-plant crème with pomegranate seeds on home-made sour dough crust bread; and white wine sauerkraut on Pumpernickel with a cumin-honey creme fraiche. Frankly, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The taste of the sweet and sour fruity apple puree with just a hint of cinnamon, combined with the salty caviar on the heartily spiced toast, some fresh herbs added too… words fail me here, I literally felt tears of joy coming to my eyes.
I’m not going to go through every dish that followed. Suffice to say this. We started dinner at 7.30 p.m., and when I left the party at 2 a.m., some of the guests were still having dessert and/or cheese. In between were 6 hours of the finest, most original, most passionate food I’ve had in – what? Ages? My entire life? I have to mention one more dish: a Loup de Mer fillet, broiled in the skin, with a Sechuan pepper-corn flour crust, accompanied by warm spinach with pine seeds and catalan tomato-garlic bread. Dear god! I went over to the kitchen to beg for another portion, my entire table having asked me to beg for them too, but alas, there was no more.
And the desserts! Lord in High Heaven! An iced prune mousse so full of flavours… fresh waffles so juicy and sweet… a creme brulee… and the cheese plate – only the finest, most intense Italian and French cheeses… Do you know the feeling when someone gently strokes your skin with a feather and how that titillating leaves your skin very delicately sensitive? That’s how my palate felt after dinner last night, and still feels like today.
Anyway, here’s the catch. After dinner, at something like 1.30 a.m., I went into the kitchen to throw myself at the feet of the cook, Wayne’s World-style – “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy”. We talked a while, and it turned out that this man does not work at a restaurant at the moment – he used to run one in Prenzlauer Berg but had to give up a few months ago. The name of this cook is Oliver Sartorius, and I’VE GOT HIS DAMN MOBILE NUMBER!!
That very night, me and the other guys present at the dinner started to plot that cook’s future. We knew we just HAD to do something – someone who cooks so fantastically just HAS to be supported, promoted, revered, given any chance to do it again! My suggestion was to create an invitation-only dinner club around Oliver’s talent. Five, six people throwing in a couple 100 Euros every month and inviting selected individuals to clandestine locations with an adequate kitchen. “Selected individuals” would not be chosen by income or social status but by their ability to savour (so no vegetarians – sorry). After a while, the word will spread and people will KILL to be among the invited.
I will keep you posted.