20 May 2017

Wedding Anniversary Dinner at restaurant Chef & Sommelier - Helsinki 15.5.2017

Long story short: it's our 25th Wedding Anniversary. And so, I've decided to make a surprise for Saila, and a big one. A truly unique stuff indeed. I've rented for the whole evening - just for the 2 of us - Michelin restaurant "Chef & Sommelier" in Helsinki, and its famed chef Sasu Laukkonen. So, Sasu's gonna cook a menu that I have initiated 6 months ago, and then designed and refined with him. The menu is based on Saila's prefered food from Finland, Japan, Spain & France. Useless to say, it's miles away from what Sasu usually cooks in his restaurant. It's 8.30, and we arrive...

One a the basic principle in gastronomy is that, great food needs great wines. It's kinda mandatory. So, from left we have: Dom Perignon Rosé Vintage 2003, Chablis Grand Regnard, Faiveley Chambertin "Clos de Bèze" Grand Cru 2012, and Cossart Gordon Bual 1962 Madeira. A pretty decent selection I reckon.

Roughly 4000 bottles have been produced that year.

It's me who's gonna be in charge of the liquid part of the dinner. I'm replacing Johan Borgar, the usual sommelier of the place. Now, I'm just waiting, thirsty, because...

Saila and Sasu chat, and chat... blah blah blah...

At last, we now may begin. Serving Champagne.

It is the trend in most fine dining restaurants in Helsinki, to have laconic menus. If you visit C&S website, you'll read things like "Carrots and Buckthorn", or "Pork and Potato". But behind the dry and simplistic description, lies a very elaborate and complex cuisine.

So, to go along with the Dom Perignon, some tasty blinis with finnish caviar, fish roe, mushroom salad and smoked fish. Sasu told us the recipe for the blinis, but frankly, there were so many ingredients involved that I don't remember even the beginning. Ah yes, I do remember that he let the blini dough to rest for 2 full days. Crazy stuff!

From Finland to Japan. A charcoal grill is heated for the Yakitoris.

Yakitoris with rabbit are being grilled. The meat has been soaked in a soy based marinade, along with zillions of japanese spices. The grilling smell in the kitchen was truly unbelievable. My suit remembered it well the day after!

The man is so passionate about food - some would say nuts about it - that he has to explain what he does every step of the way. But it's not just with us. If you have the chance to go to his restaurant (and for that you have to book well in advance), he will come to your table and spend time with you, explaining everything from A to Z. And he does that with each and every guests in the dining room. An experience in itself.

Cauliflowers and broccolis Yakitoris. Never heard of that before to be honest.
They are cover with a sauce made of ginger, sesame, and errr... again so many ingredients that it is near impossible to remember them all. But it was original and damn tasty!

 Yakitoris with rabbit. They are served with Shichimi Togarashi, a blend of spices (chili, japanese pepper, black & white sesame seeds, dry seaweeds, orange peels and ginger). Basically, you rub the pieces of rabbit in the powder and eat them. Spicyyyy...

Ideally, Sake should have been on the table instead of Chablis. But with already 1 champagne, 2 wines and a sweet wine, it would have been way too much for the stomachs to take. Most of us know too well how, in the middle of the night, it all ends. Bucket anyone?

Now, these pieces of Tofu have been (again) marinated. They are served luckwarm with ginger and soy sauce. Amazing consistency as we thought we were eating custard.

This soy sauce comes from a little producer in Japan (obviously). It has been the same recipe and principles of production for the last 350 years!

This tuna was supposed to be part of the spanish tapas, but Sasu decided otherwise. And so, what we got was lightly seared tuna with japanese mayo and Wasabi. The japanese mayo is different in the way that they use the white as well. The sauce is fluffy and light, almost like a "hollandaise"

This almost "dumb" face has a perfectly reasonable explanation: Saila just learned that she's about to take a cooking lesson with one of Finland's top chef. This is probably the first time that Sasu let someone other than one of his fellow chefs, cook in his own kitchen. And this is even more memorable when you'll know that Saila is a walking desastre in a kitchen. It's not advisable to give her a knife, or a cleaver, or any tools remotely connected to food!

King prawns are her next victims.

 Ready. Steady. Go...

Spanish Tapas. King prawns, grilled white fish with garlic, calamari with red peppers and spicy oil. All served with homemade rosmary bread, piments d'Espelette, and 3 kinds of olive oil.

Piment d'Espelette (chili), from the Basque Country.
Can be found on either the spanish or french side of the border.
This one is french as the label shows.

The Chambertin has been put in a carafe 2 hours prior to be served, and is at a perfect temperature.

The beef has been seared, then slow cooked in oven at low temperature (around 40°C). Inside, the meat is red, juicy, and so tender that it could be cut with the fork alone.

Filet de Boeuf à la Truffe Noire
Black Angus tenderloin with demi-glace and black truffles sauce, sliced black truffles, served with a truffles mash. Words cannot describe how heavenly this tasted. Gastronomy at its peak.


Why not end the dinner on a light note... errr... wrong tape.
Rich and decadent dark chocolate cake flavored with red chili and sea salt, and topped with blackberries. The cake has been baked by one of Sasu's friend who's a chef in another fine dining restaurant in Helsinki (and he'll join C&S cuisine staff from next August). The blakberries come from Espoo (from a C&S regular customer).

To go along the coffee.

Checking the restaurant wine list. Because we already have booked a table for the last day of the season before the summer break (June 22 is - I think - already fully booked), Johan, the sommelier, asked Sasu to ask us if we wanted to have special bottles put on the side. Nice touch.


