Re-energizing for 2012!

How about a photo recipe to end 2011?
After Xmas in Copenhagen I'm now spending the last days of my holidays in Castelraimondo, where my belly is growing thanks to all the delicious food! (2012 new resolution: exercise!) Anyhow, here's the recipe for the greatest Italian dessert: Tiramisù!
"Tirami su' " is a dialectal expression from the Veneto region meaning 'pick me up', in the sense of re-energizing, regaining strength, or waking-up, what better way to prepare for the new year?!

5 fresh eggs
6 rounded spoons of sugar
500 gr. of mascarpone
Cocoa powder
1 box of Oro Saiwa cookies (ladyfingers)

1. Prepare coffee in advance.
2. Divide the yolks from the whites of the eggs. Mix the yolks with the sugar.
3. Whisk the whites until they get foamy (like a chantilly cream).
4. Add the mascarpone to the yolks and then the whites and mix.
5. Dip the cookies in the coffee and place them in a rectangular dish covering all of it.
6. Add a layer of the mixture, sprinkle some cocoa, then another layer of cookies and finish with a layer of mixture.
7. Sprinkle with cocoa and put the dish in the fridge for some hours.





I feel it in my fingers...

Just a quick post to wish you all the greatest holidays!



"...I know, I know that this is changing
we walk the streets to feel the ground
I'm chasing through Berlin

(fragment of Uberlin - R.E.M.)

Oh, such a pity that R.E.M. are not together anymore!
Anyhow, this song was playing loud in my head in our last year's trip to Berlin, and also in the radio (I'm not completely nuts).
Brandenburg gate
Berlin had always been one of the places I wanted to see,  so when the opportunity came I was good to go.
After 20 years of the fall of the Berlin Wall, you almost can't imagine that this city was once divided and that both sides were so different. Still, when we found the brick line that marks the places where the wall once stood, and we crossed this line, we couldn't help to feel a bit overwhelmed by the historical meaning; I mean, we were able to do what just 20 years back was forbidden, to go from East to West Berlin.

There are still remnants of the Wall standing in a few places around town (near Potsdamer Platz, Checkpoint Charlie and Freedom Park), and sadly, next to them you will find the worst of sourvenirs: people dressed in 'communist' uniforms who put a stamp on your passport for money, or people in soviet uniforms at the Checkpoint Charlie who pose for your photos (it is almost as sad as the chubby gladiators in front of the Colisseum in Rome).
remnant of the Wall
 One of the most touching monuments I've ever seen is in Berlin, not far from the Reichstag and it's famous Norman-Foster-designed Dome, the Holocaust Memorial, which is "a tribute to the murdered Jews of Europe", consisting of 2.711 blocks of concrete of different heights; the feeling when you walk around them is of a deep sadness, but it's such a beautiful modern monument.

Another impressive monument are the remains of the Gedächniskirche, in Kurfürstendamm (Ku'damm for locals), damaged by the bombings in World War II.
 The area near Alexanderplatz ("Alex" as locals call it - you can't miss it, it's where the TV tower is) and Hackescher Markt, which were part of East Berlin and had a very socialist look in their buildings, is now the hip area for shops and nightclubs.
If you want to stay in this area, the Radisson Blu is the place to stay, It's not far from Alexanderplatz, right by the river. It has a huge acquarium in the center so when you wake up this is your view:

pork knuckle

For a beer and a bite, Brauhaus Lempke in Hackescher Markt is the place. It's a brewery located under the railway, it gets crowded but it's all part of the atmosphere, if you're hungry, the Berlin style pork knuckle is a must.

And if you want a quick bite while you explore the area, there are:
- All in One Kebab (Rosenthalerstrasse 43-45, just off Hachescher Markt) - they say kebab is actually Berlin's typical food, I must say this one is delicious!
- Dolores Mitte - if you feel like a quick burrito, visit Dolores, near Alex, they also have delicious aguas frescas and hearty soups.

For shopping, Münzstrasse in Mitte is the street to visit, a lot of fun and hip shops; otherwise, for larger budgets: KaDeWe in Ku'damm is the spot, it's gourmet section is a foodies paradise!


