How do you entertain a chef?
With food, of course. Our local chefs went into overdrive to make sure Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson ate well when he dropped by for a visit last week for the opening of the exhibit of his photography at the American Swedish Institute. The menus alone make me hungry.
Here’s a taste of his very flavorful stay:
Tuesday, May 31
Magnus is only here for a few hours before he heads over to Surly Brewing Co. for a tour and dinner.
“We went very simple. We wanted him to feel comfortable and at home. We felt by making food we as chefs like to eat, he would be more at ease. We were not looking to impress him, but just let him relax and enjoy the company he was in,” said Jorge Guzman, chef at Surly.
Here’s Jorge’s menu:
First course: Oysters (Conway Dovers and beauseleil) and smorgasbord of whipped butter, cured mackerel roe and mint aioli
Second course: Hawaiian pizza with housemade braunschweiger (instead of ham)
Third course: Smoked brisket, duck-fat fried potatoes with pickled ramp vinaigrette, simple greens in olive oil and lemon.
Wednesday, June 1
Magnus visits Riverbend Farm in Delano to meet with farmer Greg Reynolds. After a tour of the hoop houses, a lovely farmhouse lunch is served, prepared by Mary Jane Schlenker Miller, with all gathered around a rough-hewn 10-foot table, where guests include Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable, Paul Berglund of the Bachelor Farmer and Amy Thielen, author of “The New Midwestern Table.”
Lunch, served family style, consisted of a rhubarb cocktail, and cornmeal fried crappies and sunfish from nearby Lake Sarah, hushpuppies, sorrel horseradish tartar sauce, whole oats with bacon dressing and wild oyster mushrooms, mixed greens with roasted root vegetables in cider vinaigrette, deviled eggs (from Greg’s brood of hens) with pickled milkweed buds, sourdough bread with Hope butter and homemade plum jam. Dessert was buttermilk custard cornmeal cake with hazelnuts and poached rhubarb. Whew.
That evening a beer and spirits public event provided samples from Fulton Beer, Indeed Brewing, Fair State Brewing Cooperative, Far North Spirits, Du Nord Craft Spirits and Gamle Ode.
There may have been some spirits involved later when, post event, Magnus joined in a backyard sauna with the 612 Sauna Society, along with Alex Roberts of Restaurant Alma and Dustin Thompson from Surly.
Thursday, June 2
Magnus meets the folks at Ingebretsen’s, where he checks out the Scandinavian themed specialty store, including samples of house-smoked charcuterie. The Swedish sausage in the butcher case warranted a comment. “Swedish potato sausage doesn’t exist in most of Sweden,” he said. After bumping into it in Seattle, as well, he searched its history and found that only a sliver of residents in the Swedish province of Smaland make this sausage, and those were the folks who immigrated in the 19th century to the U.S.
Late morning Magnus meets with many local chefs in a roundtable coordinated by Gavin Kaysen, where fresh pastries were served, made by Beatrice Ojakangas, the Finnish cookbook author from Duluth who Magnus had wanted to meet. (She was seated next to him at both this event and Friday's big dinner at the American Swedish Institute.)
Lunch brought him to Heartland in St. Paul, where Lenny Russo put on a seven-course spread for Magnus and his handlers from the American Swedish Institute (Scott Pollack and Karen Nelson), and Swedish journalist Po Tidholm. On the Heartland table:
Green garlic vichyssoise; steelhead trout pastrami with pea shoot, mustards and radish; rainbow trout with hazelnut crust, rhubarb-green tomato relish and shell pea puree; nettle gnudi with fiddlehead ferns, ramps, beurre noisete and Parmesan; rabbit loin with pancetta, fingerling potatoes and smoked carrot coulis; veal tenderloin with morel mushroom conserve, wood sorrel and parsnip cream; local cheeses with gooseberry jam and candied nuts.
Thursday night brought Magnus to Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul for a dinner for members of ASI, hosted by Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable and Paul Berglund of the Bachelor Farmer, as well as Karl Benson and Marie Dwyer, owners of Cooks of Crocus HIll.
The Nordic themed meal included variations on a “classic” Swedish dish called the Flying Jacob, plus salmon and cheese, aged beef, and strawberries and cream with vanilla panna cotta. A truly unusual course – and the source of much amusement -- was the Surstromming, which is fermented Baltic herring sold in a can where it continues to sour. The stench requires the can to be opened outside. Needless to say, it is an acquired taste. Earlier in the visit, Magnus described how he had to eat it as a child. “But now I’m an adult, and I don’t eat it,” he said with a laugh.
Friday, June 3
Is Magnus getting tired of eating yet? Of course not!
He heads to The Bachelor Farmer Cafe for fika – the traditional Swedish coffee break, in this case for espresso and scones – and some time browsing Askov Finlayson next door. He will be sporting a “North” hat from there, as well as a jacket he favored (which one is top secret). In case you might have noticed throughout these photos, his attire didn't change all week. In fact, it never does. His official "uniform" for the past eight years -- as long as he's been chef of Faviken -- is a black t-shirt and black slim jeans.On this trip (and perhaps always) he also wore white leather sneakers, though we are in the dark as to what they were (hipsters at the Strib who follow these styles could not identify the brand).
Let's get back to the food. Two hundred folks settle into Larson Hall at the American Swedish Institute for dinner with Magnus, where Bruce Karstadt, president of ASI, leads a toast with aquavit. The “harvest” style tables are covered in planks from Hermantown Lumber, outside Duluth, which owners Jerry and Rebecca Sundquist had brought down for the occasion.
Dinner was magnificent, as you might expect from an array of the Twin Cities finest talent:
Ryan Cook of Sea Change: Whole grilled trout with turnips, zucchini and basil
Tim McKee of Libertine: Wood-roasted rabbit with sorrel rigatoni, Red Table pancetta and morels
Lucas Rosenbrook of Restaurant Alma: Royal trumpet mushrooms, layered buckwheat crepe, wild greens and salsa verde
Jim Christiansen of Heyday: Spit-roasted lamb with yogurt, lettuce and herb pastes
John Krattenmaker of Fika: Whole-roasted pig with potato, egg and ramp
Niki Francioli, formerly of La Belle Vie, and Carrie Riggs of Restaurant Alma: Rhubarb galette with almond, chamomile and sorrel.
Saturday, June 4
There’s still more for Magnus to eat. Erick Harcey of Upton 43 gives him a powerful sendoff with a five-course lunch, with wines from neighbor Joakim Sternberg, all chosen by the birth year for Magnus, 1983. "Thank goodness you weren't born in '82," Joakim said with a laugh, as wines from that year would have been very expensive.
First course: Smorgasbord, in the tiniest of portions, almost like food for a doll, spread out on a plank that included pickled herring taco, smoked whitefish, mini Swedish meatballs, gravlax, fried Gouda, morel torchon, lamb liverwurst, chicken liver and radish tart.
Second course: Spring peas, rhubarb, morel ice cream, herbs, espuma and salmon roe
Third course: Raw langoustine with langoustine yogurt and spruce
Fourth course: Fire roasted lamb shoulder with many accoutrements
Fifth course: White chocolate Pavlova with strawberry sorbet and herb tapioca
Then it was off to Lindstrom, Minn, for a brief fishing excursion. "Wherever I travel, I ask if I can go fishing," Magnus told me on his first day in Minnesota. Never mind that it was raining when Erick and Magnus (and friends) head out on the lake. Six bass and one crappie later, it was off to the airport.
"This was great," Magnus said, beaming.
He will be back.