Monday, February 22, 2010
COPENHAGEN AND UMAMI
Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and has an urban population about that of Hawaii. This is the city that embarrassed President Barack Obama two times. First, when he tried to convince the Olympic Committee to pick Chicago, and the city came in last. Rio was a resounding winner for 2016. Second, he could have made a perfunctory stop around his Nobel Prize award, but went home, and actually came back a week later to sign a monumental climate change bill. Alas, the Global Warming Summit was a disaster and there was nothing to sign. He should have sent Michelle and Al, as I suggested. Mind you, I voted for Barack, and I'm counting of him and Senator Daniel Inouye to save Hawaii from a local depression.
It is said that 36% of Copenhagenites commute to work on a bicycle. I'm afraid in my two days here I have not seen even one person on a bike. Of course, it has been snowing. Sixty percent of inner city trips in Amsterdam, my next city, occur on bicycles. I bet this is not true in February.
Copenhagen began to happen around the later Viking Age, say 1167, making the city 843 years old. Their harbor helped in gaining commerce. I noticed, though, it is now just about iced over. Skipping all those wars, in 2000, a bridge/tunnel system was built linking the city with Malmo (Sweden), and the two seem to be morphing into one metropolitan area.
The Little Mermaid is the most recognized attraction of the city, and symbolizes Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tail. Andersen frequently stayed at the Hotel D'Angleterre.
Of course, Tivoli Gardens are world famous, although, save for the Christmas period, the amusement park closes for the winter...like now, when I am here.
The University of Copenhagen was founded in 1479, more than a decade before Columbus discovered America. Niels Henrik Bohr obtained his PhD in physics from this university in 1911, going on to win a Nobel Prize in 1922 for his work on electronic orbits and atoms. However, his most important achievement might have been escaping Denmark in 1943 to England, where he provided information to the U.S. Manhattan Project, which he joined. He later became a founding member of the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) and showed great passion in bringing under control the dangers of nuclear weapons. He passed away in 1962 at the age of 77.
Copenhagen is #11 on the Mercer Best Cities ranking and Honolulu is #29, the highest American city. Lifestyle magazine Monocle picks Copenhagen as the second most livable city, with Helsinki as #5. They must not have conducted this survey in February. Honolulu is #11, the only American city in the list of 25.
This is a clean and safe city, but only #18 on the Mercer survey. Of my stops in Europe, Helsinki is #2 to #1 Luxembourg City, and Munich is tied with Copenhagen regarding safety. Can you believe Honolulu, Houston and San Francisco are all, at #40, the safest cities in the USA, with D.C. on the bottom for North America at #107? Regarding infrastructure, Copenhagen is #3 to #2 Munich and #1 Singapore.
My dinner tonight was at Umami, rated #2 in the Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Copenhagen I am carrying around. This Japanese-French fusion restaurant was wonderful, in fact, sorry, Chez Dominique, maybe my best meal ever.
It all started with a Lapostelle Cuvee Alexander Atalayas Vineyard Chardonnay (2008) from Chile (14% alcohol), with a raw salmon massaged with Japanese salts, seaweed, celery and mushrooms. Light, and a good start.
The first three wines were served in Riedel Chardonnay crystal, and Riedel was used for the sparkling water glass and all other wines. From the decor to staffing to stemware, this establishment is all class.
The second wine was a Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2008 from South Africa (14.5% ethanol), slightly sparkling and dryer (drier?), as indicated, apricots and orange peel aromas followed by flavors of almond and marzipan. As I tasted none of the this, I will in the future avoid even writing what was indicated. Interesting, though, that this wine was stated to be best imbibed 7 years after the vintage (thus, in 2015). This second white came with a chicken tsukene (Japanese chicken ball) and vegetable tempura, plus a fish miso soup. Exquisite! So far, and into the future, small portions, so you felt safe eating everything.
Then came a German Urziger Wurzgarten 2006 Riesling kabinett Mosel (9%), heavy bodied and sweetish, but of clear taste. I asked if Kabinett, Spatlese or Auchlese had different alcoholic concentrations, but no one knew. Basically, the wines were carefully selected, but of the lowest possible quality by epicurean standards, save for coming barolo. Excellent, nevertheless, and no one one would have been able to tell the difference if the bottles were not shown.
My main man was Jeremy, and he next came up with a scallops in panko (bread crumbs) with a chiso vinaigrette. By now no one had scraped my table of crumbs, because there was none, but the napkin was too starchy, and no hot towel was ever presented.
The best wine was a Barolo 2005 Bussia (14%) Silvado Bolmida from Italy, astringent, mid-bodied, with a light bouquet, to accompany a U.S. filet and potatoes, topped with youzu soy, whole-grained mustard and butter. Excellent!
To my left were Lars Arne Christensen, Partner of First Treasury, and Mete-Lise Vraa, CEO of Pecura, who might get married and come to Hawaii on their honeymoon. Then again, maybe not, who were nevertheless excellent next table accompanists with good humor and attitude. They are both from Copenhagen, I think. To my right were Israel Meir (of Boston), his boss, Stefanie Michor (Austria) and Siro Perez (Spain) of the Boston Consulting Group, who were friendly and accommodating.
The next pouring was a Nagano Junmai sake (16%) for the unagi, toro/caviar/maguro, and 21 other relatively tiny sushis. I ate the whole thing! Then came a Chateau Picchu (I'm now losing it) 2001 Barsac Sauternes with some dessert, I think. I'm now going by my notes. This sauternes maker is next door to Chateau Yquem (the ultimate, and costs...why bother) and just as good, really, I've now tried both. Maybe even better. They left the Yquem-type wine and the 1.5 liter bottle sake on my table for a long, long time (as they did all the other wines, meaning, I drank too much), but somehow walked back to my hotel in that cold and snow.
Yes, indeed, this was a
great meal. Thank you Chef Suzuki:
Noma, tomorrow, will need to be extraordinary, to beat Umami.
World markets in the Orient shot up today, with Europe also most increasing. The Dow Jones Industrial fell 19 to 10,383, still above the Japan Nikkei, at 10,354. Gold fell $4/toz to $1115 and crude oil remained just above $80/barrel.
Tropical Cyclone Gelane, once a Category 4 monster, began heading for Mauritius, and just fizzled. It is almost gone.