Review: Walker’s Drive-In

9 October 2014

I enjoyed downtown Jackson for part of the day, despite the stifling humidity, extensive street repairs and of course the nasty hangover from last night’s fine meal (and many drinks) at Parlor Market. Due to a late change in schedule, I had to switch hotels to the north of town — which is a shame, considering how nice the downtown location was.

For dinner I was planning to go to Walker’s Drive-In — the other name I heard most often when I was researching this trip. I had to leave early the next morning, so I made an earlier booking. This was no “normal” drive-in or diner, it’s actually a cool little place designed with the feel of an old-school drive-in. I happily sat at the counter again.

The menu looked interesting and I enjoyed a glass of wine as I tried to decide my meal. As I was driving, I didn’t want to risk a night in the cells so kept my drinking to a minimum. I placed my order and relaxed and enjoyed the experience. This place was already busy, as it was known to be very popular in a part of town full of restaurants. Unlike last night, where Parlor Market served as an anchor to downtown revitalisation, Walker’s Drive-In is in a well-established district.

Had a little more wine before my starter arrived. I ordered this because it was so intriguing: Duroc belly and chorizo French toast.

belly-french_toast

This was a hearty starter, with plenty of very tasty pork belly. The egg was a very nice touch, which worked with the French toast very well. An interesting dish that took excellent ingredients, local culinary tradition and a whimsical interpretation of “drive-in” cuisine. Cute dish, and very filling.

A very good start. I relaxed with a bit more wine, enjoying watching the busy restaurant at work. My main course came soon after, the crispy chicken.

poulet_rouge

This featured the Poulet Rouge heritage chicken, fried more in a Japanese fashion than a Southern way. Tasty, maybe a tad overcooked, but good flavour in the breading as well as the bird. In addition, the side I ordered was absolutely fantastic.

sprouts_celeriac

This was one of the best sides I’ve had in ages, shredded Brussels sprouts and celeriac. Excellent flavours here, I could eat this all day. Neither dominated but complemented instead. I need to replicate this for Christmas! Fabulous!

I enjoyed this meal very much, especially that side. All around excellent cooking and ingredients. Again, not off-the-cliff cooking that robs the ingredients of their natural good flavours, exactly what a good restaurant and kitchen team can do to make me happy. I actually ordered a dessert…

coconut_cake

This was big, the cake of the day. A very rich coconut cake… It was too much for me and I took most of it with me as I finished the meal. I enjoyed a coffee as I relaxed. I have eaten very well here in Jackson. Again, a town that is under the radar when it comes to food. Maybe not as excellent as Louisville (still thinking of the excellent Seviche there), but it should get more love. I’d rather be in Louisville or Jackson than New Orleans or Miami when it comes to restaurants. Here the kitchens think about how to maximise with the ingredients available; there the kitchens plot how to overwhelm the diner — too often at the expense of natural flavours.

Simply put, I prefer humble cooking here than cooking with absolute boastfulness elsewhere.

I drove out happily back to my hotel, having fully enjoyed my Jackson stay and my 2 dinners. Honestly, I was not looking forward to the drive back to Memphis in the morning…

Walker’s Drive-In
3016 North State Street
Jackson, Mississippi

Review: Parlor Market

8 October 2014

Over the years I’ve spent so much time travelling around the world I sometimes feel I need to spend more time travelling through the US. This past summer I had a long roadtrip through several states, and I decided to take a few days to travel to a part of the US I’ve not been to before. I had to be in Albuquerque in a few days, so I planned the time beforehand to hit a few places I’ve always wanted to visit.

My first stop was Jackson, Mississippi, which was 2.5 hours away by car from Memphis (where I flew into). Most people know Jackson by the song, or by misplaced reputation for the city and the entire state. For one, Jackson is charming and friendly — not what people stereotype it to be. Not at all. I stayed in downtown, which is going through a painful revitalisation process that has turned traffic into utter chaos.

