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Fäviken

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Fäviken 21683005 Järpen
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T+46 64740177

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Name: Magnus Nilsson
Date of birth: 01-01-1983
Origin: Sweden
Experience:
L'Arpège - Alain Passard - Paris - France L'Astrance - Paris - France 
 

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Fäviken Magasinet

Fäviken Magasinet

 

Is it right that I force my customers to kill a chicken at their table before I cook it for their dinner?’

This was how Magnus Nilsson, flushed with excitement, accosted me one afternoon during February’s Omnivore food festival in Deauville. ‘A couple of Russian ladies just asked me this during an interview,’ he gushed. ‘This is what people are saying about me’.

Although these two journalists were in fact incorrect – Mr. Nilsson insists on doing any killing himself – their spurious speculations were still testament to two truths: many people were now talking about somewhere where some special things were happening in northern Sweden; and that very few people actually knew what these special things really were.

Lying literally on the navel of the Nordic peninsula, on a line of latitude (big number° N) seemingly shared solely by the likes of little villages in Iceland and Alaska and a few hours from the nearest non-domestic airport, Mr. Nilsson does not reside in the most readily accessible of regions. Without doubt, today it is increasingly acclaimed as a destination with the international press talking up and flocking to faraway Åre just to visit it, but it was only a year or so ago, when Fäviken Magasinet was really merely a whisper on the lips of well-informed Swedish diners who spoke of some distant, new place north of Stockholm – the best restaurant in the country, maybe, they would mumble. Soon enough though, such murmurs became more and more material. A name and address were added to rumours before finally, at Cook it Raw Lapland, Magnus Nilsson met the world’s food media and Scandinavia’s best-kept secret was a secret no more.

Now, this young chef is winning cooking competitions abroad (Qoco 2010 in Italy, for instance) and is a regular on the food festival circuit – he was invited to Paris des Chefs, Identita Golose, Omnivore, Flemish Primitives…all in just the first three months of 2011 – whilst the restaurant, in an area inhabited, on average, by a single person per square kilometre, boasts a two-to-three month waiting list.


Indeed, gastronomy has not always been the first priority at Fäviken. Whilst the actual estate upon which the restaurant sits has some history – dating from the late eighteen-hundreds and once one of Sweden’s very largest privately owned properties before being divided into two and slowly trimmed down to its current 10,000 hectare size – Fäviken Magasinet itself has only been open a fraction of that time. Since 1986, to be exact. Furthermore, whereas recreational outdoor activities have been attracting guests to these grounds since the nineteen-sixties, it was not till the present owners, the Brummer family, took it over in 2003, that it was decided that this eatery ought to be anything more than a canteen. Yet even then, it was not until February 2008, when Magnus Nilsson started here, that things really started to happen.

Born and raised in the nearby provincial capital, Östersund, the teenage Magnus had to pick between two passions – cooking and marine biology. Clearly he choose the former – though he maintains an interest in the latter – and, straight out of school, joined Pontus in the Greenhouse as a pastry chef whilst spending the summers before and after at Kattegatt Gastronomi och Logi. At twenty, he left Sweden for France and an internship at a small, new venture in Paris, run by a pair named Pascal Barbot and Christophe Rohat. The place was l’Astrance. Completing this, that spring he traded one Michelin star for three and a permanent position at l’Arpege. But barely three weeks later, he had been fired. It was a language issue: Passard spoke French; his then head chef, Mauro Colagreco, spoke Portuguese; and Nilsson spoke neither. He went home to Sweden, intending to stay there, however before long Barbot offered him a raison d’être to return to France. By Christmas 2003, he was in Paris again.

The switch was successful and Nilsson went on to spend the next three years there. It was a dramatic and exciting period: soon after, the restaurant had a second star; in two more, it had three. His relationship with Barbot was a rewarding one too and he credits the Frenchman with teaching him the value of impeccable ingredients – a lesson that has ordered his own approach. Ironically though, once he had left l’Astrance and was cooking in Stockholm, the young Swede started to recognise that it was becoming increasing difficult to separate his own style from Barbot’s. It was a realisation that led him to leave the kitchen altogether and, in 2006, he enrolled on a year-long oenology course.

Subsequently, Mr. Nilsson was hired at Fäviken – but as its sommelier, working under the then-incumbent chef, Hans Erik Holmkvist. It was a situation that did not last long. On 1st November 2008, at a tender twenty-six, he took over the kitchen too. By replacing Holmkvist, he was left the restaurant’s lone employee and therefore, for the first year of his charge, had to double up as chef and front of house. To make it work, he served one sitting at dinner for at most eight diners altogether on a communal table. Still, in those early days, on some nights, even eight customers was eight more than he could find. He was not discouraged.

Although Mr. Nilsson had arrived intent on never cooking again, soon the allure of the stoves proved simply irresistible. The lush lands of Järpen and natural richness of the surrounding area gave him a new lease of life and allowed him to exercise again the diversions of his adolescence that had been impracticable in Paris – fishing, farming, the chase. Even constrained as he was there, Barbot was quickly able to appreciate this side of him: ‘he is a born botanist, hunting is in his blood’; whilst Nilsson admits that ‘most of my inspiration in the kitchen comes from nature and the unique circumstances at Fäviken’.

The grounds around the restaurant are indeed the model set for this young chef. Seven-hundred-and-fifty kilometres north of Stockholm, the estate entails thousands of hectares of woods, waterways and undulating meadows resting on the eastern slope of Åreskutan alongside Lake Kalljön. It is an area comprising more game animals than people with streams and lochs loaded with local char and brown trout. It is even covered in a calcareous soil that encourages the growth of rare mosses and other plants.

Nestled amidst these moors and meres, assembled about an old grain barn built in 1745, there is a small collection of cottages that form Fäviken Magasinet Restaurang och Logementet.

 

There are seven lodges in all. Of the newest four – all coloured cream and maybe subtly more rococo in appearance (provoked by the style’s brief popularity in Trondheim during the eighteenth century perhaps) – one is privately owned, another houses a fully-equipped spa and the two remaining are made up of very handsome guestrooms.

The oldest buildings, discernible by their traditional Falun red timber facades, are also the largest; one is a renovated warehouse and office whilst the other holds the games room, some accommodation and is where guests dine. The latter is divided into two separate spaces entered through different doors. To the left, there is a large salon boasting leather settees and a beautiful snooker table; this is the eye’s natural focus, but the horde of various animal’s heads, stuffed and mounted on every one of the very tall walls, vie for one’s attention too. An adjacent staircase leads to bedrooms upstairs.

The building’s other half contains the kitchen, lounge and dining room. Betraying its original barn function, inside the walls are made up of wooden beams and bear no windows; instead light comes from gas lamps and a fireplace. The talking piece is suspended near the doorway – the only item left behind by the former owner: a tailor-made, hundred-year-old coat fashioned from the pelts of four wild wolves. The downstairs drawing room, where today guests enjoy aperitifs and snacks, was in fact Fäviken’s first dining room during the initial year that Mr. Nilsson took over. As the restaurant’s reputation improved and he was able to expand to twelve covers, the meal was moved upstairs and a maître d’hôtel taken on. This was Johan Agrell who was once a promising chef himself before becoming a manager at Esperanto in Stockholm. The new salle does have some windows albeit small, spherical ones that are again supplemented by lanterns and a little fire. There are more tables now, but these still number only ever three or four and are arranged along three sides of the room. As decoration, large hocks of ham dangle from the exposed rafters of the roof. Classical Swedish folk music completes the scene.

Dinner is served promptly at seven in the evening and there is one menu, which Mr. Nilsson decides and everyone eats in chorus.

Apéritif: Fermented Rhubarb Juice and Gin. Upon sitting down downstairs, Miss Roth prepared each diner a drink of ten-year old rhubarb juice and Hendrick’s gin. This sherry-like juice from Bengt-Johnny and Jan-Anders in Öster-övsjö was originally intended to be sold as rhubarb wine, but the pair had made it before acquiring the proper licenses needed to trade alcohol. It took the two almost eight years to get these and even then they were not certified to sell the pre-licence juice…

Fäviken Magasinet

Amuse Bouche: Fermented Arctic Char ‘Rakfisk’ with Sour Crème. A cube of coral coloured, brine-cured Arctic char sitting atop sour crème came in a long wooden spoon atop a stone slab. Salted and stored for months underground, this small piece of fish had punchy odour, but surprisingly mild and subtle savour; its dense yet yielding texture and mouthfeel were most agreeable. The cream underneath, tangy and unctuous, was an excellent and classic counterpoint to the char. A terrific start.

Amuse Bouche 2: Wild Trouts Roe served in a Warm Crust of Dried Ducks Blood. Baby-sized ebony baskets of desiccated duck’s blood bore bright burnt orange bubbles of unsalted trout caviar. The fragile, charred crust, flavourful and savoury, seasoned the superbly fresh roe that burst with a slightly sweet taste that was more of egg than of fish. Some sauce of cheese, cream and more blood, secreted inside, imbued each warm bite.

Amuse Bouche 3: Crispy Lichens with Dried Egg Yolks and Smokedried Fish, Lightly Soured Garlic Cream. A couple of stone tablets were presented with two different types of foraged and lightly fried lichen prepared in two distinct ways. Upon one, reindeer lichen was served with shavings of lightly cold-smoked trout; on the other, Icelandic moss was covered with cured egg yolk. The former, named for reindeer’s fondness for it as well as its similarity to the same animal’s antlers, is the most common and commonly eaten kind of lichen. Each a small, celadon construction of compacted, crispy branches, they were rather mild themselves, but enlivened by the smoky trout on top. The latter have long been used in Iceland and other Arctic regions as medicine and to supplement grain in the local diet; there they are consumed as candy, soup and mixed with dairy. These darker morsels of Icelandic moss – a misnomer – were flatter and resembled seaweed; they were brittle and bitter, but worked well with the salted and dried yolk. The garlic sour crème alongside had great texture.

Amuse Bouche 4: Shavings of Old Sow and Wild Goose. Cerise slivers of home-cured pork, taken from the plumpest sow and hung since Christmas 2009 in a dry room, arrived with glistening segments of wild goose coloured carmine and fringed with a nice skirt of ochre fat. Aged for nine months, the goose pieces were pleasingly meaty, complex and intense – almost beefy – with an agreeably gamey and lingering aftertaste.

Bröd och smör: Tove’s Bread and the Very Good Butter. As the bread was brought out, an old kneading trough was shown off. It was served with a story. This was the same tray that once belonged to Magnus Nilsson’s grandmother and her grandmother before her; it still harbours traces of the same sourdough culture she used – now over two hundred years old. The family connection does not end there: with this ancestral starter, flour from Järna near Stockholm and from an island in lake Storsjön processed together at a mill in Östersund, he uses his wife’s recipe to bake a pain au levain loaf that possessed a thin yet crunchy crust and dense, dark yet moist and fluffy crumb. It was simply excellent. The very good butter (its official name here), from close by Oviken and with a texture like melting cheddar, was superb too.

Förrätt: Scallop ‘I Skalet Ur Elden’ cooked over burning juniper branches. A triangle of sizeable scallop shells sat closed atop straw and leafy stems at the centre of the table; a small lump of coal sat smouldering amidst them. The scent stemming from this burning birch charcoal – woody-sweet and smoky – was a catalyst, at once awaking the senses and agitating one’s appetite.

One of the sea’s most evocative symbols, suggestive of the setting sun, of Venus, pilgrimage, femininity, fertility and more, each shell was an incomparable intermingling of pale pinks, creams and pastel greens. After admiring their gentle geometry, the covering carapaces were removed to reveal bronze splashs of scallop jus surrounding the shellfishes’ muscles whose burnt rose hues matched the hints tinting their alabaster coffers.

An impeccable Norwegian scallop had been cooked alive above branches of fresh juniper and birch coal. As it started crackling, it was taken off the heat and its contents emptied. Nothing was discarded nor additional added. The scallop was replaced immediately whilst the skirt and insides strained then returned too. This whole process took no more than ninety seconds. It is a seemingly simple system, but the results were brilliant. Eaten by hand, the shellfish itself, satisfyingly firm to bite yet barely cooked through, was succulent and sea-sweet. Drunk straight out the shell, the strong, iodic juices were just as delicious.

Förrätt 2: Langoustine, Toasted Grains, Sprouting Barley, Mature Cheese, Vegetables Stored in Whey since last Autumn and Almost Burnt Cream. A single substantial langoustine, inset with a sprig of birch, dominated the dish; a small mound of muesli mounted with vegetables, hard cheese and barley sprouts, along with a spoonful of reduced cream, shared the plate. Lightly pan-fried till lustrous orange, the shellfish separated nicely into its individual, luscious filaments whilst the toasted grains, tasty and savoury, tendered welcome crunch. Almost burnt cream, full of dairy flavour yet clean, was well met by the acidity of the roots, which had been pickled in whey for almost nine months. The inclusion of mature cheese was a nice nod to the native Swedish custom of eating crawfish with Västerbotten.

Förrätt 3: Slices of Cod Lightly Brushed with Honey and then Seared in a dry pan, Rutabega Roasted Slowly in the Good Butter, Alcoholic Vinegar, Green Juniper Berries and a Cream of Duck Eggs and Gammelost. An ivory ingot of cod, caramelised perfect persimmon colour yet its centre still nearly translucent, sat skirted on one side by a long wedge of slow-roasted swede that was straddled with some vivid green juniper-infused vinegar and whose own orange shades mirrored those of the fish, and on the other by an immaculately rounded drop of cream; each piece was placed on the dish at parallel diagonals bearing from bottom to top.

This could be the best cod that I have ever been served. The fillet’s quality was immense and it had been handled and cooked extremely well too. The juniper vinegar was also impressive. Upon touching one’s tongue, this substance turned from an innocuous jade liquid jelly into unadulterated electric currant that disseminated through the mouth and animated every taste bud. Whilst the al dente rutabaga was decent, this sizzling sauce and cod alone could have been enough. The cream, which was actually a mix of Gammelost – old Swedish cheese – and duck eggs, was rather a little rich for me.

Förrätt 4: Raw Mussels, Very Fresh Cheese and Very Light Broth of Beef Filtered Through the Spring Forest Floor. A bowl was brought bearing a bed of fresh cheese, above which a brace of raw blue shell mussels laid level, side by side, sprinkled with almost raw baby blades of nettle; at the table, a delicate beef broth was poured in from a leaf-filled teapot. Not normally seen served so rare, these tender, tubby North Atlantic bivalves, did not remain so for long – the consommé gently warmed the mussels, carefully cooking them. Made to order literally five minutes before being plated, the cheese beneath resembled tofu in terms of taste and texture. The nearly raw nettles – again something rarely seen – offered some easy bitterness and pepper whilst accentuating the grassy notes of the crystal clear and subtle stock. Having been resting with mosses, replete with their roots, and other random forest flora, the contents took on a tea-like quality with an aroma as well as flavour instantly evocative of the forest floor.

Förrätt 5: The First Foraged Vegetables of the Year Wilting on a Plate, Sheep’s Cream Whisked with Vinegar Fermented Beer and Ground Cods Roe. A considerable, curved dish, its surface flat, was set down. Across its centre, a bundle of assorted greens rested delicately arranged – they appeared as if freshly cut and still moist with the same morning’s dew. At symmetrical spots either side of these could be found a porcelain-like spoon of sheep’s milk cream and some dried cod’s roe grated in a small gamboge heap. The minimalism was imposing. The vegetables, which really had been foraged that very morning from a nearby verge just behind the restaurant, were each toothsome and distinct. The coiled, plump fiddlehead ferns were mildly nutty and bitter (akin to asparagus), the fireweed similar if a little sweeter whilst the ground elder, crisp and refreshing like celery. The cream, made with vinegar-fermented beer, immediately reminded one of malt vinegar; a reference to Kalles kaviar maybe, the homemade roe was the smoky seasoning.

Förrätt 6: Dices of Cows Heart and Marrow, Grated Carrots. Mr. Nilsson and his sous chef ascended the staircase and marched into the middle of the dining room. They had not come empty-handed. They carried with them a large, already-grilled thighbone, which was placed upon a pedestal standing in between the three tables. Here, they sawed the bone open. Whilst stacks of toasted sourdough and vibrant clusters of lovage salt were handed out, Nilsson mined the soft, pinkish marrow out of the bone and onto awaiting plates of raw beef heart tartare and rough-chopped carrots.

The instinctively self-made open-faced sandwiches that inevitably ensued tendered rewarding, contrasting chews of cool, tender meat; warm, melting fat; and deliciously sweet, crunchy carrot.

Förrätt 7: Ribeye of a Pensioner Milking Cow Dry Aged since early January, Panfried and then Rested on the Charcoal Grill, Sour Onions and Wild Herbs, Fermented Mushroom Juices from last year. A carving of dry-aged rib-eye, its crust chargrilled and centre burgundy, came fringed with a nice bronze border of fat; colourful wild herbs covered a mass of caramelised onions whilst dark dots of mature fermented mushroom juice punctuated the plate.

