Restaurant review: noma

This is my first restaurant review and I think it is necessary because it is for the number 1 restaurant in the world. I haven’t posted in a long, long time because…study abroad. I’m in Copenhagen, Denmark for the fall semester. When I found out that Copenhagen is home to the #1 restaurant in the world, noma, I knew I had to go. The restaurant is known for being minimalistic and serving Nordic cuisine, where all the ingredients are gathered from around the area. Noma has 2 Michelin stars and has been named the best restaurant in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014. They make slight changes to their menu based on the season but there is a set menu of usually 20 courses (very small portions) and the meals are about 3 hours long.

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Reservation

The restaurant, with seating only for 45 people, is known for its extremely long reservations. Typically, you have to book your reservation 2 months in advance and it may be hard even then to get a spot. Our situation was extremely rare and unexpected – my foodie friend Karina was looking at the reservation schedule online and there happened to be an open spot for 2 days later! We thought it was most likely because someone had just canceled. Two days later, we went to noma at 1 pm for lunch. (Their lunch and dinner menus are the same).

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The day of noma

Karina and I were still in shock we got a reservation to noma just 2 days ago. If I had gotten a reservation, I would have expected 2 whole months of anticipation but the fact that we were going was still processing. Neither of us ate anything for breakfast since we were anticipating a huge meal. After class, we took the bus over to noma, which is in Christianhavn. The restaurant was very hidden and discrete. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, in an industrial looking area right next to the water. We got to the restaurant about 10 minutes early but they sat us down right away. There was one little table on the side that was waiting for us, the rest were all filled. The waiters who greeted us were very friendly.

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Appetizers/Snacks

There were 10 appetizers that all came pretty fast, one after another. They were all very smallest samples, about 1 or 2 bites. As soon as we were finished, another waiter would come with the next dish. I could barely keep up with taking photos, eating, and discussing the food with Karina!

Chilled berry soup

Chilled berry soup

Sea urchins and hazelnuts

Sea urchins and hazelnuts

Fried reindeer moss

Fried reindeer moss

Baked leaves with watercress center

Baked leaves with watercress center

Pickled cucumber with ants and a scallop fudge

Pickled cucumber with ants and a scallop fudge

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Beef tartar with ants!

Savory Æbleskiver

Savory Æbleskiver

Flatbread with brown butter and wild roses

Flatbread with brown butter and wild roses

Quail eggs, pickled and smoked

Quail eggs, pickled and smoked

Onion

Onion

Even though there were about 10 appetizers, I did not feel full. My favorite one was the brown butter flatbread with wild roses. It had a sweet, floral taste and was very delicate. Another favorite was the baked leaves and watercress sandwich, that tasted like potato chips. The savory Æbleskiver was another good one – the waiter said it had grasshopper sauce on top of it but we could barely taste it. We had anticipated the beef tartar with ants for a while because it is one of the more famous dishes at noma. I had never eaten ants before but I was pleasantly surprised by a huge burst of flavor. They use ants because it is a natural salt and there aren’t any normal salts in the Nordic region. The acidity of the ants is supposed to balance the beef tartar. Having never tried raw beef before, it was actually not too bad.

Juice Menu

After the appetizers, we had the option of ordering the wine or juice menu along with our main courses. Since the wine was on the more expensive side and because we were not big wine enthusiasts, Karina and I went with the juices. There were 6 juices, all freshly made. Our favorite was the apple and pine juice, followed by the grape juice. There were also cucumber, watercress, and celery and seaweed juices. These tasted less like juices that I was used to since they weren’t sweet (no added sugars!) If I were to go again, I would definitely order the apple and pine juice but not the others.

Apple and pine and grape juices

Apple and pine and grape juices

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Main Courses

In between the appetizers and main courses, we were given a basket of bread with creme fraiche. Of course, it was amazing. The main dishes were bigger portions and came at a much slower pace compared to the appetizers. We were also anticipating the bone marrow, since that was a unique dish that a lot of people are turned off by. It had a surprisingly jelly-like texture that I was not a fan of. The nasturtium flowers were good though! My favorite was the butternut squash since it was such a simple dish and because I love butternut squash. The creamy sauce went perfectly with it.

