Reprinted with permission of Gerry Dawes.
Reprinted with permission of Gerry Dawes.
Gerry Dawes & Doc Sconzo
Taste of Spain Tour
Nov. 27-Dec. 5, 2010
Tour Organized and Led by
Writer-Photographer & Spain Expert
Premio Nacional de Gastronómía 2003
Food Arts Silver Spoon Award (Dec. 2009)
Gerry Dawes has been traveling the Food and Wine Roads of Spain for more than
40 years and is personally acquainted with hundreds of restaurateurs, chefs,
winemakers and food-and-wine personalities.
Dawes writes and photographs:
Tour accompanied by Dr. John Sconzo,
food aficionado & photographer extraordinarío.
Author & photographer of
The biggest problem with Eataly, the new omni-Italian food emporium on Madison Square park in NYC, is that it is too popular. I have now been there three times, A Sunday, a Thursday and most recently this past Saturday. The place that it most closely resembles in my experience is the Östermalms Saluhall in Stockholm, an amalgamation of retail ingredient stands and restaurants under one roof. Of course the food style is different and unlike the Saluhall, which is composed of a number of competing vendors, many of whom are selling variations of the same thing, Eataly has a variety of areas each focusing on a specific type of Italian product. While much of the product at Eataly is imported from Italy, most of the fresh produce such as the vegetables, meats, seafood and the raw ingredients for the freshly made cheeses, gelati, etc. come from the United States. The quality is by and large exceptional and the food in the restaurants is very, very good. The difficulty? Getting to it.
The only time in my experience that I was able to dine and shop unhindered by crowds was shortly after opening at 10AM on the Thursday I visited. By 11AM, I was hungry for pizza and pasta and had no trouble getting a table directly. Within a half hour or so, however, the lines had formed and the waits had started. While the service was , as one might expect in such a high volume place, a bit perfunctory (a busboy tried to clear a plate while I was still eating from it), the food, including a lovely pizza Margherita with mozzarella di bufala and San Marzano tomatoes was superb. The paccheri with frutte di mare was even better. For those interested in the pizze, a good strategy on busy days is to get one from the Eataly To Go window outside on 24th St. Though there isn't a place to sit, the lines are considerably shorter and the wait is reasonable. The wait inside on the Sunday around 12:30PM was described at about an hour. Sandwiches on the Sunday I was there, including prime rib and roast pork on Italian bread, were tasty, although a bit skimpy on meat and a bit pricey. I was tempted by the raw bar for oysters or clams, but I'm sorry, $30 for a dozen littlenecks on the half shell is a little too expensive. The same price applied to the oysters. While still expensive, I can understand the pricing a little more given the pressure on oyster pricing after the Gulf oil spill. Over all, the quality of the ready to eat food at Eataly is very good and would make a very worthwhile interlude while shopping if and when the crowds calm down a bit.
A bit more accessible, time and price wise, are the sweets and coffee located just off the entrance on Fifth Avenue. The gelati were particularly superb. The pistachio was simply extraordinary, while the fig tasted like I was eating them right off the tree. I was thrilled to discover that the milk for the dairy products made at Eataly, including the gelati and the mozzarella, actually come from the Dairy farm in Washington County, N.Y. where we get our milk from, Battenkill Valley Creamery.
The mozzarella, made continuously in the center hall, has improved in taste over the few weeks since I first visited the market. While never bad, it has ratcheted up in that time, to the point that it is now starting to rival some of the better mozzarelle in the City.
The pasta selection is extraordinary. From a wide variety of freshly made pastas to the cornucopia of imported Italian brands, including the original Italian Barilla, the quality is superb and the prices surprisingly reasonable. The only bafflement for me, was the relatively paltry selection of flat dry pastas such as tagliatelle, fettucine and pappardelle, some of my favorites. Most of the brands were previously unknown to me, but so far, I have tried a few different ones and each has been excellent. Most of the package sizes are in the 500g range, though some are full kilos and others are 250g.
The meat counter is truly beautiful with excellent quality meats including a variety of beef, pork, veal and lamb. I bought some Piemontese beefsteaks from Montana this past weekend, cooked them in the CVap to 125ºF and finished them in a cast-iron griddle pan. Very lean to start, they were surprisingly tender and amazingly flavorful. While not inexpensive, they were truly superb and worth every cent.
The seafood display is amongst the best that I have seen in the USA in terms of variety, however, the quality and freshness appeared to vary. nevertheless, an astute shopper can get some marvelous seafood here that may be otherwise difficult to procure. Of course, as with all quality seafood nowadays, the prices can sometimes leave one gasping for air. The Florida rock shrimp I bought this past weekend, however, were relatively reasonably priced, immaculate and perfect for a ceviche with mango, cilantro, lime, cipolline onion and diced red chile.
The produce section, which even includes its own "vegetable butcher" at no additional cost, maintains some beautiful produce and fruit. While a good portion of it is not particularly Italian, that did not keep me from drooling. The mushroom section with matsutakes, French bluefoot mushrooms, fresh porcini and fresh truffles amongst other varieties was particularly enticing. The mango I purchased to use in my ceviche was at the perfect stage of ripeness.
This incredible emporium has more than just food. It also includes some associated products such as kitchen ware by Italian design companies such as a personal favorite, Guzzini as well as Alessi and others, books and more. The selection of Italian beverages, alcoholic and non is also exceptional. In addition to all of the food, drink, wares and restaurants available, Eataly also intends to become something of a cultural icon in the city, hosting cooking classes and special events such as the upcoming Identita Golose in New York.
Eataly was originally founded in Turin, Italy by Oscar Farinetti in conjunction with Slow Food, the International food related organization started in Italy by Carlo Petrini (more on Carlo Petrini and Slow Food to come soon). Along with Farinetti and his group (Eatly NY is managed by Farinetti's son), partners in Eataly NY include Mario Batalli and Joe and Lidia Bastianich. The objective of the market and Slow Food is to highlight top quality food and make it as accessible as possible. Though the market food isn't being given away, considering the quality, most of it is priced as accessibly as it reasonably could be. The restaurant fare, given that it is basically a glorified mall food court, is a bit of a different story. While the quality of the food itself is still good, the overall value of the experience, including the prices, service, the waits and the generally cramped nature is reduced and at the moment generally not worth it.
There is much to be said for this incredible market. As it stands now, with customers often times having to line up simply to get into the building, it is too crowded and busy to be fully enjoyable. Hopefully, as the novelty wears off, the crowds will dissipate to the point that it can be both a successful business and a totally enjoyable experience.As the dynamics of the place change, the value quotient likely will too, or so I hope. It clearly has a lot of potential to be a truly great one stop shop for dining and retail grocery purchases.
I hope you had a wonderful Columbus Day!
It has been some time since I dined at Mikla, chef Mehmet Gurs’ penthouse restaurant in Istanbul, but the flavors from the night are still fresh in my mind. The meal was a fitting end to a spectacular foray into Turkey; much like the days I spent there; each dish was rich with Mediterranean flavor.
Before I delve into the meal itself, I would like to thank Chef Gurs for accommodating my seven-person group so handily and on such short notice. It was only two weeks before our dinner that the group even decided to travel to Istanbul, so Chef Gurs’ swift generosity in offering a table at which I could celebrate my dad’s birthday from afar must not go unnoticed. We were not an easy group to host, either. Out of the seven of us, only three had the desire to budget for a tasting menu, which made the timing quite difficult, and regrettably unsatisfactory for some.
Although I was assured that everything would be taken care of (it was), I was given a scare when I arrived at the reception to find a reservation for “Johns Gonzo –Party of Two”, written in by the chef himself. Naturally, I assumed that this was meant for me, and that it was incorrect, which caused a bit of difficulty. It was not until a few minutes later when the chef’s very capable manager, Ms. Sabiha Apaydin, found the reservation in my name, two spots underneath Mr. Gonzo’s. I was immediately relieved, and was able to enjoy my evening from that point on.
We spent our first hour at the restaurant’s bar, half of which is an open terrace at what feels like the top of the world, where we drank the sunset along with our Turkish wine. After the sun was down and the city illuminated, we moved to our table at the other side of the restaurant to begin.
The meal began with an amuse of chilled pea soup with the slightest hint of mint – a promising beginning.. The soup hit just the right spot after a hot day in the Turkish sun, and refreshed my palate before I even knew it was necessary. I played a game with the globules of olive oil that dotted the surface as I alternated between spoonfuls of soup laced with olive oil and without. Following the soup was a Carpaccio of North Aegean grouper with Kalamata olives, lemon and dill. Both as a follow-up to the chilled pea soup and simply on its own, the dish was magnificent. Thin slices of grouper were laid out neatly on the plate, with olives and herbs distributed pleasantly along the fish’s surface which made for an exciting time in scooping up all the little bits of flavor. The dish seemed to be the pure essence of the Mediterranean, although I would hardly have pegged it as Turkish. Misconceptions can be funny like that.
The next dish did not play the same tune as the previous two, and instead of light and airy the dried beef with Turkish cheese (that bears resemblance to Parmesan Reggiano) struck a decidedly heavier chord. A hint of nutmeg lined the periphery of the tousled beef while the cheese accented the plate’s hearty attitude. Simply marvelous. The meal seemed to alternate themes from this point forward and pleasantly contrasted my expectations. From the beef and cheese course we were taken back to the Turkish countryside with a plate of goat cheese and fig, accented with a special Turkish preparation of honey, truffles and arugula. My mouth is watering at the thought of succulent fig and honey juxtaposed against the dryness of the goat cheese and arugula.
