Tuesday, October 19, 2010

GERMANY, CHAPTER 4: Huck a Schnitzel at a Whore

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 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.
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.
Tania's grabbing a little statue cock in the park outside of KaDeWe. Just a little.
Schnitzel Recipe

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.


 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

GERMANY, CHAPTER 3: Jagermeister Doppelgangers

A dirty German hippie Chris Pontius doppelganger tries to make his acoustic guitar weep for Ronnie James Dio.

I’ve drank Guinness at the Guinness brewery in Dublin. It was delicious. And sipping a pint on the seventh floor’s “Gravity Bar,” with panoramic views of the city and Phoenix Park, certainly didn’t dampen the experience. Because Guinness does indeed taste better at the brewery. To be honest, it tasted better all over Ireland and England. It’s not a huge difference, but it is pleasantly notable. Since returning home, I’ve often entertained the idea of playing the smug snob and turning my nose up before an American pint. “An American pint of Guinness? Ugh. Disgusting. It doesn’t travel well, you know? I, for one, won’t drink it anywhere but Ireland! Maybe in England. Maybe.” I’m surprised I haven’t met that asshole at a bar yet.

So it was in kind of in the same vein that I constructed this blurry notion that in Germany the Jagermeister was “better.” Specifically in the sense that it wouldn’t cause the same suffering I endure the day after drinking it here. Because I was closer to the origin, I reasoned, it was therefore purer. All of the impurities and pollutants that cause the blackout drunk and then bludgeon the senses the following day are developed during transit. “It doesn’t travel well.” Jager germs? I don’t know. This, anyway, was my thinking when we ordered our first shots of Jagermeister in Berlin. That is if I was thinking at all. Which I probably wasn’t because it wasn’t long before the brain’s activity fluttered, ebbed, and finally subsided there in that dark bar on Wiener Street.

There were two bars near our apartment that we frequented while we were in Berlin. They were only about a block away from each other and, as I’ll say as many times as I can, they were both on Wiener Street. The first one was called Bar 11. We liked it because it was very dark (“none more black”), wasn’t crowded, and the bartender was a Mic-E Reyes doppelganger. He’s the one that gave us our first shot of Jagermeister… and our second, and third, and fourth, etc..

The other guy is "Cyclops German Salman," but he doesn't look as much like Salman Agah as "German Shaka Mic-E" looks like Mic-E Reyes.

We were in the country of the word's origin, so it's really no surprise that we saw a lot of doppelgangers while in Germany. Here's another, "German Rocky Dennis"—I mean, "German Shaun White."

At first I really did believe Jager was better in Germany. I love the taste of that cold, minty, syrup as it slides down the back of your throat. And all the herbs give it a vaguely medicinal quality, which, on the one hand, is sort of unpleasant, but at the same time I like to fool myself into thinking that it’s healthy. Like Guinness, “It makes you healthy and strong.” The shit was going down so easy at Bar 11 that I began to entertain the idea of getting one of those Jager machines for our house. “For the bedroom!” Tania said. (I married her for a reason.) Except those Jagermeister machines sound like a fucking lawnmower.

Setting: Living Room. Dave and Tania are on the couch watching TV.

DAVE (getting up): Good night.

TANIA: Good night? It’s only 4:30 in the afternoon.

DAVE: Yep. Pretty tired. Big day tomorrow.

Dave opens bedroom door, exits stage right.

TANIA (to herself): Weirdo.

Tania goes back to reading and watching TV. She is interrupted by a loud noise coming from the bedroom. WHIRRRRRRRRR! Tania jumps up and runs to the door.

TANIA: Hey! What’s going on in there? Are you drinking Jagermeister again?

DAVE (muffled): … uhhhh… no…

Silence for a moment. Then the loud noise again: WHIRRRRRRRRR!

TANIA: DAVID!

This is Charles Rivard. He's Canadian and he rides for Adidas. He also happens to look just like Charlie in the original Willie Wonka movie. After a long day of skating, the Canadians preferred the weed to the beer, so they didn't come out drinking with us very often. When they did, they tried to make up for the time missed.

This is George, the Adidas TM, and I getting our asses kicked at the other bar on Wiener Street. The full story will be up on the King Shit website soon.

