Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Salad with poached eggs and pickled herring

If there are any Danes who read this blog, they are probably laughing at what I do to the proud Herring. After all, it is supposed to be served on Danish ryebread, with dill and raw onion, or perhaps pickled with curry or "oriental" spices. But I'm not Danish. I specialize in California fusion cuisine, and the supermarkets here seem rather thinly stocked.

Begin by mincing shallots and allowing to macerate with salt, lemon juice, and olive oil. Perhaps open the jar of herring to check how acidic it is — mine was pickled in a very sweet vinegar with whole peppercorn and minced white onion, and I appreciated having the lemon juice at hand. A sherry vinegar probably would also be wonderful.

Wash and rip lettuce, and toss with the shallot dressing, and add one tomato, sliced. Then add the herring with a little of its pickling spices. Bring water to a boil with some lemon, and poach three eggs. While the eggs are cooking, pour yourself a glass of white wine — the salad will be sweet, so an Australian chardonnay is probably perfect, or a light rosé (my three-day-old cheap Spanish table wine is slightly too acrid for the salad) — and chop up a fresh baguette. Add the eggs to the salad just when the whites have set and the yolks are still runny. Sprinkle some salt over the eggs and tomatoes.

Enjoy! You'll want the bread at the end for sopping up the excess dressing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pasta with herring and chanterelle

The herring, it turns out, was canned in a sweet sauce with hints of clove and dill.

I first melted butter and olive oil, and then added garlic and chanterelles. The mushrooms, it turns out, could have used a good cleaning — I have been spoiled by the spic-and-span white button mushrooms from the same supermarket, wrapped in the same plastic. I added a splash of white wine and steamed everything covered for a few minutes, while searching for a can opener. Then I added the herring, chopped into pieces, and some salt, and waited for the farfale to finish boiling.

I drained the farfale, mixed it into the sauce to coat in the butter-and-olive oil, and served with grated cheese. The dish, it turns out, was excellent.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Finishing Up

I still have four days here in Denmark, and another day and a half of traveling, but I've been emotionally done for some time. Still, I've been entertaining myself. I've just about finished my Quantum Mechanics paper (left to do: put together the bibliography, fix a factor of two, perhaps change all the signs?, and do a final read-over). I've explored the campus park, as well as some of the forested areas north and south of the city. I know my way downtown.

And I've gone to just about every museum in Aarhus: ARoS (pretty neato Modern Art museum, although the basement and roof-top exhibits were closed when I went); Moesgaard Museum (very cool Paleoanthropology and Archeology museum, including a beautifully-preserved bog man); Den Gamle By (quite entertaining open-air museum chronicling the history of Danish city life from roughly the 16th through 19th centuries, including wonderfully-preserved old houses that have been moved there — the food is expensive, though); and two on-campus museums, Steno (okay history of science and medicine, and it would have been free if I had said I was in Physics rather than Math) and the Naturhistorisk Museum (not worth it). Rather than post pictures here, I've put together an album of about 150 photos from the trip here (update: Moesgaard Museum pictures now posted).

Meals since I last wrote:
  • Leftovers.
  • Steamed mussels, with a sauce of cream, wine, garlic, and white pepper; baguette; small salad with lemon and olive oil. The bread was from the supermarket, and very good and fresh (I'm impressed); I went through the whole loaf sopping up all the extra sauce I had. The white pepper was OK — I wanted whole brown mustard seed — but gave the sauce a bit of an "alfredo" smell. The sauce did not have enough salt.
  • Farfale with feta, garlic, tomatoes, and olive oil. An old standby: my mom first came up with it while we were camping on the Banks Peninsula on the New Zealand South Island, and it has been a family favorite since.
  • (tonight) Enchiladas with black-eyed peas, avocado, and cheddar cheese. You make do with what you have.
  • (tomorrow) Stir-fry with mushrooms, baby corn, snap peas, green onions, and whatever other veggies I thought to grab; rice. Not particularly seasonal, but it's what's at the supermarket.
  • (the day after) Pasta, canned herring, and probably other stuff.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Two curries

I'm back in Aarhus, of course, which means cooking for myself, and that seems to mean curry.

For example, sauté leeks in olive oil and a little salt, and add some powdered ginger. Add one head broccoli, cut into small pieces, and cook a little; then add one can coconut milk, a splash of soy sauce, a small spoonful of red curry paste, some chopped lemongrass, and a small bag of frozen shrimp, and bring to a boil. Mix in the juice of one lime, and serve over rice.

Alternately, sauté leeks in a mix of butter and olive oil and a little salt, and add a lot of curry powder and a little ginger. Then add 6 oz dried lentils and 10 oz water, or so, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Add one head (chopped) of whatever brassica you have lying around — I bought what I thought was kale, and perhaps is, but is somewhere between an American kale and a cabbage (they are the same species, after all) — and some more salt and spice. Let the mixture simmer covered for twenty minutes, until most of the liquid has cooked off or been absorbed, and then serve over rice.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chocolate Review: Kallari single-origin bar

Disclaimer: Three Kallari chocolate bars were given to my boyfriend and me by a good friend of mine, who is now a saleswoman for Kallari, with the request that I post an honest review here. They know it's that good.