2012 resolutions

As 2012 approaches, I can't help to start thinking that it will be my 30th year on ed earth! And I've also started thinking about the changes I would like to make or the places I'd like to go, so here's a quick vision board:
2012 purposes

1. Visit Lisbon - the only European capital I've never been to, but always wanted to. The food, the people, the atmosphere, it's all so inspiring! So I hope 2012 will be the year I get to go there!
2. Visit Dubai - actually this is an easy one since we are already planing this trip, so excited!
3. Learn how to make sushi - it shouldn't be that difficult, right? That way I can make a rich cirashi filled with tuna and salmon and only a couple of spoons of rice...
4. Move! - I confess I have never been a sporty type but I guess when you turn 30 you might need a bit of excercise, I'm thinking yoga...

5. Learn Turkish - a language I've always loved, hope I have some time to learn it, even by myself!
6. Get a grown-up bag - a girl must have a grown-up bag in her 30ies, I'm thinking the Kelly-bag type...

Hope to get at least three of these done by 2012!


When in Rome...

So, what happens when two foodies choose their next travel destination? We start doing restaurant research! (Actually I do, G only approves). Anyhow, we start from Trip Advisor, Yelp, blogs from locals and expats (when we don't understand the language), etc. I love this whole research process and the discovery of special places. We don't want fancy Michelin-starred restaurants with micro portions and high prices and our worst nightmare is to end up in a McDonalds, so we focus on the places that offer good food that is part of the place's culture, and if the price is good, great!
Almost a year ago we were in Rome for a weekend and, tired of always ending up in an anonymous Trastevere trattoria offering "menu turistico" (when you see this sign, run away, fast!), after all the research we chose a tiny little restaurant in the Jewish quarter: Sora Margherita (Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30 - Roma - Tel. *+39 06 6874216* - no website). After reading in some blogs that they serve Rome's best tripe, a dish we both love, we couldn't ignore it. We called 4 days ahead and booked for dinner at 20,00 (they have two seating times (20,00 and 21,30), they are open on weekdays only for lunch and weekends for dinner.
It was a bit difficult to find the place because there's no sign outside, but we called them and they guided us to get there. The place inside is small, there's place for 40-50 people and you're literally rubbing elbows with the people in the next table. The decor is made of guides and newspaper articles (note: we normally don't do restaurants that appear on so many guide books - we feel they're too advertised and offer a fake food-experience based on what they think tourists may like - but Sora Margherita is definitely not one of those), some paintings by the owner, simple tables with paper tablecloths. The waitresses are nice, in their own way: they are busy, the place seems to be always full and they like you to eat everything in your plate, so they even yell at you - and you shouldn't think it's rude, it's just the way they are. The menu is hand written in the same paper used for the tables and it includes fried artichokes, puntarelle (roman salad with anchovy, garlic and oil dressing), fresh homemade pasta with different sauces, tripe, beef sausages, fried zucchini, broccoli, meatballs, ricotta cheese cake, etc. No wine list, so we ordered 1/2 liter of the house's wine. As a starter, we had the fried artichoke, cooked jewish-style, and the  puntarelle; both very good, the dressing of the puntarelle was delicious. As an entree we both had the trippa alla romana (tripe cooked roman-style in tomato sauce with parmesan), which probably makes it to our Top Ten of the best foods we've had in our life - simply delicious, tender, tasty, perfect portion and the atmosphere makes you think you've discovered one of those special places you keep talking about (sometimes even annoying people). But wait, we're not done yet, for dessert we shared a ricotta cheesecake with cherries, it was as italians say: "the cherry on top of the cake", very good, perfect to end this perfect dinner in the most beautiful city in the world. The bill was about 55 euro, perfectly average for Rome but a bargain for the supreme quality. The walk back to the hotel in a mild January evening with the enlightened monuments was just "another cherry on top of the cake".
entrance of Sora Margherita


