Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Where to Eat: A Norwegian Dinner @ The Strand House

The Eats: A six-course Norwegian Seafood Dinner with wine pairings

The Location: Manhattan Beach

The Vibes: bustling, eye-catching, worldly

The Names behind the scenes: Executive Chef Greg Hozinsky, Pastry Chef Stephanie Franz

The 4-1-1: The Strand House is part of the Zislis Group, which manages several restaurants and also Shade Hotel, another #WilsonsGuide favorite.

Parking Situation: Metered parking on nearby streets and in an adjacent parking lot

I’ll Be Back…: To try out The Strand House’s regular menu as well!

For the week of Oct. 7 – Oct. 12, The Strand House and the Norwegian Seafood Council hosted a Norwegian Seafood Tasting Dinner, presented by Executive Chef Greg Hozinsky and Pastry Chef Stephanie Franz.

Hozinsky, pictured below, was recently inducted into the Norwegian Seafood Council’s Chef's Culinary Board, which comprises six other chefs* from around the country who are helping promote awareness and consumption of Norwegian seafood, including King crab, salmon and cod, and other fish and shellfish. The newly inducted board members even traveled to Norway to get up-close-and-personal with the country’s cuisine, chefs and culture, bringing back what they experienced to share at their respective restaurants.

On Wednesday, Oct. 8, a small group of bloggers, reporters, marketers and a member of the Norwegian Seafood Council gathered to eat six courses created by Hozinsky and inspired by the flavors of Norway. The dishes didn’t originate from traditional Norwegian recipes; instead, they incorporated subtle Norwegian influences while also borrowing from a host of other cuisines, including Japanese, French and Italian. For example, Hozinsky explained that the presentation of each course was more French in style rather than Norwegian. Prior to this dinner, I had no experience whatsoever with Norwegian food, so it was a great learning opportunity, especially with Hozinsky graciously explaining each course.

Here’s a look at what was on the special menu, with all seafood hailing from Norway:

An Amuse-Bouche
(Unfortunately, I actually missed the Amuse-Bouche, however, I was later informed it was a bite-sized portion of cod.)

First Course: Smoked Norwegian Salmon ‘Pastrami’ paired with a 2013 Kinero ‘Alice’ Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles
For the initial course, the salmon went through the same process as beef to become “pastrami.” Served chilled, the salmon was accompanied by pickled beets along with tomatoes and mustard greens in a light, tangy vinaigrette. This dish by far was the most creatively presented, as servers poured liquid nitrogen horseradish sauce on top of everything, causing steamy smoke to rise in every direction.

Second Course: Pan Roasted Fresh Norwegian King Crab paired with a 2013 Trefethen ‘Oak Knoll’ Dry Riesling, Napa Valley
Large chunks of meaty King Crab rested on top of a creamy corn pudding in a brown butter broth with fresh herbs. The flavors and textures stood in an interesting contrast with one another—the velvetiness of the corn pudding juxtaposed to the gritty bitterness of the greens; the density of the crab meat differing from the thinness of the broth.

Third Course: Norwegian Halibut paired with a 2012 Tantara Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County
Probably one of the most filling courses of the night, the halibut was served warm, on top of a white smoked sunchoke puree and underneath a medley of cauliflower, mushrooms and hijiki (Japanese seaweed). 

Hozinsky explained that it was very typical to use forage vegetables in Norwegian cuisine, sharing a story about how when visiting a chef’s residence in Norway, this chef walked right out of his home and into his garden—on the edge of a forest—to pick shrubs to be used in that evening's dinner. Hozinsky took this same concept of utilizing forage vegetables to create this third course, but instead of choosing Norwegian veggies, he picked Asian ingredients: Matsutake mushrooms, the Japanese seasoning yuzukoshō and the hijiki. Talk about a fusion of cuisines!

Fourth Course: Venison Strip Loin paired with a 2011 Alonia Red Wine, Spain
While not seafood, venison made its way onto the menu, and I’m most certainly glad that it did, because it was divine! The venison was tender and moist in the middle and crisp on the edges, thanks to being rolled in pumpkin seeds. Grilled chicories in a light balsamic vinegar and a root vegetable mille-feuille accompanied it (mille-feuille is a puff pastry that’s customarily filled with sweet ingredients like custards and fruits; this one in particular had potatoes, turnips and other root vegetables in layers of thin pastry strips, all held together by a garlic-onion paste). Reduced huckleberries and a pumpkin purée added a welcomed sweetness to the meat and the vegetables.

Fifth Course: Fried Brioche with Lingonberry paired with a 2009 Chateau Des Charmes ‘Vidal’ Ice Wine, Canada
Pastry Chef Stephanie Franz also integrated Norwegian touches into the desserts she created for the occasion. Dusted with sugar, the Fried Brioche, which is made in house, sat on a bed of pistachios and whiskey sabayon, a French take on the Italian dessert called zabaglione, which is basically a very light custard. The brioche itself was flaky and sweet, and the best part is that it was filled with a a thick lingonberry sauce. The dark, rich sweetness of the tart lingonberries nicely complemented the creamy, airy and lightly-colored sabayon.

Before opening it: 

After opening it: 

Sixth Course: Warm Almond Apple Cake paired with a 2009 Chateau Des Charmes ‘Vidal’ Ice Wine, Canada
The last course of the night was a warm almond apple cake accompanied by Geitost (a Scandinavian whey cheese), cardamom ice cream, cubed apples in brown butter and strawberries with cream, all topped with subtle hints of mint. Franz explained to me that apples were used frequently in Norwegian dishes, which is why she chose apples for the cake and on the side. It was the perfect autumn dessert!

Check back with The Strand House to see what other Norwegian-influenced entrees and desserts will be on the menu in the fall!

For more information:
Facebook, @strandhousemb

*Additional chefs inducted into the Norwegian Seafood Council: Paul Backer (Tilia, Minneapolis); Steven Brown (Tilia, Minneapolis); Neal Fraser (BLD, Los Angeles); Tim Graham (Travelle, Chicago); David Seigal (Cull & Pistol, New York); Bart Vandaele (Belga Café and B Too, Washington, DC)

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