I was very confused by the packaging of the Kallari Chocolate 75% Cacao bar. "Single Source Organic Chocolate" says the title. It's certified by USDA Organic and by Rainforest Alliance. But where, I wondered, was the chocolate actually from? I was looking for the country name, like on a bag of coffee or a bar of Theo's Chocolate. I was more confused because of the three chocolate bars I had received, only the percentage cacao seemed to differ from bar to bar.

As it turns out, when you actually read the copy on the back, you learn that Kallari (pronounced as in Spanish) sources all of its beans from the same farm cooperative — they aren't an importer and processor of the likes of Scharfen Berger (which is no longer located in Berkeley, much to my chagrin) — from which the bar gets its name. The cooperative, says the box, comprises "850 indigenous Kichwa farmers in the Ecuadorean Amazon", and the box promises that all the profits from the chocolate go to them.

Great, so the chocolate assuages rich liberal guilt. Is it any good? The New York Times rated Kallari's chocolate the only "good" bar out of eight organic and/or fair trade bars. (They describe Theo's, for example, as "acidic, bland, astringent (drying) finish, not worth the calories" and Endangered Species as "sugary, moldy taste, had to spit it out. ... [I]f dogs could eat chocolate, I would have given it to the dog.") And sure enough, Kallari's is one of the better chocolate bars I've had. The texture is quite smooth, but does not particularly melt on the tongue, and the flavors are strong and only lightly sweetened. I picked up various fruit flavors, but I'd have to agree with one reviewer who describes the bar as what a good Red Wine should be like.

In fact, I should continue with the Red Wine analogy. The lack of sugar and the fruitiness, and also the mild tanins and oak in a very good Syrah or Pinot Noir come through. Except the chocolate is not at all boozy. And unlike a Nibs bar, it does not taste of caffeine.

Since I had decided to have the chocolate tonight because I was looking for a snack, I was initially disappointed that it was not sweeter (Scharfen Burger's 80% bar still has more sugar, or perhaps more vanilla?). And I don't think I can read the company name without thinking "calorie". Regardless, I'm definitely looking forward to enjoying the other two bars on other nights.

To read more about Kallari, start with this New York Times article from November of last year.

Today's recipe

  1. Combine bread and cheese, eggs, yogurt, and coffee over a pleasant breakfast, and hang out with your mom and sister in Copenhagen all morning. Set train to 12:00 and ride for three hours.
  2. Upon arrival in Aarhus, decide that although you don't really need to go to the store — you have enough food for a day — since you're down town anyway, you might as well go to the fish market, but then you had better go to the grocery store as well.
  3. Work a bit longer, and try to convince the laundry machine to wash clothes and stir occasionally.
  4. Combine one part brown basmati rice with 1.75 parts water and a handful of salt, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer; the rice here takes only twenty minutes.
  5. Peel and slice garlic, and combine in a fry pan on low with butter and olive oil. Wash, de-seed, and slice thin one orange bell pepper; add it to the pan.
  6. Increase heat to medium-high, and cook a large fillet of local white fish (I didn't catch the name), about five minutes to a side, until it is white all the way through. Actually, remove the fish from the heat too early, and after sitting down to eat, decide that the fish isn't cooked through and return it to the pan for a few more minutes.
  7. Have the fish with salt and lemon juice. Also polish off a huge salad, consisting of a full head of iceberg lettuce and dressed in olive oil, salt, and lemon juice.
  8. Finish the evening with half a bottle of wine, the most recent New Yorker (full text available online to subscribers), laundry, and a Daily Show. Oh, and a chocolate bar, but that deserves its own post.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

One day in Kobenhavn

We took the train from Aarhus to Copenhagen in the morning, and spent the afternoon walking around town. Highlights include, in reverse-chronological order: Kastellet, the Harbour Buses, and best of all Freetown Christiania (warning: the Wikipedia page is full of information, but long and very poorly written — you should read it only if you are interested in long-term case studies in communal living).

For dinner, we followed another Lonely Planet suggestion and made our way to Peder Oxe, near the Latin Quarter. The restaurant is in a lovely courtyard with a few other eateries, notably the next-door Bøf & Ost ("steak & cheese"), which has the same owner. We ate outside, although they have many tables inside.

We had peered over the menu before sitting down, and I had selected the Bream as the Theo-safe option. But upon sitting at the table, it was clear that what I really wanted was the Wild Duck, and my mom and sister ordered the same. So I guess this year will see three bird-eating days, since Thanksgiving (and the following weekend) I eat turkey, and Christmas for us is usually small game.

The Duck was braised and slow-cooked well, so that the leg in particular was very tender (we were each served a "half" of a duck: one leg and one breast). The menu explained that the duck would be served with some combination of local berries and fungi; tonight we each had four bland blue berries, a sour blackberry, many wonderful red currants (a true treat with duck), half a stewed pear, three or so fresh hazelnuts (still in their shells, and almost impossible to open with knife and fork), some very tasty sautéed chanterelles, and extremely fresh parsley and watercress for garnish. Being wild ducks, two of our birds also came with a small steal shot wedged deep in the flesh.