my tribute to Carbonara

In 1999 I visited Italy for the first time, that's when I fell in love with food. I was very picky as a child (G thinks I am still), I wouldn't eat vegetables, always left half of my food, but after I tried the Carbonara I knew that was going to be my favorite food forever, I could eat it everyday for the rest of my life! After 11 years, I can say I've learned to prepare it and I can even tell you where I've eaten the best Carbonara.
But first a little history: Wikipedia tells us that, like most recipes, the origins of the dish are obscure, and there are several hypotheses about it. As the name is derived from carbonaro (the Italian word for charcoal burner), some believe that the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. The dish was first recorded after the war as a Roman dish, when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States. The dish became popular among American troops stationed in Italy; upon their return home, they popularized spaghetti alla carbonara in North America.
As it happens with the amatriciana, there's always diatribe among food lovers about the ingredients of the Carbonara. Some say it's better to use bacon, others lard and whether or not to use the egg white, cooking point of the egg, use of cream and the type of cheese.
Here's the average recipe:

Ingredients (serves 4):

- 400 g spaghetti;
- 150 g bacon or lard; bacon has to be high quality but for everyday, regular diced bacon will do.
- 30 g pecorino romano - a good seasoned parmigiano or other pecorini will do as well.
- 4 eggs - You must use one egg per person (max. one for 2 pax), I prefer to use the whites as well.
- salt and pepper;
(Isn't it amazing that with these simple ingredients you can create something so delicious? maybe that's what I love the most about Carbonara, simple yet amazing)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the past and cook as directed on the package.
In the meantime, cook diced bacon in a skillet until crisp. Mix the eggs in a bowl with the grated pecorino and plenty of pepper
When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour it in a big bowl where you will add the bacon (with the cooking grease/fat). Stir in the egg mixture and toss thoroughly until combined (my short experience has taught me that the egg must not be cooked, so it must be added after the stove's off, mixing continuously and serving immediately).
Serve immediately and, if needed, add more grounded pepper and grated pecorino
Wine pairing (by G): medium-bodied white wines from Lazio, possibly with scents of aromatic herbs, Vermentini from Liguria and Sardinia but G prefers a good Verdicchio from Le Marche. Collio from Friuli (Ribolla, Tocai, Malvasia, Pinot gris and Sauvignon) might be an original idea. If you prefer red wine it must be a smooth blend that won't cover the taste.

We were saying, after years and years of eating Carbonara all around Italy I can state that the best one I've tried was prepared on a wonderful sunny summer afternoon in the Marche hills by my friend S. from Iran... now you must be thinking: what? was it not prepared by an Italian??? - No. I don't know what S. does (she's very secret about it), but her Carbonara is just perfect! and you have to consider that most of your perfect meals also depend of the atmosphere and company. So imagine, having this just-prepared delicious Carbonara by the poolside overlooking the Marche smooth hills and enjoying it while chatting with good friends... just perfect!

A quick fact FYI, recently, Rome's best Carbonara was elected, turns out it's prepared by a Moroccan chef from Antico Forno Roscioli - a gourmerie near Campo de' Fiori. I won't be writing about it because even if it's Rome's best, portions are ridiculously small and prices are high... thanks but no thanks!


My travel bag

My travel bag

Xmas holidays are around the corner and this year I'll be spending it with my family in Copenhagen!
Here's what I'll be bringing as my carry-on:
- Passport, obviously
- my great Samsung Galaxy Tab (acts as my travel guide, ebook reader, camera and document holder)
- sunglasses (I don't think I'll be needing them a lot, but who knows?)
- sleep mask and socks for the plane
- leopard print scarf (my new travel must!)
- a black beanie to keep my head warm
- some beauty must-brings


Castelraimondo, my kind of town!

These days there's a big celebration going on: the 700th anniversary of Castelraimondo! Doesn't sound like a place you may know but this 4800-and-something inhabitants town in Le Marche in the centre of Italy was my home for almost 7 years and I still miss it.