The evening after at home.
We left the restaurant with a huge doggy bag full of beef, mash, black truffle and half a kilo of chocolate cake. It was a kind of after, one last hooray before going back to the daily food routine. But as you can see, Chef & Sommelier it ain't :(

21 April 2017

Nostalgia Remixed

PINO D'ANGIO ma quale idea (Jamie Lewis Remix)
2.30min. intro missing

26 March 2017

Islas Canarias, Lanzarote - March 2017

Fed up with finnish cold so... back to Puerto del Carmen for a bit of warm.

The same villa than last year, and still for 2 weeks.

La Lonja.
part restaurant (left), part fishmonger (right).You pick your fish or shelsifh, and they cook it for you.
We rather used the place for breakfast, and late at night for a few cold beers and mix with locals.

Tortilla & tapas are on display early morning for those who want to enjoy a hearty breakfast.

Cortado Largo.
very popular among the regulars. Strong expresso with a dash of milk. We call it a "noisette" in France. A must when in Spain.

The "Bocadillos" list.
They're basically Sandwiches for breakfast, and can be garnished with everything, from ham to octopussy.

Cafe con leche, bocadillo de bacon y huevo, y... errr... ketchup!

From Puerto del Carmen to the city of Arrecife.
a 30min. something bus ride (1.70€ a ticket). We do the rest by foot to the city center where the shopping area and most restaurants & bars are.

Always go to the backstreets when travelling. It's where you can find the most interesting stuffs...

...like this hidden tapas bar. As the name suggests, it's for locals.

The owners where a bit taken aback to see 2 "turistas" in their little joint.
Fact is, we had spotted the place last year already. But due to lack of time, we had to wait this year to pay a visit and try some tapas for lunch.

to eat...

Spinach tortilla & pickled anchovices with canarian beer Dorada...

...followed by fried black pudding & peppers in olive oil. Simple and damn good.

the mandatory stop to Valery (left) when in Arrecife.

One become overweight fast when on holiday here!

Yep, that's right. 38° at 4pm. in March.
No wonder we always go back to Finland backwards!

A roof terrasse. A couple of Martinis. A sunset. Perfect.

On our way for a drink before dinner.

... And back to our fav restaurant: Bodega.

If the place looks empty, it's because we were the last customers. When in Spain, we always dine at spanish hours - never before 9.30pm at the earliest.

The daily specials.

One great thing in Spain is, before the proper dinner, to seat at the counter and order a few appetizers.
For us it's Iberico Bellota jamon, tostadas, olives and a bottle of El Grifo blanco seco (local wine).

Most tourists - mainly the brits, ask the list in english. BUT, it's only on the list in spanish that one can find the real local specialities.
Artichokes & pan fried foie gras with port sauce.

Roastbeef carpaccio with melon and mojo vinaigrette.

King prawns, mussels & cuttlefish wok in a sesame & teriyaki sauce.

Beef tail raviolis with a essence of black truffle sauce

Squids in onions sauce & canarian potatoes.

Oven baked Hake with fried garlic.

"Bacalao" (salted cod) & sweet peppers on a aïoli sauce.

Grilled Grouper & sweet potato mash with green mojo sauce.

Grilled canarian Tuna in teriyaki sauce.

Fishmonger (not the one in la Lonja). We decided to have a bbq at the villa.

... and so

Grilled king prawns with tostadas.

But you know, when on holiday, there's never enough food. So...

... Wham Bam: double cheese burger!

... and the inescapable consequence: RRRrrr ZZZzzz

Mid afternoon. At last a bit of exercise... to go to a bar.

The kind of stuff that kills you straight after the 1st mouthful.

More rhum needs more cola.

Back at la Lonja for a few local beers before the next stop...

... Restaurant grill: La Cascada

Same idea than Bodega restaurant. Always ask the list in Spanish.

On the left: Chuletón de vaca reserva "Txogitxu" from the Basque country, matured for 40 days.
On the right: Chuletón de cebón. The animal has been castrated young, hence the huge amount of fat.
(so we were told by the restaurant owner who spent time with us explaining the difference between meats, how to cook them properly, what to drink with, etc...)

We're not big fans of spanish reds because of high tanins, but this one was really great. A bit like a
"Côte de Nuits" from Bourgogne. Anyway, red is a must for grilled beef.

... And the Chuletón de vaca reserva "Txogitxu"
Nearly 1kg of meat heaven. In reality, it's more like 1/3 bone, 1/3 fat and 1/3 meat.

Another choice the entrecote de vaca reserva "Txogitxu" aged 40 days. (300gr)

Another beautiful day ahead...

... And so, en route to the beach.

The road is long, the thirst is acute.

Hopefully, the raod leads...

... And a couple of ice cold Mojitos.

Thirst is one thing. Hunger is another.

Craving for pintxos, Tabena de Nino IS the place.

Fried goat cheese, black pudding & goat red curry were among the specials that day.

Pintxos are essentially "bites". After ordering, you go to the counter and select the ones you want.
They're renewed everyday. So, if you come everyday, you'll eat always something different.

Mini burgers with spanish black hog grilled steak and quail egg.

This has nothing to do with paëlla. This is a rice broth - risotto like, with squids, langoustines and artichokes.
(paëlla is not a canarian dish anyway)

The same with squid ink, octopussy, prawns, aïoli and cheese.

Grilled veal filets in a canarian goat cheese sauce.

Chicken stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in Iberico jamon,and topped with a sweet mustard sauce.

Expressos & toffee flavored vodka (we have bring home bottles of this stuff)

Back home on the roof terrasse for a bit of digestive chillout.

The last lights of our holiday. Hopefully next year...
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