About thetraveltotaste

Two hospitality workers on the search for the perfect dining experience.

Souvenir shopping in street markets. Day 70

Souvenir shopping in street markets. Day 70

What a beautiful day outside it is today, Josh however is so tired from work we spend the morning in, again. Sooner or later we will see London before lunch but for now we laze about waiting for Josh to once again leave for work. Because of the rare London sunshine, I decided to join Josh on the venture to Notting Hill and then start my day from there.

Located a few blocks behind The Ledbury is Portobello Road. Most know this spot is the place to go for great coffee, funky restaurants and bargains in the street markets. I start with a coffee and what a coffee it was. It was rich and creamy, perfect temperature and finished with a pattern on top. It has been so long since I really enjoyed a coffee, and at £1.30 it was a bargain too. I sat in the window, drinking my coffee, reading the local paper, eating a caramel slice and watching the people stroll by. Before now I never use to sit alone in a coffee shop but it has become my favourite thing to do.

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Perked up on caffeine I head onto the street. It’s almost closing time and fruit and veg vendors are shouting new prices for their produce. All boxes for one quid! If I didn’t have to carry them back on the tube I would have bought the lot. All of the produce you could think of and more was on sale here and it all looked fresh and vibrant. There was fennel, radish, carrots and beetroot, all thrown together like a colourful artwork from Picasso. As well as produce, a lot of antique stores are along Portobello Rd along with leather goods, clothing and lots of London souvenirs. A little secret when dealing with vendors … all prices are generally the same store to store however no one wants to lose out on a sale. Ask how much, if you have seen it cheaper somewhere else or just think it’s too much, say no and walk away from them. One in three will come back and ask you what price you want for it or they will discount it. I managed to get a few presents a little cheaper than advertised which is always good when holidaying on a budget.

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The markets go on for several blocks, never being a real fan of markets I get tired of seeing the same things in all store and head back towards the tube. I can see my mum really loving London for these little street markets as there will be plenty more to come I’m sure.

Shop till you drop.

Jess and Josh

“To walk alone in London is the greatest rest” – Virginia Woolf. Day 68 and 69

“To walk alone in London is the greatest rest” – Virginia Woolf. Day 68 and 69

Google has become my friend today as I set myself up on the couch and research all that London has to offer. With Josh on an afternoon shift, I take this time to write a list of all the sights I’m going to see over the next few weeks whiles Josh is at work. If anyone tells you that you cannot explore London on a budget, don’t believe them! Over the next few weeks I’m going to show you some of the popular tourist destinations and then some not so popular off the beaten track destinations. For more details checkout websites like Timeout London for 101 free things to do in London.

Day 69

Armed with a list a mile long, I head out for my first official day of exploring. Stop number one, the Museum of London. This museum explores the history of London and the people within it. It’s located in north east London and is absolutely free, unless you want to explore specialist exhibitions on throughout the year. When first entering, you realise how different museums are in London than the other places we have been. Pops of colour are everywhere which makes reading the facts much more interesting. There is also a section on how the sections of the museum were created with the help of school children from all over London. This I find very intriguing and I feel proud that museums are encouraging people of all ages to visit and learn, I wish I had a better interest when I was younger.

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The exhibitions and collections start at London before London, taking you forward through Roman London, Medieval London, the Black Death and the Great Fire until you end at London as we know it today. One section I fell in love with is the Victorian Walk where you feel transported through time to the late 18th / early 19th century streets of London. You can stop in at the local cafe, sit at the bar of the pub or just wander down the cobblestone streets peering into the windows of many shops and stores.

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From the museum I head down to the Barbican, an arts and conference venue. This is an astonishing venue where you can find a range of events including the opera, conferences, free concerts, theatre and cinemas. You could spend all day wandering through the building, I choose to enter the library and spend the rainy afternoon looking through historic articles, books, magazines and a number of other resources available. After a few hours it’s time to head on home. I walk back to the underground through the barbican walkways, bridges that cross the busy streets below where you can access office buildings, cafés and boutique stores. You also get an amazing view of the courtyard of the Barbican and the pool that fills it. This pool is not for swimming, instead it adds colour to the brick Barbican and is filled with a walkway surrounded by plants and a water feature down the far end. I recommended everybody go and check out the Barbican, but be sure to look up what events are happening whilst you are in London.

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Virginia Woolf once said “to walk alone in London is the greatest rest.” I could not agree more.

Jess and Josh

Wheels turning and bells ringing. Is anyone home? Day 67

Wheels turning and bells ringing. Is anyone home? Day 67

I have a list of a million things I want to see and do whilst Josh is at work over the next few weeks, I also have a list of things we need to do together. So with Josh having a day off today it’s time to cross a few sights off that list. Today we see the sights that make London  famous for visitors and tourists and some of the most recognisable buildings and structures in the world. On our list today is the London Eye, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.