The restaurant offers a luxurious salad bar, in which the veggies are served in beautiful straw baskets and the dressings in ceramic pots. Options at the salad bar include chopped fennel, endive-heavy mixed greens, and stewed beets; the best part were the cherry tomatoes, the baby arugula, and the copious supply of fresh feta. The wine bar offers a full selection, but the standard seems to be to order a bottle of the House red, which is decanted into bottles with volume marks on the side, so that they charge you for what you drink (you do not have to finish the bottle).

Overall, the meal was good, but not as good as the previous two nights, and certainly not worth the money (close to $60/person, once everything is included). I don't think I would return, but if you find yourself in that square, it's not a terrible choice.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

More fine Danish French food

It's not too hard to find amazingly good food in Aarhus — if you're willing to spend a lot of money. Since my mom is visiting, I got to go out for French food again tonight, and Lonely Planet recommended the Klassisk Vinbar & Bistro, a cosy kaffe south of the train station, in what seems to be the up-and-coming food neighborhood in town.

We got there early — we had spent the day walking around Mosegaard Museum (which was awesome) — and were seated immediately but told that the kitchen wouldn't open until 6pm, would we like some wine to start? So we got a bottle of the house white, a nice dry Chardonnay form Chile, and were given some time to try to make heads or tails of the menu. (The menu has one page of food, and three pages of wines.) One waiter, whose name matches my sister's, apologized that she didn't know what the fish was; soon, another waiter came by, was surprised that the first waiter hadn't explained tonight's menu, and walked us through it.

The restaurant offers about six appetizers, which came with high recommendation, and around two entrés: the fish (white fish, without skin or bones, wrapped around a mix of sweet peppers, onions, and chanterelles, and baked in the oven, then served with a cream sauce, which had been cooked with some mussels, and boiled baby yellow potatoes and fried potato skins), or the pork (shank, marinaded twenty four hours in wine and garlic, and then flambéed with more wine, and served with mashed potatoes). Not long after we had been given the menu rundown, the kitchen brought out the first batch of bread, and we got a basket of slices of straight-from-the-oven sweet battard, served with a delicate rouille.

Ultimately, we decided to share one serving of the fish and three appetizers (the waiter had suggested that four appetizers was probably enough food for three, and that the dozen escargot was definitely a full meal). We skipped the chicken liver pâté (tastes strongly of liver, said the waiter) and the mussels served with a wine-and-cream sauce (too much like last night), and asked for the half-dozen escargot (served with garlic butter in a ceramic escargot pan), the chèvre (a slice of bread, melted with tasty and well-salted cheese, and served over a small salad of gerkins, olives, mixed greens, grapes, and a red wine vinaigrette), and the gravad laks (which had a different Danish name). Gravlax consists of salmon that has been cured in a mixture of sugar, salt, dill, and pepper for a week, and then sliced thin — in our case, the waiter did the slicing at the table. It was served with a small salad matching that of the chèvre, a slice of baguette with dill-butter, and a sweet hoisin-like black sauce of burnt sugar and some savory yeasty flavors that we couldn't place.

To conclude the dinner, we first eyed the soufflé on the dessert menu, until we decided that the parenthetical Danish read "order ahead of time", and then asked about the crêpe suzette. Sadly, this would take a long time to make — the waiter who cut our salmon is also a bit of a sous chef, but was busy serving the flambe pork and would not be available to make the crepes. Would we like the crème brûlée? No? How about an off-menu tarte tatin? Yes? Excellent. We got one to share among the three, and what came was a five-inch tarte with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was very good.

If you are in Aarhus, you should find this restaurant, on 65 Jaegergaardsgade (connected to the 67 Kaffe), and show up early — it fills up, and they will not seat you at a table for which your party is too small. The walls are covered with shelves of bottles of alcohol (above us was probably a thousand dollars worth of whiskey, another wall had many syrups for mixed drinks, and the other room was filled with red wine), the kitchen is closet-sized (the bartender/waiter did not have a bar at which to mix her drinks; instead, she would use whatever nearby table was open, or at least had some space at it; she always tasted the wine before serving it, to make sure it was good), and the bathroom wall is covered with framed restaurant awards.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Denmark: two good days


I spent the entire day — well, maybe not the entire day, but at least three hours — talking with my adviser. It was great. We made a lot of progress, although I don't believe that his proof works when there is a magnetic field, and I'm not convinced of his proof even when there is not a magnetic field, and I don't believe his method can get the global constant correct anyway, but it all doesn't really matter because today I found a different proof of the theorem I'm trying to prove, which doesn't require his lemma.

Oh, and also, I got to move into one of the "guest rooms", where I'll be staying for the rest of my time here. It's on the top floor of the biology building. The room is office-sized, with a couch/bed, a desk, a coffee table, and a few chairs. The room has a large hall-closet and a large bathroom, and there is also a kitchen and laundry that is shared with the three other guest rooms for this floor. I'm so much happier here than at the hotel, which was small and impersonal and uncomfortable.

