Category Archives: Spirits

Finding culinary inspiration.. At the bottom of a bottle?

Being the foodie that I am, I get a lot of questions relating to cooking in general and a few relating to my cooking in particular.

One question that I often get is one that goes something along the lines of “Gee, Johan, how the f’ do you come up with those weird culinary ideas of yours?” As much as I would like to say that all my dishes are based on careful though, proper planning, and careful timing and execution.. The (sad?) truth is that a fair number of them are based on guess work and sheer fucking luck, and come about in a state of mild to heavy intoxication.. Such is also the case of one of my most recent innovations: Slow roasted leg of wild boar with three-whisky gravy and mashed potatoes.

The main problem with a creative environment fueled by alcohol and silliness is, of course, that details get a little sketchy and pics a bit blurry as no one really thought to bring a proper camera in wild anticipation of the innovation about to take place. I hope, however, that you will still enjoy this tale of how stupidly simple the process behind my cooking can be:

The date was January.. err.. somethingth.. I’d recently woken slightly dazed and confused on Dunkel’s couch after a night of binge drinking and other silliness. We were in the midst of a rather strange morning ritual involving listening to the recently deceased Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” while sipping a snifter of quality Scotch whisky..

In the middle of this ritual, Dunkel suddenly exclaims “Oh, I’ve got a project for the day!,” then retreats to the kitchen and comes back with an entire fucking leg of a wild boar and an absolutely dazed and insane look on his face, stating that “we should do something with this!”

“Okay,” I venture, recovering from my initial surprise, “I suggest slow roasting, lots of aromatic vegetables and eventually a gravy based on the roasting juices.” – “I agree,” Dunkel states, looking at my one liter bottle of MacAllan Elegancia 12 year old Whisky.. “And I think we need to add Whisky to the gravy!” – “Deal,” I mumble, draining my glass and following Dunkel and the “serves 10-12 people” cut of wild boar into the kitchen where we then set about clearning up most of the mess from last night in order to start the project.

Things were cleared up pretty quickly and sporadically, the oven was set to around 65 degrees centigrade (which is as high as you should cook pork no matter what your grandma or various scaredypants tell you!) and the hunt was on to find a suitable vessel to cook the leg’o’boar in.. Which proved a little more difficult than expected

After a lot of searching around and an equal amount of swearing, we eventually located a non-stick roasting dish which (almost) had room for the roast and, toasting enthusiastically, we set about the very complex task of seasoning the roast and adding aromatic vegetables. We solved this complex problem by pretty much pulling everything that could be qualified as “aromatic vegetables” out of the fridge and throwing them into the pan without much more than a wash and maybe a snap or two. We then chucked the roast on top, seasoned it well with salt and pepper and whatever else we found reasonable in our intoxicated minds which amounted to thyme, rosemary, tarragon, parsley and a generous coating of Dijon mustard to make it all stick.. Coz, well, yeah.

For liquid we added a bit of water, a bit of stock and a generous splash of MacAllan Elegancia Whisky, a generous splash of Tullamore Dew Whisky.. And some Bushmills Whisky as well, simply because we had the option of using three kinds of Whisky and it somehow seemed reasonable at the time.. After everyone and the

dog had approved of the result,

we chucked the damn thing in the oven and forgot about it for a good five hours.

Well, that is we TRIED to forget about it for a good five hours.. But the damn thing smelled so nice that it was kinda hard to ignore.. Which was probably a good thing because it inspired us to check on the thing often and, eventually, realize that we had completely forgotten to add bacon to the mix.. Which was just a plain silly rookie mistake as we had a pack of bacon just sitting around in the fridge waiting to get wrapped around the roast. So after some five hours, we retrieved the roast, added bacon and popped it all back.

We then waited patiently for another good three hours or so. We then evacuated the roast once more, had a good peek at it, drained the juices into a sauce pan where we let it rest for a good half hour or more while we made the sauce and a bit of mash to go along.

The mash was made in the usual way using boiled potatoes, salt, pepper, nutmeg, a heart-clogging amount of butter and a bit of skim milk to taste.. Careful on the milk, mind you, you don’t want too many calories in there!

Ages ago, I made a pledge never to try my hands with mash, so while Dunkel took care of that, I did what I do best.. Or better than mash anyways.. Which was to take care of the gravy: it started with a bit of roux (flour and butter) which was browned nicely in a sauce pan, the roasting juices from the meat were then added along with a splash of Whisky (for good measure), some cream and a splash of caramel coloring.. It was then left to reduce slightly and grow all thick and nice-like.. Simple as could be.. And tasty as could be!

“D’you realize,” I said to Dunkel as we were putting the finishing touches on everything, “that a lot of people would be terrified to attempt what we just did.. And here we are, getting wasted, cocking about and just guesstimating our way through this.. Isn’t that funny?” – “Well, we’re more awesome than the average chef,” Dunkel simply declared, raising his glass to me.. And with that in mind, we were ready to carve the roast, plate it up and feast.

And feast we did.. Because, well, despite all the weirdness, the guessing and considerable blood alcohol levels, I’d have to declare awesomeness on the result. Wild boar really is one of my favorite eats, probably because it’s gamey yet not too gamey and still distinctively pork-like in a less fat than domesticated pork kind of way. The herbs and the vegetables went really well with the gamey flavors of the meat and (along with the obscene amounts of expensive Whisky) added a nice touch to the gravy which was out of this world in a “I’d like to just eat this with a spoon” kinda way.. A feat which may or may not have been attempted.

With Dunkel, myself and his girlfriend, Marianne, we ended up a total of three diners and while we did not entirely devour the “serves 10-12 people” hunk of meat, we did our damn best and got pretty shockingly long on our quest to finish it up.. Suffice to say, we didn’t quite make it.. But if you’re interested in seeing how a couple of strapping young lads look after trying to finish a meal fit for ten, look no further than here:

Yeah, not too pretty, is it? But what did you expect? Honestly, it was a rather silly attempt, a rather silly idea altogether, but it just had to be done.. If for no other reason then to prove that it doesn’t take a clear-headed genius to achieve culinary innovation. I’m sorry if that causes disillusionment to anyone 😉

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Where’s the rum gone?

In case you’re wondering, preparing for a rum tasting and a dinner with a raging hangover is neither the easiest nor the most fun thing in the world. But apparently a raging hangover is what you get for helping Dunkel wait for the train, as detailed in my last post. As a result, most preparations for Saturday’s big Caribbean dinner/rum tasting event was done in the short period between around 4 PM when I started to feel well enough to move about to 6 PM when Tina had scheduled her arrival. It went rather slowly, and I’m not gonna lie to you, there was some groaning, but it all got done in time.

When Tina arrived, shortly after 6 PM, it quickly became clear that she too, may well have been hell-bent for trouble on the night before. For starters, she was swaying slightly from side to side the minute she got in the door.. Secondly, she wore what I’ve come to describe as her hangover hoodie, a large over-sized purple specimen we’d picked out at a mens’ store once while shopping for me. When we hugged, we didn’t so much hug as we just grabbed hold of one another, leaned into one another and both tried to apply enough force and guidance as to not topple over. “I don’t feel so good,” she said – “Me neither, babe,” I replied, “there was trains and Dunkel and waiting and brandy..” – “What?,” she demanded, after which I tried to explain, causing her to laugh, cough and nearly fall over again.. Indeed, we were a pretty miserable bunch as we kicked off the evening.. Which is why I decided to kick things off with a drink!

