Eating {gluten-free} in Berlin | Herr Nilsson Godis candy shop

October 31, 2014

Herr Nilsson Godis Berlin_ Scandinavian candy store_ Godis sign in shop over candy bins

It only seemed right that on All Hallows' Eve I recognize a place that, amongst all the gluten-filled packaged candy mocking me with their tasty-yet-dangerous promises, is an oasis of gluten-free options for sweets in Berlin: Herr Nilsson Godis. I discovered this Scandinavian candy shop, conveniently located right in our neighborhood (with a second location in Friedrichshain), through a fellow Berliner who Instagrammed it's sugary goodness, beckoning me to make a beeline there immediately. The charming Swedish name - 'godis' means candy, adorably close to the word 'goodies' - made me love it even more.

Inside the small shop, one wall is lined with all manner of fruity and sugar-coated treats, while the other is composed of mostly chocolate and liquorice. Then there are all of the jars of larger, sugar-coated tubes, candy necklaces and specialty Scandinavian imports. You can choose your bag, large or small, and fill it up till your heart's content. There are even logo-emblazened goods like tote bags and glass jars to be filled with treats and given as the best gift ever. That smiling, hopped-up-on-sugar monkey logo dares you to make your choices without breaking the bank or falling into a sugar coma before you get to the end of the block. Even adults will have a hard time not feeling like a literal kid in a candy store, resisting the urge to run around as if in Wonka's wonderland, tasting everything on display. Now if only they had a giant gummy bear tree...

The best bit? Not only do they have tons of gluten-free options, but all the candies are labeled for any food allergies or preferences you may have: contains gluten, may contain gluten, contains nuts, vegan, etc. It is a merciful beacon in a landscape of all the places I could no longer enjoy post-celiac diagnosis. It is often hard not to feel left out when seeking out goodies for special food needs, but Herr Nilsson Godis lets everyone get their sugar rush on without relegating us sensitive types to the unsavory world of carob and the like, which really only masquerade as real sweets.

So it is on this sugar-centric holiday that I pack my little bags full of sour watermelons and cinnamon-dusted chocolate-covered almonds, my Herr Nilsson favorites, and head off to my first-ever big-screen viewing of the original classic "Halloween" later tonight. Who says Halloween is just for kids?

Herr Nilsson Godis Berlin_ Scandinavian candy store_ tasting sour watermelons and cinnamon-chocolate almonds in bowls Herr Nilsson Godis Berlin_ Scandinavian candy store_ candy jars in the shop Herr Nilsson Godis Berlin_ Scandinavian candy store_ food allergy information sign in shop
Herr Nilsson Godis Berlin_ Scandinavian candy store_ chocolate candy bins Herr Nilsson Godis Berlin_ Scandinavian candy store_ fruity candy bins
Herr Nilsson Godis Berlin_ Scandinavian candy store_ logo tote bags Herr Nilsson Godis Berlin_ Scandinavian candy store_ shop shelves with imported treats Herr Nilsson Godis Berlin_ Scandinavian candy store_ shop front

Herr Nilsson Godis
Stargarder Strasse 58
10437 Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg
S Prenzlauer Allee / Tram 12 Stargarder Strasse
Tel: 030 604 086 86
Additional location on Wühlischstraße

Our Berlin Apartment: A Completed Kitchen

October 29, 2014

Berlin apartment_ kitchen counter sink and GRUNDTAL Ikea wall storage shelves and hooks

The silver lining to my celiac diagnosis a few months back was that it kicked our kitchen projects into gear. Since our home budget was going towards replacing all our kitchen items that could be contaminated with gluten - everything from cooking utensils to anything with a non-stick coating to all my bakeware - we figured we would just focus on the whole room and finally get it done. We had the basics in place, like bottom cabinets and our larger appliances, from our major Ikea kitchen design at move-in, but there were still many things left un-done.

Unexpectedly buying all new cookware and appliances meant the cost to finish the rest - mainly wall storage and lighting - had to be kept in check. I decided I could live without fancier lighting fixtures and forgo the pricey solid stainless shelves I had wanted, so we headed back to none other than Ikea for the rest. Instead of the EKBY shelves, we got the bargain GRUNDTAL for our plates and bowls, which also conveniently allows for hooks to hang pans and strainers on. For smaller glassware, we used a combination of GRUNDTAL pieces - rods, hooks and wine glass racks - and a LIMHAMN shelf for drinking glasses that satisfied my craving for a solid stainless steel shelf at a reasonable price. Finally putting together the incredible 30€-a-piece UDDEN upper cabinets (now discontinued, I believe) we had bought months earlier and mounting them on the far ends of the main wall helped anchor the space, not to mention gives us some place to throw more cluttered items that we can keep out of sight.