As we emerge from Westminster underground station our eyes are drawn to the magnificent structure on the south bank of the Thames River. Standing at 135 metres tall, the London Eye spins showing visitors some of the best views of London. This observatory was first developed in 1999, opening in 2000 and is one of the worlds most recognisable observatories in the world, and crowned the largest Ferris Wheel in Europe. We can see the line from where we stand and decide that we will explore south bank and ride the Eye another day.

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Suddenly we hear bells chiming behind us and we spin to realise that we are standing directly under Big Ben. This clock stands tall and shadows the ground beneath it. It really is an amazing sight and a must see when you travel to London. Big Ben is attached to one of the Houses of Parliament, a row of buildings that were built to house government officials. As we walk along we stumble upon the Queens entrance where security seems much tighter.

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Next stop is Westminster Abbey, a church most of you would know as the location of Prince William and Princess Katherine’s wedding. The exterior of this church is stunning, so much detail has gone into every inch of stone and although we missed out on going inside by five minutes, we did sneak through the gift shop and quickly stick our heads in. It is undeniable that the inside is just as stunning as the out.

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A quick walk through Parliament Square leads us towards Downing St. But first we need to engage in a classic London tourist tradition, we take our photos inside the famous red telephone box. It’s so popular in this area that we actually had to wait in line just to get inside one! When we arrive to the entrance of Downing St it is blocked by black gates and several security guards. There’s no getting close to number ten, the home and office of the Prime Minister, but you can catch a glimpse if you look close enough.

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The good thing about sight seeing in London is that a lot of things are within walking distance to another. We realise we are close to Buckingham Palace and decide to cross that from the list as well. We walk through the Horse Guard and into St James Park. Walking along the lake we see ducks, swans and geese being chased by children, squirrels being taunted by dogs and people relaxing and enjoying this sunny London afternoon. Finally we reach Buckingham Palace. The flag is raised so somebody is home, although they aren’t going to just let anyone inside. The gate is raised high with guards standing at every entrance, eyes peeled for anybody not doing the right thing. We snap a few photos before it starts to pour down with rain. We take that as our sign to head home and Josh is more than happy to have a night of nothing, before he heads back to work tomorrow.

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imageJust a taste of merry old England.

Jess and Josh

Wining and dining. Day 65 and 66

Wining and dining. Day 65 and 66

What better way to start our first London weekend than with Big Breakfast Saturday. Poached eggs, bacon, pork sausages and homemade hollandaise with a coffee from the local cafe. Today is going to be a good day. It’s 11am and time to load up the pork. Josh is busy in the kitchen with Viv watching his every move, hoping to replicate this when we leave. Fresh herbs, onion, cider, tomatoes, garlic and more go into this 5 kilo beast and then it’s in the oven until dinner time. Pulled pork can’t really overcook so we leave this suckling in the oven for 8 hours.

Now usually I would be the first one to raise my hand to make desserts but creativity is lacking today, instead we head to Camden Passage, a small antique community filled with shops, markets, cafés and patisseries. David points out the best gelato in London that I store in my memory for another time. Finally we stop at a cafe that is overflowing with cakes in the window and people out the door. We send in Viv and after what seems like a lifetime, she emerges carrying bags of pastries, cakes and slices. A quick stop at the park so Maggie can run off some energy and it’s back to check on the pork.

David cracks some wine as guests start arriving, it’s showtime. Pork is removed from the oven to rest and while we wait chef Josh and I prepare the mushrooms, carrots, polenta and creamed leeks for the feast. Now to get our hands dirty, pulling pork is not hard work when you cook it for as long as we have, meat falls from the bone and we toss it through the sauce it’s been cooking in. Accompanied by some pork crackling and dinner is served. There is something so relaxing about having a dinner party and it’s something Josh and I really enjoy but don’t do enough of. But look out because when we return your all invited.

Dinner winds down shortly after midnight and with work tomorrow Josh is in need of some rest. With uniform and knives ready to go he falls straight to sleep.

That 8am start is looming closer and closer.

Day 66

The day is finally here where Josh starts his stage at The Ledbury, lead by non other than fellow Australian chef Brett Graham. As most of you know, Josh won a culinary competition last October where he was awarded a scholarship to travel to London and work at The Ledbury, ranked number 13 in San Pellegrino’s Worlds Best 5o Restaurants.

While Josh is hard at work, I decide to treat myself to a day of nothing. With very little on tv we all sit down to watch a movie so terrible I won’t even mention the name, the highlight being the gelato we ate while the movie was on (some of that ‘best gelato in London’ I mentioned before). While the rain pours outside we all settle in with some spicy salami pizza from the local pub and some more tv.

There’s nothing like a lazy Sunday.

