To me, New Nordic cuisine had a big shoes to fill since we had been learning and hearing of it ever since the start of the program. My initial impression of the term New Nordic cuisine was that it would be historic, stereotypical Viking food (such as breads, porridge, and tough, dried, aged meats) but with a modern French cuisine twist. When we first began our readings and studies of New Nordic food, however, I never realized this kind of food was palpable. I was so excited by the Denmark television episodes we watched in the DIS theater. A segment that stood out to me was when a group of chefs were sampling one of their dishes, to which the head chef remarked that the sunflower sprouts should be picked sooner to achieve a more desirable flavor. Not only was the concept of eating something like sunflower sprouts so quirky to me, but I loved the concept eating foods “out of peak season.” Also, in the New Nordic Cuisine Manifesto, I loved how New Nordic cuisine utilizes the environment to flavor their food. The location, temperature, harvest time, and even plant stress all affects the flavor of the food product—such as growing carrots in winter to intentionally stunt their growth. I felt like the concept of New Nordic cuisine challenges convention. Who is to say a tomato needs to be ripe to be eaten and enjoyed? An unripen tomato provides a unique flavor in its own.
I appreciated the idea of New Nordic food, but as we made our way to Höst on our last official day of the course, I was skeptical. I have mixed feelings towards the concept of “fine dining.” I often feel that paying a high price at a restaurant ultimately yields a more positive, high-quality service and experience as opposed to a more delectable meal. Was Höst and New Nordic food nothing more than fluff?
The restaurant was down-to-earth, and as one of my classmates described, like eating in a barn house (but a fancy barn house!). We had a private room to ourselves in the basement. The table was uneven and rustic. No music was playing over the speakers, allowing us all to connect and socialize at a comfortable level. Bread in a bowl of hay next to still and sparkling water was at our table as we waited for all our guests to arrive. Once everyone was seated and settled, our waitress greeted us and explained the number of courses for the evening.
Our first meal was minimalist appetizer: a shrimp-based dish served with a single radish and smoked mayo atop a plate of charcoal rocks. Our first course, and my favorite of the night, was a salmon-based dish served with fresh sprouts and horseradish sauce. Our next course was unexpected. We all exclaimed, “It’s a taco!” although it resembled more of a chicken salad inside a pancake/crepe. Then we met our main course, a fish-based dish and asparagus, followed by two deserts: ice cream frozen by liquid nitrogen garnished with a pickled, caramelized pine cone and another ice cream dish severed with strawberries, fennel sprouts, and a sweet crumb. In my opinion, the quality of the dishes was outstanding. The flavors were genuinely unique and difficult to describe. Perhaps the most creative dish was the ice cream and fennel sprouts; it was such an uncommon combination, yet the textures complimented one another and created a new way to enjoy both ingredients.
I never thought I would be one to feel this way, but I absolutely want to try New Nordic food again and bring my loved ones into this new world of food. Perhaps this is the botanist and outdoor-enthusiast in me, but I loved how earthy our New Nordic food was. As abstract as this may sound, eating the dishes evoked feelings of nostalgia. Eating pine cones, malt bread, and fried marigold reminded me of mountain tops, meadows, and valleys I’ve visited on hikes and in the back woods of Georgia—and I feel that a meal which can transport you through time (and tastes good too!) is worth trying over and over again… should my funds permit!