Sunday, November 2, 2014

Trenchermen - Icelandic Cookbook Dinner

I like special dinners.  It allows restaurants to do something outside their usual areas of expertise or introduces something different.  It also allows me to try something different.  Special dinners are even better if the restaurant is notable to begin with.  In many cases, restaurant industry people will come both to try something new and to network.  I went to Trenchermen recently for a cookbook release dinner.  Icelandic Chef, Gunnar Karl Gislason, of Dill in Reykjavik, who was releasing North:  The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland.  We would be served a four course dinner, family style, with pairings.  I was seated with the parents of the Trenchermen Executive Chef and a couple of restaurant industry people (He worked for the Frontera Group with franchisees to maintain Frontera quality standards and she worked for Moet & Chandon).  It was interesting to talk with them to hear about things behind the scenes.  Our dinner started with a drink.  It was a drink that used many Icelandic liquors (plus Cava) that I was unfamiliar with, but it was good.   It was called Islenski Vor, Birkir, and Jurtir Cocktail and it had Salmiakki Dala Fernet, Birkir Snaps, Lemon, and Cava.  Fernet is a potable bitter, Snaps is Schnapps, and Cava is an Italian sparkling wine.  It was bitter, sweet, and sour with bubbles.  It was a sipping drink and it was a nice start.
Our first course was a couple of Amuse Bouches.   On the right, we were served Potatoes, Cabbage, and Spicy Sausage served on paper.  The potatoes were small, bite size and tender, the sausage was ground and the cabbage was on top.  It was spicy, sour and tasted very good.  The other Amuse was Crispy Pork, Egg Creme, and Rye Bread.  The crispy pork was a chicharron with egg cream (similar to an aioli) and topped with rye crumbs.  It was crunchy, tangy, and flavorful and while both courses were outside things that I eat regularly, the flavors were familiar enough to easily enjoy.
For our first official course, we were served a bowl of Winter Dried Catfish, with Pickled and Raw Root Vegetables (Potatoes, Radishes, Parsnips, and Turnips), Burned Butter and Dill.  The vegetables were crisp and there was a nice dill flavor.  The dish was different, but it was like a fresh potato salad with a lot of dried catfish that was shredded and reminded me of Japanese Bonito Flakes.  The fish was salty and flavorful, but not exceptionally fishy and added to the "potato salad".
Our entree was served individually and it was a lot of beef.  The dish was Aged Beef, Dried Beef, Mashed Potatoes, Celeriac, and Berries.  This was probably my favorite dish, with savory and sweet elements, and a variety of textures.  The aged beef was tender, the mashed potatoes were creamy, the dried beef was thinly sliced and like jerky.
Dessert felt very Nordic to me.  It was Apples, with Caramel, Creme Fraiche, Oatmeal, Porter Bread, and Hazelnuts.  It was like a deconstructed apple crisp and I really enjoyed it.  It was simple, relatively familiar, and a very good finish to a an adventurous dinner.  I had a good meal with some interesting people and really enjoyed myself.  I will definitely go to another themed dinner here.

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