Saturday, September 15, 2007

Spoil Yourselves Rotten: Restaurant Geranium

Appetizer of King Crab with Cauliflower - purée and crudité. A small leaf of mint-flower and mint leaves for that hint of freshness. Way to start a meal.

Alright, people. I have never, ever done this before. What you're about to witness is a Food & Thoughts First. I'm going to try and do a restaurant review.

Why, you may ask, haven't I done this before? Afterall, this is one blog that's lived past the 3 year mark, is one of a very few - maybe the only one? - written in English, food blogs from Denmark. And yet, yet, the closest I ever got to mentioning a restaurant has been a very short remark here (which did prompt an e-mail from the owner after a guest he had mentioned they went there because they read that short notice - so obviously I have POWERS! Muahaha!) but other than that, the closest I've gotten to restaurants is the recipes from a couple of them that I've been tooting.

I just stared at this plate when it was put in front of me - is cooking art or handicraft? Scallops with beets - purée, raw in slices, cooked cubes - hazelnut mayo and fresh hazelnuts - blackberries, sweet cicely and chickenwort. This was probably my favorite dish of them all. I love the use of herbs, how they totally change the flavor of one bite from the next, depending on which one you happen to pick up on your fork. And yet, they all just matched the dish, seperately and together. Plus, scallops is probably one of my all time favorite food items. Crunchy fresh hazelnuts, bursting fall in your mouth. Lovely.

And there is, of course, an explanantion. You see, in case you didn't already know, for the last 8 years or so (and how on earth could you have been reading this site and NOT known??), I've worked as a waitress. I only very recently stopped - as in, it's been 8 months since I had a regular employer. Yes, I do still have an occasional shift here and there, but these days, I'm revelling in Friday and Saturday Nights Off. It's a whole new experience, I'm telling you.

Copenhagen is a very small city. We're a little more than one million people here and we have A LOT of gorgeous restaurants, but the people running them are a select few. So when you know one, you know a lot. At least by name and appearance, and who knows, you probably, at one time or the other, had a few night caps with every last one of them, or worked with them for a shift. I'm not saying this to sound like a big-shot. I doubt many of them would recognize me. But I know who they are. Somehow, like I said before, this makes me feel even more like an amateur. I don't like judging people, and more than anything, I don't like judging people I kind of know, but then don't, 'cause oh dear, what might they think of me and I'm only a wanna-be and... You can just tell how much I worry, right? Of course, there's also all the stuff about "do I really take photos at a restaurant??" and the whole fact-checking-enchilada that... Eh.

Jaw of cod, tortellini with pumpkin, pumpkin squares, onions, fresh lima beans and pumpkin bisque. Earthy beans and pumpkin combining with the flavors of the sea in form of the cod jaws, with the onions somehow like a lightly pickled one broke the intensity of the bisque in a perfect way, both with regards to texture and taste. The bisque was poured on top of the rest tableside, one of those nifty little, albeit often used, tricks I adore. The last of summer/beginning of fall in my mouth. I like that season.

On the other hand, I can't go on any longer and not let you all know that really, there is a reason you should all get your behinds to Copenhagen and eat your way through it. Not just because I say so, but maybe, just maybe, I could show you some pictures, add a few choice words and then YOU be the judge yourselves. And I can point you to Trine's blog, Good Food, and let you check out all of her reviews, while I try to secure my unsteady legs here in the unknown territory that is restaurant reviewing telling stories about restaurants. Please indulge me...

Probably the least favorite of all, but for some reason main courses are often a thing that doesn't speak that much to me - maybe it's just that there's more on the plate? Anyways - Pork with potato chiffonade, parsnips and parsley-pesto, wild mushrooms and "gravy". Everything was absolutely lovely, the parsnips maybe a bit on the crunchy side for me, the parsley maybe over-powering everything else? But I loved, loved, loved the potato chiffonade - I guess when it all comes down to it, I'm just a carbo-loving kinda girl!

For lunch this Thursday, Martin and I went to Restaurant Geranuim. This is one thing Trine reminded me of: go for lunch. It's cheaper, and you can take better shots. I'm on a steep learning curve here, and I'm looking to Trine for help - Thank you, T!:) Also, as Sam says, transperancy is everything, so I will mention that one of the waiters there is an old colleague of mine. The reason we went here for lunch is also because I did one shift there, helping them out when there was a sudden sickness in staff, and I got totally smitten with what I saw on the plates. I had to try it out while not apron-clad and in a white shirt, pouring wine for others. This time, I wanted wine poured for me.

Restaurant Geranium is the brain child of chefs Rasmus Kofoed and Søren Ledet. Rasmus Kofoed is a recent winner of the silver medal at the Bocuse d'Or (sort of a chef's world championship) and Søren Ledet doesn't come short of recommandations either: Chef of the Year 2004 (in Denmark, naturally), former co-head of kitchen at Noma (only the 15th. best restaurant in the WORLD) and generally speaking, just a world class chef. And I'm not going to start on the rest of the kitchen staff there, 'cause it would be all Chef of the year 2005, Best Young Chef etc. etc. You get my point.

Danish cheeses, clockwise from the front: smoked brie - røde Kristian - some goat's milk cheese washed in ashes that was VERY pungent - blue cheese, that I really liked, but sadly, have forgotten the name of. I'm like that with cheese names. With it we got a green tomato chutney, crispbread with muesli and pumpernickel. Yummy in my tummy, but I wouldn't have wanted to kiss me right after it ;-) (Martin's not that big on smelly cheeses - he loves his cheese alright, but is into the firmer kinds)

The philosophy of the restaurant is one of "unconditional love for the finest, pure ingredient" - they're pretty much organic and biodynamic throughout. The actual placing of the restaurant in Kgs. Have, one of the green breathing spots in the middle of the center of the city makes for a gorgeous backdrop for what they put on their plates. Large crocks of herbs are everywhere outside the windows on their little patio, and people are passing outside with strollers and dogs. Mighty pretty.

