Tag Archives: Relæ

500 days of Summer

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Well, perhaps not quite 500.

This weekend promises something quite rare for myself – I will not only be able to spend the whole weekend waking up in my own bed, but I don’t have anything planned for the first time in ages. Yes, I’ve deliberately turned down some things to make it so, but it was from looking at my diary that I came to the realisation that since Mid-June, I’ve only had 3 weekends where I didn’t have something planned or more specifically, meant I had to go away. Yes, I know this is very much a First World Problem, but I was thinking that being so busy should also mean that there *must* be something I could post about, right?

In the space of 3 months, a lot has happened – I had a bit of a scare regarding a lump discovered in one breast which turned out to have been lumps (plural) and affecting both breasts (!!). After a tense few weeks of being prodded and poked for investigation and seeing sights which no woman should ever see, I am relieved to say that I’m OK and have been discharged from the hospital. Being discharged meant that I could commit to a change in job roles and start on a 2 year project which will hopefully result in even bigger and better things for me. Obviously during those weeks, I couldn’t really consider if I had a future, let alone what I should/want to be doing in it, but once I knew it was OK to do so, I started planning my future with a new invigorated sense of trying to achieve more.

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There have been trips to Copenhagen – Two in fact, but the second one was very much a last-minute thing and I’ll write about that in another post. The first trip included a meal at the always-brilliant Relæ, loving Mirabelle so much that we went back the following day for (what turned out to be) the same dishes – Which we didn’t mind one bit, a great experience at Ante (RIP) and most of all, a trip to The Amazing Pig Out at Amass (oh, and going there for Amass Fried Chicken in the garden of Amass the day before). Again, more about this another time…

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A fair amount of beer was consumed – Not only from a trip to the magnificent Birmingham Beer Bash which has established itself as a firm annual favourite in my calendar, but with the opening and discovery of some new tap rooms and bars, especially the (IMO) very brilliant Clink Beer in the Custard Factory. What impresses me the most about Clink Beer is that it was borne out of the desire to have somewhere reasonably central (especially in the Digbeth area) where you can get some really decent and interesting craft beers without having to pay inflated prices as you may for something in the City Centre or travel across the other side of the City (If like me, you don’t live that side of Brum). I’m very biased in that the location of Clink Beer is on my bus route home, therefore making it VERY easy for me to go for a few drinks and still be able to stagger to the bus home, but I genuinely love this place and hope they do really well (I know I will do my bit).

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Founders released their KBS 2016 and expectations were almost impossibly high given how KBS 2015 was one of my favourite beers EVER. Yet Founders managed to pull it out of the bag again – KBS 2016 was somehow even better than 2015 with deeper coffee and vanilla notes. The bar was already set sky-high, but it could well be stratospheric for KBS 2017. Other highlights included being able to finally try Founders’ Mango Magnifico (at the Birmingham Beer Bash), and it was delicious – Even with the poke at the end! Another beer highlight was the latest BQE offering from the always reliably brilliant Brooklyn Brewery which could well be my favourite EVER. Named The Discreet Charm of the Framboise, it’s based on their very delicious Bel-Air Sour beer (which I got to gorge on during the London Beer Mansion earlier in the year), aged in Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels with a whole load of raspberries chucked in – All elements which individually I love so it was bound to be a winner in my books when you combined them all (and it’s every bit as delicious as I thought/hoped it would be).

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Food-wise, there were some highly enjoyable visits to Aulis at at Claridges and The Sportsman and I also got the chance to sample the talents and deliciousness from Alex Nietosvuori during his stint at Carousel before he moved on to Santiago, Chile on his next food adventures. Whatever Alex does next, I’m sure he’ll be a great success and I greatly look forward to tasting his food again. There was also a whirlwind visit to Silo in Brighton, but that visit is very much worthy of its own post.