The beef, from a seven-year old, retired dairy cow, had been dry-aged by Nilsson himself for five months – from Christmas till summer almost. It was exceptional. Melt-in-the mouth tender, the meat was full of smoky, charred savour. Its unctuous adipose was especially toothsome whilst pungent like good cheese. The moreish, creamy-crisp onions were a great complement; having been cooked in reduced whey, their sour-sweetness cut the steak well. Year-old mushroom jus packed a punch.

Efterrätt: Wild Raspberries Ice; Fermented Lingonberries ‘Vattlingon’ Thick Cream and Sugar. As a pre-dessert, sugared ‘lingonberry water’ with cream and some wild raspberry sorbet were presented on a pair of wooden spoons, nostalgic of those that the first snack arrived on. The latter was fresh and fruity-tart whilst the former a more intricate, but finely balanced bite. Traditionally Swedish/Russian vattlingon that originated when sugar was so expensive that these berries were preserved by simply storing them in bottles of water at room temperature for a year or so.

Efterrätt 2: Sorbet of Milk, Whisked Duck Eggs and Raspberries Jam. Once upon a time, the barn within which Fäviken Magasinet now rests was a dairy school. Consequently, when Mr. Nilsson moved in, he found, amongst other things, a 1920s ice cream maker and it is with this that milk sorbet is made à la minute in the dining room for the last dessert.

A bright white quenelle of it is deposited, semi-submerged, in a foamy sabayon. Immersing one’s spoon into the snow-shaded, ersatz crust, a cache of raspberry jam reveals itself. It is an easy-to-eat, classic marriage of milk and berry.

Petit Fours: Pine Tree Bark Cake, Buttermilk; Dried Berries, Meadowsweet Candy and Tar Pastilles. A selection of different sweets awaited diners with their coffees and teas downstairs. Alongside them, three interesting homemade liquors were also ready: raspberry, duck egg and sour milk.

Atop a block of rock rested ebony pieces of dried blueberry and blackcurrant, separated by a peachy streak of meadowsweet candy pearls; a small wooden treasure chest held tar pastilles too. All these were precise in flavour and somewhat addictive – especially the liquorice tar, which is apparently an acquired taste. Brought out shortly after the drinks, some excellent pine tree bark cake with buttermilk was warm, moist and tasty.


The wines were all very good and matched the food well. The delicious 2008 Schwarzhofberger Riesling Kabinett from Egon Müller was the standout, but it was also great to see the inclusion of Fäviken’s own Pale Mead from Bengt-Johnny and Jan-Anders in Öster-övsjö on the menu.

Service, directed by Mr. Agrell and assisted by Miss Hanna Roth, was first-rate. Efficient, elegant and humorous, we were entertained and tended too superbly well. Agrell especially was engaging and very knowledgeable about the cooking, beverages and the restaurant, regaling us with many interesting stories about both Fäviken and, much more amusingly, Mr. Nilsson. Although it was literally only the two of them running the front-of-house, one never had to wait for anything nor was it ever any effort attracting someone’s attention. Furthermore, timing – of food and wine – was expert.

The dining room itself is the romantic incarnation of a fairytale imagination. It completely lived up to expectation. Rustic and quaint, it was warm and charming. If there was anything that could be described as imperfect, it was dinner’s soundtrack: this local folk music was sometimes a little distracting during the meal’s quieter moments.

Nilsson and his team made several appearances throughout the meal in what has almost become de rigueur in these parts – service à la nordique, if you will. A couple of courses also entailed à la minute elements completed in front of the guests, including the sawing of the bone and churning of the ice cream. Where possible, some sort of family style interaction was encouraged too: snacks and sweets were served from shared plates, as were the scallops and additional cuts of beef.


Dinner made an impression.

From the first morsel of fermented arctic char – a seemingly simple, small square, maybe enough for a single mouthful – it was evident that this meal might be something special. This minimal nibble was in fact full of flavour and surprise: its pungent musk initially misleading one into assuming something quite intense and powerful, it actually seduced the tongue with subtlety and its instantly recognisable quality. This was quickly succeeded by a series of delicious tastes that showed off Mr. Nilsson’s persistence and patience. Wild goose that had been curing since last August, fatty sow from Christmas over two years ago – such forethought and consideration were remarkable and certainly delectable. The courses proper, preceded by fantastic bread and butter, started with arguably the finest dish, the scallop. More on this shortly. Next, the langoustine and cod really revealed the wealth of amazing ingredients that Nilsson has to hand. Later plates boasted restraint and delicacy, prior to the matured, beefy main that reminded the diner once again of the chef’s providence and planning. Desserts were nice, but arguably not as notable as what came before.


My abiding thoughts from Fäviken are focused about the produce and the personality of the cuisine.

The ingredients were incredible. The shellfish especially were some of the best that I have seen – the scallop and cod perhaps both new benchmarks. The beef here could also include this restaurant in the number of places that I would return to just to eat this meat. It was almost as good as that of Asador Etxebarri and Japan. The repeatedly praised bread made from carefully sourced flours and the wickedly moreish butter deserve yet one more mention here. The eggs do too. Upon arriving at the estate, we were able to visit one of the chef’s suppliers – the increasingly famous Mr. Duck, Peter Blombergsom. This gentleman breeds half a dozen organic and free-range varieties of duck and chicken whilst providing Nilsson with his eggs and bird blood; he has also recently expanded into snail farming. The eggs are certainly of a high standard and I was privileged to try them once more a week later at his newest (and second) customer, noma. The exceptional wild trout roe that arrived super fresh and unsalted must be singled out as well.

Nothing in Nilsson’s kitchen comes from more than two hundred kilometres away. Meat is from Fäviken; vegetables are from the estate too, grown by gardener Magdalena Engberg; the seafood is from Trondheim; with only sugar, salt and wheat sourced from southern Sweden. One might suppose such geographical concentration a constraint – especially considering that snow covers this land six months out of twelve – but not this chef who confides that he has ‘never worked with better produce than here’. He is in a fortunate position. Upon the restaurant’s own grounds, he is able to hunt for moose, grouse and hare; fish in its lakes; and forage for berries, mushrooms, moss and lichen. ‘Of course we could buy vegetables from somewhere else during winter,’ Nilsson declares, ‘but by using our own produce and preparing it in the way that used to be necessary to survive, we force ourselves into thinking in new ways’.

Mr. Nilsson’s own attitude towards ingredients is simple: the initial step in every new recipe must be finding the ‘perfect raw material’. The second step is maximising that product’s potential. The chef enjoys focusing on one principal protein when building a dish, keeping it as intact as he can and altering it as little as possible. It is in the garnish that spicing and additional flavours may augment that of the main meat/fish/vegetable. The prime example of this is the scallop ‘i skalet ur elden’. This course corroborated Nilsson’s argument that the ‘combination of the perfect ingredient and the perfect cooking technique’ negates all need for extra seasoning. It is a total eating, drinking, sensory event where everything you taste, all that you taste is scallop – it is the essence of scallop. Stunning and memorable, it conjured up similar sensations as René Redzepi’siconic langoustine dish did the first time that I ate it. The chef himself admits that his wish would be a menu composed of a dozen such dishes.

Time and place’ is an expression that is becoming more and more established – and important – in the average eater’s everyday lexicon. Fäviken has both in abundance. It is a terrific illustration of where the eating experience is the essential digest of what one sees and feels around them filtered through the imagination and intelligence of the chef cooking their meal. Accordingly, this is an immensely personal cuisine.

Nilsson explains it best himself. ‘We do things as they have always been done on Jämtland’s mountain farms: we follow seasonal variations and existing traditions. We live with the community. During the summer and autumn, at the peak of each ingredient’s ripeness, we harvest what grows on our land and refine it using methods that we have discovered from our rich traditions or which we have found through our own search for quality. We build up our provisions ahead of the dark winter months; we dry, salt, jelly, pickle and bottle. The hunting season starts after the harvest and is an important time, when we take care of the exceptional food that the mountains provide us with’.

This restaurant could not be anywhere except in Jämtland. And its chef could not be anyone but Magnus Nilsson. Besides the fact that the restaurant relies nearly fully on its surroundings to fill its stores, many of the techniques and routines of the kitchen are informed by indigenous customs of preserving, curing, fermenting and the like. Rightly so then that the chef is a native too. More than that, he fulfils all the expectations of a Jämt given that the etymological root of the word derives from the Proto-Germanic term meaning persistent, efficient, enduring and hardworking.

Indeed, no shortcuts are allowed. This is one expression of the old-school ethos here – that there are no thermometers and all the cooking is judged by touch are others. As is the open charcoal fire in the centre of Fäviken’s kitchen, which the chef enjoys using as much as he can and where he experiments with the flame and different kinds of wood. These are responses to Nilsson’s childhood and reminisces over the wood-fired oven at his grandmother’s farm. Other idiosyncrasies of the chef are easily distinguishable too. For example, Mr. Nilsson has a sweet tooth and fondness for candy, something that the petit fours, a choice of different confections, are doubtless indicative of. There is also an uncommon incidence of dairy during the meal, which is actually acutely reflective of where one is eating: in Jämtland, there is a strong appetite for milk and thus many milk products, especially cheese, as it is the easiest way to conserve milk. Consider it carefully and this food reveals Nilsson’s terroir, upbringing, personality, tastes and even those that have influenced him too.

It is in such ways that the chef articulates his own character and thus colours his cuisine with individuality.

The chef that has made the greatest impact on Nilsson is Pascal Barbot. This is from whom the Swede has learned the most. The striking minimalism, optimistic use of colour, seasoning style and indifference to saucing of some of the courses all intimated that this is someone who might have spent time with the Frenchman, but it was really the cod that was the single largest clue of this. The cut, cuisson and even caramelisation of it reminded me immediately of Barbot. That being said, this is not in any way an implication that this is imitation in any form. Not at all. This is clearly Magnus Nilsson’s food and one of his greatest gifts is his originality.

His methodical approach and his curiosity are two more of this chef’s strongest qualities. These are perhaps the automatic manifestation of Mr. Nilsson’s scientific mind. Like a scientist, he has an innate affection for researching and testing new techniques and ingredients. Such keenness might be behind one of dinner’s most interesting items: the juniper-infused vinegar. This is basically alcoholic vinegar – the same that is used to clean dishes – yet in such small amounts, it was superbly effective. There was also a logic and attention to detail here that was at times so subtle that it might have been missed. My favourite demonstration of this was with the Icelandic moss. These lichen possess a bitterness proven to whet the appetite and stimulate hunger – hence, they are inherently ideal as a snack. Another symptom of this mind-set is his insistence on an evolutionary process with new dishes rather than a saltational one: ‘the menu is changeable, when one ingredient runs out, it needs to be replaced by another. We never replace dishes ‘just because’, instead we would rather wait for a new ingredient, idea or dish that is actually better than the one being replaced. Much of what we serve has its own lifespan and remains on for a long time, slowly becoming something entirely different to the original, despite having the same name throughout its existence’.

Magnus Nilsson sums up his philosophy as Rektún food. Real food. ‘[The] literal meaning is very simple, but for me it has a lot more values than that. We respect our raw ingredients for what they are, what they look like and where they come from. We strive to monitor production of each ingredient from seed to plate. We accept nature’s own choices as the primary factor and apply our own knowledge in order to maximise every product’s potential before we select the ones we are going to use. We concentrate on harvesting, preparing, cooking and then serving it in most thought through and exact way possible. We present every single ingredient in a manner that conveys feelings that arise in the process to create rektún food…We don’t follow trends. We serve what we want, when we want. Respect, control, selection, concentration, presentation. [This is] rektún food’.

It is inevitable that similarities will be drawn between noma and Fäviken. Both restaurants reside in the same region and both limit the ingredients they cook with to that area too. This is enough for many to conclude that they are essentially the same. This is wrong. Where the two overlap is only on ideology, geography and thus some basic foodstuffs and methods.

Whilst the raw materials might be similar, the results are certainly not. For one, at Fäviken there are three in the kitchen; at noma, there are thirty more. Redzepi has the resources to create perfectly complete new dishes quickly and in quick succession; Nilsson pursues a more measured pace where recipes evolve over time and with the seasons. Here, the cuisine is a little simpler, more straightforward and direct – and rightfully so. But it is not just about what is on the plate. When leaving Fäviken, one departs with the most abiding, brightest conviction of a potential immense and not yet met. The chef is refining – still cultivating – his craft and even now discovering what is realisable with what he has still waiting, unearthed, around him. To see the impending consummation of such a beautiful ideal as his is compelling enough reason to return.


Today, terroirism is trendy and sexy. Thanks to the adherents of new naturalism, eating natural, local food has become cool again. Chief amongst these is indeed René Redzepi, who has shown chefs worldwide – and instilled within them a confidence – that cooking what is native to each is a realistic ambition and, more than that, meaningful and worthwhile. It is not a new idea, but a forgotten one remembered again.

When Magnus Nilsson arrived at Fäviken, it was not with a calculated mission to cook with ingredients as immediate to him as possible. His superlocavore attitude was an intuitive, subconscious – and eventually self-fulfilling – impulsion that grew from an increasing intimacy with the natural world directly around him. It was a slow, steady success and it was not without stress. However, it is Redzepi who Nilsson cites as the one who showed him that it was not a futile effort, but something fundamentally valuable and actually viable.


Food is currently fashionable and the greatest interaction that the average urban individual now has with nature  – real, raw nature – is arguably with what they find in their refrigerator or on their plate at a restaurant. Thus, what chefs like Magnus Nilsson and René Redzepi are doing – though doing differently – is incredibly relevant.

They are changing how people eat. They are renewing man’s relationship with nature.



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Fäviken: Adventures in Scandinavia Part 1

Fäviken: Adventures in Scandinavia Part 1

"In the old grain store runs a different restaurant. A kitchen unlike most others."

It all began in mid July with the Summer Food Special magazine in the weekend edition of the Financial Times.  On my Monday morning commute in the claustrophobic London tube, sandwiched between various sweaty people, I read Nick Lander’s review of a restaurant in the middle of nowhere in northern Sweden.  I decided immediately that I had to go, and upon arriving at work 20 minutes later, promptly made a reservation at Fäviken Magasinet.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it proved difficult – or rather, impossible – to convince anyone to journey to the Nordic hinterlands with me, and so I, undeterred, decided to go alone.

Two months later in early September, after a series of debacles including: a missed flight; some rather incredulous conversations (“You’re going where? To do what?”); the initial confusion of how to turn on my rental car (there was no key, you just put the key chain in a port on the dashboard and press the On button); a brief spell driving on the left hand side of the road until oncoming traffic reminded me I was no longer in the British Isles; as well as numerous turns that took my farther and farther from anything remotely resembling civilization, by some miracle and The Grace of God I arrived at Fäviken at about 2:00pm on Friday, September 2, 2011.

Sommelier, manager, maitre d’hotel, general jack of all trades Johan Agrell greeted me when I arrived and offered to fix me a “simple lunch.”  Now, when I think simple lunch, I think ham sandwich – maybe a meat and cheese board, if I’m lucky.  But everything’s relative, so what arrived at Fäviken was a beautiful omelette with chanterelle mushrooms, accompanied by crisp bread made with local flour, hard cow’s milk cheese and some of the best butter I have ever tasted.  Oh, and of course a glass of wine – a lovely Beaujolais.  (Okay, maybe two glasses of Beaujolais.)

the omelette

cheese & butter - yum!

So there I was, feeling pretty pleased with myself, sitting in what amounts to a hunting lodge in a room with double height ceilings, walls adorned with stuffed animal heads, a giant Snooker table, and a roaring fire.  What a contrast to a normal Friday lunch in The City of London, eating a sad sandwich from Pret a Manger.

not all of these are from Sweden....

antlers make good light fixtures

The Snooker Table

To work up an appetite for dinner, I went for a walk around the Fäviken estate.  The grounds are in fact privately owned by the Brummer family, and the main house on the property is the family residence.  There had been a restaurant on the property for a number of years – but it was more hunting lodge convenience than haute cuisine.  The family decided they wanted something different, and engaged chef Magnus Nilsson to come up and run the place a few years ago.

trees

Lake Kalljön

sheep!

Dinner began at 7pm and was announced by a bonfire lit outside the barn.  The guests for the evening – nine in total the night I was there – were ushered into a windowless room on the ground floor.  A fire burned in a stone fireplace in one corner, and each party was seated at a separate group of low sofas and coffee tables for an aperitif and our four (4) amuse bouches.

There is no menu at Fäviken.  Magnus decides what to cook each day based on what is available and in season, and what he feels like.  For the wines, there is a bit more choice – Yes or No to the pairings.  But frankly, when is that answer ever No?

And so I sat waiting, like a child at Christmas, for the culinary adventure to begin.

