Feig on the Road: Pressing Matters in BerlinTravel Journal
Part 10 of Paul Feig's sartorial tour of the press junket.
[Paul Feig's daily travel journal continues. To see what all the fuss is about, download "The Heat" in digital HD today, or pre-order it on DVD or Blu-Ray, available October 15.]
June 18th – Okay, it was fantastic. Not to turn this into a food blog but I have to tell you some highlights and about this one amazing dish they serve here. First off, they brought over a martini cart, so I was putty in their hands from the start. They mixed an impeccable Hendricks martini, slowly and caringly putting ice cubes into these beautiful cut crystal martini glasses with platinum painted rims in order to chill the glass, then poured the gin and vermouth over ice in a crystal pitcher. They stirred it for a while, then let it sit in the ice as they made my wife an iced Lillet. And so even though my favorite martini is the Duke's, where the gin never touches ice and so doesn't water down at all, the Fischers Fritz martini was ice cold and just diluted enough to correctly start a dinner that would definitely include wine.
A trio of amuse bouche arrived and was delicious, especially a Jerusalem artichoke foamed soup that was savory and perfect. Then came the frogs legs and they were one of the best dishes I've ever eaten. I don't make a statement like that lightly because I have spent most of the money I've earned eating in really good restaurants throughout the U.S. and Europe. (If it wasn't for clothes and food, I'd have a lot more money in the bank.) They were perfectly cooked, without any kind of breading, and then they were covered with a tarragon and butter sauce that took the legs from great to otherworldly. They left a small gravy boat full of the stuff on the table and I considered grabbing the serving spoon and eating it like a bowl of soup. But having the image of a semi-classy guy to uphold, I resisted the urge and instead just kept scooping it over the frogs legs like I was trying to recreate the pond from whence they came. The fun thing about ordering frogs legs in an expensive restaurant is that the only way to eat them is with your hands and so it's the one time you can pick up your food with your fingers and nobody can look at you askance. They simply encourage you to dig in and then they bring you a warm finger bowl with a slice of lemon floating in it to wash your fingers with.
Dad joke opportunity: When they bring the finger bowl, feel free to make one of the following jokes:
1) "Hey, I didn't know this came with soup."
2) "That looks like a very low calorie soup."
3) "That soup looks a little watery."
4) Some other lame variation of a soup joke.
The waiter or waitress will feel obliged to laugh and some of your less comedy-savvy dinner companions will actually think you got a good one off. Any comedy professionals, however, will simply smile politely and think slightly less of you. But hey, they don't like Carrot Top either and he makes tons more money than they do. So, dad joke to your heart's content.
And now I'm going to tell you about the amazing dish. It's called Pressed Lobster and it's not quite what it sounds like. They cook a beautiful lobster from Brittany, cut it into sections and bring it out on a platter, already looking good enough to eat. Then, the server removes all the meat from the shells and places it on top some cooked vegetables on a plate. The server then takes all the shells and claws and legs and every other part of the lobster that isn't the meat and puts it into the lobster press.
And what's a lobster press, you ask? It's this thing right here.
First of all, I was informed by the waitress that there are only five of them in the world. They are made by Christophle, the high-end silver maker, and apparently one of the five is in a museum somewhere. So, that means there are officially only four restaurants in the world where you can get pressed lobster.
Decorated with two large silver lobsters on either side, the press looks like something Moe would put Curly's head into if the Three Stooges showed up in Berlin. It has a big wheel on top that turns and screws a big flat round press down into the main body. The front of the press has a door that opens and inside is a removable container that's perforated like a colander. This is what the server takes out of the press and puts the shells and such into. She then places it back inside, pours the green roe that they've harvested from inside the lobster earlier (they do something to make it more of a thick liquid back in the kitchen) on top of the shells and closes the door. Then the pressing starts. The server begins to turn the wheel on top and you start to hear cracking coming from inside the press and soon dark green liquid is coming out of a small spigot at the bottom of the press.
