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Mission Europe 2: The Quirky Swedish Forager

Magnus Nilsson is hard to summarize.  The guest chef looks every bit the modern day Viking brimming with enthusiasm and a constant laugh hidden behind a quirky smile ready to be let loose at any moment.  He graced us in the theater of taste and spoke of how his culinary trek lead him through highs such as working with Michelin star chefs, disillusions with ingredient sourcing difficulties and appreciation gained from learning to allow his cooking to be influenced by seasonality.

The class was an interesting mixture of perspectives on how to make diners more in touch with their meal.  While his methods were unconventional, I thought they were quite clever.  A few of the attendees were a bit off put by his style, claiming the use of shock factor to enhance his cuisine.  I can hardly blame them when he told us stories of cutting femur bones with saws in front of customers to serve them marrow.  I could understand the shock some suffered watching him gut a thrush live during the theater.

All of that aside though, I appreciated the “shock value”.  I found the lack of “sugar coating” refreshing.  Food is food.  Fancy names, pretty plating and expensive cooking techniques are all used nowadays…many times I find they alienate diners, many times without them even noticing.

As a country girl when I read “panko crusted pan fried beef tenderloin medallion served with jus and white pepper scented béchamel” prior to receiving a perfectly round crumb covered golden steak atop a cream colored mirror of sauce…I just want to jab a steak knife at the waiter and scream “Chicken fried steak.  Say it!”  It may be a more upscale version, but it’s still chicken fried steak, get over it already.

Chef Nilsson explained that when and if we were to visit his restaurant, first-comers are required to order the sample menu, but if you have visited before you are allowed to order what your heart desires.  I think you would be hard pressed to think of a better format to allow a chef to showcase his culinary savvy, make diners be adventurous and create an experience to remember.  Genius, if you ask me.

While most of the dishes Magnus Nilsson creates, many with foraged ingredients, are designed to be eaten with your hands, the theater was a bit limiting; even so his presentation was magnificent.  While watching a slide show of the dishes he serves on his sample menu and listening to rapid mad-scientist style explanations of his gastronomic ventures we tasted the following dishes:

  • A fermented and dried trout
  • A pastry cup made from layers of pork blood, baked and filled with trout roe
  • Cheese served on a black radish with reduced whey
  • Preserved ligonberries served on a sweetened sour cream

The workshop reminded me of how much I enjoy pushing people out of their culinary comfort zones.  I will leave you all with a video of the thrush demonstration from the theater… be warned it is not for those who are in denial about how food gets to their plate.  I hope to visit Chef Nilsson’s restaurant, Fäviken, in the future…until then (i.e. until I can afford it) I will continue to explore here in Costa Rica and push the boundaries I find.

Until next time dear readers…

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