Monday, November 4, 2013

Discovering a Different Side of Japan

It has been a while that I haven't written a post but last week the NYC Ballet went on tour to Japan and I decided it was the perfect subject to start back writing with. 
Photo by Henry Leutwyler
The company was divided into two travel groups. I was in group B and we arrived in Tokyo at 6pm after what was more than 16 hours of travel, plus we lost an entire Friday and most of the Saturday. The time difference is really difficult to get used to.  I was happy to be there but I didn't know how many hours more I would be able to force myself to stay awake, so I wasn't wide awake at 3 am and with nothing to do.

I decided to get out of the hotel right away for a walk and some dinner. We were staying in the young and fun area of Shibuya (people say it's their Times Square).  After sensing over loaded and crowded in their "Times Square", I ended up stopping in one of the many little-hole-in-the-wall restaurants that is typical of that area where they make these little skewers of many different  types meats, fish and veggies that are cooked over hot coal stones. I ordered four different ones...pork, duck, and two different kinds of chicken that accompanied a rice ball with salmon. As simple as the skewers look they were packed with flavor from the marinades and herbs that they had. It was definitely a very light meal yet very satisfying.
1st Night in Tokyo Skewer Dinner

After the first show that the company had, which I might add was a great success and very well received, the presenter had a small reception for the dancers with food and some Japanese beer. The food was more upscale here.  It was a fusion of Japanese and Western.   It was definitely very good, well prepared, and the balance of flavors was in great harmony.
Presenters Party

When you get your full of seeing Tokyo's temples and shrines, you must take a walk in the area of Kappabashi (the Main Street). It is a heavenly place for anyone interested in kitchen supplies and paraphernalia. This area is just a stop away from Asakusa on the Ginza line and it's a very easy area to get to. Once you are there it's overwhelming how many kitchen stores there are. They even have all the plastic food that they put in the restaurants' storefront.
Kitchen Supply Central
After the second show, Erica Pereira and I decided to go get sushi. The new thing in Tokyo is sushi restaurants where you order your food on your very own touch screen and it comes on a conveyer belt to you.  It is an updated version of the old conveyer belt system where you just  take what is going around.  This new novelty makes eating sushi a very interactive thing were you just want to keep ordering more for the fun of it. They also make you play a game of rock, paper, scissors. I won one time and got a little rubber piece of sushi.
Touch Screen Fun
After four shows in Tokyo, we traveled to Osaka. The last time we were there, Osaka was not one of my favorite places. That changed when my friend Charlie from the Royal Danish Ballet gave me some pointers.  You know what? Using his guidance, I actually started loving this place.  On Charlie's suggestion, I went to Shinsaibashi.  It's a really cool area full of life, shopping and restaurants. Of course, I went to have some of the local specialty King Crab and although my dinner was very light it was tasty and fresh. A very fun experience! 
I am Crabby!
I didn't come with the idea of buying a knife in Japan but after going to Kappabashi I got bitten by the knife bug. However buying a knife can be so overwhelming. I decided to ask for advice from my dear cooking Sensei Jessica. She gave me the name of this little store called Nagato in Sakai, a town 30 min outside of Osaka where they say the best Blacksmiths of Japan are. They have told her you could not leave the store with a knife because the knives had to be made especially for you. Yes, apparently these are the couture of knifes. These were the bloody Gucci and Chanel of knives.
Couture Knives

My favorite meal in Osaka happen when I got lost on the streets and bump into a tiny restaurant that didn't fit more than 10 people. All the seats where facing around the kitchen, the table was a flat iron grill where they would serve you and keep the food warm. The only choice of food was different styles of Okonomiyaki a sort of omelet with vegetables and a protein for you to choose. I choose the bacon one. They cook this omelet in the kitchen area on a similar surface that you have on your table. At the end of the process they added barbecue sauce and some other white sauce with a sprinkling of Bonito (fish flakes). Once it is done they place it on your warming surface/table. Okonomiyaki was so good that I was sad when it was finish. I wasn't able to go back to it, which I’m still disappointed about, and sometimes dream of it. One day I must try to recreate this dish.