While the previous courses evoked thoughts of Tuscany, it wasn’t until the next course that it became clear that Mikla is a Turkish restaurant, first and foremost. The cherry wood smoked lamb loin with a walnut pistou and pinto bean puree precisely satisfied my preconceptions of gourmet Turkish cuisine. The walnuts complemented the nuttiness of the rare protein, and as such the three of us doing the tasting were absolutely floored.
The next course saw a return to the sea, and featured grilled grouper, anchovy and olive oil-poached artichoke. Its artful presentation added to the course, with splashes of color provided by tufts of asparagus, zucchini and a fantastically flavorful red/green olive puree around the uniform tones in the center of the plate. This is fish done right.
The final savory course was a beef cheek and vegetable “pot au feu” with some more pea soup serving as a sauce if one so desires. I did, and so consumed my simultaneously light and substantial entrée with gusto. The light mint of the soup wonderfully lifted the darker flavors of the beef cheek into a very successful balance. Although each seafood dish performed wonderfully on its own, it was the clearly the turf that took dinner to another level.
We finished up with four phenomenally prepared desserts, each one as good as the last. Starting off was the “Bergama Tulum” (Turkish cheese) with a fig confit and walnut puree. The richness of the nuts and cheese paired well with the sweet confit and the resulting plate felt distinctively Turkish, much like the lamb. Following that was the vanilla panna cotta with a wild lavender flower preserve. Although the preserve was very sweet, when taken in moderation with the panna cotta it made for a wonderfully creamy and delicious dessert.
The final two courses seemed to depart somewhat from the Mediterranean theme, with a warm raspberry soup and vanilla ice cream, as well as the “Truffled Truffle”. The raspberry course was reminiscent of a deconstructed pie, and the inclusion of the vanilla ice cream made it seem vaguely American. That isn’t to say it was bad, it was in fact far from it, but it was certainly unexpected. The small truffle was served under a glass dome on top of its plating, which intrigued me greatly. Inside of the chocolate exterior was a creamy concoction of cognac, truffle, and more chocolate, which absolutely blew me away as I finished out the meal.
Altogether, I was thoroughly impressed by Mikla. Mehmet Gurs’s operation on top of the city gets my wholehearted recommendation for the smoothness of its operation, its friendly service and particularly the incredible quality of its food. I’m sure that he has developed some new dishes over the four months since I’ve been there that I would love to get out and try. It’s just too bad I won’t be able to travel abroad again for a very long time.
The end of a great meal is always a bittersweet experience. I am exhilarated by the meal I just had, but saddened that it is done. Such was the case when Scott Boswell and I finished our dinner at noma. Our sadness, however, was considerably tempered by the fact that we would be returning to the restaurant in just a few hours for lunch, this time accompanied by our wives and my one-day-shy-of-eleven year old son. In addition, we would get to experience some of noma's culinary history. Our dinner consisted of noma's current menu and some of its newest dishes. The lunch would consist of a collection of dishes from the last three years. We left our dinner at noma the night before quite happy. We had eaten an amazing meal and were coming back for more!
The snacks we had at lunch were the same that we had at dinner the night before. A discussion of them with photos can be found here.One dish that requires a little further discussion is the live fjord shrimp. For his age, my son is a very experienced and adventurous diner, but I knew that he would be challenged eating the live fjord shrimp and he was.Rene Redzepi told us that about 90% of the people to whom he serves it are challenged by it. He says, "It's because of the eyes...an oyster, no problem, it doesn't look at you and move, but essentially it's the same thing." My son did eat it, but didn't really enjoy it and unfortunately, it put him a little on edge going into the rest of the meal. Happily, his raised defenses soon began to melt away.
At dinner, Scott and I very much enjoyed the wine pairings using the wines of the Loire Valley. Since many of the same wines would be paired with lunch, I opted to experience another side of noma that I had heard about - their natural juices, and had my lunch paired with them. Another reason for choosing the juices was that I would be having dinner later that night at Restaurant A.O.C. and wanted to limit my alcohol to remain fresh for that - or at least as fresh as possible. That didn't stop me from trying noma's own Pilsner style beer to start my meal. It was golden, hearty and refreshing.
Cucumber was the unifying bridge between the first full course and the paired juice. We were served a salad, but a salad unlike any that I had ever had before. Called "Gem Salad and Hazelnut Milk, White Currant and Juniper", the main part of the salad was the leaves and the root of a gem lettuce that had been cooked in an aromatic tea made from "wild plants." The root was then sliced and arranged on the plate looking like little white coins. The cooked leaves were arranged around the salad with a perimeter of nasturtium leaves, while the plate was dotted with sweetly tart white currants. This all rested on a small pool of hazelnut milk and was dressed on top with a vinaigrette of green juniper oil from Gotland and apple vinegar. Each plate also held a cucumber blossom that added a bit of cucumber flavor and a touch of color to the dish. The juice was a cucumber juice, which truly tasted of the essence of itself and mingled nicely with the faintly sweet salad. The dish was a lovely study in texture with no element proving overly assertive, but each adding subtle nuance.
Invasive species can be a real problem. Sometimes, however, an invasive species can be an improvement - at least culinarily. The razor clams in the next dish, Razor Clam and Parsley, Horseradish and Dill, are Pacific razor clams, which have invaded and overtaken the native variety. Chef Redzepi prefers these clams to the native North Atlantic variety, stating "they are quite larger, do extremely well in our cool waters and are extremely tasty." Not having a basis at hand to directly compare the two varieties, I can't personally confirm the differences, but these clams were certainly quite tasty, quite large and quite beautifully presented, wrapped in a shiny parsley sheet next to grated frozen horseradish with a swirl of clam and dill juice poured onto the plate. Chef Redzepi, who serve the dish, urged us to use the spoon and the fork to get each of the flavor elements in each bite. He was right about that too.
I have certainly had pineapple juice before, but this was the first time I ever had apple pine juice. The next juice pairing was apple juice infused with pine. It was a remarkably delicious combination, tart, sweet and with added depth from the pine. It was paired with another dish that I had a version of in NY at the Corton dinner, Tartar and Sorrel, Tarragon and Juniper.
One of the oldest dishes still in their rotation, the development of this dish has an interesting story. Chef Redzepi explained that when this dish was first conceived, it seemed that most new dishes were being prepared with some type of new machinery and/or new chemical. While he has nothing against either of those things, he and his crew wanted to see if they could " make a dish where we only used our hands and still make it feel innovative." They used to make this dish with a mortar, but now they do use a blender. At the Corton dinner, I was enthralled by Redzepi's skillful use of sourness, especially with sorrel. In Copenhagen, the sorrel was even more sour, but the dish was even better. As Chef Redzepi explained to us, in Denmark he is able to get wild woodsorrel, which grows in shade in forests. By virtue of being relatively sun deprived, the wood sorrel, a type of oxalis, becomes even more sour. While I enjoy sour, too much can be unpleasant. With this even more sour wood sorrel, I was even more amazed by Chef Redzepi's balancing skill. He had instructed us to pick up a little of the meat and and a little of the sorrel with our hands, dip it in crushed juniper then in a tarragon emulsion before eating it. Eating this dish was as much fun as it was delicious and it was quite delicious. The apple pine juice made a perfect pairing.
There are few things I enjoy eating more than langoustines. I was thrilled when I saw them come out on the next plate. I use the term “plate” loosely, as the langoustines were served on large stones. Nevertheless, or more likely, as a result of the stones, the dish, Langoustines and Söl, Rye and Parsley, was particularly stunning and dramatic. Once again, we were instructed to eat the langoustines with our hands, picking them up and dipping them in beads of “mayonnaise,” which was actually an emulsion made from Pacific oysters and seaweed. The protein rich oysters are simply blended with a touch of oil before the seaweed is added. The result is a deep, rich, primal oceanic flavor. The langoustines, small, but extremely flavorful, were, according to Chef Redzepi, alive just a couple of hours before. They are fished from very deep waters from a specific area of the Faroe Islands, which are located in the North Sea between Iceland and Norway, to the northwest of Scotland. They were magnificent.
Potatoes and Milk Skin, Lovage and Yogurt was really a study in potatoes, with the other ingredients used to highlight the essential potato-ness of the dish. In the center of the plate lay a very smooth potato puree made only from potatoes and potato stock without any fat. To add a little creaminess to the dish, the kitchen layered milk skin on top. Some slightly cooked small potatoes were scattered around the plate to provide textural contrasts, while chervil and watercress stems were placed to add color, flavor and visual drama. The dish was finished with a sauce made from yogurt whey and lovage oil. It was a surprisingly complex dish with many subtle nuances of flavor and texture. It was my son's favorite savory dish of the meal.
A pairing with a crazy good, flavor saturated celery juice couldn't have been better.The celery juice was carried through to the following course, King Crab and Leek, Ashes and Mussels.