Dinner last night was slightly-overcooked penne with a sauce of leeks, fresh tomatoes, garlic, white button mushrooms, and sweet peppers. Highlights:
  • It took me the longest time to figure out how to turn on the stove. It's a fancy electric induction stove, with a computer chip that makes it turn off as soon as you remove the pan from the burner. It heats up extremely quickly.
  • I had wanted a salad, and most of the available lettuce at the supermarket is all the same not awful but not great iceberg. But I saw a plastic bag with some good-looking fresh lettuce, and although it was very expensive, it was nothing compared to eating out. While making dinner, I discovered that this lettuce was sold with a pot-shaped well-packed mound of soil: you are supposed to bring it home, plant it on the windowsill, and enjoy your salad in a few weeks. Well, I ripped the leaves off and threw away the dirt: it was just the right amount of lettuce for one night.


My bag came! I had left it in Strasbourg — now I have clothes! Also, my mom and sister came! They are visiting for a few days, while my mom gives talks here and in Lund. So I left school early to meet them at the train station, went to my mom's talk, and then we walked around Aarhus and went out to dinner.

We went to Sct. Olaf's, a restaurant my grad-student host M showed me. I had tried to go on Wednesday, when instead I went back to Casablanca (incidentally, the driver of the cab that took us from the train station back to campus says that Casablanca is way overpriced, although very popular, and largely serves the "rich kid" clientelle — a good glass of wine there is 60 kroner, about $12). On Wednesday, Sct. Olaf's was full, but I booked a reservation for three for tonight.

We got there early, and were told to go away by the waiter, who speaks French and German but not English, and unlike the Danes thinks that American's are mangy mutts to be dispensed with, not cute puppies to take care of. When we re-arrived about 15 minutes early, he let us sit at the bar before taking us to a table in the back room.

Sct. Olaf's each night offers only two options: the meat or the fish. The three of us each asked for the fish. What came was a divine two-course meal (we didn't have room for dessert). With the table came house-made bread and we got a bottle of white table wine; shortly after we ordered, there arrived dinner bowls of mussels, steamed and tossed in a sauce of cream, white wine, garlic, and whole mustard seed. The mussels were sprinkled with lots of fresh parsley, and were very good.

After giving us time to digest a little, they brought the main course, a white fish, possible steamed or poached? It was very tender, anyway. The fish was served over a bed of chanterelles, and was topped with some other even tastier black mushroom with a thin cap and large gills. The mushrooms were sautéed before being plated with the fish. Spread over everything was a thin layer of cream sauce, like the sauce for the mussels but with rich and slightly spicy (in the cinnamon-and-clove way) overtones. Served next to the fish was a small cube of polenta, cooked from a fine meal and probably cooked a long time, and flavored with rosemary and other spices. The flavors were all strong but perfectly married. The only problem was that the dish was over-salted.

We were completely stuffed, and so did not order dessert, although it looked good: tonight's option looked to be an apple crumble.

Except that I expect to cook for myself for the rest of my time here, I would happily return to Sct. Olaf's.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Restaurant Review: Cafe Casablanca, downtown Aarhus

For two days I am staying in the Cab Inn, a chain motel in Denmark. The rooms are tiny, but clean, and the service is curt, but it's Denmark, so everyone is overwhelmingly nice.

The lack of a kitchen and the recent reminder to eat well meant that I took myself out to dinner; the restaurant recommendation came from Lonely Planet. The Casablanca is a cafe and bar around the corner from my hotel, just on the other side of the cathedral. (An aside: I had gotten lost in Strasbourg, because the instructions were "cross the river, see the cathedral (you can't miss it), and go there." Well, right across the river is a nice big church, so I wandered around there before discovering that no, that's just a big church, the cathedral is much bigger and more ornate and something people actually care about. The big church in Strasbourg? Bigger than the cathedral here in Aarhus.)

I arrived just about 7 to find the place largely empty, save for the wait staff (a very dark-skinned woman who looked to be of Indian decent, and a cute and friendly blond Danish boy; both look in their mid twenties). I'm looking for two things, I said: do you have a table for one, and an English menu? Sit anywhere you like, said the blond, but the menus are all in Danish — I can translate.

I found a seat in the corner, ordered a glass of the house white, and failed to make heads or tails of the menu. I'm vegetarian plus fish, I told the waiter, what have you got? The suggestion came back that I should order the first item on the menu, a Danish open-faced sandwich topped with salmon, smoked cheese, and veggies. So I did.

An aside: I had had almost exactly the same idea-of-a-dish for lunch at the cafeteria — a slice of rye bread with salmon, veggies, and cheese sauce. But the cafeteria lunch I ate hastily (I was again eating alone), and was made with cafeteria food. And I had had it paired with other cafeteria fare: rice with vaguely-Asian vegetable stir-fry, cabbage salad with canned pineapple. The dinner was much more satisfying, not to mention about ten times more expensive.

