World Class Supper

Family Meal

I just picked up a copy of Ferran Adrià’s cook book The Family Meal. For you who don’t know Mr. Adrià is by many considered as the best chef in the world. Much based on the fact that his restaurant, el Bulli, kept winning awards as the best restaurant in the world. Kept winning you say, yes others are now fighting for the number one spot but that is not because Ferran lost his mojo, he simply took a long sabbatical and are contemplating ways to become even better.
Anyhow, the book is great. It’s focus is on the every day meal. The family meal. It starts out with describing how the crew at elBulli eats together and then goes through some basics like what you should have in your fridge and how to make basic sauces and stocks.

The recipes are then very visual. Every meal consists of three courses and starts with a photo of all the ingredients you need and how long before you sit down you have to start preparing. Then comes the how-to with clear photos of each important step. It reminds me a bit about an old Korean cook book I have, not at all as ‘fancy’ but with the same level of pedagogics. Genius.

So, if you’re into cooking or just cook books, The Family Meal comes recommended by this foodie.

Fork out for Swedish crayfish

Swedish versus Chinese crayfish

A friend of mine has a gourmet blog called Fork Out! Part from the blog being a short but good read I need to urge you to read a particular post about crayfish. The author sets out to do a comparative review of fresh Swedish crayfish versus frozen Chinese crayfish. Not being a total devotee to the crayfish mania that hits Swedes in August I usually go for the fresh varieties. Now, the findings being interesting but perhaps not surprising the best part is the comments. You see, a lot of the author’s friends has inside information on the Chinese crayfish. I say no more, go read and laugh and stop buy Chinese crayfish.

Image by Fork Out! author Monika, I hope she doesn’t mind if I credit her.

Dim Sum and Then Some at Yauatcha

During a recent trip to London we visited a place that had pretty awesome dumplings. We’d grown tired of the English cuisine and had been recommended both Hakkasan, an upmarket Chinese restaurant, and it’s sibling Yautacha, focusing on dim sum – or dumplings if you like.

We went for the latter and I must say that was a good choice. There was steamed dim sum, baked dim sum, grilled dim sum and pan fried dim sum, deep fried dim sum and cheung fun. Pork, beef, prawn, mushrooms, vegetable – you name it they had it – and we had it all. Well not exactly every single type on the menu but a fair share. I guess we counted 15-some different ones. Not everyone was amazing, I mean the mushroom one (the green thing on the bottom of the picture) was nice but very subtle compared to the five spice pork and prawn one, but overall they were truly amazing!

Arrive a bit early and try some of their very asiatic cocktails. Since I don’t really fancy all that sweetness and ice I preferred the martinis but for all you exotic drink lovers you wont be let down.

One little detail that was a tad annoying was the noise level. Yes I sound like an old fart saying this but we were seated downstairs, which was much cozier than ground level, and it just was very loud. Hey, I usually love a bustling restaurant but here came to be just a bit much for any longer séjour to be pleasurable.

So summing up the dim sum experience – go there. And if you’ve been there – what did you think of it?

El Celler de Can Roca revisited

Welcome!

Just the other week Restaurant Magazine announced this year’s list of the worlds 50 best restaurants. I was glad to see that El Celler de Can Roca grabbed the place as first runner up – cause I just payed them another visit. If last time was awesome this time was twice that. I woud say the big difference was the wine, not that the food wasn’t tweaked too but the wines – wow. Also, this time, we were there for the lunch seating at 1 pm. Must say that was an excellent choice as you will see there was quite a lot to eat and drink.

First amuse bouche: Caramelized Olive. You can see the presentation yourself but what you can’t see is that they were filled with anchovies. Wine pairing for all appetizers was Albet I Noia El Celler Brut D.O. Cava.

Amuse bouche served in a bonzai tree

 

Second amuse bouche: Campari bombon. Basically a fragile bonbon with Campari inside.

Served on ice

Third amuse bouche: Anchovy bones. Like last time – imagine prawn crackers but with anchovy and their bones left. Also a version with seaweed.

Third amuse bouche

Fourth amuse bouche: Chicken cracker.

Fourth amuse bouche

Fifth amuse bouche: Ring calamar adaptation. Best calamar I ever tasted; not particularly traditional but oh so good.

Fifth amuse bouche

Sixth amuse bouche: Vegetable salad. Smallest one I ever tried, like an gunkan-maki.

Sixth amuse bouche

Seventh amuse bouche: Truffled brioche and pot au feu broth. One of the best ones this lunch.

Seventh amuse bouche

Eighth amuse bouche: “Escalivada” with anchovies and smoke of ember. Charcoal-grilled eggplant, pepper, onion and tomato. Served with a glass bowl over the plate that contained the smoke.

