Saturday, 3 October 2015

Viking Line's Pure Nordic Tastes 2015

Last year's Pure Nordic Tastes menu turned out to be such a success that Viking Line decided to continue the theme weeks well into the new year. I myself sampled it on several occasions: at the launch, on the wine cruise and even on the pre-holiday season cruise to Stockholm. 

Everything on the menu was good, though it became clear that the quality varied surprisingly greatly between different ships (might be a bit biased on this one: MS Grace is just impossible to beat!)

This year the menu, celebration of Nordic ingredients, is available from the beginning of October until the end of February.

This year's menu is the result of a tough competition: 21 chefs with a whopping 76 entries fought for a place on the final menu.

Game, fish, root veggies and Nordic berries are the stars that the dishes showcase.

First the kitchen greeted us with these. beer gravad reindeer fillet, juniper berry pudding, lingonberry puré and Jerusalem artichoke crisps.  Very nice. 

The starter was gently cooked salmon, parsnip puré, beets, salmon roe and dill mayo. A truly excellent dish - everything was spot on. The salmon was amazing and literally melted in the mouth. Quite possibly the best salmon I've ever had and I've developed quite an aversion to it owing to the overcooked flaky dryness that all too often accompanies it. If I could choose I'd never have salmon cooked any other way ever again. 

I wasn't the only one totally floored by it and eventually we were given the how-to. Olive oil, vacuming, sous vide and exactly 35 minutes at exactly 42°.

Now all I need is one of those vacuming machines, circulator, timer and a thermometer. 

We didn't get quite as lucky with the main, though. While the dish sounded very tempting (elk steak in its own juices, potato dumplings, browned butter and roasted carrots) the execution wasn't. The meat was depressingly overcooked, chewy and, as tends to be the case with over done game, tasted like liver. 

Everyone at out table was battling the same problem; everyone but one, whose succulently red nuggets of meat I kept staring with envy. But for him they were underdone. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

During the lunch we also sampled wines from Sicilian Donnafugatan. The vulcanic terroir has left their mark on these wines that I found to be too dry and tart for my palate.

But if the main left a little nasty taste in the mouth, the dessert brought it all back to good. Seemingly simple compilation of crushed blueberries and blueberry sorbet, Skyr (Icelandic take on quark) with white chocolate and meringue crumbs was dee-vine.

I did, however, really warm to the perfectly chilled dessert wine. Kabir, made of Zibibbo (Moscato di Alessandria) grape was intoxictingly perfume-like with intense sweetness echoing ripe peaches. The freshness (with hints of citrus) combined with the serving temperature provided a nice balance.

The wine tasting was, in all its multisensoriness, exceptionally memorable: José Rallo, daughter of the winery's owners accompanied each wine with a song she performed (blog's Twitter followers have already seen footage of this!)

Music is the other one of Donnafugata's great passions and in 2002 the winery combined these two into Donnafugata Music & Wine Live, celebration of jazz and Brazilian music. They have organized concerts even in places like New York's legendary Blue Note club.




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