Any talk of “beer after wine and you’ll feel fine” was absolutely obsolete because both the beer and wine were out of this world. The Supper Club on Friday evening at CFL had a particularly fresh, effervescent and raw character with a pinch of earthiness. Contemporary, clear and of high caliber, the evening progressed from light appetizers to a light dessert. Dream team, Nobelhart & Schmutzig, composed of chef Micha Schäfer and sommelier Billy Wagner, demonstrated its prowess and tight collaboration in every course. Assisting them was beer sommelier, Sylvia Kopp, founder of the Berlin Beer Academy.
One more person rounded out the team: Helena Ponstein, who is highly interested in the well-being of our environment, championing it professionally with Zukunftswerk. And so they embarked on a bold journey between indulgence and responsibility.
Ms. Ponstein served the appetizer on the street. There was a choice of beer, wine or milk – this was something of a scramble as nobody wanted milk because nobody knew that anyway on the count of three everybody would empty their glasses on the street. Helena explained how many virtual liters of water we had spilled on the cobblestones: impressive 2188 liters. Better to finish the glass, we thought on our way back to the lab, drink to the last drop.
Drinking up. That was Billy’s goal, as he loudly proclaimed, albeit for other reasons. The next course had been created for the hard-to-please Berliners with 100% regional ingredients, nothing brought from far away: oven-roasted carrots, sweet and earthy, joined forces with salty, bursting salmon roe, mixed with fresh sea buckthorn berries, also bursting and releasing their sour juice. Ground Ivy, herby and bitter, made it all pop to a T. As with the sea buckthorn, Micha and Billy had picked the herb earlier on the banks of the River Spree. To drink? Berliner Weisse, Uncle Herbert, of course, what else? And this kind had nothing to do with the green sirupy brew from the supermarket
Micha had us trickle sirloin drippings down our throats, interspersed with pieces of fresh celery, a completely different substance. What a pleasure. The accompanying wine, Els Bassots (2013) seemed to paint a crystal clear picture of his hometown, Tarragona, Catalonia. One could taste the terroir, its smoke, stones and nuts all the way down to its soft blossoms. Crocus, as the beer was called, enriched with saffron, jibed effortlessly with the wine. In combination with the thick beef broth sparks flew, yet the dry, sharp quality of its texture added a distinct dimension.
Things carried on like that for a while, course after course, a poem read aloud by three professionals. Now and then Billy raised his voice to bring naughty guests back into line, in expectedly charming Berliner fashion, and the beautiful Helena approached the uninhibited hedonists to bring to their attention that indulgence is a matter of privilege. Let’s do something for our Mommy Earth. For pleasure’s sake!
Indulgence and responsibility. These are the poles the new zeitgeist is straddling. Must it remain two poles? One thing is clear: no one who consumes can wash their hands of responsibility, but if you choose Nobelhart & Schmutzig you will be indulged and can count on sustainably produced, regional products (and relinquish your responsibility to Micha and Billy). At dawn, if you look very closely you’ll make out two figures on the banks of the Spree. They’re gathering berries and herbs.
All pictures by Caroline Prange