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Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland – Ep 8

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland : flavours of paradise

Episode 8 / 8

Back to Ilulissat.

Ilulissat © Food is a story

Ilulissat © Food is a story

Street life, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Street life, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Dog in Ilulissat, Greenland © Food is a story

Dog in Ilulissat, Greenland © Food is a story

Ilulissat icefjord © Food is a story

Ilulissat icefjord © Food is a story

Puppy, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Puppy, Ilulissat © Food is a story

For my last night, my program ends in a blaze of glory with my table booked at Restaurant Ulo.

Igloo from the Hotel Arctic © Food is a story

Igloo of the Hotel Arctic © Food is a story

Hotel Arctic and its restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

Hotel Arctic and its restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

The foodie part of me is in heaven just thinking about it. The waiter shows me my table, just next to the large window overlooking the fjord and icebergs.

View from the Restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

View from the Restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

Of course, I choose the 5 menu dishes and the wine menu. J The food is really good. A real fine gourmet restaurant experience. Each time the waiter brings me a new plate, it’s another Christmas surprise ! I am ravished by the way it is displayed, the variation of texture in the same dish, the elegant and subtile taste.

Starter, Tasting Menu, restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

Starter, Tasting Menu, restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

Tasting Menu, Restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

Tasting Menu, Restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

My favorite one is the fish head !! There is some René Redzepi’s influence here….A huge fish head served on a big plate with the mouth wide open and the tongue pointing at you. Well in fact, it’s not served like that, it is just shown to you like that. The waiter cuts the cheeks off the fish and puts them in a soup plate. Then, with a lovely coffee pot pours the greenlandic dashi into the plate. I say to the waiter with enthusiasm : “Wow ! I just love the presentation !” He smiles. “What is your greenlandic dashi made of ?” He explains it’s like japanese dashi but with dried fishes from Greenland. It’s delicious. You have the crunchiness of the roasted skin, the exquisite tenderness of the flesh of the fish (melting divinely on the tongue) and the dashi…. Mushrooms with noble bouillon. I feel like a mermaid swimming in the icefjord.

Dressing the fish before pouring out dashi from the coffee maker, Restaurant Ulo, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Dressing the fish before pouring out dashi from the coffee maker, Restaurant Ulo, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Fish head, Tasting menu, Restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

Fish head, Tasting menu, Restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

Fish with greenlandic dashi, Tasting Menu, Restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

Fish with greenlandic dashi, Tasting Menu, Restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

Another dish is brought and the pieces of lamb are so smooth…Just like salted fudge…. Come on ! That’s god damned good ! The red wines are their best partners.

Restaurant Ulo, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Restaurant Ulo, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Some northern lights appear in the sky. The guests stand up and rush to the terrace.

Restaurant Ulo, Arctic Hotel, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Restaurant Ulo, Arctic Hotel, Ilulissat © Food is a story

I go to check outside. Oh yes, here it is ! A very nice green one. We can feel it might get bigger tonight. But I look forward returning to my table and see the new wonder waiting in my plate. The dish looks like “haute couture”. Slices of beetroots and waffled mustard give volume and colours to he plate. Intense purple/red circles, yellow plaques covered with grains standing vertically between big chunks of perfect cooked meat. A red thick sauce makes a yummy curve on the plate. Green light in the sky but even more colours in my plate. Fireworks of tastes explodes in my mouth. All textures in once : raw, cooked, liquid, crunchy….

Meat plate, Restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

Tasting Menu,, Restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

That’s a pity, I can’t finish it because I want to have enough space for dessert. The waiter reads my mind and say : you want to be hungry for dessert ? This waiter has been so nice and friendly from the beginning. I like to joke with him and share my enthusiasm about the plates as he is fuelled with the same energy.

The dessert is made of ultra thin slices of pear with white chocolate icecream and crunchy chocolate biscuit. Very good !

Dessert, Tasting Menu, Restaurant Ulo, Ilulissat, Greenland © Food is a story

Dessert, Tasting Menu, Restaurant Ulo, Ilulissat, Greenland © Food is a story

Dessert, Tasting Menu, Restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

Dessert, Tasting Menu, Restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

The waiter comes and says with a low voice : “If you want to see the northern lights from a better spot, our driver can lead you to the graveyard”. I think he has given me the greenlandic name of a place : “Graveuiaq” and I try to figure out where it can be. I repeat with a strange accent “Graveuiaq”? He says “no” and repeats his word “graveyard” then I realize he was saying an english word and we laugh together !!! I reply : “you know there is a picture that would be more precious to me than one of the northern light but I don’t know if it’s possible. It would be a picture of you, the chef and I”. He asks “do you have time ?” “Of course”. Then he goes to the kitchen. Oh, here are my two greenlandic heroes of the night : my waiter and the chef ready for the picture. So sweet ! The chef puts an arm around my shoulder and the three of us are looking at the camera, smiling.

The waiter, the Chef and I at restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

The waiter, the Chef and I at restaurant Ulo © Food is a story

This journey has been like this dinner, an amazing winter arctic symphony with flavours of paradise.

PS: Remember my desire to meet a fisherman in the harbour and talk to him. Life is generous. On my flight back to Copenhagen, a man was sitting next to me. Guess what ? He was a fisherman from Faroe Islands working in the Disko Bay ! I was watching all the episodes of the short programme “tastes of Greenland” on the flight screen. He was looking at me for a while, smiling. He began talking to me exactly when the episode in Oqaatsut with Ole was starting… My other wish has been realized. Greenland is definitely playful and friendly. Thank you Greenland. I love you.

Episode 7 <

Author : Food is a story

 

 

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland – Ep 7

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland : flavours of paradise

Episode 7 /8

Today is the big day. I packed my stuff for my new destination : Oqaatsut. Breakfast is the last meal shared with my friends. “Bye bye Julia, Gabriel, Marie-Louise and Søren. It has been a real pleasure meeting you. Enjoy your trip, keep having fun !” There is no sadness, we are in Greenland, everyday is a beautiful day !

I jump into the captain’s car and we drive to the harbour. He lifts my suitcase and puts it in his big boat grimacing in pain. I laugh. “I am going to kill you before we sail !! He laughs back. The sky is so blue…. I take a look inside but go on the snowy deck to get the famous freezing air. Let’s sail captain ! Oqaatsut, we are coming !! The boat starts to move….Ole says “hi”, he is in his speed boat and goes before us.

The Captain, departure for Oqaatsut © Food is a story

The Captain, departure for Oqaatsut © Food is a story

Sailing to Oqaatsut © Food is a story

Sailing to Oqaatsut © Food is a story

Ole © Food is a story

Ole © Food is a story

The cruise is amazing. Fishermen boats and icebergs are on our way. We approach the small and quaint village.

Navigation vers Oqaatsut © Food is a story

Sailing to Oqaatsut © Food is a story

Oqaatsut est presque là © Food is a story

Oqaatsut is so close now © Food is a story

Port d'Oqaatsut © Food is a story

Oqaatsut harbour © Food is a story

Arrivée à Oqaatsut © Food is a story

Oqaatsut © Food is a story

No harbour, just a wide ice sheet. The big boat hits it several time before getting over it. The Captain brings a ladder so we can touch the snowy ground. Here I am, in Oqaatsut.

Many little coloured houses, not a sound. Peaceful place.

