|Tania at Cafe Einstein.|
“Is that one?” I asked.
“I think so,” Tania said.
“Wow, a real German whore,” I marveled. We never went and saw Checkpoint Charlie, but the German whores more than made up for that. “What the fuck is she wearing?”
She was a mess. She had cuts on her face, even a black eye (bitch doesn’t listen apparently), and her skin was yellow and green, black and blue. Her costume was very 80s-ish. There might have even been some leg warmers involved. Tania named her “Thriller” because not only did she bear a striking resemblance to one of the dancing zombies in the Michael Jackson video, but she looked so—erm—thrilling.
We had gotten a tip that Einstein’s café had some of the best, no-nonsense, old school German food in Berlin, including one of the best schnitzels around. What we weren’t told was that the restaurant was on Kurfürstenstrasse, which I now know means “Street of the Filthy Whores.” (Fürsten is German for “filthy,” and Kur translates literally to “farting dog,” but is also slang for “prostitute” in German. Kur, of course, is the origin of our term for a mongrel, cur.)
|Roving gangs of Kurfürstenstrasse whores.|
“Now, what exactly were you doing down here yesterday?” I asked Tania suspiciously when we emerged from the train station and ran smack dab into whore central. She already knew where the restaurant was, but had failed to explain that we had to navigate through a gauntlet of gash to get to it. She claimed she had come down to Kurfürstenstrasse earlier to scope out the restaurant and do some shopping while I was out skating. But I couldn’t help wondering if she hadn’t come down to Kurfürstenstrasse to try and drum up a little business of her own? She admitted that she had entertained a randy black man as a potential customer for a good portion of the afternoon, but she refused to accept him as a customer despite his proclamations of love. She rested her innocence on the fact that the Kurfürstenstrasse was fiercely guarded territory. “Even if I wanted to,” she said, “these bitches would have cut me.” I couldn’t argue with that. One of the filthy whores looked like she could have eaten Tania. And then Tania went on the offense and told me to just be glad our roles weren’t reversed because I would have a lot harder time explaining what I was doing by myself looking for a restaurant on the Street of the Filthy Whores. I should have smacked her.
|Kurfürstenstrasse street art.|
We kept our distance from the roving gangs of disease ridden harlots and slid along the sidewalk past the sketchy Russians (presumably the pimps) smoking cigarettes and drinking diesel fuel. After only a couple blocks, the street returned to “normal” and the elegantly sturdy, three-story building that houses the Einstein Café stood quietly in the middle of the block.
There is a lot of history to the Einstein that we didn’t know at the time. Hemingway, for instance, mentions it in A Moveable Feast. A German friend also told us, “It had been, among other things, a thriving underground Jewish casino which the Nazis frequented.” (I wondered if “thriving underground Jewish casino” was some sort of German slang for “concentration camp?”) It then turned into a Gestapo headquarters during the war. Probably most interestingly is that it stands next to what was once Joseph Goebbels’ offices. The eeriness of that relation wasn’t lost on the filmmakers of Inglorious Bastards as the Einstein Café is “Café Maurice” in the movie and the setting for the “iconic strudel scene.” (We’ve been meaning to watch this movie for some time, but now I’m really curious what a “strudel scene” is, and what’s so “iconic” about this particular one.) (And, while I question the truth of this story, I did read that Goebbels had, in a secret bunker/party room beneath the building, a sculpture of amputated arms (gifts from friend Josef Mengele) arranged in the shape of a swastika. Apparently it spun like a pinwheel.)
The simple reason the Einstein Cafe was chosen as a movie location is because the interior is absolutely stunning. It evokes the elegance of a hall in Versaille, yet exudes the calm of a comfortable café. The walls are painted a soft, lime sherbet and lined with long, tarnished mirrors framed by gilded moldings that reach to the golden, glowing ceiling high above the dining room. It’s quite a space. I’m not a designer, and I don’t have “a style,” but I could easily live with an interior like Café Einstein’s.
|Tania with wiener schnitzel.|
We were seated at a table against the wall. One of our dining strategies at restaurants is to always order different dishes. That way Tania and I maximize our dining potential and get to sample as much of the menu as possible. But we broke our little rule and treated Café Einstein’s menu in much the same way we’d treat Pat’s Steaks in Philly—I’m sure their menu has a wide array of delicious offerings, but there’s really only one thing to get: wiener schnitzel.
