Archive for the 'Denmark' Category

Relæ, Copenhagen

Leading up to our recent Euro-dining-trip, Rocky and I were on the lookout for ideas to fill in the gaps between our major dining destinations. Concerning Copenhagen, we already had a decent amount of our short stay booked up, so we gathered a few suggestions that sounded good to throw in our back pockets and play by ear in our free time.

Fast-forward a little. During half-time of our two-a-day at Noma, while chatting with Chef Rene Redzepi, he found out we had no definite dinner plans for the following night. Rene first recommended we have dinner at Relæ, then he insisted on it, then he went so far as to have his buddy Ali make a reservation for us(which was great, since we likely wouldn’t have scored a spot ourselves because of the late planning). Chef exclaimed: ‘You guys have to go there. Not just because those guys are friends of mine, but because it’s fucking amazing. Nobody else is doing what they’re doing.’  Since I had received a similar endorsement from Matthew Lightner at Atera a few weeks before, I was excited to see what Chef Christian Puglisi was cooking.

Moving forward a day, Rocky and I were feeling good from a great lunch at Geranium, and were out touring Copenhagen with our new friend Jonas The Dane, when I got the text from Ali. We were all set for dinner at Relæ. With dinner plans locked down, we went to see what there was to see in Christiania, had a couple beers just off Pusher Street, then made our way across town and up to Jægersborggade.

Rocky and I showed up, dried off a few moments(it had started pouring rain as we left Christiania), then were seated at a small chef’s counter overlooking part of the kitchen. Soon after, Jonas The Dane arrived, somehow much drier than us(which is worth mentioning since we hired a cab and he rode his bicycle), and we ordered some aperitifs.

In front of each of us was a drawer containing a menu, napkin, and enough silverware to make it through the meal. The menu presented two options for dinner. Jonas The Dane and I ordered the chef menu and Rocky opted for the vegetable menu(which differed only in two of the four courses). Supplements were offered in three places, so of course, we added all three: a small starter, a cheese course, and a post dessert.

My overall booze consumption for the day was pretty decent, so I’ll try to piece together what I can remember:

Celeriac taco. Tasty little tacos with good root vegetable crunch, peppery greens-watercress and nasturtium, and hints of richness from cured egg yolks.

Bread service. Thick-crusted sourdough accompanied by cold-pressed Sicilian olive oil.

Lamb from havervadgård, shrimps and dill. The shrimp, dried and powdered, provided a little ocean salinity to the slices of lamb. The onions lent an outstanding allium flavor to the plate.

Eggplant, seawater and elderflower. First course from the vegetable menu. I had been on a stretch of having terrible eggplant dishes at great restaurants the previous couple months. When I saw Rocky’s dish show up, I thought the streak would continue. This however was fantastic. Nicely salted, good acid, and honest eggplant flavor.

Turnip, chervil and hourseradish. Dehydrated and rehydrated turnips had a fun texture, which was enlivened even more by the occasional pop of a mustard seed. The more I chewed the turnips, the more layers of flavor they revealed.

Dried courgettes and bitter leaves. Third course of the vegetable menu. I could be way off here, but I think they may have said that this zucchini was also dehydrated and rehydrated, then dusted with seaweed and salt. Rocky told me this was the only time she enjoyed eating zucchini that wasn’t baked into a cake.

Veal sweetbread, cauliflower and basil. I love cauliflower. I love basil. Sometimes I like sweetbreads. Every now and then I love sweetbreads. I was astounded by how good this plate was. The glands were cooked perfectly. The chopped cauliflower was seasoned superbly. Taking the time to thoroughly chew these bites was a wonderfully rewarding experience.

Fresh goat cheese and parsley. A composed course of light, subtly tangy Swedish goat cheese and parsley puree presented in a Jackson Pollack fashion and served with more house sourdough in lieu of additional silverware.

Corn, breadcrumbs and marjoram. Another winner. The creaminess of sweet corn ice cream over an Italian meringue. The herbal tang of the marjoram was a fresh counterbalance. Breadcrumbs and whole corn kernels changed up the texture.

Söl toffee. Seaweed accented toffee on small pastry tarts. Small, rich bites to finish the meal.

