I’ve always loved the KaDeWe Food Department for being perfectly stocked with a great range of variety. Much like the rest of the malls historical concept as luxury shopping center, the KaDeWe food department (basically a supermarket and many little kitchen-counter restaurants) is equipped with everything that the heart desires.
I remember the first time wandering through the maze of shelves and products. I mustn’t have been older than 13, visiting Berlin – and obviously KaDeWe – for the first time with my mother. Food is a luxury that even children understand. The variety, the sheer spectrum of culinary experiences on that 6th floor was staggering. I was traveling from one country to the next: French soups in cans, candy bars from the USA (you guys just know how to make the best!), exotic fruits from South East Asia. Whenever I’m visiting a new country, I spend hours in the local supermarket, trying to figure things out and experience a mundane part of life that is more enlightening than any guided tour can be. The KaDeWe works in the same ways.
Even today, whenever I go to the KaDeWe, I must get lost through the endless rows of culinary possibilities. Every now and then, I’d also sit down and have some Oysters at the notorious Austernbar.
If you’re asking yourself how a relatively sane person can be gushing about what is essentially a supermarket in a mall, you have probably not experienced the lackluster model of the regular German supermarket system.
The German Supermarket Caste System
German supermarkets are something to get acquainted with. Many blogposts have already been written about the annoyances of German supermarkets and their unofficial caste system, but in case you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the quick run-down:
- Discounter Supermarkets: Aldi, Penny, etc. You might strike a bargain here and find all the basics, but I challenge you to find all the ingredients for your recipe, as the range of products is horribly volatile and unreliable. The selection is so limited that you might as well shop at a Späti for your dinner. Definitely no service at all. And let’s not even talk about the length of the conveyor belts.
- Regular supermarkets: Kaisers, Rewe, etc. They have wide range of brands for sale as well as their own, more affordable house-brands, are usually better equipped, have some service like bakeries and fresh cheese. You will most likely find everything you need, but not in a broad variety, probably not in the size that you need and sometimes – if it’s too exotic – not at all or only in low quality.
- And then, after the middle class has been fed, we step into the culinary garden of Eden. The magnificent, luxurious, royal KaDeWe Food Department. The highest caste of supermarkets.
Traveling to México in the KaDeWe Food Department
Traveling, to me, is as much about broadening my cultural horizon as about widening my stomach. A trip abroad is nothing without getting my faced stuff 24/7 with delicious, exotic things. Streetfood, Fine Dining, cooking with locals who teach you new ways of eating – I’m all in! I love to be inspired by what I ate on my travels and bring it back to my home. Well, now that I’m part-time vegan it’s down to a lot of Indian stuff, but the Mexican cuisine is where my heart is.
It’s just really, really hard to find the right ingredients for easy Mexican dishes. Hell, even a simple lime-chili-salt powder (that powder on fresh fruit is the best thing in the world) isn’t available in most stores. And there is a huge market gap in high quality Mexican food in Berlin, so my needs can’t be met. I’ve never been to Mexico, by the way, but I just know that a country that has Mole and invented corn tortillas is my place to be.
Here’s where the KaDeWe Food Department (aka Gourmet Floor) comes into play: I can, will and want to find everything I need here. Apart from being a great shopping experience (something that Germany isn’t quite famous for), themed collaborations like The Taste of Mexico make it stand out. As part of the dual Mexico-Germany year, they’ve imported rare products exclusively to the KaDeWe that have never been to Germany before. So if you’re into Mexican cuisine – any cuisine, really – now is your time to go. By the way: If you haven’t watched Netflix’ Chef’s Table yet and want to learn more about Mexican cuisine, I can only highly recommend the Pujol episode.
Along with other bloggers who like to indulge, I went to discover the Mexican Food exhibition last week1 and got to try a whole bunch of different things that I’d never seen or tasted before. There are always experts on site who will happily explain what the products are for, how to use them and why they’re important to the Mexican cuisine (which is by the way so influential and great that it was named World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2010). This is also a big difference to the regular supermarkets: At the KaDeWe Food Department, you can actually expect service, knowledge and people who are generally nice.
Getting lost on the Gourmet Floor
The Taste of México exhibition will only run for a few weeks, but the KaDeWe will hopefully stay forever – and include more exclusive collaborations with cuisines from all over the world.
But even if you just happen to pass-by, the KaDeWe Food Department is always a highly recommended stop. If you need a place to start your adventure, let me – a professional – guide you:
- Play the game “find the most interesting product”. I usually try to find the most niche product, something that is so special that nobody really knows what to use it for.
- Definitely have Oysters & Champagne if you want to feel like part of a typical Berlin tradition.
- Watch the sunset from the Fischkutter (there’s a pretty cool view of it!)
- Eat the Pistachio-Eclairs from Le Nôtre
- Play the game “Name the fruit” in the produce section.
- Actually go shopping for that one missing ingredient that you always need.