Monthly Archives: September 2013

Some Ways to Amass…with a Thanks to Our Purveyors

Happy Chickens! (Photo Credit: Amass)

Happy Chickens! (Photo Credit: Amass)

One of the recurring fantasies for most chefs is the idea of going into your own garden, digging up some vegetables, washing the dirt of them, putting them in a pan and serving them moments later. We all approach that ideal in many different ways, trying to imitate that closeness with our products in multiple different ways: Some restaurants have their own garden, some go foraging for wild products, some have farms rear their animals for them to their own specifications.

At Amass this desire is built into the core concept – and even the name – of our restaurant. As Matt has said so many times before, one of the driving ideas behind our menu structure is that we want our purveyors, the people we deal with every day, to tell us what is good right now, what is going on in their fields and gardens, or at their abbatoir, or on their fishing boats right now. That ideal comes at a price, of course: it takes a lot of work on both parts to stray from the more trodden path of using one protein or a few main vegetables for a month, or two, or three, and instead to be constantly ready to take in and cook whatever is at its peak right now. A fishing boat goes out to catch mullet and finds them in beautiful form, and full of roe. ‘Do you want 3 kilos of mullet roe?` Yes, we do. A lemon cucumber tree towards the end of the season still gives off a dozen cucumbers – will we take them? Yes.

Christina and Steen, our passionate providers of egg with an intensity of flavor and color we have found nowhere else, have a small farm about an hour outside of the city.

 

Christina and Steen's Farm (Photo Credit: Amass)

Christina and Steen’s Farm (Photo Credit: Amass)

They keep their chicken in the same fold as their lambs – because they enjoy each other’s company. And their two old horses keep watch over the mixed flock. Christina brings in eggs two or three times a week and everyone looks forward to seeing her. This is in no way dependent on the fact that she also sometimes brings us homemade drømmekage (the best coffee cake you ever had), though, of course, that is also appreciated. One time she brought us 5 kilos of cherries from her garden simply because she couldn’t stand the thought of them going wasted. We tasted them, and put them on the menu the same day. For a couple of weeks she kept bugging us to come pick her elderberries that were ripe and ready – otherwise they too would go wasted.

So we went to the little village near her farm and she picked us up and drove us to the farm where we spent a beautiful autumn afternoon picking elderberries, and digging up horse radish, and picking sunchoke leaves, and a few other herbs to take home.

 

Our leader in a tree (Photo Credit: Amass)

Our leader in a tree (Photo Credit: Amass)

And of course we also had drømmekage, and jams, and coffee, and talked about their lamb that was up for slaughter over the coming weeks.

Drømmekage! (Photo Credit: Amass)

Drømmekage! (Photo Credit: Amass)

At Amass we work with people who are excited about their products, and who go out of their way to bring it to our attention – and to bring it to us, at any odd hour of day. Their excitement becomes our excitement, and a large part of the energy of our kitchen.

This is a thanks to them.

It Takes Guts…and a Pushy Guy Named René

GUTS!!!! (Photo Credit: Amass)

GUTS!!!! (Photo Credit: Amass)

It has been a couple of weeks since the MAD Symposium overtook the city. For me, this was the first time I have gotten to look at it from an outsider’s perspective and it is truly an amazing thing. I’ve always thought of it as pretty incredible, but I had a biased view of it for the first two years because I was directly involved in the planning and the event itself. But now that I have my own place, I realize that MAD brings an energy to the city and especially to all the restaurants within it. One of the reasons that I wanted to stay in Copenhagen is the sense of community within the restaurant industry. There are no egos or attitudes. Everyone is working towards the same goal. That sense of community was put to the test during MAD and I have to say that I have never seen a city come together as a team and cook like Copenhagen. Not only did everyone feel the responsibility to perform for their own restaurant’s sake, but also for every other restaurant’s sake. From what I heard around town, no one fell down on their responsibility.  So to the restaurant industry in Copenhagen: Thank you so much for such an incredible week and for allowing us be a part of something special.

The legend. If you don't know who this guy is, you don't deserve to know... (Photo Credit: Amass)

The legend. If you don’t know who this guy is, you don’t deserve to know… (Photo Credit: Amass)

But before we even got to the MAD Symposium, we had some decisions to make. When we announced our opening date there were two reactions: 1) You are crazy to open only 4 weeks before the MAD Symposium, and/or 2) You need to open before the MAD Symposium. Obviously we were all for the second response. Yes, it might have been a bit risky to only be open for a month before the restaurant world has its eyes on Copenhagen, but it pushed us harder than any one person could have ever pushed us.  It made us evaluate and reevaluate everything we were doing on a daily basis. We were forced to find solutions  ­– NOT problems. The staff rose to the challenge and I am truly grateful for their hard work and commitment to this place. Thank you Bo, Kim, Julie, Jens, David, Daniel, Kim, Mikaela, Fanny, Emil, Scotty, Evelyn, Emil, Jacquie, Lamin and Tibi.