Chef Christian Puglisi’s food is bad-ass. Inventive, sometimes daring combinations, but still clean and fresh. Our meal was full of bold flavors, but didn’t hit us too hard, and left us feeling great. Thanks to Redzepi for the recommendation and Ali for the reservation.

Some wines we were served:

Date of visit: September 14th, 2012

Relæ. Jægersborggade 41.Copenhagen, Denmark. +45 3696 6609  http://restaurant-relae.dk/

Geranium, Copenhagen

After following the success of Chef Rasmus Kofoed in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or competition(three medals, including one gold in 2011), I decided that a visit to his restaurant Geranium, in Copenhagen, would be a great addition to the line-up for me and Rocky’s recent Euro-eating-trip.

Coming off of a killer two-a-day at Noma the day before, we made our way to Geranium for lunch. Before arriving, we had already decided we were having the Lunch Universe Tasting Menu with their juice pairings(which were overall great, at moments transcendent) and a bottle of Champagne.

Our Tasting Menu:

Seaweed Chips. Good crunch with good ocean flavor.

Carrot & Seabuckthorn. Delicate shell that was almost like candy, but not too sweet.

Sea Salt Cheese & Ramson. Savory cheese ‘sticks’ with ramson mayo for dipping.

Dried Flowers & Apple. Great floral and fruit flavor in a bite size packet.

Mushrooms. Pickled mushroom soup. Very light body and taste. Maybe too light.

“Razor Clams”. Crisp, brittle, faux shells with razor clam, creme fraiche, and parsley. Apparently edible fake shells are en vogue in haut cuisine.

Jerusalem Artichoke “Tree” & Walnut Oil. These crispy strips of tubers were tasty snacks and were fun to eat.

Burned Potato & Sheep’s Milk Butter. Charred potatoes, to be placed on spoons full of flavored sheep butter and eaten together. Nothing wrong here.

Jellied Ham, Tomato Water & Savory Flowers. Beautifully light savory flavors freshened with lemon thyme. Brilliantly paired with pine needle lemonade.

“Dillstone” & Fermented Vegetables. Visually arresting, the ‘stones’ were like denser, smoother, herbaceous gum drops. To be passed through the vegetable and salmon roe sauce.

Mackerel, Burned Juniper, Horseradish & Cucumber. The granite of cucumber and horseradish was impeccably balanced with uplifting freshness and spice and played perfectly with the salted mackerel. Served with green apple, cucumber, elderflower juice, which was exquisite.

Bread with Emmer & Spelt. Small sourdough grain bread with buttermilk butter.

Onions & Melted Hay Cheese. Wonderfully restrained allium flavors balanced by a soup of melted hay cheese and topped with crumbled rye bread and chamomile.

“Iron & Minerals” A superb lightly cooked oyster, cabbage, and bleak roe sauce. Paired with a vibrant apple and tarragon juice.

Langoustine & Hay Aroma. A nice savory, perfectly seasoned langoustine with herbs, flowers, and lovely herb sauce. The apple juice served alongside was far too sweet for the dish, but our Champagne was great.

Venison, Red Leaves & Stems. Holy smokes. This dish was effing incredible. An intense venison tartare, cherry vinegar gelee, beets, and dried mushroom and berry sauce. All the components were individually very bold, and yet all worked to together to elevate the whole plate. To match, we were poured juniper berry and red grape juice, which was good stand alone, and with the food, put the combo in contention for the best pairing of the trip.

Elderflower Soda. After savories, we were invited into the kitchen to have a little treat of elderberry gelee with sparkling elderberry foam, while standing at a high top adorned with three Paul Bocuse statuettes.

Herb Tea, Plums & Sheep’s Milk Yoghurt. Lemon balm herb ice with sheep yogurt and yellow peaches. Very cooling and refreshing. Paired well with green plum, lemon balm lemon juice.

Grilled Raspberries “Flora Danica” & Goat’s Milk Cream. Grilling the raspberries concentrated the sugar just enough to suit the tang of the goat milk cream. The flower petals and crystallized thyme were as pleasing to the palate as they were to the eye. The rhubarb rose petal juice complemented nicely.

“Green Egg” & “Carrot Leaf”. Light, sweet carrot leaves. Chocolate, caramel, pine ‘eggs’.