These days there's a big thing going on for it's 700th anniversary: all restaurants and take aways in town are offering a special medieval menu from those days, people in shops are dressed in medieval costumes and there are lots of events to attend. More info on the events can be found in the official website of the event.
Castelraimondo enlightened for the 150th anniversary of Italy
 I was there last weekend and could attend an event I have been waiting for more than 10 years; see, when I arrived to Castelraimondo's train station in 2000, the first thing I saw was this big tower (called Il Cassero) all covered up because of some rebuilding going on (I later got the explanation that there had been an earthquake three years before and they were rebuilding many parts of the town), so I couldn't see much of it for some time, until it was rebuilt. So for the 700th anniversary the local authorities decided to open the tower to the public. There's not much to see inside since it was a tower used in war times to surveil the area (Castelraimondo was born as a surveillance point due to its strategic position between the neighboring towns of Camerino, Matelica and San Severino) but the view from the top is great! (a bit difficult to climb if you are afraid of heights, like me, but it was worth it).

Happy 700th birthday Castelraimondo!
the old town of Castelraimondo

north part of Castelraimondo
inside the Cassero

If you happen to be in the area:
Where to stay: Villa Casabianca 1573 is a beautiful country house with great landscapes and a relaxing pool.
Villa Casabianca 1573
Where to eat: Tre Stelle is a small and cozy restaurant just in front of the Cassero and the train station, they serve both regional and Italian dishes. And if you are in the mood for coffee or an ice cream while wandering around town, don't miss the Gelateria Centrale (Corso Italia 21), best gelato you will ever taste!

the creamiest hazelnut gelato!

After a while you will realize you still have some time left, what to do? Relax, enjoy the fresh air, the delicious food and ice cream and the dolce far niente in this special corner of Italy!

And if you liked this preview of Castelraimondo, why not consider a study holiday here? There is a great languange and culture center there called Edulingua, there's no better way to learn Italian!


Tortilla time!

After my visit to Wahaca in London, I came back home inspired and decided to make one of my favorite Mexican dishes: tortilla soup.
As you may have noticed, I'm no pro when it comes to cooking, and I can't find many ingredients here in Italy so I always search the internet to get the easiest recipe and in this case I found one and added my personal touch :)
It was fast and pretty easy to make so everyone can try it!

Tortilla Soup (my way)
Ingredients: (serves 4)
2 medium tomatoes (or half a bottle of tomato sauce)
1/2 an onion (diced)
1 garlic clove
4 cups of water
5 teaspoons of chicken broth powder
1 sprig of parsley
1/2 teaspoon of dried origano
1 pasilla (or ancho) chile (remove seeds)
12 tortillas cut in thin stripes
Frying oil

To serve with:
1 avocado, diced
sour cream
fresh cheese (panela type), diced
1 pasilla (or ancho) chile (remove seeds), diced

Heat enough oil to fry in a big pan or wok, once it's hot add the tortillas and fry until crispy. Keep wrapped in kitchen paper.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a deep pan, mix the tomatoes (or the sauce), the onion and garlic in a blender. Strain and pour into the pan, fry for a couple of minutes, add the water and let it boil. Add the chicken broth, the chile and the parsley and cook it, mixing once in a while, for 15 minutes. Remove the parsley.
To serve: add 1/4 of the tortillas in each plate, add the soup and the diced avocado, cheese, chile and a teaspoon of sour cream.


Vietnamese, my love!

Another London restaurant post, I know, but what can I do?! I love London, and what I love more is eating Asian food in London!
This time we went to a street called Kingsland Road in Shoreditch (north of Liverpool St.) that is also called "Pho Road" after all the Vietnamese restaurants there; what Brick Lane is for Indian food, Kingsland Road is for Vietnamese. Anyhow, we were advised to visit Viet Hoa Cafe, which turned out to be a hidden gem. Not crowded, minimalistic decor (and not those cheesy oriental lamps that I can't stand), courteous (perhaps a bit clumpsy) service and absolutely delicious food! We had spring rolls, Banh xeo (a crispy pancake with prawns), the Bun soup with prawns, Prawns with tamarind sauce and the Viet Hoa noodles with prawns (yes, we love prawns!), hot & sour peanut butter sauce and lemon leaves; and of course some Vietnamese beer. The spring rolls were amazing, best I've ever had, crispy and not oily at all. The pancake was just ok, the soup was delicious but maybe a bit too spicy and I heard the prawns were very good, also a bit spicy but the noodles were great as well. The prices are very reasonable and the atmosphere is relaxed, perfect for a Sunday evening. Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera but here are some pictures of what we ate looked like:
Bun soup