Oqaatsut © Food is a story

Oqaatsut © Food is a story

Oqaatsut © Food is a story

Oqaatsut © Food is a story

Oqaatsut © Food is a story

Oqaatsut © Food is a story

Ole greets me to Nordlys Hotel. “In 30 minutes, Taqi will be here for your dogsled tour “. I am the only foreigner on that winter day. Wow ! I feel honoured to be here, to get to see this heavenly place I was dreaming of…. I can see Taqi through the window of the hotel living room. He is gathering the dogs, they howl ready to run !! I don’t know it yet but Taqi is about to offer me the best experience of my life ! With Ole, we walk out and get closer to him. I shake his hand and smile. The mayor recommends me to say to the local hunter if I get too cold, in this case I will have to run a little bit to get warmer. “Ok, no problem.” I say goodbye to Ole and sit on the sled. My hands clinging on the middle rope. Dogs are now running, Taqi is running by my side. I am alone in the sled. The dogs are going faster, Taqi keeps running. I look at him and wait for the magical moment when he will suddenly fling himself on the sled. Woooooooooow !

Taqi © Food is a story

Taqi © Food is a story

Taqi is with me now, sitting in front of me. I see his back, his face is turned towards the dogs and the AMAZING LANDSCAPES !!! Mountains covered by snow, and that intense feeling of vastness…. Space, space and space again…. No one around…. Not a single sound but the breathing of the dogs…. Nothing is an obstacle for the sled. We overcome everything, EVERYTHING ! See the big rock there ? Now we are flying over it ! Unbelievable ! The type of ground is very diverse: frozen fjord with soft powder or more compact one, rugged rocky mountain, icy lake…. I am literally astonished. The speed is exciting and my heart is smiling all the way through. I feel so lucky to be here with this local hunter. My eyes would have seen that heartbreaking beauty, it’s such a wonderful gift ! It’s more than a simple excursion. In Taqi’s technique there are so many stories, so many centuries…. The whole story of Greenland is passing through my eyes, my veins…. My heart beats the Greenlandic rythm. The wind slaps my face, the cold hurts my eyes but I have never been happier in my life ! I study Taqi’s way of driving the sled. He has no whip, he whispers words to his dogs. His voice is warm and reassuring. When the order is not followed, he repeats it firmly with the same warm voice and dogs follow the directions. There is harmony between them. Dogsled is very physically demanding. Sometimes Taqi gets off the sled, pushes the sled to help the dogs, runs with them. When I write “run” I mean at high speed, Taqi is as good at race as his dogs. I am impressed !

I scrutinize him…. When the sled takes a downhill, dogs are still very fast but we have to slow down not to crash, Taqi uses his feet as a natural brake. His feet bump into rocks, slide on ice but are very efficient. I would like to capture that magical moment but I can’t, I have to let it go and let the wild nature take it back. Nothing is mine here, but generosity is everywhere. One can catch lots of beautiful moments when travelling but as a fish they will flipp through ones fingers… Nothing lasts, that is why maybe I want to tell you about my journey, to keep these days a little bit longer with me. But I can’t… They are yours now. Fishes can jump, just like stories : from one head to another one.

Episode 6 <    > Episode 8

Author : Food is a story

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland – Ep 6

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland : flavours of paradise

Episode 6 / 8

New morning in Ilulissat. Lucky me ! I enjoy my breakfast eating danish pastries watching icebergs. Can’t get used to write that. Icebergs for breakfast. Greenland for breakfast. My mind is counting all these amazing combinations when I see Søren and Marie-Louise coming for breakfast. Oh yeah, one more ! Ha ha ha. They ask how was my evening and I ask them how was theirs. Oh boy, listening to them I realized I missed the most beautiful northern light ever ! There was even a touch of purple into it ! They saw it from the hotelroom window ! Really ? At what time ? Oh I was in the bar and then sleeping…. Too bad. A few minutes ago, another bad news was hitting me. Ole Dorph, the mayor of Oqaatsut announced we couldn’t sail this morning to this little village as it was planned because of the bad weather. We will see what the chances are for tomorrow morning, he will call me later on today. I keep on enjoying my danish pastries watching the icebergs. I am in Greenland, nothing bad can happen, it’s impossible.

The group goes hiking, I stay at the hotel writing postcards, dreaming, waiting for the phone call hoping a green light for tomorrow.

Dessin, Hvide Falk Hotel, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Drawing, Hvide Falk Hotel, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Tableau, Hvide Falk Hotel, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Painting, Hvide Falk Hotel, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Going to Oqaatsut is a major part of my Greelandic dream. This small village has been on my mind for many many months. I was not picturing going to Greenland without being there ! Hours go by, no news… I call back, Ole says he will give me a ring around 18:00. Here comes the group again. The sky is grey today for the first time since our arrival. Hello my friends, how was the hike? Søren and Marie-Louise tell me that they booked a table at Mamartut tonight after hearing me talking about the restaurant. Wow ! I am surprised and happy to hear that. What about going back with them ? Marie-Louise reads the thought passing through my mind. “Would you like to join us ?” – ” I would be very tempted” I reply with a giant smile and a greedy expression on my face. “Okay, let’s go together and add me in your booking, I can’t wait to eat there again”

A few minutes before my rendez-vous with Søren and Marie-Louise, the receptionnist of the hotel tends the phone to me. It’s Ole. I catch the receiver crossing my fingers (yes with the same hand, ladies and gentlemen !). We will sail tomorrow ! SAIL TO OQAATSUT !!! I am so soooooo happy. I wanna kiss Ole and the receptionnist. Here come Søren and Marie-Louise, I give them the good piece of news. They are sincerely happy for me even if that means we will say goodbye to each other tomorrow morning. Let’s enjoy our last evening together.

Restaurant Mamartut, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Mamartut restaurant, Ilulissat © Food is a story

When we arrive in Mamartut, the danish couple is seduced by the cosiness of the place. I am really pleased they like it. They are curious about my greenlandic trip which is a bit different from theirs. My friend Kasper has made a very nice program with a culinary touch and a focus on the local life. I say that people don’t think about going to restaurant when they think of Greenland, they mostly think of icebergs and northern lights. They nodd. They wouldn’t have imagined finding these kind of restaurants here. According to me, this island is actually the ideal place. Animals (reindeers, musk oxen….) have a wild life, it’s beyond organic food. You can’t have better products. No pesticides, no antibiotics, we don’t even remember what it tastes like without those awful things. Fishes are not stuck in huge ponds as in Norway, their flesh are so tender, berries are picked in the mountains, angelicas leaves picked up by hand as well. Here people still live from hunt and fishing. Greenland tastes like freedom. In a few years, Greenland is a destination that will count in the gourmet world, I can bet on it. I feel this energy and their love for good food. Greenlanders don’t have this cultural gastronomy background yet but it will come, they have always eaten good and healthy food. See what happens to Denmark with the great René Redzépi, the same will happen to Greenland. Who will be the leading man or woman?  That will be interesting to track.