The concept of the evening was pretty simple: Tina had asked me to introduce her to rum. I figured we’d start with some classic rum drinks, have dinner, then have a go at tasting some sipping rums and see what happened. For the first drink of the evening I’d chosen the most classic and simplest of all rum drinks, the original Daiquiri.. And I don’t mean that girlish pink shit with berries, fruit and whatever the fuck have you. I mean just classic white, semi-aged Cuban rum, fresh squeezed lime juice and simple syrup.. Simple, fresh, tasty and a perfect cure for the hangover.. And a perfect way to win over Tina because, well, the girl loves her some Havana Club 3 year old and is absolutely obsessed with lime juice..

So the hangover was quickly forgotten and we were quickly chatting about the night before, a peaceful activity which lasted for all of five minutes or so before the fighting broke out. It started innocently with Tina telling me about this hot little outfit she’d been wearing the night before and it ended rather horribly when I remarked that she never wore anything nice for me anymore but rather showed up hung over in her work clothes or an old, oversized hoodie with tales of how fucking nice she’d looked the day before. Tina responded with a slur of profanities, pointing out that I myself was in a five year old band shirt and, in case I hadn’t noticed, was hung over myself.. It all sorta escalated from there until I decided to bring the argument to a halt with more alcohol.. Consequently a pair of Cuba Libres were had, as well as two different Mai Tais, all in miniature versions as to not have people off their feet before dinner.

Speaking of dinner, it was a complete success. In keeping with the Caribbean theme of the evening, I’d made Jamaican jerk chicken, served with rice and beans cooked with coconut milk, garlic and spring onions

The whole thing was served up with Jamaican Red Stripe beer

and consumed in a very laid back manner

Which got even more relaxed once dinner had been consumed and poor Tina got completely knocked out by the weight of the food and just sorta collapsed over a row of chairs.. The good friend in me wanted to pick her up and carry her to the couch to rest a bit, however, the fucking idiot friend in me was busy taking pictures and poking her in the stomach until she started looking at me with big, sad, puppy dog eyes and quivery lips and going “Please.. Don’t..”

at which point I let her retreat to the couch and cleared the table, only to return to her with the only thing I know am certain to ALWAYS make her feel better.. Mojitos!

Once again in miniature versions and this time around made with my pricy Havana Club Cuban Barrel Proof rum.. Not only did that wake her up, it made her absolutely. positively ecstatic and giddy. “Y’know,” she beamed, “I think we’ve found our new go-to Mojito rum!” – “Honestly,” I said, turning to look at her with a serious face.. Which was instantly met with Tina’s usual offense of soft smiles, ever-widening deep blue eyes and batting eyelashes.. “Oh c’mon,” I muttered, “fine, whatever, but then you’re paying the extra DKK 300 a bottle out of your own little pockets!” … And with that, Tina’s face froze for a little. “Fine,” she smiled softly, “the 3 year old might do the trick for now.”

In the end, though, it proved nearly impossible to get the poor girl to abandon the thought of the Barrel Proof.. Or even to get her to part with the bottle for that matter, and since I’m a sucker for pretty blondes, I eventually suggested that we make it our very special occasion Mojito rum, a suggestion which was met with more big smiles.

Having thusly survived both dinner and a small onslaught of rum drinks – or drink tapas as I came to call them due to the smaller servings, we moved up to the big boys, the sipping rums. We kicked things off with one of my personal favorites, English Harbor 5 year old which is stupidly good for such a relatively young and inexpensive rum as it is. We then moved up through the 8, 12 and 15 year olds until we eventually ended with two of the best, if not THE best rums in the world. The Santa Teresa 1796 15 year old and the Ron Zacapa 23 year old. Both absolutely marvelous rums! Tina has had the Zacapa 23 once before and to this day swears it’s the best spirit she’s ever tasted. Me, I’m not too sure, I want to say the Zacapa 23 because it’s just so damn smooth and friendly, yet the Santa Teresa is clearly better balanced and more versatile.. Gah, I can’t say. Parts of me wanted to try both rums over again to maybe be able to make up my mind, but parts of me knew that was a pretty silly idea. For one thing because it’d end up a fucking expensive rum tasting and for another because after some 12 rums in an evening, details get a little blurred, even when only sampling very small portions..

So instead of doing that, I did the second stupidest thing I could do which was to mix up more Mojitos.. This time simply to see what would happen if we used a 15 year old Cuban styled rum as the mixer.. Which turned out to be nothing good, really. The more subdued softness of the aged rum made it drown completely in the mix, creating a slightly expensive yet utterly characterless Mojito.. Oh well, that was that plan tried. We washed down the failed Mojito with a more standard one and then, not wanting to face another day of hangovers, decided to call it a night.. By the time you’re mixing 15 year old rums, it’s probably about time to call it a night anyways.. But what a good night it was.

“You know,” Tina told me in the end before her knight in shiny.. fashionable clothes came to carry her away on.. in.. his white.. Toyota Aygo, “I feel almost bad that despite all the awesome rums you tried on me, my favorite is still the Zacapa 23 and your standard Mojito.. – “Don’t, sweetie,” I told her, “at least you have good taste and at least your favorite thing in the world is still something I make.. That’s not too bad, really.”

It’s a Hard-knock Life (this being unemployed business)

“Oh, my God, I love it,” cried Tina and rushed right by me.. “Umm,” I said, feeling a little overlooked, but happy to see that she apparently liked my new place. Then, within seconds, I realized that she’d charged right for the dishwasher which she had then opened and was staring at with huge admiration and the kinda look on her face as if she’d have hugged it if she could. “If you start liking my appliances more than you like me, I’m gonna be pissed,” I muttered under my breath. “I’m sorry, sweetie,” Tina smiled, pulling out one of the dish racks from the washer and almost sticking her head in to examine it further, “and stop being such a girl!” – “I’m sorry,” I muttered, “I learned from the best.. So you like the new place, then?” – “I like it a lot,” she beamed and charged on through the house to the terrace, “I have a feeling we’ll be spending a lot of time here!” – “On account of the terrace and the garden?,” I asked.. “That.. And the dishwasher!,” she answered.. Well, the little one sure loves her dishwashers.. But seeing as our usual agreement is that I cook the food and she do the dishes when we’re together, I can kinda see why.. For someone who loves to be spoiled as much as she does, her life just got a hell of a lot easier and sweeter.

As it turned out, the little one was right, we did get to spend a lot of time at my new place, starting with that very Monday evening where we ended up eating dinner together.. Well, that and a little more, really. See, in order to coax Tina over, I’d told her that if only she showed up, I’d not only share a beer on the terrace with her, but also cook her a nice little dinner to go along with it. She’d already lived up to her part of the deal and arrived in her mother’s fine, little car, she’d even worn a cute, little summer outfit for the occasion. I, in return, had lived up to my part of the deal and served her a Corona with a slice of lime on the terrace which seemed a fair exchange for the present company.. And we were now slowly, but steadily, in the process of cooking a nice summerly dinner of Italian tomato salad, roast chicken and pasta with fresh tomato sauce when things took a turn for the worse.. Or better.. Strongly depending on how you look at it, I tend to favor the latter.