Spring rolls

Viet Hoa Cafe is on 70-72 Kingsland Road, London.
Delivery is also available. Their website is: http://www.viethoarestaurant.co.uk/cafe.html
A must if you like Vietnamese!


Wahaca? Sounds good!

Hey there! We spent this weekend in London but I'm not gonna bore you with pics and description about the touristic sights since probably most of you have already been there (if not, turn off your computers right now, ok, but not before booking a ticket to London!). Instead I'll write about Wahaca. What? Wahaca, it is a Mexican food chain with diverse locations in London serving market food or street food, stuff that you would typical find in a Mexican street cart or a market stand.
I must confess that after living in Italy for over 10 years, I have never found a real authentic Mexican restaurant anywhere in Italy so everytime I find the real deal the least I can do is write about it.
Anyhow, after wandering around Soho we found it in Wardour Street, what I would call "Foodie Street" after all the nice restaurants we passed by (and the bakeries like Hummingbird Bakery - one of the hardest things I've ever done was passing by and not stopping for a cupcake!). The place is casual, relaxed with friendly atmosphere, street art in the walls and minimalistic decor; visit the bathrooms downstairs, they are nice! and the tequila bar with foosball tables!
inside Wahaca Soho
 Your menu card is also your place mat and your reference list since when you order your waiter circles your orders in it. The menu has well explained dishes varying from appetizers, salads, main courses, desserts, etc. a great selection of tequilas (please try the Don Julio!) and a not so bad selection of beers. They got me when I saw they had Pacifico beer, my favorite!
Pacifico, best Mexican beer!
So, together with our beers we had an order of guacamole, the Pork Pibil tacos (3), the chicken mole tacos (3) and a big chipotle chicken quesadilla to share. Everything was great, authentic market food, and if a Mexican tells you, then you should believe it!
Pork Pibil tacos

Chicken mole tacos (couldn't resist to eat one before the pic!)

Chipotle chicken quesadilla
 We could have eaten more (and I would have loved to get a glass of horchata water -almond and rice milky drink- !) but we were going to have dinner in a couple of hours so this was just to nibble. The total was around £25 including tip. They don't take reservations so be prepared to wait, it's totally worth it! Oh, and with your check they bring chili seeds so you can plant your own at home, how conveninent!

Wahaca Soho is located in 80 Wardour Street, London. Other locations: Canary Wharf, Covent Garden, Westifield White City, Westfiled Stratford and a street cart that moves around London! Don't forget to check their nice website: www.wahaca.co.uk


Torvehallerne - Copenhagen

About a month ago I read an article on the NYTimes about the new Torvehallerne, a (partially) covered marketplace with gourmet specialties in Copenhagen. Being a fan of Copenhagen, marketplaces and food, I decided to try it on out recent trip to Copenhagen.

It was funny to see how they turned a parking lot, which I used to pass by everyday while I lived in Copenhagen, in 2 parallel covered structures filled with gourmet stands. There are like 3 or 4 bakeries offering delicious cupcakes and Danish pastries, an Italian deli with great sandwiches, sushi and tapas places, fruit and fish stands, butcher, florist and even an ecologic kebab cart outside: a foodies paradise!
But after visiting the Boqueria market in Barcelona and the newly refurbished San Miguel market in Madrid, I was a bit disappointed with the architecture of Torvehallerne. First of all, we are in Denmark, it rains and snows often from September to June so what's the point of dividing the two structures? If one wants to go from one structure to the other and it's raining/snowing, one has to cross this open-air space to get there; why not making a unique, big covered structure? Also, there are tables outside and a couple of stools at some of the food stands inside; while it's nice to grab a sandwich or coffee and enjoy it outside sitting in a bench on a sunny summer afternoon, again, what do you do when it's raining/snowing? Since there was a lot of space and since they were building something new, it would have been nicer to get tables and stools in a covered space, like a food court maybe.
However, my favorite spot in Torvehallerne remains Agnes Cupcakes ***CLOSED***, I've tried their cupcakes from the other location in Sværtegade some months ago and loved them (their apple cupcake is to die for!). Apparently cupcakes are the new must in Copenhagen so don't forget to pay a visit to Agnes and Torvehallerne!