The first dish of the evening was “a little lump of very fresh cheese served in warm whey, lavender.” It was served in a small white china bowl and slurped down all in one.  It was like eating solid milk, with just a hint of lavender – reminiscent of drinking warm milk before bed.  And, as with every course we were served throughout the evening, after each guest had been presented with his or her dish, Magnus explained it and instructed us in how to eat it.

the little lump of very fresh cheese

(Sidenote: If any food experience made me wish I had a halfway decent camera, this was it.  So if you really can’t stand my iPhone shots, I refer you to various other blogs and reviews with far superior quality food porn: Financial Times, Bon Appetit, Food Snob.  The Food Snob post also includes a fairly comprehensive biography of Magnus, who, among other things, started out at l’Astrance in Paris in the early 2000′s.)

Amuse #2 was “wild trout’s roe served in a crust of dried pig’s blood.”

the roe

When I have described this to people since, invariably the reaction has been less than favorable.  But when sitting at Fäviken, you don’t even pause to consider the idea of pig’s blood congealing in small molds – and certainly not how it might have been extracted in the first place – you just smile and nod and think it’s the most natural thing you’ve ever heard, before popping the entire thing into your mouth.  And a very good thing that is too, because if you did stop to consider those things, you might not be able to eat it, and that would be a real travesty, because it is, indeed, delicious.  The medium sized bubbles of roe popped satisfactorily, releasing their sweet, salty, oil, while the crumbly crust complemented the texture nicely and added a bit of earthiness to the dish.

Amuse #3: Crispy Lichens.  Yes, lichens, like the ones that grow on trees and rocks.  All of the products used at Fäviken are local, and many of them are foraged on a daily basis from Magnus’s walks.

crispy lichens

The lichens were topped with grated, dried roe and accompanied by a garlic cream.  They were a little bit salty and felt like eating crispy lace.  They almost reminded me of potato chips, except obviously much more delicate, and not tasting like potato.  The next chic bagged snack, perhaps?  Veggie chips and gourmet popcorn watch out….

And finally Amuse #4, dried trout shavings which had been cured in very good sea salt.

dried trout

All this was accompanied by a glass of Bereche et Fils champagne – the first of Johan’s six expert pairings.

After the amuses, we were led upstairs, one by one, to the main dining room.  On the way we passed a 100-year old fur coat hanging on the wall under a spotlight (excellent photo of Magnus wearing said fur coat on the Bon Appetit website here.)

The dining room is almost windowless – a few small portholes stud one wall through which the darkening sky was just visible.  In winter when it’s dark at 3pm, I’m sure it’s nice to be cozily ensconced in a warm, wooden room, forgetful of the big dark expanse outside.  When I was there, it would have been nice to be able to enjoy the view across the fields, but one can’t have everything I suppose.  In any case, the closed-in, self-contained quality of the room added to the feeling that Fäviken is a world away, removed from the everyday, and certainly it helped us to focus on the task at hand – namely, dinner.

the dining room

The above photo was taken from my table, and as you can see I have the best seat in the house with a view across the entire dining room, and therefore was able to survey all the goings on of the evening – very key when dining alone.

The first course upstairs was “Scallop ‘i skalet ur elden’ cooked over burning Juniper branches.”  And it arrived on a bed of moss and small branches, accompanied by a few smoldering Juniper embers.

The Scallop

Magnus explained that the scallop is slowly roasted over the branches, and when it’s just cooked, the inedible bits are scraped out, strained, and the natural juices then poured back in.  We were further instructed to eat it with our hands, and then to drink the juice from the shell.

Now I, like any good American, love finger good.  (I have never quite gotten used to eating pizza and hamburgers with a knife and fork in continental Europe.)  And this was doubly exciting because, really, when was the last time someone told you the right way to eat something as upscale as a scallop was with your hands?

the inside

It was a consistency like no other scallop I have ever eaten (nor am likely to eat again, unless I return to Fäviken) – very firm, barely cooked, and tasted incredibly fresh – which no doubt it was.

The scallop was paired with mead, specially made for Fäviken by a local producer, and fermented in the bottle.

Fäviken Ljust Mjöd, Bengt-Johnny & Jan Anders, Öster-Övsjö

This was my first experience with mead – and a very positive one.  The liquid was golden and slightly cloudy, with a slight tang and a savoriness that complemented the sea-sweet scallop.

Then came “grilled monkfish, kale, green Juniper and alcoholic vinegar.”  The monkfish was slowly cooked – during service, we were later told – over an open fire of birch branches.  Like the scallop, it too was only very lightly cooked – just enough to not be raw.  The outside was blackened and infused with a wonderful smoke flavor.  The single leaf of kale was also smoked with a satisfying crunch, and the green Juniper seeds and alcoholic vinegar added a jolt, without overpowering the delicate fish.  This wonderful juxtaposition of flavors and textures was a trend that continued throughout the meal.

monkfish and kale

The monkfish was accompanied by a glass of 2007 Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Les Sentiers du Clou, Sylvie Boyer, Côte d’Or – a beautiful white from Burgundy that was very fresh, a little citrus and minerals.  Like all the other pairings a perfect companion to the food.

Our third seafood course was a “raw mussel and wild pea pie.”  It was a tiny, slimy mouthful, topped with edible flowers (foraged by Magnus, natch), and nested in a crunchy mini pie crust.  It tasted like the sea.

the raw mussel

Next up: potatoes

Is that a pile of leaves?

Yes. With tiny new potatoes hidden inside.  The official description (on the printed menu we were given the next morning) is “potatoes harvested some hours ago then boiled with autumn leaves.”  This, Magnus explained, was because new potatoes quickly lose their flavor after being picked.  Thus, they are extracted at the last possible moment, and then, to even further reinforce the flavor, they are cooked with last year’s autumn leaves (that have been decomposing since the spring).  We were told to pick them out with our hands, squash them and dip them in the “good butter” provided.  Speaking of butter – it probably deserves a post of its own – it was so creamy, salty, delicious – you could eat it plain (in fact I think I did).

The potatoes were followed by “steamed leeks, sheep’s cream whisked with vinegar fermented beer, grated cod’s roe.”

The Leek

If you are wondering where the cod’s roe is – it’s the brown shavings to the right of the leek.  The leek itself was softly crunchy; the cream had a wonderful barnyard sheep flavor, with a small sting of vinegar and beer; topped off by the salty, crunchy roe. I never knew leeks could be so interesting.

The final vegetable dish was a small salad of “mushrooms, stone brambles and very fresh peas”.  There were a few different types of mushrooms – including chanterelles – lightly cooked; some of the biggest (and exceedingly fresh) peas I have ever eaten, served raw; and stone bramble fruit, which are the small, red berries in the picture.  They were acidic with a large stone in the center, and popped when I bit them.  In texture, they reminded me of pomegranate seeds, but were not sweet. (Sidebar: Wikipedia, source of all real and true knowledge, states that some sources claim eating stone brambles with alcohol can be dangerous and cause allergic reactions.  Luckily no one in the restaurant seemed to have this problem.)

mushrooms, stone brambles & very fresh peas

The whole thing was a wonderful combination of flavors and textures – the mushrooms were woodsy and soft, the peas were crunchy, fresh and sweet, and the brambles added an acidic pop.

Somewhere along the way between the monkfish and the mushrooms, we switched to a new wine – the 2008 Scharzhof Riesling, Egon Müller, Mosel – a light style Riesling.

After the latest round of dishes had been cleared (the service was at all times impeccable), and our next wine – a hearty Barbaresco (2005 Barbaresco Montestefano, Theobaldo Rivella, Piemonte) – had been poured, Magnus and one of his kitchen staff appeared with a saw.  With no fanfare or announcement, they moved a wooden block with a cow’s leg to the center of the room and began cutting it in half. (I did not get a good action shot of the sawing, but this one from Food Snob pretty well captures it.)

He then took the two pieces of leg over to the large table set up on one side of the dining room and proceeded to scoop out the marrow directly into the bowls of our next course which, in addition to the above, included “dices of raw [cow] heart, grey pea flowers, toasts and herb salt”.

marrow & heart

It was epic.

I have had marrow before, but only in a Parisian brasserie (Claude Sainlouis, which is a very fine establishment and by far my favorite in that city), where it bore little to no resemblance to what now lay before me.  At Fäviken, it was soft and slimy – but in a good way – and the raw heart was firm and rich – real essence of cow.

This extravaganza was followed by “grouse fried in the good butter and served with sauce of its offal”.

Grouse & Matsutake

We got the head (including the brain), breast and leg of grouse – artistically plated as you can see.  The brain was kind of smushy and strong (even for an adventurer like me, perhaps not my favorite part), and the breast and leg were deliciously gamey.

The bird was served not only with offal sauce, but with a delicious slice of Matsutake, or pine mushroom.  Matsutake are highly prized by the Japanese, and most of the Nordic crop is exported, but an eccentric scientist nearby to Fäviken doesn’t trust the local exporter and provides them to the restaurant instead.  The best ones are served as above, or similar, the less attractive ones they preserve, and the really yucky ones they infuse into a housemade, pungent vodka that I sampled after dinner.

True to their English common name, Matsutake have a strong pine taste, and the flesh is white and meaty.

The grouse was followed by “fermented lingonberries, thick cream, sugar, raspberries ice”  which was served in two beautiful wooden spoons.  We were instructed to eat the raspberry ice first.

fermented lingonberries & raspberry ice

The ice was tart and refreshing – while the lingonberries’ sourness was slightly tempered by the cream.

With this palate cleanser came our last wine of the evening – a 2003 Vouvray Moelleux Réserve, Philippe Foreau, Loire.

Next came the “cheese” course, which wasn’t really cheese, but took it’s place on the menu: “Pine bark cake, pudding of cream, acidic herbs and frozen buttermilk, lavender mushroom.”

pine bark cake

The cake was sort of a cracker – savory and, as one might expect, piney – and the frozen buttermilk added a cold, tangy punch to the cream and herbs.

And finally, the dessert dessert, “raspberries jam, whisked duck eggs, sorbet of milk” which reminded me of a zabaglione, but fresher and lighter.

dessert

The raspberries were a sort of jam on the bottom of the dish – tart, not too sweet, and with the whole berries still intact – the duck egg was room temperature, soft and with that unique flavor that is more wild and farm-y than chicken eggs, and the milk sorbet was a little ball of coldness on top.

The sorbet was finished off in the dining room by one of the sous chefs in a 100 year old barrel.

making sorbet

Now three hours later, we were shown back downstairs and reseated on the low sofas with coffee tables for infusions, coffee and candies.  There was a selection of dried blueberries, lingonberries, hard meadowsweet candy and tar pastilles.

after dinner

After the other parties had departed or retired, I was left with two fellow diners, a Finnish chef and sommelier, and together we were given a tour of the kitchens.  We saw the open grill where the monkfish is made, as well as 20 or so beautiful game birds, including a few capercaillies – dead – strung up by their feet on a rack in the middle of the room.  They were stunning, with incredible plumage and as Magnus handled them and I tentatively stroked their feathers, they seemed more like works of art than dead animals.

Finally we rounded out the night finishing off the bottle of Barbaresco in front of the fire in the game lodge, before dragging ourselves to our rooms and collapsing into bed.

my room in the Logementet

You may find it hard to believe, after the epic food journey the night before, that anyone could have room for breakfast the next day.  But of course I did – and it was amazing, in a totally different way from dinner.

the unique breakfast

Served in the almost-windowless-dining-room, it included, clockwise from left: a very thick homemade yogurt, a soft boiled egg (the most perfectly cooked soft boiled egg I think I have ever had), fresh honey, smoked trout, hard cheese, liver pâté, a “reindeer salami thing” (technical term), rilletes, raspberry juice made specially for Fäviken, fresh milk, raspberry jam, granola, fresh bread, the good butter and boiled Swedish coffee (served from a big copper pot).

Off to the right there also arrived a delicious short bread type cookie with raspberry jam in the middle “to go with my coffee.”  YUM.

honey in a nest

Of course I had to try everything, and couldn’t bear to actually leave, so it was a mad dash collecting my suitcase, driving an hour or so to the airport, and boarding the plane to Stockholm for the next leg of my Scandinavian Adventure (post forthcoming).

As I left, Johan joked that if I got lost and missed my flight, I could have a second night at Fäviken.  I seriously considered getting lost on purpose …

Vital Statistics:
Location: Fäviken 216, 83005 Järpen, Sweden
Website: http://favikenmagasinet.se
Prices: total for one person including lunch, dinner, wine, breakfast and lodging was about US$530 (£345)

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THE NORDIC WAVES-SCANDINAVIAN CHEFS: MAGNUS NILSSON

THE NORDIC WAVES-SCANDINAVIAN CHEFS: MAGNUS NILSSON

The Nordic Waves is the term I used to describe this group of chefs from all of Scandinavia, mainly from Sweden, Denmark and Norway. These chefs known for 3-4 years at international level have particularly been at the forefront over the past two years due to the recognition of New Nordic Cuisine and the emphasis on a cuisine close to nature and the local products. All this, without relying on the status attained by the restaurant Noma and Chef René Redzepi. But beyond fashions and trends of the moment, I discovered a high concentration of young chefs, innovative, creative, open to the world and all dedicated to their garden and immediate environment.

Magnus Nilsson is a child of the region of Jämtland (Sweden). It is hard to cook more local than the young chef Nilsson. Almost all the ingredients used come from fantastic Fäviken Estate or the local area (Jämtland or Norwegian neighbours in Tröndelag). Another time, it would qualify his cuisine of survivor’s cuisine to pass the winter but Nilsson creates a great cuisine with the same products and his own philosophy named Rektún food (Real food), see his explanations.

I found a Chef dedicated to his environment, his cuisine and the essential of creation. Follow this chef carefully!

Q+A WITH MAGNUS NILSSON (http://www.favikenmagasinet.se/home-en/ ):

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics? Can you explain the Retkun food term? (I will try to put your text of your website in the interview.)

MNilsson- The words rektun food is how you say real food in my regions (Jamtland) dialect, the literal meaning is very simple but for me it has a lot more values than that.

We respect our raw ingredients for what they are, what they look like and where they come from. We strive to monitor the production of each ingredient from seed to plate. We accept nature’s own choices as the primary factor, and apply our own knowledge in order to maximise every product’s potential before we select the ones that we are going to use. We concentrate on harvesting, preparing, cooking and then serving it in the most thought through and exact way possible . We present every single ingredient in a manner that conveys the feelings that arise in the process to create rektún food.

Our ingredients are primarily from the Fäviken Estate, grown and raised in conditions that we control. After this, they come from people we know in the local area, Jämtland, and, lastly, they come from our Norwegian neighbours in Tröndelag.

We do not follow trends. We serve what we want, when we want.

Respect, control, selection, concentration, presentation.

Rektún food

 
 
 

 

 
 
 

Dining Room/Fäviken Magasinet

2-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?

MNilsson- I have several very memorable childhood food memories but one that is particularly special to me is the one of flatbreads with a lot of fennel seeds cooked in the wood fired oven at my grandmother farm. We ate them with homemade and sometimes almost rancid butter and messmör wich is a very sweet reduced paste of whey.

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?

MNilsson- Most of my inspiration in the kitchen comes from the nature and the unique circumstances at Fäviken but of course there are several people that inspire me in other ways. I have also learned things from everyone that I ever worked for that put together with the things I learned by trial and error makes up the cooking we do today at Fäviken.

4-(Scoffier) Do you are part of the New Nordic Cuisine manifesto? If yes, are you as strict (just local products) that René Redzepi in your recipes?

MNilsson- No I’m not part of that but I think we are actually even more strict than anyone in it, even René. The food at fäviken comes to 70% from the estate and almost everything else is sourced from our region (Jamtland) or the norwegian region bordering us (Trondelag) and produced by people we know. The only things we buy from the south of Sweden is, wheat flour, sugar, salt and vinegar.

5-(Scoffier) How do you develop (your inspiration) your recipes and construct your menu at Fäviken?

MNilsson- The process of creating the menus at Fäviken is very much controlled by the limitations in our concept, where the produce is sourced from and the particular circumstances in the region. I find that the limitations we have imposed on our selves is promoting creativity and forces us all into thinking in new ways.

6-(Scoffier) You work often with preserved food (leeks, cabbage etc.). Long time ago these was a survivor’s cuisine (to pass the winter), for you it is just a great cuisine near of the Nature?

B) Can you explain how do you prepare the fermented cabbage, it is a form of kimchi?

MNilsson- That’s exactly how it is, of course we could buy vegetables from somewhere else during the winter but by using our own produce and preparing it in a way that used to be a necessity to survive we force ourselves into thinking in new ways.

The fermented cabbage is lightly salted and then the  covered in whey and left in a ceramic jar to preserve itself in lactic acid produced by the lactic acid bacteria in the whey.

7-(Scoffier) What is the importance of wine in your menu?

MNilsson- We serve it to the menu though we try to utilise as many other beverages of the region as possible.

8-(Scoffier) Do you use some elements from molecular gastronomy or new technology in your cooking techniques? If yes, which?

MNilsson- No, if you mean in the form of ingredients or techniques from molecular gastronomy and Yes to modern technology in the kitchen. For example we use the pacojet sometimes and even though we mainly use our open fire for cooking we also have a modern oven and a modern stove.