“Y’know?,” Tina started, her head fixed to the top shelf of the fridge she was rummaging through before turning to me, a soft smile growing wider across her lips and a trademark sparkle forming in her eyes.. “Maybe Jeppe would be kind enough to pick me up later tonight?” – “Let me guess,” I said, shaking my head, “you just discovered the bottle of Rosé wine in the fridge and would like a glass or two, is that it?” – What followed now on Tina’s part was a reaction, more than likely as completely autonomous in nature as it was professional and effective. She turned to me, crossing her legs slightly, bending her knees slightly and crossing her arms in front of her chest, bending her head as well in a shy little girl manner, letting her hair fall down slightly, batted her eyelashes a few times, then slowly looked up at me with intensely deep blue eyes and a shy, ever so slightly trembling smile on her lips.. “Mmmmmaybe,” she said in a soft voice, “I mean if you want to? (cue batting eye lashes). “Fucking hell,” I thought as I felt my insides churning, heart softening and any trace of resistance (if ever there were one) fading away, “you are GOOD!”

“You do realize you’ve got me exactly where you want me and there’s no possible way I can say no to you right now,” I eventually managed. – “Yes, I like things this way,” Tina said with a happy, slightly triumphant, yet entirely grateful look on her face. – “You’ll be the death and ruin of me one day, baby,” I pondered out loud, “but it’ll be a happy death and ruin.. Get the wine out and set the table!” – “Yes! Right away!,” Tina chirped, jumping to attention, and like the good (albeit manipulative) girl that she is, she started buzzing around the kitchen, pulling out plates and cutlery before meticulously carrying it all to the dining room and setting the table.

Having finished our beers, and having also gotten over one of our loving little fights and bitter arguments as I started accusing Tina of being a very bad little girl and a terrible guest for finishing her beer way ahead of me and not even waiting for me to catch up, we moved to the table and had what can only be described as a very nice summer dinner befitting of two wonderful people such as ourselves, but entirely too expensive for an ordinary Monday night, especially given the rather bottle of wine that Tina had tricked me into having.. Or I’d tricked her into wanting, depending on whether or not you believe the story about me stacking it in the fridge where I was sure she’d find it and have her interest peaked.. Ahem.. But that’s all speculation and conspiracy theories.. Regardless, it was a very, very nice bottle of wine, and it put us in a very, very good mood.

“I’ll tell you what,” I told Tina as we we’d about eaten ourselves into a tummy ache. “It’s a hard-knock life this whole being unemployed business.” – “Tell you what,” she laughed back at me, “I’m starting to quite enjoy it, really! I wish every day could be like this!” – “Of course you do,” I countered, giving her a loving little shove on the shoulder as we got up and made our way to the couch, “you’re high maintenance like that!” – “I may be,” she smiled, nudging me back, “but you made me who I am, so it’s all your own damn fault!” – “Aw, no, really.. Thank you.. I’m happy you’re here with me beign unemployed and still spoiling me silly,” she added before I had a chance to start bitching.. Which sorta, kinda made me forget all about what I wanted to whine about..

The night eventuall developed into one of those warm, cosy, happy unforgettable, slightly buzzed summer nights where time seems to about as still as the warm air outside and nothing much really matters. The stress of being unemployed was gone for a while, the endless rejection, money issues, worries about tomorrow.. All that shit.. For a while there, all the mattered was the company, the music playing, the talk, the wine in our glasses and somewhere along the line, and the fine spirits that somehow popped up along the line.. Again, I’m not really sure how that happened, but I’m reasonably sure that Tina was the instigator. At any rate, I remember her looking at me once again with that trademark smile of hers that is known to melt the knees of guys such as myself and saying “if I ask nicely, do you think I could one day have a small sample of your new Japanese Whisky? Please?” – I’m about ready to call this a deliberate attempt of manipulation and exploiting ones position as cute blonde. Tina, on the other hand, will probably argue that I was simply trying to get an innocent, little blonde drunk.. But regardless of who was trying to manipulate who, the end result was pretty predictable in that I sighed, got up, exclaimed “Well, you don’t file for unemployment every day,” found a pair of tumblers, poured a single ice cube into each (and before anyone attacks me for that, let me just defend myself by saying that it was a little to fuck off hot for whisky to be served neat and that it needed the water anyways plus it was Tina’s first brush with undiluted Whisky in a state of near soberness) and topped with a bit of Yamazaki 10 year old.

Not too surprisingly, Tina quite enjoyed the Japanese take on Whisky and not too surprisingly, she immediately developed a certain curiosity for the world of fine spirits and eagerly started asking questions, commenting while examining tastes and smells and sucking up the impressions as well as the knowledge I tried to relay.. I swear to God, sometimes she reminds me a little too much of a younger, shorter, prettier, long haired version of myself. Before I knew it, we were going through my entire fine spirits collection, sniffing here and there before sinking into a long discussion about one of my big passions: rum!

Once again, I couldn’t help but get a little weirded out by someone as decidedly feminine as Tina taking an interest in a somewhat masculine subject, e.g. that of aged spirits, but once again, she surprised me by approaching the subject with wide-eyed interest and near child-like fascination. And of course, I couldn’t help but want to show her what I was talking about, in particular that rum could be more than just a mixer. So of course, I had to bring one of the rums to the table.. Now, having had fun on Tina’s expense for most of this post by calling her a spoiled and manipulative little girl, I guess it’s only fair to mention that there was absolutely no pressure from her in what happened next, and if she wants to claim once again that I was just trying to get an innocent little blonde drunk, she should feel to do so. I will, however, stand by the statement that I was just trying to introduce a very special little blonde friend of mine to a very special bottle of rum, namely my Ron Zacapa 23 years old from Guatemala.. The fact that we somewhere along the way of Whisky, fine rum and wonderful Rosé wine ended up a little tipsy and giggly.. Well, that’s just a bonus.. But, again, I digress.. Back to rum!

Now, Ron Zacapa is a rum I’ve always had a special relationship with. It wasn’t the first fine rum I’ve ever had, nor has it been the most distinctly flavored, but it’s definitely the most memorable.. And not only because of the palm leaf wrapped bottle it’s sold in.. It quite honestly might be my favorite rum ever because it’s simply everything you don’t expect a distilled spirit and 40+ % alcohol by volume to me.. It’s sweet, smooth, pleasant, fruity and flowery and seems to coat the mouth forever, yet leave next to no burn once it goes down.. It’s also a fucking expensive bottle or rum and definitely not one I’d normally start people off on when it comes to tasting rum.. But Tina, like me, isn’t quite a normal person, so somehow it just seemed fitting – not so that I’d be able to crack more jokes about her being high maintenance, honestly. Rather because she actually has one of the best palates I know and a sincere knack for tasting and enjoying complexities in whatever you hand her.. So it seemed right that she became one of the selected three that I’ve actually let taste the damn thing.

