Thursday, April 30, 2015


10:20am - Today I decided to go to the gym. Now, I realize that this is normal thing for people who have sportdorphins and get something out of this. I, however have never seen anything other than pain as a result of such endeavours. Further, grade nine gym was my lowest mark in high school, and I’m pretty sure I could fall off of a stationary bike. But in any case, I need health and stuff, so here we go.
10:21 - First step to gymming is to have an outfit. Since, inexplicably in our culture, gym clothes have zero overlap with normal human clothing, I have nothing to wear. Luckily, Barry has shelves of high tech over-marketed polyester. I found a flattering pair of shorts (which are now mine), although I’m not sure what the inner netting is for. (Note to Barry: you didn’t need that, right? Wear underwear instead). In addition to the outfit, I put on gym makeup, which means makeup that doesn’t face smear. Luckily, this is the same as Singapore makeup.
10:30 - After finding the outfit, I have to find a way to avoid killing myself and others in the gym. This means my ipod. The steps to finding my ipod follow.
10:31 - Take suitcase down from shelf. Open suitcase to find travel bag. Find out that ipod is not there.
10:33 - Find ipod in travel purse. Start untangling ipod headphones
10:37 - Finish untangling ipod headphones. Find out that ipod has no battery.
10:39 - Find battery charger and learn that ipod does not play while being charged.
10:41 - Plug untangled headphones into phone and carry on with more limited music selection. Make mental note to port ipod onto phone somehow. This phone solution generally worked, except it froze when Cher came on.
10:45 - To gym, you must have a small white towel, casually slung around your neck. Realizing that I sweat very little and mainly from my face, I brought a face cloth. In retrospect, this was neither sporty nor needed. After pondering gym bag selection, I’m on my way. I’ve decided, tough, that if anyone else is on the elliptical, then I’ll just nonchalantly walk by and go for a walk. I’m not prepared for other heavy machinery.
Note on the elliptical: Barry says the elliptical is the machine for me, because it has less resistance than walking. Does that mean that my fat heaviness hurts my feet less when I step? I believe so. Apparently the shape of your walking path is an ellipse. Stupid name, unless you call the bike a circular, and the treadmill a zigzagish.  Anyway, the elliptical is safe, Barry says, good for the joints, Barry says. This is not the first time Barry has lied to me about sports, unfortunately.
10:47 - Anyway, Mr. E, the Ellipse tells me to “Quick Start”. I quickly realize to ellipt forwards. However, I did not realize that I should have set up my phone and stats first, and once again I risk falling off the machine. Don’t worry, I recovered and made appropriately oval movements. While Mr. E rudely asked me my weight after we just met, he didn’t share with me how many extra calories I should get to eat now.
Now, what the heck is up with the arms? Strange poles stick high above Mr. E, and you’re supposed to stick your hands up in the air in a controlled flair as you ellipt. This has no semblance of human movement. My arms swing by my side, and nowhere near as wide out as these poles. Further, I have bad wrists, and I find out after 5:23 time that this ain’t good for them.  It was only at 9:56 that I found out that there are little nubbin poles in front of me as well. Note: Barry tells me afterwards that he mentioned the nubbins. These are not ergonomic either, but allow me something to avoid falling off while reading the news. Note: It turns out that listening to music is not enough to make me not enter a murderous rage while sporting. Thus I need to read about how the world is mistreating people at the same time in order to improve the balance.
11:09 - Mr. E tricks me into a 2 minute cool down. I try to trick him back by taking pictures of his nubbin poles, but that led to me nearly falling off again, so I think he won overall. Also, although I’ve done cardio, I think that only 2 other leg muscles were involved.
At the end here, I should write a note about how sportdorphins miraculously entered my life and saved me from my sport rages. Sadly no, sports will always be like this for me. But at least now I have a new pair of shorts and untangled headphones. (Editor’s note: The next day I also had a sore back. Cool.)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Ode to Noma