Although the NYCB shows and the tour went very well and I had a great time with some very good food my real highlight was seeing the Erikea of Koyoshi-san the change from a meiko to a gaiko (A REAL GEISHA).  I saw her just walking down the street surrounded by paparazzi.  She stopped and gave me the most interesting smirk.  I had no idea that an actual geisha sighting was so rare.  I was later told that I was one of the 1st people to see her. I guess Antonio-san is a lucky boy!
Smirk and Smile

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Must Stop in Madrid

I have officially arrived in Madrid for my annual summer visit home.  I love this country and it's food.  On this day, I went to Ribiera Do Miño.  Even before, I arrive in Madrid, I am planning when exactly I can go and eat here.  I have been visiting this establishment for over a decade and it never disappoints. The focus of this restaurant is typical Galician dishes.  Galicia is the northwest region of Spain that is known for seafood and for the last stop on The Camino.

Upon entering Ribiera Do Miño you are struck by two things...1.) This place is an old school, no frills kind of place and  2.) This is a hidden local gem free from tourists. The waiters are all men and are wearing their black and whites.  They are fun and helpful but warning their english is NO BUENO, however you forgive them because of their hard working mentality.  Luckily, I don't need a translator. ;)

Promptly upon sitting, we ordered our drink of choice which is Ribeiro Wine.  Their Ribeiro is homemade, cold, sweet and refreshing.  However, don't be fooled it packs a big punch and with signage warning "NO SINGING ALLOWED" on the walls, we had to limit ourselves to two'll understand why later!

The Starters...Cockles, Padron Peppers, & Pulpo

We started our feast with some appetizers of their most famous starters.  1st was Cockles in a Saffron Wine Sauce.  These cockles were tender and flavorful but then again who doesn't like saffron.  Saffron makes everything better. The highlight of this dish was the sauce that we all fought to soak up with our pieces of bread. 2nd was the Pimientos de Pardon.  These little fried green devils are tricky.  Some are sweet and some are spicy, we always play a little game of choosing peppers for each other and of course we always want the other to get a spicy one.  Funny, Michael never thinks any of them are spicy.  He thinks we Spaniards are weaklings in the spicy food department.  3rd and most famous was the Pulpo a la Gallega (Octopus Galician Style).  This is a very simple dish to prepare.  You boil the octupus, then season it with smoked sweet paprika, olive oil and salt.  However, the way that they do it here and the quality of the ingredents that they use takes it to a whole other level...or even another universe! 

THE MAIN EVENT - Warm Seafood Platter

The main reason why we are here is THE WARM SEAFOOD PLATTER!  This platter consists of gambas (regular shrimp), langostinos (prawns) and cigalas (langoustines or scampi).  The 1st time, I brought Michael to this place he couldn't wrap his brain around how simply this platter is cooked.  He thought there was some special sauce that they were cooked in or maybe some secret preparation but all that happens is that they are grilled with salt and olive oil.  The reason for their delcious flavor is because of the sea region that they are brought from. Their flavor is incomparable, no other crustaceans come even close. I will let you in on a tiny secret, Michael and I always fight over the cigalas...but don't tell him, I always let him win. 

Michael working his magic on the Caimada

After eating our fill of shrimp and taking a little break, Michael ordered his favorite drink, a Caimada.  A Caimada is a traditional punch that was created to ward off witches and bad spirits.  It is made of Galician augardente, coffee, lemon peel, and sugar.  It is brought to a boil and then lit on fire.  As you can see from the photo it has a magical looking blue flame.  Once it is brought to the table, you have to stir and ladle it while reciting the incantation against the evil beings.  Just like the wine this "punch" will put hair on your chest. It is fun to drink and you have to hold yourself together or you will soon break the rule of NO SINGING.

Dessert Time

My mother is not a fan of the Caimada however she does like to have her alcohol in her dessert. Filloas are crepes filled with pastry cream and then bathed in the augardente and then flambéed.  The rest of us had a simple but oh so creamy flan. 


As our evening was coming to an end, a few of us (especially Papa Carmena) were buzzing and on the verge of being drunk.  Who could blame him with wine, punch, and the traditional end of the meal shot of orujo with herbs.  This shot is for as they said "for digestive purposes."  Yeah, right?!  We all got home happy and content.  Mission accomplished!  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Paella Dinner with Friends

A few weeks ago, Michael and I met these nice Italian guys and we quickly became friends.  During our 1st meeting we all spoke about the love of our respected countries' cuisine.  So, I invited them to our apartment for a paella night.  After we ask them over, one of our new amici told me that he doesn't eat any meat but he does love seafood.  No Problem!  One of the great things about paella is that it is very versatile. You can change it to your liking.  However, my biggest question was, what else was I going to make? You see, when people come over to eat, I don't like for them to leave hungry.  I rather have tons of leftovers than my guests not be able to enjoy as much food as they like.  Honestly, I was a little stressed out with the menu until Michael advised me to "Keep It Simple."  With that thought, I decided to make 2 appetizers or tapas, the paella, and 1 dessert.  For the tapas, I decided on Pan Tumaca and a Tortilla de Patata.  I was told that our friends loved chocolate so there was no question that I was going to make chocolate fondant for dessert.