Søren and Marie-Louise are intrigued by my passion for Denmark and danish language. So they decide to have the dinner in original version without subtitles. Ha ha ha ! Hard to follow but I love it ! I recommend them the wonderful kir and I go for the whale carpaccio again.. Søren and Marie-Louise choose an italian red wine. I am curious and would love to taste it so we order a bottle. I like the liberty of the chef, he is no posh at all He says it is ok to have red wine with the whale as long as I enjoy strong red wine. Let’s try. There is one thing in the world I really love : tasting thing ! The wine is delicious. Well done my friends, very good choice. I can see that food is as important to me as it is to them. We laugh a lot. They speak in danish and I reply in english. We laugh again. I don’t know yet that choosing the dessert will be a tricky part. Marie-Louise is coaching me for getting the perfect danish pronounciation to order my “Pandekager med orangesauce og iscreme”. But the worst is to come :ordering her own dessert called “Æbler bagt med kanel og hasselnødder serveres med vanilje fløde.” Wow, a very long sentence but she is a good teacher. Søren takes my camera and records the scene. Oh my ! The chef understands me and each person has the correct dessert in his or her plate. They say they are going to put the movie on facebook or send it to Kasper ! Ha ha ha ! I am a dead girl now. Fortunately, the yummy pancakes make me forget the threat. It is another marvellous evening in Greenland. We leave the restaurant saying goodbye to the chef. Outside, it’s a snowy storm. Yihaaaaaaaaaah ! We can’t see anything and we have to guess where the road is. Søren is playful and mischievous. Staying in the background, he throws some snowballs at us ! Oh, boy ! Oh, you wanna play that game ? Let’s release the naughty girl in me ! I run with Marie-Louise and try to hurry to take a huge amount of snow in my hand. Now, I am going towards my ennemy without fear (well, almost) and I shooooooooot ! Argh…. the target is missed. Run Marie-Louise, run !!! Road is slippery, we almost fall. Our laughters emerge from the night. No northern light but the sweetest sound ever !

Episode 5 <    > Episode 7

Author : Food is a story

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland – Ep 5

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland : flavours of paradise

Episode 5 / 8

A good night sleep. First thing to do in the morning here : draw the curtain to see the splendid view over the fjord. I would be a fool to get tired of this. I enjoy looking at the little houses down the hotel, at the fjord and the icebergs, noticing the back and forth of fishermen boats. And I can’t help opening the door to get this freezing air that I love so much. Inside it’s always too warm for me, I like to feel the cold touching and kissing my cheeks before starting the day. And for today, wind will be at its best because I am going on the icefjord cruise !! I think I am ready by adding one pair of silk and one pair of wool socks to the previous ones + one extra legging and a white chapka. I look like I have a rabbit crashed on my face because my fur hat is too big for my head and the two sides of the chapka cover not only my ears but also my face…. Ha ha ha ! At least the rabbit corpse will see loads of icebergs today. Likewise.

Let’s go to the harbour. This place is one of my favorite spot in Ilulissat. It looks like the starting point of everything, every dreams…

Port d'Ilulissat © Food is a story

Ilulissat harbour © Food is a story

Port, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Harbour, Ilulissat © Food is a story

The weather is terrific ! Blue sky, no clouds, sun is shining and the boat is purring. The cruise begins…The waves are playing with the boat. I try to dance with them by letting my whole body feels each of their move without opposing any extra energy. My knees are slightly bending to go with the rythm, the sea rythm. A divine massage. So relaxing. And the nature keeps my mind mesmerized by visions of impressive icebergs. They are all around us, all different : shape, size, texture, colour, personnality. Like fingerprints, all originals. Some are polished and shine, others are rough and rugged. Some others are smooth as silk and they make you want to slide on their downhill… Colours are everywhere : intense white, blueish-white, stripes of turquoise… lined up by the blue water. Their shape is always a surprise : a hole over here, a flat top there, straight cut / curves /vertical cracks / snow “boulders” at the bottom. Greenland loves land art!

It’s bitterly cold, most of the tourists are now inside the boat to have a cup of tea and get warmer but a few of them are still on the deck admiring the icy scenery. I am one of the few who stays outside. My feet are freezing but I want to have the most out of it, enjoying every minute, each second until there is no time left. I came to savour Greenland with my eyes, my heart, my lips, my tongue. With my whole body. I want to know all its flavours. Greenland, I have been waiting for you, longing for you. Here I am now, smiling at you and listening to your very own song : the winter arctic symphony…

Iceberg © Food is a story

Iceberg © Food is a story

Baie de Disko © Food is a story

Disko Bay © Food is a story

Iceberg, Baie de Disko © Food is a story

Iceberg, Disko Bay © Food is a story

Iceberg © Food is a story

Iceberg © Food is a story

Iceberg © Food is a story

Iceberg © Food is a story

Icebergs © Food is a story

Icebergs © Food is a story

Icebergs © Food is a story

Icebergs © Food is a story

Back to the harbour. The cruise is over. I take a stroll. Taking a stroll in Ilulissat means going up and down, there is no flat road. A never ending roller coaster of some sort is the DNA of the town.

Ilulissat © Food is a story

Ilulissat © Food is a story

Ilulissat © Food is a story

Ilulissat © Food is a story

Time to go back to the hotel to meet my friends for the dinner. Table booked at Mamartut for 19:00. The greenlandic name means “it tastes good”. Such a perfect name! It ravishes my appetite J We are welcomed by the danish cook and owner Kim Pedersen ! I like the chef’s hat and the style of his restaurant.

Kim Pedersen, Chef et propriétaire du restaurant "Mamartut" à Ilulissat © Food is a story

Kim Pedersen, Chef and owner of « Mamartut » restaurant in Ilulissat © Food is a story

Cosy with a greenlandic decoration.We feel at home right away. I am hungry for modern greenlandic cuisine and am mouth watering with the menu card : “Gabriel and Julia, what about an apéritif ? A crowberry snaps ?” The chef says the berries are picked up in these mountains, close to the restaurant. I will definitely go for that one. Julia follows me. I want to swallow Greenland tonight. Skål ! Kasugta ! Cheers !

Snaps à la camarine noire, Mamartut, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Crowberry snaps, Mamartut, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Let the greenlandic beverage makes his way through my body and lightly clouds my brain. Julia informs the chef that she is vegetarian. She can’t eat fish. The cook replies : “Ok, but what about the meat ?” Puzzled by his question, Julia repeats she can’t eat fish as she is vegetarian. The chef insists with a serious expression on his face “Ok, but what about the meat ?” This makes me laugh out loud for several long minutes !! So unexpected. That was excellent ! Very Monty Python’s Flying circus humour style ! LOVE it ! Great introduction. After his joke, he says next time “please inform me before so I can anticipate”. Julia adds : “if you have pasta and tomatoes, it will be perfect”. Kim Pedersen thinks over and says, “just let me see what I have.” A few seconds away and he already comes back from his kitchen. “Ok, let me think”. We can literally see his idea popping into his head. “I’ve got it : I will make a soup with pumpkin adding this with that [bla bla bla]”. I can’t remember the whole description but it sounded amazing and extremely yummy. I say : “We all want to be vegetarian now !”. That was the first time someone was doing so much efforts to please Julia’s vegetarian palate. Impressive and very nice. We hear him cooking in the kitchen, a beautiful sound ! I am crazy about food and love to hear this tune instead of the awful microwave’s bip bip alarm. I like to hear food frying in the pan, the sound of a deglazing. Saucepans bumping into each others. The soup comes and the scent of it makes my nose vibrate with pleasure. Wow ! Julia tastes the dish and she invites me to try as it is so good. I lift the spoon to my open mouth and close my lips swallowing the hot liquid. Wow ! That is god damned good ! Gabriel and me suggest the chef to put it on the menu next time.  My whale carpaccio with marinated angelica is also excellent and the white wine selected by the chef goes so well with it.