Jess and Josh,

London here we come. Day 63 and 64

London here we come. Day 63 and 64

There seems to be a reoccurring theme amongst the travel section of this blog. Once again the alarm is set at a god awful time. With eyes bulging and arms aching from carrying luggage we head out the door. I guess it’s the price you pay for paying a good price on airline, train and bus tickets. Luckily the train is fast, the wait at the airport is quick and the flight will be the perfect time to nap before arriving in London … or so I thought.

Once again luck does not strike down upon us. Josh is fast asleep whilst I have a young boy who insisted on kicking my chair and smashing the tray closed repeatedly for the next two hours. Finally it’s over, we can enter London and not have to worry about flying for a month, I have never seen Josh so excited! At the mention of our occupations, passport control were not going to let us in so easily, as so many tourists come here to work without visas, it has ruined it for all young chefs and waitresses to just be welcomed in. They want to know where your staying, flight details of when you leave, what you plan on seeing and if you know anyone that lives in the area. My advice is to have an answer for all of these questions.

An hour tube ride later and we are buzzing the door of David and Viviane’s apartment. We are lucky enough to be spending our time in London with Josh’s uncle who’s only charge is a bit of babysitting the gorgeous Maggie and cooking some delicious dinners. Family is so important when you embark on a trip like we have, the rent in London is astronomical and the constant living from a suitcase quickly becomes a pain. But the best thing of all are two things you take for granted, a washing machine and a kitchen! Finally we can cook again!

As David heads off to work and Viv takes Maggie to the park we decide to go explore Upper St, the main road filled with coffee shops, restaurants, pubs, clubs and boutique shops, including a grocery store. We grab some supplies and then it’s pasta for lunch, nothing has ever tasted so good. Well maybe not nothing…We fill the rest of the afternoon with tv before heading to Brixton for a concert at the O2 Academy. Anyone who knows us knows our love for music and live shows, and when you hear one of your favourite bands is performing at one of the most popular London venues, you go. The line to enter laps around the block and back to the start, luckily we were in the middle of the pack. Two Aussies start the show with The Getaway Plan and Hands Like Houses, followed by The Summet Set and finally Sleeping With Sirens. This show was amazing and we ended coming out with two new bands that we now loved.

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With music still ringing in our ears, we head to bed for a much needed rest.

Day 64

Sleeping in until lunch time did us well. We felt refreshed and ready to explore what London has to offer, and what better way then to spend a day in the life of Viviane. We head on the tune, grabbing a monthly Oyster card on the way. This is one crucial tip for all tourists heading to London. You can either purchase a timed card or a pay as you go option. If you are planning on taking public transport it makes any trip in London a lot cheaper including buses, the underground and overground trains.

Tomorrow David and Viv are hosting a dinner party and Josh has been selected as head chef with me as his trusty apprentice. We find ourselves at Borough Markets where the produce screams freshness as soon as you walk through the door. On the menu is pulled pork, polenta and an array of vegetables. The markets are busy so we start with lunch. For Viv a falafel wrap but for us, what Aussie can resist a pie, and what a pie it was. Josh’s was filled with venison and rich gravy whilst I opt for chicken, leek and cream.

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Now it’s time to shop. I turn around and Josh is lost, great! He is never going to find his way back to the tube. Luckily he is tall and I see him engrossed in a cheese tasting a few stalls back. I’m going to need to keep my eye on him. I pull him away with the thought of mushroom hunting where his smile quickly grows. We leave the fresh produce section with many bags in hand before stopping for meat. Josh finds a 5 kilo pork shoulder that’s perfect, and with a little talk to the butcher, Josh has him scoring, tying and chucking in a free jam as well. Last stop is a Spanish grocer so Viv can stock up on gazpacho and then it’s home time. The hardest thing about going to markets like these is not filling up on all the tastes people want to offer you. Any other day we would have been stall to stall, trying everything on offer but we have our first dinner in London tonight so we had to resist. We will definitely be back to finish what we started.

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Tonight, reservations are at Tom Aikens Restaurant in Chelsea. We are dining at Tom Aikens because a fellow chef and friend of Josh’s worked here a few years ago. The room is dark with wooden features and single lights shining down on individual tables. Service is professional, efficient and friendly with a significant number of French waiters filling the room. We of course opt for the tasting menu which allows you to choose between two mains and two desserts, we have one each. Food here is tasty, well presented and well thought out. Although it’s not as creative with ingredients as we are use to (no moss or ants in sight) the quality and technique used is not to be overlooked. It was classic with a twist which is exactly what I love and a must if in the area. After dinner we are offered a look into the kitchen, something we never refuse and shake hands with Tom Aiken himself. A quick chat with Tom and the Restaurant Manager and we are headed back home on the tube.

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Lots of cooking tomorrow, we can’t wait.