9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Magnus Nilsson and Fäviken?

MNilsson- Recipe: Unseasoned Scallop  ”i skalet ur elden” cooked over burning Juniper branches

10-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as chef or for your restaurant? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others?

MNilsson- Our ambition at Fäviken is to continue the process of refining our concept and to increase its quality both in the kitchen, the dining room and in the hotel. It would be interesting to produce a book about the process of creating rektun food but I don’t think that I would ever do a TV show…

 

RECIPE:Unseasoned Scallop  ”i skalet ur elden” cooked over burning Juniper branches

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 

Recipe ScallopJuniper/©Fäviken Magasinet

This is a very simple dish which is extremely demanding to produce. The scallop needs to be nothing else than perfect and the timing of the cooking has to be very precise. To be able to do this recipe with a good result you need to be at least two people otherwise the critical moments will take too long and the precision in the cooking will be lost.

INGREDIENTS & PROGRESSION RECIPE

 The iodine saltiness of the almost raw broth together with the perfect scallop eaten and drunk directly from the half shell covered in fresh smokey sooth is excellent with some good bread and mature butter.

 The perfect quality of the scallop and the cooking technique eliminates all need of salt or other seasoning.

(Serving 4 people):

-4 perfectly fresh, very large and abolutely sand free live scallops in their shells.

-Birch tree coal

-Fresh juniper branches

-Some dry hay with a high herb content

1. Light your coal with a hot air blower or an electric coil, never lamp oil or any other chemical

2. Spray the hay lightly with water

3. Put the juniper branches on top of the coal and when they start burning cook the scallops directly over the fire. They are finished when you hear them making a crackling noise along the edges.

4. Open the scallop up and pour all that’s in them in a preheated ceramic bowl. Separate the actual scallop and put it back in the shell. Strain the beards and intestines quickly and divide the cloudy broth in the shells together with the scallop. Put the top half back on the shelf, place them on the hay with some fresh juniper and coal and serve them right away.

5. From when you take the scallop of the fire until it is served no more than 90 seconds can pass.

 

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Delicias vikingas para todos los gustos - El naturalista Magnus Nilsson pisa fuerte en la nueva cocina sueca

Delicias vikingas para todos los gustos - El naturalista Magnus Nilsson pisa fuerte en la nueva cocina sueca

Si vas a Fäviken en verano, podrás ver el sol de medianoche. Si vas en otoño o invierno, verás nieve. Se dejan fuera el frío y las botas de montaña para adentrarse en una cabaña donde brota la naturaleza y el calor de hogar que Magnus Nilsson mantiene como un refugio culinario fuera del mundanal ruido. Pero este chef de 27 años hará mucho ruido gastronómico en la nueva cocina nórdica. Ya está entre los elegidos de la lista 50 Best de la revista Restaurant y será una de las estrellas de Madrid Fusión 2012, donde hace cinco años fue "como visitante" junto a Pascal Barbot, con el que trabajó tres años en L'Astrance y con quien comparte sintonía estética.

Huevas de trucha salvaje envueltas en piel de morcilla

Huevas de trucha salvaje envueltas en piel de morcilla crujiente, un plato de Magnus Nilsson.-

Todo lo que se degusta en Fäviken procede del lugar y los alrededores

Además de Noma y el avance vikingo de procedencia danesa, "en Suecia hay vida", dice sonriente Nilsson ante un horno-parrilla Josper de fabricación española. Lo ha probado en los asadores vascos que le gustan y "es más barato que los hornos de aquí", afirma mientras corta finísimas lonchas de panceta, como un sashimi porcino, y las coloca sobre platos-piedra. Pizarras y lascas de granito son, junto las maderas talladas, son elementos básicos en la vajilla rústica de Fäviken (www.favikenmagasinet.se). En el restaurante, donde comen 12 personas, las pieles de los animales que habitan en los inmensos bosques del norte de Suecia y las pieles arbóreas abrigan a la reducida clientela. La tenue luz de las velas rompe la penumbra y los comensales posan la vista en el extraordinario paisaje que se cuela por los ventanucos y en la decoración rural que cuelga del techo en algunos rincones: embutidos y bacalao puestos a secar.

Gamo, reno, alce, vaca, cerdo, urogallo, trucha, salmón, vieira... son algunos de los ingredientes que maneja Nilsson. "Soy feliz porque tengo el restaurante que quiero", afirma. Lo consiguió en 2008. Antes había huido de Estocolmo porque no tenía la materia prima que consideraba necesaria para practicar su cocina: "el mejor producto preparado de manera simple". La pureza y el minimalismo técnico es su camino para "volver a las raíces, a una herencia que no aprovechábamos".

Todo lo que se degusta en Fäviken procede del lugar y los alrededores. Cada día sale un par de horas para recoger plantas y brotes. En verano es cuando el paraíso verde nórdico da sus mejores frutos, y Nilsson conserva lo que recoge para disponer de ello en los tiempos de crudeza climatológica. Incluso las carnes son maduradas durante varios meses.

Tiene huerta para cultivar sus verduras de forma ecológica y, también, a pie de cocina, lagunas con patos y peces que acabarán en su cocina. Los líquenes que tapizan las piedras son servidos como aperitivo crujiente. Del pan a las galletas para el café, todo sale del horno de Fäviken. Nilsson conserva los utensilios que su abuela utilizaba y hasta la masa madre, que sigue dando consistencia y sabor auténtico a las rebanadas. El acento de autenticidad es tan fuerte en las manos e ideas de Nilsson que él mismo y un cocinero de su equipo sierran el hueso de la res recién sacrificada para extraer el tuétano a la vista del público. En sus platos lo probarán luego, en un tartar que también lleva trocitos de corazón vacuno y germinados de cebada. Lo que no produce Fäviken son los vinos que sirve (biodinámicos), pero sí tiene cerveza de la zona.

Para completar la voluntaria reclusión de quienes peregrinan a estos confines de Suecia, hay atractivos como un hotel y un spa con vistas al horizonte.

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Gulls’ Eggs and Lichen

Gulls’ Eggs and Lichen

Since El Bulli’s closing, the food world has shifted its gaze to Scandinavia—and to Sweden’s youngest and most remote star chef.

New Nordic cuisine is the food world’s Next Big Thing—culinary shorthand for food that is foraged, sourced locally, and quite often raw rather than cooked. In other words, virtuous food. The term is synonymous with René Redzepi and his Copenhagen restaurant Noma. But there is an equally talented and even younger chef creating stunning New Nordic Cuisine dishes in rural Sweden, just south of the Arctic Circle.

Magnus Nilsson, 27, who trained in two of the greatest Parisian restaurants (L’Astrance and L’Arpège), is now running a tiny place called Fäviken Magasinet in a centuries-old barn overlooking a lake on a 9,000-hectare private estate. This improbable destination is in the underpopulated region of Jämtland, which adjoins Lapland. An elegant safe haven, it is enveloped by pristine wilderness and snowcapped mountains 600 kilometers northwest of Stockholm. It is arguably the most isolated serious restaurant on the planet. Bears roam around the estate but are rarely observed, while occasionally a stray wolf turns up in the surrounding forests.

More to the point, there is an extraordinary abundance of readily available wild ingredients, ranging from trout, eel, moose, hare, and black grouse to a tantalizing range of mushrooms, herbs, and vegetables, all grown locally. Nearby, an island off Trondheim in Norway provides oversize scallops and langoustines, while on the edge of the estate, “Mr. Duck” provides the poultry. There are upwards of 100 other suppliers who offer delicious items to fill the restaurant’s abundant larder. In less than three years, Fäviken has made its mark on the world foodie scene, even entering the San Pellegrino World’s Top 100 restaurants at a respectable No. 71. Nilsson suspects that if the restaurant were located in Stockholm, such acclaim might have been gained in less than a year. However, such is its growing renown that parties of up to a dozen fly in on private jets both to savor the cuisine and to spend time fishing or hunting the elusive capercaillie (wood grouse) or simply exploring the forests.

There is nothing austere or minimalist about the cuisine at Fäviken, and the only imported ingredients are sugar, salt, vinegar, and the impressive selection of fine wines and coffee. “Many people expect something like Noma, but there are very few similarities—although we are probably even more focused on finding superior local produce than they are,” Nilsson observes. “Our cooking is very simple but precise. It is almost a ritual of ours that nothing is prepared in advance. Here we put our meat on a grill over direct heat, and that is the only way we cook it. I prefer to take a greater risk and, most of the time, achieving a greater result.”

Although the sense of isolation here does focus the mind and heighten the sense of anticipation, what makes the journey worthwhile is the boldness of Nilsson’s dishes and their utter simplicity. Upon arrival at the small complex of traditional buildings, you are offered what is virtually a dream picnic—a whole smoked trout, robust local pâté and cheese, homemade jams, freshly made bread and butter, and a bowl full of gulls’ eggs. This is the equivalent of nursery food compared with what follows, but it puts you in the right frame of mind—excellent natural produce presented in a straightforward yet memorable way.

swedish-cooking-nilssonn-ov11jpg

Magnus Nilsson, Bruno Cordioli / Flickr

On the night I was there, the starters for the evening’s main event were served on polished granite slabs on the ground floor of an elaborate 18th-century grain store: wild-trout roe resting in a tiny cylinder of dried pig’s blood that resembled parchment; a variety of crispy lichens; lip-smacking slices of cured pig’s belly; and, to cap it off, fried thrush heads, which we ate in their entirety, except for the beaks.

After this, we negotiated a steep staircase to the dining hall above, where dried fish, legs of pork, various mold-encrusted sausages, and bunches of herbs dangled from the rafters while jaunty folk music played in the background. The food was equally otherworldly, starting with scallops baked over a barbecue in their own juices and served on a bed of birch and juniper twigs. Then those huge langoustines arrived, along with toasted grains, shavings of local cheese, and a black-currant-infused burnt cream, which had a pleasant caramel flavor. The drinking options were either a local beer or superb wines from the most sought-after regions of Burgundy.

On reflection, the next two dishes sound bizarre if not downright challenging, but no diners failed to complete them with obvious satisfaction. The first was thin slices of raw cow’s heart with freshly grated carrot, accompanied by perfectly cooked bone marrow, theatrically extracted from large bones that were hacked apart at the table. Then rare goat’s liver with neck meat that had been marinated in mead and served with morels and thyme. I admit this might sound like some wild fantasy from an out-of-control slaughterhouse, but that was not the case. The desserts included a cake of pine-tree bark with frozen butter that was created in front of us in an old wooden churn, and a whipped duck’s egg with raspberry compote.

As this occurred during the summer, when we retired to bed after midnight it was still completely light, which added to the delight of the experience.

Nilsson is already in demand at top international food festivals, and while I have tasted his food at several places besides Fäviken, it invariably fails to reach the heights he achieves at home. He admits this to be the case, but thinks it is necessary to spread his message beyond the 12 covers per night at Fäviken. He is sanguine about the lasting interest in New Nordic Cuisine, though he doesn’t think it will have the same impact as Modernist Cuisine, as practiced by Heston Blumenthal at Britain’s Fat Duck or Ferran Adrià at his former Spanish restaurant, El Bulli.

“I think there is going to be a big focus on New Nordic Cuisine for a year or two and then it will fade away ... People will soon tire of the novelty, which is bad, but for the moment we are benefiting from the publicity,” Nilsson says. “However, I will still be cooking like this after it stops being trendy, as it is the only way I know how to cook.”

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Magnus Nilsson

Magnus Nilsson


Food

The 12-seat restaurant Fäviken Magasinet is at the upper reaches of the globe, 750 kilometres north of Stockholm in the Swedish wilderness. Young chef Magnus Nilsson, 28, grew up in this remote region before leaving for Paris. Pascal Barbot taught him the value of excellent products, which turned out to be his greatest lesson. Nilsson is a true hunter-gatherer, and nothing in his kitchen comes from more than 200 kilometres away. That may seem impossible in an area where it snows six months a year, but 'I’ve never worked with better produce than here,' he exclaims. In spring and summer he forages daily for lichen, berries, and mushrooms, while in autumn he hunts for moose and grouse. Every vegetable he serves grows on the estate. His cooking is poetic and minimalist, meant to maximize the potential of each product. There are rarely more than three ingredients on a plate, such as wild trout roe in a warm crust of pig’s blood. Or Norwegian scallops, cooked live in their shells over a fire of juniper branches, then served unseasoned in their own cloudy broth. Nilsson says this is a prime example of his style: 'It’s a combination of the perfect ingredient and the perfect cooking technique.'

Sample dish: lightly salted wild tout roe in a warm crust of dried pigs blood; Preserved leek, sheeps cream whisked with vinegar fermented beer and grated cods roe; Black Grouse gently cooked in a pot of dried herbs collected from local meadow. Grillied Goat kid, steamed broccoli, potatoes slowly fried in lightly rancid lard; Wild raspberry ice;unseasoned scallops cooked over burning juniper branches; crispy lichens seasoned with cured eggs or shavings of smoked char to dip in thick cream and fresh garlic

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Best emerging Chefs and creators

Best emerging Chefs and creators

 

Magnus Nilsson/©Fäviken Magasinet

THE NORDIC WAVES-SCANDINAVIAN CHEFS: MAGNUS NILSSON

The Nordic Waves is the term I used to describe this group of chefs from all of Scandinavia, mainly from Sweden, Denmark and Norway. These chefs known for 3-4 years at international level have particularly been at the forefront over the past two years due to the recognition of New Nordic Cuisine and the emphasis on a cuisine close to nature and the local products. All this, without relying on the status attained by the restaurant Noma and Chef René Redzepi. But beyond fashions and trends of the moment, I discovered a high concentration of young chefs, innovative, creative, open to the world and all dedicated to their garden and immediate environment.

Magnus Nilsson is a child of the region of Jämtland (Sweden). It is hard to cook more local than the young chef Nilsson. Almost all the ingredients used come from fantastic Fäviken Estate or the local area (Jämtland or Norwegian neighbours in Tröndelag). Another time, it would qualify his cuisine of survivor’s cuisine to pass the winter but Nilsson creates a great cuisine with the same products and his own philosophy named Rektún food (Real food), see his explanations.

I found a Chef dedicated to his environment, his cuisine and the essential of creation. Follow this chef carefully!

 

Q+A WITH MAGNUS NILSSON (http://www.favikenmagasinet.se/home-en/ ):

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics? Can you explain the Retkun food term? (I will try to put your text of your website in the interview.)

MNilsson- The words rektun food is how you say real food in my regions (Jamtland) dialect, the literal meaning is very simple but for me it has a lot more values than that.

We respect our raw ingredients for what they are, what they look like and where they come from. We strive to monitor the production of each ingredient from seed to plate. We accept nature’s own choices as the primary factor, and apply our own knowledge in order to maximise every product’s potential before we select the ones that we are going to use. We concentrate on harvesting, preparing, cooking and then serving it in the most thought through and exact way possible . We present every single ingredient in a manner that conveys the feelings that arise in the process to create rektún food.

Our ingredients are primarily from the Fäviken Estate, grown and raised in conditions that we control. After this, they come from people we know in the local area, Jämtland, and, lastly, they come from our Norwegian neighbours in Tröndelag.

We do not follow trends. We serve what we want, when we want.

Respect, control, selection, concentration, presentation.

Rektún food

 
 
 

 

 
 
 

Dining Room/Fäviken Magasinet

2-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?

MNilsson- I have several very memorable childhood food memories but one that is particularly special to me is the one of flatbreads with a lot of fennel seeds cooked in the wood fired oven at my grandmother farm. We ate them with homemade and sometimes almost rancid butter and messmör wich is a very sweet reduced paste of whey.

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?

MNilsson- Most of my inspiration in the kitchen comes from the nature and the unique circumstances at Fäviken but of course there are several people that inspire me in other ways. I have also learned things from everyone that I ever worked for that put together with the things I learned by trial and error makes up the cooking we do today at Fäviken.

4-(Scoffier) Do you are part of the New Nordic Cuisine manifesto? If yes, are you as strict (just local products) that René Redzepi in your recipes?

MNilsson- No I’m not part of that but I think we are actually even more strict than anyone in it, even René. The food at fäviken comes to 70% from the estate and almost everything else is sourced from our region (Jamtland) or the norwegian region bordering us (Trondelag) and produced by people we know. The only things we buy from the south of Sweden is, wheat flour, sugar, salt and vinegar.

5-(Scoffier) How do you develop (your inspiration) your recipes and construct your menu at Fäviken?

MNilsson- The process of creating the menus at Fäviken is very much controlled by the limitations in our concept, where the produce is sourced from and the particular circumstances in the region. I find that the limitations we have imposed on our selves is promoting creativity and forces us all into thinking in new ways.

6-(Scoffier) You work often with preserved food (leeks, cabbage etc.). Long time ago these was a survivor’s cuisine (to pass the winter), for you it is just a great cuisine near of the Nature?

B) Can you explain how do you prepare the fermented cabbage, it is a form of kimchi?