So simple, so perfect: blueberries (fresh and dried) with blackberry sorbet, "koldskål" (Traditionel Danish cold dessert "soup" made with buttermilk, eggs and vanilla) and kammerjunker (the traditional "cake" to go with koldskål) - oh yes, and caramelly, chocolate-y thing for garnish. And a couple of delicate lemon balm leaves. Yay! Not too much, not too little, just a little sweet something to finish off. I hope I'll remember the taste of those blueberries forever, they were unlike anything I ever had. And if i don't remember that, I hope I remember how much fun Martin and I had looking at our tongues when we finished. Heh!

As I said, I'm not going to be doing a review as such, but the pictures in this post I think pretty much speaks for themselves. A photo's worth a thousand words, right? What they serve there is nothing short of gorgeous, and for some reason (we are talking about big, broad-shouldered, wild haired chefs here) very feminine. Look at that scallop serving? Any girl worth her salt would swoon just looking at that.

Sweets with coffee: liqourice marshmallows, caramel-discs and pistachio-covered truffles filled with a dulce de leche-like confection flavored with eucalyptus oil. That last one - I'm sorry, but ick. I've never been fond of eucalyptus, so that might explain it. You try new stuff. It's all part of the learning curve, growing older and wiser, right?

There's no doubt the people here know what they're doing, and that they are exceptionally good at it as well. Scallops cooked to perfection (caramelized on the outside, just this side of raw on the inside) potato chiffonade you want to put your head to sleep on it looks so soft, perfect blueberries that leave your tongue all blackish-blue you daren't speak afterwards because noone will take your seriously with a tongue looking like that. People caring about what they do. The attention to detail. The light, the lovely light. The gorgeous food, the glorious wine - which, on a side note, I only remember along the lines of: riesling, white burgundy, riesling, red burgundy, riesling and monbazillac - and yes, we REALLY like rieslings, so we were close to heaven here.

This is most definitely a place to come back to. You should go, too.

Restaurant Geranium
Kgs. Have
Kronprinsessegade 13
1306 København K
Phone: 33111304
Open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday, lunch Tuesday-Friday.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

[DANSK] Pickles Here, Pickles There, Pickles, Pickles Everywhere!

Back when I told you about Pariserbøf, I briefly mentioned pickles, our rather, the thing we Danes call pickles. I think it might go under the name mustard relish or picalilli out in the big world. It is a complete necessity when making Pariserbøf, but also makes for a mean quick remoulade (again, the Danish kind - French may think us calling this remoulade bordering on an insult!) if you chop it up finely (or buy the finely chopped kind, of course) and mix it with a little mayo.

Basically, it's an assortment of vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, onions - some people add celeriac, cucumbers, green beans, bell peppers, too) in a mustardy, spiced (not necessarily spicy) sauce. It's usually something I buy, but when rummaging through my old magazines at the beginning of my vacation, I found a recipe in my favorite Danish food magazine. Slowly, it dawned on me that "hey! I can make this myself!" And not have all the E-numbers. There is already a way of avoiding the E-numbers, but the brand I found without them will cost you an arm and a leg (45 kr./about $7-8) for a small jar. Which is no good when you tend to eat an entire jar in one sitting.

So I bought the best Danish cauliflower and organic carrots and onions money could buy, found the big bottle of vinegar and set to the job. Now, I am the proud owner of three half litre jars and one 3/4 l. jar of pickles. It's mighty great pickles. And here's the recipe:

Gastro's Pickles - adapted from the October 2006 issue

750 g. carrots, peeled
750 g. cauliflower
500 g. onions
500 g. salt
3 l. water

Cut the carrots into 1x1 centimeter cubes and divide the cauliflower into small florets, roughly the same size as the carrots. You can go smaller or larger here as you like, just adjust the cooking time later on. Peel the onions, then cut it into 12 wedges (depending on the size of your onions - mine were a small medium size - very precise, aren't I?)

Dissolve the salt in the water. Pour this over the cut-up vegetables, and leave in the fridge to salt for 12 hours minimum.

For the sauce:
1 ½ apple cider vinegar
1 kg. sugar
3 tablespoons paprika
1 ½ tablespoons cayenne pepper (the original recipe calls for 3 tablespoons, but I'm a whimp)
3 tablespoons curry powder
3 tablespoons turmeric powder
3 tablespoons mustard powder
(you can up or down the amount of spices to your liking, naturellement!)

30-40 g. corn starch (maybe more)

Mix everything but the corn starch in a big, shallow pan. Bring to the boil and boil for 3-4 minutes. Thicken the vinegar-mix with corn starch dissolved in a little water. You want a consistency sorta like mayo, 'cause you really need the sauce to cling to the veggies, once they're mixed. I needed to use a lot more corn starch than originally called for, to get that texture. The sauce wont thicken particularly once it cools. Believe me, I thought so and went ahead and jarred everything, just to have to re-boil and re-thicken the sauce. It's just not necessary for you to do the same :)

The pickles will keep for about 6 months in unopened jars in the fridge. Yes, my fridge is pretty full. Which is good, 'cause I think I feel a craving creeping up...