The king crab, from the north of Norway, was plated next to the leeks, which had been covered in hay ash. The small logs were then bathed table-side with a foamy sauce of mussels. The plate was then sprinkled and finished with fried bread crumbs. One might think that the ash would impart a burnt or at least strongly smokey flavor to the dish, but somehow it doesn't. The overall gestalt of the dish was similar to the langoustine dish from earlier and the oyster dish from last night, incorporating very elemental and primal sea flavors and eliciting a very specific taste memory. Ash coatings seem to be a growing trend. According to the noma staff, the use of ash in food was a Viking tradition. More recently, I first became of the creative use of ash in modern cooking via Andoni Luis Aduriz, who presented his ash coated beef at Madrid Fusión several years ago. This particular dish, was put in service at noma over the past three years or so and Redzepi may have used ash before then, so it is not clear to me, if one has come from the other's influence or if they were arrived at independently. I have since seen ash used elsewhere, most recently prior to this meal at Town House in Chilhowie, Virginia, where leek ash was used in a lamb dish. This would also not be the last meal I would encounter an ash coating on this trip. The ash is certainly visually striking and all the dishes I have had with it, have been outstanding, yet I have so far been unable to discern more than a subtle flavor contribution from the ash in those dishes. Based on the evidence, I have had so far, though, I am happy to continue exploring its continued evolution.
Like the celery juice before it, noma's carrot juice spoke of the essence of the very best carrots. This was poured more for fun to taste it then it was to be a specific pairing for the next dish, Turbot and Stems.
The turbot was spectacularly delicious, served with a sauce of elderberry capers, white wine and roasted turbot bones and accompanied by celeriac, puree, beach cabbage leaves and a variety of stems and herbs. Though the plating could not be considered so, this dish, was perhaps the most classical of all that we had. It is also one of the oldest noma dishes that we had, as it has been served using different fish and accompaniments seasonally “for a long time.” This was another of my son's favorite dishes. In my estimation, fish doesn't come any better than this.
Sea buckthorn is a flavor I had been totally unfamiliar with prior to this trip to Scandinavia, but it is a flavor that I will now seek out when I can. The next dish was accompanied by a sea buckthorn juice, that was bright, tart, refreshing, addicting and colorful. Its flavor seems like it should come from a tropical fruit rather than a berry from very northern latitudes.
The parade of seafood continued with Lobster and Red Currant, Rosehip and Salad. The lobster was sauteed and served with a lobster cream that used the lobster coral, lightly cooked lettuce leaf, roasted salad root, pickled rose petals, sorrel leaves and a creamy red currant wine sauce. The lobster, barely cooked, was sweet and tender. Sorrel leaves added a nice, piquant component while the rose petals added a touch of sweetness. The dish was pure, luxurious decadence.
Our last savory dish moved away from the sea. Beef Cheek and Verbena, Pear and Endive. The cheek from ox was braised in hay at 72ºC for 24 hours and served with chicory (endive) cooked in red currant wine sauce, pear, verbena, a verbena and spinach puree and a sauce which had been cooked with chicken and brown butter and poured table-side. This dish really reflects Redzepi's pairing talents, utilizing ingredients that most mortals would not consider to be intuitive combinations such as ox cheek and pear and performing culinary alchemy to create something absolutely marvelous.
Lingonberry juice worked well with the dish. It had a flavor and mouthfeel reminiscent of cranberry juice, but deeper, fuller and more robust.
The forest in summertime was the theme of our first dessert, a noma classic, entitled simply, Blueberries and Wood Sorrel. The dish contained wild Danish blueberries, a blueberry sorbet, a pine granita layered on top to look like forest moss, a pine flavored sorbet, wood sorrel leaves, wild thyme flowers, brioche croutons for crunch and pine oil to finish. This dish, marvelously creative, fully reflects the Scandinavian basis of Redzepi's cooking.
Elderflower liqueur has become quite fashionable in recent years and with good reason. The juice at noma, served with the first dessert supported it - refreshing and delicious.
I'm not sure that I have ever tasted a better dessert than Walnut and Blackberries, Cream and Powder, despite the fact that I am generally not terribly enthusiastic about either walnuts or blackberries. Walnut is incorporated into an ice cream and a powder. The powder is made using walnut oil and maltodextrin. The dish includes frozen cream and dried blackberry. Minimalist in appearance, the flavors are anything but, achieving great depth and perfect balance. I loved this when I had it in NY at the Corton dinner and I loved it no less here.
It was paired with sorrel juice, which really, really grew on me the more I drank it. Outstanding!
Our final dessert, based on a Danish breakfast called Øllebrød, which basically means "beer bread", consisted of a small porridge made from rye bread and ale. The bread had been soaked in the ale for a while then pureed. Underneath there was milk foam and skyr sorbet. This dessert straddled the boundary between sweet and savory, reminiscent of Sam Mason's Beer and Pretzels dessert that he served at Tailor and I most recently had at a Sam Mason retrospective dinner at Aldea. Both desserts are definitely designed for adult palates and work extremely well for them.
Based on the previous night's dinner and the day's lunch, it is interesting to try to gauge how noma has changed over these recent years. While delicious proteins were served throughout both dinners, it struck me that over the past three years the emphasis of the plates has shifted away from the central proteins and more towards the supporting elements or vegetables as the main element on the plate. At lunch two of the savory courses lacked any visible or central animal protein, while at dinner there were four and those dishes that did possess significant animal protein, seemed to use them in more integrated ways, such as The Hen and the Egg, The Oyster and the Sea and the Dried Scallops with Watercress and Biodynamic Grains. As the animal proteins appear to have receded from their centrality, the dishes have also become even more sophisticated. Of course one dinner and a lunch is not enough evidence to commit to such a sweeping conclusion, but these are the impressions I was left with after our too brief journey into the cuisine of noma.
I was left with even more impressions and thoughts about this wonderful restaurant. The food at noma is delicious, original, beautiful and of a place. The service is friendly, warm, efficient and extremely professional. The space is warm, inviting and comfortable. It is no wonder that Rene Redzepi and his restaurant have become popular, but I believe that what makes it resonate so deeply with its diners goes beyond that. noma merges modern sophistication, elegance, luxury and comfort with something more elemental or even primal. With an emphasis on such things as roots, rocks, seaweed, raw food, red food, marrow, eating with hands, skins on the chairs, woodsy interior, foraging, pine, berries, wildflowers and more, noma taps in to atavistic tendencies that run deep in our collective psyche. It strikes a deep chord. That it is done so well helps that chord ring loud and true, making for a very powerful and visceral response from most diners. In a sense, as modern diners, we have a restaurant in which can have our cake and can eat it too. We have a very sophisticated restaurant that comfortably allows us to deeply respond to deep primal culinary instincts.This time we left noma not having the consolation of returning for yet another meal there in a few hours. That was indeed very sad, but we still had some other things to look forward to.
With the light snacks behind us, we moved into the more substantial dinner plates. While the food was to remain true to the restaurant's Scandinavian roots, we diverged from a pure Nordic experience when we elected the wine pairings to accompany the food. The noma wine list strays from Scandinavia, but it doesn't stray far, as it only lists wines from Europe, with an emphasis on wines from northern Europe.That evening they were focusing on wines from the Loire Valley of France, which also happen to be some of the most food-friendly wines in the world. The choices were superb. Not only did they work beautifully with the food, they were delicious on their own, a trait not always present in wine pairings. I did not complain about the variation in terroir.
The change in direction of the meal was indicated by the arrival of noma's incredible bread and accompanying spreads. While I do not consider bread to be the sine qua non of a restaurant, I do feel that a restaurant's approach to bread is generally indicative of their approach to food. Some restaurants don't offer bread at all. I would rather that than receive a half-baked attempt. Other restaurants offer a variety of breads. I am often tempted to try the gamut, especially if they are good, but I tend to shy away. Usually, though, bread is not something more than a way to fill time and a mouth between courses. While noma did not set out a variety of breads, they did set out what may have been the most perfect bread I have ever eaten. It was still warm with a wonderfully crusty exterior and a light and fluffy crumb. A sourdough with a special flour originally from Sweden called Ølands, but now grown in Denmark, the bread is baked fresh twice daily, before each service. Though it is so good it doesn't need any accompaniment, it came with pork fat spiked with apple aquavit and "virgin" butter from Goteborg, Sweden. The butter , incredibly light and fluffy, is called "virgin" because it still contains the buttermilk along with the butterfat and contains the natural acidity of the buttermilk. If this is how good "light" butter can be, bring it on!
We had already tasted the small fjord shrimp, which are caught at a depth of only one meter. The next dish highlighted deep-sea shrimp. The shrimp were served raw and cold amongst several large stones on a plate representing a rocky beach. They were laying atop a vinaigrette of fresh, biodynamic unhomogenized cream with dill oil, beach plants and frozen summer urchin. These urchin, low in roe, are juiced, which is then frozen and grated.Chef Redzepi delivered the dish himself and advised us to try some of each element in each bite. The result was a beautiful, refreshing and delicious dish. The urchin played a supporting role here as it was not as assertive as a typical roe-laden example.
To this point, we had been drinking the champagne that was served with the snacks. From here on, we began the formal pairings with the wines from small family-estate biodynamic producers from the Loire Valley of France. The first formal pairing was the 2007 Cheverny from Domaine Philippe Tessier called "La Charbonnerie" from the eastern Loire Valley.This was a mineral rich half Chardonnay/half Sauvignon Blanc that was paired with a dish familiar to me from Redzepi's dinner at Corton. The Dried Scallops and Watercress with Biodynamic Cereals and Hazel Nut did, in fact, taste different from the one in NY. This time the dish was prepared with Scandinavian ingredients.The scallops were sliced thin and dried at 80ºC for twenty four hours, crisping them and lending them roasted tones as the sugars of the scallops were slowly caramelized. Underneath lay four different varieties of biodynamic grains. The grains were bound with a puree of watercress. In NY, Redzepi used beechnuts to add another crunch, but here used toasted hazelnuts since beechnuts were out of season. A sauce made from squid and a little seaweed finished the dish. The dish was a textural tour de force between the crispness of the scallop, the plush softness of the grains, the crunch of the nuts and the liquidity of the sauce. The flavors were deep and rich with a strong nuttiness. The sour aspect of the dish here was more muted than the one served in New York, but was still present. Though the main protein of this dish was from the sea, the overall effect was one of earthiness.
