Monday, August 11, 2014

Relae (07/05/2014)

I've reached the last post on Copenhagen!  Because I never completed blogging either Seattle or San Francisco (our two most recent prior food-focused trips), I was worried that I wouldn't power through this one.  But here I am!

So, Relae -- our last lunch.  I'd been excited to try it because of its excellent reviews (including from some bloggers whom Adam follows who were kind enough to respond to Adam's emails asking for advice between the options to which we had narrowed), its influence on Oxheart's chef, and the enthusiasm from staff at other Copenhagen restaurants.  We'd been cautioned that it was on the more experimental end of the Nordic style, and therefore it wasn't to everyone's taste.  That's a fair warning; I didn't love everything, but I did enjoy the meal overall and that there were some interesting elements to it.  I'd definitely be interested in going back for the more extensive dinner menu.

The amuse was some sort of preserved or pickled cucumber.  I can't remember what it was wrapped around.  My memory is that it was tasty and sort of interesting (although apparently not that memorable).

I was surprised by the first bite: the strawberries were warm.  It was interesting, but not my preference.  Minced pickled strawberries on the bottom added bits of saltiness; I would have liked if they were more integrated throughout.  I appreciated the creativity, even though I didn't love the result.
unripe strawberries and nasturtium

I loved the next course.  The sunflower seeds were pressure-cooked into a risotto-like consistency, which was predictably fantastic with the cheese and truffle.  (It was a lovely truffle.)  The creativity of sunflower seeds instead of rice elevated it above your typical truffled risotto.  I particularly enjoyed its heavy richness as a contrast to all the light, vegetable-driven dishes that we'd been eating for days.  For all that I love that style of cooking, sometimes I just want something satisfyingly cheesy and rich.  My one complaint was that this course was so much heavier than the next that I think their order should have been reversed.
sunflower seeds, kornly and truffle

Reminiscent of some of the grilled greens dishes that we had at Radio the day before, we enjoyed the lettuces with a distinctly goaty, milky sauce.  The tiny blossoms were elderflowers (I think), which were cool.  Very pretty course, if oddly placed in the meal.
vegetable bouquet and grilled goatcream

We opted for two of the cheese course supplement to share between the four of us.  The blue cheese was served in frozen granules, which was interesting in theory but because it melted so quickly, wasn't particularly interesting in execution.
Bla Kornblomst with green herbs

The dessert was less interesting than I'd hoped from the description, as it mostly tasted of the vanilla ice cream.  The specks of mustard added an extra element to the dried raspberry powder that I will had been more prominent.
vanilla, dried raspberry and caramelized mustard

Bits of white chocolate with blueberries were good, although the impressive-looking infusion of lemon peels and leaves was not strongly flavored.

Relae is on a charming street in an out-of-the-way area (or at least so it appeared from the cab ride over and the dearth of cab traffic; our server ultimately ordered a return cab for us).  We spent awhile wandering into the little neighboring shops, including a caramel shop where Adam bought edible souveniers for his office.  (I was particularly pleased that I had correctly deduced the meaning of "Karamelleriet" on the signage that I could see from our lunch table.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Geranium (07/03/14)

I saved Geranium for the last Copenhagen dinner post because it was easily our least favorite.  Which isn't to say that it was bad -- it wasn't -- but it never matched the other meals in either excitement on the plate or general enjoyment of the experience.  Adam observed that it probably suffered from the comparison to Kadeau the night before; had it been our first dinner, we likely would have been more impressed by the food and less annoyed by its slight stuffiness.  (I think I feel similarly about Geranium to how I do about Per Se: very polished, precise, and technically skilled, but lacking the soul that sets truly amazing meals apart for me.)

Geranium has beautiful views from its eighth-floor perch atop the stadium, but its sleek minimalist decor felt more formal and less inviting than other restaurants'.  (I did like that a conveniently centered light over every table facilitated decent photos even after dark.)  It also felt noticeably more tourist heavy; we could tell that four of the five tables closest to us were Americans, including a somewhat loud table of five bros visiting from New York.  (That may have been more a problem of acoustics -- allowing us to overhear other tables -- than of actual tourist density.)  Although we had been told "we cook what we want, you wear what you want," I felt slightly under-dressed in my patterned day dress.  Service was perfectly fine, but much less warm and chatty than we experienced every other night; the servers didn't seem to know as much about the food and therefore often couldn't answer our questions.  Exceptions were one person to whom we spoke about wine and an American chef who served our in-kitchen course (more on that below).  (We suspect that the main sommelier's taciturnity was due to lesser English fluency; he was otherwise friendly.)