Ninth amuse bouche

First course: Artichoke, foie gras orange and truffled oil. Can it go wrong – no it cannot. Interesting way to serve foie gras and I applaude it. Wine: Torre del Moro ’09 D.O. Conca de Barbera.

First course

Second course: Charcoal-grilled king prawn with acidulated mushrooms juice. After devouring the meat part we went for the insides of the head – did they inject something or could it be that good by just being grilled? Wine: Josephshöfer ’99 Auslese VDP Mosel.

Second course

Third course: Onion soup, Crespià walnuts and Comté cheese. A new way of doing the French classic – onion soup with bread and cheese. Hot damn! One of my favourites. Wine: Renard Fourcharme ’95 Magnum A.O.C. Chablis Premier Cru.

Fourth course: Sole, olive oil and Mediterranean flavours. Also one that we had the last time. We ate from the bottom up: fennel, bergamot, orange, pine nut and olive oil. The crystalized olive oil kind of candy on top was awesome. Wine: Stéphane Tissot ’07 Savagnin A.O.C. Arbois.

Fourth course

Fifth course: Baby squid with onion rocks. One of the top squid dishes I had. Crisp and good. Wine: El Rocallis ’06 D.O. Penedès.

Fifth course

Sixth course: Red mullets with suquet (Catalan seafood stew) and lard. They sure know their seafood here and the green lard dumplings was really interesting in a very good way. Wine: Nelin ’08 D.O.Qa Priorat.

Sixth course

Seventh course: Steak tartare with mustard ice cream. Spiced tomato, caper compote, pickles and lemon, hazelnut praline, meat béarnaise sause, Oloroso-sherry raisin, chives, Sichuan pepper, Pimentón de La Vera (D.O.) smoked paprika and curry, small scoops of mustard ice cream and mustard leaves. Do I need to say this was the best steak tartar I’ve ever tasted. Wine: Pardas Rosat ’07 Vi de Taula {Penedès}.

Seventh course

Eighth course: Lamb with mint and peas. It was the neck of the lamb and the sauces was simply magical. Wine: Oloroso del Puerto Lustau Almacenista D.O. Jerez.

Eighth course

Ninth course: Green Colourology. This little miracle cleared our palate before the deserts. Quite similar to the green chromatism we got last time. The small candy like things was Chartreuse candy – well needed. Other flavours was mint and avocado. Wine: Clos Martinet ’07 D.O.Qa Priorat.

Ninth course

First desserts: Blood orange and beetroot sherbet. Bold flavours and just plain fantastic. But never mind that, don’t you just love the way it looks?! Wine: Grans Fassian Kabinett ’07 VDP Mosel.

Tenth course

Second dessert: Vanilla, caramel, liquorice, dried and caramelised black olives. No comment other than – yummy. Wine: Mont-Rubi Advent Sumoll ’08 D.O. Penedès.

Eleventh course

Bonus round: Apple and foie gras timbal with vanilla oil. Are we at… what, 19 servings? Well why not one more? And hey, we all love foie gras, specially this classic Can Roca creation. Wine: Olivares Monastrell ’08 D.O. Jumilla.

Extra course

Time for coffee and grappa, no problem to down the nice sweets that was served: Golden praline, Palet d’or, Yuzu bombon, Mont Blanc and Raspberry. Phew, we managed all pralines as well. The raspberry was my favourite.

Bonbons

After it all we got a tour of the wine celler and kitchen where we bumped into Joan Roca, the savoury master mind.

Today's menu

Oh yeah, we can do this at home… just need to upgrade my kitchen.

Not your normal kitchen-ware

Seems like a humble and collected guy, at least here after service.

Cuiner

So how could we end this magnificent day when the time was only 6 pm? We took a taxi into River Café on the steps to the cathedral and drank beers and margaritas and ate pintxos and tapas in the warm spring sun. Awesomeness!

All these questions

Facebook just launched Questions so that we can get answers from the people we trust – our friends. So far I’ve been giving Quora a go. Haven’t been the best contributor though, but whatever, I’ve been finding a few decent bits of information and answers. At least Quora seems to provide you with a more qualified crowd than the average content farm type Q&A site. Quora sort of became better at what Linkedin wanted to branch out to (haha). Linkedin, that just hit 100 million members and are aiming for an IPO, has said that they don’t just want to be a career network but also a knowledge network. So maybe they should just buy Quora.

But what happens now, with Facebook Questions joining the fun? One weakness for Facebook could be that people tend to have their private lives on Facebook and perhaps not too many business acquaintances and similar peeps that might have better answers to their professional questions (Mashable writes about the effects on brands though). But for the rest, where to have dinner, where to travel, my Facebook friends might have a better answer if they are more like me than my professional network in Linkedin, or Quora for that sake. So maybe there’s room for at least two Q&As. Maybe I should ask someone on those networks?

