Monday, October 31, 2011

Meatless Monday: Celebrating Food Day with the Best Chef in the World

To be totally truthful, René Redzepi and I did not exactly celebrate Food Day together. But we were in the same place at the same time for an hour and a half on October 24th. He was at the front of the lecture hall on Yale’s Old Campus, and I was way at the back. But I could see him, and hear him. He had slides, and I even got to taste some of his food! The time flew by. Chef Redzepi is a real raconteur. 

He is the owner of Noma, a restaurant he opened in Copenhagen in November, 2003, named the World's Best Restaurant in both 2010 and 2011. Chef Redzepi was in the States last week as part of a Danish cultural delegation. It was the first time food was represented in such a group, and it is difficult to imagine a better ambassador.

In a land where, by Chef Redzepi’s account, pigs outnumber people four to one he has built a Nordic cuisine on hyper-local foods supplied by farmers, foraged, hunted, or harvested from the sea by hand. Much of what is foraged is pickled for later use. He brought trays of pickled elderflowers, rose petals, and the crunchy seeds of Danish ramps for us to taste. [I loved the elderflowers and the seeds, the rose petals not so much.]

Chef Redzepi regaled us with tales of his love of chicken, of transforming a very old carrot into a delicacy, and of discovering spicy flavors amidst rotting seaweed.

He also spoke of the Nordic Food Lab and the annual MAD (the Danish word for food) Foodcamp (Symposium), and described one of the Lab’s current projects — naming the 150 kinds of horseradish he and the other “Gastronauts” have discovered while “exploring Mother Earth for edible food.”

Chef Redzepi truly must work magic from these found ingredients, for yearly there are over 600,000 requests for 5,875 tables in this 40 seat restaurant. I discovered a wonderful blog where a long-awaited meal at Noma is described in minute detail accompanied by exquisite photographs. Pickled elderflowers [one of the items I sampled] can be seen nestled in between the carrot leather and seabuckthorn served as an appetizer.  You can read what others have to say here

When asked about what other ingredients he used during the harsh winter in which he braised, in his words, “the shitty carrot,” Chef Redzepi described resorting to “trash cooking” and how he came to include such items as reindeer tongue on his menu. 

Much as I admire the innovation in these winter meals, I’m thinking an early summer seating.  Maybe there would be seafood and some fresh vegetables from a farm along with the less familiar items. Did I mention the price? A recent reviewer spoke of the price of the meal as being expensive but worth it — 800 € for two for 12 courses with wine. That comes out to just over $1,127 US dollars. And then, there's the airfare. But my cousin lives in Denmark… I can dream, can’t I? 

Happy Halloween. Unplug your vampire devicesHave a good week, and come again soon.
I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal  health and the health of our planet.”

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