Preparing The Fondant

I started by preparing the chocolate fondant.  I mixed all the ingredients and getting the ramekins buttered and dusted.  I did this so that when it was dessert time all I had to do was pop those bambinos in the oven and moments later...voila there you go. Oops, the voila should be Italian ;)

Chocolate fondant is a great dessert for chocolate lovers and if you can get them out of the ramekins (I had a little trouble getting mine out despite preparing them to come out easy) it is a very dramatic moment for the diners when they dig in and a river of melted chocolate oozes out. Despite the sinful nature of this dessert, I have figured out a way to make it with 1/2 the calories of a typical one.  I wanted to do this because we are all health conscious, being dancers and all.

First Steps in the Tortilla Making

The Most Fun Part Is The Flip!

My next plan of attack was the Tortilla de Patata.  This is perhaps the most typical of Spanish tapas.  It is almost impossible to find a Spaniard that hasn't been raised eating this dish.  I have great memories of making tortilla sandwiches (on baguettes, no less) and packing them up for the long summer days of  swimming and playing with my sister at the local pool.  To this day, every time I return to Spain having a good Tortilla is a must!

The Tumaca

Pan Tumaca is a great and easy tapa.  The traditional Catalonian style of making it is by toasting some bread and then simply rubbing some raw garlic and tomato on top the of bread.  You finish it off with a little olive oil and salt and your tapa is made. 

When I prepare Pan Tumaca for parties, I like to prepare it by grating the tomatoes in a bowl and adding the olive oil, garlic and salt to the mixture.  Then my guests can spread as much "tumaca" as they want and the bread doesn't get soggy.

The Star

After preparing the tapas and the dessert, I was in good shape.  I then tackled the star of the evening.  Paella!  Now the biggest one I have ever made was for 4 people however we were having 6 over so I borrowed my friends Bernardo's super size paella pan.  Bernardo uses his whenever we have paella night at his house for our monthly Spaniards in NYC nights.  

I started by chopping all the veggies and then made the sofrito.  The way that I make sofirto for paella, I use onions, peppers, tomato & tomato paste cooked in olive oil.  At this point, I had to stop and wait for my guests to arrive.  I never add the rice until my guests are enjoying their tapas.  You don't want over cooked rice.  I used the traditional rice called Bomba.  This rice is an ancient grain originally from the Murcia area of Spain.  It is used in paella making because of it's ability to absorb 3 times more liquid than other rice.  Once my sofrito was made and it was time for the paella making to start again, I added the rice and saffron.  I cooked them for a couple of minutes.  After the rice has a translucent look, I pour my liquid.  In this case, I used fish stock.  I let the stock start a light boil and added my proteins.  My proteins for this paella was Shrimp (yes, with the heads and all), mussels, and squid.  I allowed all the ingredients to cooked together and never mixed it or moved it.  Mixing is a no no in paella making. 

I am happy to say that "Paella Night" was a big success.  There was laughter, joy, good times and full bellies for all.  I left the evening having representing my mother country well.  OLE ESPAÑA! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sara Mearns' Final Curtain Food - Mac-N-Cheese, Ratatouille and Strawberry Shortcake

While the New York City Ballet was in Copenhagen, I asked Sara Mearns if she would be interested in participating in my "FINAL CURTAIN FOOD" blog series.  With a big smile, she answered "Yes."  However, she kept her choices to herself.  After returning from Europe, it took us a while to get our schedules together but we lucked out this week because Sara's Mom (I called her Mama) was in town.  Mama wasn't only going to join us for dinner but she was going to make and teach me two of Sara's choices. Interestingly, these were Sara's Grandmother's recipes.  I felt honored to have the energy and love of food of these 3 generations around us.

