Now Trending: New Nordic Cuisine

By Carlynn Woolsey, Foodable Contributor

An invasion of the culinary variety has hit US shores! With its arrival, chefs are turning local – and oftentimes unexpected – ingredients into masterpieces, and New Nordic is becoming the cuisine du jour.   

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Noma Sets the Standard

Set in an old warehouse in a waterfront neighborhood in Copenhagen, Denmark, Noma opened its doors to critical acclaim, in 2003. Since then, head chef and co-owner (in partnership with Claus Meyer) René Redzepi has been reinventing Nordic cuisine with ingredients hand-foraged from local farms, forests, and shores. Dining at Noma is anything but typical with a set lunch and dinner menu of 20 small courses, that will run diners approximately $296+ with an additional $185+ to add wine pairings. The courses themselves currently include “Flatbread with Wild Roses”,  “Burnt Leek and Cod Roe” and “Beef Tartar and Ants”, all of which are artfully prepared. Noma has been named the “World’s Best Restaurant” by Restaurant Magazine four times, and is two-Michelin-starred, setting the standard for not only the best-of-the-best in cuisine, but the New Nordic movement as well.      

The New Nordic Movement

Set forth in a manifesto written by Claus Meyer, New Nordic cuisine is actually about returning to the roots – quite literally in some cases – of Danish cooking, with an emphasis on sourcing and experimenting with the best regionally produced ingredients. The manifesto touches on topics including ethics, seasonality, and animal welfare practices. Meyer states that one of the goals of the New Nordic movement is “to promote Nordic products and the variety of Nordic producers – and to spread the word about their underlying cultures.”  

Nordic in New York

Earlier this year, Meyer announced his plans to open a Nordic Food Hall & Brasserie in the Vanderbilt Hall section of the iconic Grand Central Terminal. The space will be designed with movable tents and installations, keeping the historical elements of the hall in mind, and is set to open in 2016. The Brasserie will be in good company in New York City where the Nordic scene has been alive and well for some time, thanks to establishments like Aquavit, Aska, and Skál. Former Noma partners have made their way to the Big Apple too, with Mads Refslund overseeing Acme in NoHo, and pastry chef Daniel Burns sharing his creations at Luksus in Brooklyn.  

Come September (12th – 20th, to be exact), the North Nordic Food Festival will decamp in the city, offering attendees the chance to cook with notable chefs in classes like “Nordic Grandma Cooking” and “Swedish Culinary Safari.”

Expect the Unexpected

With long winters, short summers, and subsequent limitations on growing seasons, fruit and vegetables are not the stars of Nordic cuisine ingredient-wise. While wild blueberries, raspberries, cloudberries (all of which are excellent for turning into jams), and mushrooms do make frequent appearances when available, fish – in cured, pickled, or smoked forms – barley, buttermilk, cheese, kelp, rye, whey, and game meats, are commonly used ingredients. In terms of the New Nordic movement, natural elements like hay and moss are also being incorporated into the repertoire.      

When dining in a Nordic restaurant, you might see traditional dishes like gravlax (smoke-cured salmon), kjøttkaker (meatballs spiced with nutmeg), and aebleskiver (a fritter oft stuffed with a savory filling) but with a New Nordic twist. One thing is for certain though, as this movement continues to grow momentum, we can expect to see a lot more of the unexpected.