In case you haven’t already noticed, I really enjoy eating massive quantities of ethnic food. You might say that I eat like a pig. Or a truck driver. Or a truck-driving pig. Or a guy who drives a truck filled with pigs.
Either way, a civilized “tasting” of dainty, fancy food puts me a little bit out of my element. I don’t really do “tastings.” I usually do “feedings.” You know, like the other pigs back home in Iowa. Put a trough in front of me, and I will feed my face. No dainty “tasting” needed.
Since I’m not exactly the world’s most sophisticated dude, the New Nordic Cuisine tasting at the Union Square Greenmarket was definitely not my usual choice of food scenes. They served very fancy, innovative food made from local ingredients, prepared by three world-famous Danish chefs. There was a well-behaved crowd of pleasantly dressed gourmands and friendly Danes… including the Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark. I was clearly way out of my league here.
But they fed me some interesting and tasty Danish food. For free! In an outdoor pavilion on a sunny fall day. I can handle that, even if I was nowhere near my favorite lowbrow, high-calorie feeding grounds.
At the first feeding tasting station, a beautiful blonde Dane was passing a plate of soft, round, brown, doughy balls. (See? I told you I was unsophisticated and pig-like.) They were described as smoked bone marrow topped with vinegar powder.
And now I have no idea what I’m talking about. Smoked bone marrow? Vinegar powder? Huh?
It turns out that the soft brown balls were a variation on aebleskiver, a round Danish pancake. The aebleskiver were unreasonably light, with just a hint of the smoked marrow flavor. After eating the brown ball, I realized that my shirt was dusted with vinegar powder, which added a pleasant little undertaste of acidity to my shirt. And to the aebleskiver, which was absolutely delicious.
The first feeding tasting station also featured three cute, dainty bowls of unexpected pickled things: marinated rose petals, elderflowers pickled in apple cider vinegar, and a delicacy described simply as “ram’s capers” by the lovely blonde Dane at the table. I was particularly fond of the capers—they were smaller, crunchier, more intense versions of standard jarred capers… and potentially habit-forming, if I ever have the pleasure of encountering them again.
When I arrived at the next feeding tasting station, a tall, happy-looking man was there, enthusiastically greeting the guests and describing the Danish dishes. His table was absolutely loaded: scoops of potato stuffed with mustard cream, some sliced carrots and Jerusalem artichokes (a mild tuber, reminiscent of jicama) layered with oyster cream, and an insanely tasty little cube of marzipan cake (mazarinkage) topped with vanilla yogurt and a fresh raspberry.
It gets better. The tall, happy Dane was also offering two varieties of smorrebrod, an open-faced Danish sandwich served on astoundingly tasty rye bread. One type of smorrebrod was topped with a delicious liver and hazelnut pate, marinated in aquavit and topped with diced raw kale and apples. The other smorrebrod featured salmon cured in salt, pepper, and juniper, sitting atop a shockingly appealing smear of pureed cauliflower.
I liked the tall, happy Dane. I kept peppering him with questions as I nibbled on the smorrebrod and vegetables, and he answered everything with warmth and enthusiasm. The guy was infectiously likable. Clearly, the guy couldn’t actually be a chef—I worked in restaurants and bars for 12 years, and have seen countless chefs wave a cleaver menacingly in the direction of a waiter or waitress or dishwasher. I’ve met plenty of chefs who make waitresses cry, just for fun. So it was pretty smart of the Danish chefs to hire such a friendly, warm, likable guy to represent the food at this tasting event. But of course, the amazingly nice guy had to be an actor or a hired server, and not actually a chef. Most great chefs are complete dicks. That guy totally couldn’t have been a chef.
Since I’m an unsophisticated pig who wasn’t paying much attention to his surroundings, I had no idea that the smiling Dane serving the amazing smorrebrod was actually Adam Aamann, the renowned chef behind a new retaurant called Aamanns/Copenhagen, opening in TriBecCa in December. He’s a pretty big deal. And he’s totally not a dick.
So I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but I think I might have just accidentally become a fan of a high-flying chef who is about to open a fancy Manhattan restaurant that is way beyond my tax bracket and wardrobe. It’s hard to imagine that I’ll ever replace my favorite hole-in-the-wall feeding stations with a classy place like Aamanns/Copenhagen. But it’s going to be tempting to support a place run by a supremely nice guy who can do some damned impressive things with a loaf of rye bread and a chunk of cauliflower.
Coming soon: Aamanns/Copenhagen
13 Laight Street, Manhattan
Subway: Canal St. (1, 2, A, C, E trains)