Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fresh coat of paint

Back in March, Bobby and I started hosting paying guests through the awesome site AirBnB (you can find our listing here). Since then, we've had at least 40 different sets of guests. It's been a lot of fun meeting all of these different people and learning about their different cultures (we've had guests from all over Europe, the US, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand). With so much use, the guest room was starting to look a bit... used. There were grease marks from people's head on the wall behind the bed and hand marks on another wall. So in between guests last week we touched up the room a bit. I've been a bit bothered by the color of the room for some time now. I really like the green color, but it was just too much to have it on every wall. So we decided to paint one wall dark brown, and we applied some fresh green paint where needed. You can see the initial results in this photo.

After a day, we decided we weren't mad about the brown color, but we had some guests coming in soon so we couldn't re-paint it a different color right away. We asked our guests what they thought of the color, and one of them said, 'It would look better if you had something on the wall to break up the color.'
 So we took her advice! We have had this giant world map sitting around for over a year (we found it in the trash at our university). We decided to try hanging it to see if it would look good and make the room look nicer. We're quite pleased with the results!
Bobby and I tend to go a bit wild once we start painting; we don't usually do just one project. True to form, we decided to paint the exposed wall in our master bathroom. The previous color was a yucky yellowish-brownish blah that made the bathroom seem really dark.
Now it's this much better white! It lightens up the room a bit, but best of all, it makes it look much cleaner.

Our next project to our bedroom. In November we are planning on replacing all of the closets, paint the entire room, and re-arrange the furniture. I can't wait!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Two weeks worth of vegetable bags, plus some crazy neon mashed potatoes

I've gotten a bit behind on writing about our vegetable bags, so now you get a food-heavy post with 2 weeks worth of vegetables and cooking. This bag was the beginning of our apple gluttony. A kilo of apples accompanied potatoes, carrots, beets, green beans, mizuna salad, and corn. Bobby was very excited about the corn. The poor guy didn't realize I already had plans for it, but after seeing the excited look on his face, I 'allowed' him to boil one and eat it off the cob. It wasn't as good as the sweet corn we have in the States, but it was still tasty.
My plans for the corn and some of the other vegetables was a late summer salad. Any good salad requires a good dressing. This one was made up of a special chili honey from Denmark, elderberry vinegar from Germany, Dijon mustard from France, and kalamata olive oil from Greece. Quite the pan-European vinaigrette!
And thus the salad: roasted beets, boiled corn, steamed green beans, mizuna lettuce, and the above vinaigrette.
More of the beets and lettuce were put to use in a lentil salad later in the week. This one had a nice warmly-spiced dressing. I found the recipe here.
By the end of the week, some of the roasted beets had yet to be used, so I decided to cube them and add them to roasted garlic and goat cheese mashed potatoes. The flavor of the beets were unfortunately covered by the strong garlic and goat cheese flavors, but there was no mistaking the fact that beets were in the mash! I don't think I've ever eaten something so... fuchsia.
There were also a few scraps of random vegetables left over by the end of the week, so I made some vegetable pancakes. These pancakes used up some of the potatoes and carrots from the vegetable bag, along with some cabbage and zucchini. Accompanied by garlicky-green beans and kimchi dumplings, we had a full meal based on random vegetable scraps.
This was the second week's vegetable bag, and it added to our already growing pile of apples! We also got a kilo of plums, baby potatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, summer squash, green beans, swiss chard, and parsley. I am not a big fan of parsley, so I asked for recommendations on how use it up on Facebook. One person suggested a parsley pesto, which I made: parsley, roasted hazelnuts, lemon, parmesan, and olive oil. The pesto was spread over puffed pastry, rolled, cut into pinwheels, and baked. They were ok-tasting, but made a good appetizer for a dinner party we hosted (more on the food served at the party below).
As you can perhaps tell, I'm a fan of dishes that use up random bits of vegetables. The pancakes shown above are one good way, and a pasta bake is another good way to use up vegetables. For this particular pasta bake (I make pasta bakes fairly regularly, and they are different each time depending on what vegetables and cheeses I have hanging around) I used up some of the swiss chard, yellow squash, garlic, and onions from the vegetable bag. You first sauté the studier vegetables.
Next come in the more delicate vegetables (in this case chard and a bell pepper). While the vegetables are sautéing, I boil the pasta until al dente (a minute or so before the normal cooking time) and make the sauce. For this particular bake, I used crème fraîche, soft goat cheese, and some grated hard salty cheese from the west coast of Denmark. I usually make very little sauce, just enough to slightly coat the pasta.
Once the sauce is made and the vegetables and pasta are cooked, I mix them all in a mixing bowl then dump it into a baking dish. I top the pasta with some Parmesan cheese and bake it until golden on top, about 20-25 minutes at 200C/400F.
Now, about that dinner party... I am so bad at taking photos of dishes I serve at dinner parties (I'm usually so busy trying to get the dishes ready at the same time and serving them together and making sure everyone has enough wine and is there salt on the table and and and...). I can tell you what I served, though, and provide you with links to recipes. The appetizers included the above mentioned parsley pesto pinwheels. I also made a caramelized onion dip, and some spicy cheddar and ham pinwheels. For the main, I found a dish that finally used a few of the apples we've received in two week's worth of vegetable bags: this really awesome cider-braised pork neck with apples and onion confit. This was a really delicious dish, was easy to make, could be made ahead of time, and was quite impressive to serve. You should try it. I served it with the baby potatoes from the vegetable bag (I just boiled them, nice and easy), and this green bean salad with French feta (much milder than the Greek version). For dessert I used up some of the plums from the vegetable bag. My intension was to roast and caramelize the plums, which were going to go into a fruit tart with a custard base. Unfortunately, the plums were more ripe than I expected and therefore collapsed during roasting. So I instead made a almond cream base (from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook Around My French Table) and smeared the collapsed plums on top. It tasted great and no one was the wiser about the failed first attempt!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Thörnströms Kök