We each started with a glass of Champagne -- a 2008 Larmandier-Bernier Terre de Vertus for Adam and a Charles Dufour Nv Bulles de Comptoir rose for me -- that were both perfectly nice with the snacks.  We then opted for one wine pairing, one juice pairing (a good call, it turns out), and sharing a bottle of Champagne that had caught Adam's eye (a 2002 Selosse Millesime, which was excellent but not quite as good as the bottle that we'd loved on a prior occasion).

As was the Copenhagen trend, we were warned only to eat the pale crackers -- which tasted like really good Cheez-Its -- and not the dried stalks in which they were nestled.
Crispy Grains from Kornly

The mozzarella-esque milk custard was tasty, but I couldn't taste fermentation in the carrot juice.  The beautiful little spheres were brightly acidic from the sea buckthorn (which would reappear).
Milk, Fermented Juice from Carrot & Sea Buckthorn

A very nice, refreshing bite, but not particularly exciting.
Pickled Pear, Lemon Verbena & Pine Shoots

Walnut oil was used to make the mayonnaise, which was cool, but there wasn't as much discernible sunchoke flavor in the little cracker branches as I would have liked.
Jerusalem Artichoke, Rye & Walnut

These pretty little ravioli reminded me of a fancy fruit roll-up.
Dried Flowers & Dried Apples

This may have been the most delicious bite of the entire meal -- a wonderfully smokey take on the classic potato-and-butter combination.
"Charred Potato" & Lightly Smoked Sheep Milk Butter 

I don't remember much beyond good mushroom soup.
Cep Soup & Egg Yolk in Vinegar

The celeriac was so dehydrated that it just had a generic root vegetable taste, but the salty yogurt dip was very good with it.
Celeriac with Seaweed Powder, Skyr & Fish Roe

We were excited by the tomato water description -- one of our favorite summertime ingredients -- but were disappointed that its mild flavor was overpowered by the herbs.  Adam got a 2009 Odinstal Riesling Basalt, I got a nice green apple juice.
Tomato Water, Herbs & Jellied Tomato

The shiny "dillstones" were beautiful, and tasted like haute bizarro gefiltefish.  Surprisingly tasty.
"Dillstone", Mackerel, Horseradish & Granita from Pickled Cucumber

The thyme overpowered the other flavors; I couldn't be sure whether my perception of white asparagus was merely the power of suggestion.  I got sea buckthorn juice, Adam got 2009 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Clos Baudoin.
Salted Hake, White Asparagus & Buttermilk

We were escorted into the kitchen (and seated at a small counter at the back lined with the chef's three Bocuse D'Or trophies, which I found sort of douchey) for this course.  The edible shells were beautiful (and the technique very cool), and the chopped clam mix inside got an unexpected punch from lime zest.  Excellent.  We also really enjoyed chatting for a few minutes with the very friendly American chef, who told us a bit about the path that had landed him there, including stints at Flour + Water in San Fran and El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona.  A highlight of the meal.
"Razor Clam", Cream Fraiche & Parsley

Yet another fantastic bread and butter course, this one with what was described as onion flowers in butter.  (They looked an awful lot like chive blossoms; not sure if this is a relative or a different name.)  We were also both brought Ingrid Marie apple and chamomile juice, which was excellent and surprisingly good with bread (although we told it was for the next course when we commented on it to the somewhat horrified-seeming server).
Bread with Emmer & Spelt

The onions also went well with the delicious apple-chamomile juice, but otherwise didn't leave much of an impression.
Onions & Chamomile Flower Vinegar 

The grilled langoustines themselves were fantastic, their fresh crustacean sweetness enhanced by the delicate smokiness.  However, the beet sauce (which also contained tapioca pearls) need an acidic note to really balance the dish.  The lingonberry juice paired for me was surprisingly dry, and I wanted more acid there too.  Adam got a 2012 Bernard Bonin Meursault Limozine.
Grilled Langoustine in Juniper Aroma with Red Elements

I loved the roasted potato skin soup, which tasted pretty much exactly as it sounds.  The combination of the sweetness from the peas, rich yolk, and potato flavor from the light broth was delicious, but I thought the greens on top (nettle?) added too much bitterness.  (I made notes on the menu at the end of the meal, and a slightly cryptic note suggests that I thought that the yolk needed more salt.)  However, the nettle tea, which also contained apple, was delicious and paired very well.  Adam got the 2008 Marguet Ambonnay Grand Cru Champagne.
Egg Yolk in Smoked Oil & Soup of Roasted Potato Skin