Carpaccio de baleine, Marmatut, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Whale carpaccio with angelica, Marmatut, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Gabriel can’t help himself asking about chances to spot northern lights tonight. The chef says, “Uh, let me see”. All of a sudden, we see him leaving the restaurant and closing the door behind him. There are only us in the room. No chef anymore. Where is he ? What is going on ? I smile amused by his strange attitude. He comes back from outside and says : “chances are pretty good, clear sky with stars”. Oh, he was outside, looking at the sky… I roar with laughter, this guy is so funny.

We keep on chatting and enjoying the food when the chef calls : “northern light “! We all rush outside and see the green curve up in the sky. Good timing, the dinner is at its end, we pay the bill and thank him for this sweet and funny evening before dashing out again. Gabriel runs towards the hotel to get his tripod and Julia and I walk down the hill and just stop to lay down on the comfortable snowy ground to watch the arctic light show. It feels so good. The northern light is dancing and strecthing in front our very eyes. A beautiful colored stripe among the stars…. When it goes away, the night is not over. I have planned to go listening to live music at “Naleraq” and Julia is willing to come with me. We stand up, wipe out the snow from our ski trousers and head to the local pub. There is a very small fee for the entrance ticket (20dkk). Not many people around, it’s a bit too early (23:00) but the young greenlandic group is already playing rock music on the scene. Very nice ! We choose our table, take off our jackets and enjoy being here. Julia says : “it’s great! A very local experience. I am glad to experience that“ Yes, that is so true. That was exactly what I was looking for.

What about drinking a mojito ? We go to the bar and ask the very very young barmaid. He looks like he’s 14 years old. He has no idea of what a mojito is, looks at the drinks menu and doesn’t find it. We are amused to see him so puzzled and lost, I think he is amused too by our strange request. He calls an older woman (his mother ?) sitting in the room, she comes closer and says we don’t have mojito but here is our cocktails list. When I look around in the big room, I can see that bottles of beer are everywhere on the tables but cocktails are not quite popular. Anyway, we pick up a cockail randomly among the names hoping it will not be too sweet. The greenlandic woman is very friendly and serves our drinks with a huge smile. We go back to our table beating time to music with our feet. The singer has a really warm voice and….Oh oh oh ! He wears the Mojo Blues Bar København tee-shirt !! Come on, this is my favorite live music bar in Copenhagen ! I was there again having fun just before my departure to Greenland ! Sometimes in life things are moving in circle and it’s fantastic ! I recommend that place to Julia as I know she and Gabriel will spend days in the danish capital after their greenlandic trip. The room starts to get packed with people. We seem to be the only tourists tonight. Greenlandic faces everywhere, smiling. We are on Friday, last day of the working week so everybody wants to enjoy. A feeling of feast is in the air ! People are dancing on the dancefloor. No inhibition, just the joy to move with the rythm. Free as birds. One, not so young, couple starts a very very sensual dance. Happiness in their heart. Alcohol has already made some heads turn upside down and two people are falling asleep in their chairs…. Julia and I have probably drank much more than some of them but their body is less resistant. A man doing the security keeps eye on them to be sure everything will be allright. They are not violent at all but I guess the fear is that they loose consciouness and sink in an alcoholic coma. This is also one of the major problem in Greenland, alcoholism. Julia and I think it is a bit sad when we see them like that. But who am I to judge ? French people are no better. In France, we are the first ones in the world to shoot ourselves with anxiolytics and antidepressants to reduce psychological pain. So I decide to stop feeling this sadness. How do I know what is good for people or not ? I don’t have that power. They have. The only thing that I can say is that in this room there are smiles everywhere and people are willing to communicate. Two women sit next to my table. Julia is at the bar. They begin to talk to me. I see their faces happy when I tell them in danish that I come from France and my friend from Brazil. They say their names, I tell mine. I add I love Greenland. I wish I could say more. Not a lot of spoken words have been pronounced. They shake my hands, our eyes are trapped into each others for a second that seems much longer as if the time has stopped. Joy between us. Pure joy. Heart to heart communication. The purest one.

Julia is a bit tired. We decide go back to the hotel. But before I ask if she would mind going with me to Murphy’s discotheque ? Just to take a quick look inside. I have heard it was for younger people but I am too curious… She agrees. Oh Julia, you are so great ! Let’s open the door of that place. Music is indeed for younger ones. The bar looks nice. Some light spots add some colours to the room. People are young locals. One of the greenlandic girl is dancing a kind of pole dance without the pole ! The man who is with her leaves the dancefloor and she keeps on dancing alone. Very involved in her dance ! Now it’s time for us to go.

In the Hvide Falk Hotel corridor, we wish each other sweet dreams. I close my door, look at my watch : it shows 02:00. Oh it is that late !

Episode 4 <     > Episode 6

Author : Food is a story

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland- Ep 4

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland : flavours of paradise

Episode 4 / 8

Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Departure for Ilulissat this morning.

Sign at Kangerlussuaq Airport © Food is a story

Sign at Kangerlussuaq Airport © Food is a story

Flight is delayed but finally we are going. People queue to enter the plane and are ready to run to get the best window seat. It looks like we are in Harrod’s shop in London on the first day of sales. I must admit the view is awesome and Harrods can not compete with that !

Vue aérienne, Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Flight view, Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Vue aérienne, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Flight view, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Pilote de la compagnie Air Greenland © Food is a story

Air Greenland Pilot © Food is a story

To watch the icebergs, go to the window on the left, to watch the town, go to the window on the right. And if you want to kiss the pilot, well, be creative and don’t forget to send us the picture !

Wow, Can I say Ilulissat is a shock ! Not because of its beauty, I would lie to you writing that. First impression : crowded ! I would have never thought saying such a non sense thing for a town of 4 530 unhabitants when you think I work in Paris, a city of 10 millions unhabitants ! But compared to Kangerlussuaq, it is like entering a megalopole ! Many cars and people walking on the roads. The harbour full with boats. And even a sense of city stress. Ha ha ha ! Two days spent in Kangerlussuaq were enough to loose my mind.

Port d'Ilulissat © Food is a story

Ilulissat harbour © Food is a story

Ilulissat church © Food is a story

Ilulissat church © Food is a story

Dog in Ilulissat © Food is a story

Dog in Ilulissat © Food is a story

Iceberg, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Iceberg, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Snowmobile , Ilulissat © Food is a story

Snowmobile , Ilulissat © Food is a story

With the group, we arrive in Hotel Hvide Falk. This hotel is a gem. I like its greenlandic decorations : polar bear skin on the wall, a small kayak hunging on the ceiling, a piano in the breakfast room… Cosy and welcoming.

When I open the door of my room, I am astonished by the view.

Chambre avec vue, Hvide Falk Hotel à Iulissat © Food is a story

Room with a view, Hvide Falk Hotel, Iulissat © Food is a story

A large window and a balcony overlooking the fjord and its icebergs. Dreamy postcard. But time to go outside and get to know the “huge city” with a “city tour”. Each time I will be passing the harbor of Ilulissat, I have this irrepressible desire to go on a boat tour with a fisherman and see his work…. I like the smell of the sea, the wind that just freezes you when you are onboard. And I love eating fishes too. Sailors have an intimate relationship with the sea, they are close to nature and simple things. I would love to chat with them and get to know their life.

Our guide Christian shows us everything : the famous Knud Rasmussen museum, the church, the bars and cafés, the many kindergarden, the Santa Claus sled with its giant letterbox (oh yes, Santa Claus is not from Finland but from Greenland, you should know that otherwise your wishes list will not arrive at the right address. And it will be too bad to have no gifts at all for Christmas….Think about it for next winter).

