It’s been almost a year without any real activity on this blog. I didn’t stop eating – I just didn’t feel for doing writeup upon writeup of the meals. And then time passed, and a lot of fantastic meals didn’t get to be featured here on verygoodfood.dk. For that, I am sorry. I’ve even had chefs ask me if anything was wrong with the meal, as I didn’t write about it. No – there wasn’t anything wrong – my job and my real life just got in the way and demanded some attention for a while. Besides, Instagram and Facebook made it easier to get the photos out there, without spending a lot of time uploading to a blog and writing about each and every dish.
On the plane to Oslo I decided that, if ever, this was the time to get back to blogging. I thought about when I started Verygoodfood.dk years ago, when the Nordic kitchen was all very new. Now, looking back, I can see how far our amazing chefs have come. From being an upcoming region, the Nordics are now a sizzling hotspot of food fame, innovation and true magic. It would be a shame not to document a bit more of what’s going on in the restos of Scandinavia.
Over the years as I have visited, well… many restaurants, I have been fortunate enough to be able to meet some of the passionate people behind the food, to see the business and the cuisine mature and to witness some of the frenzy. I’ve seen foodie friends go from being young passionate bloggers to working side-by-side with Redzepi, Holmboe Bang and other super chefs, as PR or event managers, or even as CEOs for Michelin restaurants. I’m so happy for you guys and at the same time I know that I myself will never join that world for real. Without a non-foodie life to give me a baseline, a frame of reference so to speak, it would be too much for me. Without that I wouldn’t be able to feel the rush of suddenly being there with the best of the best, eating food that I once thought was impossible to make or even to dream about. And that can never happen. The day I stop enjoying the food, it’s over for me. I need to feel the magic, and maybe that’s why I needed a break from blogging.
Now, let’s get on with the post. And indeed, what better occasion to get back to blogging than spending an evening with five of the absolute super stars of the Nordic kitchen. I was so incredibly lucky as to be invited to attend the Nordic Chefs’ Summit 2014 at Maaemo in Oslo. A get-together of the top Nordic chefs on the Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurant list. That’s nine Michelin Stars in one room. Normally, Magnus Nilsson would also join, but he unfortunately couldn’t make it this year.
So, let’s set the scene: Little me, my good foodie friend Arve, Laurent and 16 other bloggers, friends of the house and some members of the more conventional press seated in Maaemo’s beautiful rooms close to the Sentralstasjon. This wasn’t a chef’s show off, it was more like being allowed to be present when five good friends met up and casually made some food together. Now, there is of course nothing casual about the dishes these guys serve, but the atmosphere was relaxed and laid back. Mondays are normally their days off, but to get some time together – more than the usual five minutes at food shows or conferences – they came here to cook, eat and talk.
Esben Holmboe Bang (Maaemo), Björn Franzén (Franzén), Rasmus Kofoed (Geranium)
René Redzepi (Noma) and Christian Puglisi (Relæ)
Oyster, beach plants, fish skin and fermented cabbage (Kofoed)
Before the oyster we had a brown cheese profiterol-ish thing by Puglisi. I didn’t get a photo of it. And then this beauty was served: The bitterness of the beach plant both contrasted and emphasised the salti-ness of the oyster. Wonderful.
Razor clamb, horse radish and parsley (Kofoed)
This is a signature snack from Kofoed. The razor clamb shells are fake (thin and crunchy) and thus edible – in contrast to the real thing which will probably kill you in a horrible way if you tried to swallow it. I’ve had this dish before, but this time Rasmus had added lumbfish roe and horse radish to the blend which I feel added to the complexity and provided a broader taste. Lovely dish and a lovely revisit for me.
Asparagus and scallop toffee (Redzepi)
One of the highlights this evening was this masterpiece from René Redzepi. It was otherworldly good. Asparagus sprinkled with blackcurrant flowers and as a dip fermented scallop. The fermentation had made the scallop completely into a toffee-like substance with a slightly sweet and rich scallop taste to it. A wonderful, nutty, but still mineral, flavour. Amazing food art, this one.
Langoustine with spruce (Holmboe Bang)
Pure and simple signatur from Maaemo. It all comes down to produce and preparation in this one. The impression was enhanced by added dry ice, which may sound like an old hat, but here it added to the dish, both visually and by spreading the pine scent.
