Jul 31, 2011

Jul 29, 2011

here we go again



cleveland until sunday. above you see skilled hands making a fine salad.

Jul 26, 2011

Jul 25, 2011

see you later, scandinavia

now leaving oslo, and not a moment too soon. three weeks after the copenhagen flood of july 2, water has finally insinuated its way into the depths of my laptop. it started with misfires on the keyboard, then the touchpad became jumpy and unreliable. today, the screen is flickering ominously. it may be the end of the road.

a minute of silence

Jul 22, 2011

our answer to violence is more democracy

i was out getting an ekstra stor pose of Smash! when it happened and all i noticed was that, suddenly, everyone was standing around looking at their cellphones.

the photographs from the scene indicate a large explosion in the street between the prime minister's office and the ministry of oil around 3.30pm oslo time yesterday. a few hours later, reports came in of a shooting on the island of utøya, about 45 minutes away, where the norwegian labour party was running some sort of summer retreat for youth members. as of today, a total of 92 people are confirmed dead, over 80 of them on utøya. a suspect in the shooting was arrested yesterday and named by the police: anders behring breivik, from oslo and thought to have right-wing sympathies.

here, just outside of the city center, everything appears to be normal within reason. trains and buses are running, and the streets which were completely empty of people yesterday are now back to the usual traffic. many shops are closed to mark yesterday's events and, possibly, for security reasons. which seems only prudent. around noon, i went for a run up to the bomb site, only to find an enormous zone of the city center cordoned off and patrolled by the norwegian army. there is a surprising amount of broken glass on the streets.

the norwegians are admirably calm in the face of this attack. jens stoltenberg, the prime minister, had this to say:

We do not know who attacked us, many are dead and injured. Norway will stand together in a time of crisis, we suffer with the wounded. I have a message to whoever attacked us, you will not destroy us, you will not destroy our democracy, and our ideals for a better world. We are a small nation and a better nation. No one will bomb us to silence, no one will shoot us to silence. Our answer to violence is more democracy.

slow food and things that take time

Simremad

pelle andersen is one of the authors of simremad og ting de tager tid or, (loosely translated) simmered foods and other things that take time. the recipes within are organized by the duration of their preparation. dinner at his apartment lasted nine hours. his wife went to bed around 1am.

(that thing that looks like a lump of bitumen is a poached pear.)

norwegian summer

Photo_1 Photo_2

Jul 20, 2011

in which we discover a delicious norwegian snack

Photo

have you noticed that i am now in oslo, which deserves its reputation as the world's most inexplicably expensive city?* soon after arriving here last week, i discovered that every place worth eating at is closed for the summer, that norwegian grocery stores sell neither sweet butter nor yogurt containing still-living cultures, and that the price of food here is no indication of its quality.

on the plus, oslo city water is remarkable. for refreshingness and clarity of flavour, it beats boston's quabbin water and new york city's much-vaunted catskills water handily. copenhagen city water cannot be spoken of in the same breath, as it tastes profoundly flat and forms crusty deposits of lime scale at the slightest provocation.

the real gem of norway is Smash! these are crunchy cornmeal and cornflour cones, lightly salted and then dipped in chocolate that appears to be mostly hydrogenated vegetable fat and artificial vanilla. reprehensible, but the balance of crunchy and unctuous, salt and sweet is completely delicious. i have not seen these outside of norway, though they will be a runaway success in japan or the usa.

Smash! is also available in a variety of inferior formats including the mini format (tiny Smash!), the snack mix format (Smash! bits with pretzels), and ice cream format (a giant Smash! filled with ice cream), but the original Smash! is the best Smash!

the name doesn't hurt. i recommend buying an ekstra stor pose.

* (obviously expensive because of the oil reserves, since the sovereign wealth fund has assets in excess of $500bn today, but inexplicable in the sense that it is expensively unspectacular instead of being expensively exquisite. like, say, kyoto.)

Jul 18, 2011

the E6

Photo

the E6 is one of norway's major north-south freeways. between oppdal and lillehammer, it passes between some steep mountains and can get quite windy.