The essence of the sea can be elusive. It is easy to suggest the sea, especially when it comes to food, but it is not always so easy to truly evoke it, to make it real right in front of the diner. I've experienced it in restaurants before, but not very often. I have yet to dine at The Fat Duck, so I haven't experienced Heston Blumenthal's ode to the sea, in which he utilizes an ipod to add an aural element to his dish. Earlier in this very meal, Redzepi's shrimp dish on the rocks visually evoked the sea, but the dish, while wonderful in many respects, including deliciousness, didn't fully transport me right to the very ocean. His next dish, however, did, and without any props, but the food itself. The dish could not have been any more accurately titled, The Oyster and the Sea. The magnificent, wild-harvested oyster itself came from the west coast of Denmark, from a large fjord, called Limfjord that extends across most of the northern part of the country. This essentiall oyster was lightly steamed over sea rocks and seaweed. Inside the shell, the oyster was joined by pickled elderberry capers, tapioca pearls and some herbs. The elderberries were picked unripe and pickled for a year in salt and vinegar. The ones in our oysters were picked a year ago. The elderberries for next year's capers, it turns out, had been picked that very morning.The net effect of the dish was to transport me directly to the primal sea, such that if I closed my eyes, I felt as if I was there.
This oceanic dish was followed soon after by another very earthy dish, Cauliflower and Pine. We had first experienced Redzepi's use of pine during our snacks when he used a little as a component of a savory cookie. In this dish, spruce boughs were used as a flavoring element for cauliflower. The cauliflower was surrounded by the spruce in an enameled cast iron pot and steamed slowly for an hour and a half with some caramelization occurring on the bottom surface of the cauliflower. After an initial presentation to us, it was brought back to the kitchen for plating. When it returned , a sauce of whey and spruce oil was poured over the cauliflower while a dollop of whipped cream with horseradish was spooned onto the plate. Redzepi encouraged us to dig right in, emphasizing that temperature was essential to the dish. It's funny how specific dishes can trigger certain memories. The dish reminded Scott of Euell Gibbons, a well known proponent of natural diets, who in a 1974 ad for Grape-Nuts cereal, asked "Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible." In many respects, Gibbons was before his time. Redzepi and his friends from Cook it Raw are direct descendants of his approach. Of course, cauliflower, is not ostentatious when it comes to flavor and can be easily overwhelmed. I might have thought that the pine would have done just that, but it didn't. It gave enough flavor to color the vegetable, but not drown it. The same was true for the horseradish. This particular dish was subtle. It was paired with a dry Vouvray, "Les Grenouilles" 2007 from Domaine du Petit Coteau.
In New York, we were treated to a very special carrot. In Copenhagen, it was celeriac that was served with black truffle and garden sorrel. Upon its initial presentation, I thought it was a baby chicken. The young celeriac was roasted for about two hours in goat butter along with wild sorrel that grows around the celeriac. The celeriac was started upon our arrival and turned often throughout the roasting process. The flavor had intensified over that time. The sauce was made with Swedish black truffles from Gotland. This was a dish that did not initially knock me over the head, but grew on me as I ate it, to the point that I enjoyed it very much. It was paired with a tasty and very interesting chenin blanc "Vin de France" called "La Lune" made in Anjou by Mark Angeli at his La Ferme de la Sansonniére.
The quality of the service at noma has been amply described elsewhere. The dishes are served by the cooks themselves, which provides a depth of knowledge to the delivery that simply can't be duplicated elsewhere. It provides yet a closer connection to the food itself. It is interesting to note a similar model now being incorporated into the service at NYC's Eleven Madison Park. Yet, the cooks are not the only servers. The dedicated front of the house staff also does an extraordinary job handling the wines as well as some of the more mundane aspects of good service such as bussing, replenishing liquids and providing fresh napkins. The attitude is warm and friendly without being overly familiar, which to me is the ideal. This provides a level of comfort that at noma is magnified by the room itself. With plenty of wood and warm wood tones, it is relaxing, yet still surprisingly elegant. The latter part is most definitely helped by the generous spacing of chairs and tables as well as the sheepskins on the backs of the chairs and the focused lighting. One thing the room is not is pretentious.
The next dish was Onions in Different Textures. It was as thorough and delicious an exploration of this ingredient as I have ever encountered. On the bottom of the plate was a compote of slowly cooked caramelized onions, that was glazed with a melted cheese from Sweden. Around it were two different types of onion shells. The larger, white ones were from new onions and were lightly cooked in butter. The smaller brown ones had been pickled in beer and honey. This was dressed with an onion bouillon. Atop it all were "air onions," small seeds of wild onions, which had been slightly cooked and mixed in amongst tapioca pearls. The greens on the plate were chickweed - herbs that grow around onions - and also chive flowers and leek. The cheese covered compote was reminiscent of the very best French onion soup. I suppose that this could be considered a "Danish" Onion Soup. The whole dish was simply a knockout, providing a new flavor palate for onion along with much that was familiar.
The next dish, accompanied by a rosé, all pinot noir champagne from Olivier Horiot called Séve, involved a little theater and diner participation. Called The Hen and the Egg, it consisted of us frying our own eggs for a precise, predetermined period of time (one minute and thirty seconds) in a hot cast iron pan with hay oil. Once the time is up, a pat of thyme butter is added to the pan along with lovage and spinach leaves for a quick saute. The cook then returns to add sauce and finish the dish with herbs, flowers and crispy potato strands. Aside from being fun, it was also rather tasty!
Pickled Vegetables is a name that did not fit the glory of the next dish. With a variety of vegetables pickled in their own brine including yellow beets, elderflowers, hip roses, red beets, the dish also included bone marrow and a sauce from roast pork. The dish was both beautiful and deliriously delicious and my favorite of the evening, reminding me of the minestrone dish I had at Town House earlier in the summer in terms of its vegetable base, deliciousness and incredible beauty.
Red, a visual and gustatory study of the color arrived at the table along with a pouring of our first red wine of the night, a 2005 red Sancerre, "Belle Dame", from Domaine Vacheron. The wine, a pinot noir, was not particularly tannic or heavy. It was excellent and paired well with the evening's final savory course, Deer and Wild Thyme, Red Beets and Red Fruits. The idea behind this dish, as with many of the dishes at noma is to pair the principle ingredients with others with which they coexist in nature. In the case of this dish, the deer exists in the forest and walks on and eats the wild seeds, berries, fennel, parsnips and other elements found in this dish. Though beets aren't really part of that equation, they are included and provide additional color, depth, flavor and a touch of sweetness. The venison,taken from wild roe deer from Sweden, was obviously cooked "red" and was delicious. It blended visually with the beets and berries and gave off a primal air. The deep red was only disrupted by a touch of green from the thyme. It was a marvelous dish on many levels. The venison, excellent on its own was elevated further by the other items on the plate. This dish represents the art and alchemy of cooking on the highest level.
After the venison, we grudgingly moved on away from the savory part of the meal into the sweet. That transition was aided by the arrival of a fascinating and delicious wine, Ze Bulle Zéro. Pointe, a wine that breaks all appellation rules. Made from chenin blanc using biodynamic methods, the gas released during fermentation is captured and placed back with the wine during bottling. Declassified according to the appellation rules of Saumur, the wine is nevertheless delicious, sweet, but balanced with great acidity.
Once the first dessert, really an intermezzo, came out, our regrets about moving past the savories completely disintegrated. As delicious as it was beautiful, Hay and Chamomile with Sorrel and Wild Herbs made me fully appreciate anew the conceit of bringing savory elements into the realm of dessert. Hay parfait had been aerated and served with chamomile jelly made from fresh chamomile as well as sorrel juice with rapeseed (canola) oil and a number of different herbs and flowers.
Rene Redzepi certainly likes sorrel. Before first encountering the sorrel in his dishes at his NYC dinner, I can't recall more than a handful of dishes that I have had in my life that had featured the herb. The next dessert, "Gammel Dansk", Milk and Woodsorrel, featured it yet again. In lesser hands, this degree of relying so heavily on a single herb family might have come monotonous and cloying, but in Redzepi's hands, new vistas kept opening up to make me appreciate it in so many different ways. "Gammel Dansk" is a traditional Danish bitters drink. In this dessert it was utilized as the base for an ice cream. The acidic woodsorrel was used to complement the sweetness of the ice cream. The dessert was finished with "milk" crisps on top and "milk" crumbs below.
We were poured another chenin blanc, this time a Coteaux du Layon "Fleurs D'Erables" from Domaine des Sablonettes. Wonderfully botrytized and acidic, this wine enhanced our final, and yet again, savory based dessert, Jerusalem Artichoke and Marjoram, Apple and Malt. The jerusalem artichoke came in the form of an ice cream.The apples were compressed with French apple juice and there was apple sauce on the bottom of the plate. In addition, there was malt oil, malt cookies and marjoram. Both the apples and the malt cookies were made into equal sized discs that provided visual as well as taste and textural contrast. I initially had doubts about this dish, especially as a dessert, most likely secondary to the presence of the malt, but the dish was fantastic and a suitable ending to the dinner progression.