Kofoed’s food is beautiful and thoughtful, with disciplined, restrained vibrance. Our experience at Geranium was enlightening and just overall classy.

Date of visit: September 14th 2012

Geranium. Per Henrik Lings Allé 4, 8. Copenhagen, Denmark. +45 69 96 00 20. http://geranium.dk/

Noma – Two-a-day, Part 2.

Riding the high from a life-changing lunch and a beautiful day in Copenhagen, Rocky and I once again made our way up Strandgade for round 2 of our two-a-day at Rene Redzepi’s Noma(click here for round 1).

The flood of sunlight was replaced with candle glow and soft lamps. The dining room was more energetic than at lunch, and the staff was just as warmly and enthusiastically welcoming as eight hours before. After a few kind greetings and a few glasses of bubbles, we were ready to go again.

Snacks:

Since we had most of these openers at lunch, I’ll try to breeze through them here.

Malt flatbread and juniper. Again tucked away inside the flower vase and accompanied with creme fraiche.

Moss and cep. Fantastic again.

Crispy pork skin and black currant.

Blue mussel and celery.

Cheese cookie, rocket and stems.

Potato and duck liver.

Dried carrot and sorrel. Once more I’ll iterate: this dish was mind-blowingly incredible and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks.

Caramelized milk and cod liver.

Pickled and smoked quails egg.

Radish, soil and grass.

Herb toast and smoked cod roe. An addition to our lunch line-up from earlier. 17 herbs, vinegar powder, and cod roe mayo sandwiched with duck stock crisps. Fresh herbaceous bites with bursts of acidity and ocean salinity book-ended by savory richness.

Æbleskiver. A take on the traditional Danish spherical pancakes with the addition of smoked bleak and pickled cucumber. Rocky excitedly exclaimed it as a ‘fish donut’.

Veal neck and söl. Veal fibers, creme fraiche, söl. Crispy, oily, savory little bites.

Grilled corn. Rocky wants me to make clear again: these were perfect.

Sorrel leaf and cricket paste.

Menu:

Potato and snails. New potatoes cooked with juniper wood. Rose hip salt. Snails cooked in their own juices with herbs and herb sauce. We were told to use the herb picks to skewer the potatoes and dip them in the rose hip salt, then do the same with the snails. And afterwards, dip the herbs in the butter and eat them too. Fantastic.

Razor clam and parsley, Dill and horseradish. Raw local razor clam wrapped in parsley gelee, bordered by horseradish ice, and finished with razor clam and dill sauce. Superb, fresh, bright flavors.

Dried scallops and beech nuts, Biodynamic grains and watercress. The dehydrated Norwegian scallop slices had a beautiful crisp texture and nicely concentrated sweetness balanced by the meaty grains, spicy watercress, and squid ink sauce. Even Rocky, who claims to hate scallops, after a moment of silence, with a contemplative look on her face uttered ‘This is a really cool dish’.

Tartare of beef, Sorrel and juniper. Mild and precise beef tartare topped with spicy, acidic wood sorrel and a little onion. Meant to be scooped up with fingers and dragged through the ground juniper and lively tarragon emulsion. The primal mode of consumption gave a deeper connection to the food and its viking roots.

Vegetables and red currant. With leeks, fennel, and hazelnut. Simple, high quality ingredients treated and assembled beautifully. Maybe not as mind-blowing or thought-provoking as most of the plates we had, but still impeccably balanced great flavors.

Pike perch and cabbage. Danish pike perch cooked out back on their barbecue, wrapped in cabbage. Accompanied with lemon verbena sauce and fish bone sauce. Gorgeously presented and dynamically flavored. The combination of sauces made for great depth with the leaf-bound perfect fillet.

Beef cheek and fresh cheese. This dish was certainly firing on all cylinders. The rich cheeks paired well with the cooling house-made cheese. The duo was enhanced by ramson’s allium spice, savory chicken and mushroom sauce, and earthy, tangy Swedish chanterelles.

Carrot and sea buckthorn. A soft, airy carrot cake with sea-buckthorn berries sitting on a bed of sheep’s milk foam and livened with grated licorice. Likely the purest iteration of a carrot cake I’ve encountered. A perfect dessert.