Torvehallerne is located in Frederiksborggade, just off Norreport Station. While coffee shops and bakeries are open everyday from 7 to 21, the rest of the stands have different opening hours (closed on Mondays) so make sure you check the website before visiting.


Travel Nerd

I just bumped into a nice article on Tripbase which made me realize: I am a Travel Nerd! and proud to be!
Here are some of the signs they describe:

1) You always look up the inflight movies so you can most effectively plan your flight time. - Yes, and sometimes I even choose the airline based on their inflight entertainment! And their menu!
4) You can recite the rewards miles needed for any major destination on most airlines. - OK, no, I'm not that freaky!
5) You find factual errors in travel shows, and email the corrections. -  I find them, but I'm too lazy to send e-mails
9) When you arrive in a new city you give your driver precise directions according to your GPS. - I don't like drivers, I prefer public transportation and I never get lost
10) You know the tipping etiquette for more than 10 countries. - Yes
11) You refer to cities by their three letter airport code. - Definitely!
13) Other tourists ask you for directions and you always know where to go because you’ve memorized the downtown map. - Yes!
14) You know the area codes for most US cities. - For some, yes. I know the area codes for the hotels I've stayed at, so my online shopping parcels arrive safe
18) You carry Ryanair approved luggage so you don’t incur additional fees. - For sure!
19) You pick restaurants based on their participation in airline mileage programs and calculate your order to maximize points. - No, no, no. I pick restaurants based on their delicious food
20) Your email is on a steady out-of-office notification. - I don't really get that much work e-mail :)
22) You know which airports have free wifi and which do not. - Sure!
23) You contemplate big purchases based on how many dinners in Paris they are equivalent to. - No, but I contemplate purchases in terms of how many bags I can buy
24) Noise canceling earphones are totally worth the cost. - Definitely, especially in Italy!
26) When you are at home you still look up every location on Google Maps. - Yes, I mean, who doesn't?!
27) You have spent a small fortune on iPhone travel apps. - Luckily, I have an android phone so most of my travel apps are free! (haha, iPhone suckers! - kidding-)
28) Your luggage has been lost so many times you don’t worry about it anymore. - I always have an extra outfit in my hand luggage, that counts!
30) You don’t need a currency converter you can do it in your head. - No, actually I suck at currency converting, but there's a free app for that too!
31) You visit your favorite travel bloggers and advise them on where to go next.- Yes!
32) You use Skype more than a regular phone. - Definitely
33) You create song lists for upcoming holidays.- I must confess, yes.
35) You visit a location more than once just to become its mayor on FourSquare. - If I like it, yes!
37) You plan your friends and family’s vacations, just for fun.- Even my bosses'!
40) The hardest relationship you have left was with your travel agent when you realized you knew more than them.- Yes, and that was like 10 years ago, last time I trusted a travel agent!
42) You collect beer coasters from around the world. - hotel soap bars count?
43) Most of your Facebook friends are not from your hometown. - Definitely!
44) You evaluate prospective careers based on allowable vacation time. - Yesss!
49) You don’t need SeatGuru as you’ve memorized the best seats on every type of plane. - Yes!
50) Tripbase is your home page.- It will be from now on!

OK, so, based on my answers, if The Big Bang Theory nerds were Travel Nerds, I wouldn't be neither at Sheldon's level, nor at Penny's! I know my way around but I'm not that freaky!