Jess and Josh

Eating and drinking. Day 61 and 62

Eating and drinking. Day 61 and 62

Today is the day. The one day we have been waiting for since we left Australia sixty one days ago. Today is the day we eat at Noma. After countless emails, phone calls and stalking of the booking website the day is here and we can not be more excited. We jump out of bed, I’m ready in ten minutes which is quite quick for me and Josh is so excited he is bouncing up and down like a kid in a candy shop.

In just under an hours walk from our hotel we arrive. We are caught snapping a few photos out the front by front of house manager James. He snaps a few of the two of us and shows us inside. Greeted by the entire kitchen and floor staff, we walk to our table and then the magic begins. With a beer and cider in hand we are ready for whatever Noma wants to throw at us. Now you all know that Josh is the restaurant review guru so I’ll leave that to him. I will say that Noma service was the perfect blend of professionalism and personality. The food, although challenging in some aspects was creative, unique and delicious. In terms of the search for the perfect dining experience, we have a serious contender. Check out the full review here.

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With a five hour lunch done and dusted we head to the hotel to relax. Struggling to move based on the enormous lunch just eaten, a quiet night in watching movies seems perfect.

Day 62

Copenhagen is filled with sights to see, although the main reason we are here is to eat. As I’ve said before, palaces, museums and churches are getting a bit mundane so I check google for some other things to do. This is how we ended up at Carlsberg Brewery. Although this old brewery is no longer operating, the foundation remains here and there is plenty to see with the tour.

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First stop is the bottling collecting. Guinness world records awards this collection as the largest in the world with just over 22,000 unopened beer bottles. Although I’m not a lover of beer, I am impressed with this. Sorted into country of origin, rusted and dusty beers line the shelves filling out the room they are preserved in. It’s quite impressive that one man could resist just opening a bottle or twenty. From here its on to the history of Carlsberg where JC Jacobsen founded the company in 1847, transforming from a local brewery to a global sensation. Touring continues through the old brew house, stopping to explore the machinery and stories of past workers. Finishing in the Jacobsen Brewhouse and Bar, Josh kicks back and enjoys his complimentary beer while I get a whooping in foosball. This brewery is a perfect day out and a change from the classic holiday experiences. Well worth a look.

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Walking around all day reminds us of one thing, food. The Danish hot dogs we ate for breakfast just aren’t cutting it and we are eager to dine at our next destination. Former chef of Noma, Per Se and many other top restaurants, Matt Orlando is the new kid in town and his restaurant Amass is making some serious noise. After getting recommended by Josh Evans from the Nordic Food Lab we booked our table and now we are here. From the moment we sat at the chefs table (best seat in the house) I knew I loved it. From here we could watch the chefs work which added a whole new element to standard dining. We had great food, great service and great entertainment. The food itself was complex with flavours that complimented each other and techniques so rarely used in food today. Josh will have the full review up any day now, so stay tuned!

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These two days have definitely been food highlights. For any foodie out there, I would recommend Noma and Amass to anyone travelling in or near Scandinavia. Copenhagen is putting food on the map and I can’t wait to return to see what else it delivers.

Velbekomme!

Jess and Josh

Eating grasshoppers and garam. Day 60

Eating grasshoppers and garam. Day 60

Yes I know day 59 is missing but this is a food and travel blog, and the main component of travel is the actual act of travelling. We wake at some god awful hour and I look at Josh, three hours of sleep is not his friend. A quick train to the airport and once again we board to fly to our next destination, Copenhagen. It’s Sunday and like any Sunday it is spent with a bit of grocery shopping, a quick dinner and a lot of tv (yes it’s all in English woohoo!).

A few months ago we attended a culinary think tank run by industry professionals in Newcastle and Sydney. It focused on mixing science with food and the results of this continued relationship. It was here that we met Josh Evans from the Nordic Food Lab, founded by none other than René Redzepi of Noma. Through this Josh was able to keep in contact with Josh Evans and arrange a run through of the lab.

The Nordic Food Lab is located right near Noma, in the neighbourhood of Christianhaven, an old docking station. We wandered around the area we thought the lab was located, looking through a couple of windows along the way until we stumbled upon it. We were thinking a lab is in a room, four walls, a door and some windows. It is in fact a boat. Yes that’s right, a boat. A little weird at first but once we were inside it felt kind of right.

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We are greeted by a few members of the lab as Josh E runs around trying to pull a bunch of things for us to taste. Then we get stuck in. Josh E gets us to taste things I would never have imagined and Josh and I are super excited. The lab is most interested in finding and foraging ingredients that are local to the Nordic land and this results in finding plants and animals that have a similar component or compound to other generic things. So first we smell what we think is clove, however it looks like some kind of dehydrated bush. It is in fact woodruff root. This I found really interesting, here is something we think is limited however there are very similar products right under our noses. From here Josh E lets us taste different fermentations like grasshopper garam and beef paste, dried and aged deer covered in bees wax, a range of ingredients preserved in alcohol and cold and hot fermented butter with hops. This was an incredible experience and as some of you would know, I hate science. I guess when anything is mixed with food it allows our brain to wander and associate it to something we already know. I feel as though Josh E has opened my mind to eating everything the earth has to offer and like Josh, am now fascinated by the Nordic Food Lab’s research.

