Redeeming the NYC ID Memberships: The Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Chile Pepper Festival

IMG_7529

Remember back in May when I was talking about the free NYC ID and all the cultural perks that come with it? Well, starting September I actually realized that I only have a couple of months left to redeem all of my free memberships until the end of the year so I made sure to get on it. The first stop my friend (a fellow NYC ID carrier) and I made, was the wonderful Brooklyn Botanical Garden. The BK Botanical has always been of my favorite weekend hangout spot. Read More »

Old San Juan: A Picturesque Part of the Caribbean

IMG_5515

Staying in Old San Juan certainly had its perks. This part of town is quite walkable and it was not necessary to take a bus or drive around. It’s also an immensely picturesque part of San Juan. Indeed, one of my friends who had been to Cuba said that Old San Juan was by far prettier than Cuba itself. In about one hour you’ve probably seen most of its attractions, so it’s relatively small and you will certainly see the same people over and over again. Read More »

A Mexican Foodie Post (Part II)

proper taco at el tomato

On to round 2 of tasty Mexican eats in, well, Mexico!

5) Peculiar foods I’ve never heard of before my trip
One would be the jicama. The outside reminded me of a huge potato, but it tasted more like a turnip. The best part is that you don’t have to bake it, but you cut it up, slice it in quarters, strew some salt, pepper and chili (of course, what else?) over it and drench it in lime juice. Et voila, perfect afternoon snack (not to forget, healthy, too).

When in Guanajuato, I tried nopales y papas (nopales with potatoes) for breakfast. Nopales are the leaves of a pear cactus. They look green and taste like a fresh and crunchy veggie. I really liked them a lot but couldn’t find them after coming back to Guadalajara.

Jicamas, as seen on http://www.cookinglight.com
Jicamas, as seen on http://www.cookinglight.com

Of course guacamole was one of the standards eats. A great tip my friend gave me was to simply leave the avocado seeds (or bones, as Mexicans call it) in the guacamole. This way it lasts several days, not only a few hours (this past summer I made guacamole that I literally had to throw away less than 24 hours later. After using the seed trick, it lasted 3 days!).

6) The biggest Taco Feast I went on…
… was at La Tomate Taqueria in Guadalajara. Taco meat was cut straight from slabs (reminded me of the Kebab places in Germany), then served with several tortillas, different kind of salsas, onions, and herbs. The best ingredient: Pineapple pieces (this makes or breaks a taco, so pineapple will be a common ingredient from now on).

Different sauces to top your tacos off
Different sauces to top your tacos off
How to eat your taco at La Tomate
How to eat your taco at La Tomate

As you can tell, beans are not included in any Mexican meal, unless served on the side (another common misperception when it comes to Americans mixing Mexican cuisine up). And, does this look like a hella taco or not?

7) The best raw food I’ve tried…
… was Aguachile de Cameron.

Aguachile de Cameron
Aguachile de Cameron

Raw shrimp, which is covered in chile sauce, making it halfway cooked (because of its hotness). It’s served with lemon, onion, cream cheese, and cucumber. In this variation, we also had a strawberry, which made up for quite an exotic flavor altogether.

8) Regional variations
After being to Guanajuato and San Miguel, I have to admit that the food by far exceeded my expectations in Guadalajara. The foods in the first two cities were actually not as tastily prepared than in the capital of Jalisco. After traveling for the first weekend, we encountered an old woman who even told us so and then everything started to make sense. However, I did have a pretty decent breakfast consisting of nopales (an exotic ingredient I hadn’t tried before) in Guanajuato, so kudos go out to the mom’n’pop shop who served us.

Great breakfast in Guanajuato
Great breakfast in Guanajuato, nopales are in the second taco.

While the never-ending discussion with my friends at home had come to the conclusion that refried beans are strictly American and black beans are strictly Mexican, I was baffled when I had my first breakfast in Mexico. Chilaquiles served with refried beans on the side (and nowhere did I encounter black beans on my voyage). My friend pointed out that black beans are more seen in the South, whereas other areas serve pinto and refried beans (and laughed at my initial thought of these being American).

