Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Serious Fun, or The Dinner Party of the Season

The Berlin season rose to its utmost height on Sunday. The occasion? ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Kurt!’, a banquet hosted by those celebrated Berlin characters Herrn Thomas Hermanns and Wolfgang Macht, at their lakeside Gross Glienecke ‘Seehaus’, for ‘Kurt Gänzl, renowned world traveller, lover of music and horses’.

The guests?: me, as (blush) ‘guest of honour’, and my dearest Berlin buddies. There were PGB and Uwe, mein jolly Zaufke -- two top composers at one table, how the bons mots flew! -- our glowing newlyweds, Hannes and Mirza, and, of course, darling Ollie, that utterly indispensable man, without whom Berlin for me simply wouldn’t be Berlin.
Only Kevin, detained by the Meistersingers at the Komische Oper, and Paul, on the eve of his Humboldt University concert, were scratchings. Alas, even Gänzl cannot compete with Wagner and Schumann.

Getting to the boys’ ‘country retreat’ at Gross Glienecke involved a U-Bahn, two different buses and a walk. We were lucky in having Thomas Z as a guide, lucky that Berlin buses always seem to run ping! on time, and unlucky in that it rained!

But we arrived safely if damply, popped into slippers (who says you can’t wear slippers at a formal dinner?), sipped our first champagne, and ah ….!
‘Ah!’ also goes for the modestly named ‘lakehouse’, with its plummeting lawns and the ‘lake’ of the title at the bottom of the garden. It is a wonderfully beautiful ‘retreat’ which I look forward to seeing, next season, when it is bathed in sunshine…

Our ‘Operettic’ dinner was ‘à la hauteur’ of everything else. After a delicious fig amuse-gueule, we launched into Course one, subtitled ‘Künneke’: a first-class Havelländer fish soup with pike dumpling (and heaps of fennel!), accompanied by a Lösslehm rieseling. I wonder, did I let out my predilection for fish soup some champagne-stained evening?
Then onto ‘Offenbach’: the softest and tastiest of ‘Kalbskarré’, served with ratatouille and lentils … I clearly must have ‘talked’ at some stage about my favourite food … and a delicious light Bourgogne from Auxerre.
And then it was time for dessert, and the Viennese Operette: ‘Strauss’ was represented by Apfelstrudel ... just like grandmother used to make! ... and a sip of Mirabelle…

My famously small appetite was utterly forgotten, as I gourmandised my way gleefully through all the goodies, drenched in a golden glow of the kind of happy, convivial friendship that, for so many years, had had to be a missing element in my life. Goodness! only now, hours later, do I realise … I can give all those guys twenty to forty years! But I certainly didn’t feel like that. They certainly don’t make me feel like that!

Dinner done, the pink champagne flowed once more … Thomas and I are kindred souls when it comes to pink champagne … and Vera-Ellen resurfaced in the conversation, along with – for heaven’s sake .. the silly old song ‘I Believe’, and far too late in the evening der Zaufke and I somehow (it must have been my fault) ended up at the piano giving an extraordinarily approximate version of ‘Once Nearly Was Mine’…

Needless to say, midnight past, the buses and the U-Bahn were not to be considered, and our little team cruised back down the Herrenstrasse towards central Berlin in a comfortable super-sized taxi … a warm and wise young hand holding mine somehow summed up the whole beautiful evening. ‘The Triumph of Friendship’, someone mediaeval called it.

Thank you, Thomas and Wolfgang. Thank you my beautiful Berlin buddies. My momentary blues of that awful wet August weekend are all gone and, yes, of course.. my return ticket to Berlin is already booked. For just as soon as it stops raining, and der Frühling zurück kommt!

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