As I was doing research for this short stay in town I found one place that stood out for dining, Parlor Market. This was convenient, as I was staying at the excellent Hilton Garden Inn Jackson Downtown — which used to be the historic King Edward Hotel. The hotel, as well as Parlor Market, are anchors in the redevelopment of downtown and Capitol Street. Gorgeous place, I wish I had more time here. The menu for the hotel restaurant looked awesome too…

I got to Parlor Market at a not-too-late hour and it was moderately busy. A bit dark inside, but a nice space. I chose to sit at the bar, as I was alone as usual. Service all night was friendly and excellent, even when the bar was periodically rather busy. I enjoyed the cocktails and wine from my excellent bartender/server, Adie, as I ordered my meal. I was really looking forward to my choices, even though there were so many options I could have gone with.

raviolo_edited

For my starter I chose the venison raviolo. A very tasty dish, rich but not overpowering. A solid choice, a generous sized raviolo that had hearty and succulent stuffing. A good start. I enjoyed more wine, very surprised with the diversity of wines here, before my main course arrived.

duck_breast_edited

I saw a lot of duck dishes so I knew this was a good town for duck. And it was. This beautiful duck breast was very flavourful, sitting on a bed of traditional red beans and rice. The duck was cooked perfectly, retaining a fabulous texture and not sacrificing any of the natural flavours. Excellent execution of a very tasty dish!

I was too full for more so I just hung out for awhile drinking, testing my bartender with some of her best creations. It was an excellent way to spend the evening in a still-humid Jackson. Every minute this places grows on me, except the climate of course…

What I like about Parlor Market is that they took the best ingredients they can find locally and did the best they could with them, bringing out the very best without overwhelming them or commit the sin of “over-chef’ing” — which is epidemic in NYC, London and elsewhere. That for me is much more enjoyable than watching some Michelin-starred chef create some incongruous derivation of charred ramps marinated in pheasant jus, flaked with imported bottarga and drizzled with imported sesame oil covered with rutabega foam with spots of artisan mustard and house-made catsup — with an improbable hollowed-out heirloom tomato stuffed with wild boar ham and mountain goat cheese drizzled with anisette-laced liquified escolar oil…

Excellent stuff. Genuine and solid.

Parlor Market
115 West Capitol St.
Jackson, Mississippi

Review #2: Fino

23 September 2014

I headed back to London after a few days of fantastic eating in Bergen and the Faroes. Even the hiccup in Copenhagen didn’t dampen my spirits as I planned to relax a few days in London with many friends.

However, I have become increasingly weary of the London restaurant scene, much like my feelings about New York. Too little attention is paid to the ingredients, the chefs are “over-chef’ing” the food. Instead of bringout out the best of the ingredients, it’s now trying to adulterate it to show off. This is when cooking is no fun for me anymore, especially having just come from places with pristine ingredients like Norway and Faroes.

In London I had a few okay meals and a few poor meals, and maybe 2 good meals. But even some of my favourite haunts like Opera Tavern was not quite as good as it used to be. For my sole free evening, I decided to go somewhere that has not let me down in the past, the excellent Spanish eatery Fino.

I know people love their sister restaurant Barrafina (old and new), but the original Fino I’ve always had a soft spot for. I had a wonderful meal there nearly a year to the day (see my review), so I hoped to have a similarly good experience this evening.

The restaurant wasn’t busy and I chose to sit at the counter like last time. Big mistake. The service was extremely shaky all night, extremely confused and inattentive — even on a not-very-busy evening. Little did I know things would go straight downhill from that moment…

I noticed many of my favourites were off the menu, so I ordered several items and hoped for a solid dinner. The wine was slow in coming and it was rather annoying… The first dish arrived in a little while, the simple padron pepper plate.

padron

Well, how do you mess up this simple dish? Throwing a few large chunks of sea salt isn’t my idea of seasoning, especially with one giant clump that nearly cracked my tooth. Not impressed so far. And when my second dish arrived my heart just sank.

john_dory

Believe it or not, this is a John Dory. It was prepared rather poorly. First, it was cleaned badly, there were bones and fins haphazardly chopped making it hard to eat. Cooked badly too. And seasoned badly. This was a rather small fish too that I jokingly called the Johnny Dory. Awful. Compare this to the beauty I had at Bocca di Lupo in Soho last year…now that’s a serious John Dory.