“Oh.. Wow.. Just.. Wow.. Umm.. Wow!” was literally her first impressions and comments with the meeting of this fine rum, leading me to believe that I hadn’t been entirely wrong in serving it for her. “That’s really special,” she mused.. “I had absolutely no idea distilled spirits could be lile that”.. Which was pretty much exactly the point I was trying to make. We spent the next odd half hour, tasting, sharing impressions and discussing the very fine beverage that is aged rum and Ron Zacapa in particular. And I can honestly say that I didn’t for a second regret spending the very expensive rum on my little friend.. Well, maybe in one single aspect since Tina pretty quickly deducted that she could probably pretty easily develop a strong devotion to fine rums and, quite possibly, Whiskies as well. To which I could only repeat what I had already stated earlier that evening: “You’ll be the death and ruin of me, baby, but what a beautiful death and ruin it will be.”

After many an hour of appreciation of the finer things in life, mainly cooking, good food, good wine, good spirits and the likes, it was actually growing pretty late and poor Jeppe showed up to pick up Tina, only to find us in a slightly tipsy, overly happy, chatty and giggly mood. He seemed initially pretty confused at our state, so I went on to try and tell him that it was Monday and that getting nicely toasted had seemed a pretty good idea. “Yes,” Tina chimed in, “we were simply celebrating that Johan had filed for unemployment, why not make a party out of it?” – “Honey, you’re drunk,” Jeppe said as we pushed for the door so they could get home and relax a bit before a new day beckoned. “Nonono,” countered Tina, pointing at him, “I’m TIPSY! There’s a big difference there!” – “I agree, Jeppe,” I said as I showed them out, “you should see her when I get her proper drunk!” .. And with that I bid them farewell, thanked Tina for a wonderful evening, thanked Jeppe for picking her up and letting her have fun, then sat down, poured myself a wee dram of Laphroaig 10 years old Whisky, put my feet up and once again groaned to myself “It’s a hard-knock life!”

ROCK AM RING 2010: Day 1 & 2, Rock N Roll Train

Tuesday, June 2, 2010, 9:07 PM – A southern bound night train screeches to a halt at Kolding train station. As Tina, myself and our new traveling buddy Pernille gather our stuff and say goodbye to Tina’s boyfriend, a door springs open and a scrawny shape comes flying out onto the platform, a smoke wildly waving in one hand. “There’s Lars,” I simply say, as we watch another familiar figure bolt out the door, taking one look in our direction and yelling “WHAAAA?” .. “And there’s Christian,” I add, as we all laugh and make our way down the length of the train to hook up with our friends from last year’s Rock Am Ring festival.. And to actually get on the train before it departs.

As we say our hellos to our prodigal friends and make our way into the train carriage, we try our best to introduce our new travel companion, Pernille, but pretty quickly realize that the boys must be a little ahead of us in alcohol consumption as they’re more interested at yelling at each other and us than listening to what we have to say. “Oh well,” we shrug and follow them into their reserved compartment where we hook up with a couple of friends of theirs, Per and Bo, and the two odd cases of beer they brought for the ride. Not wanting to feel too much left behind, we grab a case of our own and settle down all seven of us in a compartment designed to hold six people. Within minutes, we have a beer of our own open and Tina has managed to position herself in a way in which her ass is firmly planted on one seat and her feet firmly planted in my lap.. But then, that’s just how she is, she might be small but she needs her space. I in turn get position between Lars and Per while Pernille gets position right in the line in the corner alongside a drunk, rambling Lars  looking to make conversation.

And so it begins. Ahead of us were a nine hour train ride to Cologne, Germany where we were to shift trains at 6:15 AM the next morning. Spirits were high, spirits had been consumed, and spirits were yet to be had.. And we had a seemingly endless supply of beer – it seemed only appropriate to agree to pull an all-nighter and party our way to Cologne.. And so we did, much to the discomfort of a lot of other passengers, I’m sure. We pulled out more beer and our good party moods, we even found a bottle of jäger that someone (*cough* Tina and Johan *cough*) had brought for the ride.. And off we went. Of course no party is complete without snacks and music so when we found out that Pernille had baked a cake, we were pretty well ecstatic. We even managed to find some music for the party in the shape of a boom blaster and a couple of hard rock CDs that Bo had bought.

I’m reasonably sure this is around the time that the first noise complaints started pouring in, but we really weren’t paying too much attention to those at first, we were pretty busy getting drunk and stupid and it was all in all quite amusing, seemingly even to the conductor who had no choice but to deliver the complaints from the other passengers but looked to find the whole thing quite entertaining.. But then again, how often do you get to see seven Danes putting on a mobile rock party in the confinement of a train compartment?

It wasn’t until after midnight things really started getting out of hand as our travel companions who had been at it a few more hours than the rest of us started getting really intoxicated.. I’m not gonna name any names but there was a fair amount of passing out going on as well as some sleeping on the train toilets and in the hallways, there was even some spewing and a few bits of really strange homoerotic behavior going on, but all in all it was all in pretty good decency..

No, really, I mean that.. While the night had in fact started with a seemingly unnecessarily long discussion about shaving of private regions, it eventually spun into a heated debate about politics and the current state of the world. Tina and I even withdrew for a while to catch some fresh air and have a long talk about friendship and the likes.. It’s really the only time I’ve seen a party go from circling around lewd conversation to politics, feelings and the like.. Quite strange, really..

As the sun rose over the railroad track, the party had died down a little, people were still trying to sleep in the corners while others were busy trying to keep them from sleeping. Nobody really succeeded at either task so by the time we pulled into Cologne central train station, all of us were in a state of zombiefication; half awake, half asleep.

But this was a case of no rest for the wicked so off the train we jumped an unto the platform we landed. Some took this brief bit of terra firma as a chance to light a smoke while others decided to fall asleep instead.

All of us enjoyed the bit of fresh air, though, before piling into a new train bound for Koblenz, the only major city in close proximity of the Nürnburgring where Rock Am Ring is held and as such, a good place to catch a shuttle bus to the ring. This last leg of the journey was pretty wild and disorderly as fucked up drunk Danes mingled with ordinary German commuters on their way to work. Some of us were having incoherent conversations, others were trying to sneak away and catch some shut-eye on the train floor while others again were trying to engage people in conversation in a mix of Danish, English and German on such subjects as the 1992 European Championship in football and fictional Dutch bicyclists.. It was a bit of a mess and I’m reasonably sure everybody were well happy when the train terminated in Koblenz.

Well, everybody but the Danes anyways for whom this meant a five hour long layover before the first official shuttle bus for the ring departed. We spent the time wisely: Had breakfast at McDonald’s, bought a few beers, some water, juice, soda and other necessities and settled down in the morning sun for a bit of rest, a little sleep for those who could manage and some much deserved rest and slight hangovers from the night of mayhem that was now behind us.

Koblenz isn’t much of an interesting town so a full account of our (lack of) adventures here would only serve to bore you as much as our time there bored us.. Let’s just say that we were pretty well happy by the time the first bus shuttles arrived and we managed to get seven seats on the first bus to the ring.

