by Alex Cheser
Gastronomy student Alex Cheser shares his experiences from last weekend’s event
While the crowd might not have outnumbered the one at the Boston IKEA on a Saturday in September, the very first Smörgåbord Nordic Food Festival debuted with great success. The event is one of many new efforts by The Scandinavian Cultural Center in West Newton to highlight Nordic culture and offer a place for Nordic peoples in Boston to meet and celebrate their heritage and, most importantly, the food.
Scandinavian cuisine, new and old, could be found across the grounds of the Center from the prinskorv station with pølse (sausages) and Swedish meatballs to yellow pea soup served by a man dressed as the Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show. As a ticket holder, you could also sample the scrumptious pastries from The Danish Pastry House and Crown Bakery including coffee breads, macaroons, and the irresistible kringle – that Danish treat of puff pastry, marzipan, butter, and almonds.
By far one of the most exciting parts of the festival were the tasting stations where four Boston area chefs presented their interpretation of New Nordic inspired cuisine. Offerings ranged from vodka cured salmon blinis, the favorite of the other Gastronomy students who attended, to birch smoked Norwegian cod served with a cauliflower puree and finished with a smokey barley-dulse-mussel sauce.
The winner was a dish of salmon two ways by Chef Peter Hansen from The Cottage in Newton, which consisted of hot smoked Norwegian salmon with pickled beets, mustard glaze, and juniper and peppercorn cured Norwegian salmon belly. This was served on a potato pancake with horseradish cream and caramelized apple. According to Juliane Dybkjaer, a new Gastronomy student from Denmark, this dish stayed more in line with older, Nordic home cooking styles while the others were more high end.
The sold out event also hosted several local vendors selling a range of Scandinavian and Baltic products like nøkkelost, sausages, Estonian chocolate, soup mixes, and various troll inspired knickknacks and Christmas ornaments.
If you purchased a Nordic Foodie ticket there were even two more grand events. The first was a book talk by Chef Sami Tallberg, a Finn who is noted for his use of wild herbs in his cooking. His new book, aptly titled The Wild Herb Cookbook, highlights ways to use wild plants like Japanese rose, sorrel, and others. Foraging is a huge component to New Nordic cuisine, and some of the chefs from the tasting stations had even foraged herbs and pine needles for their dishes.
The last event of the day was a salmon cook off between Peter Hansen and Tim Fahy, two of the chefs from the tasting stations, that was judged by Chef Tallberg and two representatives from the Norwegian Seafood Council – a major sponsor of the event and the reason salmon was the biggest ingredient of the day. It was great fun, and Chef Peter Hansen won this competition as well, walking away with the biggest bragging rights of the day.
Hopefully this event becomes a mainstay for the Scandinavian Cultural Center, and more people in Boston can tune into the amazing food inspired by fjords, forests, and marzipan.