Category Archives: Travel

Summer Travel: Stockholm, Sweden

IMG_5295

Our week in Scandinavia finished with two days in Stockholm, a city I’d never been to before. Having visited, I’m now convinced that we’re going to move here, maybe tomorrow.

Stockholm in mid-August is pretty close to heaven. Above, the view from our room at the Hotel Diplomat, which we could have stared at the entire trip and left happy having never exited our room. Everything we’d heard about Stockholm turned out to be true: a fabulously cosmopolitan city, spread across a series of islands, with stunning architecture and an even more stunning local population.

Our friend Rachel, who works for a company headquartered in Helsinki, met us in Stockholm and instructed us upon our midday arrival on Sunday to meet her at the restaurant Milles, which opens right onto a major promenade and ferry terminal. By this time, my wife, who is famous for loving and/or hating things, and often forming such opinions within two minutes, had already decided that she LOVED Stockholm — a decision that took her approximately two minutes to arrive at after we landed at the airport. But sitting out on the promenade, drenched in sun, people-watching and eating a perfect brunch confirmed her snap judgement.

IMG_5291

For the rest of the day we just followed Rachel everywhere. Afternoon stroll along the waterfront — where every barge, boat, and seaside bar looked better than the next — led into the Djurgarden, a huge public park, and then to open fields of flowers and vegetable gardens, and then into the sort of huge, open-air restaurant Bushwick can only dream about, Rosendals Trädgård. Wandering back into town, I discovered the joy of the Aperol spritz while sunset cocktailing on the patio of the Lydmar Hotel. We strolled from Lydmar through the picture-perfect streets to dinner.

IMG_0462

Rachel had dined at Nybrogatan 38 — I took the 38 in the name as further proof that this city really gets it — a few nights before but declared it our move. We ate outside as dusk fell, consuming quantities of wine including but not limited to those in the bucket above.

IMG_0481

Rachel left us Monday morning, and we spent the day walking the city, checking off a few items from the Stockholm tourist itinerary: the Vasamuseum, the old town, and some serious shopping at upscale department store extraordinaire NK. For our final night, we booked a dinner cruise out into the archipelago outside of Stockholm, possibly the best decision we made all trip. Even given that my wife LOVES dinner cruises, it was something special, ferrying us from Stockholm (above)…

IMG_0493

To the town of Vaxholm (above), two hours later, just in time for sunset.

IMG_0468

Stockholm. We will be back. Maybe tomorrow.

Summer Travel: Noma

IMG_0413

When Eater editor Gabe Ulla told me he needed to talk to me last fall, I knew it meant bad news. “If you’re leaving us to go to Bon Appetite, I’m going to kill you,” I said.

“Actually, I am giving notice,” Gabe said, “but to move to Copenhagen and work for Rene Redzepi at Noma.” Alrighty then. Probably the best giving of notice in work history, nbd.

Rene and the Noma team run the annual MAD Food Symposium, this year’s edition of which just wrapped up in Copenhagen. It post-dated our trip by a few weeks so we couldn’t make it, but they probably wouldn’t have let us in even if we could have: for 300 available seats, this year MAD received over 5,000 ticket requests. (Eater’s Amy McKeever made the cut, however, and covered it extensively for the site, if you’re interested.)

When I spoke with him early in the summer, Gabe was in a frenzy getting ready for MAD, which he’s overseeing. What Gabe could do for us, though, was get us a reservation at Noma. Which we walked up to, through the streets of the neighborhood, with Gabe, who left us for his office and pointed us in the direction of the front door. Where, out front watering the greenery, stood Rene Redzepi, who greeted us with a hearty handshake.

What follows are some of my photographs from the meal, which stretched to 20-plus courses. The first dozen or so were the small bites, followed by more substantial dishes. The menu, given the season, used very little meat; our extensive wine pairing featured only white wines. The names below are Noma’s, from the menu they gave us as a take-away.

IMG_0378

Flower tart.

IMG_0381

Peas and radishes.

IMG_0383

Flatbread and wild roses.

IMG_0391

Burnt onion and walnut.

IMG_0399

Blackberries. (My favorite course, seemingly just berries in a briny broth. Sensing my excitement, Lindsey sternly advised me, “Do not try this at home.”)

IMG_0401

Butternut squash and caviar. (Equally unreal.)

IMG_5179

Beef tartare and ants. (Note expression. Proved delicious.)

IMG_0410

Turbot and nasturtium. (Final savory course.)

IMG_0441

After the savories, they encouraged us to take a stroll outside, along the waterfront. Talked to a professor from Cornell unsurprisingly thrilled to be dining at Noma. Then it was back inside for dessert, and a tour of the establishment and the mad scientist labs they’ve got going out back. (The arms race between the world’s top kitchens is honestly a bit terrifying.)

Thanks to Gabe, Rene, and the Noma Team for an unbelievable evening. Given fair winds and following seas, we’ll be back.