Elote - tasty and easy to eat
Elote – tasty and easy to eat

To my amusement, we went out to grab some Elote every once so often, but not the corn on the cob variation known to me before. The corn was carefully scraped from the cob, collected in a cup, mixed with cream (not mayo), and then topped with cheese and chili. I was then handed a spoon so that I could stuff my face with this variation of esquitas. My friend pointed out that eating the corn directly from the cob turns out to be far too messy, so that’s why the stores decided to serve it in a cup. Makes sense, eh?

Elote served with chili chips (of course, how could it else be?)
Elote served with chili chips (of course, how could it else be?)

Overall, after providing you with this list, Mexican food might seem like one of the unhealthiest food options out there (heck , alone those 20 tortillas a day should make your body look like a bloated ship). But honestly, I’ve found some great options because Mexico also provides the entire country (and the US) with fresh fruits and veggies. Having an avocado presented on a silver plate together with oranges, mangoes, and papayas (smell bad, taste good) is a pretty nice morning routine. I’m sure not everyone eats this way in Mexico, but my friends kinda did (or at least their parents let them). Groceries were cheap compared to the US (even after converting them it into local wages). Of course tortilla and alcohol were even cheaper, but let’s put that aside.

This plate summarizes traditional Jaliscan cuisine in one glance
This plate summarizes traditional Jaliscan cuisine in one glance

A Mexican Foodie Post (Part I)

breakfast in guanajuato

Mrmph! Flautas, micheladas, enchiladas, guacomoles, tortas…!

I know my Mexican Adventure has been a while ago, but I couldn’t resist not letting you in on all of the delicious food I tried while down there. Mexican food is spicy, repetitive, and experimental at best. Those three points pretty much summarize my entire foodie experience, but of course there is so much more to it.

You see, Mexicans cannot be without their two main ingredients: Tortilla and Chile. I don’t know what people with a gluten allergy do if they are ever trapped in that country but I can tell you that it is a challenge to have any sort of allergy in Mexico. It is also very rare to encounter vegetarians, as my friends pointed out from day one (I am one of those rare people who didn’t know better). Most food truly consisted of chicken, pork or other kinds of meat and constantly requesting to have a substitute mixed in or rather getting a veggie version raised a few eye brows at first and then simply became annoying. You would assume that with all the vegetables going on in that country, vegetarians shouldn’t have no problem whatsoever. Unfortunately, most restaurants consider these vegetables more of a side order than a main meal.

Now, where to start in describing my typical food experience? Perhaps with the most obvious…

1) Tortillas
The main substance of Mexican food, as you all know by now. Tortillas come in all sizes and forms. They can be made of flour or corn (maiz), they can be fried or simply baked. They can be served grande when wrapped around a burrito or tiny, tiny small when processed into chips. I thought after seeing a few variations in Tex-Mex places in the US, I’ve seen them all, but that is not true. After a few days in the country, I’ve basically seen them in every way possible: Tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, flautas, chilaquiles… A quesadilla is a common breakfast, by the way. Just cheese, tortilla, and a delicious sauce.

Chilaquiles for breafast served with refried beans on the side
Chilaquiles for breafast served with refried beans on the side

Chilaquiles are more like a morning nacho, but much better. Fried tortilla chips with either mole sauce or different types of salsa, served warm. And flautas are mini-enchiladas, crisply fried and rolled up to preserve all the ingredients inside.

Traditional flautas served in Jalisco
Traditional flautas served in Jalisco

2) Drinks
Well, beer is good. Or even better: Micheladas! It took me a week to discover these. My friend also pointed out that they come with lemon NOT lime (as American places serve them), because lime is considered too bitter for this type of drink. Oh, and the real joy comes when adding clamato (a clam-like sauce) to the Michelada. This makes for one of the most exotic-tasting beers I’ve had so far (of course it’s spicier and saltier, too).

Michelada con clamato - dark perfection!
Michelada con clamato – dark perfection!

