Michelin graded restaurant Noma in Copenhagen was this year selected as the world’s third best restaurant – a jump from10th place last year in the UK’s Restaurant Magazine’s list of the world’s best restaurants plublished last month. Rene Redzepi, partner and head chef of Noma and food ambassador for the Nordic Council of Ministers’ New Nordic Food program, also won this year’s Chef’s Choice Award, when he was nominate the best chef from the list by the head chefs of the 50 restaurants.
New Nordic Food signifies the “purity, freshness, simplicity and ethics” of the Nordic region, according to a manifesto drawn up by some of its top chefs and food professionals, who promote the use raw materials from as far north as the Arctic reaches of Greenland. In a few short years, cold-water fish for instance has taken the gourmet restaurants of France by storm.
The spawning cod, a fish which migrates from the Barents Sea, beyond the Arctic Circle to the coast of Norway is highly prized for its large, easily flaked fillets and is flown to Paris within 24 hours of being caught. Nordic food’s “terroire” is characterized by food of the “wild and the deep” – fauna and flora which live and grow wild in the region and develop a Nordic taste of its own which is becoming much prized among professional chefs.
Because of the cold winters, growth of fruit and vegetables in the Nordic region are concentrated to a short summer season of almost endless daylight, giving these products a much more intense flavor than those grown further south. Food from the ‘wild’ is highly priced. It is customary for people in Nordic countries to forage for wild berries, leaves and mushrooms to add to their meals. Food is very seasonal in this area. Lamb comes on the market in September and strawberries are only sold for a short time during the height of summer when they are juicy and wonderfully sweet.
Once the center of Norway’s now vastly reduced herring and canning industry, Stavanger, Norway’s fourth biggest city with 120,000 residents, has become Norway’s culinary center. Better known internationally as the center of the North Sea oil industry, the town is also the home to 150 different nationalities which this industry attracts, providing a fertile environment for culinary experimentation.
The surrounding area of Rogaland is the home of Atlantic salmon farms, many of them belonging to Marine Harvest, one of the world’s biggest producers of Atlantic salmon, which pioneered salmon farming in the late 1960s in Norway and Scotland and now also has salmon farming operations in Canada, Chile, the Faroes and Ireland. The Norwegians have salmon farming down to a fine art which can determine its taste, texture, color and even the ease of filleting by the way they feed and rear the fish.
Norway is also known for its lamb. Its meat has a unique, mild taste which is hardly recognizable as lamb and comes from animals which are almost wild as they are left to graze all year round in the vast, rich outlying pastures flavored by salt ocean spray at the edge of the North Sea. These are small animals which build muscle and gain weight rapidly without much fat, producing lamb meat which is extraordinarily tender in texture, right down to the shanks, with an almost ethereal flavour “of the ocean”.