This post is about the second 1-Michelin star restaurant Bobby and I visited in Göteborg. We had a 9 pm reservation at Thörnströms Kök. Even though we tend to eat on the late side (especially during the summer), 9 pm was a bit late for a really big meal. We therefore chose the 6 course dinner instead of the 8 course dinner (I know, I know, only 6 courses). Had we chosen the 8 course meal, I'm sure we would have been there until 3 am! As it was, we were there until nearly 1 am.
We started with a rich mushroom consumé, which I just loved! My apologies for the very yellow pictures: being so late, there was no natural light inside the restaurant  :(  Oh well, you'll still get an idea of what we ate!
The bread basket was a thing of beauty: crisp rye with fennel, brioche, rye sour dough, roasted onion bread, rye baguette, all served with fresh butter (two butters, in fact: virgin butter (meaning not handled too much, so it was still a bit sour since not all of the buttermilk was removed) and a more traditional salted butter).
The first course was salmon trout with pickled cucumber, soured potato crème, salmon roe, fennel flowers and bread crumbs. There were so many different textures and flavors! This was served with a 2012 Silvaner Kabinett Troken by Juliusspital (Germany).
The second course was our favorite of the evening, and perhaps the best course of the entire trip. This seared scallop just melted in our mouthes! It was perfectly paired with a mushroom purée, raw marinated turnips, and lovage vierge. It was absolutely brilliant. It was served with a 2011 Sequillo White by Eben Saide (South Africa).
This third course was so well prepared that I might have freaked out over my inability to cook fish this well. The breaded lemon sole was served with carrots, lemon froth (so light and tangy), and mustard marinated raw shrimp (unlike at Noma, this raw shrimp was no longer alive, thank goodness). This anxiety-inducing course was unfortunately served with what was our least favorite wine, a 1998 Champagne de Venouge (France). The champagne was served several minutes before the food was served for the purpose of letting it got a bit flat. For us, it just didn't work. The flat champagne was too metallic for this softly-nuanced fish course.
But all was forgiven when the 4th course was served. Variations of Rödkulla beef (tenderloin, sausage, and paté) were with mushrooms, onions, and a fantastic smoked vinegar jus. We were treated to a big Italian red, a 1999 Radici 'Riserva' by Mastroberardino from Taurasi. Lovely, lovely, lovely!
The 5th course was a very interestingly presented cheese dish. The hard Swedish cheese Almnäs Tegel was grated, which made it quite airy and light. Under the cheese was a plum compote, and roasted almonds and vegetable ash were sprinkled on top. Served with a nice and crisp 2011 Spätlese Risleing from Maxin Grünhäuser (Germany), we were pleasantly surprised with this dish.
And finally, the dessert. This dessert was a bit of spectacle: the server made the caramel table-side, then added the malt brioche to the caramel. A bit of cognac was added and them shwoosh, the whole thing was flambéed! Once the flames resided, the caramel and malt briche were added to a dish with lemon sorbet, honey crisp, cherry cream, and a Valrhona chocolate terrine. It was served with a Pedro Ximenez El Candado by Valdespino (Spain).
We finished the meal with some nice petit four and asked for a taxi home (all 6 glasses of wine were topped up numerous times!).