From the lab we head in to Christianhaven a little further and stumble upon a cosy little coffee shop. Whilst I enjoy a much needed latte Josh tucks in to a Croque Monsieur, a delicious ham and cheese toastie covered with mustard. Delicious! From here its hotel time, walking past the Christiansborg Palace which is home to the Danish parliament. Unfortunately this is closed on Mondays although Josh and I are over looking through palaces, museums and churches, for a while at least.

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Date night tonight and Josh and I are ready to relax. We head for the cinema across the road and are in luck, the movies are in English. “Now you see me” seems like a good choice so with lollies in one hand and a jumbo coke in the other, we are set.

Let’s get some rest, for tomorrow is Noma.

Jess and Josh

Finding my place. Dining at Noma.

Finding my place. Dining at Noma.

There is a place in every chefs life that holds something dear, a fantasy, a dream. When I was first learning to be a chef I was obsessed with cookbooks. I would splurge my wage on books filled with dishes from wonderful chefs that I never thought I would see or taste. I idolised fine dining, from molecular gastronomy all the way through naturalism and down to the very depths of haute cuisine I was utterly addicted. Being a chef, for me, is about feeding my addiction. My name is Josh Gregory and I am a food addict.

When I was around nineteen I found a book, there was a chef in Copenhagen that was changing the way we view food. He was looking inwards to find something new, he was foraging, fermenting and most importantly creating. That mans name was René Redzepi. Today marks a special day for me, today I get to live my dreams, to visit a place that has become quite special to me though I have never been here. Today we dine at Noma.

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We arrive at the restaurant and I can barely contain my excitement, hence the cheesey grin in the photo, James the restaurant manager, a fellow Aussie, greets us and snaps some rapid fire photos before we are whisked into fantasy land. First however the entire kitchen says hello! Jess and I felt like celebrities with all the handshakes and welcomes, an awesome beginning to what was yet to come. We sit and food arrives on mass. Canapés begin with a small bite of gooseberry and elderflower. The tart little berry loves the sprinkle of dried flowers on top and shook my palate into consciousness.

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Next whole kohlrabi arrive on stone, unpeeled, raw and kind of strange looking. “Nordic Coconuts” they are explained by our wonderful waitress Katherine. Stuffed inside were straws, we drink the cool juice of the vegetable. It is both refreshing yet has a depth of flavour like I have never tasted before. It was absolutely moorish and before we knew it each of our coconuts were completely drained.

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Hip berries and walnuts. I have never had hip berries so my interest was immediately piqued, almost tomato like in texture with a soft, floral sweetness that carried the walnut perfume wonderfully. This was finished in a few bites.

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A single bite of black currant berry and rose arrives, upon putting the little dose into your mouth the outer shell liquifies into a dreamy purée of the tart little berry. The rose gave not just the floral note but an almost spiced taste to the berry itself. I loved this little treat, it was interesting and deliciously textural.

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Moss and cep. Plain and simple. Having already tried the reindeer moss at Fäviken we were slightly less taken aback seeing it again. At Noma it arrives covered in dehydrated cep. Jess and I found the moss at Fäviken slightly tame, at Noma the cep powder exploded across the palate in a parade of earthy mushroom love. The crackling moss had great texture, delicate and delightful.

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Our next course comes in a rather weathered looking box, a biscuit tin in fact. Cheese cookie, rocket and stems. A one bite treasure, the cracker was so frail I nearly crushed it in my eagerness to devour. The rocket is wild and peppery which seemed to make the cheese shine. But blink and it was gone. I really wanted a box of those.

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A giant egg makes its way to our table, Jess and I stare as smoke begins to seep out of the edges, our chef lifts the lid and smoke whisps away leaving two pickled and smoked quail eggs. “Please eat all at once” chef says. As if I needed to be told twice. Rich creamy egg yolk is cuddled with smoke, the vinegar is a little cutaway from all that richness and the smoke is light and fragrant. Yum!

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Chefs serving food is something we don’t see enough of in Australia, by the end of our time here we had met practically the entire kitchen! Our next chef brings with him Caramelised milk and cod liver. This was a bite of the ocean. Salty and slightly nutty. The ocean proved to be a little overwhelming for Jess, but for me I found it a taste so of the sea that I wanted to eat more. So I of course ate the remainder of hers. At the same time arrived a Danish treat of Æbleskiver and greens. Usually a sweet pastry here it was served savoury, a kind of doughnut dough filled with cooked greens and topped with flowers of all kinds. The cod was great but these little treats were insane!