Bread and creme fraiche

Bread and creme fraiche

Squid in a broccoli sauce, served in an ice bowl

Squid in a broccoli sauce, served in an ice bowl

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

Cured egg yolk, potato, and elderflower

Cured egg yolk, potato, and elderflower

Shrimp ravioli in leaves

Shrimp ravioli in leaves

Beetroot and mixed greens in a parsley sauce

Beetroot and mixed greens in a parsley sauce

Bone marrow, nasturtium flowers, and cabbage leaves

Bone marrow, nasturtium flowers, and cabbage leaves

Dessert (the part you’ve all been waiting for)

After the main courses, we were basically full. The food was all paced out over a long period of time so we were not stuffed and of course, we had room for dessert! I loved all of them but my favorite was the almond cream, mashed potato, and plum compote. This dish truly blew my mind. I tried a little bit of each of the three parts individually, and they were all good alone. Then, I had a spoonful of a little bit of each and together, the combination was amazing.

Frozen aronia berry covered seaweed ice cream

Frozen aronia berry covered seaweed ice cream

Almond cream, mashed potato, and plum compote in plum juice

Almond cream, mashed potato, and plum compote in plum juice

Frozen caramel, Icelandic yogurt, with dried elderflower and salt

Frozen caramel, Icelandic yogurt, with dried elderflower and salt

Danish snegl

Danish snegl

After the meal

We were extremely satisfied with our 3 hour long meal and could still barely believe we were at the best restaurant in the world. Since we were one of the last people to leave, we asked our waiter if we could have a tour of the kitchen. He was happy to let us take a look. When we were brought into the kitchen, all of the chefs happily greeted us. There were about 20 of them, all saying “hi! hi! hi!” The lounge they had upstairs, where they brainstorm new recipe ideas looked really cool.

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Noma was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. There were so many new textures and tastes I have never had before and I found that there were some things I liked and some I didn’t. The service was absolutely flawless and I like how the waiters all rotated so we would have a different one for each of the courses. I also enjoyed that the chefs themselves would serve their own dishes and describe them for us. This was one of the most exquisite food experiences I’ve had and I would recommend it to all foodies who are willing to try something new!

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions :)

Bacon Avocado and Egg (BAE) Sandwich

According to Urban dictionary, the first 3 definitions of the word “Bae” are: 1. Before anyone else, 2. a Danish word for poop, and 3. baby, boo, or sweetie. Definitions 1 and 3 come closest to how my friends and I use the term, although definition 2 may come in handy when I study abroad in Denmark for the next 4 months (!!!). I have just coined another abbreviation for “bae” with a similar endearing connotation….Bacon Avocado and Egg sandwich aka BAE sandwich.

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I can never get enough of my favorite Avocado and Egg Toast but this time I brought it up a couple levels by adding some chipotle powder, BACON, and another slice of bread. Too good. As always, the best part is when the yolk runs and serves as a natural sauce. Warning: it can get messy as you can see from the pictures. The chipotle powder gives the sandwich an extra kick and is highly recommended.

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The preparation for this simple sandwich is approximately 10 minutes. It would probably fit best in the big breakfast/brunch category although I had it for lunch and would happily eat it for dinner too. This BAE sandwich is a must-try and you will see that it truly does go “before anyone else.”

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BACON AVOCADO AND EGG (BAE) SANDWICH
(makes 1)

Ingredients
2 slices bread (I used whole wheat)
1/2 avocado, ripe
1 tablespoon lime juice
salt and pepper
2 strips bacon, crispy
1 egg
2 teaspoons chipotle powder

Directions
Toast 2 slices of bread in a toaster (or on a pan with olive oil).

Scoop the meat of 1/2 avocado into a small bowl and mash. Add lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

In a skillet or toaster oven, cook bacon until crispy. Use a paper towel to soak up excess grease.

In another skillet (or the same one), fry an egg.

Assembly: Spread the mashed avocado on one slice of bread. Sprinkle the chipotle powder over the avocado. Put fried egg on top. Then add bacon strips. Lastly, add other slice of bread on top.

Cut in half diagonally and devour.