Poor food, compounded by crap service, I was pretty unhappy by now. Thank goodness I ordered a small flask of wine or else I’d never get a refill… Then the next dish arrived, the duck.

acorn_duck

This was supposedly duck that was feeding on acorns. Now this was pretty good, cooked well, but didn’t have the impact I thought it would have. Perhaps I was just too jaded by the experience so far. This was the best dish of the night for sure, but that’s not saying much… Then finally the last dish…

ox_tongue

I shook my head when this showed up. It was ox tongue, but so heavily breaded? As I bit into it, I would have preferred to bite my own tongue. The thick, flavourless breading was utterly unnecessary. Frankly it made the tongue inside inedible, as it clung to it like glue. I tried my hardest to extract the tongue from the breading but after awhile I gave up. The tongue had absolutely no flavour — like it was boiled in water with no seasoning. The breading was supposed to cover that, but it was beyond disastrous.

I abandoned most of this dish and asked for the bill. Forget it.

To their credit they took it off the bill, but this was a total wasted evening. Shockingly poor cooking, terrible execution. I left unhappily, knowing one of the “safe” restaurants in London just let me down — not by a little, but catastrophically. I have never been so down on the London dining scene…

What a sad end to what has been an amazing food trip…sigh. I know I’m never coming back here again. Sigh…

Fino
33 Charlotte Street
London, England

Review: Kadeau

20 September 2014

My second and last night in Copenhagen took me out to the Christianshavn part of town. No, not Noma, no interest in that. I had decided to have dinner at the 1-Michelin, highly-raved-about eatery originally from the Baltic island of Bornholm, Kadeau. As my readers know, having lived on the Baltic coast for years, I have a special love for anything on a Baltic island. This was why I chose Kadeau.

Christianshavn is actually a hike from the centre, and I was a sweaty mess. Copenhagen has to be the only city that does not have its underground serve the central train station, and the trains that day were a mess going north… So I legged it.

I recovered for a few minutes after being sat at the large communal table that runs through the restaurant. I was early so it wasn’t very busy yet. I relaxed, ordered a full wine pairing, and looked forward to this journey to Bornholm without leaving Copenhagen. Menu looked interesting, though I was told there’s quite a long list of amuse bouches. And it begins.

AB1-potato_roll-urchin

The first amuse was a potato roll, with a dab of urchin inside. Just a palate starter, nothing special. Urchin didn’t stand out much. But it’s just a snack, so…

Ab2-smoked_mackerel

Barely had I finished chewing the second amuse appeared, smoked mackerel. This was very nice, I love mackerel so this was a huge plus. But once again before I finished chewing (and got a chance to sip the wine) the third amuse came.

Ab3-sunchoke-chicken_skin

I’m feeling rushed as now we have a strange thing of chicken skin and Jerusalem artichoke. This didn’t work at all, and I purposely waited to eat this so I can at least have a sip of wine… I know it’s not busy yet, but this is ridiculous.

AB4-sourdough-lichen

And as expected the minute I finished this morsel it was taken away and the fourth amuse arrived. This was a thin piece of sourdough, with lichen as flavouring. This was interesting and nice, what I had expected from this restaurant.

However, now I was pissed off, as I was still eating this dish, holding half of the sourdough, when they took the plate away. This has now broken not just speed rules, but courtesy rules. A huge front-of-house fail. I still had food in my hand for goodness sakes.

AB5-beetroot_powder

I was starting to sour on this place when the fifth amuse came, a weird beetroot dish with powder. Interesting, but was odd — and before I could ask a question, they took it away again! WTF. Are they trying to rush me out as a single diner, so I can free up space for a late seating? Not happy so far.

AB6-mushroom_soup

The sixth amuse then came, a mushroom soup. This finally allowed me to slow things down as I had some more wine. Nothing special really. The whole thing is getting mixed up and the flavours are clashing left and right because of the ridiculous speed of service.