So, Sara's FINAL CURTAIN FOOD was Mac-N-Cheese, Ratatouille, and Strawberry Shortcakes.  As soon as she told me her choices I wondered if she was a vegetarian, as there was no protein (meat/fish) in the meal.  Mama noticed that too and agreed with me.  Fun enough, Sara is not a vegetarian but these  are her favorites dishes and that is what the evening is all about.  However, there was mention of a roasted chicken from when she visited family in England that she was obsessed with.

When Michael and I arrived to Sara's Hell's Kitchen apartment, we were immediately greeted by Rocky the dog.  Mama was busy in the kitchen and finishing up the preparation for the Mac-N-Cheese.  She explained that the recipe was quite simple.  She was right but after tasting the finished product, I can state that it had the perfect ratio of ingredients and love...It was so yummy.

One of the greatest things about cooking with Sara's Mom was the charming stories about Sara as a child.  Mama told me that when Sara would go to a salad bar she thought veggies were shredded cheese and ranch dressing.  I found this so cute and endearing.  Wow, Sara has come a long way because her choice of veggies tonight was Ratatouille.  As soon as she mentioned Ratatouille, I started researching different recipes.  I decided to make to different versions.  The 1st was the traditional Provencal version and the other was the recipe based on the hit Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille.  I wanted to make both for her and have her choose which one she liked best.

The last dish was Strawberry Shortcakes and again we were lucky this evening because not only did Mama made it but she brought hand picked strawberries all the way from South Carolina.  I mean she went to a farm and handpicked them herself! It is actually a deconstructed version of Strawberry Shortcake.  Sara was a truly wonderful hostess and assembled each plate for us.  The dessert was a perfect end to this meal.  My favorite moment was seeing Sara take a spoon full of the this dessert's 3 components (cream, cake and berries) because as soon as she finished, she gave me the biggest smile I have ever seen.

I had a lovely time getting to know her better.  She is a delightful young women and artist.

Me Giving Sara a Quick Cooking Lesson

 Ratatouille's Ratatouille

Making Mac-N-Cheese & Traditional Ratatouille Provencal

Mama and Her Strawberry Shortcakes

Our Hostess with the Mostess Making Sure the Dessert is Served Properly

The Evenings Guests
Left to Right
Mama and Me, Sara and Mark, Sara and Me, Michael and Rocky 
By The Way...Sara like the Traditional Ratatouille...sorry Disney



          Two kinds of shredded Cheddar (chefs choice)
          5 tablespoons butter
          4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
          4 cups milk
          2 teaspoons salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start off by creating a bechamel.  In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and set aside until ready to use.

In a pasta pan heat water until it is at a rolling boil.  Add Macaroni and cook until it is almost al dente. 

In a casserole dish, add 1/2 the cooked macaroni and pour 1/2 of the bechamel over it and sprinkle 1/2 of the two cheeses and then repeat the process again creating a second layer.

Place in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden on top.

Ratatouille’s Ratatouille

As envisioned by Smitten Kitchen

1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 cup tomato puree (such as Pomi)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant (my store sells these “Italian Eggplant” that are less than half the size of regular ones; it
worked perfectly)
1 smallish zucchini
1 smallish yellow squash
1 longish red bell pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.

Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube.

On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.

Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit.

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and
pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.

Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside. (Tricky, I know, but the hardest thing about this.)

Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.

Ratatouille Provencal

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
1 1/2 cups small diced yellow onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups medium diced eggplant, skin on
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup diced green bell peppers
1 cup diced red bell peppers
1 cup diced zucchini squash
1 cup diced yellow squash
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set a large 12-inch saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the eggplant and thyme to the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is partially cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the green and red peppers, zucchini, and squash and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for a final 5 minutes. Stir well to blend and serve either hot or at room temperature.

Strawberry Short Cakes

1 quart (4 cups) strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/3 cups Original Bisquick® mix
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup whipping cream 


1.  Heat oven to 425°F. In large bowl, mix strawberries and 1/4 cup sugar; set aside.
2.  In medium bowl, stir Bisquick mix, milk, 3 tablespoons sugar and the butter until soft dough forms.              On ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough by 6 spoonfuls.
3.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, in small bowl, beat whipping cream with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form.
4.  Serve shortcakes topped with strawberries and whipped cream.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Culinary Choreography, A NYCB TurnOut

On Monday April 15th, 2013, I participated in a new event for the New York City Ballet TurnOut entitled Culinary Choreography.  I have been wanting an event like this for quite awhile.  Therefor, I was very excited to be apart of this and hopefully more to come. Here is a photo diary of the event...I hope you enjoy it.