One night while we were at Bar 11, Dio died. Dio didn’t die in Bar 11. He died earlier that day. Presumably somewhere else. We know because a dirty street minstrel came in to the bar and announced that his favorite musician of all time was dead and that he was going to totally harsh our mellow by playing Dio songs at us. Fucker. He totally looked like Chris Pontius, too. With a ponytail. And shorts. He might even have been topless? And when Chris has a guitar in his hands, he’s pretty fucking funny. So I’m not surprised, given the amount of Jagermeister I had drank, that I was deceived into thinking—even with the announcement—that this filthy German hippie with the acoustic guitar was going to entertain us with jolly songs about lesbians and such.

“Shave you wooly whores/ If I want to see Chewbacca I’ll watch Star Wars.” —from “Shave” by Chris Pontius

Nope, the Berlin balladeer was completely devastated by the death of Ronnie James Dio and he wondered if he could bum us out too and ruin our night with his horrible renditions of crappy Dio songs?

“NEIN!” I yelled at him. I actually know that word. “NEIN! NEIN! NEIN!”

Whatever shitty Dio song he tried to play, I didn’t recognize it. And then I suddenly realized, “I don’t know any Dio songs!” Which made me kind of happy. Like the Insane Clown Posse, there are some things I’m proud to be ignorant of.

“Water, fire, air, earth/ Fucking Dio, how does he work?” —“Miracles” ICP

(Star Wars, incidentally, is another pile of shit I’m proud to not know anything about.) Unfortunately there is one Dio song I do know.

“Holy Diver!” I blurted out after the first note came over the car radio one day.

“How do you know that?” Tania asked astounded. I’m not sure if she was pissed because it was the first time I had ever named a song before her (Tania can name any song in one note or fewer), or if I had just revealed some awful truth about myself.

“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s ‘Holy Diver?’” Who doesn’t know “Holy Diver?”

Tania, apparently. She claims she’s never heard it before. To me it’s one of the many unfortunate elements on the periodic table of classic rock. Like it or not, I’ve heard that song a million times. But apparently I’ve never really listened to it very closely because otherwise I might have wondered, as Tania did, “What the fuck is a holy diver?”

Very good question. I have no idea. And from what I can tell, nobody else does either. Have you ever read the lyrics?

Ride the tiger
You can see his stripes but you know he's clean
Oh don't you see what I mean?
Gotta get away. Holy Diver.

I didn’t think it was possible to hate that little metal midget any more than I already do, but it is. Do I see what you mean? No. No I do not. None of it makes any sense. There’s a lot of nonsense about a tiger, but then suddenly the Holy Diver goes to a costume party, “Holy Diver/ You're the star of the masquerade/ No need to look so afraid.” I’m interested in any interpretation of this song you may have, but in the meantime I’m just going to hate it. Because it’s okay to write dumb lyrics (Kiss), and it’s okay to write lyrics that don’t make any sense (Melvins), but there’s no excuse for dumb lyrics that don’t make sense. Dio fucking sucks.

Whatever the Teutonic troubadour was trying to play for us was not “Holy Diver.” But even if I knew Dio’s entire catalog note for note, I don’t think I would have recognized what this fellow was trying to play because the dude was a ham fisted drunk. I can’t imagine any Dio song being that difficult to play, but our wandering minstrel tried to start this particular song four times, and four times he had to stop and apologize for the behavior of his clumsy paws. At first it was annoying, because, you know, dude was being all serious and trying to pay tribute to his imaginary dead friend, shithead Ronnie James Dio, but by about the fourth attempt it was just hilarious. It was a fitting memorial to one of the worst “musicians” of all time: some drunk German gutter punk butchering a heavy metal ballad to a crowd of people who weren’t even listening.


“Nein,” I said when he came to our corner of the bar with his empty hat. “Nein danke.” I should have spit in it. Even if he had managed to play something we liked, we needed our Euros to pay for all the Jager shots that Mic-E just kept pouring for us. The Jagermeister was delicious, but it certainly wasn't any "better" than the Jagermeister we have here. The two worst hangovers we suffered in Germany came after nights of Jagermeister shots.

WHIRRRRRRRR!

I wonder if you could get a silencer for one of those Jager machines? Or an IV drip would probably work.

I was joking about getting one for the bedroom, but when you consider that they're only $300, it's not really that unrealistic. And, after using their website's "Tap Machine Profit Calculator," I learned it will "pay for itself" in just under three months. And it'll fit right where Tania's pillow goes!