Aside from these two beverages, hard liqueur is big. Tequila, of course, what else could it be? Not always as a shot though (unlike college kids do throughout the world). Moreover mixed with a sweet soda or taken in slowly (like a good vodka).

Tequila poured into fruit water
Tequila poured into fruit water

Margaritas are actually not Mexican, at least my friend does not believe so. According to her, they originated in America but have been warmly welcomed in Mexico and kept as a standard on most menus (they are also easily prepared since Tequila is found in every restaurant). Researching the history of Margaritas has proven to be rather difficult, so let’s leave it at that.

3) Chili
Mexicans LOVE their chili. They put it on EVERYTHING. Even their ice cream (nothing like shaved ice with a few drops of chili sauce on top). Indeed, my stomach had a really hard time adjusting to the constant spiciness of practically every single food out there. Not that I mind chili, but my body did (it was all burnt out after this vacation). After a week into my trip I was experiencing severe cramps and other unpleasant side effects. Unfortunately, my stomach never really stabilized until after I came back. So the next time I go, I really have to take it easy when ordering food in Mexico. However, it is barely avoidable, just to be fair. Mexicans certainly put a fair amount of spices in their food, but there are always more added spices on the table to pepper up your plate. When I tried my first salsa in Mexico, I dropped my chip as my tongue was burning. Nothing I’ve tasted so far compares to Mexican spices, absolutely nothing.

Hello, I am a chili ice cream. For real?!
Hello, I am a chili ice cream. For real?!

4) Tortas
Here is one of my most favorite (and also cheapest!) foods I had in Guadalajara. Although tortas exist in the US, they are about 3 times as much. I kid you not! An average torta in Mexico costs perhaps around 35 pesos ($2.50). The last time I checked, I saw them sold for $8 in the restaurant around the corner.

Well, bitterness aside, tortas are simply amazing. I’m sure they are not healthy, either, but who cares about that. Huge sammiches which soft cheese, ham, a few peppers and white (baguette) bread – yum. Perfect instant breakfast, and that’s when you should be buying these anyways. Because when I once tried to get a torta at 3 PM, the place didn’t sell them anymore (a certain quantity is made fresh in the morning and sold off until noon). To top it all off, Guadalajara offers Tortas Ahogadas (drowned or flooded sandwiches).

"Drowned" shrimp torta for breakfast - simply the best!
“Drowned” shrimp torta for breakfast – simply the best!

Now this is truly the best variation I’ve found of tortas so far. And as a seafood lover, our place served an excellent shrimp-filled breakfast option drowned in delicious tomato sauce. I cannot describe how well all of this tasted. I hope the picture says it all!

[to be continued in Part II, now off to get some overpriced tortas!]

Berlin – City of Cities! (Part I)

Berlin Brandenburger Tor
Berlin Brandenburger Tor

My urge to see Berlin had been strongly manifested in the past 5 years. Ever since I’ve visited Paris, New York, and London, I’ve been yearning to check out what my OWN capital is up to. Not enough that living in New York brought with many, well, err embarrassing revelations. “Oh, I love Germany. Berlin is such an awesome city” was the phrase of most Americans I talked to during dinner parties or normal bar chats. New Yorkers love to find something in common with you as soon as they find out where you are from. “Berlin? Yeah, I’ve never been there. How is it?” was my usual response to it in the beginning. As the time went by, I merely swallowed this last remark and played it simple by smiling and nodding whenever Berlin came up. After being back home for two times already and not being able to scoop in a trip to the Hauptstadt, I just knew that this time was the trip of all trips: Time for some Berlin fanciness and me bathing in it!

I was ready to devote 4 full days to my capital and chose those to be at the very end of my trip. So after taking a train up to Cologne and then flying over to Tegel, here I stood: Among the bustling vibes of one of the most notable airports in the German country. From Tegel I went on to Charlottenburg, which is a district that stands for new extravaganza, hipster restaurants, and the one and only Charlottenburg Castle (which unfortunately I did not get to see during my trip! Booh!).