AB7-duck_breast

The seventh amuse starts a trio of duck-related items, the first being smoked duck breast. This was very nice, very flavourful. The only reason service slowed down was because the runner had trouble removing the stone tablet…

AB8-duck_skin

The eighth was duck skin. Unfortunately, done almost like a crackling, it was utterly tasteless. A 180-degree from the last one.

AB9-duck_heart

And finally, the last amuse, the ninth, was duck heart. Not bad, but nowhere as good as the chicken heart I had at Colonialen in Bergen a few nights ago.

Honestly that was rushed and annoying. I asked the server, and he said the kitchen preferred it served quickly like that. That is utterly annoying and goes against every aspect of slow food. I want to appreciate what I eat, not to be overwhelmed to a point I can’t figure out if the item is good or bad. Just to let you know, the photo of amuse #1 was timed at 18:41. The photo of amuse #9 was 18:56. 15 minutes for 9 items. To make it worse, amuse #8 was timed at 18:51 — so 8 items in less than 10 minutes.

I’m sorry, that’s not the way I like to dine. It’s a bloody waste.

This has soured me on the entire Kadeau experience, and the first course did not help in that impression.

01-mussels-cabbage

This is actually a dish based on mussels and cabbage. Really? It also featured lovage and green strawberry. But frankly the texture of this dish was confusing and I felt like a rabbit. The mussels all but disappeared. Compared to the dishes I’ve had for the last few days, this was a total miss.

I did ask them to slow things down a little, so I actually had 9 minutes to eat this and enjoy my paired wine… The second dish did not change my impressions very much.

02-squash-cheese

This is based on squash and fresh cheese. I like squash/courgettes very much, but it seems rather unbalanced. The oyster essence helped, but really, it didn’t do much for me. I’ve seen better use of squash in suburban dining rooms. Growing even more disappointed.

03-beef_tartar

The third dish was beef tartar. To be honest these were completely flavourless. No strength of beef at all, and very poorly seasoned. Bland at one end, a rock at another that I almost worried would crack my tooth. The additions below, most notably pickled onions, was actually the highlight of this dish. Wow, shocked. Maybe my palate was blown out by the lightning amuse bouches, but still…wow…

04-langostine

The fourth dish was a wee langostine with cauliflower. Not bad, but very modest. Compared to the langostine I’ve had the last few days at Koks & Hafnia in the Faroes and Colonialen in Bergen, this was really bottom of the list. Very disappointing. Remember, this place has a Michelin star.

Even though the service speed was now normal and adequate to enjoy the wine pairings, I was already pretty sour on this meal. The next dish didn’t help, not at all…

05-onion

Dish 5 is centred on the green onion. I love green onion, but this is trying too hard to be Noma or Maaemo or Ylajali. Not bad, but it’s really not in the same league. But to be honest, this is the best dish of the night so far (alongside a few of the amuse bouches).

06-pork

Dish number six was finally a good dish that made some sense. An excellent piece of pork, which Denmark is very good with. Carrots were okay, a bit overdone. The pork didn’t need any adulteration as it is a fabulous piece of meat. Best dish of the night, and that’s not really saying much…

07-toffee-cream

We move into the desserts with a morsel based on toffee and cream…

8-apple-plum

Then finally to apple and plum… They really didn’t do much for me. I was pretty sour on this meal. I didn’t even touch the petit fours when they arrived as I was just keen on getting out of there. Throw in the annoying Danish practice of stiffing diners paying with cards (especially foreign), I put down a wad of cash and just wanted to forget this evening.

