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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Boomtown Berlin is experiencing a gastronomical upsurge, evidenced not only by a constant flurry of restaurant openings and a growing number of Michelin stars in the capital city, but also an increased interest in the food itself, whether prepared in a restaurant or a home kitchen. Taking things one step further, however, is the Contemporary Food Lab. This new multi- and interdisciplinary forum involves a think tank network of artists, architects, agricultural scientists, biochemists, neuroscientists, nutritional consultants, people from the culinary scene, publishers, writers, collectors, management consultants, engineers, interior designers — all interested in the relationship between nature and culture, and the role food plays in this context.
This story first appeared in the January 8, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Initiated last fall by Ludwig Cramer-Klett, the economics, psychology and finance-educated owner of Berlin restaurant Katz Orange, the Contemporary Food Lab is developing a program of exhibits, workshops, performances, readings, screenings and an online journal, as well as a printed quarterly catering to both specialists and the public. The lab currently has an event and workshop space in the former Josti Brewery where Katz Orange is also located, and Cramer-Klett said a second space is in the works for a “big living room/kitchen/event room” setup.
Contemporary Food Lab’s debut exhibit was artist Thomas Rentmeister’s latest food-oriented installation, a wall constructed of packages of Germany’s favorite Prinzenrolle cookies. The wall, in true Berlin fashion, then came down, its sandwich cookie contents fashioned into igloos using melted chocolate as mortar. These were then broken into pieces for the attending children and adults to take away and eat.
Regardless of whether the focus of CFL’s workshops, events and brainstorming sessions is scientific, agricultural, political, social, culinary or industrial in nature, “food is the method, more than the content, of the Food Lab,” Cramer-Klett commented. “Everything we do integrates cooking. For I believe, at the end of the day, the only way to come to terms is to integrate the heart and body with intellectual aspects. And that means putting food in the center of our name and project. The term “symposium,” he pointed out, “means eating and drinking together. The philosophizing was a side effect.”
Contemporary Food Lab
22 Bergstrasse 10115 Mitte
THEN AND NOW: Two photo exhibitions opening during Berlin Fashion Week cast an eye on fashion’s varied visual language: “Frank Horvat: Fashion” and “I Am Swed (ish).” Yet despite the 40-plus years that separate the work on show of the now-85-year-old Horvat and that of the students of Sweden’s Tillskärarakademi fashion academy and the photography master class of Stockholm’s Kulturama arts school, there are also similarities. Visitors may well be left wondering if fashion photography, like fashion itself, is on a nonstop revolving track of revived trends.
Born in what was Italy and is now Croatia, Horvat’s nearly 70-year career stylishly merges reportage and fashion photography, among other genres. As he put it, “I had the time to play many different games.” A world traveler whose photojournalistic work was published by the likes of Life and Paris Match, he settled in Paris in 1956. There, using his favored tools of the trade — a 35-mm. camera and ambient lighting — he brought a fresh touch of realism to the field of fashion photography. But as the 20 works from the Fifties through the Seventies on view at Galerie Hiltawsky illustrate, he was equally intrigued by well-composed artifice.
There are also 20 works to be seen at Swedish Photography’s show of photo and fashion student collaborations, which also span pictorial styles. The project was mentored by stylist and set designer Catherine Vaindorf and photographer Misha Pedan, who helped pilot a new Soviet photo art movement in the Eighties.
Frank Horvat: Fashion
Opening Jan. 14, 7 p.m.
41 Tucholskystrasse, 10117 Mitte
“I Am Swed (ish)”
Opening Jan. 16, 7 p.m.
62 Karl-Marx-Allee, 10243 Friedrichshain
ART ON A PLATE: “Gal — would you like to tell the story?” With these words, a waitress at Berlin’s Glass sets free another round of Gal Ben Moshe’s narrative cuisine. The 28-year-old Tel Aviv-born, Berlin-based chef has conjured up one of the newest attractions in the city’s growing culinary club. Glass, which changes its menu daily, opened a little more than six months ago, serving innovative food — with intensity, but absent pretension.
The ultramodern setting in the city’s western Charlottenburg neighborhood is minimal and vaguely industrial — concrete, glass and a mirror-shiny metallic curtain. There’s also no background music; the focus is on the plate.
Ben Moshe’s résumé includes stints at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley and Maze by Gordon Ramsay in London and Chicago’s Alinea with Grant Achatz, but of the personal and artistic expression he achieves through Glass, he noted, “This concept is most appropriate in Berlin. It would not work in other places.”
Guests may choose from a six- or eight-course meal (starting at 55 euros, or $76) — they can also specify vegan-only or find a flight of wine pairings. As the courses arrive, the stories — and the guessing game — begin.
A City Garden salad with perfectly plucked fruits and vegetables has tasty ornamental “dirt” comprised of malt and pumpernickel bread crumbs, while oxtail explodes in a perfect spoonful ravioli.
Stick around for joy — Ben Moshe’s signature is the Candy Box dessert, inspired by childhood picnics. A mirrored reusable vinyl cloth serves as a picnic blanket, which Ben Moshe and his colleagues intently strew with “homemade gummy bears” (flavorful gelled morsels), toasted marshmallows, caramel corn, popping candy, chocolate balls, “Oreo” crumbs, “Snickers” powder and rich chocolate sorbet or mousse. It’s a sweet surprise, and a showstopper.