Cucumber and elderflower. Light elderflower mousse surrounded by cucumber sorbet. Fresh, floral, addictive. A wonderful ending to the written menu.

Petit fours:

Chocolate potato crisps. Whey meringues.

Bone marrow caramels. Magnificently rich and savory caramels, served in the bone, wrapped in butcher paper.

Some wines we were served:

When I travel and try out restaurants I’ve never been to, I do pretty well about coming in without expectations, and bringing in only hopes. Though when I visit a place with as much acclaim(and holding as grand a title) as Noma, it’s hard to leave it all at home and anticipation takes over at least some part. But both my meals at Noma exceeded everything I hoped they would be. I would love to learn more about Nordic cuisine and gain insights to the history and inspirations behind the food then revisit for another couple meals and see if Redzepi’s menus are even more mind-blowing. Every member of their team and every step experience struck a positive chord and created a masterful symphony. Echoing the exclamations of countless enthusiasts over the past few years: Noma just may be the best restaurant in the world.

Date of visit: September 13th, 2012

Noma. Strandgade 93. Copenhagen, Denmark. +45 3296 3297. http://noma.dk/

Noma – Two-a-day, Part 1.

Earlier this year, during the roasting NYC summer, I was sitting at home on the computer, window unit on full-blast, clicking from one food site to the next, when I got the thought: I need to eat at Noma. So I checked out their website, and the next window of reservations was set to open in a about a week. I kept my eye on the calendar and set my alarm on the eve of availability to make sure to be out of bed and on the computer at 4 AM, in time to secure a spot for Rocky and me. During the thought process I figured as long as I was crossing the pond, why not make stops in Barcelona, Valencia, Denia, and San Sebastian, in addition to Copenhagen; and why not throw in some two-a-days at a few of the world’s most exciting restaurants.

Fast forward to mid-September. After a great morning run through Copenhagen, I arrived(with Rocky) for lunch at Noma, the first round of the two-a-day(to see the second round, click here).

The dining room was abundant with vibrant sunlight, and the staff seemed the most genuinely hospitable and welcoming group of smiling faces I’ve come across. We were told that the kitchen prepared two different menus for us for lunch and dinner and were asked if that was okay. Of course that sounded great, so we got started.

Snacks:

Malt flatbread and juniper. Among the flowers in the white vase on our table were unleavened bread ‘sticks’ with moss. We were told to rustle them out of the arrangement and run them through a little dish of creme fraiche. They were crisp with a good bitterness.

Moss and cep. Reindeer moss from Northern Sweden, fried, and sprinkled with dried cep powder. Also meant to pass through the creme fraiche. Delicious.

Crispy pork skin and black currant. Like a michelin-starred version of a fruit roll-up over a pork rind. Great sweet/savory and crispy/chewy contrasts.

Blue mussel and celery. Roasted blue mussels with mussel emulsion on an edible faux shell colored with squid ink. Nice sea flavor.

Cheese cookie, rocket and stems. Swedish cheese cookie with rocket puree and stems. These little treats had great savory/vegetal balance.

Potato and duck liver. Fried potato strings with duck liver mousse sprinkled with black trumpet mushroom powder.

Dried carrot and sorrel. Birchwood smoked dehydrated carrot on a bed of hay ash, which vikings used commonly as a spice. We were instructed to roll the carrots in the ash and drag them through the sorrel puree. Amazing. When I returned to NYC two weeks later, I couldn’t stop thinking about this compilation of flavor.

Caramelized milk and cod liver. Smoked cod liver on milk crisps with dehydrated seaweed. Good, clean liver taste softened with milk flavor.

Grilled corn. Beautiful young corn. A little sweet, a little tart, good snap, with nice char. They were perfect. Rocky wants me emphasize: THEY WERE PERFECT. Everything corn should be.

Pickled and smoked quails egg. Presented in a cloud of smoke, I liked the idea of the warm, smooth, pickled and smoked eggs more than I actually liked tangible manifestation. This was the singular part of the meal that I wasn’t crazy about.

Radish, soil and grass. Carrots and radishes with stems and leaves still attached to the roots in a pot with hazelnut based edible ‘dirt’ bound with herbed yogurt. The tang of the yogurt with the savory crunch of the soil was phenomenal with the roots and spread over the leaves. With a tub of this and a big spoon, I would be a happy guy.

