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!

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.

Pine mouth drives me nuts

Ever heard of pine nuts leaving a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth? I did a couple of months ago but didn’t think much of it. That was until a a glass of juice almost had me convinced I was being poisoned. It has now lasted several days and the worst part is that it seems like it can stay like this for weeks.

For a food loving guy like me, this really blows. Have I mentioned I do enjoy wine as well, apparently that will be one of the most revolting experiences with pine mouth. Crap-damn-it!

Moving past my disgust, pine mouth is quite an interesting phenomenon. Everyone seems puzzled with what’s behind it. Some has suggested rancid nuts and scientists have tested for led and chemicals, fortunately without results. Lately, though, it seems like it has something to do with what type of tree the nuts are taken from. Since most samples that have caused pine mouth are from China, many seems to be switching to other suppliers. You see, the harvests haven’t yielded enough so it seems ‘regular’ pine nuts is getting mixed with other types. As it is hard to distinguish between the different types I am too boycotting Chinese pine nuts from now on.

If you’re interested in reading more about this there’s a really good blog by a grad student specialising in food perceptions – The Great Pine Nut Mystery. Among other things she lists different types and if they’ll give you pine mouth. Swedish food journalist Lisa Förare Winbladh has also written about this after experiencing it, in Swedish though. Or you can just Google it and you’ll see that it seems to be trending.

Photo by Paul Goyette.