It wasn't , however, quite the end of our meal. As an aquavit neophyte, I asked for a recommendation for a good aquavit with which to complete the meal. The response was that we would be surprised and we were! We were poured a line of different Danish spirits starting with a fruit based spirit made with Danish apples called "Ingrid Marie", then a Danish Schnapps that had been matured with sloe berries for a year, then another with walnuts and yet another made with Icelandic seaweed that was made especially for noma, called "The Sea at noma." We certainly received a grand introduction. Each was delicious with, of course, the noma seaweed schnapps being the most unique.
The real end of this glorious dinner came with the final mignardises, which included the justifiably famous bone marrow caramel, more salty and smokey than sweet and made with actual veal marrow; a "creme bun" that contained no cream and was not a bun, but is a danish classic (It is actually a small malt biscuit with a meringue flavored with the whey from yogurt to give it acidity and covered with sweet milk chocolate); and finally a bitter chocolate covered potato chip sprinkled with fennel seeds. Naturally, each of these were presented in keeping with the style of noma. The bone marrow caramels were wrapped in butcher's paper and twine while the others were brought in tins.
This was truly an extraordinary tour-de-force meal that confirmed for us all the accolades that have been bestowed upon this revolutionary restaurant in recent years. The ambiance was warm and relaxed. The service was warm and professional, the wine was well thought out, delicious, interesting and extremely well paired and the food was original, delicious and completely of its place. There will not, can not be another noma somewhere else in the world. There may someday be one that will attempt to replicate what is here, but if there is, it will not succeed, for noma is a restaurant of a very specific terroir. noma was good, indeed very, very good at Corton in NYC. That evening was a smash success, but that was as much due to its unique event status as much as the excellent food of both Redzepi and Liebrandt. It was noma, but it was noma NYC, something I could not fully appreciate until I ate some of the same dishes at noma, the one and only, in Copenhagen. That Corton meal was a great introduction to Redzepi and his concepts, but it was not a substitute or a replacement for the original. Certainly the geographic stamp of the food from nearby in Scandinavia has something significant to do with that, but that is only part of the story. Another, perhaps even more important part of the story is the level of comfort of Redzepi and his crew in their home. This is clearly their space and it is a space that they make full use of. By all means, one should experience the food of noma wherever and whenever one can, but one should never let that substitute for the inimitable original.
Having spent a good part of the day visiting noma and getting a behind-the-scenes look at its operations, Chef Scott Boswell and I made it back through the cold Copenhagen rain to relax a little and change before we returned for dinner at 6:30PM. Our wives and my son spent the day sightseeing in the city and on this night would have dinner at Kodbyens Fiskebaren, a seafood oriented restaurant not too far from our hotel. As they would be dining with us at noma the next day for lunch, neither Scott nor I felt too guilty about doing this noma day on our own, especially as Fiskebaren was another restaurant we also wanted to get to. We had to settle this time for a vicarious experience from there.
That Scott and I would be doing both dinner and lunch at noma was a direct inspiration taken from this post by the esteemed Food Snob, a man whose dining experience leaves us in awe. While we were not to follow the exact format of Food Snob's noma marathon, we did keep to the spirit of it. Our dinner was to be taken from the current noma menu, including some brand new dishes. The lunch would be comprised of dishes from over the last three years or so. The snacks were to be the same in each meal and representative of the current menu. This post will focus on the snacks with subsequent posts focusing on the principle plates from each meal.
By the time the early evening rolled around, the rain had stopped and the weather had become pleasant. While not clear, the sky was reasonably bright, which was fortunate as we were seated comfortably at a table next to a window with plenty of space to set up my camera. Once we sat down, our dinner started promptly with a glass of crisp, non-vintage brut nature Champagne from André Beaufort and the start of the snacks. These proceded to follow one another with a fairly rapid, but not too rapid pace. We were allowed to enjoy each one, but did not have to wait long for the next delight to follow.
The first snack, Nasturtiums and Snails, were already on the table, comprising a significant part of the floral arrangement. The snail, from Sweden, was embedded in the flower along with some remoulade. Taking the wild foraged nasturtium straight from the centerpiece, we ate it in one bite as instructed. It was a wonderfully clever, whimsical and tasty way to begin this adventure of a meal.
What initially piqued my interest in noma several years ago, were the descriptions of a chef using ingredients from an area not particularly known for its native cuisine in fascinating new ways, creating a new Nordic culinary style. The nasturtium and the snail as well as the rest of the meal followed that path.
Sea Buckthorn Leather and Pickled Hip Roses quickly followed the first snack. This bite was colorful and tasty, sea buckthorn being an ingredient new to me, but reminding me of tutti-frutti chewing gum - in a good way! It was sweet and acidic and combined with the pickled rose petals, pleasantly floral.Rose can be an overpowering flavor, but this one carried just the right nuance. The texture was slightly chewy, but not persistently or annoyingly so. The combination wasn't just a happy accident. Both the sea buckthorn (a berry) and the hip roses grow by each other on the Nordic coast. As the cook who brought them said, "they know each other." The bite left a smile on my lips.
Fried Leek and garlic also brought smiles to our lips. A leek was brought for each of us. The root end had been dipped in a batter and fried and was served with a bit of garlic puree on the batter-fried roots. We were instructed to pick it up and take a small bite, not too far up the leek, as only the lower part was cooked. The combination of sweet cooked leek and crisp roots along with the flavor of the garlic worked nicely.
Earlier in the day, as Chef Redzepi was showing us around the workings of the restaurant, he received a shipment from a day-boat fisherman containing live fjord shrimp. He tasted one then and there to assess it's quality. When I asked if I could try one like that, he promised that I would - at dinner. That time had now come. Several of the small, live shrimp were brought out anesthetized on ice in a mason jar. They were to be picked up and dipped in a brown butter emulsion before being dropped whole in the mouth. The sensation of eating a live, wriggling shrimp was an odd one, as tasty as it was. While I had no compunction about it and quite enjoyed it, the next day, at lunch, my young gastronomically inclined son did not have as easy a time with it. He did eventually pop it into his mouth, but he couldn't bring himself to chew it and swallowed it whole, thereby missing its fine and delicate flavor.
Next out was a savory cookie made with salt instead of sugar. It was served with a slice of "speck," which was described as Danish cured pork fat. It was topped with a black currant paste and a sprig of pine. The presentation of this snack was special. They were brought out in a cookie tin with each cookie sitting in its own little wrapper. A nice little touch though was the presence of empty wrappers in the container, providing a feeling that the cookies were a shared treat of hospitality, which in fact they were, albeit in a restaurant setting. This was also our first experience with pine during the trip, something that would pop up again, both at noma and elsewhere during our Scandinavian odyssey. Pine appears, largely due to Redzepi's influence, to be the "it" ingredient of the moment in Scandinavia.
Not all of the snacks were new to the menu, even though all were current to it. Our next snack was one that was described as a noma "classic" although the filling changes seasonally. It consisted of a template of crispy rye bread on top and crispy chicken skin on the bottom. The filling served to us consisted of Rygeost, a fresh danish smoked cheese that was blended with lovage leaves and yellow split peas. It was delicate and light, a lovely bite!
My son's favorite snack when he came to noma in March was the pickled and smoked quail egg. The eggs were brought out in an egg-shaped box that was opened at the table to reveal an egg for each of us sitting upon some lightly smoking hay. It had also been lightly smoked with apple wood and pickled in apple vinegar from the orchard of noma co-owner Claus Meyer. Popping the soft egg in my mouth in one bite and eating it was a delight as it contained a wonderful balance of flavor to go with its soft and gooey texture. I had never had an egg like it before.
I had tried the next dish before when Redzepi and his crew came to New York in June and cooked at Corton. The radish and carrot with soil and herbs was better for me this time, as I had a better understanding of how to eat the dish, scooping up the yogurt base and crumbly roasted malt "dirt" with the root vegetables,ensuring a more even distribution of flavor and textural contrasts.
Conceptually similar to the rye bread/chicken skin cookie, the next snack was a "sandwich" of sorts. This one consisted of a base of wavy crisp bread with dots of a cod roe emulsion placed on top of it and with various herbs placed on top of them. This was then dusted with a vinegar powder and the whole thing was covered with a "crispy duck stock" made from the natural film that forms atop a duck stock. The film was skimmed off, then dried. Though difficult to eat gracefully, this take-off on the traditional Danish open-faced sandwiches called smørrebrød was a quite unusual and quite extraordinary bite.
I saw Chef Redzepi make aebleskiver, Danish pancakes, in Madrid in 2008 when he presented at Madrid Fusión. These savory lard-fried pancakes contained cucumber, vinegar powder (vinegars are used to provide acidity to dishes in lieu of citrus, which is used more commonly in southern Europe)and a preserved sardine-like freshwater fish from Finland called muikko, which appeared to be swimming directly through the pancake.
Redzepi has plenty of experience working and learning outside of Copenhagen, including at elBulli for the 1999 season. His use of "snacks" to open the meal bears the stamp of the Adrias' influence, but while Redzepi owes a debt to that experience, he has forged his own identity.Like the snacks at elBulli, this part of the meal was fast, but appropriately paced, as the various snacks were generally one or two bite morsels.While all were delicious, they also were fun and playful. Other than the format and the sense of playfulness, noma's snacks bear little resemblance to those served at the Catalan cove as those from the Adria's had a tendency to represent Mediterranean or other world culinary influences, while Redzepi's focused directly on Scandinavia. Regardless of influence, the snacks made for a marvelous introduction for what was yet to come.
