Johan cooks dinner, part 4: Oh Wagyu, where art thou?

When we last left me, I’d put together a quite pretentious menu featuring a lot of not so every day ingredients.. With no real idea about how to obtain most, if any, of these.. I have been told, though, that I am a natural at finding or coming up with things in one way or another from one source or another (which I suppose would make me very popular, should I ever go to prison), so I was willing to give it a shot.

Some items on the menu actually proved ridiculously easy to find. A seemingly fancy ingredient like Foie Gras was available from the supermarket around the corner. Local vegetables for the Ratatouille and other uses was readily available to anyone silly enough to get up at the crack of dawn to go purchase newly dug up and harvested vegetables at the farmer’s market. Good quality white asparagus and beautiful organic free range chickens were, strangely enough, found at a local mega mart where I wouldn’t usually dream of doing my grocery shopping.

Other items, though, were a bit more of a challenge. I ended up finding bulk packages of ox tail (which I needed for stock making primarily) at a local wholesale mega market where I couldn’t shop until locating someone with a registered business and a customer card for said business.. But once I’d done that, I was lucky enough to also find several variations on lobster there – live ones, too! I don’t have a pot large enough to humanely and quickly kill off a live lobster, though, so I settled for some gorgeous shell on flash frozen lobster tails which I then, along with the ox tails, rushed home under the scorching summer sun.

Saffron wasn’t so much hard to find as it was hard to verify the validity off. Saffron, apparently, is not only the most expensive spice in the world, it is also the most counterfeited spice in the world. There are a ton of cheap imitation saffron products out there, many of them being sold as the real thing by more or less unsuspecting retailers. It took me a lot of poking around and looking at more or less fancy packagings in more or less weird places before I uncovered a half gram of what I believed to be the real deal (why is this starting to sound like a shady drug deal?) and was happy to pay for, especially seeing as it was cheaper than some of the more shady, possibly counterfeit versions I dug up.

The relatively small hassles of getting hold of the ingredients mentioned above did, however, absolutely pale in comparison with the hardships endured trying to locate and purchase the star ingredient of the evening, Wagyu beef for the main course. For those who don’t know, Wagyu is a Japanese breed of cattle, known chiefly for being the breed used in the production of the (in)famous and ridiculously expensive Kobe beef which is said to be the best beef in the world. For those not lucky enough to be living in Japan and being able to afford the sky high prices of Kobe beef, Wagyu beef – which is essentially Kobe beef not produced in or around the town of Kobe, Japan – is the cheaper and more readily available choice.. And by cheaper, I really mean less expensive. And by more readily available, I mean not downright impossible to get a hold of, only slightly downright impossible to get a hold of. See, despite being a luxurious and increasingly popular breed of cow, Wagyu isn’t exactly readily available outside of the restaurant business – possibly because of the price, possibly because of the low volume sold and possibly because a surprising amount of non-professional Danes are downright terrified of frying a steak, let alone a very expensive one, thinking they’ll ruin it in the process.. So where to go for Wagyu?

My first thought was to find a specialty butcher and ask him for advice, but since I live in a town where people could generally give two shits about the quality of their produce as long as it’s cheap, we don’t actually have a single butcher shop – despite being a town of some 60,000+ inhabitants.. Weird, I know. A shame, too! My next choice, as always, was the internet where I discovered that non-wholesale of Wagyu in Denmark was apparently very limited and usually done on an extremely sporadic basis by more specialized supermarkets in larger cities.. Not exactly very helpful information. Things were starting to look a little bleak for my grand plans, but they don’t call me a stubborn son of a bitch for nothing. I searched on and expanded my search to outside the borders of the small kingdom of Denmark – a little over the top, some might argue, but “over the top” is my middle name. After searching high and low, and doing a bit of research and comparison on the side, I managed to locate a pretty well-renowned American producer of Wagyu who actually did retail export to all of Europe using a middleman (well, company, really) based in Germany.. Time to brush up on the ol’ German skills! A few clicks on their website later, I’d found some individually cut and flash frozen Wagyu sirloin steaks that looked not only appealing but also reasonably prized. The upside to shopping foodstuffs in Germany is their lower VAT on foodstuffs, the obvious downside is the considerable surcharge for packaging and express delivery.. But what’re you gonna do?

The short and obvious answer to the question above? You order the damn steaks, punch in your credit card number and a few hours, 110 Euros and a confirmation call to Germany later, your two 250 gram sirloin steaks are all wrapped up and ready to go on a UPS plane bound for Denmark. Less than 24 hours later, a young, very distressed looking UPS courier knocked on my door and very quickly delivered a large cardboard box plastered over with hazardous goods stickers and “Warning: Dry ice” labels, seemingly overjoyed to get it out of his hands quickly..

As it turns out, Wagyu wasn’t that difficult to get a hold of if you have a trusted source with good shipping options and a fat fucking wallet to pay for the express shipping.

Following the Wagyu incident, procuring such “minor” ingredients as king crab legs and edible leaf gold suddenly seemed an overly easy task. King crab legs were actually available for order over the internet – from a Danish source and without the hassle of dry ice, chartered planes, and delivery men scared shitless.. It was practically too easy, even if the 25% Danish VAT on food seemed a little over the top following my latest food ordering adventure.. Oh well. . Edible gold leaf was pretty easy as well. I found it on a UK website and made an order for the smallest batch I possibly could (Tina and her friendship is invaluable to me, but still, with king crab and Wagyu already on the menu, 100 mg of pure gold ought to do) which was then shipped recommended and overnight by Royal Mail.. The only real hassle involved here was the overly enthusiastic mailman who practically kicked in my front door the next morning to deliver the goods – right at the same time as I was getting out of my morning shower. He did seem a little weirded out that I didn’t bother putting on pants before signing for the delivery, but in my mind that’s sorta what you get for entering without knocking..

And that was about it, really, everything else on the menu was pretty easy to get a hold of one way or another. It was only these few items that were a drag, even more so because I somehow had to get all of it smuggled past Tina who has, naturally, been around a lot since I got the new place.. So I was pretty happy when she declared that she’d be heading off to Italy for about a week at the top of the summer. Well, okay, I really wasn’t, coz I like having her close, but it made all these ordering random things off the internet and having them delivered to my front door without Tina noticing projects a lot easier. So while Tina was gone, I simply spent the time filling my freezer with various luxury food items from around the world.. Good times!

Once Tina returned, I could only mock her about how much fun I’d had ordering special little things for her while she was gone, then get together with her and pick a date for the consumption of our dinner.. Once that was all out of the way all that was left was to set a plan for the final purchases of the most perishable pieces of produce, a plan for preparing the whole thing, make a plan for the execution of the dinner on the date selected.. And then basically executing and serving the entire thing..

I won’t bore you with the details of the actually planning and preparations, it was a long tough stretch, lasting a total of about four days with of non-stop cooking, much tasting, feeling, poking about, packaging, labeling, numbering preparing and going back and forth.. There was even some elements of lighting things on fire and other craziness. No injuries, though, strangely enough.

Join us in the next installment of the series where we post some interesting pictures and dine like kings and queens..


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