The dish came very quickly, as nothing needed to be cooked. Three squares (about 3in to a side) of Danish rye were spread first with cheese, about the consistency and richness of a soft chevre but with a strong smoky flavor. On top of this were layers of lightly smoked salmon, drizzled with mustard sauce. Then the sandwich was piled high with a young mixed green salad: rocket, baby escarole, amaranth leaves, and most interestingly fresh thyme, used as a veggie. Red onions, lightly pickled in an anise-flavored brine, and minced chives topped it off. The dinner was seasoned well and I enjoyed it with gusto.

I had brought my reading, and let myself enjoy music at the cafe, and the look of the bar. After a bit, I asked about dessert. Ah, said the blond, do you like chocolate? Yes, well, then you must get the last dish on the menu. He tried to translate the name but failed: "somewhere between cake and ice cream". I could read only the other two words: "med frugt". Sounds great, I said.

What came was a beautifully arranged dish. On the bottom was a slab of chocolate — more of less a cold and very dark chocolate fudge — about 1in high by 2in by 3in. On top of this was a large scoop of vanilla ice cream, protected from the fudge, as I found out while eating, but a thin layer of slivered almonds. Spread around the dessert were sour blackberries and sweet blueberries, and on top of everything was a bunch of pinkish-red currants.

I finished the dinner with another hour of working (I think I made real progress on my project, once I finally relaxed over a meal and that large glass of Sauvignon blanc) and a pot of white tea, which came with sugar, milk, and two chocolate-covered espresso beans. I'm tempted to return to the same cafe tomorrow and ask for their other veggie option, the Caesar salad with salmon in place of chicken. But if I do, I think I will have to get more cash: dinner tonight cost more, after all the exchange rates, than I spent on the last dinner in Strasbourg. Of course, it doesn't help that the Dollar has lost 3% against the Krone in the last week.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Strasbourg Penultimate Day

Beyond the mathematics, perhaps the most important take-away from my weekend in Strasbourg was the reminder that I am much happier when I am eating good food, prices be damned. Take Saturday night, for example. On the last evening before we were to leave, I went joined two of the speakers (GT from Trieste, BS from Edinburgh; my adviser had intended to join us, but wasn't feeling well) for dinner. In a beautiful square in a beautiful town, we were teased by the waiter for not speaking French and talked politics and travel stories. The waiter is planning on moving to Brisbane to start a restaurant, but since visas are hard to come by, New York will probably be his next home.

GT and BS each had some perfectly-cooked meat and foie gras. I forwent the boeuf in favor of a pan-cooked dorade served with a salsa made with passion fruit. It was quite good. Even better was the first course, une salade de roquette, avec tapenade, balsamic vinaigrette, tomates, et crevette. Beer, wine, and lemon tarte (they did not have tarte tatin!) completed the dinner. And all for what I would normally spend on food for a week.

For tonight, I found a fish store downtown. Dinner will be pan-fried cod, probably served next to pasta with capers and garlic.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Strasbourg Day the last

In spite of what the website says, it takes about ten minutes to ride from the Strasbourg Central train station to the Airport. In spite of the map in the train, the airport is the first stop, not the fifth. In spite of all reasonable sense, the announcements on the train call the airport by the town name Entzheim, rather than the word Aéroport. And in spite of what the woman seemed to say in the train station, the train to the airport also goes to La Salle — that's not where the airport is.

And so it was that after a lovely half-hour ride through the French countryside, the conductor found me without the proper ticket. We were pulling into a station; he hurried me out and pointed me across the platform, where a train heading back would be arriving shortly. About two minutes after his train had pulled away, I realized that I had left my backpack on board.

For the full length of the train back to Strasbourg, I sat anxiously waiting, while the conductor tried to get through to the other train to locate my bag. She did not succeed — the earlier conductor would not answer his cell — but she did confirm with the Lost-and-Found that the bag would most likely return to Strasbourg on its own accord by that evening: how long was I still in town? The flight leaves in an hour? There is no way to get the bag back in time — La Salle is two hours away.

Can I call the Lost-and-Found? She doesn't know the number. But will they be able to mail it? To where? Denmark. Another phone call, and yes, it will cost about thirty euro to mail. Fine, I say. Merci beaucoup.

So I will call Strasbourg in the morning. In the mean time, I found a shop selling toothbrushes and toothpaste at the Copenhagen airport, I have washed the clothes I was wearing, and I will go to H&M tomorrow. I have my computer and charger, my phone (sans charger), my wallet, keys, and passport. So all is not lost. Still, this is not how I had hoped to end an otherwise wonderful weekend in France. C'est la vie.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Strasbourg Days 0 and 2

The cheapest meal in Terminal 2 of the Copenhagen airport seems to available at a "Fine International Deli" or whatever it was called, which looks a bit like a small grocery store. They have many sandwiches on baguette, almost all of which contain kylling (chicken, and I am probably misspelling it), but one of which is a very Danish combination: hard-boiled egg, shrimp, and lettuce. (At lunch that day I had had the same combination at the cafeteria, except on Danish rye and topped with roe. Danish rye, more rye berry than rye flour, is an item unto itself, made with a sourdough batter and let rise all day before being poured into a mold.)