Ben Moshe artfully garnishes his dishes brandishing precision tweezers; the tool is repeated in the “A” in the restaurant’s neon sign and its logo, as well as embossed on the host in the form of a forearm tattoo.
— Susan Stone
195 Uhlandstrasse, 10623 Charlottenburg
Tuesday to Saturday, 7-11 p.m.
THE BIG SLEEP: With a new hotel popping up on every Berlin corner, not to mention an inflationary number of vacation apartments, “Wow” is not the usual reaction to new overnight options in the German capital. However, two special new establishments are generating high buzz.
Gorki Apartments, located on a lively crossroad between Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, features 35 individually designed apartments as well as two luxury penthouses for stays of one night to six months or more. Minimally modernist in style, the 226- to 540 square-foot apartments are outfitted with classic design pieces by the likes of Eiermann, Dixon, Hansen or Knoll mixed with vintage finds from local flea markets plus contemporary items capturing the spirit of Berlin. For an extra fashionable touch, German fashion label Odeeh designed the pillowcases; the staff’s uniforms are by Danish label Wood Wood and all in-room organic toiletries are by Dr. Bronner’s.
There’s also an anonymous side to the house. Room numbers have been replaced with fictitious names, each dwelling has its own doorbell and mailbox, and guests can register under a pseudonym, allowing them to remain “nearly undisturbed.”
Meanwhile, across town in Charlottenburg, the Art Nouveau landmark Hotel am Steinplatz has just been kissed awake after decades of abandonment. The five-star, 87-room hotel is the first German entry in the Autograph Collection of international boutique hotels. Elegantly renovated, the sage green facade with its multi-colored stucco accents and Moorish-style windows beckons as it did when the building originally opened as a luxury hotel in 1913.
The work of August Endell, the architect of Berlin’s celebrated Hackesche Höfe complex, the Hotel am Steinplatz has had a lively history. After the October Revolution, it housed many a Russian aristocrat and intellectual, and drew leading Berliners and cultural figures such as Vladimir Nabokov and Zarah Leander. A herd of goats moved into the courtyard during WWII and tomatoes were raised on the roof, while in the Fifties, the basement bar was a favorite hangout for writers Heinrich Böll and Günter Grass and film stars Bridget Bardot and Romy Schneider.
The basement bar hasn’t been revived, but the restored house has a handsome gin-centric bar featuring newly created cocktails using Berlin-produced spirits. Legendary Berlin clubman Cookie has been called in to infuse some edge, while the photo gallery C/O Berlin is another partner. The hotel restaurant is under the conceptual direction of Michelin-starred chef Stefan Hartmann, who is focusing on newly interpreted German cuisine. But perhaps the freshest re-interpretation is the hotel’s neo-Art Deco furnishings in both the public and private areas, designed under the direction of Arp Architects. The chandeliers are alone worth a visit.
— Norma Quinto and M.D.
25 Weinbergsweg, 10119 Mitte
Hotel am Steinplatz
4 Steinplatz, 10623 Charlottenburg
Tel.: + 49-30-554-4440
GERMAN APPAREL RETAILERS: WHERE THE STORES ARE SPENDING
Improving operational excellence, the shopping experience and omni/multichannel strategies are currently the top priorities for German apparel retailers, according to “Trends & Innovations in Fashion Retail,” a Tailorit study.
The study polled of 56 retailers from discount to midrange to premium, including department stores, vertical retailers, brands with their own stores and multilabel shops, representing about a third of the turnover of Germany’s top 50 apparel retailers. That’s an estimated 11.63 billion euros, or $14.96 billion, in 2012 sales.
Here’s where stores said they plan to invest over the next two years:
• 98 percent of all participants put optimizing multichannel networking, systems and training, as well as further developing their e-shops, on their funding list.
• 71 percent are investing in customer relationship management.
• 64 percent are involved in insourcing or outsourcing, though primarily the former.
• 63 percent plan a responsive design solution or a mobile Web site (18 percent already have one), while the same percentage are involved in the planning or execution of mobile payment technology.
• 57 percent are considering or instituting an app, and the same amount mobile couponing.
• 55 percent are investing in social commerce.
• 49 percent are involved with fashion blogs.
The Tailorit study indicated that in the next 24 months, “high to very high” sums would be invested in sales and service (55 percent of the participants) and customer relationship management (43 percent), with 45 percent devoting large sums to merchandise presentation. The study also discerned a heightened interest in in-store innovation among retailers with a stronger online business (more than 6 percent of sales) compared with those generating less than 6 percent of sales online.
Topping the investment list for those planning to spend more than 6 percent: customer cards, customer in-store information terminals, premium programs, couponing, digital advertising displays, interactive shopping windows, mobile in-store navigation and window shopping with quick-response codes.
For those retailers with less-developed online sales, window shopping with quick-response codes, customer cards, digital advertising displays, couponing, premium programs, customer in-store information terminals, augmented reality and mobile in-store navigation.
— Melissa Drier