travel: toward a facile familiarity…

•April 6, 2015 • 5 Comments

A city of bikes.

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The Norwegian Airline strike was a refrain during the latest Friends of Lysverket weekend in Bergen.  It came up repeatedly in conversation.

The strike had gone on way too long, keeping thousands of people, including me, suspended in travel limbo.  I had two connecting flights on the airline that week: one to Copenhagen, and one to Oslo, where Christopher Haatuft (chef of Lysverket), his wife Annette, and I had a dinner reservation at Maaemo.  Unless the strike ended, we’d have to find another way to get there.

Not willing to take chances, we booked train tickets.  And seeing that the strike was still on when we woke early that Tuesday morning, we headed to the station to catch a ride to Oslo.

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review: cooking is back… (kong hans kælder)

•March 30, 2015 • 3 Comments

Kong Hans Kælder

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It used to be that people talked about dishes.  Now, they talk about names.

Those of you who read this blog or follow me on social media know that I have been fairly critical of the way the restaurant industry has shifted the focus away from the diner, and has, in general, devolved into a media circus.  This subject is well-covered ground on this blog, so I won’t burden you with more of it here. Just read my last four or five ruminations, and you’ll get a good sense of my frustration and complaints.

But let me not be that guy in cyberspace who’s always whining about something.  All is not lost.

There are many chefs and restaurants that are doing great things, despite the over-hype.  As I confided to my friend Andreas recently over dinner in Copenhagen, I’ve found a renewed excitement in using this blog to cheer on the great experiences I have, and, more importantly, to champion those that might otherwise be lost amidst all the noise.

The restaurant where Andreas works doesn’t exactly need a champion.  Far from it, Kong Hans Kælder is a storied institution in Denmark.  Founded in 1976 by the Grønlykke family, it was the first Danish restaurant to earn a Michelin star, a rating that it kept until 2014, when Thomas Rode, its chef of 18 years left.  A new team was brought in, and with it, came a breath of fresh air.  After a brief closure, Kong Hans Kælder reopened in September of last year with Mark Lundgaard Nielsen at the head of the kitchen and Peter Pepke at the head of the house.

My dinner there in early March of this year demonstrated the type focus on cooking and service that I value and sorely miss.  So, in the spirit of celebrating the good, I would like to tell you about it here and now, in this, my first dedicated restaurant post since I wrote about Ifuki last year (the kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto, where, as it turned out, I had my favorite meal of 2014).

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friends of lysverket: people meeting people…

•March 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

On the way to Hardanger

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A leading voice in the international black metal movement.

A high-end furniture designer from Copenhagen.

A Scotsman who dives for a living off the North Sea coast above the Arctic Circle.

An American hardcore punk drummer-turned pastry chef.

A group of Norwegian women preserving the craft of bread making in a remote village in the fjords.

And an Asian-American lawyer who left the firm to travel the world with his camera.

What do these diverse people have in common?  We are all friends of Lysverket.

Since I last wrote about the Friends of Lysverket collaborative series, chef Christopher Haatuft has hosted two more of these dinners at his restaurant in Bergen, Norway.  And, together, we have plan three more of these dinners this year.  I’d like to give you an update on this dinner series now.
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kansas city: save the date… (harvesters chefs classic 2015)

•March 20, 2015 • 2 Comments

Line-up.

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This is my fifth year serving on the planning committee for the Chefs Classic, a charity dinner hosted annually at The American Restaurant that raises money for Harvesters, a food bank that serves the greater Kansas City area.  Because I obsess over documenting and recording things, I asked Harvesters to send me a complete roster of all of the chefs who have cooked at this event.  By our accounting, this will be the eighteenth annual Chefs Classic, which has brought nearly one hundred chefs from around the country to Kansas City.  I have included the complete list of past guest chefs at the bottom of this post.

This year’s Chefs Classic will take place at The American Restaurant on Sunday, June 28, 2015.  Please save the date.

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collaboration: friends of lysverket…

•January 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Headlights on a fjord road.

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Bente Getz has returned to her family’s farm, situated high on a steep rake that rises almost vertically from the fjords of Samnanger, Norway.  She left her homeland as a young woman to travel the world, a hippie who hopped around the globe, starting in the United States, then to Spain, and finally settling on a kibbutz in Israel, where she started and raised a family for more than a decade.

It took her two years to rehabilitate her family’s abandoned property.  But now that it’s back in shape, Getz raises cattle and sheep and farms her land according to simple organic practices.  She produces cheese from her animals and sells them, along with dairy, at a small co-op in Samnanger. Bente Getz is just one of the many, interesting, generous, and talented people that I’ve had the great fortune of meeting through Friends of Lysverket, a collaborative dinner series and cross-cultural conversation hosted by Christopher Haatuft, the Norwegian chef of Lysverket in Bergen, Norway.

I’m late in telling about this great project, which we started in 2014.  I’d like to do so now.

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the best of 2014: the restaurant edition…

•January 11, 2015 • 3 Comments

Ishikawa

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The sheer splendor with which my year in dining unfolded made the task of identifying my ten favorite restaurant meals from 2014 an especially difficult one.

However, forcing myself to narrow that “wide and rich field” (as I described it in an earlier post) – a process that at moments seemed merciless, requiring me to eliminate extraordinarily good meals that in any other year might have taken the crown – pushed me into a deeper examination of the restaurant experience and my own preferences and perspective with regard to it.  Doing so has brought me closer to understanding the borders of my own heart, and codifying my opinions.

This is a good thing.

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best desserts of 2014…

•January 7, 2015 • 3 Comments

14th Course: Yeast Ice Cream

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My parents, who immigrated to the United States over forty years ago, said that, when they first arrived on these shores, they had no concept of “dessert.”  In Taiwan, where they had spent most of their lives until that point, there were bakeries that sold sweet pastries, and confectioners who made candy. But most of those products were regarded as a luxury goods, and the result of the importation of foreign culture rather than a part of daily life.

Now that they have both spent the majority of their lives in America, they have, of course, acquired a higher tolerance for sugary things.  Even still, neither embraces sweets, or has much appetite for them. (My father described his first encounter with American fudge as “horrifying;” he still doesn’t like it.)  Finding themselves in a country that surrounds them with sugar – my fellow first-generation Asian-Americans might find this familiar – my parents signal their approval when they put down the spoon and say, with a smile, “Mmmm. Very good. Not too sweet.”

So, sweets weren’t really a part of my upbringing either.  We rarely had “dessert” at home.

But that didn’t prevent me from growing into a well-adjusted American who eats enough “dessert” to justify writing an entire review of my annual consumption of sugar.  I gave you my 25 favorite dishes from 2014.  Now, for the fourth year, I give you my 25 favorite desserts.*  But before I do, I want to share a few thoughts about pastryland that have collected in my mind over this past year.

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