This grocery also has a large wine selection, including a refrigerated white 25cl bottles (one third of a normal bottle) for only 22 DKK (about $3), whereas the same size bottle at any other place in the airport is twice that, because anywhere else also gives you a glass. If you get the cheap stuff, you can then go find a table by the window and chug your wine form the bottle, which is fun in its own way.

On the AirFrance flight, expect a six-inch baguette sandwich (either chicken or cheese $mdash; the cheese sandwich was on a decent poppyseed baguette, and included two or three cheeses and butter), and 18.7cl (one quarter bottle) of red wine.

Today was a really good day. It started with chocolat croissant and cafe au lait, and then was filled with four very good talks. Afterwards was a boat tour of Strasbourg, paid for by the mayor, on which instead of listening to the tour guide talk about the weird history (ok, I listened to that too), I talked to GT, a very good physicist and mathematician (and a very good translator between the two) from Trieste. I explained my quantum mechanics project — how far I've gotten, what my current snags are — and he gave many very valuable suggestions and comments. After the boat tour, there was a small refreshments at the math department, with the same cake and orange juice as at our coffee-and-tea times, and wine replacing the coffee. There I continued to talk to GT, and also to my adviser — my adviser asked GT point blacnk what he thought of about my project, and his responses were: (a) it has not been done; (b) it is not surprising; (c) I am "very brave" to try it. Points (a) and (b) were expected, but it is good to get independent confirmation.

Afterwards, I spent the evening with R, a graduate student at Amsterdam, working somewhat with my adviser (my academic step-sibling?). He and I are the only foreign graduate students at this conference, but have much more in common, including cooking and ballroom dancing. We went to a good, but not great, cheap Italian place. We each had the ricotta-and-spinach ravioli, mine with cream sauce and basil, his with tomatoes and mushrooms.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Strasbourg Day 1

I hope you do not take my earlier posts too harshly. Today was great, although that might be because Strasbourg is beautiful and warm, and it might be because I got to spend the entire day talking math, rather than just reading math and working on math.

The city is very pretty, with a large central cathedral an an island formed by a canal connecting to the Rhine. The hotel does not provide coffee, but there are cafes around, with good espresso. Indeed, except for the urn at the conference breaks, _coffee_ as the Americans have it seems fairly foreign here. For example, at lunch, I followed my adviser and a friend of his to a take-away sandwich shop (I had a nicoise salade, with canned tuna, canned anchovy, egg, celery, peppers, lettuce, tomato, and canned black olives), and to drink the coffee options consisted of "espresso, cafe au lait, cappuccino, chocolat".

After a long day of talks (I was very awake for the first four, but six is grueling), we had a reception hosted by the office of the mayor at the old city hall, and then went as a whole group to a fun restaurant across from the cathedral. The menu for the conference: meat eaters started with a small salad and a quiche with pork, and then had ham wrapped in bread; non-pork-ers started with a wonderful collection of shredded carrots with light dressing, shredded cabbage with light dressing, and shredded something else mixed with mayonnaise; dessert was a flan, and there was Alsatian white wine with the meal (I had one tasty glass, and had had another at the reception) and espresso to end the meal (I abstained, planning on sleeping tonight).

Monday, September 7, 2009

Denmark days 3-5

That I haven't written here in the last few days is probably a good sign — it means I'm not so utterly jet-lagged, bored, lonely, and homesick. The jet-lag hasn't gone all the way away, though — I haven't slept through the night yet (it's 3am right now) — and the others will probably stay. I feel like I've been here a very long time, and that I am very far away. An, as M, one of the graduate students hosting me, points out: it's Berkeley, not Aarhus, that people go to; there are many more people in the math department there.

In any case, I've been very mathematically productive, and I'll start meeting people and networking and talking about Chern-Simons Theory. I haven't been having great food. Dinners for three nights consisted of finishing off the lentils-and-rice mixture, and lunches have either been at the cafeteria or a sandwich. Last night and tonight are variations on beans-with-broccoli, and then I leave for Strasbourg. When I return from there, I will find the fish shop, and then perhaps I will be gastronomically happier.

On Saturday I went to the ARoS modern art museum, which was very cool. The museum building is quite large, and gives the impression that they have room to extend their collection, which is probably a good thing. As it is, you can see every work in one visit, but you're pretty art-ed out by the end. The museum's earliest works are from the 18th century, but it doesn't really start until 19th century, and it doesn't take off until the mid 20th. There are some amazing works — original Warhols, a horse cut into 162 pieces, an entire room filled with mobiles — and many, like the horse, are fairly disturbing.

On Sunday I walked through Risskov, a forested area on the north side of town. The path leads to a small beach, where a few kids were playing (entirely unsupervised, which seems to be normal here, and in the US in the "good old days" but not any more there). The coolest part was that floating everywhere are beautiful little jelly fish. In the forest I also saw some very large neon orange slugs.

Monday's class right now is a fast-and-furious overview of Lie Groups, a theory I know quite well (most of lecture were questions I had on my qual). I should go talk to the instructor tomorrow and find out what the class will do in the months after I return to Berkeley.