Our first night out was a culinary experience at a simply delicious Vietnamese restaurant. SaiGon Today offered an array of healthy looking dishes and a variety of even healthier fruit drinks. Cocktail-inspired drinks containing no alcohol – they were yummy to say at the very least. And this is where the first surprise came in handy (or rather, no surprise, as I’ve heard of it before): Berlin is cheap! Dirt cheap! Food, drinks, necessities – you name it! Especially if you are into Döners (Turkish delicatessen with lamb meat), you can get these for as cheap as 2 Euros in Germany’s capital. Everywhere else in Germany you’d be paying 3 Euro and up (Trier’s infamous Kepabhouse sold its stuffed bread for a whopping €4.50 on a Saturday night). For a dinner with drinks we paid less than €10 – not bad, folks, not bad at all!

Saigon Today - worth checking out!
Saigon Today – worth checking out!

Saigon Today Berlin healthy drinks

My first full day in Berlin was devoted to catching up with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in almost 5 years. The main reason this city was so much fun was because I got to see so many people I hadn’t met in ages – exactly what I needed at the end of my trip to Deutschland. Together we went sightseeing for the first two days or so. And our first stop? Breakfast at the Cafeteria Skyline right around the corner from the Tiergarten. It belongs to the Technical University of Berlin (TU) and goes all the way up to the 20th floor, where you have a great view over the entire city. What else is there to wish for than an excellent panorama showing it all? Thanks to my local friend, I’ve discovered this hidden gem and can only encourage you to go check it out and have a rockstar breakfast for €5 only (coffee and bottled water included).

View from the cafeteria from high above
View from the cafeteria from high above
5 Euro breakfast!
5 Euro breakfast!

We then continued our tourist day and visited the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), which is a rather posh store, reminding me of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s with a touch of Saks Fifth Avenue, right in the middle of the city. Of course we also had to walk up and down the Kurfürstendamm – the most popular street in Berlin as it hosts tons of souvenir stores for tourists but not much else, as I am disappointed to point out.

After buying a few souvenirs, we hopped on the subway, not without difficulty when searching for an ATM for my friend, who has an account with one of the biggest banks in Germany. For some reason, all of the bank ATMs were underground and looked rather shabby than trustworthy. At the Potsdamer Platz we were able to snap a picture of the oldest clock in that spot (probably from the 60ies, since the entire area is relatively new) before we took off to the Topography of Terror. This is a museum-like building right next to the remnants of the Berlin Wall. It shows the history of the Nazi-terror during WWII and the prosecution of the Nazis after the war. It also has some bits and pieces on the Roma & Sinti and other groups who were persecuted by the Nazi regime.

After spending an hour staring at the pictures and descriptions beneath and listening to tour guides discussing this dark piece of German history, I simply had enough. I think we certainly entered overkill mode on this topic when looking at the endless amount of outrageous and brutal pictures which were exhibited. Which made me come to the conclusion that Berlin is most likely the only city in Germany that displays this part of history so accurately. It has an array of museums, history pieces, and other exhibitions on Nazis and Jewish culture during WWII, an era seemingly forgotten in other cities of the country. Since 90 percent of the city was destroyed during the war, Berlin also has a relatively new flair, including buildings and culture. Other tourists consider this city very hip whereas I found it at times rather bland and unappealing than attractive.

Clock at the Potsdamer Platz
Clock at the Potsdamer Platz


[For more pictures on Berlin go to Days Spent in Berlin (I)]

Restaurant Review: Williamsburg Chique and Not-so Chique!

Throughout the past one and a half years I’ve had many chances to try out great and bad restaurants in Williamsburg. It’s only a short hop on the G-train from where I live and it’s very convenient in terms of being able to stay in Brooklyn but still get the busy vibe of Manhattan streets, if you know what I mean. If you don’t, I won’t bother, it’s simply too complicated to explain!

Anyhow, Williamsburg can be very chique once you trot away from the walked-by-many-appreciated-by-few roads of Bedford Avenue and Co. Matter of fact, I rarely even go to Bedford Avenue anymore just because this entire stretch down to the Southside turns into a true frat house atmosphere once we hit the weekend hours. And who needs that when you can simply walk down another street and land somewhere truly interesting? Yes, that’s exactly what I think, too.