Jul 15, 2011

coffee in a gentrifying neighbourhood

grünerløkka, on the east side of oslo, to be precise. tim wendelboe is both the man and the coffeeshop. the tekangu aeropress was dry, light, acid, and full of berries. he endorses many products including the aeropress (which is nice) and the hario slim grinder MSS-1B (which is an extraordinarily expensive piece of poorly engineered junk). they serve what looks like a 12oz aeropress in a steamer jug, so that you can pour as much as you want into the accompanying cup and thus slow down the overall cooling process. a good idea.

i suppose this could be tasty

Jul 14, 2011

relae

the pace of work at noma is crushing; 90-hour weeks are common. when the people who work there leave, sometimes they open their own restaurants with a different approach to service. i met one of the ex-noma guys in aarhus a few weeks ago; he brought an incredible bottle of natural wine with him*, and mentioned that he worked at a new restaurant called relae. we went for dinner on friday night. platings were simple and most everything we had was good. three things were good enough to go back for:

  • a pile of fresh peas, a scoop of fresh sheep cheese, a scattering of red pine shoots, and a bright green snow made of pine and peas. these peas were listed as frozen, but they were tiny, sweet, tender, and many had their little funiculi still attached to them. peas begin to convert their sugars to much less tasty starches within minutes of being picked, which is why peas flash-frozen at harvest are almost always better than even relatively freshly picked peas. the chalkiness and mild lactic character of fresh sheep cheese with the citrus aroma of the pine: simple-seeming and very delicious. 
  • grilled spring onions, leek stem, and puree of charred onion. charred alliums are always fantastic. they usually have enough water and sugar that very intense heat dries them out a little, caramelises sugars, and drives off some of the sulphur compounds. 
  • cooked turnips, strips of lamb from west denmark, marrow broth, samphire, new garlic. this was incredibly good and fully evolved, a perfect dish and one which to me felt indisputably different from noma in style and intent. circulator-cooked, then briefly (very briefly) pan-seared lamb in very thin strips over samphire and new garlic, a clarified marrow broth over that, then a layer of thin slices of cooked white turnips over the top. lamb from the west of denmark is often grazed on salt dunes close to the ocean, giving a slight salt air flavour to the meat. samphire is a succulent that grows in salt soil and becomes salty itself, in a juicy and crunchy way. the turnip slices were softly crunchy and had a mild mustardy bite; the soft crunch is a texture unfairly ignored in western cooking. taken together, a range of beautiful textures and flavours. the lamb was not the main point of the dish.
* a magnum of domaine les griottes navine chenin blanc. i think. things were getting a little hazy by the time it was opened, but it was cloudy bronze, rich, tannic, and full in the mouth, with a distinct bite in the middle of the tongue.

Jul 13, 2011

trifle at st john bread and wine



strawberries, sherry-dampened sponge, candied toasted almonds, custard, cream. very delicious and good for your arteries.

the espresso room



this was nice. the espresso room is not in cleveland, oh.

2.5 pounds of british cherries

Jul 10, 2011

the st john cream donut

the borough market on saturday was a zoo, as you might expect. the line for monmouth snaked around the big table in the shop, then exited the building and went around the corner. but word on the street is that the only reliable time and place to get these cream donuts is on saturday mornings at the st john bakery outpost in the borough market neals yard. there would be a photograph here of the best filled donuts i've ever had, but they were too quickly engulfed.*

Jul 5, 2011

the deluge

i left copenhagen on sunday, after a torrential downpour that raised the water level of the inland lakes an appreciable amount while also flooding streets and basements and, not incidentally, my laptop computing device. as it dries out, more and more keys on the keyboard return to full function. it is particularly inconvenient that the backspace key produces a "y," and that the "e" key produces "ypu," though everything else appears fully functional. thanks must be given for small mercies and big ones too.


london and the surrounds for the next two weeks, for a lab with a quite different organisation and philosophy. "field" notes will be left in the places to which you have become accustomed.