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Another treat from the sea, I must also mention we are still in canapé territory here and my belly is filling, Sea urchin toast. My first taste of Northern sea urchin, they prove to be much different to the ones we get at home, a little less mineral flavour and a little more richness, the addition of a duck skin cracker only added to this. The charred toast underneath also brought the humble urchin up to another level.

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From the sea to the forest floor, Cep mushrooms. They arrive dotted with a fermented beef paste. After visiting the Nordic food lab yesterday we know of the umami explosions caused by fermentation. Here the delicate ceps rose up to the power of a beef main course. Great flavours with but two seemingly simple ingredients.

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Burnt leek next. Yep looks like somebody forgot to take these ones off the BBQ. In fact what we eat is inside, the tiny leek hearts were soft and delicate. The addition of cod roe gave a lovely saltiness that sat just in front of sweet, smokey onion flavour. This was a great dish and really showcased the Nordic love of smoke and fire. Burn your leeks folks they are delicious.

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The final canapé is presented. Pike head, roasted and skewered. No cutlery, no problem! I dive straight into the cheeks, the neck meat and of course the eye. Jess fiddles around a bit before finally ripping in like a Viking warrior princess. I feel like I am having quite a bad influence on her. Perhaps when we have a restaurant we won’t even own cutlery? As for the fish it is perfectly cooked, supple and sweet. Always eat the eye!

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Bread in fine dining restaurants is a must but here, rather than the traditional little roll or slice of sourdough we are given an entire fresh loaf. Warm and toasty we can slather it with an acidulated butter or my favourite pork fat with crispy onions. At this point I am going to mention the service. I’m a chef so I’m constantly focused on the food, if you want details on service, ask Jess. Here service is something else, it is beyond friendly and professional by the end of our meal we felt like family. We chatted about out travels, learnt about our hosts lives, even exchanged contact details it was everything that is great about hospitality and beyond. No stuffy waiters with a gripe over wine pairing, no dress code, the service at Noma is utterly incredible. They make you feel so welcomed and so happy that you’re here, it was dare I say, perfect!

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Now back to food, a relatively new dish arrives, squid and fennel. The squid is shaved thin and served in a fennel broth so light it is like a whisper on the tongue. Broccoli adds an almost horseradish like flavour boosting the squid into a refreshing hum of seafood and vegetable. A great dish to begin our next stage of dining. The ice bowl it was served in also kept everything almost at freezing point!

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Ravioli looking shapes arrive next. They are in fact nasturtium leaves, filled with samphire and floating in an aromatic broth of rhubarb root. Again being at the Nordic food lab we could see a little fermentation happening here, the rhubarb root had a soy like depth with the nasturtium adding a creeping bitterness counteracting the saltiness of the samphire. The food at Noma is impeccably balanced, hand foraged ingredients are treated in a way that they truly shine.

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Onion and fermented pears. Now this is what we came to see. The dish is finished with ants. No that’s not a typo the dish is finished with ants. The Noma kitchen look into ingredients that can give different notes of flavour. Here the ants bring little pops of acidity paired with the smokey onion and fruity pear. I didn’t quite catch the description the first time so I just dove in without thinking, when our waitress came over and asked “how were you’re ants” I was shaken into realisation. This was a great dish, intensely savoury with the fermented pear and ants bringing harmonic sour notes. The ants can march one by one into my stomach anytime.

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Beets and aromatic herbs. Another wonderful savoury, the slow roasted beets were earthy and soft, the gaggle of herbs around the dish made every bite interesting. The dish was finished with rose oil, rose and beetroot being a combination I have never experienced paired together nicely with the rose bringing out some of the fruit notes within the beetroot.

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The next course was probably Jessica’s favourite, cauliflower and pine, cream and horseradish. Presented covered in fragrant pine needles the cauliflower had been slow roasted and basted in a pine stock. Rich and very fragrant. A sauce made with refreshing yoghurt whey softened the tangy punch of horseradish. This was a fantastic dish and definitely a highlight.

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We follow with some serious fermentation, a dish of potato and bleak fish roe. The potato is attacked with a mould which causes fermentation. This changes the flavour dramatically. They add some real earth notes combined with hop and barley aromatics, paired with soft, slightly salty fish roe this made for a seriously interesting course. A flavour that made us think as well as being pretty tasty!

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Now we have has a load of veggies, I am ready for some meat. Bring me meat for I am man. Then it arrives, locally hunted wild duck, pear and kale. The duck is fantastically pink and tastes of the wild. This duck swam in streams, flew through scrub, this duck lived, and he was delicious! With pear in many textures and a sauce of kale this dish tasted of the wild. The sweet pear and the ground, earthy taste of kale made for a fantastically pretty piece of meat.

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Thus finished our savoury courses. Dessert begins with blueberry and ants. An ice cream sandwich filled with green juniper and deliciously tart blueberry sorbet. Served alongside the sandwich are a few little nasturtium bites filled with a blueberry compote and an ant paste. The sweet blueberry, the vivid nasturtium and those wondrous little bites of sour that we now wonder how we lived without. It is a winning combination.