The ride to the ring is an absolutely beautiful one so it’s only a shame that it’s usually undertaken at a time where you’re absolutely weary from traveling and just not in the mood for being stuck in a crowded bus, no matter how great the view might be. This year, though, the ride was particularly straining as some 7,000 tickets extra had been sold compared to last year and as the festival had been extended by one day.. This meant that huge traffic chaos ensued right around the time when we were scheduled to arrive and as such we had one hell of a time being stuck in traffic for extended periods of time before the bus finally screeched to a halt at the familiar parking space right outside the fair, sleepy city of Nürburg located next to the ring.

At this time last year, our road ahead was pretty simple: We walked right from the bus to the nearest camping ground, pitched our tent and got wasted. This time, the road ahead was bumpy and full of turns.. The extra volume of people meant that every camping site within miles was filling up and as, due to logistic reasons, our preferred space was not yet open, we ended up being sent to the closest open site which was conveniently located “Im Arsch der Welt” as the Germans would say, or the middle of fucking nowhere as the English would probably say. Basically, we were as far from everything as could be and it was quite a disappointment for us at the time to say the least.. But oh well, tough luck.

After discussing other options, we ended up pitching our tents in the middle of nowhere and settling down for a while to rest and have a beer before taking a trek around the area to see where fate had landed us… A long trek, I might add.. In reality our new camp site wasn’t that much further from everything than that of last year, but since distances are generally insane at Rock Am Ring, it still involved a lot of walking to get from where were to where we wanted to be.. But oh well, with a smile on our lips and a beer in our hands, we pretty quickly discovered that things went smoother than expected. Our trip first led us back to the small, fair city of Nürburg where we had a pit stop at a bar us two-timers frequented last year for a horrible burger and a small beer. We then sorta split up as the boys wanted to go grab a few cases of beer and the girls and I were more interested in an evening trek around the Ring.

We grabbed a few beers from the boys and then headed off for a few hours where we all had fun in our own little ways. The guys back at camp getting hammered and the girls and I walking around, checking out campsites and the general area while getting hit on by random passer-bys and all sorts of other nonsense. By the time we got back to camp, everybody were pretty well worn out so after a few more beers and some talk of this and that, we eventually decided to call it a night pretty early as all of us were absolutely wrecked from traveling and partying.. And besides, we had a big day ahead of us Thursday..

Global Recession Menu 2010, Part 3: The Aftermath

(Continued)

There are a number strangely liberating things about having dinner with Tina.. And hanging out with her in general for that matter.. Some of those being that, like me, she doesn’t take things too seriously and is still a playful kid at heart. Like me she understands that there’s a time to be serious about things and a time to be relaxed and have fun.. Which probably goes to explain why we’re the kinda people to get dressed up nicely for a six hour long gourmet dinner, only to jump out of our fancy clothes and into something a lot more comfortable before dashing outside and having the night end in a snowball fight of epic proportions..

Hmm.. Well, maybe I have to set the scene a little better.. See, Tina had texted me the day before, during a huge snowfall, that I was obligated to come build a snowman with her. Since I couldn’t, on account of having a lot of cooking to do for her, I for once stomached the strength to turn down a plea from her, stating that if anyone could coax me into going outside and playing in the snow (I hate the stuff, remember?), it would probably be her, and that I probably would do it but only if she asked nicely. Well, it didn’t take her long to hold me up to my promise and so the night after, at around 11 PM, after our gourmet dinner and quite a lot of wine and spirits, she applied her charms and.. Well.. In one way or another (probably owing to a lot of alcohol mixed with Tina’s powers of persuasion), I got around to thinking that going outside and building a snowman seemed the only reasonable thing to do at this particular point in time..

So, as I said, we changed, I borrowed some extra warm clothes and we then dashed outside, like a couple of giddy and, albeit, pretty hammered little kids. We dove into the snow and tried our very best to form balls or in one way or another build something even remotely resembling a snowman.. Yet, sadly, it was too damn cold for the snow to be formed into anything at all.. Boo!

Not wanting our entire trip outside to be in vain, and remembering that several months ago, I’d jokingly threatened to bury Tina in snow if she didn’t stop being so damn giddy about the whole thing, I decided that it was time for a bit of a snow fight. At the same time not being terribly interested in giving Tina a chance to defend herself, I didn’t inform her of her of my decision, and so while she was still busying herself trying to make a snowman, I dove at her from her blind side, picked her up, swooped her off her feet and dumped her in a pile of snow before starting to pile more snow on her. Tina, being outmatched at least in terms of physical strength took to kicking, screaming and squealing and shoveling snow back in my face until I let go and she staggered to her feet.. After which a huge chase ensued all along the parking lot in front of her apartment building.

I really hope that not too many people were awake or looking out their windows at the time or they’d be treated to the rather spectacular sight of two supposedly adult, mature people in their late twenties chasing each other around and hurling snowballs before again collapsing in a pile, rolling around, both struggling to gain the upper hand before the male eventually emerged on top, only to disappear again in a blinding cloud of snow as he realized that while using his weight to keep her down was a pretty smart move, securing her hands as well would have been an even smarter move.. Because for someone with very tiny hands, she sure was capable of shoveling a surprisingly large amount of snow up in my face in a surprisingly short split second.

As the cloud of smoke cleared and we staggered to our feet, it became pretty unclear who was actually the winner of the showdown. Tina, for sure, didn’t seem at all happy with the situation..

Until she got a better look at me..

Who admittedly didn’t look much like a winner either..

I’m not too sure if we ended up declaring a winner or not, but I am reasonably sure that we decided that there was no reason to hang around outside and get all wet and sickies, so we ventured back inside to the warmth of Tina’s apartment where we had a final glass of Champagne and sat down to play a few board games.. And have a few of the most expensive late night snacks we’ve ever had, consisting of bite size mini blinis with salmon and fromage blanc, beef tenderloin, and – just because we could – another round of blinis with creme fraiche, quail eggs and those delicious, little, horribly expensive fish eggs.. With a side of Russian vodka, of course! Which, in another totally unprecedented move, managed to render Tina absolutely speechless as I somehow stupidly managed to reveal to her the true cost of the dish she was eating.. Which left her just staring blankly at me for a few minutes, then repeating the mantra “Wait? WHAT?” over and over before giving me the most heart-felt hug ever and muttering a soft thank you.. Which, by the way, made the $50 per serving price tag well worth it. It really was one of the most memorable dishes ever, though, if I were Tina, I wouldn’t count on it being served again any time soon, it was just one of those things that had to be tried.

I have to be honest and admit that three bottles of really good wine, a couple of vodka shots, a Mojito and the shot of rum that Tina requested in order to sample what was in the food and drink was starting to take quite a toll on me at this point, and things really started getting a little blurry.. There were more board games and sipping of fine wine, there were laughs and conversation as well, but I can’t for the life of me remember what was said or done. All I do remember is that both of us suddenly got really tired really fast and that while Tina sunk down on her couch under the weight of all the good food and drink, I packed up my stuff and after checking that Tina was indeed okay, decided to let myself out and walk on home.. This plan actually went pretty well, for about two seconds until I, in my tipsy state of mind, staggered into a wall and cried out “Ouch!” – which, of course, had the till then pretty unresponsive (but obviously very caring) Tina on her feet in no time and into the hallway to check on me.. So much for that plan then.. But thanks all the same 🙂 I took the chance to thank her for caring and for a wonderful evening, before telling her to get her ass to bed and then trotting out the door, down the stairs and into the night for a long walk home and some four hours of sleep before getting up in the morning to visit with family..

