Copenhagen was the surprise star of our 2018 Eurotrip. The one I wasn’t expecting to blow me away, but it did. In hindsight, I should have known better. Copenhagen is one of the world’s culinary hotspots, giving way not only to new Nordic cuisine but to an amalgamation of immigrant dishes thanks to the colorful tapestry of Denmark (and nearby Sweden). Both the hyperlocal and the hyperglobal are in full force — it was evident in every corner we (hurriedly) looked.
And that’s just the food. People were out enjoying the day: cars were few and far between, everyone looked like a fashion model on a bike, and well, Danes speak better English than you or I do, so there’s that. At the risk of romanticizing my blink-of-an-eye visit, there’s a joie de vivre I witnessed in Copenhagen that I’ve seldom seen anywhere else.
If I could do it again, I would have spent more time in Copenhagen. Oh, and that hygge craze? Consider me a convert.
Torvehallerne food hall. Think San Francisco’s Ferry Building, but super Nordic.
Smoked salmon smorrebrod at Hallernes Smorrebrod
Danish meatball smorrebrod
Hellefiskceviche, tuntatar, and quinoa salad at Hav Torvehallerne
Norreport: So. Many. Bikes.
Akvavit and tonic at Restaurant Barr, which now occupies the same space as Noma previously did.
Housemade bread. Restaurant Barr’s butter was the creamiest and richest I’ve ever tasted.
Cucumber salad. I wish you could taste this photo. So many new flavors! Like a crisp meadow, in the best way.
The thing about living in California is if you’re going to fly all the way to Europe, you may as well make a week out of it, right? After our celebration-fueled weekend in London, we caught a plane to Split, Croatia, which was our home base for a week. Split’s old town is built quite literally in a palace, but it was our day trips that were the highlight. Hvar Island could have been straight out of an Adriatic fairytale, Plitvice Lakes was just as stunning as Rick Steves always made it out to be (sans the insane crowds — kind of a nature buzzkill imo), and the wineries were homegrown and country, just the way I like it. The photos speak for themselves.
Spinach burek at Bobis in Diocletian’s Palace. The influence of Ottoman culture was evident in so much of the food.
Cevapcici at Kantun Paulina
Putalj Winery, where we sampled Plavac Mali, the forefather of Zinfandel
Pag cheese at Villa Spiza
Salted and marinated anchovies at Villa Spiza
Monkfish at Villa Spiza
Octopus salad at Lungomare Restaurant on Hvar
Homemade pasta with shrimp, truffle, and arugula at Lungomare
The Riva, back in Split.
Homemade tagliatelle with shellfish at Kod sfinge vaneuropske zviri
I hadn’t been to England in nearly a decade so when Nishan’s cousin got married in London this summer, I was excited. Not just for the wedding of course, but at the prospect of sneaking in every clandestine meal that I could during our short trip. You see, the London food scene has changed. The signs were already there during my last visit (hello, St. John’s), but now? No more touristy bangers and mash here, no sir.
I only scratched the surface, but I left London feeling like, wow. This city is bursting at the seams with energy and innovation. And that’s just the food.
The line at Dishoom may snake around the block and the wait may be over two hours, but no matter. Jet lagged and delirious, Nishan and I dropped our bags at the hotel and ran straight to Dishoom, London’s ever-popular Indian spot with a strong 1960s Parsi cafe vibe. From the Cyrus Irani cocktail (recognize!) to the watermelon sharbat, the drinks were delicious and playful. The okra fries and the Dishoom calamari were my favorites (is there any vegetable as maligned as okra?) and the lamb samosa and jackfruit biryani were revelations how even the classics can be exciting again. I don’t know if we needed the gunpowder potatoes or the Dishoom chicken tikka, but I do know that if I lived in London, I’d eat here every week.
Irani cafe culture at Dishoom is strong, from the menu to the “good words, good thoughts, and good deeds” nod to Mumbai’s Irani and Parsi Zoroastrian community at the exit of the restaurant.
One gorgeous wedding later, we spent the next day recuperating before heading to dinner with the newly married happy couple.
Do you want the best Peking duck of your life? Head to China Tang at the Dorchester. We enjoyed a brilliantly prepared banquet-style meal with an emphasis on duck prepared three different ways. Because of the low light, all I have is this photo of China Tang’s riff on a gin and tonic, but you get the picture: all the classics, served in fresh ways.
This time around, food in London kept making me think why didn’t I think of that? And that’s what’s brilliant about it. Their food scene has taken the comfortable, the familiar, and turned it upside down on its head in the best of ways.