Berlin apartment_ kitchen string shelves on black wall with food storage jars
My beloved knock-off string shelves (scored on a Monoqi flash sale) on the opposite wall were put up with the plans of displaying food stuffs in glass jars to inspire cooking from scratch, so I finally got around to adding the Weck glass I'd been coveting to my collection of Ikea jars for convenient storage. I was smitten since the first time I was served Müsli in one of those adorably glass-lidded, strawberry-logoed little gems one brunch back in Wiesbaden. Even better, I since discovered that, conveniently living in the country that Weck glass hails from, it can be ordered directly from the manufacturer at a fraction of the cost it is in stores or on Amazon. So I bought a few different-sized sets, all with the same size opening for mix-and-match tops, along with glass and Tupperware-like lids. Now they act as display, storage and leftover containers in the fridge, and the smaller ones are even the perfect size for yogurt or dessert bowls. I can't recommend these seriously hard-working multi-tasking containers enough.

Berlin apartment_ kitchen pantry GRUNDTAL Ikea storage shelves above door
The pantry - which we are incredibly lucky to have in Europe, land of almost no built-in storage - worked out just fine with a combination of old shelves that we had brought with us from the States and from our previous apartment, including high storage above the door. In my dreams, there would be clean, coordinated built-in shelves all the way around, but there are realities to accept (1) when you rent, and (2) when you are an expat that may decide to move to another country on a whim, which makes such permanent investments frivolous, at best. We have plenty of space for food, dishes and cleaning supplies in there, which is more than good enough for me.

Berlin apartment_ kitchen pantry with shelves organization Berlin apartment_ kitchen RANARP Ikea white pendant lights with black wall and shelves

Finishing touches like lighting and other decor proved easier and more affordable than originally planned. I stopped fighting the aversion to all-things Ikea and decided on the RANARP fixtures, which I love and already have small wall-mounted ones above our bathroom sink. The gold accents and black-and-white knit cords add just enough special detail to elevate these from just another cheap fixture to something clean, modern and worthy of a more design-oriented look (they're also on serious special right now at Ikea Germany through mid-November!). Going from one fixture to two in this window-less room has made all the difference in the world. A small but impactful detail was the addition of Instagram magnets (via Sticky9) on the fridge. They are fantastic for getting all those Instagrams that sit virtually on your smartphone into real, tactile life while making a uniform and organised display out of something personal. I must say for the price I was expecting a bit more substantial magnets with crisper image quality, but as someone who is hardly crafty enough for DIY and with its generous three-for-two set deal a few months back, it was definitely worth it to bring colorful pops to an otherwise black and white room.

Berlin apartment_ kitchen refrigerator with Instagram magnets and Fiestaware pitcher against black wall

Berlin apartment_ kitchen Ikea black cabinets and large stainless steel sink
It's also worth noting that the extra large, stainless steel sink I had my heart set on back when we fist designed our kitchen, the one that every single Ikea employee who helped us fought me on because of the concessions it meant for the rest of cabinetry to be built around it, remains one of my favorite parts about our kitchen. It's deep enough to not have to do dishes the minute they get dirty without that pesky pile-up around the sink (OK, not usually) and the extra-wide cabinet below perfectly houses all our recycling bins (German are serious about recycling - I've even heard you can be fined for doing it wrong), keeping them organized and out of sight. The only small complaint I have is for the heavy-duty faucet I chose, which while convenient and damn gorgeous, sits a bit too high above the sink and often ends up spattering my counters with water profusely when I wash dishes.

As always, I still feel there are little tweaks I'd like to do - more graphic neutral-colored linens, nicer lighting in the pantry, some under cabinet lighting for better food preparation and photography, and perhaps some framed art for the black wall - but at least now there is enough lighting that I won't unintentionally chop off a finger mistaking it for a carrot and a place to put most of our things. It's taken a bit longer than I'd like, but having a finished space that I designed myself (hooray for higher counters and cabinets for us tallies!) where I will be spending a lot of time working on my new life of gluten-free cooking makes me seriously happy, not to mention feeling even more at home.

Berlin apartment_ kitchen Weck glass container with almonds

Music Monday: Lucius (in Berlin next month)

October 27, 2014

There's something to be said about the whole package in music. Back in the day, groups not only had to have talent, but they had a look. Coordinating hairstyles and sparky dresses were de rigueur. Sure, it's all for show, but growing up in a time of flannel-shirted and stringy-haired musicians, I can't help but be smitten with band members that work as hard on presentation as they do on their pipes.