Therefore, instead of getting of the Bedford Stop on the L-train, ride one stop further and make your way to Lorimer/ Metropolitan Avenue. It is here where you will find…

1) Dumont

Now this is a pretty chique restaurant compared to some of the washed down bars you have in its proximity (take Union Pool, for example). I’ve come here for birthday dinners and on other occasions. Originally known for its burgers, it has strutted far away from that reputation. One time I tried the shrimp fettuccine, which I can recommend once it is in season again. The veggie ravioli is equally as good. But the true hit was the Dumont Salad with its Danish Blue cheese, radish, pecans and the slightest hint of its balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Dumont's shrimp ravioli
Dumont’s shrimp fettuccine

There is always an appeal to dishes where you can taste they are home-made and not factored down to the conveyer-belt-atmosphere found elsewhere. Dumont also has a great cocktail list but unfortunately I have not yet come around to trying these out. Next time for sure!

2) Dressler

I went here once, for a friend’s birthday. It was pretty amazing. Due to the servers knowing him, we got a higher end treatment (and lots of water refills, even though our glasses were still full). It is owned by the same folks who opened up the Dumont, an already classy joint off of Lorimer. But the Dressler is definitely its higher end version. Look at its proximity to classics such as the Peter Luger Steakhouse and you will understand why. It’s breathtaking and awing but in the end, it is a restaurant. The food is on the pricier side so be prepared to bring your second wallet tucked in your nice tuxedo.
When we went here, we got the butternut squash ravioli. A gift from anywhere but earth! The marinated beets were also appealing and great for starters. They have a nice selection of wine and cocktails, just like the Dumont!

Beets appetizer and home-made pasta
Beets appetizer and home-made pasta

Given the fact that all of this happened post-Sandy (about five days after the mega storm), I was greatly impressed at the freshness of this food and the cheerfulness of the place. We even discovered an Indian actor sitting at the bar (but of course you don’t disturb these people or gawk at them..).

3) Walter Foods

Another goody, especially when it comes to brunch. I can highly recommend their Bloody Mary’s (so rich in ingredients it will make your head swirl when you see the amount of olives you are able to snag). Also, their French toast has left a lasting impression, especially after coming here more than a few times already. If you are not into sweet stuff, try their egg dishes or, even better, oysters. That’s right, they offer oysters for brunch (market price, usually).

Mouth-watering French Toast!
Mouth-watering French Toast!
Oyster time
Oyster time

Walter Foods has an outdoor patio in the back, and it’s especially gorgeous in the late summer/ fall time of the year.

4) Rye

Rye is simply amazing when it comes to brunch, and food, and pretty much everything else. Walking in here was impressive by itself. The décor was very classy, resembling rustic wooden creations in Germany, but then more elegant due to the white table sheets. We sat at the bar, so no white sheets for us. However, after waiting some time for our food to arrive, we did get the chance to taste one of the best gourmet pieces I’ve tried in New York so far!

I ordered a Croque Madame. For those of you who’ve been to France: It’s similar to a Croque Monsieur. The last Croque Unisex I had was in Paris. This one at Rye was so much better than anything I’ve tried in the French capital (I am unsure if this is a compliment or not, but let’s let it sit there for a minute). My friend had the omelet with sides – equally appealing and also tasty.

Croque Madame
Croque Madame
Omelet with side of salad and toast
Omelet with side of salad and toast

I glanced around and saw a random girl order the French toast. It was such a large amount, I would recommend splitting it among two people. Seriously, her oversized plate was clustered with the goodies! Since we were pretty full, we didn’t get the chance to try out their home-made donuts. Next time for sure!

