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Plat du Jour: Monday April 23, 2012: Spring Dishes and Sandwich Origin Debates

The final full week of April is here and in much of the country that was enjoying an early summer last week, winter has returned. Time for more hot chocolate and beef stew now…

We’ll get to “spring” in a moment, but the big excitement of the day is the announcement that René Redzepi, chef of Noma in Copenhagen and last week named one of Time‘s 100 most influential people in the world, will be taking the Noma show on the road for the first ever time outside Copenhagen, with “A Taste of Noma” at the Claridge’s Hotel in London’s, one of London’s most upscale hotels in Mayfair, one of London’s most upscale districts. Eater National has more information on the pop-up, along with the official press release.

Prices are estimated to be $313.66 for the pop-up from July 28- August 6. Noma is re-modeling for a month mid July-mid August, allowing Redzepi to take Noma off the Copenhagen island (some of us had to plan a certain trip around this month long hiatus at the restaurant…). Remember of course that Thomas Keller, one time mentor of Redzepi at the French Laundry, started the pop-up excitement in London last October at Harrod’s.

Is London so popular with pop-ups because chefs see the city as a major city under-served by the caliber of its restaurants with only two Michelin three stars? Uh, no. It’s the opposite. For any art, be it visual, performing, or culinary, London right now is at the peak for excitement, creativity, and glamour. Plus, with the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics this summer, there is no doubt that London is THE destination period for 2012. The second biggest destination…probably to eat at Noma, in its regular home, Copenhagen.

Three quick thoughts from today’s announcements. Of course the dates reflect when Noma is renovating, but it also is during the Olympics. Is this a good or bad choice knowing how swamped the city will be? Will the athletes break their strict diet to eat at Noma London? Like with athletes, there is no bigger stage than the Olympics. This is an excellent decision by Redzepi to visit London during the end of July.

Also, have to wonder for such an intensely regional cuisine like Redzepi’s New Nordic at Noma, how will that be reflected and interpreted in London? How will famed chef Gordon Ramsey, he of Gordon Ramsey’s at Claridge’s Restaurant, welcome another famed chef into the same hotel in the city he is a superstar in, during the city’s moment in the global spotlight?

Last week we showed you the New York Times‘ Jeff Gordinier writing about the recent love being sent towards the lowly anchovy. Anchovies continue to gain lots of love beyond their cramped cans now from San Antonio’s leading chef and food writer: Andrew Weissman and Edmund Tijerina. I absolutely love the concept of “King Anchovy.”

It’s always fascinating to read the backgrounds of famous sandwiches, from the Earl of Sandwich’s sandwich to the heated debate over the “hamburger sandwich” at Louis Lunch in New Haven, CT., and several other competitors. Today, where is the Cuban sandwich from: Miami or Tampa? Did the Cuban sandwich even originate in Cuba? It certainly seems agreed on that the sandwich was “perfected” in the U.S. (or really, by Bunk Sandwiches in Portland, OR if you’ve ever tried that exceptional pork belly cubano…)

How about the po boy? Obviously, New Orleans, right? Possibly at Mother’s? Or could the oyster po boy be from…San Francisco?!

It’s lots of fun and very enriching to learn the origins of what we eat. It’s healthy to know where our food comes from, both the actual food and the ideas behind the food. It’s a lot more fun to debate too the history of food than say, political history.

So often we food writers dwell on reviews that slam restaurants. Enough of that. Yesterday Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle re-confirmed that Quince, Michael Tusk’s formal Northern California-rustic Italian restaurant in the city, deserves its exalted four star status. Here is the review and some beautiful pictures to make us all dream of dining there. Having been to Quince’s little sister Cotogna, located next door, Tusk is truly a wizard with pasta and so much more. He proves that Italian cuisine can mean so much more than we ever knew. He doesn’t force himself to be Italian all the time, as it’s creativity and seasons that dictate what will be an optimal dish. Now don’t be surprised if the next major wave of destination, four star restaurants come in the form of the Italian-meets global-meets local/seasonal emphasis of Quince.

Finally on this Monday, some spring food for thought. Peas, fava beans, strawberries, ramps, artichokes…spring produce certainly are in full bloom on menus this week. This past weekend at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega and excellent rustic California-Italian Oenotri, both in the Napa Valley, enjoyed some exquisite dishes featuring the season’s famed produce. Everything was superb at Bottega in Yountville, especially the potato roasted gnocchi with an English peas puree and various spring vegetables including brussels sprouts leaves. Oenotri pairs wood oven roasted young fava beans with beets, citrus, pistachios, and sunflower sprouts for a pristine, perfect starter. We’ll hear lots more about these restaurants later in the week, along with lots more from a weekend family birthday celebration in the Napa Valley.

Serious Eats shows that spring is in the air in New York too.

And doing some research for an upcoming trip, nobody can beat Portland, Oregon when it comes to listening to local, seasonal produce. Naomi Pomeroy at Beast uses green garlic in a vinaigrette and fresh mint too for cured salmon, first of the season morel mushrooms in a butter for Modoc Mountain leg of lamb, and rhubarb for dessert in a rhubarb brown butter tart. Natural Selection, a fascinating young vegetarian restaurant in Northeast Portland, is a go to list for anything seasonal: roasted beets & stinging nettles with watercress and kumquat relish or roasted abalone mushroom atop a…you guessed it…ramp risotto. We had to have ramps mentioned somewhere on this list!

Hopefully the Red Sox can be revived in the chilly spring air of Minnesota this week…maybe some rhubarb or green garlic or ramps could help? Have a great Monday!

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