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From my own part, there was a rediscovery of my own love of cooking when I got to cook for a load of friends (and family) in M & B’s new kitchen (photos) which also meant I not only got to play with, but covet various bits of kitchen equipment and design in their lovely home. There was (as you would expect in cooking meal for 14 people) a fair bit of work to be done, but M&B were such fantastic hosts and so generous in letting me wreck and mess up their sumptuous kitchen (I mean, they actually made us breakfast pastries and personalised fortune cookies). But there was a moment at the beginning of the meal when the entire table were drinking their soup (pork fillet, mustard greens and salted duck eggs) and other than the odd guttural murmur, the only sound you could hear was of everyone happily slurping their soup. I was busy preparing the duck at the time to take a picture or video at the time, but I paused to take in that moment and a massive smile appeared on my face. So whilst I got a lot of thank you’s for cooking the small feast, I have to say a massive THANK YOU to M & B for not only letting me play in their kitchen, but also to everyone else that came along that day for helping me to rediscover the joy I get from not only cooking, but seeing people enjoying the food I’ve cooked.

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There has been a lot of reflection over the summer – My health scare at the beginning of the summer made me a lot more contemplative than usual, but the Olympics also made me think of the last Olympics in London – And how I can finally look back at that time more objectively. I mean, I remember posting about the Olympics on here and how I kept bursting into tears – During the National Anthem, whenever some athlete was crying.. I can look back on it all now and realise that at that time 4 years ago, I was deep in the throes of grief, but it hasn’t diminished my appetite for watching the Olympics. I mean, after being able to gorge myself in sport around the clock, I felt a bit bereft when the Olympics ended. (Although, as a side note, YAY for the Paralympics coverage!).

However, the main event was for me, the wedding of M & G. It may have been towards the end of the summer and in the middle of a *really* hectic few weeks, but more than anything, it reinforced how close my family all are – And how fortunate I am to have such a loving and utterly brilliant family. Whilst there were no tears from watching the Olympics, there was much laughter, some tears and some moments of tension between and from each of us at some point over the weekend. Naturally, all of us at some point turned our thoughts to our late parents and how they would have both *loved* to have been there. However, I know that I’m not alone in thinking that seeing the beaming smiles and howls of laughter across everyone’s faces – Along with the very evident joy and happiness on M and G’s faces as they got married – made us all feel fortunate to be able to share and join in these new happy memories for all. And whilst it’s a very old cliché, we all know that our parents were with us in spirit.

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So what now? I’ve already mentioned how I should (need) post about a few places, but after such a hectic summer, I think it’s time to step back a little and take things slightly easier – Not only will my body thank me for it, my bank balance will too! After all, I need to save up for bigger adventures 😉

The 40 Project part 4 – CPH (AKA: I *heart* CPH)

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Given how often I go to Copenhagen, I couldn’t really have a 40 list without including something from CPH really. The thing with CPH was that because I had been so many times before, there were a lot of things which could qualify for the list which I had already done (if at all possible, I tried to do new things for the 40 list). That said, some things are too good to miss out so that’s where I started to change (bend) the rules somewhat in my approach to the whole 40 Project.

First up will be the Danish hot dogs (and Frikkadeller) [33]. I mean, even if you ignore the stand in the hall on your way to baggage reclaim at Kastrup Airport, there’s another kiosk right by the baggage carousels. What’s more, they’re both packed most of the time with Danes wanting a quick hot dog fix or presumably, a taste of home after some time abroad. In my case, it’s partly a reminder of my childhood when one of my cousins used travel to Denmark quite often as the guy she was dating lived in Denmark and she would subsequently bring over boxes of “Danish Sausages” (as we called them in my house), much to all my family’s delight. But it’s also a reminder of how much nicer hot dogs are than what we’d get over here. There is the important “snap” of the casing and the contents of the sausage may well be meat of indeterminate origin, but they’re damn tasty – Especially if like me, you got for the whole gamut of finely diced raw and deep fried onions, ketchup, remoulade and pickles all delicately encased within a hot dog roll lightly toasted and not big enough to encase the whole sausage resulting in both ends protruding out. I completely understand why the returning Danes make it one of their first stops upon landing back in CPH – I often make sure it’s one of the first things I eat upon landing at Kastrup and I look forward to it every time. I love the fact that your choice of drinks range from bottled water to soda fountains, or why not have a beer, Gammel Dansk or (my fave) a Jägermeister. So, whilst it’s not something new I did for the 40 Project, I couldn’t really have a CPH post and *not* include hotdogs in some way.

