More so than ever before, cuisine has become a key ingredient in planning our vacations. We visit Italy not just to traipse through the museums and wonderful cities and towns, but to experience local Italian cuisine. Our visits to France, Spain and Portugal are as focused on eating as they are on viewing. We experience them through their cuisine as much as through their history and culture. We return from our travels and what we ate is often as much a topic of conversation as what we saw.
Scandinavia vacations aren't nearly as popular as Italy, France or Spain, and while there's much to see and experience in the region, not least of which an appreciation for a quality of life that these socialistic societies provide, another reason to visit is to enjoy the new Nordic cuisine. Perhaps made most famous by Copenhagen's
Noma restaurant, rated as the world's best, there are a number of chefs that are running in Noma's footsteps, or finding their own path, in purveying Nordic cuisine.
While I was unable to score a reservation at Noma in advance of my trip to Scandinavia (the waiting list can be six months long), I did get one in Stockholm at Franzen, helmed by Bjorn Frantzen, known as the Swedish Chef of Chefs, and which garnered two Michelen stars a couple of years back.
The current dining room is a small space, and we took one of the coveted seats at the counter facing the kitchen, where we could watch the international team prepare each dish. Dining at Frantzen is not only a gourmet experience, it's also a social
one. During the course of nearly three hours, every person on staff had the opportunity to interact with us, either introducing the wine or the dish being presented, providing us with all the information we'd care to know about (and answers to our questions on ingredients and preparations).
The meal was a 13-course affair. Courses are, of course, small, and eachoffered a burst or flavor. By the end of our meal we were satiated but not stuffed, and only wish we could retain the taste of each dish somehow.
While I will fail to recount each course, here's a lowdown of some of our experience.
The amuse bouche was a macaron with foie gras and dehydrated carrot. The gentle crunch and sweetness of
the macaron was a wonderful pairing with the foie gras and taste of carrot.)
Line caught Arctic char was served raw with gold oscietra caviar and olive oil and a fishbone vinaigrette.
The chawanmushi was a soup made from white asparagus with some of the arctic char roe in it.
The scallop were served with spruce needles and dried and powdered scallop tendon and finger lime, served with scallop broth on the side.
The deep fried langoustine was served on dried rice with a side ofclairifed butter mayonnaise.
The 'satio tempestas' was a salad of sorts, always comprised of fresh ingredients sent to Frantzen from one particular farm. That evening our dish had 52 ingredients in it -- a list of those, and how each was prepared, was provided to us.
A monkfish was served with fermented yellow split peas, aged pork fat and roasted hazlenuts.
We watched the chef churn the butter that was served with salt with our grilled bread course, and which marked the end of the seafood items.
Guinea fowl was prepared with morels and shaved walnuts. Dry-aged Swedish mountain cattle was topped with winter truffle and condensed soy.
There were three desserts: a baked rhum raisin ice cream with raw frozen foie gras, a rhubarb sorbet with sun-dried strawberries and pistachio and pink peppercorns, and a bento box with various delights, including a goat cheese fudge.
So here's the bad news: if you're eager to dine at Frantzen, you'll have to wait at least six months as the restaurant is closing now, after several years in Old Town, and reopening in a much larger space.