It seems that this blog has switched from Food Blog to Travel Blog. Oh, well. It will switch back in good time.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Denmark Day 1.5

There are two grocery stores within a few blocks of my apartment. I went to the larger of the two, and found plenty to eat for a few days. The smaller, though, looks like it has better produce, so I will try there next.

Dinner was more comfort food. Sauté celery, leeks, and a parsnip in olive oil, add 6 oz lentils, 3 oz rice, and 2 cups water. Simmer 20-30 minutes. Have leftovers.

Denmark Day 1

I'm homesick. And jet-lagged. A pretty sucky combination.

So far, every person I have interacted with in Denmark has been overwhelmingly friendly. The weather not so much: it's pouring out, and what my body needs to adjust time zones right now is sun. (Denmark, like most of Europe, is nine hours off from the US West Coast.)

But you didn't come here to hear me gripe about the jet-lag — you came for the food. The meals so far have been edible. I am borrowing a studio apartment, in which the owner left some minimal ingredients, so dinner last night was comfort food: parsnips, potatoes, and onions, cooked in butter. (Wash, peel, and chop parsnips and potatoes, and boil for a bit; meanwhile, sauté in a large fry-pan onions in butter and olive oil until translucent; drain the root veggies and add to the pan, sautéing, until well-cooked; salt heavily.) For breakfast I scrounged up eggs and tea, hoping to find a coffee-to-go shop (there aren't any, but there is coffee at the math department; if I come here again, I'm bringing my French Press). Lunch was at the Cantina, a cafeteria in the ground floor of the department. My hosts say it was typical Danish fair: lots of meat dishes that I skipped, a tasty cauliflower pie, boiled peas and carrots and potatoes with creamy asparagus sauce, and a salad bar of prepared salads (including a cold dish of navy beans, parsley, and mango). I will find the grocery store on my way home today.

I've spent most of the day talking math, which is good.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuna Niçoise salad; whole wheat baguette; lavender ice cream

It's my last night in Berkeley for a month — I leave tomorrow for Denmark, where I'll be studying at Aarhus Universitet. I'll miss my boyfriend a lot. So tonight, we made a particularly special dinner.

It started at the Farmers' Market, my last for a while, where we lingered at various stands and let ourselves be cajoled into buying prickly pears, roses, and most yummily whole wheat flour from Massa. I had been hoping they'd grind their wheat into flour, as we love their rice and wheat berry. They are charging $4 for a 2-lb bag, the same as rice; perhaps they'll offer a better bulk price if the flour catches on. As we found out tonight, Massa's flour is very sweet, with good flavor. Highly recommended.

In any case, in the kitchenaid with the paddle, combine 1 lb Massa whole wheat flour, 1 heaping Tbsp vital wheat gluten, 1 Tbsp salt, 1 Tbsp yeast. When the dry ingredients have mixed well, add 2 cups cool water, and mix until the dough has the consistency of cookie dough. Let autolyze 10-20 minutes, and then knead with the bread hook five minutes. Let the dough rise, and then roll into baguettes, coat with poppy seeds, and bake 25 minutes in a pre-heated 400°F oven. Let cool before serving.

The main course tonight was a tuna Niçoise salad. Rub salt and olive oil into the sides of a 1/2-lb tuna steak, cover with half a red onion and some carrots and celery, and bake 375°F for 20 minutes. Let cool.

The dressing for our Niçoise is a salad unto itself, and should be prepared with enough time to macerate. Combine in a medium bowl: 1/2 a red onion, finely diced; 2 carrots, thinly sliced; 2 small stalks celery, finely diced; 4 cloves garlic, minced; three canned anchovies, rinsed well and with their bones removed, minced; more capers than you can shake a stick at; olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sherry vinegar, to taste.

Then prepare the rest of the salad. Pick and shell 1/2 pound beans from the garden; boil these 10 minutes, and then plunge the beans into ice water. Wash, remove the tips, and chop in half 1 lb green beans; boil 3 minutes and plunge in ice water. Wash 2/3 pound very small potatoes, cut in half; boil 10-15 minutes depending on size, and then plunge in ice water. Also fill a quart-sized yogurt container with orange cherry tomatoes; wash and de-stem these.

Separate the leaves from a large head of green romaine lettuce, and arrange the lettuce and veggies artfully in serving bowls. Now that the tuna is cool, slice it into medallions and place atop the veggies. Spoon the dressing over everything. Serve with whole wheat baguette and a Chardonnay.

We finished the evening with packing and lavender ice cream. I followed my standard method for making ice cream these days. Heat 2 cups milk in the double boiler, and steep 5 stalks of dried lavender for 10 minutes; remove the lavendar and fish out any stray flowers. Meanwhile, whisk together 4 egg yolks and 1 cup sugar (a little much for tonight, I thought; maybe 3/4 cup next time?). When the milk is flavorful, label a few Tbsp at a time hot milk into the eggs and whisk, repeating until half the milk has been incorporated into the eggs. Then transfer all the egg mixture into the double boiler and heat, whisking, five minutes. Allow the mixture to cool, first out and then in the fridge, for a few hours. Then add 1 cup cream, process, freeze an hour or two to set, and enjoy!