Our waiter glided away with our order, and we settled into a nice bottle of Reisling. Only moments later we could hear the unmistakable sound of someone pounding out our veal cutlets on a counter in the kitchen. “Wow,” I said, “they make it fresh to order.” Which was not how they did it at the small grill we sat at in the giant German department store KaDeWe (which is a story in itself). At that kitchen, they had a drawer filled with pre-breaded schnitzels that they would throw on the flat grill in a pond of butter. I’m kind of partial to “drawer schnitzel” (I might have one installed below the Jagermeister machine), but I think making it to order is the preferred method.
|Tania got the chicken stuffed with cheese at KaDeWe.|
|At KaDeWe they also have giant, ceramic, Chinese babies that breathe fire.|
|While I prefer the interior at Cafe Einstein's, I'm kind of into this crazy scary monkey style room that was on display in KaDeWe.|
I’ve never had a “death row meal” in mind. But I think a wiener schnitzel with a side of potatoes and a nice bottle of white wine is now a candidate for the last thing I will ever eat on earth. It is such a perfect little meal to me. There is something about a breaded piece of meat that is so satisfying and comforting. (WARNING: I’m about to play the cliché food writer mother card. Am I the only one that’s annoyed by this? Skateboard tour articles suffer from a similar malady: airport stories. Yes, we’re aware that in order to get to wherever you’re going you had to go through an airport and take a plane, but I don’t need to read about your stupid airport experience. You missed your flight? You forgot your ticket? They lost your luggage? Oh my god, how FUCKING INTERESTING! The food writer mother story isn’t nearly as bad, but when invoked the author always seems unable to recognize that they are not unique in this area. Everyone’s tastes are influenced by whoever fed them as a child. They taught you how to talk too, but rarely does a writer furnish his work with praise for the far more impressive miracle that comes out of the mouth.)
My mom did the breaded meat thing a lot. Mostly fish or chicken. I loved it. When it was my birthday and my mother was taking dinner requests, I’d put in for the breaded chicken breast. Sometimes she’d slap a slice of ham on top and melt some cheese over it. Tania’s chicken parmigiana is another one of my favorites. So it’s no wonder I’m absolutely smitten with schnitzel. And the one they serve at Café Einstein is one of the best I’ve ever had. It’s crispy, yet juicy and soft, salty, meaty, a little tang from the lemon—it is, in my opinion, one of the finest ways to deliver meat to your mouth. I decided in Germany that I could eat it every day, and I pretty much did. I will eat schnitzel until I die. If I had been in a concentration camp, I would have requested it as my last meal. As they were pushing me into the gas chamber with their rifle butts in the small of my back, I’d turn right around and say, “Ein minuten! Now you listen here buster: I want my last meal. Ein wiener schnitzel bitte!” I mean it wouldn’t hurt to ask. What’s the worst that could happen?
The schnitzel we ate at Einstein’s, though, that thing had the potential of saving us from death. It was huge, and shaped like a boomerang. Tania thought it was like a weapon. “If any of those whores attack us on the way back to the train station,” she said to me, “So help me God, I’ll huck this fuckin’ schnitzel at ‘em.” Tania ain't scared. She'll huck a schnitzel at a German whore.
|The Einstein wiener schnitzel barely fits on the plate. Tania thought it was a boomerang, but looking at it now, it kind of looks like an arm.|
|Tania's grabbing a little statue cock in the park outside of KaDeWe. Just a little.|
A wiener schnitzel is a “schnitzel in the Viennese style,” and is always made with veal. But a schnitzel can also be made with chicken or pork. At home, we typically use pork. Either a thin, boneless pork chop, or you can cut slices off a loin. Whatever you use, pound it out thin.
Set up three dishes with flour, egg wash, and bread crumbs, and dredge the pounded cutlet in each. Then simply sautee the breaded cutlet in oil and butter for a couple minutes on each side until golden brown. Serve with a slice of lemon.