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Smørrebrød, or (Danish) Open Faced Sandwiches were the first thing I remember making in Home Economics class in school (many aeons ago). Being a Brit, I just thought it was curious why you wouldn’t have the 2nd slice of bread on top – That’s the whole point of a sandwich, isn’t it?!. That said, my trips to CPH have since taught me that the singular, solitary slice of bread on the base of a smørrebrød isn’t just any bread, it’s a slice of deliciously rugged and wholesome Danish rye bread – The sort where you believe that it’s actually doing you good by the act of eating it alone and well, you don’t need a 2nd slice to top the sandwich. Furthermore, the toppings are not of the ham and cheese (or coleslaw) variety my classmates and I had to eat in Home Economics all those years back. Rather, it’s some of the most delicately smoked eel either with scrambled eggs or some other accoutrements, it could be topped with another Scandinavian favourite – Pickled Herring, or you could top it with some organic local Danish roast pork… The variations are both broad and all very tasty. So it came to be that on one occasion in my 40th year, I didn’t just manage to eat Smørrebrød at Slotskælderen hos Gitte Kik in CPH, but I also managed to drink some Danish snaps and a local CPH beer [34] whilst there. This wasn’t the first time I had smørrebrød in CPH and I thought the first occasion was OK, but this visit to Slotskælderen hos Gitte Kik was brilliant – From the friendly service, to the guy with the red face at the front finishing most of the plates in front of you and I suspect that the snaps and beer may have added to the whole experience, but whilst the roast pork may not have looked like much, it was some of the best roast pork (and crackling) I’ve ever eaten and was worth the food coma it sent us into afterwards.

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An unexpected treat was a trip to the oldest bakery in Central CPH, Conditori La Glace. I loved how the window display of all the cakes drew you in and it’s very old Copenhagen inside, but the cakes are fantastic – They even had a sugar-free cake which I loved. However, I did manage to eat a Sportskage [35] which is the cake that La Glace is best known for and added another tick to the 40 list.

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With my growing interest in (Craft) Beer, it would be remiss of me to travel to CPH and NOT at least drink something local and well, the Daddy of CPH brewers is Mikkeller with their collaborations and experimental beers. So it was on the way to Relæ for another brilliant dinner that I got to drink a (Mikkeller) beer at Mikkeller and Friends [36]. It has quickly established itself as one of my favourite places to drink in CPH – With its minimalist look of walls painted in a soft, light blue (Turks and Caicos blue, I believe it is) combined with fixtures, fittings and furniture in a bare wood (lightly coloured) – The kind of Scandinavian minimalist design that you (well I) covet over for your own home until you realise that you’re too much of a hoarder to even begin to contemplate the ideal of minimalism. It’s the kind of bar design that is quite common in CPH and much as places in the UK imitate or offer something similar in design and setup, there is a certain (minimalist) swagger and well, vibe that makes it work so well in CPH which is missing in other places. Actually, whilst I’m here, I should really mention how CPH (despite the high price for alcohol) is a great place for craft beer – There are some really great tap rooms throughout the city with really varied and interesting selections. I mean, even the local corner shop near a hotel I was staying at had an entire aisle of bottled craft beers (which meant I could cheekily have one of my favourites, Brooklyn Brown Ale, with a snackette back in the hotel room). It was also in CPH that I discovered Christmas Ale (Beer) or Julebryg – And truly, my life has never been the same since..

