The upcoming visit from Magnus Nilsson has local food nerds in a tizzy. The Swedish chef's restaurant recently acquired two Michelin stars, and his latest work, “The Nordic Cookbook,” sold out its first printing in just 90 days.
Here in the home of former-sleepy-Scandinavian-fishing-village Ballard, Nordic cuisine is both underrepresented and underappreciated. Seattle’s got a few (great!) traditional Scandinavian bakeries — Byen Bakeri, Larsen’s, Nielsen’s — and the traditional pancake breakfasts of the (great!) Swedish Club. T-Doug’s The Ändra Bar started out with Nordic snacks, but seems to have abandoned them. I also miss the classics served at the Copper Gate. We need all these foods all over the place, right here, right now. Someone please, please just serve smørrebrød at their bar?!
Meanwhile, New Nordic cuisine has become hugely influential worldwide. Jonathan Sajda, program manager at Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum, says, “There’s not really anything in the way of dedicated Scandinavian restaurants in Seattle — a few fusion places, a lot of farm-to-table and Pacific Northwest places that apply very similar concepts, but that’s about it. Blaine Wetzel at the Willows Inn apprenticed at Noma in Copenhagen, and best I know he’s the only chef in the region with that pedigree.”
The museum’s Nordic Culinary Conference, May 6 through 8 (that’s the weekend after this coming one), aims to put us on the right path, and the impending presence of revered chef Magnus Nilsson of Sweden’s Fäviken has local gourmands in a tizzy. Fäviken recently acquired two Michelin stars, and Nilsson’s new “The Nordic Cookbook” sold out its first printing in 90 days. Sajda says he was dropping off some postcards for the conference at a local, non-food-related shop, and the manager immediately recognized Nilsson’s photo; when he said he was impressed that she knew who he was, she said, “Everyone who loves food should know who Magnus Nilsson is.”
Magnus Nilsson (I really, really just want to call him Magnus) will deliver the Friday evening keynote address along with fellow Swedish chef Kalle Bergman, followed by a panel on defining Nordic cuisine with the rest of the conference’s chefs: Norwegian chef Andreas Viestad (host of the long-running PBS series “New Scandinavian Cooking”), Finnish chef Sara La Fountain (also of “New Scandinavian Cooking”), Danish chef Lars Kronmark (head chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California) and more.
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So many other neat conference sessions are happening, both at the Nordic Heritage Museum and Hot Stove Society, and they’re all open to the public (prices vary). How about Finnish chef Sara La Fountain’s reindeer dinner — “an immersive and rare dinner demonstration, consisting of Finnish reindeer with wild mushrooms and salty licorice sauce”? “Norse Craft Beer Pairings” with Odin Brewery and Lars Kronmark? Nilsson’s “The Nordic Cookbook Lecture“? PBS’s Andreas Viestad’s class on “Contemporary Norwegian Cooking“? “Traditional Scandinavian Food of the PNW” with Lexi, the mono-monikered local aquavit maker of Old Ballard Liquor Co., who’s also working on opening a Nordic cafe? (Yes! Please! All of it!)
As Lexi says vis-à-vis the Nordic Culinary Conference as a whole, “It’s going to be pretty goddamn amazing.”