5) Mother’s

Now to the not-so-chique: Mother’s is a joint that has a dive-bar-kinda vibe. Other than that it has one of the best veggie burgers I’ve tried in this area and one of the cheapest. For 7 bucks a pop you can get a full burger. Meat costs extra, I believe you would pay 8 dollars. Cheese is 1 dollar. Then you can choose between either a side of fries for $2 (totaling everything to an even $10) or a basket of fries for $3. For some reason we always end up getting the basket because our thought process is that we can simply share it and save one dollar (instead each of us getting a side of fries). A basket is humongous, though, so half of it goes uneaten. I am not sure if I should approve of the waste of food or the savings of money… They have decent beer, too. Gaffel Koelsch from Austria, who couldn’t say no? If you’re in the Graham avenue area, feel like having solid bar food and not waiting too long, this is the place you should end up at. As simple as that!

Williamsburg is so darn close to Greenpoint that I have decided to come up with a special post on restaurants in the former Polish neighborhood soon. Keep tuning in for the best of the best, or at the very least, the most interesting when it comes to a German discovering her eating ways through New York errr Brooklyn!

Holiday Markets in Manhattan

The holiday season has arrived! And with it some really quaint things to do in New York. Of course you could go shopping and box your way through an overcrowded Bloomingdale’s, a bustling Century 21 and other classics. Or you could go watch the holiday stories in the front window of the Macy’s Flagship store at Herald Square. Another really great thing to do? Visit one of the city’s four biggest holiday markets, all of them in Manhattan.

1) Union Square Holiday Market

It opened up last weekend and goes until December 24. It reaches in a half circle around the main subway entrance and looks especially fancy if you watch it from well above, let’s say the Burlington Coat Factory’s shopping window. Either way, it is hosted every year and I had the pleasure to stop by here every once in a while to even snag some old-school German Glühweinmix from the „German Memories Stand.” Of course it’s not actual wine but only the mix, so it tasted like fruit punch, but still. I also like to buy some gingerbread men and women from here – they just look too good to be ignored.

Gingerbread men at Union Square Holiday Market

This market offers original gift ideas and fancy winter accessories. It is here that we ran across some very unique lamps and some even more unique jewelry made from old watches. Waffles&Dinges, the by now very popular Belgian waffle sellers, have opened up their tents here as well as at the following holiday market…

2) Bryant Park Holiday Shops

This one is possibly one of the bigger sorts as it reaches throughout the entire park and leaves a nice gap for a unique feature: The Bryant Park Citi Pond. While shopping amidst the fancifully decorated huts and trying more Waffles&Dinges, you can now also stand in line for the immense ice skating rink reaching through 2/3rds of the park. It’s always a great sight to simply walk past here and see all of the happy faces falling dancing on the ice. Once Christmas draws closer, a huge screen is built on the Western part of the park and holiday movies are shown to please the busy audience.

Bryant Park Citi Pond

3) Columbus Circle Holiday Market

The only holiday market I have not yet had the chance to visit. It opens up on November 28 and goes until Christmas’ Eve, and is therefore just in the right time frame to be visited with all the other holiday craziness going on. It’s supposed to have great food as well, but once again, I’ve never been. I am quite desperate to go. Soon!

4) Grand Central Holiday Fair

This gem is the only market that is actually inside and it offers 76 vendors to choose from. So if you are tired of the cold and want to stop by at one of the most popular movie locations anyways, you should go here. You can possibly also run across fairies dressed in a similar costume, just to top the entire holiday spirit. Just try to avoid rush hour in the morning and evening because this place will be crowded then at both times.

Beware that of course most stuff is overpriced at these holiday markets. Nonetheless, they are still fun to look at and useful to obtain some ideas of what you might get your loved ones for Christmas. Happy Holiday Market browsing, y’all!

[For more pictures go to:
Holiday Markets in Manhattan
Citi Pond at Bryant Park
Union Square Christmas Market]

Deutsches Einkaufen: New Aldi discounter in Queens!

Aldi is now in Queens! I couldn’t believe it when a fellow co-worker brought with one of my beloved German chocolates to work, claiming he had been shopping at a discounter in Queens. While I had driven past an Aldi in New Jersey two summer years one my way to the Jersey shores, I was rather amused at how far the popular German food store had advanced. However, I would have never thought they made the dream of cheaply imported German merchandise come true, so I had to check out for myself what exactly Aldi has to offer here in the US.