Strawberry Icebox Cake

Icebox cake has been on the top of my “to make” list for a looong time. Especially during my no-bake phase, it seemed like the perfect dessert since you don’t need an oven. Now that it’s summer it’s an even better time to make it. Instead of shoving the cake in an oven and letting the heat do all the magic, you let it sit in the fridge over night and the next day it’s ready for you to dig in!

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Cakes can’t get any simpler than this. All you need to do is just stack graham crackers, whipped cream, and strawberries on top of each other. Layer by layer by layer. The berries and cream already taste delicious on their own. But if you let it all sit in the fridge for some hours, the crackers get real soft and meld into the berries and cream into something that tastes like…heaven.

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Seriously, this is one of the best desserts ever. It’s so light, fruity, and the perfect ratio of sour to sweet. I made this cake for a potluck dinner that my friends and I had last weekend. Having never seen or tasted an icebox cake, people were pretty amazed (myself included).

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STRAWBERRY ICEBOX CAKE

Ingredients
1 lb strawberries, sliced
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
16-20 oz graham crackers (3-4 sleeves)

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combined the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract together. Blend on medium-high until stiff peaks form.

Place 2 graham crackers side by side on a plate or pan. Spread whipped cream mixture on the crackers. Top the surface with sliced strawberries.

Repeat until there are no more graham crackers. Spread the remaining whipped cream on top and add strawberries for garnish.

adapted from Chew Out Loud

Chill in fridge overnight and then serve chilled!

Shakshuka

According to Michael Pollan’s well-known book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, 92 cents of each dollar a consumer pays for groceries like apples and carrots goes to the middlemen and retailers rather than the farmers. On the other hand, at a farmers’ market, only 6 cents of that dollar goes to the middle processors. The lesson is – keeping money local by buying more natural and fresh products that came from nearby can benefit both the consumers and producers. :D

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After reading Pollan’s book, I have made an effort to shop at the farmers’ market more often! Last weekend, I bought some fresh tomatoes and Italian sausage at a farmers’ market close to campus. Although foods purchased at a farmer’s market are usually priced higher, this is because they are of higher quality – after all, they typically have more nutrients and less chemicals than those mass produced.

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With the tomatoes and sausage that I bought, I made shakshuka for dinner. Shakshuka is a traditional Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in tomato sauce. It can be eaten for any meal – breakfast, lunch or dinner! To be honest, I had never actually tasted it before but the ingredients I had seemed perfect and it is such an exotic dish I had to try it.

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This recipe takes a lot longer than most of my other ones. There’s a lot of waiting involved – mostly for the eggs to cook. In fact, it probably took about 20-25 minutes for my eggs to fully cook. If you have one, I would recommend covering your pan to make it cook faster!

SHAKSHUKA
(makes 3 servings)

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion
1 clove garlic
Italian sausage
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
3 tomatoes, diced
2 cups tomato sauce
6 stems asparagus, cut in halves
3 eggs
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper

Directions

In a large pan, heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic and sautee until translucent.

Add sausage and cook until browned. Add in mushrooms and cook until browned.

Then stir in tomatoes. Add the tomato sauce and mix well. Add asparagus and cumin and mix.

Using a wooden spoon, create 3 indents in the sauce. Crack eggs into them. Let cook until egg whites are set. (Cover pan to cook faster.)

Season with salt, pepper, and herbs.

 

 

Honey Soy Sauce Chicken Thighs

Throughout the school year, when it came to meats I would buy a rotisserie chicken (already cooked) from the grocery store and cut pieces into a tupperware box to use whenever I needed. This was very convenient (especially for quesadillas, tacos, and salads) but after a while, I got tired of the same flavor and texture.

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I didn’t think I would ever have the time to actually cook chicken and I was limited without having an oven. Now, with more time in the summer and with an oven, I can finally make my own chicken. And it is so worth it (sorry rotisserie chicken).

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These chicken thighs took very little preparation. They were sooo tender and juicy – qualities in chicken that I haven’t experienced recently. I stored the leftovers in the fridge and used them for quesadillas the next day and it still tasted delicious. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve graduated from my store-bought rotisserie chicken days :)

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HONEY SOY SAUCE CHICKEN THIGHS
(makes 4)

Ingredients
4 (2 lbs.) chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl combine olive oil, soy sauce, honey, and garlic. Stir until well mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place chicken thighs in bowl and marinate for 30 minutes.