MNilsson- That’s exactly how it is, of course we could buy vegetables from somewhere else during the winter but by using our own produce and preparing it in a way that used to be a necessity to survive we force ourselves into thinking in new ways.

The fermented cabbage is lightly salted and then the  covered in whey and left in a ceramic jar to preserve itself in lactic acid produced by the lactic acid bacteria in the whey.

7-(Scoffier) What is the importance of wine in your menu?

MNilsson- We serve it to the menu though we try to utilise as many other beverages of the region as possible.

8-(Scoffier) Do you use some elements from molecular gastronomy or new technology in your cooking techniques? If yes, which?

MNilsson- No, if you mean in the form of ingredients or techniques from molecular gastronomy and Yes to modern technology in the kitchen. For example we use the pacojet sometimes and even though we mainly use our open fire for cooking we also have a modern oven and a modern stove.

9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Magnus Nilsson and Fäviken?

MNilsson- Recipe: Unseasoned Scallop  ”i skalet ur elden” cooked over burning Juniper branches

10-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as chef or for your restaurant? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others?

MNilsson- Our ambition at Fäviken is to continue the process of refining our concept and to increase its quality both in the kitchen, the dining room and in the hotel. It would be interesting to produce a book about the process of creating rektun food but I don’t think that I would ever do a TV show…

 

RECIPE:Unseasoned Scallop  ”i skalet ur elden” cooked over burning Juniper branches

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 

Recipe ScallopJuniper/©Fäviken Magasinet

This is a very simple dish which is extremely demanding to produce. The scallop needs to be nothing else than perfect and the timing of the cooking has to be very precise. To be able to do this recipe with a good result you need to be at least two people otherwise the critical moments will take too long and the precision in the cooking will be lost.

INGREDIENTS & PROGRESSION RECIPE

 The iodine saltiness of the almost raw broth together with the perfect scallop eaten and drunk directly from the half shell covered in fresh smokey sooth is excellent with some good bread and mature butter.

 The perfect quality of the scallop and the cooking technique eliminates all need of salt or other seasoning.

(Serving 4 people):

-4 perfectly fresh, very large and abolutely sand free live scallops in their shells.

-Birch tree coal

-Fresh juniper branches

-Some dry hay with a high herb content

1. Light your coal with a hot air blower or an electric coil, never lamp oil or any other chemical

2. Spray the hay lightly with water

3. Put the juniper branches on top of the coal and when they start burning cook the scallops directly over the fire. They are finished when you hear them making a crackling noise along the edges.

4. Open the scallop up and pour all that’s in them in a preheated ceramic bowl. Separate the actual scallop and put it back in the shell. Strain the beards and intestines quickly and divide the cloudy broth in the shells together with the scallop. Put the top half back on the shelf, place them on the hay with some fresh juniper and coal and serve them right away.

5. From when you take the scallop of the fire until it is served no more than 90 seconds can pass.

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The deep roots of the High North

The deep roots of the High North

Right now one of the hottest names within the food and restaurant world is Magnus Nilsson, chef at restaurant Fäviken Magasinet in the north of Sweden – and that for a reason.

When I first met Magnus at the Flemish Primitives this March, I was from the first moment fascinated by what he told me about his restaurant and his philosophy. He told me how he strives for authenticity and how he applies the methods and traditions which have been in use for generations in that part of Sweden, combined with learnings and techniques from the modern, French kitchen. Or as he expresses it on the restaurant’s website,

We do things as they have always been done at Jämtland’s mountain farms. We follow seasonal variations and existing traditions. We live with the community. During the summer and autumn, at the peak of each ingredient’s ripeness, we harvest what grows on our land and refine it using the methods that we have discovered from our rich traditions, or which we have found through our own search for quality.

Watching Magnus Nilsson with Pascal Barbot (restaurant L’Astrance, 3-stars) on stage at the Flemish Primitives convinced me that I just had to visit this new Swedish place that is mixing a modern haute cuisine approach to cooking with Swedish produce and traditions. So immediately after returning from Belgium I booked dinner and accommodation for 21st of May 2011.

Early Saturday morning we flew to Östersund by connecting through Stockholm. When I got out of plane in Östersund the very fresh air struck me. We were about 1,000 km north from Copenhagen so the temperature was lower and it underlined the dry freshness of the air. What was almost summer in Copenhagen was only the prime of spring here.

We rented a car in Östersund and drove the 90 km to the Fäviken estate outside the town of Järpen. We could have asked for Fäviken to pick us up in Trondheim in Norway instead, but I really wanted an opportunity to explore the area around Östersund and Åre. We arrived around lunch time and were greeted by Johan Agrell, restaurant manager and sommelier. Johan informed us about the estate, the history and the surroundings of Fäviken.

While waiting for our room to be ready Johan kindly served some incredibly tasty local ham and cheese along with some fine-cut cubes of fermented vegetables which we enjoyed in the big and peculiar living room. The peculiarity stems from the walls being decorated with trophies reflecting the estate owner Patrik Brummer’s passion for hunting. You may notice they are not all from local animals, as Johan said.

Luckily the weather was fine that day, so after the snack we took a walk around the area of the estate and after that a drive to the town of Åre situated on the other side of the mountain Åreskutan. While we settled for a relaxed stroll into the woods and back, you could do some serious hiking here. The estate is enormous – almost 10,000 ha – and the nature around Åre (a ski resort during winter) is genuinely stunning.

Now on to the Rektún Mat as Magnus calls it – meaning the real food.

By 7 pm Johan had lit the wood fire outside in the courtyard to announce that dinner was being served. We entered the restaurant from the back door of the old building and were led into quite a dark room that functions as the bar. Here there was a table for two prepared for us and we got seated and enjoyed the appetizers with a gin and locally fermented rhubarb juice. By the way, Food Snob was visiting the very same evening. Check-out his awesome and detailed post here.

Fermented Rhubarb Juice and Gin

Fermented Arctic Char with sour creme

First snack of fermented char had sharp flavours of bitterness, soft and butter-like texture. The white sour creme made it delicious.

Wild trout roe served in a warm crust of dried pigs’ blood

This serving was full of flavours of salt and seawater. The crust possessed a deep, full and precisely balanced flavour. A hint of iron in the aftertaste.

Crispy lichens with dried egg yolks and smoke-dried fish, lightly soured garlic cream

Then followed bitter, lightly salted lichens, collected in the nearby woods, were porous and crispy in a fragile way. Delicious and much better than I imagined.

Shavings of old sow

The sow had a bit too much stingy fat to my taste, but the pork flavour was great and deep. This was when I realized that rektún mat is not for sissies. The real food of Northern Sweden is powerful and immensely Nordic. Not in a long time have I felt history and the spirit of Scandinavia so present as here, surrounded by wood dating back to 1745, nipping shavings from and old sow. And not in a theme park-way – Chef Nilsson is very much for real.

After the appetizers we were guided up the wide and steep stair case to the first floor of the old warehouse. It’s (seemingly) still being used for drying fish, fish’s roe, and legs of ham.

A butcher’s block  was put in the middle of the room bathed in spot light to indicate something important was probably going to happen there at some stage of the dinner. Theatrical and exciting in a subdued way.

Scallop “skalet ur elden” cooked over burning juniper branches
Fäviken Pale Mead (mjöd), Bengt-Johnny & Jan Anders, Öster-Övsjo

A big, beautiful scallop cooked to perfection in its shell was served as the first course. It was very delicate, but also offered a deep and rich scallop flavour. The salty juice pulled out even more flavour from the scallop itself.

The mead we drank with it had quite a sour taste reminding me of a mix of goeze, weissbier and soda and it had clear notes of honey too.

Langoustine, toasted grains, sprouting barley, mature cheese, vegetables stores in whey since last autumn and almost burned cream.

2009 Butteau, Chablis Premier Cru, Alice & Olivier de Moor, Courgis

Then followed a just as perfectly cooked langoustine full of nutty and sweet flavours. Extraordinary high quality and – we were told – just as the scallop, picked up the same day in Trondheim in Norway. It worked very well with the crunchy and fruity müsli and the almost cocoa-like burned butter cream. The cheese melted with the müsli flavours and wasn’t sharp in any way.

Slices of cod lightly brushed with honey and then seared in a dry pan, turnips roasted slowly in the good butter, alcoholic vinegar, green juniper berries and a cream duck eggs and gammel ost (old cheese).

I liked the cod dish as well. Perfect quality, of course, but not as powerful in taste like the previous two dishes. Any dish would have had a hard time following the scallop and langoustine, I guess. That said, the combination of the cod, the turnip and the cream of duck eggs and old cheese was very bold and worked surprisingly well.

The first foraged vegetables wilting on a plate, sheep’s cream whisked with a vinegar fermented beer and ground cod’s roe

To me this course represented a hommage to the season’s first foraged vegetables. The herbs were quite bitter in taste and I would have liked the cod’s roe to be more powerful to contrast that better. This was a good dish but it simply couldn’t match the level and the deliciousness of the preceding ones.

Raw mussels, very fresh cheese and very light broth of beef filtered through the spring forrest floor


2008 Scharzhofberger Kabinett, Egon Müller, Mosel

Broth of beef filtered through forrest herbs was poured over the fresh cheese and the raw mussels. To me the cheese and the herbs supported the intense taste of mussel and sea water. I liked it after I had familiarized myself with this quite special combi.

Before the next dish landed on the table we were disturbed by a loud sound of a saw against something really hard and when I turned my head I realized what was the purpose of the butcher’s block. Scent of bone and marrow infused the room. Magnus and his sous-chef were simply sawing the bone to get the marrow out as fresh as possible to serve the dish within the magical 30 seconds.

Dices of cows heart and marrow, grated carrots


Herbs salt

2008 Cuvée Marcel Lapierre, Marcel & Mathieu Lapierre, Morgon

We were told to make sandwiches of toasted bread, the herbs salt and the mix of the cows heart, marrow and grated carrots. I nibbled the heart mix alone and it was like it missed something in the flavour. Combining it, however, with the salt and the burnt taste of the bread, it made much more sense flavour-wise.

Rib eye of pensioner milking cow dry-aged since early january, hand fried and the rested on the charcoal grill, sour onions and wild herbs, fermented mushroom juices from last year

1997 Barolo Monprivato, Guiseppe Mascarello, Piemonte

Most of us are used to eating meat from young, specially raised meat cattle. However, to slaughter a young cow is both bad business and un-ethical, according to Chef Nilsson. A cow can produce milk for many years before retiring. And then you eat it. Coming from a cow which had enjoyed seven years on grass, eating all the good stuff from the Swedish nature, this meat tasted like no other meat I’ve ever tried.

Common belief is that old meat is stringy and tough, but that is wrong. This piece was extremely tender and the taste soooo deep and intense. It was the taste of meat in its purest form, accompanied by a wonderful, top-vintage Barolo. Only thing to do was to lean back and enjoy. The drops of fermented mushroom juice were not exactly to my liking, though. While the fermented fish and vegetables earlier on were mild-ish, I guess that you must’ve been exposed to fermented food from very early on in your life to fully appreciate the full force of fermentation. (Some day, I must try surströmning - the Swedish… um… delicacy of heavily fermented fish. But I feel I need to build up courage for some years still).

Wild raspberries ice and fermented lingon berries “vattlingon” thick cream and sugar

These two little and simple tastings were just fruity and heavenly.

Sorbet of milk, whisked duck eggs and raspberries jam

2003 Vouvray Moelleux Reserve, Phillipe Foreau, Loire

The dessert of whisked duck’s egg, milk sorbet and raspberries jam underneath was refreshing and delicious but not as complex as the preceding courses. I was delighted that it comprised enough sweetness to stimulate my sweet tooth, as some Nordic kitchens tend to forget that sugar and deep sweetness are very much parts of Nordic heritage.

Dried berries, meadowsweet candy 

We finished downstairs with Swedish coffee (boiled in the pitcher, like you can still have it in Norway too. Tastes good, when done correctly, as in this case, and terribly when not), Pine tree barch cake and buttermilk, dried berries, meadowsweet candy and tar pastilles accompanied by three homemade liqueurs of fruit, dairies and egg nog.

Tar pastilles

Homemade liqueurs

When getting a bit of fresh air after the dinner it was still bright outside. What an astonishing experience.

The whole atmosphere really, the nature, the scenery, the trophies on the wooden walls in the living room, the sharing of the sauna and bath with the other guests (no in-room bathroom), the coat hanging on the wall in the bar room and all the old stuff and decorations everywhere, the steep stairs up to the dining room, the food hanging from the ceiling for drying purposes, the rustic-ness mixed with the perfect timing of everything, the music played on fiddle and nyckelharpa streaming from the loudspeakers, everyone eating the same dinner in chorus, the almost midnight-sun making the day never-ending – all of it sort of made me feel that I was an extra in a play. An exciting and authentic play, taking me back to the very roots of the Nordic nature and way of life.

I really enjoyed the 24 hours I was at Fäviken, it was completely eye-opening, authentic, surprising, unique, weird and delicious. Absolutely emotional. You simply can’t but admire what Magnus and Johan are doing. Next time I go, I think it might be interesting to go during the autumn or winter times to feel the full fury of the Nordic nature. And then the fermented stuff also might make sense.

 Thank you Magnus and Johan!

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Faviken, Jarpen Sweden

Faviken, Jarpen Sweden

title © 2013 . All rights reserved.

 

 

As someone smart once said, “The journey is the destination” and this expression couldn’t be more appropriate in summing up this snowy swedish adventure to Faviken.

“What in the world are you doing all the way out in Jarpen?” A friend from Stockholm wrote when seeing my instagram post of the blinding white and cold terrain of northern Sweden. He was right Jarpen is not a typical tourist destination but then again we were not on your standard vacation. Jose and I went to Sweden with a very specific goal, to eat at Faviken, which just so happens to be way the hell up north in the middle of no where.

 

The ridiculous journey, all done for our insane love of food, lasted in its entirety 80 glorious hours. Some of this time was spent walking and absorbing the scenery, a few here and there were spent sleeping, and almost half of it was spent on a plane or in a car on route to this culinary gem. Talk about anticipation!

 

SWEDEN TRIP3-01

The final few kilometers up to the faviken estate are an incredible thrill. The long road weaves up and down the majestic snow laden hills until the red of the main buildings come into sight. The history here is great and on arrival you are immersed in it. We parked the car and followed the signs and the wondrous smell of burning wood to the restaurant. Once we made it to the main building we were greeted by a lovely woman who casually handed us our keys and then proceeded to show us our room and the general lay of the land. If you got rid of the snow this place could easily double as a glorified summer camp for adults: communal baths to share with your fellow foodie bunk mates, fire pits, farm houses, vast amounts of nature and a strict schedule of events.

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main building
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My first impression of Faviken is that it was creatively conceived and beautifully crafted. The laid back yet elegant interior space gives off the warmest possible vibe. Perhaps it was the wonderful smell of burning wood or the creaky wide plank floor that brings one back to their childhood home or quite literally warm given the cozy and soft down bed and fur throw. Each of the 6 rooms are distinguished not by a standard room number but instead by a hand painted animal portrait. (Ours happen to be the fox.) If you are expecting a sprawling suite with its own fireplace and bear skin rug you may be disappointed. This room, which measured about 7ft by 15ft, may be tiny but it was designed as if it were a piece of hand crafted furniture or a boat cabin, everything that was there had a purpose, to save space while providing a sense of personality, charm and place.

After the tour we were greeted by Johan, a handsome and articulate guy with a clear passion for food and wine. He mentioned that we should relax and enjoy a stroll or a sauna before our 7pm dinner. We took his advice and carefully walked along the slippery ice patched road. God this place was gorgeous! There wasn’t much but white snow interrupted here and there by patterned animal tracks. The cold mountain air was crisp and clean and after 5 years I finally felt what winter used to be like.

 

DRESS: We made our way back to our quarters, cleaned up in the communal shower and dressed for dinner. (FYI One would assume that dressing up for a meal this anticipated is the norm but we soon found out that the attire was quite informal. Jeans are by no means discouraged.)

 

One of the greatest memories of the dinner was the restaurants door being opened by Magnus himself, such a fantastic and intimate way to start the night. Once inside we were then escorted into the lounge, a gorgeous 200 year old farmhouse. The space was sprinkled with ambient candle light and the wooden planked walls held in the warmth from the fire. The walls were beautiful and served as a backdrop for hung dried flowers and herbs and the iconic fur coat that seems to finds it way onto virtually every documentation of this place. (We clearly couldn’t help ourselves)
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lounge
Once seated the treats started making their way to the table. First was the champagne, pickled gherkins & Wild Goose Chorizo.
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snacks1
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snacks2
snacks cheese
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After a myriad of other beautiful bites we were escorted up the stairs to the dining room, a rafted room consisting of 7 tables.
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dining room1
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THE DINING ROOM Like the guest rooms, this humble and casual atmosphere was carefully appointed with very deliberate moves. A few carefully hung pieces of meat here a fish there and some scattered relics, most likely dating back to the building’s origin. Nothing was extraneous, almost all the “decorations” served as props or ingredients to further tell the story of this truly special and honest dining experience. As fine of an establishment this was it was by no means a “fine dining experience”. There were no white table clothes. A table cloth would only cover up the beauty of the natural wood, a purist philosophy that made its way onto the plate as well.