Getting things done while staying sane

Can't see the forrest for all the trees

Are you overwhelmed by all the things you really need to do at the same time you get a constant feed of information just waiting for you to dig in? A couple of weeks ago I freaked out about this balance – how the hell do I stay on top of everything? And by everything I really mean everything. From the every day work stuff to the bigger plans, from blog posts and twitter feeds about some really important stuff connected to work to those nice food, fashion or gadget bits that keep flying by.

I read one post by Chris Brogan about why I’m not successful. I agreed and tried to better my attention discipline. Then I read another post by Johan Ronnestam. Well nothing new on the tricks of the trade, kinda used all of the tools and services Johan mentioned. Then another post by Mr. Brogan flashed by. It seemed like a fun idea to have 20 minute focus laps, maybe not so realistic if you actually have some heavy duty work that needs to get done. Was then reminded by the TED talk by Jason Fried on why I don’t get anything done at work – 20 minutes aren’t enough. And there’s that bloody attention distortion again; email, Reader, Twitter, colleagues, meetings, internal IMs, and so on. A recent post by Jill Konrath guest blogging at HubSpot did comfort me a little bit. I’m a slug and I’m effective – damnit I’m efficient too.

So what am I getting at here? Really I just wanted to have moment of zen. You know. Zen. Caterina Fake (she’s for real) blogged about social media and FOMO – the Fear Of Missing Out. Hah, did that sound familiar or what?! But I didn’t feel totally lost. I was aware of it and was actively structuring my life around the chaos (well you know what I mean). However, in the end Caterina got to Buddhism, well at least the part of not always be filled with craving and desire. And even if it’s kind of a stretch to make that analogy I can see the similarities.

Be a little more zen about everything. Just click “mark all as read” on your Reader, don’t care about Twitter, check your emails in a couple of hours instead of right now. If the world is coming to an end, you’d get the memo anyway.

Ok, so that’s my spin. What’s your take on getting things done and coping with everything else?

What would Sverker say?

I was just watching an old show on Swedish television, SVT, called Plus. It has been like an ombudsman for consumers since the mid 80’s. It used to be hosted by Sverker Olofsson that became the average consumers’ hero when he battled companies for doing their customers wrong.

Only, now Sverker wasn’t there anymore. I was a bit sad but that’s not what I’ll rant about now. I was more upset with a segment they seemed to have in every episode nowadays. A segment where the hosts tried if and how much they could haggle down the price for different goods and services. I would even call it dickering. This time it was gas stations and home electronics stores that were being targeted. Of course it came down to what margins the goods had – petrol not so much while some gadget a bit more – no major revelations there.

So why am I upset at this? Isn’t it nice to get a little guidance on how to save a few bucks… or crowns. Well yes and no. I believe that in a transparent market, like the one we are close to today, consumers will in many cases have enough information to make good decisions. Prices are usually quite easy to benchmark and there are a bunch of services that even help us out with it. Our coice to then spend our money where we find it fit teaches the market what will work and what won’t. Watching the host beg for free coffee at the gas station or lie about how much money she brought with her to the store was just embarrassing. What did this tell us really?

The point I think they wanted to make didn’t at all come through though. I think, or at least I want to think, that they we’re trying to show that if a business just showed that they were willing to do a little extra for the customers, the customers would become more loyal. The begging didn’t quite make a good enough case.

I for one prefer to focus on the quality of the product or service I’m acquiring and the value I get for my money. Sure, I’d like the best available price but I won’t go so far as to drive the providers to focus solely on how they could deliver a lower price. My challenge is always how to find the best value for my money and in my world – that’s rarely achieved through dickering. But then again, I’m spoiled.

Don’t get me wrong, bargaining is a crucial part of business but that’s not what I saw today. So, do you haggle?

Some comments on commenting platforms

So I switched to Disqus a little while ago, not a big decision really with the amount of traffic and comments this blog has 😉

Disqus, what the heck is that? It’s really just a separate system for handling comments on your site. I had comments before and nothing wrong with the handling of them in WordPress so why make the switch? The truth is that I’m experimenting to learn more, basically what this whole blog is about for me but I find all of these commenting systems or platforms quite interesting.

The idea is simple, with better ways to leave comments and share these with a network of friends and other interested and engaged people you get more out of whatever content you’re consuming. Haha you say looking at this place and yes, as I said, not the finest example of engaging content or rich strings of comments and reactions.

Part from Disqus there are a number other services available like Echo, used by big players like Technorati, and Intense Debate, which has been acquired by the company behind WordPress. This is only three but in my research, which was quick and dirty, I found that these are the ones most people are talking about now.

A quick check in Quora (interesting place for questions and answers by the way, sometimes I find really good answers there) reinforced my presumption: Echo seems more focused on social mentions, reminds me of BackType also worth just mentioning, while Intense Debate seemed not as innovative as Disqus and focused primarily on WordPress (yes I know I use WordPress but I’m getting to some sort of point soon, I hope).