The Four NYCB Dancers Chair-People
Jared Angle, Rebecca Krohn, Antonio Carmena, Troy Schumacher

Patrons melting chocolate for our dessert

Cooking beet dumplings (left) & reducing sauce (right)

I am glazing the lamb lion with a herds

I'm seasoning the roasted asparagus 

I am making beet dumplings with spoons is called "Quenelle."
I couldn't keep myself in one station...I was so excited!

Our Joyful Hosts Stuart H. Coleman and Meryl Rosofsky

Georgian Vegetable Tart served with 2010 Wölffer Estate Chardonnay

Herb Crusted Lamb Lion with a Cabarenet Reduction
Beet Dumpling with Horseradish Sauce
Roasted Seasonal Vegetables
Served with 2010 Wölffer Estate Merlot

Chocolate Souffle with Raspberries & Vanilla Ice Cream
Served with 2011 Diosa Lare Harvest Chardonnay

Me and Michael Pereira

All of the participants of the 2013 NYCB TurnOut Culinary Choreography

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ballet Cook Book: Dinner with Melissa Hayden

We were so thrilled even before we started cooking the sixth installment of the Ballet Cook Book Dinner because had a very special guest, Stuart Coleman (Melissa Hayden's son).  He was coming to try our version of his mother and grandmother's recipes. His presence make this meal count even more than the others.  As excited as we were the pressure was on!  We started very relaxed as we thought the recipes were simple and should be easy to do.  It didn't take us to much time to realize that although they were easy, they were also time consuming. Everything seem to have multiple steps.  So to relax into our situation, we poured ourselves a glass of wine.  I am not sure what was different about Melissa Hayden's recipes but I have to say that this was the most fun we have had in the kitchen during all the Ballet Cook Book Dinners. We were especially naughty and comical.  It made me wonder if she had this much fun making them.  My guess would be yes!

What Ryan neglected to tell us was that he told everyone to come at 7:30 and not our customary 8 PM. So when our guests arrived we were still in the throws of cooking. Luckily, our guests were patient and had vodka to share.  They went to the lounge and awaited for dinner to be served. 

We open the dinner with her chicken wings.  When I think of chicken wings, I think of Buffalo wings...these weren't your typical wings.  These didn't have sauce nor were they spicy.  However, they tasted great and came out juicy and crunchy.  On a side note, we were lucky to have fresh herds from Susan's garden to use in the breading of the chicken.  This really enhanced their flavor.  

Our main course consisted of 3 recipes. We decided that Katie's Sweet and Sour Meat Balls would be the focus and the Stuffed Cabbage and Latkas would be side dishes. I have never made stuffed cabbage but Hayden's recipe was very easy to follow.  After prepping all the ingredients including boiling 2 heads of cabbage and combining onions, potato and ground beef, I put my sous chefs (Michael, Jeff and Ryan) to work stuffing the cabbage.  As we went through the steps of making the Sweet and Sour Meatballs, we were worried that we were not preparing them correctly.    However, after an hour and 1/2 of cooking the onions got caramelized and the sauce reduced.  All the favors combined wonderfully and Katie came through for us. The hit of the evening was the Potato Latkas.  I mean, who doesn't like fried, crunchy potatoes?  I liked them so much I could envision using them as a base for tapas in the future. Sadly, we only made enough Latkas for one serving.  On the other hand, Stuart's favorite was Katie's Sweet and Sour Meatballs and happily we had made plenty, even enough for him to take home.  He was in luck.

Our lovely Host and dessert master, Susan LaRosa got a head start on the Fruit Compote the night before and she did a wonderful job.  You can read more about the dish on Susan's blog.

The biggest compliment of the evening was Stuart's enjoyment of the food.   He mentioned how the flavors made his mother feel close to him again.  I was honored. 