Thai shrimp and mushroom curry

Ingredients for the curry: one large red onion, diced; four cloves garlic, minced; two nubs ginger, peeled and minced; olive oil for sautéing the above; one heaping tsp shrimp paste; 1/2 cup leftover red wine; one can coconut milk; two stalks lemon grass, cut into large pieces; juice of 2 1/2 limes (the last half lime went into the salad dressing); 3/4 pound large prawns, deveined and butterflied; 1/2 pound small crimini mushrooms, washed but left whole; two garden tomatoes, diced; one bunch basil, stems removed; salt and soy sauce to taste. Serve over brown rice — allow 1/2 cup dried rice per person. The curry serves three.

What made last night's meal particularly fun, in addition to having my best friend from college over, was the progression of wines. We had some leftover Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir from the night before, which went into the curry. We then paired the meal with the "French Rosé" from Red Bicyclette, which we started sipping while cooking. Since one bottle didn't quite satisfy three people (all of whom have been reasonably stressed out by various things), we opened up a bottle of Red Bicyclette's Chardonnay.

Red Bicyclette is a French winery that makes very tasty medium-end wines. At Safeway, the bottles run about $11, but with the club card and discount when you buy six bottles, they are closer to $6. Highly recommended.

Pan-seared tuna with ginger; squash with onions and tomatoes

This is a one-pan meal. Cook onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent, and add green summer squash. Cook for a while on medium-high, stirring occasionally, until squash starts to brown. Meanwhile, pick oregano and green Remove squash and onions from the pan, saving the oil, and zebra tomatoes from the garden; wash and dice. Remove the squash from the pan, saving the oil for the fish, and toss with the tomatoes and oregano and some salt.

Then sliced peeled ginger to the pan to flavor the oil. Adding more oil if necessary, cook tuna steaks over high heat a few minutes to a side, so that the fish is just pink in the middle. Pair the dinner with a Pinot (either Noir or Gris).

Sushi + Ginger Ice Cream

We began the dinner with miso (we used an organic Hacha Miso paste from EdenSoy, and added green onions, grated carrots, garlic, and sea weed; we forgot to add salt). The entrée consisted of Tuna nigiri and carrot-and-green-onion rolls.

When making sushi, a few tricks are worth knowing. Rinse the sushi rice and simmer in 1.5 times as much water 20 minutes; let steam at least ten. Drizzle the top of the rice with a mixture of a Tbsp or two rice vinegar and a tsp each salt and sugar. Move a thin layer to the nori for rolls while the rice is still hot: the steam will help it cling. When the rice is cool enough to handle, rinse your hands in cold water and squeeze heaping-tablespoons into clumps by hand. The cold water will keep the rise from sticking to your hands. Nori gets very sticky when in contact with a little water; have handy a clean towel for your hands, and a little bowl of water for when you want to glue the end of a strip of nori back to itself.

One cup dried rice made just the right amount for three large sushi rolls and 12 large pieces of nigiri. Allow one green onion per roll (slice it into thin strips); one large carrot, washed and made into strips with a vegetable peeler, is enough for four rolls.

Expect about 1/4 pound fish per person when making sushi (1/4 pound of fish translated into six large nigirizushi). The best tuna in Berkeley, by the way, is at the Farmers' Market for $13.50. Which is to say that, wine included, we probably spent $20 for the entire meal, and it would have been at least $60 for the two of us at a restaurant.

Pair fish, especially raw fish, with a dry Pinot Grigio or Sauvingon Blanc. Meridian's Pinto Grigio is a good $5-$6 choice.

We finished the evening with homemade ginger ice cream (not pictured). Peel and slice thin two small nubs of fresh ginger, and simmer in 2 cups milk in a double boiler; turn off the heat and let steep ten minutes. Meanwhile, separate four eggs, saving the whites for another dish, and whisk the yolks with 1 cup sugar in a heat-proof two-cup glass measuring cup. When the milk smells strongly of ginger, remove the pieces with a slotted spoon, and ladle a few Tbsp hot milk into the eggs, whisking. Keep ladling and whisking in a few Tbsp at a time until you have tempered the eggs with half the milk. Then pour all the egg mixture back into the double boiler, whisk with the milk, and bring back to high heat. Cook, whisking, five minutes, to pasteurize the eggs and fully dissolve the sugar. Then cool in the refrigerator a few hours.

When the milk-and-egg mixture is cool, add 1 cup cream and process in the ice cream maker. It will still be a bit runny; allow the ice cream to set in the freezer a few hours or overnight. Best the next day — homemade ice cream does not keep more than a few days.

Saag, dhal, and a painting

Our first night back in Berkeley we made saag (onions, garlic, and spices; kale and spinach; sour cream) and dhal (onions, garlic, and spices; lentils and vegetable broth). Everything was a little bland — use more spices than you think you need — but comfort-food-y.

The painting in the background is a beautiful and humongous rose my sister made for us. She's quite an artist, and we have a number of her paintings up around the house. The apple pears are from my parents' trees.