In the second half of August I had the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen and visit noma, the restaurant now considered by The San Pellegrino World's Fifty Best Restaurants as the number one restaurant in the world. Prior to dining there, I had the opportunity to visit the restaurant before lunch service and had a tour from Chef Rene Redzepi himself. We were joined by my friend and dinner partner, Chef Scott Boswell of the restaurants Stella! and Stanley in New Orleans, Louisiana. I hope this short video provides a glimpse into the inside of a truly incredible restaurant.
It used to be that amusement parks represented very idiosyncratic reflections of the community in which they were located. I grew up going to Astroland and Steeplechase Park in Coney Island. Granted, I was very young when those places were still special, but they did then and even now still radiate a special feeling that can only mean "Brooklyn." When I moved to the Glens Falls area of upstate NY about 20 years ago, The Great Escape still had the special home town feeling of its progenitor Story Town, which I also remember having visited as a child. Since then, The Great Escape was sold to Six Flags. What it gained in more sophisticated rides, it lost in uniqueness, as it began to resemble countless other American amusement parks.
Tivoli Gardens, located in the heart of Copenhagen, surrounded by high brick walls, is nothing, if not unique. The word "Gardens" is not a meaningless part of the park's name, as the grounds are quite beautiful, landscaped immaculately and colorfully. It's not a big park, but there is no wasted space. That is not to say, that all the space is packed full of detritus. Much of the space is given over to the afore-mentioned gardens. The rest of it is given over to rides, games and food.
Coney Island used to be known for food and Disney, in Orlando at least, is noted to have some good food, but most amusement parks suffer from food that tends to be ordinary at best. Not so for Tivoli Gardens, which claims two restaurants with Michelin stars. The Paul is located within the heart of the park and is the province of an Englishman, chef Paul Cunningham. Serving cuisine with a modernist flair, The Paul is set in a glass salon. The other Michelin starred restaurant of Tivoli Gardens, Herman, is situated along the periphery of the park, within the ornate, Turkish inspired hotel, The Nimb. Thomas Herman's cooking is inspired by the techniques and palate of France and provides a supremely elegant, tasty and delightful experience. In addition to the stars, there is a multitude of other restaurants running the gamut from fancy to basic, including the international chains Wagamama and The Hard Rock Cafe. We stopped at one fast food place for a light snack. It turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. While it was not particularly fast (the food was not sitting there pre-made), it was very, very good, ranging from a Danish hot dog in a mini-baguette to great fried potatoes to a super fry-roasted chicken. The chicken, was especially delicious. It was fried without a coating, but had a perfectly crisped exterior, moist and juicy interior and spot-on simple seasoning. I'm not sure that simply prepared chicken can be better and still taste of chicken.
As wonderful as the food and the gardens are and as important as they are to keeping people happy once there, the main draw of Tivoli Gardens remains the rides. By American amusement park standards, there aren't many, but the rides they do have are generally very good ones, including some, like Vertigo, which are amongst the very best I've ever been on. In Vertigo, the concept is that one is flying an acrobatic airplane doing all sorts of loop-di-loops and spins. While the ride is truly an incredible thrill and adrenalin rush, perhaps the most anxious part of it is waiting in line directly underneath the ride. The mesh netting seems scant protection from the planes that appear to be diving right for you, pulling up just at the last moment!
Vertigo may have been my favorite ride, but it was far from the only great one there. Daemon is a superb roller coaster set in a mock Chinese village. The Golden Tower provides a great view of surrounding Copenhagen before dropping one in a sudden and rapid free-fall and the Dragon provides a whirling dervish of an experience, twirling one over and under in addition to round and round. Even the bumper cars seemed more fun than usual.
Had we not had our son with us in Copenhagen (we took him there on our arrival in Copenhagen and just before we left on his 11th birthday sandwiched around lunch at Herman), we might have eschewed it as being something for kids and not for adults. That would have been a mistake, as I think my wife and I enjoyed it as much as our son. It has been quite some time since I have enjoyed an amusement park as much.
With all the hubbub about the New Scandinavian Cuisine and only a few days in Copenhagen to experience the epicenter of that cuisine, why have Thai food? The answer would be because Kiin Kiin is one of only two Thai restaurants in the world currently with a Michelin star and it came very highly recommended. Whatever the reason, I'm glad that we did as Kiin Kiin is simply the absolute best Thai food I have ever had. Having eaten at such wonderful Thai restaurants as Sripaphai, Lotus of Siam as well as the grossly over-rated Arun's in Chicago, calling Kiin Kiin the best Thai food I have ever had is no small compliment, but still, in Copenhagen? Yes, in Copenhagen, because to simply label the meal I had at Kiin Kiin with my wife, my son and our friends, Scott and Tanya Boswell as the best of a genre, whatever the genre may be would be doing that meal a dis-service. The meal we had was simply an outstanding dinner, transcending any specific genre. I believe that Kiin Kiin should be on any serious gastronomic traveler's list when coming to Copenhagen and soon, Bangkok as well, as Kiin Kiin owner Henrik Yde-Andersen and his team will be opening there shortly, having been recruited and supported directly by members of the Thai Royal Family.
Thai food, when done well is all about balance and harmony of flavors amongst salty, sweet, sour and heat. All too often, though neither balance nor harmony are achieved with one component tending to predominate. In the United States, that component, more often than not, tends to be the sweet, which is why I have tended to shy away from Thai restaurants unless they come strongly recommended. In the case of Kiin Kiin, it came very strongly recommended by two food bloggers, whose knowledge and ability to convey their experiences are outstanding, Food Snob and Trine of verygoodfood, both of whom frequent Copenhagen's very best restaurants.
We were greeted warmly as we entered the restaurant, which is located in a residential area of Copenhagen. From the entrance, we were seated towards the rear of a charming lounge area that had been beautifully appointed with Thai furniture and artifacts. Beginning with a nice champagne, a trove of delightful starters or "khong wang" soon followed to tantalize our eyes and palates. While a lot of what we were served was superficially familiar, like the soy roasted cashews and the pork cracklings with yellow curry, they possessed elements that elevated them. For example, the cracklings, while not presented in an unfamiliar form, had the benefit of a perfectly balanced yellow curry that transported an ordinarily tasty product into an ethereal one.Tapioca with oyster dip was unusual in form and flavor and satisfying in both. Most tapioca I have had has been soft, gummy and pliable. This was popped and crispy and served with an oyster and seaweed dipping sauce. Lotus roots fried with lime leaves added the haunting note of kaffir lime to a crispy flavorful chip.
These mostly, crispy and salty snacks were followed by wonderful examples of Thai street food including Yam Nuah, typically a grilled beef salad. Kiin Kiin's yam nuah had all the components, but if the immaculate beef was grilled, it fooled me. Most yam nuah's in my experience are presented as traditional salads. Kiin kiin's was a roll with the beef on the outside and the cucumber, mint, lettuce and other components rolled within the thinly sliced beef. It was delicious.
A cold sesame salad was presented on soup spoons, also delicious. The highlight, though, was the tod man pla with cucumber chutney. The spicy fish cakes were sheer perfection. Dipped into the chutney, I could have continued with these alone.
Once we were through with the snacks, Kiin Kiin host, sommelier and owner, Henrik Yde-Andersen took us on a brief tour of A- Roii, their attached take-away restaurant and the restaurant's small, but efficient kitchen before leading us up to the main dining room. Once there, the five of us were seated around a comfortable rectangular table. At this point, I encountered my only serious criticism of the restaurant or at least my experience at the restaurant - the lighting. I never use a flash in restaurants. Usually, I am able to get by, since I have a camera with good low light capabilities. In this case, I'm afraid, I was not generally successful, which is a pity, since the food and the setting was just beautiful.
A "Soup Based on Chicken" was about as understated a dish description as I have ever encountered. The soup, which also contained galanga was supremely elegant, but also supremely complex, full of deep and savory flavors. It was a revelation. Scallop dim sum came in ethereally light wrappers. Another dish, Frozen Red Curry with Crab Salad, added modern touches to intense, balanced flavor. The platings were decidedly modern, the flavors decidedly delicious and the origin clearly Thai. Other outstanding dishes included salad with spicy marinade and orchids, onions with black beans, green curry with beet root and cod, baby lobster with tamarind and of course pad thai. I like a good pad thai, but the Pad Thai Kiin Kiin, was far superior to any I have ever had before, in terms of presentation, flavor and sheer satisfaction. I have never swooned over a pad thai before. Following that, dishes of chantarelle mushrooms in coconut milk and lime leaves and guinea fowl with plum sauce and peanuts brought the savory component of the meal to a tremendous close.
Thai food can be tricky to pair wines with, but that was no problem at Kiin Kiin, which made not only compatible matches, but exquisite ones. It's not a great leap to have paired the food with northern European whites, but the ones chosen couldn't have worked better, including
I believe very strongly that how a diner experiences a meal goes well beyond what is served on the plate. So much can be determined by a diner's attitude and physical state. For example, I tend to enjoy a meal more when I'm hungry then when I'm full and less so when I'm tired and cranky. Given that we had arrived in Copenhagen only that morning after an overnight flight and had spent the better part of the day on rides at the marvelously personable Tivoli Gardens, Kiin Kiin had a very big obstacle to overcome. My wife, our son and I were essentially exhausted by the time we arrived at the restaurant with Scott and Tanya (it happened to be Tanya's birthday). My son barely managed to make it through the first part of the meal before he conked out (the kind staff were able to make him comfortable in the nearby lounge), but the bold, beautiful and delicious food managed to energize both my wife and I as well as Tanya and Scott, who had arrived in Copenhagen the day before. A merely very good meal and service would not have succeeded in winning me over at that point. I've had high expectations dashed for lesser reasons. Yde-Andersen and his crew delivered royally and made for a sensational start to our Copenhagen dining extravaganza. When in Copenhagen, don't miss Kiin Kiin - not because it is a great Thai restaurant, but because it is a great restaurant, period.