(p.s. - the last minute is my stay tuned until the end)

Friday, April 12, 2013

NOMA - A Great Performance

When the New York City Ballet told us that we were going back to Copenhagen, many dancers jumped on the phone to try to make reservations at Noma.  Noma is voted the best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine.  It is one of the hardest restaurants to get a reservation to.  In fact, they only open their lines one day a month for reservations for three months in advance.  Unfortunately, I did not grand jete fast enough to get a reservation. I have to confess that I waited until casting for Copenhagen was revealed which was two weeks before we arrived in Denmark. By a miracle, I happen to have a friend with an inside contact and while I was there Noma called me that a table for two had opened up for that day. After hanging up the phone and screaming with happiness, I actually started to panic because I had to find a date at the last minute.  The issue here was that this date had to be interested in trying this experience and was free from performing.  I asked several people but they were dancing that night.  My pal Ashley Bouder (see her blog post) suggested for me to ask Amar Ramasar.  I had no idea Amar was a foodie and was eager to go!  So off to Noma we went....

From Right to left - Malt flatbread & Juniper, Moss & Cep, Cheese Cookie Presentation, Cheese Cookie, Rocket & Stems Berry

Our experience started off with a bang.  As we arrived, we found the entire staff (chefs included) waiting there to greet us.  I must say that they were a handsome bunch.  Oh La La or Oh Det as the Danes say!  We were seated by our lovely server Katherine and she asked us if we had any food allergies or sensitivities. Amar stated that he was allergic to crustaceans. She then explained to us how the courses would proceed.  There was no menu to choose so basically, we were to sit and get ready for the show.  Although, they offer a wine and a juice pairing (rumor has it they are divine), Amar and I decided to focus on the food and just stick with their own beer that they brew themselves!

Dried Carrot & Sorrel, Pickled & Smoked Quail Egg, Cod Liver & Milk, Æbleskiver &Muikku

Our first courses arrived very quickly.  One right after another. Some highlights were "moss and cep", "dried carrot and sorrel" and "pickled and smoked quail eggs."  As you can read these are not your ordinary dishes.  One of the most interesting of our "appetizers" was "sorrel and nasturtium" which contained grasshopper. Yes, GRASSHOPPER!  You read that right. Interestingly, grasshoppers are in the crustacean family, so Amar was served a grasshopper substitute.

Lumpish & Apple, Sorrel & Nasturtium, Leek & Cod Roe, Fresh Milk Curd & Blueberry Preserves

One of the most fascinating aspects at Noma was that each of the dishes was served by the chef that assembled the dish.  Each dish was served in a elegant and graciousness matter that one can only compare to the movements in a ballet.  The individual flavors were all so very strong.  I believe that it was caused by the preparations and techniques used in the kitchen.  They seemed to use curing, smoking, fermenting and pickling quite often.  These techniques boost the flavors of their already super fresh and clean products.

A Substitute for Amar, Brown Crab with Egg Yolk & Herbs, Onion & Fermented Pears, Beets & Plums

I found the combinations of ingredients incredibly fascinating.  Who would have ever thought of combining a dried carrot with ashes.  You know what?  It was very tasty.  A few highlights from our many courses about 20 plus was the Pike Perch and cabbages with verdena and dill.  The pike was soft and buttery and cooked to perfection.  It was also served with a fish bone stock foam that heighten the pike's flavor.  The dill sauce freshen the rest.  A completely luscious dish!
Potatoes & Bleak Fish Roe, Pike Perch & Cabbages with Verbena & Dill, Beef Rib & Lignin Berries, Gammel Dansk

Funny enough, my all time favorite thing that I ate here was one of the petit-fours.  It was a pork rind.  These were not your regular pork rinds that you buy in a bag.  These were chocolate and berry encrusted pork rinds.  They were like a little bite of heaven.  This was all enhanced by the fact that Amar and I grew up liking pork rinds more than potato chips.  We were so obsessed by these perfectly balanced crunchy, sweet, savory, creamy and spicy delights that we contemplated on asking them for a few bags to take home.
My Beloved Chocolate and Berry Pork Rind

We all can judge what we think is the best and worst, as it is a matter of opinion.  For me, Noma was everything that I expected it to be.  It was a very exciting time for me.  As you know, I am a food lover but their love and care of food is on another level.  You can feel the respect and thoughtfulness that they bestow on each dish.  This care inspired me.  I knew that food was beautiful however they made each plate a work of art.  I left Noma a changed man. 

My Handsome Date Amar Ramasar

On a side note, if you can not get a reservation at Noma try Bror.  It is a fairly new restaurant opened by a former Noma Chef.  It was also one of my culinary highlights in Copenhagen.  It is a more homestyle form of cooking but many "Noma Techniques" are used.