The Wyoming native adds, “I formed my cooking style a long time ago.” He says he learned from his grandmothers and mother to eat seasonal foods in abundance and preserve the rest. Bond does not make a big deal about local ingredients. “I’m not even trying to be a locavore restaurant,” he says. “I’m just trying to find the best ingredients that I can and then use them to make the best dishes that I can.”
On the phone from Sweden, Nilsson says he sees what he is doing at Faviken as being distinctly different from the new Nordic mainstream. “I love Noma, we share a sensibility, but it is an urban restaurant,” he says.“What we are doing here is more intuitive and more spontaneous, less controlled.”
Nilsson serves up dish after dish of time and place, most of it cooked over an open fire. That might be matsutake mushrooms with lamb kidney and pickled marigold; live scallops cooked in their shells over burning juniper branches; and a cake made with pine bark. Nilsson grows food in the summer and puts it away for the long, dark winter. He shoots his own wild game from the mountains and gathers mushrooms from the forests.
“The influence of new Nordic cuisine should not be chefs around the world cooking with ingredients foraged in Norway,” says the chef. “It is for chefs to look at what the heck they have in their surroundings and to do the most out of it.”
Portland chef and cooking instructor David Levi would like to do just that. Levi spent a year working in the kitchens of Noma and Faviken and working for master butchers in Tuscany. Now he is planning his own place in Portland. “Maine’s first 100% local food, zero waste, fine dining restaurant. Coming soon,” reads his website, www.vinland.me.
“I want to use what grows in this bioregion,” says Levi. “If I can’t use lemon, I need to replace that acidic element. Obviously I could use vinegar, but the flavor is so strong, so maybe rhubarb, or green fruit, or whey.” To that end, in his Portland kitchen Levi prepares an example: soup made by pureeing farmers’ market turnips with his own homemade yogurt and garnishing the bowls with lightly fermented carrots and fresh herbs and flowers from his small garden plot.
Chefs at Hugo’s are also trying to make the most out of what they have close at hand. “In Maine we have a variety of seafood, and foraged food, and amazing farms, but we are only just scratching the surface of what is possible here,” says chef and co-owner Andrew Taylor.
Sometimes, says Taylor, you see what you’re looking for in the fishmonger’s scrap pile or in fields when the harvest is over. “I’m asking my fish guys for halibut tail, swordfish belly, and Yellowfin tuna collar,” says the chef. “I’m asking farmers for plants on the vine and plants going to seed. We want all the weird stuff that people used to just throw away. It may not be for the average consumer, but for us it has value. It makes our food better.”
Welcome to the new New Englandcuisine.
279A Broadway, Cambridge
88 Middle St., Portland, Maine
Nordic Food Lab
David Levi, email@example.com
Jonathan Levitt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.