Between the two restaurants, Bobby and I both slightly prefer Kock och Vin, but only very slightly. Both restaurants were great and a good value for the cost. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Kock och Vin

Bobby and I visited two 1-Michelin star restaurants during our visit to Göteborg. This post is about the restaurant Kock och Vin. The meal began with a palate cleansing cold drink of cucumber with dill oil. We then moved on to several different starts, including this cured chuck steak.
Then we had blue mussels with sego and parsley. I loved the presentation.
And this really wonderful 'pie' with smoked herring cream and lingonberry powder. This was so tasty! No pictured is the starter of fried rye bread with tomatoes, anchovy and onion.
We then moved on to the first course: mackerel lightly pickled in gooseberry vinegar with a gooseberry compote, sour cream, and very cold watercress (that's the green powder in the photo). The mackerel was really lovely, and the tart gooseberry compote really complimented the fresh fish and earthy watercress. All of the above starters were served with a 2011 VDP Reisling from FP Buhl (Germany).
The second course was mushrooms with unripe currants, a fresh cream cheese made with goat cheese, and steamed scallions. Again, we really loved this dish, especially the goat cream cheese. Luckily, I am liking mushrooms more and more (especially chanterelle!), so I was able to fully appreciate this dish. This course was served with a 2011 Sauvignon from Jermann (Italian). Bobby and I both LOVED this wine; I'm hoping I can find it in Copenhagen!
The 3rd course was an interesting concept - unwanted ingredients! This is catfish, which was a bycatch for another fish. It was served with 'garden cabbage', which is normally a weed in Sweden. So unwanted fish and unwanted vegetables, served with Swedish roe and peas, was a fun dish making use of unexpected (and to some, unwanted) ingredients. Talk about being resourceful! This was served with a 2001 Chemin Blanc from Muzaïk in Pithon-Paille, Anjou (France). The wine is bio-dynamic and aged in oak barrels for 10 months.
The 4th course was our least favorite (though it was still well cooked): langostine with beets, hazelnut and 'Swedish herbs' (the server didn't know the English names for them). I like langostine, but I don't think it's the best vehicle for big flavors. This was served with a 2012 Whispering Angels Rosé (goofy name, and just an ok rosé) from Caves d-Esclans (France).
Pardon the bad photo. We had to use the flash and I think that is my elbow's shadow  :)  The 5th course was perhaps our favorite: chicken hearts with potatoes, tarragon, fried oyster mushrooms, and a horseradish cream. The chicken hearts were delicious; not at all gamey nor chewy. The horseradish cream could have been a bit spicier, but it was nice to have the richness to counter the mushrooms. This great dish was served with our first red wine of the night: 2011 Tête de Lard Rouge from Saumur, Put Notre Dame (France).
Our 6th course was lamb with tomato, garlic flowers (which tasted a lot like capers), boiled turnips, and celery. Lamb can sometimes be too gamey for me, but this dish was not gamey at all. Perhaps the acidity of the tomato helped to cut some of the richness. Whatever it was, it was lovely. It was served with a 2011 Langhe by Elio Altar-Viticoltore from Nebbiolo (Italy). Bobby and I have gotten more and more into full-bodied Italian reds, and this one did not disappoint.
The 7th course, the cheese course, was an interesting combination. A soft and creamy Swedish cheese (I can't remember the type of cheese) was served with thinly sliced celeriac (celery root), mustard and sunflower seeds. It was an odd combination, but tasty! It was served with a Pommeau de Normandie by Louise de Lauriston (France). The Pommeau smelled quite a bit like sherry, but was very sweet and apple-y.
And time for the desserts! The 8th course was really fun: roasted carrots, carrot sorbet, dill, and freeze-dried fennel! The server made the freeze-dried fennel at the table. She had a giant mortar with fennel root bits in it. She then added liquid nitrogen and used a pestle to mix it all up. Though the whole dessert was made of root vegetables, it was really sweet and definitely tasted like a dessert. It was also a good reminder of the fun flavors available in the upcoming fall. This was served with a 2007 Chenin Blanc from Clos Du Bourgh in Vouvray (France).
We ended with my favorite summer fruit: raspberries. This 9th and final course was a raspberry sorbet with rose jelly, fresh rose petals, and fresh cheese ice cream. This was so fresh and delicious, and was served with a nice sweet red wine called Malvira from Birbet (Italy).

Overall, we had a wonderful dining experience at Kock och Vin. The service was great, the food was really wonderful, and the wines were quite nice. The price was also a bit cheaper than a comparable meal in Copenhagen. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Göteborg.