Musée Knud Rasmussen, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Knud Rasmussen museum, Ilulissat © Food is a story

It’s already 14:00. With Julia and Gabriel, we are starving and eager to get lunch at Hvide Falk restaurant. I go for fish of course.

Dîner au restaurant du Hvide Falk Hotel, Ilulissat © Food is a story

Dîner au restaurant du Hvide Falk Hotel, Ilulissat © Food is a story

My friends ask me to choose the bottle of white wine so I pick up the Pouilly Fumé with a certain pleasure. The food is delicious. We drink to Greenland. After that, we go on our own supermarket tour to get to see the local products. Julia and Gabriel dive into the supermarket shelves…when I go straight to the biscuits. Back to our hotel, they invite me in their room to share a bottle of white wine. This couple knows how to enjoy life and are so friendly. So here I am with them, holding a glass of golden wine in my hand whereas my eyes are set on the icebergs floating in the fjord . Isn’t it amazing ? Am I dreaming ? We chat and laugh sitting on beds or chairs. They tell me about their life in Brazil and the insecurity they have to deal with every single day…. Being on vacations abroad is a real relief for them. The day slowly turns into night and we open another bottle. Northern lights are, of course, one of our favorite topics as it is Gabriel’s dream. What about the chances tonight ? The best spot to be? I notice Sœren and Marie-Louise, the danish couple, on the balcony. They are looking at the sky. Sœren is also here for the northern lights. I open the window and touch them by surprise. Would you like to join us inside, we have a good bottle of wine ? Now we are five in the room. Gabriel and Julia display their supermarket finds on the table and I rush to my room to bring back the dessert : biscuits and candies. Gabriel opens another bottle and we laugh even more. I talk about my love and fascination for Denmark and danish language (one of my personal favorite topic with food). We laugh and drink some more. Julia talks about politics. This is such a lovely evening. We didn’t know each other until our arrival to Greenland and it feels like we are so close at that moment. I love that international exchange : how it is to live in Brazil, Denmark and France. What are the things that make us different or the same… Night has fallen onto Ilulissat and I can feel that my friend’s are falling asleep. It’s hot inside and I try to motivate the room for a northern light chase. I need to feel the cold air again. Marie-Louise is too tired to follow this time, she goes to her bedroom. But I am not giving up. “Come on guys, are you in ?”

Julia asks me how I do to be in such a good mood all the time, “you are never tired ?”

– “Hey we are in Greenland, I wanna dance with the northern lights ! Come with me !” I add murmuring “And white wine never makes me sleepy, never

They laugh. That’s the start of a victory against tiredness. Actually, Gabriel puts on his special fur clothes and Julia tries to open her eyes to get out of the room ! Sœren was easier to wake up, he is already in the corridor with me waiting for the brazilian couple to join our nordlys expedition. Yihhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah ! We are out, heading to the old heliport. Guys are so fast now, what’s going on ? Julia and I are walking slowlier. I got to say Julia is holding a tripod. Once up the hill, Sœren and Gabriel climb the mountain. With Julia, we just lay down on the rocks watching the sky. We keep on chatting when suddenly here it comes : the northern light ! Julia calls for Gabriel but no reply. After many tries, we decide to climb the mountain and join the male team. The northern light is quite pale and green but it is there. Then, it disappears. We wait and it’s getting colder and colder. Gabriel and Julia are laying on the old heliport wood structure watching the sky while Sœren and I are standing up. I try to detect a new northern light but there is nothing more. Sœren points out the stars and tells me about the constellations. Suddenly the sky is animated by something different, no northern lights but all kind of figures from ancient times. I was to chase something precise and I got something else as magical. Thank you Sœren for that moment. And keep saying in english “sundown” instead of “sunset”, it is so charming. Time to go back to the hotel, I am too cold this time. Julia and Gabriel are the braves ones, they stay waiting for a new northern light to come.

Episode 3 <      > Episode 5

Author : Food is a story

 

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland – Ep 3

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland : flavours of paradise

Episode 3 / 8

Back to Old Camp for another thrilling adventure. Direction : the ice cap ! We are lucky to have the heliski local guide Adam with us. He is passionate about photography and promises we are going to see some amazing wonders with him… On our way, we see some reindeers in the mountains and Adam stops the four wheel drive bus so we can take pictures. We can see the blue/white horizon of the ice cap… But we will have more…

Renne à Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Reindeer, Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Adam parks the bus nearby and gives us some ski poles to prevent slides. Let’s walk on the ice side now… We walk towards a giant and massive blueish icy wave as if the move of the wave had been stopped and frozen all of a sudden by a strange charm…

Russel glacier © Food is a story

Russel glacier © Food is a story

We keep walking and…. OH MY ! What is this ??? Where am I ? Am I on the Krypton planet with Superman ? I can’t believe my eyes ! I have never seen something like that before…. WooooooOOoooOooW !! We are walking around impressive and huge icy sculptures. They emerge from the ground. Some are like tunnels leading to mysterious paths…So many colours (green, blue, white, turquoise, even a bit of black), shades and forms covered on top by the immaculately white snow. Some of them play drum. I swear. The ice is talking to us if we care to listen. Can you hear it ? Cracks, grinding… I like your music, keep on playing. My heart echoes to this captivating tune by its own beating rythm. Boom, Boom, Boom… It beats even faster now trapped in that heavenly vision, hypnotized by the beauty. Ice sets fire in my body, can you believe that ?

russelglacier1

Russel Glacier © Food is a story

Glacier Russel © Food is a story

Russel Glacier © Food is a story

Russel Glacier © Food is a story

Russel Glacier © Food is a story

Glacier Russel © Food is a story

Russel Glacier © Food is a story

Russel Glacier © Food is a story

Russel Glacier © Food is a story

Russel Glacier © Food is a story

Russel Glacier © Food is a story

GlacierRussel

Russel Glacier © Food is a story

Adam has fun shooting pictures and showing us his secret garden.. He looks like a Vogue or Vanity Fair photographer with the ice striking the pose… Amazing moment ! Oh man, OH MAN ! I LOVE being in Kangerlussuaq !! It’s time to get back to the bus and take the road to the Ice Cap. Musk oxen on the way, up in the moutain !

Bœuf musqué © Food is a story

Musk ox  © Food is a story

This day is just as crazy as can be. My eyes have witnessed so many wonders that the pictures of the previous icy scultpures are still stuck on my retina. Instead of the common image of dollars popping into cartoon’s characters eyes, mine have more precious items : greenland’s landscapes…. They can make you shiver and faint with happiness. A warmth inside that doesn’t leave you. I feel so high that seeing the ice cap and not being able to walk on it because time is running is not even a problem.

Igloo près de la calotte glaciaire © Food is a story

Igloo in the vicinity of the Ice Cap © Food is a story

We must go back to the bus but my mind has been blown away. Thank you Adam for this unbelievable discovery. I will never forget it.

Here we are in Old Camp again. Feeling hungry ? Follow me to the restaurant, jump into the bus with me. The building is shining in the night, decorated by many lights inside. The chef of Roklubben is very proud to introduce his gigantic greenlandic buffet.