Lucius is all about this throwback style, complete with coordinating haircuts and a '60s-esque, lullaby sound to match. Their big hit "Turn it Around" begs you to dance and clap along, while this Lennon cover shows they have the vocal chops to be more than just two lead singers in matching outfits. I can't help but be a fan.

I for one will be slipping on a mini skirt and painting on some thick-winged liner - all the while fighting the urge to chop some super short bangs over my sink - and heading to their show here in Berlin next week, my first live music in far too long. Who's with me?

The Look for Less: The Furry Clutch

October 24, 2014

The Look for Less: The Furry Clutch

What is it about this turn of the weather that is making me crave all things soft and fuzzy: scarves, jackets, even accessories? Perhaps it has been my rather trying year, having me seek out comforting things. Or maybe it's just the perpetual chill in my bones that make me want, nay, need, to stay warm. Either way, my tactile awareness is at an all-time high.

Lucky for me, faux fur is having a major moment.

Enter: The furry clutch.

It's like the grown woman's equivalent to a teddy bear. It's soft. It's comforting. Best of all, it's meant to be coddled and clutched, just like you know you want to. The more serious fashionistas out there may insist on the monster-face bag, à la Fendi (sorry bargain shoppers, the Zara knock-off is already sold out), but I'm one for a dash of subtlety with my trendy pieces. These single-color versions - from the natural to the outspoken brights - are high on my list for the season. After all, don't we all deserve something warm and fuzzy to make us feel all warm and fuzzy?

10th Berlin Festival of Lights

October 16, 2014

10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Berliner Dom cathedral Fernsehturm TV tower pink flower illumination

Having arrived in Germany just in time for the 200th Oktoberfest in Munich, we serendipitously arrived in Berlin for the 10th anniversary of the Festival of Lights. Years back, when Berlin Instagrammers I had started following posted photos of this magical event, I knew it was one for the bucket list. Lucky for me, we now live in this wonderful city and can look forward to this every year.

With my husband away on business and our own romantic stroll through the illuminated city postponed unit next year, I grabbed my new-to-Berlin friend and we headed out to our first light festival experience together. The Berliner Dom (cathedral) was high on both our lists, with its ornate old-European architecture, so we started there. Walking around from the back, we were greeted by stunning lights projected from across the Lustgarten, perfectly backlit by moody, cloud-covered skies, the impact surpassing any photos I had seen. Each new illumination seemed even better than the last, making it hard to tear ourselves away and continue on our tour of lights.

The evening was perfect autumn weather, mild and surprisingly dry, making the stroll down Unter den Linden a very pleasant one. One bike taxi saw my DSLR and heard our English, nearly insisting we get a ride to Brandenburger Tor, as it was 'very far away'. We chuckled at being mistaken for tourists that didn't realize it was only a 20-30 minute leisurely walk down one of the main drags of the city, with more illuminations along the way to see. While we talked about how much we loved our new city - mine for not-yet-a-year and hers for only a week - we took photos and reveled in the fact that neither of us felt ill-at-ease being two women out near midnight in a major European capital. Germany has been good to us, Berlin especially so, and that night was just another reason why we had fallen so hard for this new home of ours.

While I barely made a dent in experiencing the long list of illuminations around the city, it felt like a right of passage to take part in one of Berlin's amazing traditions as an actual Berliner (ahem, Berlinerin). I may venture out again to see more of the festival, running through the end of this weekend, as I am greedy to take in more of this enchanting show. I would highly recommend you do the same if you are in Berlin. Like Christmas and New Year's, it is a year-long anticipation well-worth the wait.

10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Berliner Dom cathedral love amore words illumination up-close 10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Berliner Dom cathedral pink yellow geometric illumination 10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Berliner Dom cathedral green tiles illumination 10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Berliner Dom cathedral graphic illumination 10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Berliner Dom cathedral illumination projection at Lustgarten 10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Berliner Dom cathedral girl painting illumination 10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Berliner Dom cathedral geometric illumination reflection on fountain 10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Humboldt-Universität floral and water nature illuminations 10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Humboldt-Universität waterfall illumination through iron fence 10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Humboldt-Universität Juristische Fakultät
10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Station Microsoft Berlin fire illumination 10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Station Microsoft Berlin numbers illumination
10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Station Microsoft Berlin front numbers illumination 10th Berlin Festival of Lights _Brandenburg Gate Brandenburger Tor crowd illumination

Berlin Festival of Lights, every Octber
see map for illuminations around the city

Exploring Berlin-Steglitz + A Momentous Anniversary

October 14, 2014

Berlin Steglitz Bierpinsel from underneath

Five years. Half a decade. That's how long my husband and I have been married, as of today. It's kind of crazy to think about five whole years, but even more so what has happened during that time. We moved to Germany (mere months after saying our 'I dos' in Central Park), explored German wine regions we never knew even existed, took countless road trips through Europe, made the move to Berlin, all the while, unknowingly dealing with the fall-out of my health struggles.

