Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Copenhagen- Noma

Thursday in Copenhagen was a big day.  All of my NYC friends had finally arrived, the city was bustling with amazing brewers to kick off the Copenhagen Beer Celebration and we had a fabulous birthday lunch booked at Noma for our friend Steve.

Noma is run by René Redzepi, a 36 year old Danish chef who currently has two Michelen stars and has kept Noma ranked as The Best Restaurant in the World four out of the last five years. Rene is all about New Nordic cooking and the tasting menu he unleashed upon us that afternoon was a prime example of foraging at it's finest.  The meal begins with an array of "Snacks"...

Red Currant and lavender verbena

Nordic Coconut with quince and cabbage soup

Moss and Cep- Reindeer Moss seasoned with mushrooms and served with juniper creme fraiche

Elm leaves and yeast

Surf and Turf Tarts- flowers from the land, seaweed crust from the sea

Caramelized Milk and Cod Fish Liver

White Cabbage and samphire

Æbleskiver, lovage and parsely- danish doughnut fried in beef fat with grasshopper and flower

Lumpfish Toast- grilled toast with lumpfish roe and sperm coated with duck fat

Pickled Hay Smoked Quail Egg (Vegetarian menu only)

Burnt Leek and Cod Roe

Inside the leek...cod roe, lemon paste and blueberry

That concluded the snack portion of our meal and I have to say we were all pretty blown away.  There were eight of us and when asked to decide on our favorite dish not a single person said the same thing.  I loved everything...the Caramelized Cod Liver, Lumpfish Toast and Burnt Leek being the top three.   I was insanely jealous of the Quail Egg which was only for the vegetarians in our group.  It produced a cloud of smoke upon opening and smelled simply divine.

We had been enjoying a Noma brewed beer made with birch sap and finished with nettles (it was incredibly refreshing) during the snack courses, but switched over to wine pairings for the remainder of the meal.  Above is a picture of some of the wines that were poured.  I wish I had been taking better notes because it was the most unique, and quite possibly the best food and wine pairing meal I've had to date. 

 The meal started up again with an apple so beautiful I almost felt like I was in Snow White.

Apple and kelp poached in sloe berry

Scandanavian Grain Bread served with virgin butter (butter made before the buttermilk has been extracted) and whipped lardo topped with pork scratchings and onion. 

I need to interject here and say that this butter is the best butter in the world.  I'm not kidding.  I took one bite and it was almost like Noma's possible someone was talking to me, perhaps I even missed out on a wine pairing description, all I know is that for one full minute I couldn't focus on anything except that insanely rich, buttery flavor.  That's my little bowl of heaven right there.

Shrimp and ramson- little ramson raviolis filled with shrimp

Milk Curd and blueberries

Beef Tartare and wood ants

Beetroot and flowers

Egg and fresh greens

Turbot and nasturium

The Danish Turbot was the end of the savory courses.  As you can see the meal was much more focused on plants and vegetables than the usual procession of meat and fish on many tasting menus.  I'll admit the wood ants on the beef tartare completely turned me off.  I forced down one bite but the thought of another made me feel sick.  I'm the only one in the whole group who had such an aversion to them...too bad since beef tartare is usually my favorite.

 Let's move onto desserts...

Aronia berries and söl

Söl innards

Potato and Plum 

Both of the desserts were interesting.  I wasn't a huge fan of the Aronia berries and söl.  The thick frozen texture of the cheese stunted any sort of flavor besides "cold" to me.  However the Potatoes and Plum was a delight.  I was surprised how intense the sour plum was and happily bemused by the comforting sweetness of the mashed potato.

We finished off the last "true" dessert course with a coffee before moving on to some extra sweets.

Yeast and Sea Buckthron- aerated caramel made with sourdough

Classic Danish

Puffed Pork Crackling with chocolate and berries

Potato Chip with chocolate and seeds (vegetarians menu only)

That concluded our amazing 3 1/2 hour lunch.  It was like something I've never experienced before and likely never will again.  The creativity at this restaurant is not only exciting but inspiring.  We took a tour of the bottom kitchen after our meal and up the stairs to see where all those crazy dishes get created.

It was incredible to see how many people were involved in the process from the grill guy in the back, to the foragers in the front...and what about the guys dreaming up the new menus items?  Apparently Crow may be next :)

It was simply an amazing afternoon that I'm so thankful to have experienced.  From the friendly staff, to the inventive food and fabulous company...everything was just about perfect that day.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sweden- Kebab Pizza and Bastard

Tuesday we left Denmark for a day trip over to Sweden.  My good friends moved here a few years ago and I was itching to get some catch up time with them.  We hopped on a train right near our hotel and 50 minutes later we found ourselves in the center of Malmo.  Unfortunately my friend couldn't meet up until later but she pointed us in the direction of the one thing I'd been absolutely dying to try- Kebab Pizza. 

It's not a well known fact but the Swedes put some crazy toppings on their pizza and the most popular happens to be the Kebab made with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, thin slices of gyro beef and creamy garlic sauce.  It's not exactly pretty to look at and eating such a sloppy pie can be bit challenging but it was so worth each and every bite.  I've seriously been dreaming of this pizza ever since.

After I demolished my Kebab Pizza we walked down the street to Peter Beier Chokolade and picked up some incredible chocolate truffles made with Abby Ale and Dark Lager.  Then we walked around Malmo for a while just enjoying the wonderful day before meeting up with our friends for dinner at Bastard.

Bastard is a lively little place set off the busy Lilla Torget Square.  The small menu changes daily but the emphasis here is on nose to tail eating, much like our meal years ago at St. John restaurant in London.