When ready to roast, place chicken thighs in a pan and roast in oven for 20 minutes.

Take out chicken and brush the tops with the remaining honey soy sauce mixture. Roast for another 15-20 minutes.

 

Patriotic Berry Tiramisu

Because tomorrow is the nation’s biggest holiday of the year, this is a throwback (#tbt) to a dessert I made a  year ago. I meant to post the recipe last year, but never really got to it. This is a strawberry and blueberry tiramisu with a patriotic twist! My mom and I made this one together for a 4th of July BBQ last year and we were proud to see that it vanished in seconds. Even the adults (who usually don’t eat sweets) loved it!

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Making this tiramisu is easier than it looks - it only has 3 parts to it: fruit, cream, and ladyfingers. However, eating it can get complex and may require some thought. Personally, I am picky about the ratio of the 3 parts for each and every bite. There can’t be too much of one ingredient otherwise it will overpower the others. I like being able to taste all the flavors at once so the 3 simple parts become 1 delicious entity, otherwise known as tiramisu.

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Happy birthday America!

PATRIOTIC BERRY TIRAMISU

Ingredients
1 cup strawberry jam
6 tablespoons rum
1 pound mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
28 hard ladyfingers
3 cups strawberries, chopped
Blueberries (optional)

Directions

Mix jam and 4 tablespoons of rum until combined.

Blend mascarpone and remaining 2 tablespoons rum in a large bowl.

Use an electric mixer to beat cream, sugar, and vanilla in another bowl until soft peaks form.

Use a rubber spatula to fold half of whipped cream into the mascarpone and then fold in other half.

One by one, dip ladyfingers into jam mixture and line the bottom of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with them. Spread half the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers.

Use half of the strawberries to cover the mascarpone and fill in any cracks.

Repeat layering with the remaining ladyfingers, jam mixture, mascarpone, and strawberries.

Cover and refrigerate to set.

Easy Turkey Meatballs

I may have forgotten to mention this but after the school year ended, my roommates and I moved out of our dorm into an apartment just for the summer. We’re all staying here at school over the summer for research, jobs, volunteering, and classes. Even though our apartment is still technically a dorm since it’s owned by the university, it has an oven!!!

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Having an oven is like a dream come true for me because it means I won’t have to struggle with finding creative ways to bake in a toaster oven. It was always a bit challenging playing with the toaster oven settings so that it wouldn’t over-bake whatever was inside. Ever since, my cooking/baking opportunities have expanded immensely. I’ve used the oven so often that I can’t go back; I definitely appreciate it after 2 years of being oven-less!

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One of the many dinners I’ve cooked here with the oven are these turkey meatballs. It was actually my first time making meatballs and they were so simple I couldn’t believe I haven’t made them already. There are only four ingredients needed! While they were baking, I quickly made some pesto quinoa with celery. This was by far one of the best meals I’ve made and I definitely see more meatballs in the future :)

EASY TURKEY MEATBALLS
(makes 8)

Ingredients
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg 
12 ounces (3/4 pound) ground turkey
salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and mix until the mixture is evenly combined.

Roll the turkey mix into balls and space them out on the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through (there should be no pink inside, and a thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°F).

Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon

One of my childhood memories from elementary school was a period of time where my family had salmon every Tuesday night. On Tuesdays after school, I had piano lessons and would come back home to freshly baked salmon, the one thing my dad loved to cook. Although my taste buds were still growing accustomed to fish, salmon was my favorite. Back then, we would always have the same teriyaki sauce salmon but as I grew older I realized there are so many different ways to cook salmon.

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For instance, this salmon has a simple 4-ingredient glaze: olive oil, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. It only takes several minutes to prepare and is done in 15 minutes! I had no idea salmon was so easy to make and could taste so good with such little prep. Since I’ve only been cooking for myself, I ate half of the salmon for dinner and saved the rest for lunch to bring to work the next day.

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Salmon is known for its Omega-3 fatty acids which improve brain function. It also contains a lot of protein, amino acids, and vitamins (A, B, D, E). It also speeds up your metabolism, improves memory, and prevents muscular degradation!