I'm the first to admit that it looks less than appetizing and you start to wonder if you've made a horrible mistake and ordered something that only the most adventurous seafood diners would ever consider putting into their mouths. But here's where the magic comes in.
They take the green liquid that came out of the press and slowly mix it into a pan with a broth of butter and jus they made when they were cooking the lobster. As the green liquid mixes in, the broth starts to turn orange. And once all the lobster squeezings (can you think of a better term?) are mixed in, you have this gorgeous orange liquid that smells fantastic. They then spoon some of the liquid over the lobster on the plates, put the rest into a gravy boat that they place on the table so you can soak your dinner in it and off you go. Absolutely delicious and made with the Lamborgini of kitchen gadgets. What more could you ask for?
Suit worn whilst inhaling pressed lobster: a navy blue double pin stripe Brooks Brothers Milano cut two-piece, with a white Anto bespoke shirt and purple Ralph Laurel Black Label tie. I have to plug the Brooks Brothers Milano line here because if you like a slimmer-cut European-style suit, this is the best bet for your money. Maybe it's just the way I'm built but this suit fits me as well as any of my Savile Rows for a fraction of the cost. It's a slightly shorter length jacket with thinner lapels and a rock solid fit around the neck. I have lots of problems with collar gap (a space between the back of the jacket collar and the collar of your shirt) and this Milano cut holds the back of my neck like it was glued on. I recommend looking into one of these suits, even if you have a belief that Brooks Brothers makes men look too conservative. These suits definitely don't do that. (And, no, I'm not being paid by Brooks Brothers to say that. I just really like that suit. I swear.)
After that amazing dinner, served by a wonderfully attentive and friendly staff, we headed over to the Soho House Berlin. I'm an Every House member of the Soho House, which means I can get into any of their clubs anywhere they exist in the world. They have several in and around London, a big one in Los Angeles, and then others around the world. But I've always heard it said that the Berlin club is one of the nicest. And it definitely was. And the staff was great and it was filled with lots of beautiful Berliners and we sat on the roof deck around the pool and gazed out at Berlin all lit up (Berlin was lit up, not us – although we did have a lot of drinks, so I guess technically both Berlin and we were both lit up) and had a wonderful time.
Something occurred which makes it necessary for me to issue a style penalty card—I was informed that I had to remove my tie in order to remain in the club.
Now, I've seen a fun poster in the New York City Soho House that said "No Suits" but it was so ironically done that I figured they were just … well … ironic. And no one had ever asked me to take off my tie there. I'd heard rumors that they wouldn't let men in suits and ties into some of the London clubs but again chalked it up to some propaganda coming from the more radical members of the Tyranny of the Casual brigade. But then it happened.
The host was not mean about it but he wouldn't take no for an answer. And I'm not the type to start an argument over a piece of clothing in a public place and so I took it off. But, seriously, Soho House? You make men remove their ties?
Look, I get it that certain guys who wear ties are assholes. And there is an image of men in suits and ties being bankers and investment guys who sweep in and loudly take over a bar like they just stepped out of "The Wolf of Wall Street." But do we really think that the sight of any man who wears a tie, in these days when young guys are starting to step it up and throw on a tie when no one tells them they have to, represents something negative? Are we still so damaged by some antiquated image of school teachers and evil rich guys and department store clerks that just the sight of a suit and tie lowers the cool quotient in the room beyond repair, as if somebody's embarrassing father had just shown up to tell everybody to turn the music down?
Well, I call foul, Soho House. Style is style and if someone's personal style is to wear a tie, it's every bit as valid as all the other people who choose not to. It's a ridiculous rule that is not only out of step but also out of date. It's like not letting someone in because of his haircut. It's prejudicial and it's wrong. So, Mr. Soho House Berlin, tear down this wall. And to the rest of the Soho Houses, please don't let this be an actual rule. Let men express their style any way they want. Well, as long as they actually have clothes on. —Paul Feig
Read more of Paul Feig's travel journal, and check back tomorrow for the next installment. In the meantime, you can download "The Heat" in digital HD today or pre-order it on DVD or Blu-Ray, available October 15.