I'll be honest I was still pretty full from stuffing my face full of Kebab Pizza that afternoon so I decided to stick with just one dish, the Beef Tartare.  

Bastard's version was chopped very fine, mixed with creamy lumpfish roe and topped with rye chips, purslane and a dollop of horseradish creme.  I've had a LOT of Beef Tartare in my life and this one would rank right up there at the top of the list.  The texture was perfect and I loved the crunchy squares of rye mixed with the surprisingly sweet/salty flavor of the purslane.  Onto dessert a crisp Rhubarb Crumble with vanilla sauce.  

Apparently Vanilla Sauce is another Swedish specialty they use in place of whipped cream.  Being that I've never been a big whipped creme fan I would love this trend to start in the United States.  The sauce was amazing... thick and creamy with flecks of vanilla bean everywhere.  I wish I picked up a jar to take home.

We ended the night with a few drinks at the Bishop's Arms before hopping on the train back to Copenhagen.  It was such a wonderful and relaxing day in Sweden- amazing little city, incredible food and fantastic friends.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Copenhagen- Manfred's & Vin, Mikkeller and Friends

Our first night in Copenhagen we didn't do very much.  Mr. T. was feeling pretty wiped out again from the flight/illness so we just chilled at the hotel. Tuesday morning we awoke bright and early, both feeling pretty darn awesome.  My jet lag was gone and Mr. T was feeling the best he had in days!  We spent the morning exploring the city.  We walked past Tivoli and the National Museum, over to Christiania and then back through the Assistens Cemetery which lead us to our first food stop in Copenhagen Manfred's and Vin.

Manfred's is the sister restaurant of Relae, one of the highest rated restaurants in the world.  In fact it sits right across the street from Relae with a more casual atmosphere and  friendlier price point.  We got a lovely table on the cobblestone street out front and ordered the "Small Lunch Hunger"...a Chef's Choice tasting menu of five dishes to be shared between the two of us.  Over the next hour Mr. T and I would receive one delightful dish after the next presented by the chef himself.

Leek Soup with toasted rye 

Roasted Onion with hay, toasted buckwheat and pickled ramson

Roasted Carrot with salsify, creme fraiche and black olive chips

Beet Tartare with sorrel

Fried Radish with egg

Slow Roasted Beef Neck

I'm honestly not sure why we got an extra course that was meat. Maybe they realized we really weren't vegetarians and thought we needed some protein.  Who knows- the other dishes were so incredible I barely touched it.  I was downright enchanted with the buttery, toasted flavor of the onions, amazed by the bright acidity in the beet tartare and absolutely in love with that leek soup.  It was so rich and creamy yet so light...currently the best soup I've eaten in my life.

It was such an incredible lunch, sitting outside in sunny Copenhagen just relaxing with my husband. I truly didn't think the day could get any better but it did. We walked over two blocks to Mikkeller and Friends to take a look their bottle list and there it was.  THE beer.  The only beer I had been hoping to find on this entire vacation listed right there in tiny little letters in the middle of the menu. The Drie Fonteinen Zomer.  

Back in May 2009 a faulty thermostat at Drie Fonteinen caused a loss of 100,000 bottles due to excessive heat. Drie Fonteinen ceased brewing and almost lost their entire business.  Armand was able to distill some of the ruined lambic and created a liquor the Armand' Spirit which kept them alive. This happens to be the second of four limited edition geuze blends using the lambic Drie Fonteinen brewed before the thermostat failure.The greatest part of the story is that Drie Fonteinen is brewing again.  If you remember we enjoyed a one year lambic at the brewery just days before.  The Zomer was every bit as delicious as I had hoped it would be.  That classic toasted sesame flavor, bright fruity nose and such a smooth finish.  At that moment I was possibly the happiest girl alive.

We finished up at Mikkeller and Friends and headed back to the hotel.  Our NYC friends had just arrived so it was time to meet them for a drink at the regular Mikkeller Bar and prep for the rest of the week.  Our "beercation" was in full swing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Brussels- Cantillon Brewery

Our last morning in Brussels we woke up early so we could fit in one more brewery...a quick but fascinating visit to Cantillon.

Cantillon is a family brewery, much like Drie Fonteinen, that has been producing Kriek, Lambic, Faro and Gueuze since 1900. (Edit: You'll notice Cantillon spells it Gueuze and Drie Fonteinen Gueze- they mean the same thing just different variations on the spelling)  While Drie Fonteinen has brought in new equipment over the years, Cantillon has remained the same.  In fact most of the copper kettles and barrels are over 100 years old.  

When we walked in the front door at 9:00 AM (opening time) I was immediately struck by that strong barnyard aroma I get every time we open a Cantillon gueuze.  The walls, floor, tables...everything exuded that classic Cantillon smell I've come to know so well.  We got a brief overview of the brewery from a staff member and then we were off to do a self-guided tour.  

The Barrel Store was amazing.  I loved how they had one end open so we could see the flora; a film created when yeasts agglomerate to separate the beer from the air in the barrel.  

The only thing more stunning was the incredible amount of bottles they had everywhere.  This is one huge wall filled with bottles of 50 Degrees North -4 Degrees East.  Yes that's one of the crazy rare beers we had the day before.  Not so rare here obviously.

After the tour they offer you a glass of their one year old lambic and an additional drink from the bar.  You can then relax at one of the wooden tables or shop around the little store up front.  

They have everything from glassware to T-shirts and of course bottles to go.  We bought a little bit of everything being that it was our last stop in Brussels.

Well technically not the last stop...we grabbed a quick waffle on our walk back through the Grand Palace that was the perfect little treat to end the trip.  Such an amazing beer stop Copenhagen.