With the idea of getting more people more involved through their networks, Facebook’s improved commenting plugin seems like a good alternative. Since almost a tenth of the worlds population is on Facebook (yes, I know, that was some horrible use of statistics) you have some interesting networks to tap into there.

However, TechCrunch’s experiences showed that it might not be so great after all. Read their thoughts here and here. Basically it is a bit exclusive, but let’s hope this improves since Facebook at least state that you can “enable users to comment using other login providers“. The Next Web also put together a pros and cons article.

And there I was, back at Disqus, hoping it will produce some more interactivity and richness to your part of this blog. But more importantly, what do you think and what are your experiences from these commenting plugins or services?

Discovering Jacques Selosse

A bottle of Jacques Selosse Initial had been sitting in my fridge for too long and earlier this week we decided to pop it together with some foie gras. The champagne was amazing. Unlike any champagne I’ve ever tried before. Too bad the Selosse’s aren’t the most reasonably priced bubbles. But who cares when it’s excellent. Richard Juhlin writes about it in one of his champagne guides and it seems he too is in love with the wine. Both he and other’s talks about Anselme, the genius proprietor, and his training in Burgundy which makes the wine almost a Burgundy with bubbles. And man does that work! Next bottle I’m aiming for an older vintage, they’re suppose to excel.

The natural cuisine at Mathias Dahlgren Matbaren

So we finally got around to visiting Mathias Dahlgren at Grand Hôtel here in Stockholm. I’ve tried a few times to get a table at Matsalen, with two stars, set menues and a more formal setting, but we went for Matbaren, a more laid back but still awesome place. The top 50 web describes it as a twin restaurant concept. Nevertheless, if you’re in Stockholm – go there, it’s a must!

At Matbaren they offer a variety, all seasonal of course, of medium sized dishes. They’re larger than an appetizer but smaller than an regular entree. Basically divided into regional (Swedish) and globally inspired they also have vegetarian and a part with pastries and one with dairy products and cold cuts. The beverage section is very well matched and we got a lot of competent advise in our choices. Here’s what we had:

I started with a glass of cava, Agusti Torello Barrica -06, that went well with Artichoke & leek, served with watercress, truffles, onion rings and aged cheese. As a guy that use the quote “never trust a vegetarian” a lot, I was pleasantly surprised by this choice from the greens section. Lisa had Sashimi of salma salmon & reindeer, served with avocado, ginger and horseradish and complemented with a glass of Jacobus -09 a Riesling Trocken from Peter Jakob Kühn, Rheingau.

For the second dish we both found one we had to try – Swedish squid & shrimp in a spicy broth served with raw vegetables, lime, coriander and chili. We thought “Swedish squid, what the hell is that?” but it turned out to be just that, squid off the west coast of Sweden, and damn was that good! The squid itself was cold and perfect in texture and the broth incredibly well balanced for being a fresh and spicy one. Instead of wine we were recommended Ginger Beer from Williams Bros Brewing that simply rocked.

Now Lisa had to try the Artichoke & leeks that I’d had and I went for Seared flanksteak from Nebraska served with beetroot, horseradish ox marrow and watercress. The meat was full of flavor, perhaps it was just a tad tough, but all in all a great plate. To this I didn’t want the Californian wine recommended and chose Arlay Rouge -05 from Château d’Arlay, Jura, which turned out to be a great combination.

As Lisa saved herself for the desserts I had to try another savory dish – a Salad of salted cod served with fennel, capers, lemon and olive oil. This was my favorite course of them all, a bit like gravlax but with cod and no sugar. Simply clean and well matched flavors. The wine came from outside their list but sharing the cellar with Grand Hôtel has its perks I guess; Huber -09, Grüner Veltliner, Traisental D.A.C.

Now – desserts. I had Baked wild chocolade from Bolivia served with sour cream, toffée ice cream and nuts. Almost like a chocolate fondant and a really nice dessert plate for a guy not that crazy about sweets. Lisa had an even better dessert: Bitter lemon cream served with meringue, honey, olive oil and vanilla. Next time I’m having that one! To this we had Moscato d’Asti Bricco Quaglia -09 from La Spinetta, Piemonte and Vin doux Naturel Vendange -08 from Domaine Pouderoux, Maury.

We finished off with some espressos, curiously enough from Nespresso, and an avec. Lisa got Cidre De Glace, Ice Cider -06, from Domaine Leduc-Piedimonte in Canada. This ice cider is made in the same fashion as eiswein and are only made in like one or two places in the world. I got Grappa Sauvignon Blanc, Nonino -04.

The evening was in short amazing and I’ll be back soon. With a couple of dishes and a glass or two it doesn’t have to cost you more than the average restaurant. Thank you Mathias and crew.