29 January 2014

Home Alone 3

Here we go again.
Home alone and the urge to spoil myself was massive.
Simple cooking and something classy in the glass, that's my melody for a fantastic evening.
A beautiful 350g ribeye with a classic Gratin Dauphinoise. Can't be easier and this sort of food is the best if you want something tasty that doesn't interfere with the wine but enhances it.

In the glass; 2006 Château Léoville Barton from Saint-Julien, Bordeaux. A noble, medium to full-bodied beauty with an elegant, all ready fairly opened nose of cassis, cedar, plums and iron.
Very complex, with a long finish and smooth tannins. Do I need to say it was perfect with the steak?

22 January 2014

Esperanto Revised

Jocke Berg, lead singer in the Swedish band Kent once said "my goal is to be even more pretentious. To be pretentious is to really mean what you are saying"
After I had this, maybe 10th, dinner in Esperanto I must say that this is a pretty pretentious restaurant. In a completely good way.
Let's take the 7!!! amuse bouche we were served with our glass of champagne. All so elaborated and stunning that only these alone are worth a visit.

Amuse 1
Already placed on the table before we sat down; potato and seaweed chips with a sour cream and bonito dip.
A great, light start with a discrete smokiness from the katsuobushi (dried, smoked bonito tuna).

Amuse 2
Oyster yogurt ice cream with crispy celeriac. This yogurt with its salty, mineral flavors from the oyster is somewhat of a classic here in Esperanto. I remembered that this was one of Ferran Adrià's favorites when he was dining here a few years ago. 


Amuse 3
Aged quail egg yolk with pumpkin and vendace roe.
So good with the texture off the yolk, sweetness from the pumpkin and saltiness from the roe.

Amuse 4
Arctic char with fresh wasabi
The fish was topped with a mayonnaise made from the fish and fresh wasabi and then sandwiched between two crispy skins from the char. Genius!

Amuse 5
Blood crêpe with beetroot pancakes made from pigs blood and topped with beetroot to enhance the earthy flavor of the blood.
The presentation of this appetizer is just fantastic.

Amuse 6
A tiny steak tartare of Swedish Wagyu beef filled in a mushroom cracker shell.
This was very mild in flavor and got a bit lost after all the previous servings. Maybe it should have been served earlier?

Amuse 7
Small, charcoal grilled vendace with seaweed remoulade sauce.
A small bite that just screamed Scandinavian flavors at its best.

Me and my wife decided to skip the wine-pairings and go for two bottles instead.
We started off with 2010 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières from Domaine Leflaive.
Insane balance and purity with a refreshing acidity and tone of roasted oak in the background.

After all these amounts of appetizers it was time for the first "proper" serving;
Tsarskaya oysters, lightly smoked in straw and served with pickled onions, onion broth and buttermilk cheese. Great meaty oysters and a dish made in heaven for the white burgundy that just started to open up in the glass.

Next serving was perhaps the dish of the evening.
Pullet egg served with broccoli and bone marrow. No words can describe how fantastic this dish was. Unreal!

Time for bread.
Once again I was stunned with the love and energy that was put into all details. Does the chefs in Esperanto ever sleep?
Whipped butter blended with burnt butter was served from a bowl and instead of a side plate for the bread we got a piece of paper in front of us stamped with the Chinese symbol for love.
Four breads was served; Crisp bread seasoned with beer, steamed chicken bun, sourdough loaf and lastly bread filled with vendace roe. All great in taste in made with a brilliant technique.

Dried monkfish with a Scandinavian version of the Japanese dashi served with lumpfish roe and horseradish oil. This dish really stood out with its distinct flavors off caraway and anise in the dashi. It smelled like when you open an old cupboard in grandma's summer house. Might not sound so good but it was fantastic. We were instructed to drink the stock straight from the plate.

The slight Japanese theme continued in a freshly pressed tofu served with a variation of cauliflower and winter truffle.
Once more a great dish but if I have to be picky the cauliflower chips could have been crispier. Dehydrator normally fix these issues.
It was served with a Pu Er tea from 2009. This unique style of tea comes from Yunnan in China and is a matured tea with a distinct, earthy aroma that reminds me of wheat soil. This is what the Chinese call black tea while the classic oxidized tea we in Europe calls black tea is in China called red tea (which makes more sense in terms of color). It was a perfect combination with the tofu and both components enhanced each other in a brilliant way. 

Pike-perch from Hjälmaren was served on dried kombu with a sauce made from 60 month soy sauce.
The most simplistic dish of the evening but nonetheless good. The fish and the sauce smelled like pork. My guess is that they have used some katsuobushi in the sauce as well and together with the soy it gave the dish an almost bacon-like aroma. The skin of the fish was served on the side for texture. So yummy.

Now it was time to start sipping on our bottle of red.
2005 Vecina from Bond in Napa Valley, California. An intense Cabernet that still felt so young despite that the waiters had decanted the wine more then an hour earlier and served it in big Riedel glasses.
New oak, black current syrup, coffee and licorice root was the aromas dominating in the wine. As I have drunk Bond and Harlan Estate's wines several times with various aging it would be great to try this Vecina ten years from now. Of course this wine style is too rich for this kind of sophisticated fine-dining cuisine but who cares when the wine is so good? Not me.

Next serving was grilled Swedish squid with salsify and mushrooms. A dish that would have been better served with an elegant red Burgundy than my massive Oakville wine. Still a very good dish.