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We are nearing the end of this incredible experience, it has been so great I don’t think I want to leave! Our final course is a dish of potato and plum, a dish so beautifully simple that it became our instant favourite. The plum compote is rich and soft, next to it is a creamy, sweet, potato purée and a cream made from the inner seeds of the plum. The seeds infuse an almond like flavour into the cream which ties the entire dish into something truly magical. I cannot believe that we are here, this is the stuff dreams are made of.

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Now to see the team, Stuart one of the chefs brings us right into the kitchen where chefs are furiously peeling plums to make more of that amazing compote, they all pop up and say hello and we chat about the incredible lunch we’d just eaten. The development kitchen upstairs is filled with ideas for up and coming dishes, chefs dart in and out, always saying hi on the way past. This place is like Wonkaland! However we’re told Mr Wonka aka René is not in today so once again I am foiled in my attempt to meet my culinary hero. I guess I’ll just have to come back.

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We’re taken back downstairs for coffee and petit four, even the petit four are special here! First we are served a traditional Danish pastry covered in fermented barley. The pastry is rich, sweet and flaky and the barley instantly took us home with a flavour reminiscent of vegemite. Oh how we miss vegemite. To follow was a piece of puffed pork skin dipped in milk chocolate and covered in berries. An almost American snack, bacon and chocolate. We sit and chat with the waiters and waitresses, feeling completely at home. Then we realise we’ve been here for nearly five hours! Dinner service looms and so with full bellies and a few more food friends we depart. Noma is an utterly magical place and if you haven’t realised how much we loved it by this point then get the next available booking and see for yourself. The service, the food, the wonderful people. See for yourself because this place is something very special.

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Welcome to the family.

Josh and Jess

Dined 8th October 2013
Noma
Strandgade 93, Dk-1401, Copenhagen K, Denmark
http://www.noma.dk

A Food Coma & A Day of Stockholm Searching. Day 57 & 58

A Food Coma & A Day of Stockholm Searching. Day 57 & 58

To explain the food coma. Following a breakfast in what can only be truly described as God’s country; where the air is damp with morning mist, the pine trees hang softly in the breeze and there really is a whisper of wonderment within the beautiful farmland of Fäviken, Jess and I are in desperate need of some sleep. We have journeyed for days just to get a glimpse of what we have experienced but even the mightiest foodies need a day of rest.

So that’s exactly what we had. Following another 8 hour train back to Stockholm we slept, and slept, and slept, and slept. Finally the time came when the day was new and we couldn’t waste another. Time to explore.

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The city of Stockholm is beautiful, reminding me very much of a medieval New Zealand. Mountains sit silent in the background whilst the city hums around us with construction, traffic and a million people on bikes. The weather is sharp but fair, a mild 12 degrees and much sunnier than any day we had in Mother Russia. The street is awash with tourists and locals alike, everybody seems to be headed in the same direction, The Kings Palace. Well that’s where we are off to so we can see the changing of the guard.

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We step into the courtyard of the giant monarch square, the walls are lined with windows and the light glimmers off the win…wait that glimmer isn’t from the windows, it’s from the razor sharp bayonets attached to the enormous rifles the kings guards are carrying. One guard stands at attention centre square whilst the crowds of camera flashing tourists mill around then he calls attention and the entire square falls silent. The 4th regiment fall in in single file. A drum beats in the background quietly at first, then the square erupts into marching music. The trumpets soar, the tuba bellows and the drums pound, it is a beautiful and proud display of the Stockholm monarch. An incredible spectacle to witness that made even this proud Aussie want to salute the blue and yellow flag.

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With the guard changed we decide to head deeper into wonderful old town, Gamla Stan. Cobblestone streets tap underneath our feet as the quaint little city opens up with vibrant coffee houses, art studios and boho street stores. It’s very beautiful. We drop in to a little cafe for a focaccia and of course run into some Aussies. One of which was madly working the sandwich press, thanks mate! I get some wonderfully squeaky house made haloumi with lemon zest and Jess gets a great Swedish combination of turkey, apples and oozey goat’s cheese. Tummies filled what else could we need? More food of course.

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Östermals Saluhall is the local markets. A bright store brimming with Swedish delights. Giant cured hams and reindeer legs, ocean fresh seafood and all the local produce one can imagine. I’m like a kid in a candy store, an octopus with eight arms reaching at everything, tasting, smelling. This is what the journey is about for me. I am building flavour memories. Jess is reading, looking at suppliers lists, taking loads of photos. We will create something out of this and you know it will be with food and dining. Stockholm breathes with beautiful churches, the opera house and some great architecture. I wish we had a little more time here to explore but we fly out tomorrow.