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Relæ has an extra special place in my heart because it was my first experience of New Nordic Cuisine 4 years ago and I was completely blown away by it all – The cooking, the room, the soundtrack, how you got your cutlery from a drawer in the table. Added to this how Christian Puglisi and Kim Rosen are 2 of the nicest (and coolest) guys around, it pleases me to see how their little empire has expanded and transformed Nørrebro. So it was with complete surprise when YKL phoned me letting me know of an email that she had received from Christian saying that he knew it was short notice (4 weeks) and well, YKL and I had only literally just returned from a weekend in CPH, but that it was the 5th anniversary of Relæ opening and to celebrate it, they were having a bit of a party in the local park. Sounds good, right? Then we read this:

“The plan is that our amazing friends Rosio Sanchez and Renè Redzepi will be dishing out tacos, Magnus Nilsson cooks up hotdogs, Matt Orlando fries chicken, Mehmet Guhrs braises lamb, Kobe Desmeraults makes us Croquettes-de-crevettes and Chad Robertson will spread butter on delicious bread – all for you, friends and family to taste.”

Literally, my jaw dropped. Had we really been invited to this? Even though we had just got back from CPH, we were scrambling our diaries looking at plane tickets and accommodation. To cut a *very* long story short: It was every bit as brilliant as I hoped. There was a laid back feeling of joy in the air and it very much felt like a coming together of like-minded people in celebration of how Relæ has evolved in 5 years and with it, helped to make Nørrebro a go to destination within CPH. In fact, the whole weekend was centred on the (aforementioned) empire of restaurants and bars that Christian and Kim have built up: Bæst, Manfreds, Mirabelle and of course, Relæ. But what could I add from this for the 40 list? I could have added eating the beef tartare at Manfreds (Truly, if you’re ever in CPH and go to Manfreds, have the beef tartare – It’s one of the best you’ll ever eat). However, I wanted to convey how it felt extra special that in the year I turned 40, it was also the year that Relæ turned 5 and they put on such a massive spectacle which YKL and I were so very lucky to experience. So whilst I have eaten at Relæ many times and will continue going back as much as I can. For me, being able to eat a reinterpretation of the original menu at Relæ [37] made it onto the list. However, I do need to mention the generosity of Kim and Christian because when the bill arrived for that meal which was one of the best we’d ever had there, it appeared to be wrong (and any subsequent demands to speak to Kim and Christian were laughed at by the staff..

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Similarly, I have another special place in my heart for Bror; quite often our meal at Bror will contain the best tasting dishes of the whole CPH trip which is saying something how we generally go for the Big Hitters. Sam Nutter was still at Noma the first time I ate there and he was the one whom gave us our kitchen tour afterwards. When he and Victor Wagman left Noma to open Bror, I remember Rene Redzèpi saying how they both may not have any investors backing, but they had “huge talent and balls”. That only added to the amusement of how a signature dish at Bror became the Bull’s balls – They even have T-shirts saying “Poached, Sliced, Breaded, Fried” (how it’s cooked). So whilst I could say that eating Bulls balls at Bror[38] is on the list, I should also mention how during one of my trips to CPH in my 40th year, I also got to eat at Café LilleBror (RIP) where not content with feeding me balls at Bror, I also got to eat crispy dicks at Café LilleBror. [added to 38] As a side note, I can’t believe I’ve just made that public and now worry how this post is going to come up for certain internet searches…

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I started this post by saying how I couldn’t really leave out writing about Copenhagen given how often I have been there. Therefore I can’t leave out one of (if not) the main reasons for going to Copenhagen in first place – To eat at Noma. Yes, I am very biased when it comes to Noma – But that’s because I’ve never had a bad experience when at Noma. Sure, there have been some dishes where they didn’t *quite* hit the mark, but when you talk about an overall dining experience to encompass the setting, service, wine pairing and food – The whole shebang – you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere better in the world than Noma. Every time I’ve been to Noma, it’s been special and for different reasons every time.  I always spend hours recollecting various parts of the meal with YKL with a permagrin on my face – be it certain dishes, interaction with the staff, recounting conversations… The fact that I got to eat at Noma not just once, but twice to mark my 40th year with friends [39] added to the how special my 40th year was.

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I know this won’t be my last post about CPH, but it very much was part of my 40 Project and whilst some things weren’t within the original remit of eating something local to that region or a speciality of a restaurant/bar for the first time, it felt right that I tweaked some of the qualifying criteria just so I could share some of the happy memories I have from my trips to CPH.

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