View from Christianshavn
Here we have an exclusive report on Copenhagen's famed NOMA restaurant, by a favorite Trail of Crumbs contributor, Janella Fox. Janella is a creative consultant/content producer based in Los Angeles. She has worked in fashion, music, art and entertainment and is the co-creator of  RUBIFOX and FIVE-TO-SEVEN.

You wouldn't expect one of best meals of your life to start with a single red orb on a stick and end with crispy pig skin while sipping coffee with strangers. But mine did.

This happened recently while spending some time in the very charming and very agreeable city of Copenhagen. Just days before leaving for the trip, a friend offered to secure me a reservation at René Redzepi's NOMA, aka THE best restaurant in the world from 2010-2012 and commonly known as being virtually impossible to get into, even a year in advance. I accepted the offer while at the same time assuming there was no chance in helvede it was going to happen. But within a week of my arrival, an email arrived from the kind PR manager of the restaurant confirming that there was a standing reservation for me in 2 days time and would I accept. There was no saying no. Some kind of divine intervention had occurred and the ultimate culinary pilgrimage was in my future.

We arrived to an old and formidable warehouse located along a remote area at the end of the scenic harbor in Christianshavn. It was formerly a trading port that was converted in 2004 into an art and cultural center.  The Nordic Food Lab is located across the way (it too has incredible design elements). NOMA means "Nordic Food" NO = nordic, MAD = food. A rather basic name for what is such a progressive and elevated food establishment. Also in that vain were the chefs I spied around the back of the building in the alley grilling away on classic black Webers behind a small fence near the old loading dock, bike racks and trash cans. Not what I expected but something I was happy to witness. I love a good collision of high/low.

NOMA Entrance
That day happened to be a rare sunny winter day, shedding warm honey colored light onto the sparse building and its other worldly landscape of low grassy mossy mounds and rocks hugging the base of the exterior. It felt as if we had been lured to the edge of the world, in an appealing and mysterious kind of way. Upon entering the bright and rustic interior, we were greeted by the handsome staff, all of whom seemed to be anticipating our arrival by suddenly appearing from the kitchen and other luminous corridors to gather in a group to welcome us with familiar smiles and a hearty hello. The sideways slants of winter light entering the room only enhanced this surreal reception. It was some sort of heaven that I won't soon forget.

Greeting committee
The lounge
The NOMA kitchen
The dining room was airy, light and weightless grounded only by rustic wood and the gorgeous black tables and chairs (by Space Copenhagen) draped with sheepskin. The unique thing about Denmark in the winter is the "hygge" tradition (for lack of a better translation, "to make cozy") which means that every room in every buidling you enter has many candles burning throughout the day and into the night. This added to the casual embrace of the room. In contrast, it was the kitchen that contained the elements one might expect to encounter at the such a fine establishment; indulgent rich and elegant with a refined contrast of black surfaces, shiny brass, subdued lighting....and it is worth mentioning again, a rather attractive staff busy at work making magical things.

We were seated at the communal table in the corner with windows looking out over the mossy mounds out to the water. It was then that the spectacle of the senses began and continued for the next 4 hours. It started with 10 "snack" courses that arrived in a rapid procession. (Including a juice in a "Nordic Coconut", Smoked quail eggs and my favorite new discovery, Pickled Rose Petals).

Janella and the "Nordic Coconut", a hollowed out kohlrabi filled with pressed juice sipped through
 a straw made of a chervil stalk. Served with an herb bundle of dill and chard. An otherworldly delight
Pickled and smoked quail's eggs
Pickled rose petal wrapped blackcurrant ball presentation
Pickled rose petal wrapped blackcurrant bite
The "snack" portion of the meal was  followed by the main courses including fermented onions seasoned with salt made of burnt ants and an elegant plate of wild duck with pear, the only meat centric dish of the meal. 
Burnt ants that were foraged in a nearby forest
Wild Duck, Pears and Kale
Then a series of desserts (one that left the most beautiful mess and the last of the 21 courses which came wrapped up in a bow!)

Gammel Dansk, a danish bitter with a crispy filet made of milk and a sorrel sauce poured over it.
 The beautiful mess before...
...and after
Fudge of smoked bone marrow presented in wrapping paper and a bow
All were paired with exceptional wines and presented by our lovely server and a revolving cast of characters from the kitchen. With the permission from my fellow diners I managed to photograph the glorious procession on my IPhone. You can view the complete 23 course experience here.