Summer Travel: Copenhagen, Denmark

image5

I’d visited Copenhagen once before, in 1998—to see Phish, of course. Given the city’s unlikely transformation into The World’s Most Important Food City™, I’d been looking to get back. The excuse came in the form of an invitation from my old friend Rufus and his partner Stephen to join them at their house north of Copenhagen in early August to celebrate Ruf’s 40th birthday. Linds and I decided to go bigger than just the party and spend four days in Copenhagen, then head up to Stockholm for a couple bonus days of vacation.

The Danes were not feeling us on our first day (or, really, any day). Check-in at our hotel, Bertrams Guldsmeden, was met with two separate lectures from management about how, by changing the schedule of nights we planned to spend at the hotel, we’d put their entire existence at risk. Then our cab driver treated us like idiots. First smile we got from anyone local was a waiter as we ate a late lunch at one of the touristy Italian joints along the Nyhavn Canal (above).

image

Our first night’s dinner was at Amass, a year-old restaurant that chef Matt Orlando’s former boss, Rene Redzepi, said might just be “Europe’s opening of the year.” No pressure. The restaurant’s in a remote corner of Copenhagen that resembles pre-Ikea Red Hook, and the space’s industrial feel echoes that. Walking down the stairs into Amass, the sunset view above greeted us, as did two glasses of rosé.

image4

Amass has its own garden out back, and the staff suggested we enjoy the rosé out there to watch the sunset. Uh, yes.

image2

The space at Amass is key to getting the food, which is worthy of a chef with Per Se and the Fat Duck on his resume, but somehow looser. And Nordic, in its way, as in the dish above, which I think is a potato preparation dressed with marigolds? (I really should take better notes. Who knew I’d start blogging again?) Matt the chef came out and chatted with us, which he seemed to do with everyone, and was just the nicest guy with the biggest dreams. This place deserves its hype.

IMG_5141

One odd thing about Copenhagen is that, surveying friends who’d been to and lived in the city about where we should eat, there was near-unaminity about everything. Perhaps that means the city isn’t quite as vibrant as it could be, but it’s hard to complain when the tips all pay off. Thursday, our first full day in town, we spent the morning on Jægersborggade, a hip street in the hip neighborhood of Nørrebro. Coffee at Coffee Collective, which some hold to be the best coffee in the world (it was real good); pastry at Meyers Bageri across the street; jewelry shopping at a cute little shop a bit down that way; then back up the street to lunch at Manfreds (above).

IMG_5147

Of Manfreds, a very aware food-world friend emailed us, “If you go anywhere to eat, eat here.” And sitting outside for a casual lunch in the middle of August is everything that Europe in summer is about. (Including bees. Which plagued our lunch here and subsequent outdoor lunches across Scandinavia, such that #bees became our hashtag of the trip.) But man this food delivered. Above, an exquisite tartare — which they’re big on here — and grilled cabbage. Which, if I learned anything on this trip, it is: grill everything all the time.

IMG_5151

After Manfreds, an afternoon of sightseeing around Copenhagen. Above, Rosenborg Slot, “slot” being Dane-speak for castle.

IMG_5156

Dinner at Thursday night was at Noma. About which, more tomorrow. Before the dinner, we met up with our man at Noma, former Eater editor Gabe Ulla, who treated us to a dock hang outside Ved Stranden, after we’d had an early cocktail at the very cool cocktail bar Ruby down the block, where we’d somehow return after Noma.

IMG_5188

Friday, we somehow got up and checked out of the hotel, breakfasted at the nearby Granola because several friends had checked in there previously on Foursquare (good call), then picked up a rental car and headed north to the coastal town of Tisvildeleje on Gabe’s recommendation. Word from Gabe was that Copenhagen restaurant Atelier September had a pop-up going at the Tisvildeleje Strandhotel, and that’s where we lunched. Lindsey, above, on the veranda, in one of the few moments of this lunch not beset by #bees.

IMG_5209

Okay so seriously how does Joanne do these kind of travel-photo blog posts on such a regular basis? I’ve been working on this one for way too long now, and people are beginning to notice. So in the interest of wrapping this up and hitting publish: Friday dinner, Rufus (above, holding court) took a group of friends to restaurant Geist, near the Nyhavn Canal back in Copenhagen. It was the kind of dinner where the table orders one of everything on the menu and drinks to excess. This is another place that’s on everyone’s Copenhagen to-eat list, so sure, add it to yours too.

IMG_5218

Saturday morning, took a run up the coast of Denmark to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. That’s a sculpture by someone called Calder, above.

IMG_5226

Saturday afternoon in Copenhagen spent table and store hopping with new friends made at Friday’s dinner, the rainstorm problematic only insofar as we had one umbrella for four people. Upside: no #bees.

IMG_5228

Furniture browsing at Klassik, because Copenhagen. How great is that bench with the fold-down arms?

IMG_5237

And then the 40th birthday party we’d come all this way for on Saturday night. (Linds and I dressed to impress, above.) And an evening for the ages, but not one that should or will be blogged about here. What happens in Copenhagen, stays in Copenhagen. #bees

Summer Travel: Nashville and Blackberry Farm

Clearly, the master plan is working: this morning brings the news that Elizabeth Spiers is returning to personal blogging. As the founding editor of Gawker, Elizabeth was pretty much the first person to link regularly to this here blog, so things really are coming full circle. She’s going to try to do the one-post-a-day thing, so we can hold each other accountable for that. As she likes to say, “Muahahahahaha.”