I could have wished for a little more sleep that night, but I probably couldn’t have wished for a better evening..

Global Recession Menu 2010, Part 2

(continued)

Dish five: French onion soup, rustic bread and Gruyere cheese.

French onion soup has become somewhat of a classic for me. It’s actually one of the most requested dishes that I do, and one that (till this day anyways) has earned me the most praise. Reaching for a stable dish and a requested classic for an evening such as this is a bit, well, it feels a bit like cheating and a bit unoriginal.

However, given the company, I feel kinda justified in including it on the menu. Because lord knows Tina has begged me to cook this dish on a lot of occasions.. And we’re talking a girl who knows how to beg here, and is well aware that she’s more than capable of winding me around her little finger.. We’re talking puppy dog eyes here, batting eye lashes, pouty lips, the whole shebang.. Enough to make any man weak in the knees. Anyways, I’ve managed to push off having to make the dish for ages now, telling her what a time consuming process it was, and promising I’d make it for a special occasion.. And well, what more of a special occasion than this?

Of course, this being a special occasion I wanted to try to make it just a little bit better than my every day French onion soup.. And as with anything I did, it quickly spun pretty wildly out of control. It all started on Thursday with a batch of home-made veal stock that had been simmering for about eight hours. The stock was chilled and the poured over some freshly roasted veal tails and vegetables, the slowly brought to a simmer and slowly reduced down for an entire day. Then strained and put back into the fridge overnight. On Friday, an entire kilo of onions was slowly sweated down for a few hours to a deep brown, concentrated, sweet mess, half a bottle of lightly oaked Chardonnay was introduced to the party and slowly reduced for another hour or so. Then the veal stock (or consomme or whatever it was at this point) was added along with some vegetable stock and other ingredients and the entire thing was left to blend for about an hour, before a healthy shot of 25 year old Cognac was added and left to cook just long enough for the alcohol to boil off and the flavors to blend. The resulting soup was scooped into ramekins, topped with a slice of day old rustic French baguette and some cave aged Swiss Gruyere cheese, then transported to Tina’s where it was broiled to perfection immediately before serving.

Again: A little over the top? Possibly! Friggin’ awesome? Hell yes! There’s really no rivaling the taste of slow food and elaborate reductions. The taste was powerful, almost overpowering, and I was pretty happy that I hadn’t made larger portions, because it was the kinda thing you’d really only want a little off at this point. But what little we had seemed to please the Tina, at any rate, she responded with another “Fantastic, plain and simple!” – I guess I got away with introducing a classic to the menu..

Dish six: The ultimate Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich: French Baguette, lightly smoked rare beef tenderloin, red onion marmalade and Gruyere cheese.

This dish sorta rose out of necessity. I felt the jump from a meat infused but still vegetable based soup to a really powerful meat dish would be a little too much, plus I needed a way for us to kill about a half hour while the sides for the main course cooked in the oven. I somehow got to thinking fast food and junk food which led me to thinking about some of the really horrible quick meals I’d had in the States.. And possible “gourmet” versions of these. Tiny gourmet burgers were considered, but didn’t seem overly exciting.. And then it dawned on me what if I took the often absurdly oversized, greasy and disgusting all-american Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich and turned it into something small, delicious and lean?

Sounded like fun to me.. So I cut and toasted little pieces of French Baguette, then topped them with thin slices of lightly smoked beef tenderloin cooked very rare and drizzled with a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, a sweet and tangy red onion marmalade and a healthy sprinkling of Gruyere cheese.. Then broiled them and served them up.. Simple, delicious, while maintaining the simplicity and ugly appearance of the original dish.

Good as they were, though, the real star of the show during this dish was the wine. Having covered both bubbles and a spicy, flavorful white, it was now time to move to red and to the star of the show, a 2004 Amarone Della Valpollicella Classico from  Sartori Rino.

And.. Umm.. Wow.. Perfect food moment right there: We both sniffed the wine deeply, swirled the glass, sniffed again, then had a taste.. And just sorta sad there for God knows how long, looking at each other, smiles growing wider on our faces. Someone, I honestly don’t remember who, eventually broke the silence with a “Wow” which was immediately seconded by the other. It was Tina who first regained her composure and stated that “This is, without the shadow of a doubt the best wine I have EVER had in my entire life!” – I took one more small sip, thought about it for about five seconds and concurred: “Y’know, I’ll have to agree!” If I could take but one lasting memory away with me from this dinner, this would be it: Good food, even better company and an absolute knock-out of a wine to go along. I don’t know what else to say except.. Well, It was absolutely perfect, and at the risk of sounding mushy, a memory I will treasure for a long time to come, if not as long as I can remember.

But wait, there was more food to be had!

Dish seven: Osso Bucco “with a splash of Amarone”, Cranberry Gremolata, Pommes Anna, baked Jerusalem Artichoke mash with truffles, green beans and bacon.

Probably a bit of explaining is due here. We probably all know Osso Bucco, a classic Italian dish involving veal or beef shanks simmered for hours in a flavorful liquid.. But what about the splash of Amarone? Well.. Firstly, I’d originally bought a different bottle of Amarone to pair with the main course. And while it was by no means a bad bottle of wine, it wasn’t.. Well, it wasn’t what I’d use for my perfect dinner (and given the wine we ended up having, I’m glad I didn’t).. It basically had every attribute of a cheap Amarone. It was fruity, powerful but not really entirely in balance and not what you’d expect from such a high price point and the Amarone name. A good wine in many aspects, but not in this..

So there I was with a DKK 100 bottle of Amarone and a DKK 200 bottle of Amarone, wondering what the hell to do with the inferior alternative.. This dinner already being ridiculously over the top, I got to thinking of the old mantra of “don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink” and it all fell into place.. The “a splash of” part is an inside joke between Tina and I which refers to dumping an entire bottle of wine into a dish. So in essence, I made Osso Bucco and used an entire bottle of Amarone (along with more of my veal stock, some tomatoes and aromatic vegetables) as a braising liquid. I cooked it forever and topped it with chopped, dried cranberries, roasted pine nuts, parsley, raw garlic and orange zest, then served it alongside a small portion of Pommes Anna, bacon wrapped green beans and a bit of baked, mashed Jerusalem artichokes with a little shot of black truffle oil.

This all made up a serving which was probably a little too generous at this point in such a large menu.. But, eh.. There’s a lot of bone and connective tissue in veal shanks anyways, and despite lacking in size, both Tina and I eat quite healthy portions without giving two fucks about whether or not it looks good or is considered proper etiquette.. So eventually, and over the course of almost an hour, we both managed to finish all sides and most of the veal.. Good show!

Dish eight: Grilled pineapple, Habanero Syrup, lime, rum, mint and Pastis Custard.