I'll just come out and say it: Things have been tough for me for the last several years. My husband was by my bedside in the hospital and literally caught me when I fell after fainting at my first round of iron infusions, but more importantly, he did his best with me in the years prior to my diagnosis, when I struggled so much with knowing something was wrong, but never able to put a finger on it. With more sickness than health, I'm just glad he took those vows to heart.

Tucked between those valleys of lows through the years have been incredible highs. We've established a life - not just an indulgent extended stay, as I think many of our friends and family expected, or maybe hoped - in a new country. We've seen amazing things like the bone church in Czech Republic and towering German castles, an abandoned amusement park and teetering Italian coastal villages. We went to the 200th Oktoberfest. We attended a French wedding on the couple's own vineyard in Bordeaux. Having not yet been in Berlin even a year, we still have much to explore and learn about our new adopted home.

And so, as I spend our special day here in Berlin while my husband is half a world away in California for work, my thoughts are on the recent few weeks off he had in which we played tourist in our still-new city, just wandering around. Day-to-day things here like U-bahn stations and street art and the significance of a beautiful sunny day are still noteworthy and satisfying, a feeling I hope does not soon fade. Because as I inch closer to my healthy self and we embark on our sixth year as partners in life, I am so optimistic for what's to come.

To my husband: I thank you for being there, in the good times and the bad, for showing me things I never thought I'd see and visiting places I'd only dreamed of. Thank you for sticking by me at my worst, and reveling in the good times together. Thank you for holding my hand through my fear of heights and my fear of needles. Thank you for accepting me as I've changed - my interests, my wants in life, my many hair colors. Just, thank you. I love you.

Berlin Steglitz Bierpinsel colourful back exterior
Berlin Steglitz Bierpinsel tower Berlin Steglitz Bierpinsel graffiti bear art
Berlin Steglitz Bierpinsel graffiti wall and Kate profile Berlin Steglitz Bierpinsel graffiti stairs and Russ Berlin Steglitz Bierpinsel stairs bear graffiti street art Berlin Steglitz paint dripping stairs to Bierpinsel tower Berlin Schlossstrasse ubahn station stairs underground graffiti

Oh yeah, that weird tower? It's the Bierpinsel ('beer brush'), a former restaurant and nightclub that's been shut down since 2006. There's talk of reopening it, with much criticism for the plans to repaint the colorful exterior, which was done in 2010 by several graffiti artists.

Currently Coveting: Nike Blazer Mid Premium Burgundy Leather

October 10, 2014

Nike women's Blazer mid premium leather in burgundy_ image via 43einhalb

Still pining away for the classic white and red Blazers, as well as the more sporty black Lunar Flyknits, I couldn't help but add another shoe to my current footwear wish list when I came across these babies. Shiny, sleek and modern, these sneakers keep it simple and timeless - just the way I like it - with the classic Blazer styling and deep, rich color, so perfect for fall.

A subtle shoe amidst of-the-moment in-your-face neon, I could see living in these cool, urban trainers for the next few seasons.

Mr. Susan F'in Good Hidden Chefs Series at Stadt Land Food Fest

October 7, 2014

Mr Susan F'in Good Hidden Chef dinner for Stadt Land Food fest_ Korean fried chicken over cucumber salad with menu

'You Won!' was the subject line. I'd almost forgot that I'd entered Stil in Berlin's giveaway for the Mr. Susan dinner in the Hidden Chefs series, part of the Stadt Land Food festival, when I received the email saying I was the proud owner two seats for a six-course Korean/German/American extravaganza that Sunday night. My mind could barely comprehend how lucky I was and then I realized.... oh shit. My celiac is going to ruin this for me. I looked back at the menu and saw words that trigger my fears when even considering eating out. Damn gluten sneaks its way into more than one would think.

So I frantically messaged them - Mr. Susan is the duo of Susan Choi and Stefan Andres - cringing as I typed the kind of inquiry I used to scoff at when I overheard people being 'difficult' in restaurants before. They quickly responded with just a couple of courses that I would likely have problems with, and I spent the next couple of days debating pawning my ticket on a friend, so that someone could enjoy every last bite that I would not be able to. In the end though, I decided to make a go of it and boy, am I glad I did.

