Tag Archives: wine pairings

“THE BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD:” COPENHAGEN’S NOMA – PART 4: BACKSTAGE AT NOMA AND SOME COMMENTARY

Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that has been voted “The Best Restaurant in the World” (LINK) over and over, was the site of a recent visit by Dorianne, two friends, and me recently. Here are the links to the first three installments of the series: (LINK TO PART 1) (LINK TO PART 2) (LINK TO PART 3).

This post, the final installment in the series, covers the post-meal tour of the facilities at Noma (LINK) and contains some commentary.

After our meal (see parts 2 & 3 of this series), it was good to stand up. We had been sitting for about two and one-half hours in a very intensive activity – eating new things, drinking new wines, talking about the meal and doing our own internal processing without stopping. When I stood up, I realized two things – I had been sitting quite a while and I had a lot to drink. Wine with 20 courses . . .  you do the math.

So I went to the restroom and then joined our party in the preparation kitchen, which is adjacent to and visible from the dining room. The tour, being guided by a young woman who is a chef at Noma (she said that she started as an intern a few years back. She is in her early 20’s, and YES, she knows – or says she knows – what an advantage that is for her). I did not get this young woman’s name, but I am sure that I will be seeing her face in a future foodie magazine as a star chef someplace.

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Assembling the Forest Flavors and Chocolate Desserts.
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North Sea Lobsters all in a Row.
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Presentation Kitchen Activity.
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Getting the Egg Liqueur Ready.

This first kitchen is where things are prepared to be served at the table and where some of the cooking is done.

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Our Young Chef Tour Guide Showing us Around.

Then we went out back of the restaurant to the Laboratory.

That’s right. The LABORATORY.

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The Laboratory Facility.
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Various Plants, Molds, etc., Being Tested for Various Qualities. All Very Mysterious.
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Testing How Certain Berries Age.

Here they try things out – there are all kinds of experiments going on to test various ingredients and what happens to them over time in various marinades, and under various conditions, etc. A very interesting part of the operation.

Upstairs, a private dining room that seats up to twenty. You can rent the room for a lot of money (like thousands of Euros) and then PAY FULL PRICE for your Noma meal!

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The Private Dining Room on the Second Floor.

The Book Shelves of Noma.

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Action in the hallway: Ironing uniforms.

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The Prep Kitchen – where the action is.

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Cutting Frozen Bones for the Bone Marrow Dish.
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Reindeer Moss.
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The Prep Kitchen Staff – Keep in Mind that Noma Seats 45 or so.

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The Staff Room – where cooking, exploring recipe ideas, relaxing, changing clothes, etc. happens. There is a smaller kitchen, an herb garden, and lots of things stored – mushrooms, etc. Here you really get a sense of the Noma Culture, which is think is the glue that makes Noma what it is – one of the best restaurants in the world. You can see that the people who work here have accepted an ethos that they have had a hand in co-creating. René Redzepi, Owner and Founder and Chef de Cuisine is Daniel Giusti were not on the premises that day. They have brought a powerful culture of creativity, innovation, sustainability and success that seems to permeate the staff in a very good way. To work at Noma is to believe in this ethos, even if your intention is to get some experience and move on. While you are there, you are a true believer. Here is a link a partial list of Noma Alumni (LINK).

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The Kitchen in the Staff Room.
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The Kitchen Garden in the Staff Room.
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Our Group has Lots of Questions for our Guide.

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The lounge – near the entry, where you can have a drink before or after, or, I imagine, in lieu of, dinner.

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The Lounge at Noma.
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The Wine Storage in the Lounge.

So ends our tour of Noma.  On to some commentary.

Overall, this wonderful experience. While I did not like everything that I was served (probably not possible), I will say that the experience of the food was overall very enjoyable, both in tasting the dishes and in experiencing the creativity.

We were served 20 courses. My main negative about Noma is that the courses came out too quickly.

We had 20 in that time and it was too much too quickly. This is food that you want to savor – to talk about the amazing combinations of ingredients with your table mates, to take some photos (but of course!), and to taste the wine served and to experience the pairing of food and wine; then to reflect privately for a moment or two and then to share with your fellow diners your impressions and experience.

This takes time. But the next course is here!