I’ve known Tina for six years now, I know most of her likes and dislikes as well as her crazy little ways. I’ve seen her get pretty excited over some of the things I’ve made for her, and, given enough thought, I know just what to cook to make her feel appreciated and get excited about eating.. I have, however, never nailed a dish to her liking like I did with this one, nor have I ever seen anyone so excited about a dish as she was about this one (seriously!), and I’ve never EVER seen my lovable little friend so flustered and absolutely beside herself with pleasure.. Over eating.. A dessert..

Maybe it was the fact that I’ve always listened to what she’s had to said and tailored a dish based on that, maybe it’s because I included all her favorite ingredients, maybe it was the combination of flavors, maybe girls just plain like having dishes invented for them and dedicated to them.. I don’t know.. All I know is I thought that food orgasms were a joke but now I know better, because there’s really no other way to describe Tina’s reaction to first tasting this dish.. And if that’s not a compliment, I don’t know what is.. After the first few involuntary sounds and cries of “Oh!” and “Oh fuck, this is goooood!”, my co-eater was al soft smiles, soft sighs, incoherent mumblings of “yummy”, “mmm”, and the likes all around..

Really, I must have done something right because Tina is definitely not a dessert person, yet I had her reduced to a point where she was visibly impaired both in terms of speech, hearing and perception of the world around her.. She’d try to construct a sentence, get lost mid-way through and just trail off. You’d try to tell her something and she just plain wouldn’t register you were talking to her. She’d mutter incoherently or repeat herself or just say nothing for extended periods of time.. Really, all I managed to get out of her over the course of about twenty minutes was “wow”, “best thing you ever cooked me”, “perfect” and “is there any more? Please let there be more!” .. Like I said, I’ve been used to seeing her pretty excited over food, but this was absolutely ridiculous in an adorable and very satisfying way.

As a way of putting things into perspective, I made her favorite drink to go along, the Mojito. But not only that, I made it with 15 year old aged rum and topped it with Champagne rather than soda owing to the special occasion. I’m usually not able to put even a regular Mojito in front of Tina and have it sit there undisturbed, in fact it will usually be gone in record time. Yet, this time, once the plate hit the table, she became absolutely oblivious to the drink in front of her and barely registered to sip it maybe once or twice.. And as she put it herself, that really does say quite a lot about her fascination with the food.

As for me? Well, I quite enjoyed the dish as well, it was really good if I dare say so myself, but my fascination with the food was nothing compared to my fascination with watching Tina consume it, poking a little fun of all her involuntary little (and not so little) reactions and having a laugh as well as quite a sense of pride and accomplishment.. I have a feeling I’ll be cooking this dish again soon.

After consuming unmentionable amounts of dessert and after Tina having licked her plate clean, it was all pretty much over and everybody involved were pretty damn full and pretty damn pleased.. And they were in for a bit of a shock as well. I knew we’d started eating at around 5:30 PM and I knew it must’ve taken some time.. Yet we’d both been so busy enjoying the experience that we hadn’t had time to look at our watches or phones, so it came to as a total surprise to me when Tina  informed med that the clock had just passed 11 PM and that we had been eating for a full five and a half hours..

Oh well, sometimes it’s okay to get a little caught up, enjoying life.. And sometimes it’s alright for two grown-ups in their late twenties to have a snowball fight after spending six hours playing sophisticated individuals.. Stay tuned for the aftermath!

Global Recession Menu 2010, Part 1

There’s been a lot of talk about a global recession, crashing economies and people losing money.. Quite frankly, I haven’t seen much, if any decline in my personal finances.. But maybe that’s because I never really made much money being a student and now actually have a job. I don’t know, all I know is I can’t complain: I have very few expenses, I make a decent amount of money, I’ve got a fair amount of savings.. I’m basically doing alright.

This despite having properly messed up my tax work last year which put me in line for a huge tax refund this year..Not really having any idea what to do with such a large amount of money, and not being the guy to generally spoil myself too much, I decided to put a fraction of the money into what I hoped would be the most ultimate dinner I’d created to date. I’ve never been much of a fan of eating good food alone, and this being the perfect dinner, I wanted to share it with the perfect person and someone who meant the world to me. I’m talking, of course, about Tina who seemed the only obvious choice as a date for the occasion.

It really didn’t take much persuasion to get her to sign up for the idea. It was pretty much a question of asking her after which her face lighted up and her eyes shone with a “Yes, yes, please!!” – She didn’t even seem considerably concerned when I told her that I was planning to make the entire deal a total surprise and that I would probably have to get experimental on a few things. She merely informed me that “good things usually ensue when you play with food” which, incidentally, is the very opposite of what my mother told me when I was a kid.

Now, I’ve cooked a lot of different things over the years for Tina and I, so topping it all and making the ultimate dinner was not going to be easy – neither as far as the creation of the menu was concerned, neither the cooking.  Planning, research, matching of combinations, wine pairings and the likes alone took months.. Not of continuous effort, of course, but a lot of my spare time did go into research and playing with various ideas. Procurement of ingredients proved tricky as well, as describe in a previous post. After coming up with the entire menu and acquiring even the rarest and most expensive of ingredients, there was but the matter of cooking the entire menu.. Which took but about three days! .. And actually involved taking the Friday prior to the big day itself off work in order to spend the entire day cooking. I might do a follow-up post on the entire process, but this is probably gonna be lengthy enough without such details. Suffice to say, it was a process involving both blood, sweat and tears.. As well as a few laughs, loud rock music and some important lessons learned. Quite a lot of work, honestly, but well worth it in the end when time came to eat the fruit of my labor.

So lets fast forward to 5:30 PM on this past Saturday when everything was lined up and ready to go. We were at Tina’s and I had taken total control of the kitchen while she had spend some time changing and making sure she looked pretty for the occasion. Even I had bothered to suit up, and for a change soft music was playing from the speakers. It would appear that for the first time ever, we would actually be having a candlelight dinner together, without the distraction of heavy metal music in the background.. And with both of us dressed for the occasion.. Wow! I took a minute to savor this odd sensation before taking a deep breath and kicking things off with the first dish:

Dish one: Sturgeon Caviar, blinis, quail eggs and Creme Fraiche w/ Russian Standard Platinum Vodka on the rocks.

This is a dish that nearly ended in disaster before it even kicked plated and consequently nearly killed most of the excitement and surprise element of the dinner. I had honestly thought that getting a hold of real sturgeon Caviar would be that hardest part of the ordeal, and it nearly was.. Had it not been for the fact that while I was plating the dish with Tina waiting impatiently at the table, I realized that the precious jar of Caviar was damn near impossible to pry open due to a vacuum that had formed inside. This stirred quite a bit of panic in me to say the least and forced me to have to think quite quickly. I eventually got the jar open by prying the flat end of a spoon between the metal lid and  the glass container then using my hand for leverage and applying some adrenaline fueled brute force.. But I didn’t manage to do this without cutting a huge gash into the tip of my index finger. I’m sure there are many ways to kick off a dinner and impress a lady.. Gushing blood all over the place and having to call for her to come help you put on a band aid isn’t one of them.

Regardless, the stupid jar ‘o’ fish eggs was now open and I hurried Tina back in her seat, then presented her first with a shot of ice cold vodka, then with a small serving of Caviar.. Which qualified as quite the jaw dropping experience as I’m pretty sure I actually heard the sound of her jaw hitting the table when she realized what had just been put in front of her. Her reaction went from plain disbelief to giggling to “I’m not sure I’m even able to eat something as expensive as this, to head shaking, to curiously inspecting the eggs in front of her while smiling, nodding and in a state of confused euphoria declaring that “these came from inside a sturgeon!”