Getting there at 8p.m. on the nose, we were the last to arrive and were seated at the bar, with a prime view of all the magic happening in the kitchen - a place I love to be seated in a nice restaurant. We were quickly caught up with cocktails from the charming Italian boys of Nudo, the restaurant hosting the event, and the jars of fermented veggies our table mates slid over for us to enjoy. After digging into some pickled beets, kimchi that left the perfect burn on my lips and a round chewy veg neither of us could identify, I started to remember how much I always enjoyed Mr. Susan's burgers (pre-celiac diagnosis) at Burgers & Hip-Hop and their regular offerings at Street Food Thursday and my mind eased a bit more.

Mr Susan F'in Good Hidden Chef dinner for Stadt Land Food fest_ oysters with KimChi relish and candied bacon Mr Susan F'in Good Hidden Chef dinner for Stadt Land Food fest_ beef heart and foie gras tartare with capers

The next two courses, the ones that looked to be the only two 'main' dishes I would be able to enjoy, honestly scared me just a little bit. Now, I've become quite the adventurous eater from the super picky child I was growing up. I've enjoyed sweetbreads at a wedding in France, cow tongue at the most expensive meal I've ever eaten in Prague and baby goat cheeks my brother-in-law prepared during his time as a sous-chef back in San Francisco. In all these years of travel and eating, somehow I'd never tried oysters (which I believe had more to do with my mom recounting her first unsavory experience with them than my aversion to all things seafood) and I steered away from organs after realizing that liver was never a flavor I was keen on, no matter the preparation. But I was completely surprised by both courses.

The oysters, one with just a fresh squeeze of lemon, the other with a dash of kimchi relish, were fresh and tasted of the sea, not the skunky aquarium taste I feared ever since I first tried sushi. Diving into the beef heart and foie gras tartare, I admit I was fighting the urge to be put off by eating, you know, heart - and eating it raw. Pushing aside any Indiana Jones-esque visions of animal sacrifice, I tentatively tried a bite. The flavorful meat mixed with the capers, fresh lemon zest and delicate garnish came together in the most unexpected and delicious way. Enjoying a bite on the hand-cut crisps it was served with provided a nice crunch in an otherwise soft and rich course. Surprising myself with how quickly I cleaned my plate, I couldn't help but think this should help my iron deficiency tremendously. Take that, anemia.

Mr Susan F'in Good Hidden Chef dinner for Stadt Land Food fest_ the chefs at work in the kitchen

Susan was very kind to work with me on the next two courses, as they were both made with wheat-containing soy sauce. Absolutely devastated I couldn't enjoy their fried chicken - one of my all-time favorite foods - I nearly forgot about meat when a huge pile of cucumber salad with roasted cashews was placed in front of me and I happily crunched away on the vinegary, spiced veggies. Then I made the mistake of asking to just smell my husband's chicken leg and I almost cried. It smelled like heaven and he confirmed it tasted as such. The oxtail stew course arrived for everyone else, with Susan presenting me with my very own bowl of the Korean rice cakes (chunks of a thick, gummy rice noodle of sorts) that were served with the stew, sautéed up with their amazing kimchi. Once again, I was so touched by the compassion for my eating restrictions and enjoying my special-made bowl of goodness, I barely even looked over at my husband until he was spooning up the last of his oxtail stew, eyes wide and nodding vigorously. It had seemed we'd both made out very well.

Mr Susan F'in Good Hidden Chef dinner for Stadt Land Food fest_ cucumber salad Mr Susan F'in Good Hidden Chef dinner for Stadt Land Food fest_ Korean rice cakes and KimChi

Anyone who knows me won't be surprised to hear me say that even after all these amazing courses, dessert was definitely my favorite. A float of olive oil ice cream suspended in a concoction of a thick raspberry vinegar, pisco and sparking water was the ultimate grown-up version of a childhood dessert. Perhaps taking pity on all that I could not eat, Susan offered me even more ice cream, which I greedily agreed to despite the status of my surprisingly full belly. I am not one who can say no to more dessert. Ever.

Mr Susan F'in Good Hidden Chef dinner for Stadt Land Food fest_ raspberry vinegar and olive oil ice cream float

We left Nudo positively stuffed and just in awe of how much the evening's meal blew us away. I mean, we expected good things, but these were great things. Before you despair, dear reader, that you did not get to enjoy this decadence, let me offer some words of hope: they are working to open a whole restaurant of their very own. While they are taking their time seeking out just the right spot, have patience, because I can guarantee if the results are anything like this special meal, it will be well worth the wait.

You can find Mr. Susan regularly at Street Food Thursday at Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg. Online, stay up-to-date by following them on Facebook and see their photos on Instagram and Tumblr.