I’m warning you now: this recipe is really difficult to pull off, but it also produces one of the most delicious pastas things I’ve ever tasted. In other words, it’s totally worth the hours you’ll spend in the kitchen wondering why you listened to me, cursing me under your breath while attempting to make this dish. Patience, my friend.
Adapted from a recipe by Noah Sandoval, the original version calls for handmade capellini. But, you know, I’m not a magician and producing hair-thin strands of pasta with rye flour (which is quite coarse), was beyond my skillset. I enlisted Nishan to help with the pasta-making (he’s handy with a KitchenAid) and the resulting tagliatelle was perfect.
I don’t recommend substituting regular pasta to accompany the sauce here. There’s something about that earthy rye flavor and the yeasty sauce that results in a vaguely Nordic umami bomb beyond your wildest dreams. Enjoy.
2 cups 00 flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup rye flour
2 tablespoons caraway seeds, ground to a powder
10 egg yolks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 cup black truffle butter
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
Shaved black truffle (optional) and snipped chives, for garnish
1. Sift both flours with the caraway and 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg yolks, whole eggs, olive oil and 1 tablespoon of water. Using a fork, gradually whisk the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until a shaggy dough forms. Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and knead until stiff but smooth, about 15 minutes. Wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature until softened and relaxed, about 2 hours.
2. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and work with 1 piece at a time; keep the rest covered. Press the dough to flatten. Set up a pasta machine to roll flat pasta. Starting at the widest setting, run the dough through successively narrower settings until it’s about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the sheet to a lightly floured work surface and dust with 00 flour. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
3. Set up a pasta machine with a tagliatelle cutter. Working with 1 sheet of dough at a time, gradually feed the dough through the cutter. Gently toss with 00 flour and transfer the tagliatelle pile to a lightly floured baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining sheets of pasta to form 12 piles.
4. In a small saucepan, whisk the cream with 2 tablespoons of water and the yeast and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the yeast is dissolved and the mixture is very thick, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the unsalted butter 1 tablespoon at a time until emulsified, then season with salt and pepper.
5. In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Wipe out the saucepan.
6. In the large saucepan, melt the yeast butter with the truffle butter over moderately high heat. Add the pasta, the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water and toss until hot and evenly coated with the butter, about 2 minutes. Add a little more of the cooking water if necessary. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Top with grated Parmesan and garnish with shaved black truffle, if desired, and snipped chives. Serve immediately.
Growing up, one of my favorite after-school snacks was halvah rolled up with lavash flatbread: simple, sweet, and satisfying. Called halvardeh in Persian, Middle Eastern halvah is ubiquitous these days in well-stocked American grocery stores. But when I was a kid, halvah was precious: we’d make semi-monthly drives from Santa Rosa to San Jose to stock up on Iranian favorites, including halvah, sour cherry jam, lavashak (sour fruit roll ups), and spices and herbs for days.
This halvah-stuffed challah is a grown-up version of my childhood snack and make no mistake about it: this is a weekend project. Adapted from a Food and Wine recipe, this takes the better part of an afternoon to make, and the results are well worth it. This recipe makes two loaves so make like me and freeze one for eating later, when the craving strikes.
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup tahini
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 cups chopped halvah
Sesame seeds and more sugar, for sprinkling
1. Make the dough: In a small bowl, whisk the water with the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes, until foamy.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk 4 of the eggs with the oil and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, pinch of salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom and the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Mix to blend. Add the egg and yeast mixtures and knead until the dough comes together, scraping down the side and bottom of the bowl, about 3 minutes. Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and knead until smooth and slightly sticky, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to an oiled large bowl and cover with wax paper and a towel on top.
3. Make the filling and topping: In a medium bowl, stir the tahini with 1/3 cup of the honey, the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons of water until smooth. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with the remaining 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of water.
4. Preheat the oven to 375F degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Transfer 1 piece to a lightly floured work surface and keep the other piece covered with a damp kitchen towel. Divide the dough on the work surface into 3 equal pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll out 1 piece into a 14-by-6-inch rectangle. Spread 1/4 cup of the tahini mixture on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the halvah over the tahini in an even layer. With a long side facing you, tightly roll up the dough into a log, pressing the seam and ends together to seal in the filling. Repeat with the other 2 pieces of dough, 1/2 cup of the tahini mixture and 1/2 cup of the halvah. Arrange the 3 logs on one of the prepared sheets and braid them together. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and sugar. Repeat with the second piece of dough and the remaining filling, egg wash and toppings. Bake the challahs for about 25-30 minutes on the middle and bottom racks of the oven, shifting and rotating halfway through, until deep golden. Transfer to racks to cool.