 

Unlike the typical quiet and overly controlled fine dining environments, faviken is all about embracing and giving into its surroundings even if it results in the occasional interruption. The sounds of Swedish folk music (something that might be used as the backdrop in a pub scene on game of thrones) is broken by the loud creaking sounds that the kitchen crew makes when ascending the stairs. The diners become easily trained into thinking creaks = next course (strangely akin to hearing a soothing dinner bell over and over again)
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scallop
From what we heard the Scallop was Magnus’s signature dish and we totally see why. The meat of the scallop was incredibly firm, a characteristic found when scallops are at their freshest. The savory broth made from the scallop’s own juice was unbelievable and unlike anything I have tried.

 

Chef Magnus Nilsson (featured above) is one of todays hottest chefs and I imagine he will hold onto that title for a while.  Magnus has quite a unique past that started from an interest in Marine Biology but instead of going down that path he decided to pursue a career in cooking. From school he made his way to Paris where he worked a short time for Alain Passard of L’Arpège before landing a job at  Pascal Barbot‘s L’Astrance where he worked for three years. After Paris he came back to Sweden where he decided to take a break from coking and picked up wine writing, an interest that landed him a job at Faviken in 2008 as a sommelier. The restaurant failed to find a chef and Magnus was appointed head chef. Magnus’s Faviken is now ranked in the top 50 best restaurants of the world list. The new list comes out in a few weeks and we wouldn’t be surprised if Faviken makes it to the top 10 or better yet ranks number one. Lets see…
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langoustineIt is hard to say one dish was better than the rest but I’ll venture to say that this may have been our favorite dish of the night. The main shellfish was as fresh and pure as it  possibly could be and was tampered with as little as possible in order to hold on to that pure flavor. The beautiful protein like many of the following dishes was paired with a sauce, an accompaniment that acted as a cerebral catalyst for the dish; thoughtfully enhancing and collaging the flavors into a new composition.The gigantic langoustine was unbelievably sweet and without a doubt the best I have ever had! If only the lobsters we catch of our dock in Maine taste the same!
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Jowines
The entire staff at Faviken are storytellers. Unlike many restaurants they know everything about the food they serve and how to explain with finesse and often times humor. Johan, the sommelier, was one of these people. After many years at Faviken he has made the decision to move onto the next stage in his career and has opened Gaston, his own wine bar in Stockholm. Really wish we had the opportunity to check it out we have heard great things. See en foodie’s review here

 

turbot
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codThis was a very unique plate. The cod seemed not to be properly seasoned but once mixed with the savory of the carrot and spruce flavored vinegar the case of this dish was made.
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small bitesWe absolutely loved the flavors that came out of this seemingly simple creation. (The richness of the oxtail melded brilliantly with the sour onions and barley)
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marrow
The choreographed spectacle of the night was by far the sawing for the marrow. This may seem like an overly theatrical moment to some but given the context of the rustic environment and ingredient focused menu it totally worked. Why not show the diners where their food comes from. Theatrics and this more illustrative form of storytelling are very prevalent in the food scene today. Chefs are showing the before and after sequence in order to create more intimacy between the diners and their food. I quite like this trend especially when it serves a purpose or produces a memory worth hanging onto. I do not however like when it ventures into an overly rehearsed sketch with the food taking second fiddle like EMP’s card tricks and picnic courses…
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marrow2All that sawing materialized into what you see above. This was our first time having cows heart and it was raw! Good dish, but perhaps the concept was more successful than the end result. The combination of flavors and textures were somewhat bizarre for our taste. The baby birch leaves and herb salt did bring a much needed lift and brightness to the plate.
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goat
What a beautiful earthy composition. The vibrant shards of beet and textured grains were a fantastic accompaniment to this perfectly cooked goat.
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liqueursafter dinnerAfter an epic dinner there was more. We came back to our pre dinner snack table to take in some warm coffee and sweet treats. We were very impressed with the house made liqueurs. They were unbelievably tasty and all vastly different from one another. Word of advice, dont pick one to try, try them all!

Over our after dinner drinks we had a chance to chat it up with Magnus. I mentioned that I would love it if he had a place in the NYC, a comment that brought on a very interesting conversation about the restaurant business. He mentioned that in NYC people open restaurants to make money/survive and that instead it should be about finding a way to sustain and fuel a passion. This passion in big city restaurants like NYC is truncated by the customer demands and the overly saturated restaurant business. At the end of the day customers end up dictating how cooking should be and because the main goal is to survive in the competitive business without too much room for experimenting, the chefs start to stray from their original vision in order to make their customers happy. Faviken is the complete opposite to big city restaurants, it is far away from any competition, so they end up serving people who are predisposed to getting outside their culinary comfort zone and weeding out the customers that just won’t get it.
kitchen
breakfast
After a deep sleep in our twin beds we woke up to yet another treat. The breakfast brought together some familiar faces from the previous night, many of which were dressed in snow gear ready to ski. The meal reminded me of our weekend brunches we do at home. Some jamon, an egg, cheese and bread. As much as I love our breakfasts this version was way more memorable. I loved the fish roe and egg, a typical Swedish combination. The condiments were out of this world especially the coudberry jam. The other condiment that I wish I had now in our brooklyn kitchen is the herb salt! That seasoning was magic!
Faviken lived up to its much deserved hype as one of the most unique and memorable dining experiences out there with In De Wulf a very close second. If you are an adventurous person who loves food you really must go. Yes it is far far away but the journey getting there will be just as magical as Magnus’s brilliantly simple and thoughtful plated creations.

 

TIPS:

1. If you are planning to stay over night don’t plan to check in until 5pm. If you go any earlier there may not be anyone there to help you.

2. Depending on where you come in from plan to check out Are, a ski town located 30 min from the restaurant. If you ski this place is heaven on earth.

3. Rent a car. The drive from Faviken to Norway is one you should take. The views are breathtaking no matter what the season is. Not to mention the Norwegian coast is on of the more beautiful coastlines I have seen…well worth the 3 hours in the car.

Spanishhipster.com - Elise

smithsonianmag.com - Rachel Nuwer
At Fäviken, Chef Magnus Nilsson takes locavorism to an extreme by relying on subarctic foraging, farming, hunting and preserving traditions

At Fäviken, Chef Magnus Nilsson takes locavorism to an extreme by relying on subarctic foraging, farming, hunting and preserving traditions

 

 

  faviken scallops Scallops served in shell, cooked over smoking juniper branches and moss. (Fäviken)

Deep in the Swedish Wilderness, Discovering One of the World’s Greatest Restaurants

 

This circuitous path led him to Fäviken. In 2003, the restaurant’s new owners recruited Nilsson to organize their wine collection under a three-month contract. At the time, the restaurant relied mostly upon products imported from around Europe, and mainly served a surplus of guests arriving for an annual game fair held on the property each July. “Nope, I never though I’d come back here,” Nilsson later tells me of his rural home region. Gradually, however, he began finding himself spending more and more time in the restaurant’s small kitchen. He also took to roving the forests and fields of Fäviken’s 24,000-acre property, collecting interesting edibles he came across and experimenting with recipes in his spare time. Months melted into years, and in 2008 Nilsson began officially running the restaurant. “That’s how it happened,” he says. “I went back into the kitchen again.”

Reaching that fabled kitchen, however, is no easy task. My boyfriend Paul and I opted to fly through Östersund as we took off early in the morning from sunny Stockholm, leaving behind perfect summer-dress weather. As we slid through the layer of thick clouds obscuring Järpen, a new landscape materialized. Dense swaths of evergreen forest—broken only by the occasional cabin or farm—blanketed hills and encroached upon expansive black lakes. When we touched down at the tiny Östersund airport, a large hare sprinted out onto the runway, racing the plane for a few brief moments. It occurred to me that we were dealing with something entirely different than Stockholm’s outdoor cafes and glimmering waterside promenades. This was the North.

A traditional palate 

Up here, Nilsson explains, incorporating the land into daily eating and living is second nature. October’s chill traditionally marks the end of fresh ingredients until spring’s thaw renewed life in April. Studious planning and preserving were essential for a subarctic household’s survival. Even now, some of those traditions have lingered on. If residents don’t hunt or fish, they know someone close to them who does. Picking berries for jam, gathering mushrooms for preserving, pickling homegrown vegetables and curing meat are normal household activities. While high-end restaurants in the world’s metropolises may boast about the novelty of their handful of foraged ingredients, here it is natural and unforced. “It’s just part of what people do, even if they don’t realize it,” Nilsson says. 

Nilsson, too, abides by these traditions. Only a few ingredients—including salt, sugar and rapeseed oil from southwest Sweden, Denmark and France, respectively, and fish from Norway—do not originate from the immediate vicinity. The repertoire of wild plants he regularly harvests from around the property number around 50, ranging from hedgehog mushrooms to Iceland moss, from wormwood to fiddlehead ferns. He also hunts, as attested by the paper-thin slices of wild goose served during my visit. The bird is coated in an insulating layer of sea salt, then hung in the dining room to dry for several months before appearing on our plates. Likewise, he slaughters his own livestock and uses nearly every part of their bodies. Fried pigs head balls sprinkled with pickled marigold petals, for example, appear on the menu this summer. “Sometimes, when I look at the way people treat meat inefficiently . . . I think there should be some kind of an equivalent to a driver’s license for meat-eaters,” Nilsson writes in his book.

In the winter, Fäviken hunkers down and relies upon a store of pickled, cured, dried and fermented produce and meat to feed its guests. “It’s so lovely in the winter, so dark,” says Sara Haij, who works at the restaurant as a server-cum-hostess-cum-travel agent. “But the snow lights it up. And in February and March, the northern lights peak.”

During these nearly sunless months, some vegetables, including cabbage and kale, can remain in the earth or buried under snow. As long as temperatures stay below freezing (not a lot to ask in Järpen, where winter temperatures regularly dip to -22˚ F) the vegetables will keep.

For fermenting, Nilsson largely relies upon Lactobacillus bacteria, whose use in preservation spans centuries and cultures, from kimchi in Korea to beer brewing in ancient Egypt. Pickling, on the other hand, depends upon lowering the osmotic pressure in the cells of the ingredient—beets, berries, roots—with salt, then adding a solution of vinegar and sugar, which easily penetrate those emaciated cells. The flavor of pickling—specifically with white alcohol vinegar—Nilsson writes in his book, is “one of the original tastes of Scandinavia.” Nilsson, not surprisingly, also makes his own vinegars, including a “vinegar matured in the burnt-out trunk of a spruce tree.” 

Many of Nilsson’s preserved products are stored in his cellar, a cubby hold dug out of the side of a hill, across from the restaurant. Here, curious diners can also take a peep at his ongoing experiments, where jars of pickling wildflowers, submerged sprigs and even bottled curios of seafoody flesh line shelves on either wall. The space seems deceptively small, but, starting in the autumn, crates of dormant roots are buried beneath its sandy floor. In spring, even in the light-deprived environment, what’s left of these roots often begin producing pale shoots that “taste like the very essence of the vegetables from which they sprout,” Nilsson writes.


smithsonianmag.com - Rachel Nuwer

Guardian.co.uk - Alain Jenkins
Magnus Nilsson: the rising star of Nordic cooking

Magnus Nilsson: the rising star of Nordic cooking

Faviken in northern Sweden, is now one of the most innovative restaurants in the world. Allan Jenkins meets chef Magnus Nilsson at this remote outpost of extraordinary cuisine

Magnus Nilsson, with gun and female black grouse
Magnus Nilsson, with gun and female black grouse, with his restaurant Faviken in the background, on 22 December 2011. Photograph: Per-Anders Jörgensen

The car is sliding out from under us, gathering speed as it slips down the hill. A note of angry panic enters the photographer-slash-driver's voice, as though he is embarrassed we are going to career off the mountain and die. In front of us is a wire fence, the kind designed to stop schoolkids losing their basketball, not to stop hire cars dropping off cliffs. My first thought is that I am going to bleed out in a blizzard at the bottom of a 500ft fall and no one will know for days. My next thought is: why here, why now? Was Magnus Nilsson's "broth of lamb filtered through the forest floor" really to die for? The answer, after we smash into a barrier and write off the car, is of course, no. But it was very good.

Backtrack two days and Nilsson is butchering a pig in the kitchen at Faviken, his 12-seater restaurant on a remote 24,000-acre hunting estate in Jämtland, northwestern Sweden, more than 600km north of Stockholm. Fast-moving clouds streak over the white-flecked mountains, the pine forest, the frozen lake. Bright Scandinavian light streams through the window. Killed only a day before, the pig had been weaned and fed on whey by a local dairy farmer, giving it thick layers of creamy fat. "This is not a fancy breed," says Nilsson, "eating acorns on a sunny meadow in Spain. It has been fed on milk, like pigs used to be, but it can produce 100kg of high-quality food, enough to feed a family for a year." He opens up the animal's insides, working quickly, efficiently, his knife slicing cleanly around legs. "You can see a pig had been bred over a long time to suit human needs," he smiles, neatly laying severed limbs, ribs and loin to one side. "You can eat it all, and the cuts come in squares as they stack up together."

Faviken's kitchen is a surprise: small, almost domestic-size with just three chefs (there are seven staff in total including a gardener shared with the estate, and Nilsson's business partner Johan Agrell, who is maître d', sommelier and the man who cleans the shower). There is no room or appetite for histrionics, instead an air of quiet concentration, a shared purpose of producing extraordinary food in a stunning setting for the dozen people who have made the pilgrimage.

I had been impatient to eat at Faviken since I saw Nilsson speak at René Redzepi's MAD symposium in Copenhagen last summer. He talked of burying produce to last the long Swedish winter, how it changes, and the challenges that brings.

The trademark long-haired leader of the Swedish chapter of the new Nordic food movement, Nilsson's aesthetic is more austere than that of Noma, built solely around produce from the estate or close by, with meat, fish and vegetables aged far past normal taste. Our dinner will feature "a slice of retired dairy cow aged for seven months" – a menu description you feel wouldn't even translate well to St John – as well as the freshly killed pig. Vegetables are sometimes stored for eight months.

The light dramatically drops as we head into the garden to cull some sprouts among the few cabbages still clinging on. In the past week, a passing moose had razed a winter's worth of kale to the ground.

Preserving – pickling, brining, curing – has long been central to the Swedish diet but the visit to the "root store" still comes as a shock. Cellared deep into a hillside, it looks like a hobbit house until you open the thick double doors. The floor is full of boxes of ancient root vegetables sprouting pallid shoots. Unearthed, they have a quiet beauty. Shelves of laboratory-style jars hold fruits and berries dry-salted like capers. Others are brined, preserved in vinegar or whey, along with otherworldly flowers suspended like drowned men. Small apples the size of plums (as big as they grow this far north) are wrapped in tissue. Bloated lumps of meat and tongue are packed in solution-like detritus from a carnie show. Among the most disturbing is an 18-month-old bottling of scallops bobbing in a milky soup, a fermenting fish sauce on speed. No one dares open it. This is food as alchemy, the unfinished product of an enquiring mind.

We choose two or three carrots, a turnip or two, before moving outside to select leeks for supper. An evil wind rips around our ears as we "pick" replanted yellowing leeks, their hearts still sound as though in suspended animation.

Nilsson had asked that I eat at Faviken before we talk much about his food so I return to my snug plank-lined room – more Little House on the Prairie than I had imagined – and await the call for dinner. We gather in the old grain store at 7pm for appetisers: a "four-minute-old cheese" in warm whey and an intense wild trout roe served on a small disc of dried blood. The latter mouthful miraculously balanced between salt and sweet and I wish there were more.

Scallops Scallops. Photograph: Per-Anders JöRgensen

We head upstairs past an ancient wolfskin coat to the restaurant. Half monastic retreat, half outlaws' hideout, the dining room is punctuated with a curtain of cod roe; air-dried pieces of pig hang from the ceiling, giant jars of dried mushrooms and flowers line the side tables. The air is filled with wailing folk music played too loud for total comfort. The feeling that we have been kidnapped by a cult mingles with an eager, greedy excitement. The chefs carry up trays of scallops served on smoking juniper branches. It smells like church. Nilsson claps his hand like a circus master and instructs us to eat the flesh with our hands and drink the "juice" from the shell. The scallop is sweet and the size of a hockey puck, its liquor smoky, briny.