The two one-post-a-day bloggers that I based my goal on are, of course, Joanne Wilson and Fred Wilson. It’s their practice of daily blogging that I’m looking to emulate here. And one type of post that I intend to steal from Joanne is the travel post. If you’re not a regular GothamGal reader, Joanne is the master of a certain style of travelogue-slash-photoblogging, whether she’s chronicling a day in Berlin or a meal at Alinea. I don’t expect to match Joanne when it comes to recording every detail of a day or a meal, but I do like travelblogging. So in this mellow last week of August, before fall really starts, I’m going to blog about some of my summer travel.

IMG_4432

I’d never been to Nashville before, so when Pando asked me to speak at the Southland conference in early June, I immediately said yes. All one needs do is study the photograph above that I took of the burger at Husk Nashville to know it was the right call.

Nashville blew me away. I was blessed with the guidance of Eater Nashville editor Matt Rogers in navigating the city’s food scene. Where we ate: Rolf & Daughters (solo dinner at the bar my first night in town, fantastic); Husk for lunch the next day (didn’t love the vibe as much as Husk Charleston, but the food is just as good); then an aggressive second-night crawl of new places; capped by a final day lunch at Arnold’s Country Kitchen for traditional Meat+3.

IMG_4438

The second night crawl started at Pinewood Social, a combination hipster coffee shop, sprawling bar, restaurant, and bowling alley. (That’s my wife, Matt, and Eater’s Amanda Kludt in the bar-ish portion of the place, above.) Holy hell. We didn’t get to taste the food, which is overseen by former Catbird Seat chef Josh Habiger, but the cocktails were great. (We also didn’t get to Catbird Seat itself on this trip because the place is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.) From there it was on to The 404 Kitchen, a restaurant attached to a new hotel and itself housed in a re-purposed storage container, and then to Josephine, a New American newcomer. All fantastic. Nashville!

Southland, by the way, turned out to be the best conference-type-thing I’ve ever attended. Sarah Lacy did a string of great on-stage interviews, and there was the standard start-up competition, but where the event really excelled was in all the ways a normal conference doesn’t. Amazing Nashville BBQ for lunch. A giant dance party after the day’s programming ended. And, for those who could extend their trip, VIP passes and transport to Bonnaroo. If you’re looking for an excuse to go to Nashville, come to Southland next June.

As happy as I would have been to hop on to Bonnaroo after Nashville, Amanda and I had other ideas. Namely, a three-hour drive east into the Great Smoky Mountains, destination Blackberry Farm.

IMG_4467

About half an hour outside of Knoxville, Blackberry Farm is on the list of food-lover destinations that you gotta hit up at least once. (Joanne beat me to it.) It’s a sprawling property with a lodge, private cabins, a giant converted barn for dining, lakeside gazebos, and all the attendant activities: horseback riding, hiking, fly fishing, and, natch, eating. When I first stepped out of the lodge, the above view greeted me. “So it’s going to be like that,” I instagrammed.

IMG_4458

Here’s my cottage, tucked into the forest below the ridgeline.

IMG_4488

And here’s me on the golf cart they gave us to get around.

Amanda and I had a bit of business to conduct at the farm: an interview with Eater Young Guns semi-finalist Liz Williams, Blackberry Farm’s pastry supervisor, which included a pastry tasting. Which followed a tasting of cheese made on the farm. Which preceded the tasting menu dinner, which might have been the only letdown of the trip — an oversauced, overly heavy meal that felt like a tasting menu straight out of 1996. Turns out the dinner at Blackberry Farm isn’t the reason to go.

But, still go.

Bermuda Gale

2007_11_bermuda1.jpg

Arrived early yesterday afternoon on Bermuda for Sophie and Greg’s wedding, beating the outer rings of Tropical Storm Noel by about 12 hours. This morning, the sundrenched view from my room has given way to crazy winds and light rain. The heavier bands look to be holding off until later today. Sound of the wind through the palms is deafening.

Apropos of nothing, my cab driver turned out to be a real baseball fan. “Ralph Houk,” he said. “Always fascinated by that guy. Because of his name.” Googling Ralph Houk later, came across this interview from spring training 1984. What a difference 20 years makes.

Cactus League!

2007_03_cactus.jpg

Spent St. Patrick’s Day weekend sitting in 90 degree heat, watching spring training baseball in Arizona. Three days of games, courtesy of the Oakland A’s. Not the Sox, but always good to catch Lou Merloni in action. More pix on Flickr. RELATED: One week until opening day!

Last Day in LA

2007_02_lalast.jpg



The weather in Los Angeles has been beautiful this month, ranging from a few genuinely warm days, to a day of solid rain. Today, though, it’s like an October day in Maine — clear blue skies, bracing breeze, and voluminous clouds hugging the tops of the hills. What a way to go out.

It’s been an interesting month, but it’s time to come home, after a quick detour through Colorado.