Buffet groenlandais au Roklubben, Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Greenlandic buffet in Roklubben, Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Buffet groenlandais (carpaccio de baleine et mattak) © Food is a story

Greenlandic buffert (whale carpaccio and mattak) © Food is a story

It’s my turn to get closer to the buffet with my empty plate and feel my mouth watering. So many dishes (shrimps, whale, musk oxe, halibut…. and….Oh is it possible ? Yes, you, right there, the aesthetic ones in the salad bowl. I was hoping to find you and taste you but was not sure where to find you…. And you’re laying there in front of me as a Christmas surprise. Gosh ! Such a lucky day today. Tonight I am going to find out what you taste like, my dear Mattak. J I have kept an empty plate just for you, you are my royal guest. Let me admire you.

Mattak © Food is a story

Mattak © Food is a story

How elegant you are ! This touch of black and white almost like a new domino game intrigues me (“ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony” would sing Stevie Wonders). Fat and skin. I put you in my mouth. I have heard you have to be chewed for a long time. Hmm. The fat is a bit harder than I thought but also tender at the same time. Curious game you are playing. The fat begins to melt on my tongue. Now I got you ! I can feel your taste… You remind me of…almond ! Isn’t that crazy ? I ask Gabriel to taste the mattak and give me his impressions. How would you describe it to someone who has never eaten that ? He chews and chews…. seems he has no idea. I wonder if his brazilian food culture can bring something new on the table. Don’t you think it tastes like almond ? I see his eyes getting wider. “Almond ?” He chews with excitement : “Oh yes ! Almond ! You are right ! It tastes like almond ” One more chew and then I can see he throws the mattak away from his mouth and puts it on his plate with a little grimace on his face. Ha ha ha ! That was unexpected but very funny !

It’s never good to be too lucky on the same day so no northern lights tonight for our special northern lights excursion. But in a way, we have seen one tonight. Some people say they hear them but I can promise you they can also be tasted. No, I am not fooling you around. Have you ever drunk the greenlandic coffee ? It is flamed with Grand Marnier : and the northern light pours into your glass each time. 100% guaranteed whatever the weather or the season. This is my tip for real nothern lights hunters. :p But don’t try to see too many of them on the same night, you can have a headache the day after.

Café groenlandais © Food is a story

Greenlandic coffee © Food is a story

Episode 2 <   >Episode 4

Author : Food is a story

 

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland – Ep 2

Winter Arctic Symphony in Greenland : flavours of Paradise

Episode 2 / 8

This morning, the alarm clocks rings quite early and I have never been so happy to hear that sound. The night has been very nice with a green dancing northern light.

It is still dark outside but I will get to know you better, my dear Kangerlussuaq, from the inside. Walk through your mountains, slide on your frozen fjord, and try to watch your wonder musk oxen… Coming with me are Julia and Gabriel from Brazil. We are about to hike with an amazing local guide : Jens-Pavia. Our taxi driver is waiting for us outside, I am ready and shout “Come on guys, let’s jump into the car. This day is going to be CRAZY ! “ Smiles are on all our faces, hearts are light. I know the guide’s background and I so look forward to meeting him and feel honoured to share time with such a master of the wild. Julia and Gabriel are in the same spirit. On our way to the meeting point, we laugh with the greenlandic driver. He is so willing to chat with us. I try few words in danish and he teaches us some greenlandic stuff. It seems everybody is so happy at 6am in that remote place. Nice. Here comes Jens-Pavia. Fast handshakes and introduction and we all go back into the taxi again to be driven to the starting point. Now that’s it. Here we are. The night is slowly turning into day with a beautiful blue light that unites sky and snowy mountains. Peaceful landscape. Another lovely monochrome. Greenland likes modern art. The snow gives us the most beautiful light ever. We feel encircled by harmony. The landscapes are so vast, we have so much place and no one around. Wild nature just for us on that awesome morning. Jens-Pavia opens his backpack and gets his binocular out of it. He sits on a rock and looks far out searching for musk oxen hints.

Jens-Pavia looking out for musk-oxen in Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Jens-Pavia looking out for musk-oxen in Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Jens-Pavia in Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Jens-Pavia in Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

“Well, there might be two or three musk oxen over there or only rocks as they look very much alike from here. Anyway, we will go this way, up to the mountain and will see”.

We walk through this amazing scenery. Julia and Gabriel are suddenly laughing at me and want to take a picture saying “You will know how you look like when you get old”. I realize what they are talking about : some of my hair are covered with frost and make me look like an old lady. Ha ha ha…. I enjoy the idea that my hair have their own greenlandic life experience !

Jens-Pavia reads for us the snowy ground like an open book : “Here there was an arctic hare and over there a polar fox.” He draws on the ground the different patterns of all these animals. “Look at the small and white birds right there in the bush! They are so tiny but wonderful, this year has seen their number increased like never before….”

We walk on all kind of grounds : powder snow, compact snow, ice.. According to the type of ground, our steps don’t sound the same way at all. I listen to it, fascinated, telling our guide we could play some experimental music with those wintery landscapes. I could even imagine musicians coming with their microphones and doing a special album here. Kangerlussuaq’s symphony…. Some ravens were flying by, cawing. Thank you, my friends, for agreeing to that idea.

After another try with his binocular, Jens-Pavia says :” Let’s go this way, musk oxen should be there”. Of course, they can hear us because of the crackle of our footsteps on snow. So our guide advises us to walk where there are plants to soften the sound of our steps. We follow him, up to the mountain, trying to bypass in order to hide ourselves from the animals. It is so much fun. Some people chase northern lights hoping to get a good picture, some others do the same with musk oxen like us today. It is such a thrill. Then, Jens-Pavia whispers, “ They are up there, can you see them ?” “Oh god…. Yes, we can !” I want to hold my breath. Eerie moment.

Musk ox in Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Musk ox in Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

We take pictures (one or two shots) amazed by the proximity of these legendary and impressive animals before the extra movement of Gabriel made them run far away. Never mind. That was pure magic ! I never thought I could get that closer to musk oxen. Jens-Pavia’s skills made the meeting possible. When you are with a local guide knowing the hinterland like the back of his hand, everything becomes possible. It is like getting the keys to open a new bright world, getting the last piece of a puzzle and suddenly have the chance to see the whole scene for the first time. Clear and beautiful vision of a wild world…. We enter its secrets. Jens-Pavia is more than a guide, he is an avid learner, a passionate man who shares his own discoveries without bragging. He shows us some old houses ruins never noticed before. Archeologists are, in fact, studying from his finds.

Jens-Pavia showing us a Greenlandic tomb © Food is a story

Jens-Pavia showing us a Greenlandic tomb © Food is a story

Greenlandic tomb © Food is a story

Greenlandic tomb © Food is a story

It’s not a hike, it’s a journey into the wild, into history, into life and death… A communion with nature, almost mystical…. I am blissfully happy. Jens-Pavia looks so serene, does he get his strength from so many hours spent outdoors ?