Therefore, today I made my way up to the Rego Park stop on the still significantly impaired R-train. Rego Park is supposedly one of the bigger shopping malls you can find in this borough, together with the Queens Mall shopping center. Aldi was somewhere next to Staples and Payless Shoes. I had troubles finding it at first until I noticed that there are no doors leading to the outside, you indeed have to actually enter the mall. Then I stood in front of it: The brandnew and all-too-familiar sign with the bright orange contour, blue background, and white letters. “Aldi Food Market,”it read, food market being the only term giving away that I was in a foreign country and nowhere close to home.

I then went on, fully entering the twilight zone: The common sight of shopping carts stacked to the side, but no Euro needed to snag one. German Choceur chocolates neatly rowed up in the beginning of the aisle, together with Schogetten, another brand that rings so close to home. True, the selection was tiny compared to what Aldi offers at German stores. Schogetten had three different flavors, whereas it usually offers 7 and more in its country of origin. And right next to the German chocolates? Captain Ahoy’s chocolate chip cookies and other American brands. Gourmet tartar sauce next to Hershey’s ice cream sauce. The list of controversies goes on!

Tartar sauce right next to…
…. Hersheys syrup!

German brands mixed with American goodies – who wouldn’t get confused at first. It took me a while to shut my mouth and actually make it through the entire store to get an overall impression. Of course the fresh produce, such as veggies, fruits, and dairy products, are not imported from across the ocean. However, especially now during the Christmas season you could find German cake and a goodie called “Stollen,” which is a pastry made of raisin bread and filled with either almond paste or other sweets.

Christmassy stuff

Meat and milk comes from the US. I did find gingerbread that was exactly the same I bought when still back home. Even the price was not too much higher for most of the products. Schogetten cost around 80 euro cents, whereas here you can get them for one US Dollar. Stollen is 5 bucks and I believe you get some for almost 4 Euro back home. I overheard a German woman excitedly explaining that this is the real deal back home and that you really have to try it to experience a true German Christmas feeling. I shot her a freaked out look and went on, more uncomfortable than ever.

It appears that the German discounter has been able to successfully apply the concept of keeping the shopping experience cheap in this country. But I was rather baffled when I saw the marketing strategy they use: Aldi Truths! Truth #25, for example, states that “the same is always better when it costs less.” Duh! I am unsure if these truths are also stated in its country of origin, I, however, have never seen them around and have decided not to be a big fan of them.

One of Aldi’s Truths

Regardless of the store not being overly pricy, I still had to pay $15 for a few sweets I bought, and I am certain I would have not spent that much in Germany itself disregarding worldwide inflation and economy crisis. An ecofriendly Aldi paper bag costs 6 cent, but you have to be careful as the paper is rather thin and if you can, get more than one. The best is simply to carry your own bag with you, as you would in Germany. You can also purchase a cloth bag for the price of $2, but I opted against it, since I am too embarrassed to don’t want to be running around with an Aldi bag when I do regular food shopping.

Even though I would have thought to be less homesick and more pro-American Aldi before I visited this store, the opposite effect showed: I am actually not sure I ever want to go back for fear of spoiling all the reasonably good memories of the real German Aldi I am used to. It was more of a bizarre experience to shop among English-speaking people in a store that offers a few German products, half of which are made in factories in Illinois or Mexico, despite the German name attached to it. The products have an English packaging and nutrition information is giving according to standards in America, not Europe.

Christmassy stuff

The entire shopping experience painfully reminded me of the analogy of Coca Cola: You might be able to buy it everywhere but it does not necessarily evoke a feeling of being at home. On the contrary, it can let you wonder how far American thinking can spoil your feeling in pride of German merchandise.

Oh, and after reading some reviews on Yelp, I guess American consumers think it is a huge deal that cashier’s can sit. I guess it can be…

But get your own impression of things! Aldi has now also opened doors in Manhattan as of October of this year. Find more infos on their Web site at Aldi.us. Happy shopping!

No German words included in this post for fear of losing my mind!