Food & Drink
Critics’ choice: New Nordic and beyond
The Willows InnLummi Island, Wash.
On a small island at the very northwest corner of the continental U.S. stands an old inn that houses “the truest definition of a destination restaurant,” said Bill Addison in Eater.com. Chef Blaine Wetzel has been working at the Willows for six years— following a stint at Copenhagen’s celebrated Noma—and he’s made the Noma sensibility his own. Wetzel and other chefs of the New Nordic school “want their food to taste close to the source, to convey the earth’s utter edibility.” So after we diners enjoy small bites on the porch—shrimp, huckleberries, a doughnut concealing flakes of cod—we carry our glasses of dry cider inside and savor more of the flavors of bountiful Lummi Island. Wetzel’s signature “herb tostada”—a battered, fried mustard leaf topped with oyster puree and edible flowers—was magnificent, “a riff on oysters Rockefeller from a parallel universe.” Grilled cod collars, warm bread dipped in chicken drippings, and a succulent lamb shoulder stretched the meal to four hours, and still we couldn’t wait for Wetzel’s breakfast. A true artist, he “has given himself entirely over to this sliver of the world.” 2579 West Shore Drive, (360) 758-2620
Agern New York City
This New Nordic oasis recently took over a long-shuttered space inside New York’s Grand Central Terminal, and it “has made both the train station and the city’s dining landscape into roomier, more interesting places,” said Pete Wells in The New York Times. Claus Meyer, the co-founder of Noma, opened Agern in April, bringing in a chef from Iceland who’s doing things with local ingredients that cause triple takes. Gunnar Gislason makes a subtly smoky potato salad, for example, served with ramps, shaved rhubarb, red seaweed, and long yellow bands of cured egg yolk. Another spring salad, featuring asparagus stems and garlic scapes, gets ballast from chopped beef heart and tang from sliced unripe strawberries. You might decide that the tender skate or the slow-cooked pork neck is a highlight, but you’ll talk about the $22 beet, roasted in a salt-and-ash crust, then carved tableside. Honestly, only the first bite is impossibly salty. The desserts are uniformly excellent, though, and you must order a pour-over. “People who compare coffee to great wine,” I discovered, “are not barking mad.” 89 E. 42nd St., (646) 568-4018
Upton 43 Minneapolis
“This is a restaurant that tells a story, beautifully,” said Rick Nelson in the Minne apolis Star Tribune. For chef Erick Harcey, Nordic cuisine is no trend; it’s what he grew up eating with his family, and his 10-month-old tribute to that tradition “seamlessly marries old to new.” He owes his revelatory pickled herring to a recipe from his grandfather but elevated his grandma’s tender meatballs with a more umami-rich gravy—“he could bottle it, and make millions.” And that’s not his only flash of genius. He makes a “ museum-worthy” cod that he quick-sears, roasts in a wild rice crust, and serves under poached purple cabbage alongside fermented grapes and mashed potatoes. He also serves up an “astonishingly delicious” four-grain risotto accented with apple, onion, porcini mushrooms, and sunchoke puree. Harcey is creating a home for all of Minneapolis in his repurposed storefront. When there’s a fire in the kitchen’s grill, it “sends out a quietly smoky scent that’s as warmly en vel op ing as a favorite hand-knit afghan.” 4312 Upton Ave. S., (612) 920-3406
Recipe of the week
Julia Child is still full of surprises, said Julia Moskin in The New York Times. I recently stumbled on the recipe for this tasty, “absurdly easy” dip while renting the legendary cookbook author’s former home in Provence. That she’d create a snack for cocktail hour is “very Julia,” and so is the rule-breaking attitude. Raw ginger and hot sauce, after all, have to be “two of the least-French ingredients imaginable.”
Julia Child’s eggplant-walnut dip
2 firm, shiny eggplants • 1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts • 1 to 3 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, or minced • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger • ¼ tsp ground allspice (or cinnamon, coriander, or garam masala) • salt and freshly ground black pepper • Tabasco or other hot sauce • 5 to 8 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
• Heat oven to 425. Cut green caps off egg plants and place them whole in a baking dish. Bake until very soft and collapsing, 30 to 35 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scrape flesh into the bowl of a mixer.
• Beat at high speed for_about 2 minutes, until smooth and fluffy. Add walnuts, garlic, ginger, allspice, two big pinches of salt, and one of pepper. Shake in a few dashes of hot sauce. Mix well.
• With the mixer running, gradually drizzle in oil, as if making mayonnaise, just until mixture is emulsified and creamy. Stop, taste, and adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. If desired, beat in remaining olive oil. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to one week. Makes 4 cups.
Bourbon: ’Tis the season
“Autumn is an exciting time in bourbon country,” said Richard Thomas in Paste Magazine.com. Some of the most prized annual releases arrive between September and November, including these:
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon ($80). The Sept. 2 release of this whisky often launches the season. It’s always from a batch made on a single day—in this case a day 12 years ago.
Buffalo Trace Antique Collection ($80 each). The five whiskeys in the “BTAC” are arguably the most soughtafter whiskeys that don’t bear a Pappy Van Winkle label.
Heaven Hill Parker’s Heritage ($250). The “crowning gem” of Heaven Hill’s fall releases is this 24-year-old bourbon.
Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon 2016 ($38). This year’s Small Batch blend features a “sweet, fruity” anchor stock.