There follow another 14 "courses" with wine delicately chosen by Agrell. Some highlights here: daringly translucent monkfish with "a coverleaf of Brussel sprout steamed so briefly it is still dying on the plate"; barely cooked langoustine from the pristine waters off Trondheim. The food-theatre event of the evening comes when Nilsson saws through a giant marrow bone in the middle of the restaurant, like a field hospital amputation. Served with "dices of raw heart, grated turnips and herb salt" it makes for one of the great plates of food I will ever eat. The seven-month-aged slice of old cow is followed by a chop from the just-dead pig. Sliced like steak, its fat glistens and bursts sweet on my tongue, a Swedish "wagyu pork", if you will. Nilsson has done farmer and animal justice. The desserts dip just a little for me, but then they always do. We return downstairs to drink vodka steeped in musky forest mushrooms. At first, odd and faintly disgusting, it quickly grows on me.

I wake in the night to screaming wind with snow and hunker down deep under my duvet. Later, the half-light reveals braziers blown over, bits of the barn roof, too, the wind having hit a storm-force 55mph. Offshore from Trondheim, the waves had reached 50ft. There will be no seafood deliveries this week. After breakfast, I join Nilsson and his gun dog, Krut. He hunts the woods here, preferring to shoot black grouse, woodcock and big capercaillie to waiting by a road for a moose to cross – although moose was the main meat of his youth. He has mislaid the key to his gun safe so we won't be shooting today; instead, as Krut lopes around hunting out lemmings, we walk and talk.

Legend – or at least his mother – has it that Nilsson cooked his first meal aged three, breaking eggs and a piece of sausage into a pan while she was feeding his newborn sister. His first food memory, though, is of chopping cucumbers with his grandmother during long summer stays at their small family farm.

As a kid he wanted to be a marine biologist and there is still much of the mad scientist about Nilsson who, with New York superstar chef David Chang, is currently experimenting with the effect on food of wild yeasts and microbiology.

After graduating from his local cookery college, Nilsson moved first to Stockholm then to Paris, working in two of the city's most celebrated restaurants – L'Astrance, for three years, and L'Arpège. By the time he arrived at Faviken, though, aged just 24, in January 2008, he had fallen out of love with kitchens. "My plan was to become a wine writer," he grins. "I hadn't cooked for almost two years."

Hired to put together a wine cellar by the businessman who had bought the estate, he came for three months, extending it to a year when he realised the 20-year-old restaurant's potential. But his return to the stove, he says, was as much about necessity as desire. "I couldn't find a chef who wanted to come here," he laughs, "to work in the most famous moose fondue restaurant in northern Sweden." Recruitment is less of a problem now he is the best-known cook in the country (he has just poached talented British chef Sam Miller from Noma to start in the spring).

"It is not for everyone, living up here," he says, looking round at the snow, the stark landscape dotted with stunted silver birch, the gravestone of a worker from an old copper mine allowed to stay on in return for charcoal. "It takes a special kind of person," he says. "You have to appreciate solitude." And Arctic cold – last winter the temperature dropped to -40C.

The shift to the current Faviken philosophy was slow. "In the beginning we worked with all kinds of produce from all over the world," he says. "But as we sourced more and more from the region, the need to order in became smaller. You don't need a delivery for three lemons."

But was there a eureka moment, I ask? "Maybe, when I understood the most important thing," he says, "how good it is for your creativity to have some boundaries, some limitations. If you have everything to hand, at least for me, there is no reason to develop. If you want acidity, you just squeeze a lemon. If you don't have lemon you need something else."

It was a natural progression, he says. "It was never about constructing a concept. When we understood the effect on creativity, that was when we realised that, yes, this is it, we will work with food from our region. But our produce is not good because of where it's from, it is good because we have really good people working with us, who understand what we need."

Nilsson isn't even sure there is such a thing as New Nordic Cuisine. "To me, it is strange to lump things together," he says. "You wouldn't put Michel Bras with Ferran Adrià. Everyone sees Nordic Cuisine and what they mean is what René does.

"Some people who come here expect something like Noma in a rural setting," he adds. "Yes, we have some of the same produce, we like the same stuff, but we don't approach cooking in the same way."

Our walk is over, Krut happily rolls around and eats snow and we return to the kitchen where Nilsson has to prepare the staff meal. Today it's not the usual Saturday pineapple pizza – "the most popular by public demand" – but roast pork from the pig. We talk about the future. He is working on a cookbook and has written 100,000 words rather than the commissioned 25,000. It will examine the food, history and culture of his region and is to be published here in the autumn. Ironically, there may not be a Swedish language edition.

As to cooking, Nilsson's theory is "that chefs may only have one great restaurant in them where they invest a lot of themselves. I would like to run a beer hall," he laughs, "a chain of beer halls all over the world. I don't like beer but there would be great wine and the food would be 'sufficiently good'. Fine dining is hard work." For now though at least he is happy in his tiny restaurant at the end of the world, raising sheep with his student wife and two young children nearby.

We share crackling and succulent slices of pork and then it is time for the five staff to sit down to their meal before evening service: a party of 12 flown in from the US by the food-loving heir to an American fortune. The team sit quietly together like novice members of a commune about to meditate. The plaintive folk music kicks in.

I bid goodbye and leave. My photographer and I have a plane to catch, it is snowing and we are not sure we have been given the right tyres.

Guardian.co.uk - Alain Jenkins

Davidlebovitz.com - David Lebovitz
Fäviken

Fäviken

Magnus at Fäviken

It’s hard to write or talk about a place like Fäviken. Not that I have trouble talking, as those around me can attest to, but making the trek top the restaurant far north of Stockholm is as much about the experience of being in a certain time and place as it is about eating the food they’re serving.

Fäviken

Although I don’t necessarily follow all the hype about starred restaurants and culinary “experiences”, etc, I do know that regardless of cuisine, price, and location, like a perfect glass of wine or bite of chocolate, it’s not possible to fully describe it – nor will it be the same for everyone else.

Fäviken

 

Aside from loving a good carne asada burrito in a taqueria as much as I do a côte de bœuf in a Parisian bistro, it’s sometimes nice to break out of what you are used to in order to experience something completely different.

Fäviken

I am pretty sure that I live under a culinary rock because I hadn’t heard of Fäviken when I was a participant at a chef’s festival in Sydney a few years ago and didn’t know any of the “big name” chefs also presenting there.

Fäviken infusionslichen
Fäviken cookaged beef

In fact, I think a few were miffed that I didn’t know who they were when we were introduced. (Which is fine, because they probably didn’t know who I was either.)

Fäviken - sausages

One of the highly anticipated events was a presentation by Magnus Nillson, the chef at Fäviken, a restaurant located in a remote part of Sweden.

Fäviken

billberry cocktailFäviken cooks slicing meat
chopping blockcured meat

Magnus had worked at a few of the great restaurants of the world, including a few in Paris. And thought about opening something in France. But instead, he went back to the part of Sweden where he grew up to do something even more extraordinary. And in 2008, he opened his own restaurant there.

Fäviken birdhouse

It’s not all that easy to get to Fäviken and we decided to go without doing a huge amount of research in advance. The two ways to get there are to fly into the north of Norway and drive in (the rental car prices were astronomical) or head to Stockholm, then fly northward.

Chef Magnus at Fäviken Fäviken fur coat

When we arrived, we found we had landed in a remote little corner of Scandinavia, surrounded by lush green hills, sturdy wooden buildings, and outside was a table of chefs, sitting communally, eating their meal. I know that staff meal is sacred and you never disturb cooks while they are eating together. But we were led up to our rooms by a staff member who greeted us, which were simple, but functional. I had bunk beds (like summer camp!) and other rooms had twin beds. Bathrooms are shared and there is a communal sauna, should you wish to commune with the other 12 guests. (Fäviken only serves thirteen diners each night.)

Butter at Fäviken

At the culinary festival in Sydney, I had dinner with Magnus and some of the other chefs one night. Even though I didn’t do my homework and learn about who everyone was, it was interesting to meet chefs from around the world. Later in the week, folks were talking wildly about the raw beef heart that Magnus served to the unsuspecting crowd, which sounded a bit challenging even to me, but it was audacious and something you’re not going to get every day. (I served chocolate cake with ice cream, caramel sauce, and candied peanuts.)

Fäviken - preserved fishFäviken bedroom
pig at Fävikenrhubarb wine

So diners at Fäviken should be prepared to be challenged (rhubarb wine, anyone?), and to try new things. Part of Magnus’ raison d’être is to revive ancient Swedish foods, traditions, and techniques. And lest you think Fäviken is a “destination” restaurant, two of the five tables were occupied with locals; one was two middle-aged Swedish couples and the other was two local women, perhaps in their twenties.

Fäviken sweden

Parched after the journey, we visited the bar area, which later would serve as the space where appetizers were served, then we’d head back to later, for after-dinner treats and infusions.

Fäviken outdoors

Behind the bar were jars of herbs and roots, and what-have-you, infusing and aging. We had a splendid aged cocktail of gin, bitters, and local roots with pickled rowanberries hanging from the rim. (I am pretty sure they said they were billberries, but others have told me they were, indeed, rowanberries.)

billberries in a cocktail

It was so good, we then had another.

sausage at Fäviken

With it were slices of house-made sausages. (Although I will not continue to use the term “house-made” any more, as everything here is house-made…including the oversized oval of ice in the drink, and the outstanding butter.)

butter at Fäviken

We were then led upstairs, to one of the big, rough wooden tables encircling the room, with a view of the counter and a wooden chopping stool, later used to saw open bones before extracting the marrow. Because of the configuration of the tables, some diners have their backs to the “action” and although I normally don’t care about being in an “open kitchen”, I felt I was missing something and they happily let me reconfigure the table so I had a view. My only complaint about the restaurant is that they should reconfigure the seating so that everyone can see the cooks, and the servers (who are as important to the experience as the cooks are), since that is part of the experience of Fäviken. And as much as I liked my fellow diners, I saw them the rest of the week. (Although not in the sauna!)

flax seed biscuit blue mussel dip

We started with ultra-crisp flax seed and vinegar wafers with blue mussel dip, which was a moist, creamy little puddle of pure shellfish essences. It was pretty divine. Then out came a small, quivering dish of just-made cheese with warm whey a bit of dried lavender. I liked that too, but wouldn’t have minded a whisper of salt to perk it up.

pigs head at Fäviken

Fried pigs-trotters were presented on branches, resting in stones, which drew superlatives from me and my fellow diners. They were great.

fish eggs in pig blood

Then there was an even bigger surprise; a crust made of pig’s blood, encircling wild trout roe, that was the perfect bite. The crusty shell was whisper-thin, and the roe a little salty. Both just kind of melted away as you ate them. Who’d of thought that one up?

Speaking of surprisingly, during the meal, the staff happily accommodated photos. Unlike other places where it might interrupt the meal and the flow of dishes, there is a certain theatricality to a meal at Fäviken that encourages participation to whatever degree the diner wants. Of course, you don’t want to ruin the dining experience (for you or others) or ask the staff to behave a certain way while you compose a shot. But on the other hand, it’s so special what they are doing that taking a few snaps seemed to be part of it all. Or getting up to take a closer look at what the cooks are doing, which I did a couple of times.

wild herbs

Other tastes before the meal included crunchy lichen (which didn’t have a lot of flavor, which might be a good thing), a marvelous salted and aged (for two years) herring, that was dotted with crunchy rusks and curds, and was probably my favorite dish of the night, then the first courses ended with rosy slices of cured wild goose.

2 year old cured fish

The whole meal keeps moving forward, with servers bringing large wooden boards up from the kitchen, to finish the dishes in the dining room. Magnus participates in the meal with the staff, explaining things to the diners when merited. Then he retreats to the counter to plate up the food. Out came a jumbo scallop cooked over burning juniper.

scallop plate

Following that was a tender langoustine tail served with burnt cream, that was sigh-worthy.

scallop langoustine

Skate and steamed onions came with a vivid sauce made from green onion stalks.

skate at Fäviken

A piece of dry-fried cod was served with a sweet garden carrot cooked in whey, which might have come off as precious (I was once served a 1/2 of a roasted shallot on a huge plate by a 3-star restaurant in Paris, which, indeed, looked silly) – had the carrot not have been one of the most perfect pieces of vegetable that one could imagine. Save that whey next time you make labneh, folks!

cod, carrot, pine emulsion

Then there was the famous – or infamous – dish of marrow, raw cow’s heart finely diced, and flower petals. (I scraped the bowl clean, on that one, although am not quite ready to give up serving chocolate cake and candied peanuts.)

raw beef marrow flowers

We were presented with magnificent rib-eye steaks, from a retired dairy cow, whose meat had aged for four months before being cooked over open fire with some dandelion leaves and grains leftover from Magnus beer-making project. (Which we happily saw again, the next day. I may not be chopping up beef hearts, but I’m thinking of starting to make my own beer, just for the cast-offs.)

aged meat

Then there was dessert, which are prepared by the kitchen staff (there’s no dedicated pastry chef or pastry cooks – everyone does everything), which began with long spoons with fermented lingonberries, a dab of cream, and blueberry sorbet in them.

egg at Fäviken black currant sorbet at Fäviken

After having a rather magical “egg” that you need to eat whole, whose shell is made of what looked like fragile white chocolate that melts in your mouth (when I went to take a picture, the server said “Don’t wait too long, it you won’t be able to eat it!) But when I asked, they said it was something known as colostrum that had been formed to resemble egg shells. It all happened so fast, it was just a fleeting moment – and I just let myself enjoy the sensation after I popped it in my mouth – then it was gone.

Next up was a jellied egg yolk that had been preserved in sugar syrup served on pine bark crumbs, with meadowsweet ice cream that came out on a frozen stone slab.

Fäviken ice cream

We were told to mix the whole thing together vigorously, which made a sticky-sweet confection, with and almost too-intense richness provided by the gooey yolk.

Fäviken preserved egg yolk

Fäviken dessert

Underneath a blanket of whisked duck eggs, prepared similar to sabayon, was a scoop of sour milk sorbet, which they finished churning in the dining room, with lingonberry jam.

Fäviken ice cream churing

After the meal ended, we were invited to go back downstairs where Magnus and the other cooks were awaiting with pots of herbs, roots, and other things cultivated from the woods around the restaurant, which they patiently explained to each guest, so we could pick whatever we wanted them to brew for us.

Fäviken desserts

Then, the loveliest box of sweets you could imagine was brought out. A tray of dried berries, meadowsweet hard candies, licorice (after all, it’s Sweden), sunflower seed nougat, anise seeds coasted in honey and beeswax (in a separate bowl), smoked toffee, and pine resin shards, which I think you need to be Swedish to appreciate. It was one of the few sweet things that I have eating in my life that I had to extract from my mouth. And when I asked the Swedish server, she laughed and said, “We love those. They’re a memory of my childhood.”

Fäviken

We then had flutes of digestives, me enjoying a glass of amber-colored bitters and one of my friends trying the egg liqueur. (They also had one made from sour milk that sounded interesting, although I was happy with my choice.)

Fäviken tisanedessert tray at Fäviken
Fäviken bitterFäviken egg liquor

Sated, I chatted a bit with Magnus and he offered to take me to the butchering shed and the garden. It was nearing 11:30pm and the Swedish midsummer sun was about to go down (it came up around 3am the next morning – thank goodness I never travel without my sleep mask), and the dramatic violet-gray skies covered the rolling hills of green that we walked through. It was sort of magical being up there, trudging on the lush grass over the hills with him.

Fäviken at night

I slept well that night in my cozy lower bunk, and woke up to an astounding breakfast which included fresh bread and excellent butter (although different from the night before, and when I asked for the other, they said it was all gone – the staff probably ate it..and I don’t blame them!) There was local honey, salty fish pastes, inky glasses of black currant juice, creamy cheeses, cups of very strong coffee, and the most incredible warm porridge made of the leftover grains and hops from Magnus’ beer-making operation. I didn’t want to leave. In fact, I wanted breakfast all over again, for lunch.

Fäviken night sky

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Fäviken Magasinet, Järpen

Fäviken Magasinet, Järpen

Is it right that I force my customers to kill a chicken at their table before I cook it for their dinner?’

This was how Magnus Nilsson, flushed with excitement, accosted me one afternoon during February’s Omnivore food festival in Deauville. ‘A couple of Russian ladies just asked me this during an interview,’ he gushed. ‘This is what people are saying about me’.

Although these two journalists were in fact incorrect – Mr. Nilsson insists on doing any killing himself – their spurious speculations were still testament to two truths: many people were now talking about somewhere where some special things were happening in northern Sweden; and that very few people actually knew what these special things really were.

Lying literally on the navel of the Nordic peninsula, on a line of latitude (big number° N) seemingly shared solely by the likes of little villages in Iceland and Alaska and a few hours from the nearest non-domestic airport, Mr. Nilsson does not reside in the most readily accessible of regions. Without doubt, today it is increasingly acclaimed as a destination with the international press talking up and flocking to faraway Åre just to visit it, but it was only a year or so ago, when Fäviken Magasinet was really merely a whisper on the lips of well-informed Swedish diners who spoke of some distant, new place north of Stockholm – the best restaurant in the country, maybe, they would mumble. Soon enough though, such murmurs became more and more material. A name and address were added to rumours before finally, at Cook it Raw Lapland, Magnus Nilsson met the world’s food media and Scandinavia’s best-kept secret was a secret no more.