Thankfully, she ended up being more than capable of eating the dish and being more than a little happy to have been fed this rare and expensive delicacy. And I can’t say I blame her because a half bite into the dish, I immediately understood what all the fuss was about. It was an amazing, intense, delicious and decadent experience.. That it pretty much defies explanation.  The taste is slightly “fishy”, but has more of a sea-like quality to it, slightly nutty as well. It’s salty but not as overly salty as the cheap imitation stuff.. And the taste, after the initial explosion of flavors, just lingers in your mouth along with the oily mouthfeel which, strangely enough is not at all unpleasant. The insane price point puts it at a place where I’d have second doubts about repeating the experience, but I can honestly say that I didn’t for a single second regret forking out the cash for this experience.

I’d chosen eggs from the Baerii sturgeon after having read somewhere that 9 out of 10 women preferred eggs from other species than the Baerii on account of other species being more subtle and mellow in flavor.. Which, of course, was reason enough for me to pick Baerii, partially because I know that Tina is very unlike any other woman out there and partially because I know what she likes, and subtle flavors is generally not one of them.. Luckily, I was right in my assumptions and Tina was quite happy with the choice, as well as the information that I’d saved half the tin for a late night snack.

Dish two: Steamed Norwegian Lobster with vanilla/lime mayonnaise, honeycomb melon and baby greens with sherry/honey vinaigrette.

Having consumed our small servings of Caviar and made a final toast in the fine, Russian vodka, I cleared the plates and poured us a glass of Champagne. I then got the second dish from the fridge. I’m probably one of the only persons in the world who’d be bold (or stupid, it’s a thin line, really) enough to serve something that I’ve never actually tasted myself.. But that’s exactly what I did with this dish. A bit of a gamble, I guess. I mean, I’ve tasted the ingredients on their own, but never together. But y’know, everybody loves mayo and I had heard that seafood plays well with vanilla, and somehow I just thought honeycomb melon, lime and a bit of a side salad into the picture.. And I’m proud to say that it worked pretty damn smoothly.. It’s hard to explain, really, it just has to be tried..

I had told Tina that she would not only be spoiled silly during the evening but would also be challenged a little in terms of the dishes and their composition and I was indeed very pleased to see that she enjoyed every minute of it, tasting the various ingredients on their own, then in unison, noting and commenting on the various impressions.. Good show, babe! Such behavior, along with a considerable amount of compliments and declarations of “Oh my..”, “Yum!”, “Mmm!” and the likes is a pretty good way of winning the heart of a foodie and securing yourself more good meals in the time to come..

.. And speaking of being culinarily challenged:

Dish three: Smoked salmon, homemade fromage blanc, cognac, marinated cucumber and cucumber/mint/Chardonnay granita.

“Wait! What?!” Tina interrupted me as I introduced this dish.. “Repeat that!” – “Homemade fromage blanc,” I ventured again. – “What’s that?,” she demanded. -“Well, it’s a form of soft cheese that..” – “You made CHEESE?! WHY?,” she demanded  with a little more urgency.. “Well,” I reasoned, I didn’t want to be lying on my deathbed, and having my last regret being “I never made cheese!”.. Her response was ever so stereotypical of Tina: a soft smile on her lips, a gentle shake of the head and a soft muttering of “Man, you really are a piece of work..” – which translates into something along the lines of “you’re crazy, you’re over the top, but I am by no means unimpressed”.. A reaction I let sink in for a second before crying out “Oh shit, I forgot the granita!” and returned a few minutes later with two shot glasses filled with cucumber/mint/Chardonnay granita.

Tina, obviously a little shocked by the inclusion of savory frozen treats in an appetizer decided to simply declare “You’ve lost it, but I’ll play your game!” – and so she did, digging into the granita and declaring “Wow, that’s different.. Interesting.. And good!” – A statement I’d have to agree with as I was actually reasonably happy with the result myself. She then dug into the smoked salmon which was sliced thinly and stuffed with a mix blended of the homemade fromage blanc, smoked salmon scrapings and a splash of 25 year old Cognac and for the third time that evening had but one thing to say: “Outstanding!” – a pretty heartwarming and humbling review.

After three dishes and most of a bottle of Champagne my dear dinner companion started arguing that she was more than a little underdressed for the occasion and if this was where the bar was being set, should probably go change. I would have argued that she looked absolutely gorgeous (which she truthfully did), but then she moved on to talk about jumping into my absolute favorite dress of hers, and well, I’d have bee an idiot to argue.. So while I cleared up a bit after the appetizers, started plating the heavier dishes and sloshed coddled quail eggs all over the kitchen, Tina quickly slipped out of her clothes and into her dream of an evening gown plus matching shoes and accessories. Of course, as luck would have it, right after Tina had put such an effort into looking her very best, I ended up pouring salad dressing all over my jacket and was forced to take it off.. But that’s how I roll, and at least one of us looked their best for the rest of the evening..

Which continued with..

Dish four: Baby Caesar’s Salad with brined, slow roasted chest of Cornish hen, baby croutons and Caesar’s dressing made with quail eggs.

The first dish ruined my finger and sent my blood flowing, this damn nearly ruined my jacket.. Which I didn’t really notice until I served the dish and Tina pointed at me and went “Aww, sweetie, you goned ruined your jacket,” pointing to a healthy dose of coddled quail egg nesting nicely on my left shoulder.. Oh well, lesson learned. Quail eggs have elastic shells and should be cracked using a serrated knife, not your hands.. And at least the dish looked good.. And tasted extremely well even though I had an epic brain fail and for whatever reason completely forgot to sprinkle Parmesan cheese shavings over the salad.. Caesar’s salad without Parmesan? Since I don’t really have anyone else to blame, save maybe myself, and I usually blame Tina for everything.. I’m gonna go ahead and blame this case of forgetfulness on the pretty blonde tiptoeing around in a sleek black dress and matching stilettos in the next room and the distraction this may have caused.. Umm.. Yeah..

At any rate, Tina absolutely loved the dish even without the cheese and declared the Cornish hen the best piece of poultry she had ever eaten.. So I guess the omission of the cheese wasn’t that big of a deal. This dish was also the introduction of my Christmas present from my mom’s boyfriend, Klaus, a bottle of very expensive and very exclusive Extra Virgin Olive Oil which was used in creating the salad dressing and for roasting the croutons as well. Needless to say, this lead to a certain amount of discussion about the bottle which was eventually introduced to the table. As was a spoon after I noticed Tina staring long and longingly at the bottle.. And yes, before anybody says anything, I consider tasting good quality olive oil by the spoonful perfectly acceptable behavior!

But oil wasn’t the only thing drunk during this dish, mind you.. Nay, we also both got a wonderful glass of Domaine de Pellehaut 2008 Harmonie de Gascogne which just happens to be our favorite white blend and, as such, of course had to accompany the lighter dishes, a category which also included the next item in line..

(Dishes five – eight to follow..)