If I could do this trip over again, I would have allowed for more time in Sweden. With only two days, we barely got to scratch the surface, but what a surface we scratched. From an afternoon and night on the quiet island of Oaxen in the archipelago south of Stockholm to a day and a night in the vibrant city of Stockholm, we experienced two sides of Sweden and two of the country's very best restaurants, both on The San Pellegrino World's Fifty Best List.
We took a morning flight from Oslo to Arlanda Airport outside of Stockholm, where we rented a car to take us to Oaxen, the home of Magnus Ek's idyllic restaurant, Oaxen Krog. We got there early enough to check in and relax on board our hotel for the evening, the spectacular small ship The Prince van Orangiën. Owned by Ek and his lovely wife Agneta, the early 20th century ship has been refitted to provide intimate, luxury accommodations for guests of the restaurant. The combination of Ek's beautiful, forest-rich cuisine and serene surroundings were sufficient to help me feel more relaxed almost immediately. Waking up the following morning to actual sunshine and the ship's breakfast delivered to our cabin helped even more.
Unfortunately we didn't have time to linger and needed to head back on the 9:30 ferry to make the most of Stockholm on our one day there. An added bonus was being accompanied on the ride to Stockholm by my friend, the legendary Food Snob, who we had run into at dinner the evening before.
We spent a glorious day sightseeing in Stockholm, walking around the city and finally finding a real food market, the Östermalms Saluhall. The market combines wonderful seafood, produce and meat retailers along with a number of small restaurants selling prepared dishes for immediate or take-away consumption. We tried some fish soup, a shrimp salad sandwich and a shrimp and crayfish salad between us. Washed down by an invigorating Swedish pear cider, it made for a fine snack.
The better part of the afternoon was spent at the incredible Vasa Museum. If one has any interest in history whatsoever and one finds oneself in Stockholm, this unbelievable connection to the past should not be missed. The Vasa was to be the foremost Swedish warship of its time in the early 17th Century, built to battle Poland during the 30 Years War. Elaborately decorated and heavily armed, it was constructed at a cost of about $40 million of today's dollars only to sink on its maiden voyage even before it left the Stockholm Harbor. Found and removed from the depths in the 1950's, it moved into a specially built Museum approximately 20 years ago. Both the sensationally well preserved ship itself as well as accompanying exhibits were outstanding.
On the first truly sunny day of our trip, we left the museum and walked past an enticing Gröna Lund amusement park to catch the ferry to Gamla Stan, the atmospheric old town of Stockholm. We strolled across that small island and across the bridge back to our hotel near the Central Station to prepare for our final dinner of the trip. We stayed in the Adlon Hotel. It was, on first impression less than exciting, but we found the room, a two-room triple, to be one of the better and more attractive ones on the trip. With a location convenient for travel, a fair price and a surprisingly nice room, I would return.
Mathias Dahlgren is a legend in Sweden. A winner of the Bocuse D'Or, Dahlgren's previous restaurant, Bon Lloc, achieved great critical acclaim until he closed it to move into the opulent Grand Hotel in Ostermalm. There he actually has two restaurants, the formal Mathias Dahlgren Matsalen and the more informal Matbaren. We ate at the Matsalen. Though Dahlgren wasn't there that evening, the luxurious, but not stuffy restaurant was superb, with outstanding service, wine and food. It was a fitting end for an extraordinary trip.
Make no mistake, Norway is a country containing much in the way of spectacular natural beauty from fjords to waterfalls to lush green valleys. It also has lovely, friendly people. Those things are easy to come across when visiting Norway. Less easy is finding reasonably priced, good food. Expensive, mediocre-at-best food, no problem. Cheap food, good or bad, really difficult. Then again, unlike Denmark & Sweden, I didn't really go to Norway for the food – at least not as the principle draw.
Coming from eating at multiple Michelin stars in Denmark and knowing that Norway would be quite expensive, my hope was to find reasonable, simple food as we ventured from Oslo to the western fjords and Bergen. Oslo has some restaurants with good reputations and Michelin stars, but none that appealed enough to justify their associated lofty tariffs. The restaurant that I did choose in Oslo, based on some internet research, but no recommendations from anyone I knew personally, Solsiden, was well situated on the shore of the Oslo fjord. Their specialty is the seafood plateau, which I thought would offer a nice contrast to the complex dishes of Copenhagen. A meal of simply prepared Norwegian shellfish sounded like a good change of pace...and it might have been if it had actually been good Norwegian shellfish as I had assumed it would have been. We all know what happens when we assume. Priced per person (635NK or about $100pp) for a minimum of two people, the plateau was large and more than enough food for two or even three people. Quantity wasn't the issue. It was billed as consisting of oysters, scallops, shrimp, lobster, mussels, king crab and crab. Unfortunately for me, I didn't ask about the food's origins until we received the platter. The lobster and shrimp were from Canada and the oysters (2) were from France. I'm not sure where the mussels or the crab were from, but the only things actually from Norway was the king crab legs (2). It's not that any of it was bad (though the lobster was not fully cooked), it just wasn't very good. The bulk of the platter consisted of the shrimp, which were small, unpeeled and head-on. I didn't bother peeling them. The shells were soft enough to eat and it wasn't worth the effort to peel them. It seemed that nearly all of the shrimp were roe-containing. I didn't mind eating the roe, but I had to wonder about the wisdom of harvesting all these breeding shrimp. My biggest issue with the shrimp though was that I really wanted to taste and eat the rekker or small Norwegian fjord shrimp, which I had heard so much about and had assumed would be on the platter. Since we ordered the platter for two, we only received one French oyster and one small scallop (sans anything but the adductor muscle) each – disappointing. The platter was served with an aoli, a mayonnaise and a cocktail sauce, none of which were very good. It did not include drawn butter. Ultimately, the tastiest component of the dinner was the mussels, which were served separately in a garlic, parsley and white wine sauce, however, they were no better than any other competently prepared mussel dish. With only one night in Oslo, we didn't have a chance to explore any where else.
The food didn't get better when we ventured north to the small coastal town of Alesund. As one might imagine of a Norwegian coastal town at the head of a major fjord, boats are ubiquitous. I was told that there are more boats in Alesund per capita than anywhere else in the world. While I don't know if that is true or not, there certainly are plenty of them. Presumably they fish with at least some of them. With the so-called “best restaurant” in Alesund closed on Saturdays and Sundays (the days we were there) we were recommended a seafood restaurant down by the docks called XL Diner. Their specialty is bacalao and the only fresh fish on the menu was farm-raised Norwegian salmon. They did offer a cream-based fish soup that was actually quite tasty, but the bacalao dishes were practically inedible. It's not that I don't like dried cod. When well-prepared, it has a wonderful texture and the salt is almost entirely mitigated. That was not so in either case here. The cod was still quite salty with an unpleasant texture. The various preparations were ascribed to a number of national identities, but neither the Italianate or Norwegian varieties we tried proved edible to me. The following night in Alesund as we waited between Hurtigruten boats, we resorted to a Pan-Asian restaurant, which would actually have been ok if it wasn't about 4 times what a similar dinner would have cost in the US.
Fortunately, we moved on to Bergen, a lovely city with a fair bit of history and quite a few restaurants. I was also lucky to contact an old eGullet friend from Bergen, Christopher Haatuft, an accomplished cook in his own right. Christopher grew up in Bergen and developed much of his cooking chops there. He spent the past year or so cooking at the Norwegian Embassy in Paris and is shortly heading to N.Y. to be a sous chef at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. He knows food and steered us to two excellent restaurants in Bergen. The first, Jacob's Bar & Kokkern serves modern influenced, but well grounded cooking using a preponderance of Norwegian ingredients. They focus on seafood and use only fresh, locally caught fish, avoiding any farmed or imported seafood. The food was creative, well prepared and very tasty. Like the rest of Norway, it wasn't particularly cheap, but it was, for Norway, a very good value and well worth the money spent. The following day, we had a late lunch at Hanne Pa Hoyden, Bergen's answer to noma. In fact, the chef owner, Hanne Frosta and some of her staff have cooked at noma. Hanne Pa Hoyden, is a true Slow Food restaurant, using only the finest ingredients from Norway. Like noma, the restaurant is crafting a New Scandinavian cuisine and though not as elaborately prepared as the dishes at noma, the dishes are quite tasty and satisfying. One aspect quite unique to Hanne Pa Hoyden is that the only wine they serve is wine made at and by the restaurant. Since grapes don't grow in Norway, the wines are not grape wines. We sampled a number of wines made from such produce as sea buckthorn, rhubarb and other local fruits and vegetables. Though somewhat one dimensional, they were very tasty and provided wonderful pairings for the food as they were not generally high alcohol and contained sufficient acid structures. In both restaurants, dishes utilizing seasonal fresh mackeral stood out. The one at Hanne Pa Hoyden and been cooked on the flat top in a coating of spelt, providing a wonderfully crunchy exterior. Prior to this trip, I had never been a huge fan of mackeral, but the examples eaten at these two restaurants and that at AOC in Copenhagen were amongst the best dishes of the trip, completely opening my eyes and mouth to the greatness of the fish.