I don’t think that this is a minor quibble. I like to savor. I don’t like to feel like they need to move me out to get the next seating in (which was not the case, as the next seating was for dinner). So please, Noma, a bit more time. I am not in a hurry when I am spending this kind of money for this kind of experience. I am sure that all of this has been figured out over time, but for me, it was not optimal in regard to truly enjoying the meal at leisure.

I read the other day of a restaurant opening in Barcelona that will serve 50 courses in two and one-half hours. I doubt I’ll be going there.

The wines at Noma were, let me say, unique (LINK TO LIST AS PDF). I have written about each and posted photos of the labels, but you probably won’t be able to find most of them – maybe one or two. I spoke with Sommelier Yukiyasu Kaneko about his choices. He said that he preferred to use only European wines, and that included a wine from Georgia in the former Soviet Union. He also clearly has a preference for young wines to accompany the fauna heavy Noma menu. All of the wines were whites. I found that the pairings worked well with one or two exceptions, and in those cases the wines were either sour or so very young as to have only rough edges, which I guess was intentional, but I did not agree with those choices.

Note that there is a lounge at Noma, where you can come for a drink or some wine before or after dinner, although you get quite a bit of wine with the paring meals – I recommend a taxi or a designated driver. We walked, and got a bit lost on the way back to our apartment.

How much did it cost? The wine pairing meal was 3100 DKK or about $450 per person. the juice pairing was 2500 DKK or about $367. Expensive, I know. It was Dorianne and my 10th Wedding Anniversary gift to one another, so a very special occasion.

Will I go again? Not sure that I need to, but if the opportunity presents itself – I will strongly consider it. I’d like to see what they do next. Have you been to Noma? Your comments are appreciated.

Photos and text, Copyright 2015 by Jim Lockard

CASA BARRANCA WINE PAIRING DINNER IN OXNARD

On Friday, eleven of us made the short trek from the Conejo and Simi Valleys to the Oxnard/Port Hueneme area for a wine pairing dinner at the Waterside Restaurant (LINK), featuring Casa Barranca Wines (LINK). The dinner was set up in the back of the restaurant and included a table for 12 or so in a back room and a table for 16 in the front room.

I will speak to the food, the wine, and the execution of the concept. I want to begin by giving kudos to the owners of the Waterside Restaurant, who have created a very nice wine bar on a scenic marina in Oxnard. We had lunch there a while back and everything was good – the food, the wine, and the service. They hold a number of events during the week, and are working hard to bring a good wine experience to an area that has been generally lacking in good cuisine and good wine venues.

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As you can see, the menu was both ambitious and inventive. I should also note that some of the dishes were prepared differently for a member of our party who had allergies.The service was efficient and friendly.

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That said, there were some problems with the wine pairing event. The food was both inventive and beautifully presented, the chef used the paired wines in most of the courses. However, almost everything was served at a luke warm temperature at best. Part of this was due to the desire to have the chef explain each course after it was served AND having the winemaker describe the wine each time.This had to be done twice, as they could not be heard at both tables. They did finally alternate, with each speaking to a table then switching. I did taste a couple of courses as soon as they hit the table, and they were not hot. Something to think about for future events.

The Casa Barranca Wines are organically grown at a historic winery in Ojai, CA. The winery shares space with a spa retreat facility. Grapes are sources from Santa Ynez for the most part. Winemaker Samuel Tulberg, represented the winery at the dinner. He was very knowledgeable about the wines and their process, as you would expect.

The wines served were their 2013 Viognier, 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Pinot Noir, 2013 Craftsman Red, and a 2011 Vino Noche Port. The Sauvignon Blanc and the Craftsman Red (56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 22% Merlot – and just 12.5% alcohol) were quite good. The Pinot Noir was very average, and the Viognier and the Vino Noche were just not very good. The wines that I liked (and this was the general consensus at the table) were complex and somewhat elegant, with nice hints of fruit and terroir in there. The Viognier was anything but elegant, had a chemical nose, and simply was not a pleasing wine to drink. The Vino Noche Port was very harsh on the palate and hot with alcohol. It was better with the dessert – chocolate lava cake, but still . . .

I am sure that a visit to the Casa Barranca Winery is a fun outing, but I would not be going for the wines. Perhaps, over time, the wine making process will mature and even out.

As for the Waterside Restaurant, I encourage them to keep on trying and working on their presentation timing for food at events such as this.

NICE MERLOT WITH A PORK ROAST

Lat night at dinner, Mary Stec (Link to her cooking school Facebook Page) made an amazing pork roast with roasted potatoes and green beans.