Another unexpected highlight during the course of the meal was the conversation that transpired with the fellow diners at our end of the communal table. After consuming the ridiculously yummy steamy savory æbelskiver ball during the "snack" round, our new friend Greg informed us that Trader Joe's is now selling the normally sweet Danish holiday treat in the frozen section. In that moment I reflected on the recent frenzy that went down over the Isabel Marant for H&M release as I began fantasizing about a "René Redzepi for TJ's" collection... The conversation somehow then turned to fast food and in that moment the British and  French couples at the opposite end of the table stopped to join in and confirm that yes, In-N-Out Burger is pretty f-ing delicious and just as worth the trip as to NOMA. And so went the discourse while finishing an epic meal at the former best restaurant in the world.

A friend of mine put it perfectly, he said it was as if myself and the other diners had each been given a ticket to the moon, so it was only natural that we would come together and form a bond over the experience. It was far closer to the moon than I imagined I'd ever possibly get and well worth the journey.

Æbelskiver and greens

A rare winter sunset with detail of the Black Diamond

All text and photos by Janella Fox


Adrian here.  The following post and recipe comes from my mother, Barbara Dentzel.  Even though she calls this toffee "practically perfect", when it comes out right, it is one of the best things I can imagine eating.  The felt hearts you see below are something she makes every year around Valentine's day, a craft she picked up while working with weavers in Chiapas, Mexico in the 70's. 

It has been a few years since I dared try to make toffee again. I had started to gather all the fixings after Thanksgiving to make a batch for Christmas with my new copper candy pot. But things got hectic. Valentines Day is coming up, so I gave it a whirl. The first batch was grainy and mushy but I ignored that and covered it with chocolate and walnuts.  Each time I took a bite, I pretended that it really tasted just the same as clear, crunchy toffee.  But alas, there was no denying that it hadn't set correctly.

I made a second batch. I let the mixture heat up a little more, beyond Hard-Ball stage (250-265 degrees F), but this time everything separated into puddles of oily butter and grainy lumps. I quit, and waited a few days before trying yet again. I had a long breakfast. Read more of the Sunday New York Times, took my sweet time, looking up at the clock and procrastinating as much as possible for fear of another failed batch.  Good thing my niece, Sophia, called, “Hey Aunt Barbara, just called to see what you’re up to”. She had been witness and helper years ago to some good batches of toffee and, unfortunately, seen the beginning of all the bad batches.  We have talked every Christmas about when I would try making some toffee again. “I’m just about to make some toffee, wanna come over?”  She did. 

Before diving in, I called my friend Kim, a chef and caterer. She told me to just turn up the heat and stir my way through the gunk if it all starts coming apart.  Was I getting it too hot?  I’m supposed to get up to Soft-Crack stage (270-290 degrees F) and then down to Hard-Ball, right? “I don’t know! You’ll know. It falls apart, but then it all comes back together, honey.”  Kim’s from the south. “Just keep going. Don’t be afraid to get it real hot”.

Last year I bought a pure copper pot for candy making at Dehillerin in Paris, and it was time to use it.  We let it rip and put some elbow grease into it.

Here’s what happened.



2 C refined sugar (We use the organic from Trader Joe’s)
1 ¾ C filtered water
¾ lb unsalted butter

1 t. salt, (we ground some grey sea salt, but of course any salt will do)
1 lb raw whole almonds
1 lb walnuts chopped
1 lb at least of bittersweet chocolate

*if you use salted butter skip adding the 1t. of salt

Necessary equipment:

-Heavy bottomed stainless steel pot or copper candy pot for making the toffee.
-A decent candy thermometer
-Use a wooden spoon only
-Use a double boiler for melting the chocolate.
-Use two equal sized cookie sheets with rims or jelly roll pans
-waxed paper

This, at long last, is how it works.

1. Melt half of the dark chocolate in the double boiler. This will be used to coat the first/top side of the toffee after it has been poured out onto the cookie sheet and cooled.  Chop your walnuts so that they’re all ready to sprinkle on to the hot melted chocolate when it’s time to spread it on the toffee. You have to spread quickly and sprinkle deftly before it hardens.

 Melting chocolate in a double boiler, Toffee mixture with almonds

2. Into your copper candy pot or heavy bottomed stainless steel pot, put all the water and sugar and begin to cook on medium high. Stir off and on and then constantly, until it reaches the Soft-Crack on your indispensable candy thermometer. About 285 degrees F. This stage is important as it totally de-crystalizes the sugar and gets you on your way to crunchy, not mushy, toffee. The sugar water will bubble and spit and get thick.