The monkfish needed salt, but pickled strawberries added a great acidic note.  The excellent black currant and beech wood juice, which I think also contained beets although the menu didn't note it, paired better than the 2009 Domaine Pierre Morey Volnay "Les Santenots" that Adam got.
Monkfish Herbs & Pickled Strawberries

The desserts had all the creativity and excitement that I wished for the savory courses.  The ice-and-gelee combination was vibrant and so delicious.  I got gooseberries and elderflowers juice; Adam got 2007 Beafourt L'Or de Vix Pinot Noir Deux.
"Forest Floor in July", Wood Sorrel, Beech Leaves & Woodruff

The gorgeous yogurt panna cotta with delicate sorrel crisps was a second fantastic dessert.
Yoghurt with "Red Branches" & Dried Red Sorrel

More simple than the previous two desserts, but still very enjoyable.  I particularly liked the interesting ice cream.  Unsurprisingly, this dessert was paired with raspberry juice; Adam got a 2009 Fred Loimer Riesling TBA.
Grilled Raspberries, Summer Flowers & Bees Wax Ice Cream

The pine flavor was a surprising(ly good) petit four, with an adorable presentation.
Green Egg with Pine

We were each sent home with a tiny box containing two hard candies, which luckily (for me) tasted more of fruit than licorice.
Black Currant Bonbon with Licorice

This wasn't a bad dinner by any means, but it was disappointingly lacking in the wow moments that were frequent in our other meals (and for which we had hoped given Geranium's excellent reviews).  We're eager to return to Noma, Kadeau, and Amass on a future trip, but we would rather try new restaurants than rush back here.

Monday, August 04, 2014


Ripple is one of Adam's and my reliable standbys -- we always enjoy our dinners there (under both Logan Cox and Marjorie Meek-Bradley) without its being quite exciting enough for us to crave it regularly.  But we hadn't been in awhile, so a last minute late Sunday dinner seemed like the perfect excuse to head up to Cleveland Park.  Ripple was half-empty, so we were seated immediately.  (Plenty of Opentable availability had suggested that this would be the case.)  I've never understood why Ripple hasn't caught on more in the DC dining scene.

Silky creamed cauliflower soup with saffron, blue crab, cucumber, and radish was excellent, with spots of sweetness from raisins (a classic with cauliflower), subtle vegetal brightness from the cucumber, and a nice portion of crab.  I was surprised by how much I liked a simple-sounding salad of heirloom tomatoes, housemade ricotta, peaches, and cashews.  The cashews were a great, unexpected addition to the more standard combination, and well-seasoned, quality ingredients made for a winning dish.  My only complaint was that there weren't more peach slices; I loved their sweetness with ricotta (see Rose's recent salad) and as a foil to the tomatoes' acidity.  The smoked eggplant agnolotti was a bit disappointing, because the tasty pasta, chanterelles, and cheese (burrata?) were overwhelmed by a perfectly-fine-but-still-just-pesto sauce.  I would like to see what a subtler sauce (and/or more eggplant outside the agnolotti) would have done.

The better of the two entrees was the delicious, Louisiana-evoking head- (but conveniently not tail-on) seared shrimp, flageolet beans, fried okra, tomato, and basil.  (Adam wanted some of the sauce on a grilled cheese later.)  A vegetarian entree of crispy squash blossoms (breaded and stuffed with creamy chopped chard, I think?), quinoa, wild rice, beets, and a Greek yogurt tzatziki was good but needed a bit more salt and acid.

Ripple does a great job of offering interesting, unusual wines by the glass, and we enjoyed our server's recommendations of Fernando "La Torrazza" Erbaluce and a not particularly oaky Chardonnay.  (Staff at Ripple is always very nice about offering a taste of the by-the-glass wines for the indecisive; we opted for full glasses of these two out of three that we sampled.)

The dessert menu had a few tempting options, but nothing that I absolutely had to have, and for the first time, I was there both at an appropriate hour and with sufficient appetite to check out the limited-hours, bar-only grilled cheese menu.  We paid our dining room check and switched to bar seats.  Any pretense of a healthyish dinner went out the window when we decided to try two sandwiches (although we did take half of each as leftovers).  I subbed out the proscuitto in the rich e rich for the seasonal bluberry jam, which sweetened the combo of morbier and truffle butter on brioche enough to satisfy both dessert and grilled cheese cravings.  Adam's choice of the Greek-themed sandwich (I think it was called the Helen of Troy?) of feta, olive tapenade, tzatziki, cucumber on ciabatta (sans bressoala) was tasty but clearly the inferior order.  (I am a master grilled cheese creator, thanks to diligent practice.)  A dry Wandering Aengus cider was a nice light accompaniment.

My leftover grilled cheese made for a welcomed mid-morning snack today.
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