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Copenhagen calls.

Josh and Jess

Falling through the wardrobe. Our journey to Fäviken. Day 54, 55 & 56

Falling through the wardrobe. Our journey to Fäviken. Day 54, 55 & 56

Now I may make a few chronicles of Narnia references here because in all honesty it is the only way I can describe the untouched beauty that is Sweden and the lands surrounding our next dining destination, Fäviken. First we have to get there.

Our time in Moscow spent we are flying to Sweden with a quick stop in Copenhagen. I must tell you airport security is a serious deal in Russia, our bags are searched, rough looking Russian women pat us down in a variety of places! Then we go through a full body scan and passport check, now I am not complaining because I am happy to be safe on airplanes. I hate flying at the best of times. Time for takeoff, we wave a final goodbye to incredible Russia and before I know it we arrive in Copenhagen.

Ah beautiful Copenhagen, a new food capital of the world. I know this to be true because there is a store that sells premium caviar and champagne right here in the airport. We’ve got time for a few taste tests don’t we Jess? Then they tell us our flight is boarding for Sweden, what do you know? We are getting back on the exact same plane we just left. Russian babushkas jostle their ways to the front of the queues, enormous Swedish Vikings step through crowds like mighty oak trees. Jess and I simply huddle and swim with the rest of the little fish.

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Stockholm beams city lights below as we fly in for a gentle landing. We will be back to explore soon but we board our sleeper train to Äre and the adventure begins.

Now I use the word sleep in the broadest way possible. Sleeping on this train is in fact next to impossible. Pine trees whip by as we shake and rattle our way through mountain tracks and deep valleys. It is the equivalent of sleeping on one of those hideous roller coasters that Jess enjoys so much. Also there is a constant banging from the mirror that isn’t quite attached in our room. Jess is suspended on the third bunk high in the air, held by what looks like a repurposed car seat belt, I force my eyes closed on the bottom bunk, one hand on the ground to steady myself after rolling out of bed for the fifth time in the last hour. I have considered holding my breath in the hopes of slipping into unconsciousness but rolling over too fast and bashing my head on the overhead lamp has seen to that already. This is the beginning of our journey.

The hellacious night is over and we arrive like the walking dead in Äre. A little ski village nine hours from Stockholm. Now just to wait for our cab, it’s nine in the morning, he’ll be here at 4 30. We are in a rather mountainous location with our bags weighing a combined weight of around sixty kilos. Wonderful. Find me somewhere to sleep. Ah a nearby bus bench brings some relief until people start throwing us money because we look completely homeless. Maybe it’s the smell? The day drags out before finally our taxi arrives.

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On the road to Fäviken; the road twists and turns until it is nothing but a gravel track winding its way in and out of the mountain. Hoping to spot a mighty stag or perhaps even a wandering moose I glue my face to the window and watch the world go by. The leaves are an autumnal orange and the woods seem to sparkle from the sun overhead. Suddenly we are there. A red barn glows like the holy grail of food that it is. Warm fires crackle as we are met by the lovely Sara and shown to our room. This is Fäviken.

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The room is a cute little sleeping quarters with furs on the bed, it’s more like staying in someone’s home rather than a hotel. With only thirteen guests per evening it’s great to mingle and share a glass of champagne in the heat of the Swedish sauna. Regardless of the insane journey it took us to get here we are here. It is instantly worth it when I see the kitchen and get the opportunity to meet the wonderful chef Magnus Nilsson. We throw on our finest gear and get ready for what turned out to be one of the most amazing meals of my life. You can read all about it here.

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After such an incredible meal one would think we would be finished with eating for a while. Then came breakfast, once again we head back into the stunning dining room where there is an enormous spread laid out on the table in front of us. Ham from the estate, cured reindeer, a local cows milk cheese, a wild bird pate underneath a rich blackberry jelly, quail and chicken eggs from this mornings harvest, porridge made right in front of us, fresh juices and steaming hot Swedish coffee. There is also of course more bread with that fantastically rich cultured butter. It’s a spread.

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I never realised what an incredible start to the day pate on toast is. Mixed with estate ham and mounds of cultured butter my arteries may loath me but my stomach is utterly overjoyed. Quail eggs with all their lovely delicacy pair wonderfully with a little herb salt and some trout roe harvested at Fäviken. I love it here, if I could move in I would, I’d be a million kilos in less than six months but it would be a good six months.

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With breakfast finished we take another quick wander around the estate, scoping out some crates of wild garlic for chef and checking out the onions pulled fresh from the garden. Then it’s time for us to leave this wonderful place, it’s strange but I feel a sense of sadness leaving this place, the beauty is unmatched anywhere I have been in the world. I think in many ways it reminded me of home, maybe that’s why I’m not so keen to leave, but the journey must continue and Stockholm calls.

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Surely it must be nearly lunch time?

Josh and Jess