The fact that we dined here on a Wednesday was only to our benefit since I know the restaurant gets delivery of live langoustines that day.
The crustacean got brushed with tallow from wagyu beef and then burnt on the table. It was served with apple paper and an apple cream with notes of burnt butter. So, so good and the quality of the firm, meaty langoustine was just mind-blowing. Didn't get the purpose of the daikon roll that was served on the side though. Palate cleanser?

Last savory dish of the evening;
Lamb with grilled lamb heart and Jerusalem artichoke.
Rich, winter flavors that balanced well with the wine from Bond.

Just look at the presentation of the first sweet course.
An five centimeters, crispy, paper thin, perfectly round roll made from beetroot filled with various items of the same root vegetable and licorice.
The dish is like a piece of art both for the eye and mouth. Licorice and beetroot is so damn good together.

Next dessert was as beautifully executed.
Fennel root and pear was the main ingridients in this elaborated serving and when you cracked the round ball on the plate a blood-red juice of lingonberries was poured out. Wow!
Ice cream was served on the side. Far from a perfect made quenelles, the ice cream was more "carelessly" scooped in a small bowl to visually contrast the details on the main plate. 

Coffee and five sweets was served in the lounge by the master himself.
Apple pie with miso fudge
Buttermilk cream cheese with lemon verbena and milk skin
Burned white chocolate with whisky jelly
Chervil and cilantro sorbet with match tea cookie
Toast with cloudberries and sea buckthorn

Esperanto has never been better. The all female staff on the floor makes you feel welcomed and provides you with the slickest service on the planet.
The fact that Sayan Isaksson's food palace only has one Michelin star is a complete joke. Comparing this restaurant with many one michelin stars I've tried in Europe, Esperanto should be awarded the highest 3 star level.
Sayan's beautiful, interesting and delicious food could only be described as the one of the best.

21 January 2014

Dinner at Gastronomic Traveller

When Chef and Food blogger "M" (http://gastronomictraveller.blogspot.com) and his lady "M" invited me and my wife for a dinner in their apartment I knew we were up for a treat. We started off in "M&M's" beautiful apartment with salty potato chips and Parmesan with well-aged Aceto Balsamico. 
These small nibbles were served with 2002 Cuvée Prestige Brut from A. Bergère in Epernay, Champagne. Great start but both I and "M" agreed that this champagne might have been even better with food with its rich, toasted character.

The starter was fantastic and very Swedish; crushed fingerling potatoes in brown butter served with vendace roe, pickled onions, sour cream and bread crumble. Yummy!

In the glass we had the beer Inedit by Estrella Damm from Barcelona. This beer was designed for the late cult restaurant "El Bulli" and has a nose that reminds me of Hoegaarden due to the similar "seasoning" with coriander and orange peel. The Spanish beer is a bit "dirtier" though (in a good way) than the famous Belgian wheat beer.
We also had some Swedish akvavit from Dufvenkrooks. Round flavor with rich notes of dill and caraway seeds. Fantastic.

Can a dish get much better than what "M" served as a main course? I doubt it!
Pork chops with crispy skin served on a bed of cabbage mixed with pulled pork knuckle, roasted Jerusalem artichoke purée, truffle jus and freshly grated truffle. Wow, just wow!!!

Two wines with the pork; 2010 Marimar Estate Pinot Noir by the producer W. H. Smith. The fruit comes from Marimar Torres vineyard Doña Margarita in Sonoma Coast. Fairly light in color with a charming, juicy fruit and mouthwatering acidity. Unfortunately It was just a bit too light for this intense dish.
Second wine was 2010 Cornas Les Ruchets from Jean-Luc Colombo. This Syrah proved to be the better choice with the main course with its intense dark, peppery fruit. Great wine but very young.
After this quick break in Northern Rhône we quickly went back to California and the grape Pinot Noir. This time "M" opened a bottle 2011 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir from Sandhi. This winery started 2010 by Rajat Parr, Charles Banks and Sashi Moorman that are all legends in the American wine industry.

This was more intense than the previous Pinot from W.H. Smith with really nice, deep and juicy, cherry flavors.
A nice piece of Gruyère and Roquefort was now served. The Pinot and the Gruyère were great together but as you might know, blue cheese and redwine aren't really the best of friends. A bit like Colgate and Granny Smith. So the Roquefort was washed down with some amazing Slivovitsa that the female host had brought from her second home country Serbia. 

We ended with an amazing, homemade white espresso ice cream with blood orange, nuts and sponge cake. World class ending on a world class dinner and evening.

10 January 2014

Swedish Dinner

Since my parents-in-law were joining us for our vacation in Stockholm I wanted to cook a dinner for them with a few of my personal Swedish favorite dishes.

As a starter I served Toast Skagen which is prawns in mayonnaise based sauce flavored with dill and horseradish. I topped it with the exclusive and delicious vendace roe from Kalix in northern Sweden and served it with butter fried toast.

It's not the norm to serve wine with Swedish food but I like wine so what the heck. 

2010 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru La Maltroie from Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard made a nice match with the starter. Elegant style with a subtle use of oak and full of citrus and mineral aromas, very pure.

Main course was Swedish meatballs, maybe the most famous of all Swedish dishes. I served it the classic way with potato purée, lingonberries and cream sauce made of homemade beef stock, cream, black current jelly and a bit of soy.

2009 Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir from Calera had a generous red fruit with aromas of cherry liqueur and spices. It matched perfectly with the dish as long as you skipped the lingonberries which with its tannins, high acidity and the addition of sugar would kill any red wine. A true wine enemy.

We ended up with apple crumble pie made from Swedish apples and served with a home made, thick vanilla custard. Together with a cup of strong coffee it really can't get much better than this.