3. Now add the three sticks of butter and the almonds. The mixture will really start to bubble and spit. Stir hard with a wooden spoon through the bubbling and spitting. You will graduate into a more tamed, modestly bubbling, taffy-like consistency. Then just keep stirring and stirring. Fear not. If your mixture, like mine usually does, starts to separate, just stir harder. As you approach and/or reach the perfect moment you might hear the almonds pop and release a subtle almond oil aroma. Now is when it all comes together magically, right about when it reaches Hard-Crack on your thermometer, around 300 degrees F. (Here’s where the rub was. I had mistakenly written HARD BALL on my recipe, and so the mixture was constantly regressing to a grainy, loveless mush at less than 285 degrees.  A big no no.)

4. When the toffee reaches 300 degrees, and a darkish caramel color, turn off the heat and pour into one of the cookie trays. Let it spread and help it, into all four corners.  Put into the freezer so it cools more quickly.

 5. Take it out of the freezer and quickly spread on a thin layer of chocolate with a spatula. Then quickly sprinkle the walnuts while the chocolate is still soft. It’s really nice and fun to have another set of hands at this point, but by no means necessary. Cover with some wax paper and push down gently so the walnuts embed into the chocolate.

6. Put this back into the freezer for a bit so it cools. Now melt the second portion of chocolate in the double boiler for the bottom/second side. When the toffee is cool, take it out of the freezer. Line the other cookie tray with wax paper, sticking out over the sides. Lay the empty tray, face down, directly on top of the toffee laden tray. Hold tight, and flip it over. Tap the tray and the sheet of toffee should just drop down into the second tray.  Now you’re ready to cover this side with chocolate and walnuts.  Cool it again in the freezer. Break up into large or small bits and eat as much as your little heart desires or store in an air tight container.


My brother Peter, his wife Jackie, and their son Jackson came to visit us in Paris during Thanksgiving last year and made us an unbelievably delicious Vietnamese Short Ribs recipe that only has 4 ingredients in it. They told us it was their "go to" recipe when having friends over because its always a slam dunk. Whoooooooosh was right.  

Jackie's parents are from Vietnam and her father, Michael Vuong, has taught Jackie (and Peter) how to make many of his tasty recipes. I've tasted another one of his rib recipe's via Jackie and Peter, which was also simple and crazy good... we can save that one for later. Although, just thinking about it makes me want to make it tonight for dinner.

Peter and Jackie live in Switzerland, but at the time of writing this post, Jackie was visiting her family in Los Angeles and emailed me her father's recipe straight from the source. Lucky us.

Here goes!

serves 4

1 head of garlic (more or less depending on your taste)
4 lbs Pork short ribs (ask your butcher to cut the ribs crosswise, into bite sized pieces, and without the end flap meat)
Fish sauce ( Squid brand is a good one)

Chop the garlic (there's no such thing as too much in this recipe). Put aside. If your the ribs are not cut for you, I recommend using kitchen shears to easily cut them yourself (see below photos). Cut your ribs, trim fat and pat dry. Make sure the meat is dry before you start browning them otherwise they won't brown well.

In a really hot skillet/pan with a bit of oil brown the ribs on all sides. Pressing the ribs down onto the pan helps. Make sure to turn each rib individually, getting them nice and brown on all sides. This process will take some time but patience will yield goodness. Believe me.

Once all the ribs are pretty brown on all sides, sprinkle some sugar on them and toss until they are an even darker brown. This will happen very quickly. It's critical that you do not over-caramelize (burn the sugar) the ribs at this stage, as it will compromise the flavor of the sauce by making them taste slightly bitter later on. Be very careful with your timing here and have your water ready to go in! Next, quickly douse them generously with fish sauce, throw in half of the garlic and finally, add enough water to barely cover the ribs and turn the fire down. Let these guys braise for about 40 minutes to an hour. Covered.

After the 30 minutes are up, taste the sauce and see if it needs more fish sauce or sugar to taste. If you carmelized the ribs correctly, you will only need to add a few splashes of fish sauce. If you over caramelized the ribs, you may want to add a little sugar to counter the slightly burnt flavor. Find a flavor balance that works best for the dish.

You may need to reduce the sauce a bit, just until it has a nice deep flavor. You will want enough sauce to spoon over the ribs and rice. Once its good add the rest of the garlic toss them a little and cover until serving time. 

Serve with plain white Jasmine rice, fresh cold English cucumber pieces cut into spears. Traditionally you can eat this with a Thai chili pepper on the side, or a chili sauce of your choice. Sriracha is always a good one.

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