“This Wheel’s on Fire” was the theme song of the 1990s British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. The main characters, Eddy and Patsy, desire nothing more than to insert themselves into London’s high-end fashion scene. Instead, they manage only to get sloshed, stain their designer apparel, and wreak havoc on anyone who comes in their way, namely Eddy’s daughter, Saffron. Although their qualities are certainly less than admirable, they do possess one redeeming attribute—their choice of poison is Veuve Clicquot champagne.
Much as in the AbFab theme song, the wheels of the Veuve Clicquot Rolling Diner were on fire recently, rolling down Berlin’s gritty streets. The company brought together an eclectic class of people while serving inventive and seriously delicious street food paired with world-class champagne.
The Veuve Clicquot Rolling Diner commenced its Berlin tour on July 5 during the "Bread and Butter" Fashion Week at the department store KaDeWe, which brought together gourmet dining, art, and design in an unconventional way. When translated from French, its theme, "Zeste de Folie," connotes a flair for the unusual. The element of surprise is its calling card, and the event did inspire and encourage the unusual.
Street food, commonly thought of as déclassé—it dates back to the original hot-dog stand—has moved well beyond its past, much like the German capital. No guidelines or sets of rules govern it. It is open, unmarked territory—a gastronomical no man's land. This is the reason that Veuve Clicquot chose Berlin as the place to execute its concept.
I had the opportunity to witness the VC Diner in action at its "Fashion Meets Art" event co-hosted by f.frau fashion and SevenStar Gallery, located in the trendy art district of Mitte. Speaking with the German brand manager, Saskia Farnholz, I quickly learned about the company's history and the "raison d'être" behind the Rolling Diner event.
"Our main challenge was, what can we do for a really creative design brand, and how can we make it visible in a city?" said Farnholz. "But we also wanted to demonstrate that champagne can go with food without diminishing its quality. We needed something that travels, is visible, and can get across the idea that you can mix food with champagne—even heavy German food. The 1950s Airstream, designed by Osko + Deichmann, fit the bill perfectly, enabling us to be mobile, design-oriented, and tackle the street-food concept."
Farnholz explained the culinary aspect of the event. "The food element was a challenge, since we had a very strict idea of what we wanted. How do you create street food in a luxurious way without going overboard? This led us to Cookie, the owner of the vegetarian restaurant Cookies and the new venture Chipps, who is known for his unconventional approach to cuisine. He liked the idea and quickly created a menu that incorporated the grittier elements of street food while keeping in mind the champagne component."
During the event, the food began to arrive. First we were offered a small plate of four items: goat cheese with a cucumber and dark-bread crumble; watermelon gazpacho; roasted quail with pepper-tomato sauce; and a sweet finale of a bite-size vanilla profiterole. This was quickly followed by heavier fare. Traditional German currywurst—sliced bratwurst doused in ketchup with curry powder—was given a unique twist with black-truffle shavings. It was amusing to see Berlin street food reinvented and elevated.
Soon models began to emerge, and a mini–fashion show took place as more guests, clad all in black, flocked to the scene. The event stayed light and refreshing as the golden Airstream glowed throughout the evening. An accordion player and singer serenaded guests. Some were even inspired to dance. And although the cops arrived, as a result of either complaints or envious outsiders, the party quickly relocated to the basement of the SevenStar Gallery, which gave off the air of a wine cellar. It was evident that the "Zeste de Folie" spirit had pushed past the highbrow guidelines that typically govern attitudes toward champagne. Combining fine food, art, and a city without pretension, it was clear that the Veuve Clicquot Rolling Diner was more than a success.