Having Kölsch in Köln!

hall of the Radisson Blu Cologne
One of my unrealizable wishes is to wake up in a different city everyday for at least 3 months, I love the feeling of waking up in a nice hotel with the feeling that a new city is waiting to be discovered, local food waiting to be tasted, etc.
Last weekend we woke up in Cologne, Germany in a nice hotel (Radisson Blu) by the city fair.
Beautiful city, lots of history and art. But this time we chose to leave the art and history parts and concentrate in the local culture: beer!

Yes, because Cologne is also famous for its local breweries selling Kölsch, a clear beer, less bitter than the regular German lager beers. Kölsch is also a term which indicates that something is Cologne-ish, and also the dialect spoken in the city. But we concentrated in the beer, which is subtle and delicate, light. It is served in a narrow 0,2 liter glass called Stange, maybe because this way you can always enjoy your beer fresh before it gets too warm in the glass. Kölsch is one of the few beers with a regional appellation (similar to the D.O.C. in wine): only about 24 brewers located in the Cologne area can call their beer Kölsch.

A couple of rules before going to a Brauhaus to get a Kölsh: a) waiters (called Köbe - pl. Köbessen) speaking the dialect carry around a special beer tray, which can hold several glasses, not very friendly, they have a particular sense of humor that might be difficult to catch; for a great explanation about them click here 
b) as you will take a seat the Köbe will instantly serve you a Stange of Kölsch so if you don't want beer act fast and tell him. Also, when you are about to finish your beer put the beer coaster on the top of the glass to indicate you don't want any more beer, otherwise if the Köbe sees your glass empty he will give you a full one immediately (and you'll have to drink it.. oh, what a sacrifice!). c) the Köbessen write a mark in your beer coaster each time they bring you a beer, so when you ask for the check they'll come and write your total in your coaster.
We visited 3 Brauhäuser, each had a different brand of Kölsh:
1) Lömmerzheim - A historic beer place on the other side of the Rhein (Deutze); the atmosphere here is amazing, packed with locals, serves good food in big portions and Päffgen beer (which I found perfect - I'm not a beer drinker so don't take my opinion too seriously, but among the three places we visited, this was the one I liked best). We had several glasses of beer and 2 big portions of sausages with french fries and potato salad, delicious! (Kölsh costed €1,50, our total was €25 for 6 beers and two main courses).  
2) Brauhaus Sion - In the center, it is a big place with many rooms filled with tables, Köbessen and people (both locals and tourists). In the walls they have pictures of post-war Köln. Beer here was a bit lighter than the one in Lömmerzheim. We had a goulash soup (I would have never ordered it here but the waiter got the order wrong and I ate it anyways) and the usual sausage with potato salad; the soup was not memorable. The place is fine for dinner and then a walk around the Cathedral area. (Kölsh costed €1,50, our total was €24 for 5 beers, a soup and a main course).
3) Malzmühle - we tried to come here in the evening but couldn't because it was full, so we came for lunch and found the place quieter with many local families having lunch. Nice place, one of the oldest breweries in Köln, their menu is written in German and Kölsch (of course they have a menu in other languages available) and Köbessen are 'friendlier'. The beer was very good but I found it stronger (for my taste). We had a potato soup which was delicious and a typical Kölsch Kaviar (blood sausage with onion, pickles and rye bread) which was... different... not quite sure if it was good, it kind of reminded me of mortadella... (Kölsh costed €1,55, our total was €17 for 5 beers, a soup and a cold dish).
Sculptures park

We were in Cologne for only 2 days but we didn't spend all our time drinking, we walked around a lot, visited the Sculptures Park near the zoo (go if you like modern sculptures and a place to rest in the park); the shop 4711, where Eau de Cologne was invented (by an Italian); the shopping streets, etc.

If you are in the mood for museums, there are many options, the Roman museum (Cologne was founded by the Romans), Ludwig Museum with lots of modern art paintings (and free lockers for your luggage!), the treasure chamber in the cathedral, etc.

Ludwig Museum (left) just behind the cathedral
You can't leave before walking in or at least taking a picture of the cathedral, you literally can't because it's visible from almost every spot of the city!