Frankly this dinner at Kadeau was not enjoyable at all, especially considering how amazing my food has been the last 5 evenings. This for me just shows that my fears of an overrated Copenhagen is coming true. It’s hyped so much the entire dining experience is no longer enjoyable — like in NYC or London. Mediocrity is being rewarded with 1 Michelin star it seems…

I leave Copenhagen with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I headed out before they attempt to bum-rush me with more amuse bouches…

Kadeau
Wildersgade 10
København, Danmark

Review: Formel B

19 September 2014

I had departed very early in the morning from the Faroe Islands after a spectacular birthday meal at Koks. The morning was extremely rough, not helped by early alarm and hour-long drive in the heavy fog to Vágar Airport… If it wasn’t for that fine meal I would have not survived this trek back to Copenhagen…

Slept most of the flight as you would have expected, just to endure CPH afterwards… Again, I’ve come to hate this airport. Major issues with bags, took ages and passenger complaints before we got our bags. Bad start… Then problems with the ticket machines that refuses to take coins…it’s like being back in London already…

Checked into my hotel near Tivoli and promptly fell asleep for a few more hours despite the ridiculous heat inside the room. I woke up and got myself psyched for dinner tonight at Formel B. Hard to believe, considering how well I’ve been eating the past few days on this trip, that this is the first Michelin-starred place I was visiting.

It was a long walk across the centre of Copenhagen on Vesterbrogade to almost near Fredericksberg, a solid 25 minutes of fast walking. I was soaking in sweat as I arrived… I was more than happy to sit at the counter, which was cooler (thanks to the front door frequently opening) than the dining room downstairs… Ah, first and only meal of the day, looking forward to this.

Formel B has a small plates concept, pick a few and go with it. I ended up choosing 4 dishes as I was hungry. As I enjoyed some wine the amuse bouche arrived.

amuse

The crackling was a bit boring, the crab puff was okay, and the chicken croquette was also okay. After last night’s series of amuse bouches, this seemed a bit anticlimatic… But it was a satisfactory start. I enjoyed more wine as the first dish arrived, scallops.

1-scallops-puff_rice

These were okay, though the puffed rice kind of threw things off. Overall on the bland side, and the rice really made it more bland. Texture was interesting but the flavour was really pale. Worked better visually than in your mouth. Definitely still missing the scallop at 1877 in Bergen

2-quail_egg-ham

Not disturbed yet as the second course arrived, quail eggs with Danish ham and sunchokes and watercress. The eggs were nice, though now it’s the reverse. The ham was much on the salty side, and it was a 180-degree turn from the previous dish. It was okay, but it was heavy on the ham. A little off-balanced to be honest, but good ham and eggs…

I was a little concerned to be honest at this point. I’ve not had a disappointing dinner on this entire trip so far, but was starting to fret a little. I’ve always thought Copenhagen is overrated, and tonight I’m worried it’s proving my concern. Had a bit more wine and awaited the third dish, chicken.

3-chicken-morel

Now this all but calmed my worries and brought this dinner back to life. This was a fabulous dish, based on free-range local chicken. Fabulous tasting bird. The baby corn was excellent, as were the morels. A very balanced dish (especially considering the last 2) that brought out the best of each ingredient. Very impressed!

My demeanor had completely changed at this point, and I enjoyed more wine. The open kitchen also let me enjoy the view, which was also accentuated by several extremely attractive female cooks… Switched to a red as we went to course four, entrecôte.

5-entrecote

This was fabulous. An excellent piece of beef, accented by deep flavours of jus and beetroot. Pieces of smoked eel added an extra dimension, as did the wee bit of marrow. Now this was a fine dish! Wow.

I have to say the first 2 dishes were really not there, but the last 2 dishes were utterly fantastic. It’s almost like two different kitchens. Wow. But the last 2 were so good I happily decided to stay for a dessert, especially after looking at the menu. In Estonia we call this astelpaju

5-sea_buckthorn

This beautiful presentation was called rightly “sea buckthorn en surprise” on the menu. A fabulous baked treat with the richness of the berry inside. I love this presentation, I almost didn’t want to break it open!

I gotta say the second half of this dinner saved the experience and then some. The chicken and beef were fabulous, with excellent cooking adding to the wonderful ingredients. Maybe I ordered the wrong things for the starting portion. But overall a pretty good dinner.