I think it's like this. If you know what Noma is, keep reading. If not, please save yourself from the following food rant, because you'll just think I'm an arse. What kind of freak eats ants anyway? For the rest of you, how about some pickled flowers.
It's not a simple route to get here. We had one day available on our visit with our friends in Copenhagen. Three months ahead of time, you have to sign onto the website. At the designated hour, your get your queue number. Then, at your designated time, you watch the numbers count up to yours, which means you can access the reservation system. Then, if you're nimble and lucky, you might be able to secure a lunch reservation, as we did. Our queue number was something like 1800. Moments later they went up to 20,000. Here is Mr. Nimble himself who managed the booking (seen here eating monkfish liver).
Now, you have to go to Noma with the right people. Our friends made the experience even better. Francesca, Italian, explained to us how Noma has brought a local food culture, which is normal in her culture, to Denmark, where the notion is more challenging. Marina, Danish, filled in the local context on Danish culture and food.
Copenhagen at the end of March is a cold mix of greys, straight lines, and Scandinavian egalitarianism. The restaurant is also these things, and you can see from this picture that it was unusually warm enough for Barry to take off his North Face. There is no dress code, the menu comes after you eat, and the waiters explain the food and wine, cheerfully answering all of our questions.
Luckily we didn't have to make any decisions, because I was busy contemplating food. These were the "first shoots of the season with scallop marinade". Since the food is all local, ingredients are more limited in the winter. I wonder if that makes it a better time to come since more creativity is required. Or if summer's bounty produces more interesting dishes. Let's not think about this too hard, or we'll have to come back.
With the wine pairing, you can't go quite as local. The wines were unusual, sometimes unfiltered, wines from small wineries.
Now I'm going to try to describe the food at the best restaurant in the world. Whatever, no big deal, I'll just use some superlatives to demonstrate my awe and admiration, knowing that my words and pictures will pale in comparison to the actual experience. Ok, stay focused. More flowers. These ones are wild beach roses with fermented wild plums, which you eat like a cracker. If the question is, "Is it worth flying to Copenhagen for a restaurant?", or "Can the world's best restaurant really be that good?" then actually, it was answered here. During the second course of 17.
The next dish, called "Curdled milk and the first garlic of 2015" was a great example of simple delicious things, basically a fresh cheese with garlic, some kind of special local oil, and sorrel leaves. The latter demonstrated that they are clearly underrated leaves, and need to show up more often to the party.
If you cook with foie gras, truffles, and cream sauce, then the ingredients do some of the cheffing for you. But how delicious, on the other hand, can you get a plain onion to be? This seems to be the type of question that Noma focuses on answering.
These are sweet shrimps in ramson leaves, formed like ravioli. But not, as Francesca points out, actually Italian ravioli.
The next dish was the second of my overall favourites (i.e. the dishes that were super extra amazing, as opposed to just amazing). Raw squid comes with squid "ferment", i.e. sauce made with last year's squid guts that were fermented in the lab. Now I'm sure that this is nearly impossible to make taste so delicious, so I considered putting my head inside the ice bowl to lick it out.
And now we get to the ants, a signature at Noma. The first thing I noticed, having not intentionally eaten ants before, is that they taste refreshingly citrusy. The second is that it seems we're only eating torsos. This,I assume, means that someone has the job of de-legging and de-facing the fresh ants with tweezers. Tough gig.
We were instructed to eat these with our hands, because it's casual like that. I did check to see if I had any ants in my teeth afterwards.
We called the next dish "fish tacos", while the menu called it "Male and female lumpfish with whole milk". The whole milk is the taco shell, which gave the dish a toasted cheese flavour. Then you get the crunchy shell, the bursty roe and the seasoned fish, making it some or our group's favourite dish.
"Pumpkin, kelp and beechnuts" should actually taste terrible. Kelp is seaweed, and according to Wikipedia, beechnuts have a bitter, astringent taste. However, the whole dish was milk, crunchy, sweet and sour and showing off it's new, non-astringent qualities.
We are back to the fermentation with this dish, which was an egg yolk cured in fermented beef. Regrettably, I may have been momentarily distracted by the wine, because I can't remember fermented beefiness. But it tasted like a very delicious breakfast. Also, these are the "last potatoes", which means you have to wait until next potato season at Noma.
This, finally, is my favourite. I call it "Garlic Fruit Roll-up", but they call it "Vegetable flower". I'm not selling this, but then again, how could I possibly make a sweet garlic leather sound good?
Until the last main course, the food has been fairly light and healthy, so here comes the richest dish. Roasted bone marrow comes with a herb sauce and leaf wraps, to counter the chubbiness of it. This dish was Italian-approved.
Until dessert, Barry's nut allergy yielded only slight substitutions. Here, however, Barry got an entirely different dish, since the bitter sweet dessert, which melted in the mouth, was all about the toasty flavour of its hazelnut oil.
It seems that the local focus is limited with dessert, since chocolate and hazelnuts simply don't grow in the Nordics. However, moss and mushrooms doo, and are tasty with chocolate!
The finale to such an incredible experience is local Aquavit. It's hard to tell, but behind this glass I'm feeling very happy and comfortably full.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dutch Studies in Perspective

Barry was a bit bored with Madurodam, the miniature Dutch village, until a heron gave him an idea.
Yes, taking his angst out on miniature innocent Dutch bystanders kept Barry amused.
Thankfully, it ended after the King Kong shot.
Then we went to the M.C. Escher museum.
Then we accidentally made our own Escher, as if mutating perspective were contagious.
Barry's obsession with perspective continued at night. Ya, we were cool in the parking lot.
I learnt that sabre colour indicates whether you are a good or bad guy, which will help me with future movies.
Once again we saw the heron use its size to its advantage
Then we checked out the puddles from Fabian's perspective. Laura: 2 jackets, scarf and a sweater. Michiel: 1 jacket and a t-shirt. Fabian: wet pants and shoes.
We were went to Keukenhof, the huge tulip park, on the day it opened.
Our favourite flower was Purple Sensation, check it out.
Luckily the indoor greenhouse portion offered a bit more colour.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Eating Herring Correctly, Part 2

Why yes, I would like a winklemandje, thank you. Don't mind me while I take a picture of my new favourite Dutch word.
We also laughed when the TV asked us about our ondertiteling. Sorry Dutch people with your universally fluent English.
Near our hotel was the Dutch Parliament, which looks like a church. I am slightly disturbed by the asymmetry of the spires, but I try to stay calm.
Near parliament was a FEBO, where the food comes out of the wall. That's really the main feature.
Also near our hotel was Chinatown.
In Chinatown, there is a hairsalon (kapsalon), whereyou can get your mullet trimmed as shown.
There is also an Egyptian restaurant, where Pharoahs (also with mullets) sell "Kapsalon", which is also a food. But the word still means hairsalon, because it was invented by a stylist and her shawarma selling friend. Obviously. I am seeking Egyptians' opinion on this.
Here is Kapsalon, which is a Dutch poutine made of fries, shawarma meat, gouda cheese, garlic sauce and hot sauce. So it's tasty, Dutch, Middle Eastern, Canadian, and conveniently comprises your entire day's calorie requirements.
Now, for something more traditional. See how I've interspersed food pictures with architecture to please Ken?
You need to check if your melk is karnemelk, or buttermilk, because you'll think it's gone sour. An Egyptian (without a mullet) once told me that karnemelk is the secret to why the Dutch are so tall.
Our last Dutch meal is stamppotjes, or casserole, which Barry likes for the random topping of a hotdog, and that I like due to my freakishly intense love of cabbage. We certainly enjoyed eating Holland.