Sorrel leaf and cricket paste. I love leaves. Especially sorrel with it’s citrus-like acidity. These leaves were perfect. I’m not sure what the cricket contributed flavor-wise, but the nasturtium ice elevated the bright acid of the snack, and beet emulsion added a slight sweetness.

Bread service. Sourdough with Swedish grains. Served with brilliant Swedish virgin butter, tart and bright, and pork fat with fried potato and onion.

Menu:

Cooked fava beans and beach herbs. Lightly cooked fava beans, cooked just to the right tenderness. Wood sorrel, portulak(purslane), and some other leaves. And a gentle buttermilk dressing. Very clean and pure vegetal flavors.

Berries and cucumber. Grilled baby cucumber. Swedish berries. Herbs. Chamomile, lemon thyme, and dry verbena broth. An interesting combination. Eating this felt kind of like walking through the forest.

Brown crab, Egg yolk and herbs. Crab, yolk, crab roe, and beach greens finished with an aged Icelandic seaweed broth. The rich yolk was nice to balance the salinity and add body. Great seashore flavors.

Langoustine and söl, Sea and rye. Oyster and parsley emulsion with rye bread crumbs and söl(Icelandic algae) powder played as condiments to a beautifully(barely) cooked, plump, sweet, lightly fibrous langoustine atop a warm stone. Amazing. A true pleasure to eat.

Cauliflower and pine, Cream and horseradish. A broad slice of cauliflower, caramelized on one side with butter and pine, then steamed. Yogurt whey with pine gave a nice cooling effect. A little horseradish gave a little energy lift.

Salsify and truffle, Bread and milk. Roasted salsify wrapped in milk skin, with a bread salad, over Swedish truffle puree.

The hen and the egg. A DIY fried egg. First, the mise en place of leaves, herbs, petals, oil, seasoned butter, and a timer arrived. Then came a hot skillet with an egg on the side. We were told to crack the egg into the skillet. Then given a sequence of additions to follow as the timer counted down. After seeing a few other diners do this first, I didn’t want to do it, but it actually was a lot of fun.

Turbot and bitter greens, Celeriac and mushroom. A meaty fillet of turbot with fresh hazelnuts and bitter greens, dried mushroom-dried berry-juniper wood sauce, and fantastic caramelized celery root. An outstandingly creative combination of flavors to round out the savories of round one.

Blueberries and ants. An ‘ice cream sandwich’ which we were told had 17 elements, but to focus on the blueberry. Alongside nasturtium leaves with blueberry compote and ant paste(made of large, aggressive ants). Both were bright and herbaceous, a little sweet, and a little tart.

Gammel Dansk. Milk ice cream flavored with Gammel Dansk, an herb and spice Danish bitter liquor. Sorrel sauce, sorrel leaves, milk crisps. A refreshing, almost invigorating, dessert. Very impressive.

Petit Fours:

Caramel yeast fudge. Thornberry jam, Icelandic sour cream, elderflower, salt. Presented frozen, these had a really nice chew, with a subtle, rewarding intensity of flavor.

Whey meringue. Covered in a light chocolate shell, with some type of crunchy biscuit in the bottom.

Chocolate potato crisp. Bitter chocolate coated potato chip with fennel seeds.

Some wines we were served:

After dinner, we took a tour of the kitchen, the outdoor storage, the upstairs PDR, the staff dining room, the prep kitchen, the office, the indoor herb garden, etc. Along way we met Food Snob(who now works in administration at Noma and plays a big part in putting on the MAD Symposium), and chatted with Chef Redzepi, who after discussing past, present, and future dining ventures said ‘You guys are fucking crazy!’ which we considered a great compliment. He also gave us suggestions of where to drink and what to see during our stay in Copenhagen. When we got back to our table we were asked if we ‘want to just settle up tonight’ so, yeah, I had a running tab at Noma. We were extended an invitation to join in on their staff meal, which I was on the verge of doing, but it would have left us without much down time to accomplish a few things we wanted to do between meals. So we just planned to see them again in a few hours for round two(which can be seen here).

Date of visit: September 13th, 2012

Noma. Strandgade 93. Copenhagen, Denmark. +45 3296 3297. http://noma.dk/


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