I headed out with a smile, which grew when I realised it’s cooled down outside. I strolled back chilled towards Tivoli. As I walked down Vesterbrogade, I recalled my first visit here 20 years ago and how much things actually look the same… Good to be back in a town I used to visit twice a year but rarely these days…

Formel B
Vesterbrogade 182
København, Danmark

Review: Koks

18 September 2014

As chronicled in the previous entry, I spent the day wandering around the fascinating town of Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. But now was getting time for my birthday dinner at my hotel restaurant, Koks — listed as one of the top new Nordic kitchens. I was very excited, as they are reputed to be masters of all ingredients Faroese. After a fabulous dinner last night at Hafnia, including many of the islands’ best produce, I was really looking forward to what these guys can come up with.

Koks is a very slick restaurant with a big, semi-open kitchen. I like the way it looks, a combination of Nordic slick and Faroese minimalism. I began my birthday dinner early as my flight in the morning is very early, and it’s a long, long way back to the airport from here…

I relaxed with a nice martini made from a gin that used local ingredients (but made in Denmark, as gin production not yet legalised, alas). Interesting, but a bit rough. I relaxed and examined the menu on iPad and began quietly drooling. I was anticipating my meal when the first amuse bouche arrived.

AB1-cod_chip

The opening number was a “cod chip” in the middle, rolled around a little bit of cream. A cute presentation — we were warned not to eat the cod spines! For some reason this hit the spot with that martini…

AB2-salt_fish

After that morsel went down, the second amuse came, a tasty treat based on local salted fish, with a touch of cream and barley. Tasty, enjoyed the barley’s addition to the texture. Very nice.

AB3-dried_fish

We continue with the dried fish theme with the third amuse, which featured the Faroese staple with fermented lamb fat with some local cheese on top, all on a mini-crispbread. Excellent, I love the fermented lamb fat coming out on this. Fermentation has historically been very important to the Faroese, and I’m glad they incorporated not just the produce, but also the techniques that bred out of this isolated archipelago. Excellent!

AB4-ræst

The fourth amuse was even more an exploration of this ethos, a sample of ræst lamb. This was a unique snack. They took jelly from lamb preparation, fermented it, dried it, and then fried. Wow… I can eat this non-stop all the time…

AB5-leaf

I had finished my martini as the fifth and final amuse arrived — a very humble item — a simple leaf of scurvygrass. This vitamin-rich leaf has helped to keep the Faroese healthy (especially from scurvy) over the centuries. This time it was also keeping secret a little cream. A fabulous journey through the food heritage of the Faroes.

This is exactly why I appreciate a tasting menu here than let’s say in London or New York. You don’t just get great cooking, but you get something really cultural and connected to the land and its history. It’s quite something when the amuse bouches actually tell a story.

I was preparing to begin my meal when I was told that there will be a very large party coming in (but in the other side of the large space) that could be a little loud. They, alongside this being my birthday, gifted me the martinis and a few other things. Now that is sweet. My first birthday gift of this year… But it was nice for them to point this out (and they weren’t loud at all, compared to what a similar group would do in London or New York).

01-urchin

The first dish arrived, featuring local sea urchin. These were brilliant, not too briny. Very neutral and clean, alongside sea purslane and wee cucumber balls. Very nice stuff. Maybe not the intensity of a really strong Hokkaido urchin, but it competes very well with the best of Santa Barbara. Excellent start!

I’m sorry as I was really enjoying myself I didn’t take notes on my wine pairings — I just remember they were excellent, and the pours were once again beyond generous. Wine pairings may cost more in the Nordics than in London or New York, but the pourings here are generous and not stingy like the aforementioned places. And also, I didn’t check the photo quality when I took them, so some of them didn’t come out too well. Sorry, was just enjoying myself…it’s my birthday, after all…

02-crab

The second course centred around another local favourite, the crab. A cute preparation, sadly in the photo it is hidden under the slices of turnip. The sauce is rich, using crab oil as its base. The aroma is just fantastic and this was small but very rich. One of the best crab dishes you’ll ever have — even the turnip was excellent, especially with that super rich sauce. This would seriously appeal to those fans of south Asian cooking with the strong crab essence. Mmm!