What happened? To work at a restaurant during MAD is one thing, but to own a restaurant

Is that a mixer???? (Photo Credit: Amass)

Is that a mixer???? (Photo Credit: Amass)

during MAD is another. The pressure to deliver is crazy, but first and foremost you are cooking for all the people that you love to cook for – your friends, past colleagues, other chefs. Of course we held back for last minute bookings, but we also put some tables for random people to book. I remember looking out into the dining room at one point and it was a Who’s Who of the restaurant industry. The energy in the room was explosive (EXPLODE JACQUIE!!!! Sorry…inside joke). Amongst all of these people was a table of locals looking around and wondering why are all these people walking around and talking to each other? Are we in the middle of a private function? They looked a bit confused, so I went down to chat with them and explain what was happening that week. Once informed, they too were so excited to be a part of it.  Over the course of the week, it happened a few more times; it was amazing to see the excitement on their faces.

Mission Street Chinese. Finesse under pressure. Tak for mad (For non-Danes: Thanks for food). (Photo Credit: Amass)

Mission Street Chinese. Finesse under pressure. Tak for mad (For non-Danes: Thanks for food). (Photo Credit: Amass)

In addition to all the things that I just mentioned, there’s one aspect to MAD that I really hadn’t appreciated before, especially as restaurant owner in Copenhagen. (And if you don’t recognize this then you should embrace it!) MAD drives us to do things that are above and beyond. It pushes us to our limits. At this point you can react in one of two ways: 1) You can fight through it, be thankful it is over and then go back to your previous routine OR 2) You can embrace them and at the end of it realize that these limits can become the norm. We chose the second. We offered an Extended Menu for the Symposium Week. I am happy to say that we are still offering the extended menu and that almost a third of our guests are ordering it. THANK YOU MAD, for pushing us to our limits and beyond.

And to René, I don’t even work for you anymore and you’re still pushing me.

Tusind Tak Chef.

Souk el Tayeb (Photo Credit: Amass)

Souk el Tayeb (Photo Credit: Amass)

 

No B*llsh*t Wines Here

Love Unfiltered (Photo Credit: Amass)

Love Unfiltered (Photo Credit: Amass)

Making your very own wine list from scratch must be every sommelier’s dream. A new restaurant, a new opportunity, and finally a chance for you to put your personality into every glass in the dining room.

Wines have arrived! (Photo Credit: Amass)

Wines have arrived! (Photo Credit: Amass)

For me, it was no different. When Matt first talked to me about Amass, I felt like a child on Christmas day.

Choosing wines for the Amass winelist (Photo Credit: Amass)

Choosing wines for the Amass winelist (Photo Credit: Amass)

From the first steps, talking to the importers, securing allocations even though we still had 9 more months before opening. It was not merely just a matter of filling out a form online.  It required reserving loads of Jeroboams for our wine paring and traveling Europe visiting almost every producer that is now represented in our wine list and a lot of back and forth between farmers, importers and myself to make sure I could get everything that I wanted.

Despite the insecurity of dealing with getting the actual bottles here at the restaurant, the style of wine was clear from the beginning. It had to come from farmers and not winemakers, who instinctively understand the plants, soil and climate that make their product.  Unlike vintners who may rely upon artificial additives or cellar tricks to manipulate their wine, I wanted wine that some call “natural wine.” Frankly, I never liked the term –no one has been able to define it – thus I would prefer the term “honest wine” for the bottles we serve here at Amass.  Much like the food we have here at Amass, there is an integrity born in the ingredients and the methods used in making these wines. It was a natural fit.

2 week old wine from Cascina Degli (Photo Credit: Amass)

2 week old wine from Cascina Degli (Photo Credit: Amass)

I first came across these wines in 2009.  After working at a classic French restaurant serving, well, very classic wines, going to Noma was an education in learning about the wines I had only heard about in passing. While I was exposed to these wines every day at Noma, it was one wine, or I should say one farmer, that changed my whole perception of wine, and made it impossible to go back. The 2004 Vigna Pinolo from Cascina Degli Ulivi in Piedmonte Italy. A Dolcetto clone coming from the south of Piedmonte called Nibio, from 80+ years old vines, growing on a beautiful chalky/limestone hill named Montemarino, farmed by Stefano Belotti, did just that. Soon after I tasted his Filagnoti. A Cortese from more Iron rich soils on the other side of the road from Montemarino. He could call it a Gavi, but since it matures one year sur lie in acacia barrels, it tastes amazing, and nothing like any Gavi I had ever tried

Complete awestruck by the wine this man was making, the only thing left to do was to go the farm myself. Working for Stefano for 7 month, and only drinking wines from him and his friends, really had a lot to do with the wine list at Amass. After only drinking Stefano’s wines, I realized that my palate couldn’t take the sulfites and the added yeasts in conventional wine. The wines tasted of manipulation and frankly, were unidimensional compared to Stefano’s. I knew at that point, I couldn’t go back.

I mean, is it really that exiting to be amassed by the nose of a wine from a foreign country, when most of the character comes from yeast made in a lab in Avedøre, Denmark? We’re a no bullshit restaurant. Our wines should reflect that too.

Life is more viral without chemicals! (Photo Credit: Amass)

Life is more viral without chemicals! (Photo Credit: Amass)