The latest culinary rock star appropriately enough sports a mane of long blond hair, a scruffy beard, a too-cool aura and a laid-back cerebral nature.
If Rene Redzepi put Danish cooking on the map when his Noma restaurant in Copenhagen was named San Pelligrino’s “Best Restaurant” in the world for three years running, then Swedish sensation Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken Magasinet has only solidified the fact that Nordic cuisine’s moment has arrived with a wallop.
Nilsson, who previously cooked at three-Michelin starred L’Astrance in Paris and is a trained sommelier, took over Fäviken Magasinet in a remote, rural part of Sweden four years ago. The rather improbable restaurant is located in an isolated 24,000-acre hunting estate. Like Redzepi, Nilsson is all about cooking only with local ingredients. That may be fine in temperate California. It’s a whole ‘nother thing in the wilderness of northwestern Sweden, where the winters are beyond brutal.
Even so, Nilsson, who’s not yet 30 years old, has managed to turn this tiny, isolated 12-seat restaurant into not only one of the Top 50 in the world, but the most talked-about sensation these days in the culinary stratosphere.
With the launch of his first cookbook, “Fäviken” (Phaidon), he’s been bringing a taste of his innovative cuisine to the United States, including to Coi in San Francisco, where he cooked an extraordinary dinner with Chef-Proprietor Daniel Patterson on Saturday, to which I was fortunate to be invited as a guest.
SPQR’s Executive Chef Matthew Accarrino made me peel tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes. A whole cup and a half of them.
He also made me smoke durum flour in a stove-top smoker to make my own linguine noodles.
At this rate, you’d think I was a sous chef at his San Francisco restaurant.
But nope, I was just making a recipe from his new cookbook with SPQR Proprietor Shelly Lindgren, “SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine” (Ten Speed Press), of which I recently received a review copy.
“Smoked Linguini with Clams, Cherry Tomatoes and Basil Pesto” was a triumph of a dish, even if it did take a couple of hours for my husband and I to make. Nothing is necessarily complicated; it’s just a dish where every component needs careful attention. If you have a few hours on a lazy Sunday evening like we did, it’s a project well worth doing, not only for the experience, but for the taste of it all at the end.
The cookbook is like an Italian travelogue that takes you through the artisanal wines and handcrafted dishes of central and northern Italy that make their way onto the tables at SPQR in San Francisco.
The recipes range from dried biscotti and nut biscotti with sweet wine granita, and bolognese with egg noodles to the more challenging bone marrow sformato with stuffed baby artichokes.
Ever since dining at AQ Restaurant in San Francisco last year where I enjoyed it for the first time, I’ve been rather fixated on barley risotto.
Oh, don’t get me wrong; I still adore the traditional version made with tender yet toothsome short-grain Italian rice.
But when it’s made with barley, it takes on a whole different personality — heartier, chewier and with a more roasty-toasty flavor.
Sometimes the best things in life happen by complete accident.
Take my discovery of this amazing recipe for “English Muffin Bread” that’s “baked” in your microwave in mere minutes. I kid you not.
A month ago, Rebecca from New Hampshire, emailed me out of the blue, frantically searching for this recipe by cookbook author Lora Brody. She’d made it before, loved it, but couldn’t for the life of her lay her hands on it again at the moment. So, she did what we all do: She Google’d it. The search engine returned a link to where she could find it: FoodGal.com. Trouble is I not only didn’t have that recipe on my blog, but I’d never even heard of it. Go figure.
After she and I exchanged perplexed emails, Rebecca eventually found the recipe again in Brody’s cookbook, “The New England Table” (Chronicle Books), and sent me a copy. It’s adapted from a James Beard recipe.
And it’s a marvel.
Sure, you’ve baked many a meat loaf. But have you ever smoked one — over hickory chips no less?
It may spoil you for any other version.
A beguiling smoky, woodsy flavor permeates this very moist “Slow-Smoked Barbecued Meat Loaf” from “Cooking My Way Back Home” (Ten Speed Press) cookbook, of which I received a review copy late last year. The cookbook is by Mitchell Rosenthal, co-owner and executive chef of three San Francisco restaurants: Town Hall, Salt House, and Anchor and Hope. The book features more than 100 hearty, Southern-inspired dishes from those restaurants.
This is one flavorful meatloaf, as the mixture of ground beef, pork and veal is suffused with your favorite barbecue sauce, Dijon mustard, grated Parmesan and a spice mixture that includes cayenne, paprika, cumin, coriander, oregano, celery salt and dry mustard.
The meat loaf can be cooked either inside a loaf pan or on top of a sheet pan. The latter will expose it to more of that lovely smoke, so that’s the method I chose.