Another thing I liked about this place, even as it got busier, was that the pace of the dishes remained consistent through the night, and never rushed. Enough time to really enjoy the wine and savour the lingering tastes of the islands. Now why can’t some heavily-lauded 2- and 3-Michelin places have pacing like this?

03-scallops

The third dish doesn’t look like what you think it is, but it’s actually scallops. Graced by some cauliflower, the jus once again is richer than rich. You really taste the North Atlantic with these items. I thought the scallops weren’t as good as the ones I had at 1877 (few are) in Bergen, but these, with the jus, were still good.

So far I am really loving the seafood, the best of the islands. The next dish I was told would be in two parts. The first part came after a few minutes.

04a-langostine

Well…this was a beast. I was told it was caught earlier in the day and was still moving until a few minutes ago. I swear I saw it move… This was about as clean as it gets, a beautiful strong piece of langostine goodness. I took my time (they didn’t rush me) sorting out the rest of this beast, from claw to head. Wow, one of the best langostine I’ve ever had.

04b-langostine

Then part two — a tail from another langostine, this time smoked with pine. Just fabulous, with the tiniest glaze that helped to really collect the smoke. You can see it still flickering on the side. Oh this was tasty. It may have even been better than at Maaemo, without the grand production. Fabulous… I sat there breathing in the pine smoke for several minutes afterwards…I miss that smell…

I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the wine. Again, they weren’t rushing me, watching me to see when to move. This is great, the staff actually watches you and not push you either to eat or drink or anything. This is attentiveness. Why can’t other places do that?

05-garnatálg

As we went to dish five, we now really visit something extremely local — garnatálg. This is a delicacy from one of the northern islands, something similar to haggis. As an offal lover, this was a treat I was hoping to get. Already wrapped in caul, they also prepped this in fermented lamb fat. Wow, this was a lamb taste explosion… I really, really cannot eat lamb again when I go back to North America…

After that a break was needed, and they provided a very nice palate cleanser — based on lemon and thyme. Wow, what an aroma… I relaxed and just enjoyed the view of the lower town through the window. I was then told that the little hut outside of my room’s window was actually the drying hut for all of the produce they serve here. How cool… After that wonderfully fragrant break we start up again — albeit most humbly.

06-turnip

The next dish was kind of cute, a really odd but cute thing — a humble turnip. They like their local turnips here. I like turnip. This featured goat cheese sprinkled on top and a very nice but not intrusive jus. I like this, I feel the earth tasting this dish. Sorry about the reflection of my wine that kind of messed up this picture. I wasn’t trying to be artistic…

07-fulmar

The seventh dish was the final savoury dish of the night, and it was another local specialty — fulmar. They do like their seabirds in the North Atlantic, and this was one I’ve never had. It was surprisingly mild, without the very harsh taste you often get with these wild seabirds. But it was just fabulous, a sweet but not dominating flavour. The onions on top just added to the taste of this exotic bird. I’m sorry the photo basically just shows the onions on top, but rest assured the meat was fantastic!

We slowed down a bit at this stage, as the last two dishes were desserts. I enjoyed chatting with members of the staff, talking even about Estonia. Small world sometimes! The excellent pours continued and we moved into the desserts.

08-rhubarb

The first of two desserts featured the islands’ beloved rhubarb. Baked with a side of cream, this was an excellent treat — especially for someone like me without a sweet sweet tooth. Solid stuff.

09-skyr

I was a little sad when the last dish arrived, as this had been such a fabulous tasting menu — I guess it had to come to a close. The final dessert was centred around skyr, the interesting yoghurt-y treat of these North Atlantic areas. A generous amount of chervil adulterated this to something really interesting, again not sweet — perfect. What a great closing number.

I enjoyed a few more drinks as I savoured this excellent dinner. Chef came out for a long chat later as well, as we had some excellent wines chatting about the ingredients, food, the industry and so much more. This was a truly excellent dinner and experience.

The service was excellent, paced in conjunction with the kitchen to make the diner feel comfortable for a long tasting session — a key feature lacking in so many 2- and 3-Michelin places. Those places tend to dictate, this place accommodates. This is nice. Friendly and knowledgeable staff.