Horse “sushi”, crispy lichens, frozen froie gras and chantarelles (Franzén)
Beneath the raw horse meat was placed moss and at the bottom a chantarelles mayo or something like it. The foie gras was very subtle – in fact this dish was light and delicate, not as rich and heavy as the ingredients suggest. Very delicious.
A glimpse into the kitchen above the restaurant floor. It’s Esben Holmboe Bang (Maemo) to the left and Lars Williams (Noma) to the right.
Squid in lard, cracklings and bergamot (Puglisi)
Oh so thinly sliced squid – almost like glass noodles – and pork cracklings with a subtle bergamot flavour. This was beautiful – I was blown away by this seemingly simple composition. Puglisi at his very, very best.
Lightly pickled mackerel with elm, grilled asparagus and ramson (Holmboe Bang)
Remember eating the winged nuts from the elm trees as a kid? We called it “manna” as it fell from the sky each spring. These nut-leaves covered the mackerel, while the grilled asparagus and ramson was made into a thin sauce. An exquisite dish, this one.
Smoked egg yolk in a nest of wild cress. Broth of roasted potato skin. (Kofoed)
The smoking process had made the egg sticky and rich in a nice way, and the flowers tasted so good. The broth made on roasted potato skin made it all come together. A pleasing dish that surprised with a wealth of tastes, deep complexity and some bitterness from the cress.
Kelp cured beef, fermented beef paste, ant salt (Redzepi)
What I really like with Noma’s cuisine is that no matter how outrageous the produce and no matter the hype about the strange ingredients, it’s never about either the craziness or the hype. It’s only about taste. This outstanding piece of beef had been cured in kelp and was thus no longer raw, but – well – cured, and dry. The ant salt is in fact ants which added varying degrees of acidity and freshness to each bite. Ants obviously differ in flavour. Very interesting, very delicious.
Oven roasted bone marrow with caviar, smoked chestnut and fermented mushroom juice (Franzén)
“It’s the main dish”, Franzén told us as he served this little bite. And quite right, it was very rich. Almost to the degree where the caviar struggled to get through the fattiness of the bone marrow and the smoked chestnut.
Frozen blue cheese and black trumpet (Holmboe Bang)
Black trumpet is a mushroom and together with a delicate, frozen blue cheese this first of the desserts really agreed with me. The trumpet added depth, the medium strong blue cheese lend richness and the low temperature kept these powerful ingredients at bay. And beautifully designed it was as well.
Rhubarb. Spring flowers, rose hip tea and bee wax ice cream. (Kofoed)
The photo almost doesn’t give credit to the colours of the flowers. The bee wax ice cream (I don’t know if it comprised honey as well or if it was just the bee wax that made it so good) was so smooth, almost like soft ice, the rhubarb was cooked to mellow-ness and covered with those beautiful, mild tasting flowers. To use a cliché: This was summer on a plate.
Smoked almond with apple granité and oats (Puglisi)
The first impression was surprising: This was quite smoky. What sounds like pretty conventional ingredients for an apple dessert made up something quite astonishing. The apple’s smooth freshness and the crispy, thin oats together with the almonds blended into a perfectly balanced, sour-sweet experience. Yummy.
Yeast ice cream with egg cream, semi-dried egg, whipped ale and raisin syrup (Frantzén)
Puglisi’s smoky dessert was very hard to follow, and I feel this very delicious, but also very mild, ice dessert by Franzén would have been given more justice had it preceded the granité. It stood little chance to the peaty nuances still in my mouth from the smoked almonds.
René Redzepi with a Norwegian journalist
Christian Puglisi making his point to Monsieur Vanparys of Gastros on Tour.
After the dinner we moved on to Pjoltergeist, supposedly an old Hells Angels den, to have some more wine and a chat – and of course a chance for the chefs and the kitchen staff to get some food themselves. When I recovered from the shock of the very derelict setting of Pjoltergeist, it turned out to be a nice place to be. The staff was clearly a bit nervous about cooking for the super stars of the Nordic kitchen, and who wouldn’t be. That evening showed that all of them are truly among the very best – it’s was world class from beginning to end. Wow, what a night. A big, big thank you for having me!