Gabriel takes his gloves off to eat and right after the breakfast pause, his hands hurt him so bad. He is suffering a lot and can’t warm his hands up but he is also very anxious. Julia and I are a bit worried but we are quite reassured by Jens-Pavia’s calm. It feels like nothing bad can happen, we are in good hands, we know it. Our guide looks for some branches here and there. He says as long as Gabriel can feel it hurts, it is a good sign. He opens his backpack and takes it out some pieces of matchboxes with only the coarse striking surface left. He also gets a long candle out of his bag and puts it under the branches. Then lights the match and asks Gabriel to put his hands around the fire to get the best heat ever. Gabriel does it without believing it will work. So still hurting and grimacing in pain, he decides to give up the fire option and to put his gloves again. Jens-Pavia just tells Gabriel that the only way to get warm again is to actually keep his hands near the fire not in his gloves….. His way of saying it is just informative, no stress, no authoritative tone, no order. Just a friendly piece of advice. We encourage Gabriel to try again. He puts his shivering and naked hands around the fire again and wait. Julia and I are so calm. When you trust someone’s skills, there is no panic, no fear. Just a very nice and sweet peace inside. Slowly, Gabriel starts to feel warm but still not enough to smile again. Then Jens-Pavia just gets something else from his backpack and announces he has THE best and WARMEST gloves in the world made with musk oxes’ hair and knitted by his wife. Gabriel tries them on right away and after a couple of minutes, he is already joking. So it worked just as promised. Is Jens-Pavia’s backpack a kind of magician’s hat ?? Will he bring a white rabbit out next time ?

It’s nearly the end of the hike, we come back by the frozen fjord. Under some powder snow, we can see the beautiful ice pattern underneath.

Frozen fjord in Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Frozen fjord in Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Frozen fjord in Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Frozen fjord in Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Our guide shows us on his camera a picture he has taken a few days ago, just here, we can see angel’s wings sculpted inside the ice. Wow ! Kangerlussuaq is definitely a magical place. It’s time to say a warm thank you and goodbye to our great Jens-Pavia. I will come to hike with him again, that’s for sure. He changed our simple morning into a holy feast. What a great encounter!

Episode 1<       > Episode 3 

Author : Food is a story

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland

Winter Arctic symphony in Greenland : flavours of paradise

Episode 1 / 8

What I am about to tell you, reader, is the story of my journey, a journey of a special kind. Have you ever dreamt of going somewhere from the bottom of your heart and thinking the time has come for you to realize that precious dream ? As if a place was calling you, whispering you some sweet words that you just cannot resist any longer ? Words that would make you feel dizzy and high, words that would touch your heart and soul, words that would draw an everlasting smile upon your face and make you shine from the inside ? This place is Kalaallit Nunaat and I would like you to go with me. Forget everything from now : past, present and future, just let your whole body follow the magical ride while your mind is free. Beware, Greenland is powerful. Maybe you will hear these special words too….

When you hear that kind of call, what a better way to start your journey than departing from Copenhagen. Isn’t it the land of the little mermaid ? I fasten my seatbelt, hold my breath… Go my plane, bring me to that island, I am ready now ! My heart lifts as the plane takes off but it’s not because of the altitude. Only joy, pure joy…

Finally, here you are, Kangerlussuaq… I can see your winter landscapes from my window now. All this white. Everywhere. Moutains, lakes, fjords all covered by snow and ice. What a beautiful milky monochrome ! You seem so vast, free and serene !

Airplane view of Kangerlussuaq © Food is a Story

Airplane view of Kangerlussuaq © Food is a Story

Vue aérienne Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Flight view of Kangerlussuaq © Food is a story

Plane lands off…. My heart doesn’t want to synchronize with the move of the plane this time, it is still on its little cloud and doesn’t want to go down. Holy levitation. I grab my backpack and am ready to go outside, I want to feel your freezing cold, Kangerlussuaq.

Piste d’atterrissage de Kangerlussuaq © Food is a Story

Landing in Kangerlussuaq © Food is a Story

Atterrissage à Kangerlussuaq © Food is a Story

Landing in Kangerlussuaq © Food is a Story

The door opens, I am about to touch the greenlandic ground… Tears in my eyes, no it’s not because of the wind. Happiness is the reason. I walk down the stairs. I feel like I am in outer space, surreal place. Few colored buildings and wild nature all around. Sensation of freedom. The cold tickles and freezes my nose hair. The weather is playful here 😉 We are going to be friends, I can feel it.

The group and I are driven to Old Camp where we are going to spend two nights. We leave our luggage in our rooms and sit around the table of the living room and start to get to know each other.

Réunion à l'Old Camp, Kangerlussuaq © Food is a Story

Meeting at the Old Camp, Kangerlussuaq © Food is a Story

The guide Adam is here and asks where we are from and why we are here. It makes me think of the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting scene you get to see in movies. When comes my turn, I want to joke and say “Hi my name is Emilie and I am an alcoholic for 2 years now” but I don’t know the people here enough to dare that funny comment. Instead I just say the truth : “I am Emilie, I am 34 years old and coming to Greeland is my absolut dream. Of course, because of the beautiful landscapes but also for its great people. It’s not that I wanted to come here, it became stronger than that, I needed to come and to come now”.

I listen to everybody with great attention. It is pure gold to my ears. We are all here for the same reason : making our dream come true. Wow ! So much good energy all around us. It is palpable. Each story is moving and different. Some want to chase the northern lights, some other dream of coming here since childhood, and so on…I realize I am not the only one to have heard the call… I am deeply touched especially when a couple explains that they are here because it is their biggest dream but they couldn’t come when it was planned because the man got cancer. Now everything is over (he has won the battle) and they felt it was just the right time to come. But one could hear it was an emergency, a victory, a cry of freedom, an amazing salute to Life ! I couldn’t help but having tears in my eyes. When people are brought together by dreams, it is a unique feeling, one of the most precious treasure in the world. I have never heard something like this before when travelling. Special moment, special stories, special destination. Greenland is bigger than life ! I knew it already but to actually live it, is an exquisite sensation.

  > Episode 2

Author : Food is a story

The sacred forest with Sasu Laukkonen

Lunch at The Institut Finlandais by the Michelin starred Chef Sasu Laukkonen – on September 9th 2015.

Before going to the Institut Finlandais for this very special lunch, I dream and wonder about the tastes I will experience. There is a hint though, the menu will be executed by the Michelin Starred Finnish Chef Sasu Laukkonen from Chef & Sommelier restaurant in Helsinki. The price ? 25 euros. Quite cheap for haute cuisine ! I look at some pictures on the internet to get an idea of his cooking style but I prefer to stop it right away. Nope. I’d rather not knowing a single thing about those future dishes and live that moment as a total surprise. Well… I have to admit that I can’t help myself giving a look at the Chef’s twitter account the very day before the event. The countdown starts in my head. In one day now… I wonder in which state of mind the cook is? Will he be with a part of his brigade or just alone? How much space will he have ? How does the kitchen of the Institut Finlandais look like ? Is it well equipped for a Chef of that level ? The first snaps of his arrival in Paris give me some clues : he is happy about the quick motorbike-taxi course from CDG airport to the center of Paris. He writes « you just have to travel with light luggage (less than 30 kilos) ». Conclusion : he is alone without his staff. On his twitter account, the only picture he takes at the Institut is the one of a big black ceramic monkey that guards the entrance hall…. So much mystery ! Not a word will be spread about the organization of the day after. But my investigation doesn’t stagnate. No, no, no. Sasu Laukkonen publishes pictures of the lunch and dinner he is having at Jin and Les déserteurs respectively. From these images, one can take it that the food he enjoys is light, creative, elegant and sophisticated. I don’t want to find explicit answers to my questions by really documenting on Sasu Laukkonen. And yet, I keep on playing with the lines, tracking down some hints within the gaps. Instead of searching under the light, I explore the darkness… It is as if there was a painting in front of me and I’d rather look at it from its back in an attempt to read the thoughts of the artist through the canvas. Shadow plays as a portrait. I daydream about the work, trying to guess what it will finally turn out to be without spoiling the surprise effect. To be mentally ready for that moment. Eventually, I get into the spirit of the Chef’s starter and I don’t even know it.