The food was excellent. The thing I loved most is how they really featured the best of the Faroes, not just the ingredients and dishes, but also the techniques and history. The appreciation and exploration of the islands’ cultural heritage through food makes this such a more memorable tasting menu than others that may be more extravagant and flashy. When you come to a place like the Faroes, this is exactly what you want in a tasting menu.

Full kudos to this team, front and back, for a wonderful birthday experience. It was definitely worth it — even if I needed to collapse after setting a wake-up at an ungodly hour…

I am gonna miss the Faroes, but I am gonna be back. There is something magnetic about this place, like Bergen, that will bring me back in the future. I feel symbiotic with the rocks here, and my stomach will demand a return sooner than later after this fantastic meal.

Wow. Folks, please visit these islands. You’ll utterly love it.

Koks
Hotel Føroyar
Oyggjarvegur 45
Tórshavn, Føroyar

Tórshavn…

18 September 2014

I spent my birthday exploring the beautiful small town of Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. I had explored a bit yesterday, but didn’t take many pictures — just wanted to get the feel of the place.

But today, I explored much of this town. The centre is compact, but at points very hilly. Plus, I walked to various ends of the town, so the entire trek took several hours of exploring. Here’s a little highlight of it.

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I spent a bit of time walking around the harbour. As the tourism season drew to a close, there were few large cruise ships. So it was pleasurable to just stroll and take in the fresh aroma of the North Atlantic.

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The busy centre of town…

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There is something really charming about these houses in the old town, with the grass roofs.

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I particularly liked hiking to higher areas, where you can really appreciate the beauty of the town, as well as the enveloping fog.

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The Skansin is the old fortress area with a distinct lighthouse, as well as several cannons from WWII. Don’t forget how strategic the Faroes were…

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The Cathedral is the centre of the old town area…

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You walk a bit out to the western part of town you also have the Vesturkirkjan.

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One of the coolest things about the Faroes is all the wildlife that are just enjoying life as much as we all are. Happy horse just grazing…his friends were just laying on the grass right outside of this picture. But this view reminds me of a painting…

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I also had a stroll around the old cemetery…it’s my birthday and these days you think about your mortality more and more often…

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Then back to the centre, where I had a look around the Løgting, or parliament. You could actually watch proceedings (if it was happening) as a pedestrian…

I did a few more laps around, including up to the high hill where Danish King Christian IX viewed the town — now marked by a large obelisk. And you can see the lights from the footie stadium there too…

I had a rather odd lunch back in the centre (only place I found open) — a few pints of locally-brewed Föroya Bjór and a giant plate of a rather odd nachos made with chicken, excess of cheese that solidified into 1 large gunk, and Doritos… Happy Birthday?

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Then I chilled out in the main square for a little as I made a new friend…

I made my way then up to my new hotel, the excellent Hotel Føroyar, which was way up on one of the hills a few kilometres away from the centre. It also happens to be where I was dining tonight, the fabulous Koks – one of the top rated Nordic restaurants (review is forthcoming). The hotel is fabulous, especially after spending the previous night at an extremely spartan “Nordic” “hotel”…

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It is a breathtaking view of town from up here…

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Met a few fellow guests…

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I spent another few hours wandering around the hills near the hotel.

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It reminded me so much of a merge between Scotland and Iceland, with wee burns running and rocky hilly terrain that shaped in the oddest ways.

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There was wee traffic jam until the pedestrians moved to the side of the road and took a break… Sheep and geese everywhere just enjoying themselves…

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Sometimes it’s like trekking in heaven…

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And I seemed to have interrupted someone’s late lunch…

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But it is strikingly beautiful as I walked my way back towards the hotel.

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Not sure why the room rates are what it is since they seem to have volunteers to deal with the upkeep of the grass…

But I was relaxed after this wonderful day and was really looking forward to an epic tasting menu at Koks in a short while. It’s been a quiet, but nice birthday. At 42 and having lost my soulmate, this is really the way I prefer to spend such a day. Cool weather, beautiful scenery, and a few new friends.