To enjoy the freshest tastes of the season, Hilda Hoy looks for restaurants that specialize in using local produce and ingredients.
A new adjective has entered our culinary vocabulary: locavore, eating regional produce for the freshest taste of the season.
In recent years, a new adjective has entered our culinary vocabulary: locavore, meaning food that strives to be as based as possible on local, and usually seasonal, ingredients. Besides the clear environmental benefits of consuming locally grown food rather than shipping it halfway around the globe, it’s also a matter of taste: the local stuff is fresher and just tastes so much better. As the summer season gets underway, now is the time when the local produce is really starting to get good. This is giving the team at Nobelhart & Schmutzig, where the culinary concept is described as “brutally local,” an exciting array of things to work with (Friedrichstr. 218, www. nobelhartundschmutzig.com). Though the restaurant only opened at the beginning of last year, by November it had already been awarded a coveted Michelin star. So serious is the locavore commitment that even staples like lemons, pepper, and olive oil are taboo, replaced instead with such diverse local options as root vegetables, willow branches, eel and char from regional lakes and rivers, and even flower pollen, which the chefs conjure into intricate 10-course tasting menus. Traditional techniques like fermentation, pickling, and salting help preserve produce and extend their life in the kitchen. Creative use of regional bounty is also the manifesto at Lokal, a chic bistro in Mitte with cool white walls and rustic wooden tables (Linienstr. 160, www.lokal-berlinmitte. de). The vibe is low-key hip and the cuisine is equally understated, putting a creative twist on homey German cooking. Lots of regional meat, game, fish, and offal feature on the regularly changing menu, though vegetarians will also find much to savor. The chef gets experimental with such diverse local produce as dandelion, purslane, salsify, chervil root, and rosehips, with delicious results. To really get up close and personal with what you eat, head to Neukölln to pay a visit to Café Botanico (Richardstr. 100, www.cafe-botanico.de). The café itself is cozy and inviting, but the main attraction is the courtyard garden, which is the only permaculture garden in Berlin with organic certification. More than 200 edibles grow in this lush space, a mix of exotic and wild herbs and rare, heirloom vegetable varieties that, whenever possible, are used in the dishes that the café serves. To get a taste of the freshest garden bounty, try a mixed salad of leafy greens or a bowl of minestrone soup made with whatever’s in season.
Left: crisp duck with seared quince. Right: variations on regional carrot. Inset: Chef Micha Schäffer (left) and sommelier Billy Wagner (right), the makers of Nobelhart & Schmutzig.