Dorianne and I took a bottle of 2004 Shaffer Napa Valley Merlot (Link) to have with the meal.

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The wine had a very refined nose – dark fruit and a touch of minerality. The flavor was well-crafted and smooth, with cherry, tobacco, and some earthiness on the edges. A very nice wine. This wine retails in the $50 range, so you would expect it to be good – it does not disappoint and I think that it can still age for a few more years and hold up.

Before dinner, with some chevre and hummus, we had a 2009 Clos Pepe Chardonnay – Barrel Fermented (Link)Richard Clark and I had gotten a couple of half bottles on a trip to the Clos Pepe Estate a couple of years ago. The four of us shared the half bottle of this amazing wine – very, very nice, but it’s all gone!

But back to the Shafer Merlot. The wine paired very well with the roasted pork, it had enough structure and tannin to hold up to the dish. I noted some heat, and guessed accurately that it had 14.9% alcohol – which is getting fairly normal for California Merlots. Here is the link to Shafer Wines – (Link).

A VERY PLEASANT MERLOT WITH GOOD PIZZA

NOTE- Links are in BLUE.

Dorianne and I had dinner at NAPA TAVERN  in Westlake Village, CA, last night. It is a good restaurant with mostly Italian food, but no pastas – lots of grilled meats, fish, tapas, pizza, etc., in a fairly upscale setting.

The wine list is good, but not extensive. I would say it is well-chosen, although with the name NAPA TAVERN, one might expect a larger list.

We were each ordering a pizza – Margarita for me and Veggies and Goat Cheese for her – so we thought a lighter red would do the trick. We ordered the 2012 TOAD HOLLOW MERLOT, a single vineyard wine from the Russian River Valley the second least-expensive Merlot on the list at $43.

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The wine was fruit-forward with a very nice nose and a very pleasant feel on the palate. Dorianne, of the amazing palate, liked the wine very much and declared that it was 14.5% alcohol, which was verified on the bottle.

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By the way, you can get this wine via AMAZON.COM (LINK)!

So a nice wine with some very good pizza in a restaurant with a very good atmosphere – I’ll call that a good evening!

MY PHILOSOPHY OF WINE

I really enjoy wine.

Wine - Paris Wine Shop Display
Paris Wine Shop Display

I enjoy shopping for wine, drinking wine, talking and writing about wine, reading about wine, making wine (I’m part of a wine co-op that produces 250 cases per year), traveling to wine regions, tasting wine, and so forth. I do not (so far anyway) collect wine as an investment or purchase wine futures.

I have wine nearly every day, mostly with dinner. I enjoy many kinds of wine and enjoy exploring everything from wine shops to wine regions to find new wines to enjoy. There are more important things to do with your life, and I do some of those things, too, but wine is a nice part of my life.

My philosophy of wine, which will largely inform this blog, is that wine is to be appreciated and enjoyed. By appreciated, I mean that it is important to recognize the amazing thing that wine is – a beverage that has been crafted for over 6,500 years by nearly every culture on the planet (even if you limit this statement to grapes only). Fine wine is crafted by amazing people who grow grapes and make wine using a wide variety of techniques, practices, and equipment. Wine is a living thing – it is never exactly the same at any level, whether from bottle to bottle or vineyard to vineyard. In fact, wine changes appreciably about every ten minutes that it is in the glass!

By enjoyed, I mean that wine is to be savored on its own AND it brings entirely new dimensions to many kinds of foods. Enjoyment also includes the wonderful social aspects of enjoying wine with friends, or with people you just met. And you can enjoy wine right away – you don’t need years of experience and wine education to enjoy wine. Appreciation of wine does increase with experience and education, but it is available to everyone.

So I encourage you to find the wines that YOU like and to enjoy them the way that YOU like to enjoy them. If that means white wine with a steak, so be it. If it means that you disagree with Robert Parker or another wine critic over how good a wine is, so be it. If it means that you prefer Charles Shaw Cabernet to Plumpjack Cabernet – well, we have to draw the line somewhere!

In short – this blog is about appreciating and enjoying wine. Not from the standpoint of the experts and the high-profile critics, but from the perspective of finding your own way in the world of wine. I will share my (and my wife, Dorianne’s) explorations and adventures with you and perhaps you will find some value in that. The goal is for you to find your own way. So, get ready to pop a cork or unscrew a cap, and let’s begin!