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BROWN SUGAR GLAZED SALMON
(serves 1)

Ingredients
6 oz filet salmon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place salmon on a tray covered with aluminum foil. Rub olive oil onto the salmon’s surface.

Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly on top. Then add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Make sure salmon is cooked all the way through before serving it.

Guacamole Deviled Eggs

Today is a special day! It’s June 12th, which means this blog is exactly 1 year old. I first started it because I was so sick of the college cafeteria food I ate every day of freshman year. I wanted to make my own simple, healthy recipes throughout sophomore year since my dorm suite had a kitchen and share these recipes with other students. Although I was still on a school meal plan this year, I definitely cooked more and was a happier diner :) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I cannot believe how far this blog has come in just one year. My Greek Yogurt Blueberry Pancakes recipe went viral earlier and was featured on 2 of my favorite websites Buzzfeed and Greatist. Literally a dream come true. Ever since, there has been so much traffic to this website that I never could have imagined a year ago.

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Of course, none of this is possible without the help of all my supporters – ALL of you who are reading this right now, those of you who subscribed to my blog, any who has commented on/liked a post, my amazing friends who have helped me or watched me cook, and of course, my mom who is the one who has inspired me this entire time. A HUGE thanks to all of you :)

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In celebration of this 1-year anniversary, I have guacamole deviled eggs for you all. Eggs are a symbol of new life and fertility, which is what I hope this next year will bring for this blog. Since it is the summer again, I will definitely have more time and energy to try out new recipes. So thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for more!

GUACAMOLE DEVILED EGGS
(makes 12)

Ingredients
Guacamole (see my recipe)
6 hard boiled eggs
Fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon vinegar

Directions
Boil the eggs: Place the eggs in a single layer in a pot, completely covered by water. Add a tablespoon of vinegar to help keep the egg whites from running out of any eggs that happen to crack while cooking. Bring the eggs to a boil. As soon as the water starts to boil, remove the pan from the heat and leave the pan covered for 12 minutes.

While the eggs are boiling make the guacamole.

One by one, crack and peel open the boiled eggs after they have cooled. Using a knife, slice them in half vertically. Scoop out the yolk with a small spoon.

Fill each half egg with guacamole and top with a cilantro leaf.

 

Chicken Soft Tacos

It’s Taco Tuesday! I have a simple, yet delicious taco recipe for you all today. I got the idea for making tacos when I was at Cape Cod with my mom last week. We had biked an hour all the way to a small Cape restaurant and sat down for some fish tacos and crab cakes. The fish tacos were so amazing that my mom and I decided we had to make them on our own sometime.

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There has always been the debate over eating tacos with a soft or hard shell. The majority of tacos I’ve had in my life (mostly from Taco Bell) were hard shell so I thought that was the only way. Only recently, I realized I’ve missed out on soo much. Biting into a soft taco is such a satisfying moment when the combination of all the ingredients in the taco blend together. Plus, it’s less messy than a hard shell since once you bite into a hard shell, it all falls apart!

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These chicken tacos already require little cooking skills but if you don’t want to cook or want to save time, you can use pre-bought rotisserie chicken. I have found that it is very convenient to buy a large rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and just use some of it whenever I need. All you need to do is just assemble!

CHICKEN SOFT TACOS
(serves 4)

Ingredients
10 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast meat – cubed
1/4 lime, juiced
1/4 cup salsa verde
pinch of salt and pepper
3/4 green onions, chopped
3/4 clove garlic, minced
4 (6 inch) flour tortillas
1 tomato, diced
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 cup shredded cheese
Salsa

Directions
In a medium saucepan, saute chicken over medium high heat for about 15 minutes, until cooked. Add lime juice, salsa verde, salt, pepper, green onion, and garlic. Mix well and let simmer while heating up the tortillas.

Heat an iron skillet over medium heat. Place a tortilla in the pan, warm, and turn over to heat the other side. Or, microwave the stack of 4 tortillas with a paper towel on top for 10 seconds.

Distribute chicken mixture into warm tortillas and top with tomato, lettuce, cheese and salsa.

adapted from All Recipes