"Hyvät Herrat" de Lotta Mattila

« Hyvät Herrat » by Lotta Mattila

The big Day is here ! The sun illuminates Paris. There is no obscurity anymore. The Revelation, I mean the shift starts at 13:00. Eager to be over there, I arrive quite early at the Institut and have the chance to discover the exhibition called “Les mains dans l’Argile” dedicated to the big names ceramics artists from Finland. I come across the big white monkey at the entrance and his buddy in black version who guards the other end of the room. Yin and yang, light and darkness. The animal symbols of those who see everything but won’t say a word.

I enter the Café that slowly transforms itself into a restaurant for the awaited lunch. The stage is set. The audience is coming. One suggests that I combine the “Menu Helsinki by Sasu” with the wine pairings (a glass of red wine, a glass of white wine and a cup of coffee) for 10 extra euros. I do not hesitate a second. Sasu has chosen to work with “Le Vin qui parle” (the name means “the Wine that talks” in English) for the wine selection. The cellarman is incidentally among the guests. The French team of Coutume Café has been chosen for the coffee selection and its preparation. A wonderful teamwork between Finland and France.

Sasu-Laukkonen

Michelin-starred Chef Sasu Laukkonen

Sasu Laukkonen leaves the kitchen and comes in. Relaxed, with a smile on his face, he introduces us to his menu. His eyes are sparkling. We listen to him with great attention. He explains the composition and realization of the dishes. It is cheerful and lively ! He is having fun, it’s obvious. Nothing can replace the charms of that flame within. I am fascinated by his speech, I feel like listening to a film pitch. He ends with a captivating suspense, would I say he leaves us hungry for more ? We almost know everything by now but the best is yet to come : the discovery of the flavors, the tasting…

Beef tartar

Here is the starter ! We know it’s a beef tartar (from French region called Aubrac) but the top of it is mischievously hidden under two thin diamond-shaped layers of kohlrabi. The lower part is totally veiled by a thin slice of cucumber. Nevertheless, this fortress gives in easily under the move of the curious knife. Strength is definitely not resistance. No. The one who is fragile can convey a stronger and much more interesting intensity by offering his own vulnerability. Once the masks are taken off, the true adventure can begin. With his flavors, Sasu invites us into the forest, into his imaginary garden. The knife cut tartar mingles with raw shiitakes, onions and plums. Sliced in small cubes, the kohlrabi takes a beautiful red colour. I mistake it with apples.

tartareboeuf-inside-laukkonen

I move forward into the forest. But what kind of forest is this ? Is it mine ? Or is it the one of Sasu ? Or is it ours i.e. the one that he wanted to show and the one that I interpret with my story and my own references, my illusions also ? Is it the same one as my neighbor at table ? Certainly not even though the making of the dish is the same. That is one of the beauties of cooking, this performing art which questions us and creates memories like a sweet madeleine whether it comes from Combray or Helsinki… Chefs are writers who appear in our lives to leave some traces, some leads, some signs… It is up to us to read them, decode them as much as we can, as much as we dream. In a roundabout way, Sasu also tells us a little bit of his connection to life and death. Nothing is thrown away, nothing is wasted, everything is used in his cuisine. The leaves of the kohlrabi have been integrated into the tartar by becoming some magnificent and extremely thin green streamers. It’s a festive forest ! The red wine couldn’t find a better dress : “La Robe d’ange” (“Angel’s dress” in English) (Clos Fornelli, Corse) for such a celebration.

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Sea Bass fillet with cauliflower

The main dish has just arrived : a Sea Bass fillet with cauliflower. Almost a monoaromatic concept. As Sasu says (yes, as wine flows, I dare to call him by his firstname 😉 ) : cauliflower and that’s it ! The cauliflower is presented with different textures : the crunchiness of the vegetable and the smoothness of a purée ! Astounding simplicity. I whisper to my neighbor at table : “if I dared, I would wipe the plate off with my fingers”. She replies with a big smile on her face : “You mustn’t even hesitate”. In the face of such enthusiasm, I give in. We lick our fingers reassuring ourselves : this noble action is the best way to pay the Chef honor ! Oh, that’s for sure. Let’s drink a toast to him ! The glass of white wine from Jura (Arbois Pupillin, Les Vianderies, Domaine de la Renardière, Jura) is indeed excellent. I smell it and find some lactic aromas (egg) but when I drink it, the taste is much stronger and evokes me a cheese : roquefort ! It’s just baffling. Anyway, paired with this meal, it’s pure heaven.

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Coutume Café

The end is near. The coffee is on its way… and the dessert is served. It’s time for all shades of white, for winter, for coolness. Sasu has concocted an ice cream with a neutral base (without any sugar) to which he has added the refreshing and invigorating note of juniper. Aw, you think he did that by using the juniper berries ? No. Wrong answer but good try. He used the juniper needles that he has cut himself out of the tree that actually stands at 15 steps away from his restaurant door. A little foraging before leaving the Finnish capital and flying to the city of lights and our pop up restaurant. The ice cream is presented like a piece of cake. Triangular-shaped cut. Some beautiful white chocolate flakes have been sprinkled over on the top. It snowed in the plate. The white chocolate has been made in the very kitchen of the Institut Finlandais. Wow ! The Chef has added a floral touch that my palate is not able to detect : the meadowsweet (“La Reine des Prés” in French which means “The Queen of the meadows”).

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Juniper and Gin Napue dessert

At the bottom of our royal and winter guest, two sauces, two colors : white creamy and green resinous. The juniper is reconstituted just like magic. The white is made of blended juniper berries (with a touch of Gin Napue, the Finnish spirit that is considered in 2015 as the best gin and tonic in the world ! Congratulations Finland !) whereas the green one is made of the mixed needles. It’s divine ! It feels like drinking the forest… A resinous taste, an aniseed flavor flows down your throat. Slightly sweet and acidulous…. I am in awe. The tree talks to us, giving us its vitality. All Sasu Laukkonen’s passion is expressed here. By the way, he appeared in the restaurant once more when it was dessert time to show us some terminal branches of the juniper that he has placed in a bowl. He left the receptacle on a piano in the room and invited us to examine the needles if we showed any curiosity and then he went away again. Literally and figuratively, juniper was highly valued during this lunch. What a humble Chef. He put forward the product to the very end ! Such a simple and yet generous gesture. Without even realizing what he was doing, he has just put the final note of his score on a musical instrument. A musical instrument which name “piano” is also used in French to refer to a kitchen stove !

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Finnish Juniper

The melody of Sasu Laukkonen will keep on resonating for a long time in all the minds of the guests lucky enough to have been there to taste it. Keep on playing the piano, Sasu. The most beautiful music is the one that comes from the heart. And it’s definitely a genuine, generous, happy and radiant cuisine that has been delivered to us. Like a gift. It would have been too bad if I had opened the package early on. Secret is good sometimes. I drink the delicious coffee from Café Coutume. The caffeine is strengthened by all the great energy conveyed throughout the menu. Helsinki Menu ? Well, the Finnish capital is very lucky to have inspired such a declaration of love. By leaving the place, I go past the tiny kitchen of the Institut Finlandais and feel the need to shake Sasu’s hand. He is still available for the guests, ready to have some fun and share with people some of his cooking secrets. Classy attitude and humility. What a great meeting ! Hats off to you, Mister Laukkonen.


Author : Food is a story