The remainder of our Norwegian eating experience was unremarkable as we took the scenery rich extended journey back to Oslo called Norway in a Nutshell. Like the bulk of our Norwegian experience, it was rich on sights and weak on food.
The funny thing is that Norway is not without extremely competent chefs, including several Bocuse D'Or winners. With a few exceptions like those in Bergen, it doesn't appear to entertain much of a creative restaurant culture. Perhaps that is because of the high cost of everything or perhaps many of the better restaurants are simply not very well known outside of Norway. It may also be that most restaurants, especially in the areas we visited cater to tourists and don't really need to be very good. There is no doubt there is good food to be found there, but it can be somewhat hard to find. During my pre-trip research, I couldn't really come across any really must-visit recommendations. I was hoping to try Geier Skeie's upcoming restaurant and the famous Bagatelle, but the former hasn't opened yet and the latter closed over the past year. Ultimately, though, given the exorbitant cost of food and the difficulty finding the better places, Norway is not a legitimate culinary destination. That is not to say that it is not worth visitingr, however. The scenery of the fjords, the rich Viking and Hanseatic history and cultural stops such as the Edvard Munch Museum, The Viking Ship Museum and the Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo and the Edvard Grieg House in Bergen are well worth experiencing.
To date, this meal at elBulli, five years ago today, remains the single greatest and most memorable meal of my life. Pictured here is Felix Meana, then a waiter at elBulli and now a budding restaurateur in Asheville, N.C.. Felix was a significant factor in helping make that such a great and memorable meal. He and I ran into each other in Asheville at the end of June. Amazingly, we both recognized each other. It is a small world. This is also the 5th anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans. Little did I know then how significant both events would be in my life.
A full description with photos of this meal can be found on the eGullet Forums here.
Copenhagen has evolved into a truly world class restaurant city. Everyone who is seriously interested in food now knows noma, Rene Redzepi's New Scandinavian tour de force restaurant that has set the culinary world on fire. The truth is, noma is good enough, that if one could get a reservation, it would be worth traveling to Copenhagen just for a dinner or a lunch there, however, it would be a mistake to travel all the way to Copenhagen and not venture beyond noma.
I had first become aware of Rene Redzepi and noma late in 2006 when reports of this amazing new restaurant in Copenhagen began filtering through on eGullet, led by my friend, Gabe Quiros. At that point neither Copenhagen nor the rest of Scandinavia were high on my culinary tourism wish list. It's not that I didn't think there would be any good food, but up until that time I hadn't been particularly aware of anything or anyone to draw me there. Fast forward to January 2008 in Madrid, Spain, when the culinary revolution that had been fermenting in Scandinavia was recognized at Madrid Fusión with a special emphasis placed on the new chefs of Scandinavia who were building a new cuisine based upon Scandinavian tradition and the resurrection or adoption of impeccable ingredients from Scandinavia. Even then, Redzepi was noted to be in the forefront of the movement. He had become known for foraging for new and special ingredients from around all of Scandinavia and applying to them techniques from the Spanish Vanguard and beyond. Despite his ability to embrace vanguard techniques, Redzepi's cuisine remained more focused on product quality and presentation than a showy display of technology for its own sake. His was a quest to build a new cuisine, maintaining successful elements from Denmark's culinary traditions, while adding his own touches.
What I learned in Madrid, though, was that Redzepi was not alone. Other chefs in Scandinavia, primarily in Sweden & Denmark, had also been working to craft a new Scandinavian cuisine. There was already plenty of Scandinavian culinary tradition, but when it came to fine dining, French cuisine predominated. There had been no shortage of fine French dining, especially in the region's capitols. This has been reflected since the 1980's by Scandinavia's extraordinary record in the biennial Bocuse D'Or competition in Lyon, France. Scandinavia has produced many medals and a number of winners including the most recent, Geier Skeie of Norway. In recent years, though, led by Redzepi and others, this new high profile, elegant, regional cuisine developed bestowing a regional culinary identity to be proud of.
Three and a half days of determined dining are hardly enough to make more than a dent in Copenhagen's marvelous dining scene, especially when one dinner and a lunch are devoted to noma, but we made the best of it. The amazing part is that in that time we did not have a bad bite. In fact, everything was rather excellent and that was not limited to the restaurants one would expect. From the full-flavored and crunchy hot dog in French bread, exquisite frites and perfectly prepared and seasoned half chicken from a small non-descript vendor at Tivoli Gardens to a deceptively simple, yet extraordinarily delicious open face sandwich of boiled potatoes, parsley and mayonnaise on rye bread from a little coffee shop near noma called Sweet Treats to the top temples of cooking, the food satisfied. I would never have typically ordered something like the potatoes on rye (too many carbs), but it had specifically been recommended by Rene Redzepi himself. It was good enough that with a little additional refinement it would not have been out of place at noma.
Noma was as sensational as expected (perhaps even a bit more). On my first full day in Copenhagen, Chef Scott Boswell of New Orleans restaurants Stella! and Stanley (he and his lovely wife, Tanya flew over to Copenhagen to share the experience with my wife, my son and I) spent the latter part of the morning and the beginning part of the afternoon at noma, getting a tour from Chef Redzepi and getting a behind the scenes look at how the restaurant is able to do what it does. Chef Boswell and I were fortunate enough to return that evening for an incredible dinner featuring the recent dishes from the restaurant, many of which highlighted the kitchen's talents with herbs, vegetables and fruit. The following day, inspired by the legendary bon vivant and nomaphile, “Food Snob,” we returned along with our wives and my son for an incredible lunch featuring dishes from noma's recent history. This was a more protein-centric meal. For the dinner, I indulged in the very well chosen wine pairings, but for the lunch, I opted to try their juice pairings instead with juices made by the kitchen. I didn't regret any of the choices.
While Chef Boswell and I were enjoying dinner at noma, our wives and my son were enjoying their dinner at Kodbyens Fiskebaren, a highly regarded seafood restaurant not too far from our hotel. With great fish and seafood, Fiskebaren is a restaurant I would have loved to try for myself, but I will have to wait for my next visit to Copenhagen.
Restaurant A.O.C., which had recently been awarded a Michelin star had the dubious distinction of following noma as our evening dinner destination. Not as culinarily masochistic as myself, my wife and son did not join us for that. Instead, Trine from the blog, very good food, from whom I garnered much of my Copenhagen restaurant information, did. Following noma or not, AOC provided extraordinary New Scandinavian fine dining in an elegant, but still relaxed setting.
Though it was the New Scandinavian cooking that attracted me to come to Scandinavia in the first place, we did not limit ourselves to that. Kiin Kiin is one of only two Thai restaurants in the world with a Michelin star. To say that it was the finest Thai dining experience I've ever had would not sufficiently indicate how marvelous the food there is. While the food is clearly creative haute Thai and indelibly bound to that culinary tradition, it is simply a wonderful restaurant without any additional qualifiers needed. That it was such a great experience the night of our arrival made it even more impressive. Similarly, other non-Scandinavian restaurants in Copenhagen share Kiin Kiin's fine reputation. With more time, I would have loved to explore these as well.
Fine French influenced dining is not dead either, despite the ascendance of the New Scandinavian paradigm. We had our final lunch in Copenhagen at the Michelin starred restaurant Herman at the Nimb Hotel at Tivoli Gardens. The restaurant was lovely in every way and Thomas Herman's French influenced food was more than worth a visit during a limited Copenhagen itinerary.
With more time, I would have included restaurant's like The Paul in Tivoli Gardens and Sollerod Kro just outside of Copenhagen. There were also a few restaurants that I had been extremely interested in that had either recently closed such as MR and Bo Bech's Paustian and those that have not yet opened including Christian Puglisi's Relae (now open) and 2011 Danish Bocuse D'Or contestant* Rasmus Kofoed's Geranium II. Noma is the biggest culinary draw in the city and will likely remain so as long as Rene Redzepi can keep his focus and interest centered there, but even without noma, Copenhagen would be a world class restaurant city. It's not too soon to start thinking about a return!
Rasmus Kofoed won the Bocuse D'Or bronze medal in 2005 & the silver in 2007. He did not represent Denmark in 2009.
Word has it that Barcelona's Bar Inopia is now closed. New projects for A. Adria are apparently on the horizon. http://www.barinopia.com/
I'm sad that I never made it there, though I look forward to whatever Albert has up his sleeve. I'm hearing something about "macrotapas." Whatever it is, I'm sure it will be interesting and of the highest quality.
I had the opportunity to take these photos at McCrady's prior to service the evening I dined there. Chef Brock was kind enough to let me accompany him as he tended to tasks like cutting the evenings herbs and receiving the day's harvest from the restaurant's farm as well as to take me on a quick tour of the restaurant.
"George Washington ate here," McCrady's chef Sean Brock told me as he gave me a tour of the massive building that is the center of his varied culinary activities. During the new President's tour of the fledgling United States of America in 1791, George Washington did, indeed, eat at McCrady's, then, as now, a prominent dining location in the city of Charleston, S.C. At that time, though, McCrady's stood on the waterfront. The restaurant (then a tavern) didn't move, though the waterfront was later extended away via landfill, leaving some functional but less attractive buildings between modern McCrady's and the Charleston waterfront. While Washington dined with some of the area's most prominent citizens, a cannon stood underneath the window and was fired each time a toast was made to the President so that the rest of the Charleston citizenry could toast him too! While Washington enjoyed a lot of pomp and circumstance and probably ate pretty well, one thing he could not have enjoyed was the cooking of Chef Sean Brock. Too bad for him! I'm pretty sure George Washington would have been a fan of Chef Brock.