Summer of Supper Part 2 & 3 // Cologne
Summer heat has finally hit Cologne for good. Tons of pre-marinated pork neck steaks must have got laid to rest on a bed of charcoal over the weekend. Meanwhile, the Summer of Supper has gone vegan/vegetarian: 2 chef teams from Dusseldorf have taken over the kitchen at Marien-Eck, one like the other heroes of the local supper club scene.
Friday night’s guest stars are Teresa Siebein and Martin Svitek. They have prepared 5 courses with purely vegan delights, mostly uncooked which helps to keep the inside temperature at Marien-Eck at a comfortable level. It’s a surprise menu since the announcement on the Summer of Supper website hides more than it reveals. Still the event is fully sold out, 30 people including myself are curiously booked on: Cauliflower/Olives/Radish *** Coloured Beetroot/Nuts *** Strawberry/Olive/Cucumber *** Lemon/Pea ***Avocado/Berry. In particular the strawberry-olives-combination seems a challenge to me, followed by avocado and berry. But confidence and a good dose of joy in discovering new things are key elements of supper clubs anyway, and Teresa and Martin are food professionals after all. Martin used to be one half of the highly renowned ‘Rebelote Supper Club’ and has since then set up his own business with Karmakitchen. Besides that, he is also growing his own wine in the Mosel area, labelled “Pure Love”, a ‘must love’ Riesling that we had the chance to try that night: Nice and fruity with low acidity. Teresa, aka Resi Lecker Baguette, runs a catering service that also provides Dusseldorf’s workforce with irresistible vegan and vegetarian baguette delicacies, home-made and delivered by Resi herself with her special cargo-bicycle.
Whilst the room is starting to fill up with people, both seem concentrated but nonetheless as relaxed as can be. They have time for a chat here and there and for answering questions before serving the first course: A salad from grated cauliflower, radish and olives with estragon, garnished with some violet carnations, beautiful and very aromatic. Shortly after, we’re enjoying a raw and cooked beetroot carpaccio with quinoa, persil oil, orange zest and walnuts, very delicious, especially for the fruity orange kick.
Then it’s pasta time, or not really: Cucumber spaghetti with strawberry coulis, some black olives, olive salt and basil. I must say the mildly bitter olive flavour goes surprisingly well with the strawberries, although this dish won’t make it into my personal list of favourites. I did love the cucumber spaghetti, but chances are much higher for the main course: Lemon pea ravioli with lemon “butter”, decorated with pink pepper berries – a wonderful combination of flavours, very well balanced! And finally, a thick chocolate mousse made from avocado and cacao with macadamia nuts, freshly grated coconut, cherries and blueberries: So rich that whoever finished it will likely have skipped breakfast the next morning.
Luckily, after supper is always before supper, and so the Summer of Supper goes on with the Magic Garden Supper Club featuring Herrn Brendel on Saturday night: 2 chefs with their individual interpretations of vegetarian cuisine – and of what a chef’s hat is, namely a hat on a chef’s head. I had met Thomas before and reviewed his Magic Garden Supper Club on this blog site. At the time, about 18 months ago, he wasn’t entirely sure whether Dusseldorf would accept a purely vegetarian supper club. Today, the Magic Garden is a well-established spot on the supper club map. Markus Brendel is not an unknown to me either, though I had never met him in person. He operates the blog Küchengerüchte (kitchen rumours) and until about 3 years ago used to organize himself supper clubs under that name. Unfortunately, he had to abandon that project for job reasons but continues to join others whenever his time allows, like Magic Garden or also the Kitchen Guerilla. For the Summer of Supper, Markus has even taken a day off from work. Hats off and special thanks for that, it was absolutely worth it!
Saturday’s menu is a bit more complex than the one on Friday I would say, with more cooking and frying involved. Makes that the room temperature rises quickly and that Thomas and Markus are looking a little bit less relaxed than their colleagues the night before. We start with a platter of appetizers to be shared by two: Lentils with fresh mint, Mediterranean style peppers and zucchini on brown bread with caramelized goat cheese and a tomato-zucchini preparation: One like the other delicious! The second course is an iced soup, colour green, and everyone is trying to figure out the ingredients. The magic formula finally revealed is: Cucumbers, zucchini, rocket salad, leeks and cayenne pepper. Another plate is served, 3 big pea and mint ravioli on a pea purée with Parmesan cheese, wonderfully fresh and aromatic. Using seasonal, regional and if possible organic products is not just a hollow promise for the Magic Garden Supper Club but reality, and Thomas is growing quite many vegetables and fruit in his own garden.
Meanwhile, Thomas and Markus are preparing the main course, a creative homage to an often underestimated vegetable: Beans. We have bean puree flavoured with garlic and chilli, bean croquettes and sauted yellow and green beans with tomato and finely chopped fennel green: Pure delight, in particular the purée! Next comes a selection of cheeses from small Lower Rhine manufacturers, usually a course I’m happy to skip. But surprise: I find 2 out of 4 that I really like. At that point I’m sure that even the most insatiable can’t be hungry anymore. In a restaurant I would certainly have ignored the dessert menu. But there is no waiter asking me if I want a dessert. Instead, the plate with a piece of gooseberry tarte and buttermilk ice cream, sprinkled with rosemary oil, just arrives, so what can I do? I haven’t seen one single plate going back to the kitchen that wasn’t empty.
Very honestly, I enjoyed every moment and bite! Marco Kramer, the owner of Marien-Eck, is a great host who seems to deeply enjoy what he’s doing. The same goes for Martin & Teresa and Thomas & Markus, the two chef teams, really inspiring personalities who prepared an equally inspirational menu for us: Many thanks to all of you! And let’s not forget to mention the great choice of corresponding wines, again in the hands of Torsten Goffin. The Summer of Supper continues on Friday 25th July with Ceci n’est pas un restaurant and on Saturday 26th July with the South London Food and Drinks Collective, so more to come soon.