Now, this young chef is winning cooking competitions abroad (Qoco 2010 in Italy, for instance) and is a regular on the food festival circuit – he was invited to Paris des Chefs, Identita Golose, Omnivore, Flemish Primitives…all in just the first three months of 2011 – whilst the restaurant, in an area inhabited, on average, by a single person per square kilometre, boasts a two-to-three month waiting list.


Indeed, gastronomy has not always been the first priority at Fäviken. Whilst the actual estate upon which the restaurant sits has some history – dating from the late eighteen-hundreds and once one of Sweden’s very largest privately owned properties before being divided into two and slowly trimmed down to its current 10,000 hectare size – Fäviken Magasinet itself has only been open a fraction of that time. Since 1986, to be exact. Furthermore, whereas recreational outdoor activities have been attracting guests to these grounds since the nineteen-sixties, it was not till the present owners, the Brummer family, took it over in 2003, that it was decided that this eatery ought to be anything more than a canteen. Yet even then, it was not until February 2008, when Magnus Nilsson started here, that things really started to happen.

Born and raised in the nearby provincial capital, Östersund, the teenage Magnus had to pick between two passions – cooking and marine biology. Clearly he choose the former – though he maintains an interest in the latter – and, straight out of school, joined Pontus in the Greenhouse as a pastry chef whilst spending the summers before and after at Kattegatt Gastronomi och Logi. At twenty, he left Sweden for France and an internship at a small, new venture in Paris, run by a pair named Pascal Barbot and Christophe Rohat. The place was l’Astrance. Completing this, that spring he traded one Michelin star for three and a permanent position at l’Arpege. But barely three weeks later, he had been fired. It was a language issue: Passard spoke French; his then head chef, Mauro Colagreco, spoke Portuguese; and Nilsson spoke neither. He went home to Sweden, intending to stay there, however before long Barbot offered him a raison d’être to return to France. By Christmas 2003, he was in Paris again.

The switch was successful and Nilsson went on to spend the next three years there. It was a dramatic and exciting period: soon after, the restaurant had a second star; in two more, it had three. His relationship with Barbot was a rewarding one too and he credits the Frenchman with teaching him the value of impeccable ingredients – a lesson that has ordered his own approach. Ironically though, once he had left l’Astrance and was cooking in Stockholm, the young Swede started to recognise that it was becoming increasing difficult to separate his own style from Barbot’s. It was a realisation that led him to leave the kitchen altogether and, in 2006, he enrolled on a year-long oenology course.

Subsequently, Mr. Nilsson was hired at Fäviken – but as its sommelier, working under the then-incumbent chef, Hans Erik Holmkvist. It was a situation that did not last long. On 1st November 2008, at a tender twenty-six, he took over the kitchen too. By replacing Holmkvist, he was left the restaurant’s lone employee and therefore, for the first year of his charge, had to double up as chef and front of house. To make it work, he served one sitting at dinner for at most eight diners altogether on a communal table. Still, in those early days, on some nights, even eight customers was eight more than he could find. He was not discouraged.

Although Mr. Nilsson had arrived intent on never cooking again, soon the allure of the stoves proved simply irresistible. The lush lands of Järpen and natural richness of the surrounding area gave him a new lease of life and allowed him to exercise again the diversions of his adolescence that had been impracticable in Paris – fishing, farming, the chase. Even constrained as he was there, Barbot was quickly able to appreciate this side of him: ‘he is a born botanist, hunting is in his blood’; whilst Nilsson admits that ‘most of my inspiration in the kitchen comes from nature and the unique circumstances at Fäviken’.

The grounds around the restaurant are indeed the model set for this young chef. Seven-hundred-and-fifty kilometres north of Stockholm, the estate entails thousands of hectares of woods, waterways and undulating meadows resting on the eastern slope of Åreskutan alongside Lake Kalljön. It is an area comprising more game animals than people with streams and lochs loaded with local char and brown trout. It is even covered in a calcareous soil that encourages the growth of rare mosses and other plants.

Nestled amidst these moors and meres, assembled about an old grain barn built in 1745, there is a small collection of cottages that form Fäviken Magasinet Restaurang och Logementet.

 

There are seven lodges in all. Of the newest four – all coloured cream and maybe subtly more rococo in appearance (provoked by the style’s brief popularity in Trondheim during the eighteenth century perhaps) – one is privately owned, another houses a fully-equipped spa and the two remaining are made up of very handsome guestrooms.

The oldest buildings, discernible by their traditional Falun red timber facades, are also the largest; one is a renovated warehouse and office whilst the other holds the games room, some accommodation and is where guests dine. The latter is divided into two separate spaces entered through different doors. To the left, there is a large salon boasting leather settees and a beautiful snooker table; this is the eye’s natural focus, but the horde of various animal’s heads, stuffed and mounted on every one of the very tall walls, vie for one’s attention too. An adjacent staircase leads to bedrooms upstairs.

The building’s other half contains the kitchen, lounge and dining room. Betraying its original barn function, inside the walls are made up of wooden beams and bear no windows; instead light comes from gas lamps and a fireplace. The talking piece is suspended near the doorway – the only item left behind by the former owner: a tailor-made, hundred-year-old coat fashioned from the pelts of four wild wolves. The downstairs drawing room, where today guests enjoy aperitifs and snacks, was in fact Fäviken’s first dining room during the initial year that Mr. Nilsson took over. As the restaurant’s reputation improved and he was able to expand to twelve covers, the meal was moved upstairs and a maître d’hôtel taken on. This was Johan Agrell who was once a promising chef himself before becoming a manager at Esperanto in Stockholm. The new salle does have some windows albeit small, spherical ones that are again supplemented by lanterns and a little fire. There are more tables now, but these still number only ever three or four and are arranged along three sides of the room. As decoration, large hocks of ham dangle from the exposed rafters of the roof. Classical Swedish folk music completes the scene.

Dinner is served promptly at seven in the evening and there is one menu, which Mr. Nilsson decides and everyone eats in chorus.

Apéritif: Fermented Rhubarb Juice and Gin. Upon sitting down downstairs, Miss Roth prepared each diner a drink of ten-year old rhubarb juice and Hendrick’s gin. This sherry-like juice from Bengt-Johnny and Jan-Anders in Öster-övsjö was originally intended to be sold as rhubarb wine, but the pair had made it before acquiring the proper licenses needed to trade alcohol. It took the two almost eight years to get these and even then they were not certified to sell the pre-licence juice…

Fäviken Magasinet

Amuse Bouche: Fermented Arctic Char ‘Rakfisk’ with Sour Crème. A cube of coral coloured, brine-cured Arctic char sitting atop sour crème came in a long wooden spoon atop a stone slab. Salted and stored for months underground, this small piece of fish had punchy odour, but surprisingly mild and subtle savour; its dense yet yielding texture and mouthfeel were most agreeable. The cream underneath, tangy and unctuous, was an excellent and classic counterpoint to the char. A terrific start.

Amuse Bouche 2: Wild Trouts Roe served in a Warm Crust of Dried Ducks Blood. Baby-sized ebony baskets of desiccated duck’s blood bore bright burnt orange bubbles of unsalted trout caviar. The fragile, charred crust, flavourful and savoury, seasoned the superbly fresh roe that burst with a slightly sweet taste that was more of egg than of fish. Some sauce of cheese, cream and more blood, secreted inside, imbued each warm bite.

Amuse Bouche 3: Crispy Lichens with Dried Egg Yolks and Smokedried Fish, Lightly Soured Garlic Cream. A couple of stone tablets were presented with two different types of foraged and lightly fried lichen prepared in two distinct ways. Upon one, reindeer lichen was served with shavings of lightly cold-smoked trout; on the other, Icelandic moss was covered with cured egg yolk. The former, named for reindeer’s fondness for it as well as its similarity to the same animal’s antlers, is the most common and commonly eaten kind of lichen. Each a small, celadon construction of compacted, crispy branches, they were rather mild themselves, but enlivened by the smoky trout on top. The latter have long been used in Iceland and other Arctic regions as medicine and to supplement grain in the local diet; there they are consumed as candy, soup and mixed with dairy. These darker morsels of Icelandic moss – a misnomer – were flatter and resembled seaweed; they were brittle and bitter, but worked well with the salted and dried yolk. The garlic sour crème alongside had great texture.

Amuse Bouche 4: Shavings of Old Sow and Wild Goose. Cerise slivers of home-cured pork, taken from the plumpest sow and hung since Christmas 2009 in a dry room, arrived with glistening segments of wild goose coloured carmine and fringed with a nice skirt of ochre fat. Aged for nine months, the goose pieces were pleasingly meaty, complex and intense – almost beefy – with an agreeably gamey and lingering aftertaste.

Bröd och smör: Tove’s Bread and the Very Good Butter. As the bread was brought out, an old kneading trough was shown off. It was served with a story. This was the same tray that once belonged to Magnus Nilsson’s grandmother and her grandmother before her; it still harbours traces of the same sourdough culture she used – now over two hundred years old. The family connection does not end there: with this ancestral starter, flour from Järna near Stockholm and from an island in lake Storsjön processed together at a mill in Östersund, he uses his wife’s recipe to bake a pain au levain loaf that possessed a thin yet crunchy crust and dense, dark yet moist and fluffy crumb. It was simply excellent. The very good butter (its official name here), from close by Oviken and with a texture like melting cheddar, was superb too.

Förrätt: Scallop ‘I Skalet Ur Elden’ cooked over burning juniper branches. A triangle of sizeable scallop shells sat closed atop straw and leafy stems at the centre of the table; a small lump of coal sat smouldering amidst them. The scent stemming from this burning birch charcoal – woody-sweet and smoky – was a catalyst, at once awaking the senses and agitating one’s appetite.

One of the sea’s most evocative symbols, suggestive of the setting sun, of Venus, pilgrimage, femininity, fertility and more, each shell was an incomparable intermingling of pale pinks, creams and pastel greens. After admiring their gentle geometry, the covering carapaces were removed to reveal bronze splashs of scallop jus surrounding the shellfishes’ muscles whose burnt rose hues matched the hints tinting their alabaster coffers.

An impeccable Norwegian scallop had been cooked alive above branches of fresh juniper and birch coal. As it started crackling, it was taken off the heat and its contents emptied. Nothing was discarded nor additional added. The scallop was replaced immediately whilst the skirt and insides strained then returned too. This whole process took no more than ninety seconds. It is a seemingly simple system, but the results were brilliant. Eaten by hand, the shellfish itself, satisfyingly firm to bite yet barely cooked through, was succulent and sea-sweet. Drunk straight out the shell, the strong, iodic juices were just as delicious.

Förrätt 2: Langoustine, Toasted Grains, Sprouting Barley, Mature Cheese, Vegetables Stored in Whey since last Autumn and Almost Burnt Cream. A single substantial langoustine, inset with a sprig of birch, dominated the dish; a small mound of muesli mounted with vegetables, hard cheese and barley sprouts, along with a spoonful of reduced cream, shared the plate. Lightly pan-fried till lustrous orange, the shellfish separated nicely into its individual, luscious filaments whilst the toasted grains, tasty and savoury, tendered welcome crunch. Almost burnt cream, full of dairy flavour yet clean, was well met by the acidity of the roots, which had been pickled in whey for almost nine months. The inclusion of mature cheese was a nice nod to the native Swedish custom of eating crawfish with Västerbotten.

Förrätt 3: Slices of Cod Lightly Brushed with Honey and then Seared in a dry pan, Rutabega Roasted Slowly in the Good Butter, Alcoholic Vinegar, Green Juniper Berries and a Cream of Duck Eggs and Gammelost. An ivory ingot of cod, caramelised perfect persimmon colour yet its centre still nearly translucent, sat skirted on one side by a long wedge of slow-roasted swede that was straddled with some vivid green juniper-infused vinegar and whose own orange shades mirrored those of the fish, and on the other by an immaculately rounded drop of cream; each piece was placed on the dish at parallel diagonals bearing from bottom to top.

This could be the best cod that I have ever been served. The fillet’s quality was immense and it had been handled and cooked extremely well too. The juniper vinegar was also impressive. Upon touching one’s tongue, this substance turned from an innocuous jade liquid jelly into unadulterated electric currant that disseminated through the mouth and animated every taste bud. Whilst the al dente rutabaga was decent, this sizzling sauce and cod alone could have been enough. The cream, which was actually a mix of Gammelost – old Swedish cheese – and duck eggs, was rather a little rich for me.

Förrätt 4: Raw Mussels, Very Fresh Cheese and Very Light Broth of Beef Filtered Through the Spring Forest Floor. A bowl was brought bearing a bed of fresh cheese, above which a brace of raw blue shell mussels laid level, side by side, sprinkled with almost raw baby blades of nettle; at the table, a delicate beef broth was poured in from a leaf-filled teapot. Not normally seen served so rare, these tender, tubby North Atlantic bivalves, did not remain so for long – the consommé gently warmed the mussels, carefully cooking them. Made to order literally five minutes before being plated, the cheese beneath resembled tofu in terms of taste and texture. The nearly raw nettles – again something rarely seen – offered some easy bitterness and pepper whilst accentuating the grassy notes of the crystal clear and subtle stock. Having been resting with mosses, replete with their roots, and other random forest flora, the contents took on a tea-like quality with an aroma as well as flavour instantly evocative of the forest floor.

Förrätt 5: The First Foraged Vegetables of the Year Wilting on a Plate, Sheep’s Cream Whisked with Vinegar Fermented Beer and Ground Cods Roe. A considerable, curved dish, its surface flat, was set down. Across its centre, a bundle of assorted greens rested delicately arranged – they appeared as if freshly cut and still moist with the same morning’s dew. At symmetrical spots either side of these could be found a porcelain-like spoon of sheep’s milk cream and some dried cod’s roe grated in a small gamboge heap. The minimalism was imposing. The vegetables, which really had been foraged that very morning from a nearby verge just behind the restaurant, were each toothsome and distinct. The coiled, plump fiddlehead ferns were mildly nutty and bitter (akin to asparagus), the fireweed similar if a little sweeter whilst the ground elder, crisp and refreshing like celery. The cream, made with vinegar-fermented beer, immediately reminded one of malt vinegar; a reference to Kalles kaviar maybe, the homemade roe was the smoky seasoning.

Förrätt 6: Dices of Cows Heart and Marrow, Grated Carrots. Mr. Nilsson and his sous chef ascended the staircase and marched into the middle of the dining room. They had not come empty-handed. They carried with them a large, already-grilled thighbone, which was placed upon a pedestal standing in between the three tables. Here, they sawed the bone open. Whilst stacks of toasted sourdough and vibrant clusters of lovage salt were handed out, Nilsson mined the soft, pinkish marrow out of the bone and onto awaiting plates of raw beef heart tartare and rough-chopped carrots.

The instinctively self-made open-faced sandwiches that inevitably ensued tendered rewarding, contrasting chews of cool, tender meat; warm, melting fat; and deliciously sweet, crunchy carrot.

Förrätt 7: Ribeye of a Pensioner Milking Cow Dry Aged since early January, Panfried and then Rested on the Charcoal Grill, Sour Onions and Wild Herbs, Fermented Mushroom Juices from last year. A carving of dry-aged rib-eye, its crust chargrilled and centre burgundy, came fringed with a nice bronze border of fat; colourful wild herbs covered a mass of caramelised onions whilst dark dots of mature fermented mushroom juice punctuated the plate.

The beef, from a seven-year old, retired dairy cow, had been dry-aged by Nilsson himself for five months – from Christmas till summer almost. It was exceptional. Melt-in-the mouth tender, the meat was full of smoky, charred savour. Its unctuous adipose was especially toothsome whilst pungent like good cheese. The moreish, creamy-crisp onions were a great complement; having been cooked in reduced whey, their sour-sweetness cut the steak well. Year-old mushroom jus packed a punch.

Efterrätt: Wild Raspberries Ice; Fermented Lingonberries ‘Vattlingon’ Thick Cream and Sugar. As a pre-dessert, sugared ‘lingonberry water’ with cream and some wild raspberry sorbet were presented on a pair of wooden spoons, nostalgic of those that the first snack arrived on. The latter was fresh and fruity-tart whilst the former a more intricate, but finely balanced bite. Traditionally Swedish/Russian vattlingon that originated when sugar was so expensive that these berries were preserved by simply storing them in bottles of water at room temperature for a year or so.

Efterrätt 2: Sorbet of Milk, Whisked Duck Eggs and Raspberries Jam. Once upon a time, the barn within which Fäviken Magasinet now rests was a dairy school. Consequently, when Mr. Nilsson moved in, he found, amongst other things, a 1920s ice cream maker and it is with this that milk sorbet is made à la minute in the dining room for the last dessert.

A bright white quenelle of it is deposited, semi-submerged, in a foamy sabayon. Immersing one’s spoon into the snow-shaded, ersatz crust, a cache of raspberry jam reveals itself. It is an easy-to-eat, classic marriage of milk and berry.

Petit Fours: Pine Tree Bark Cake, Buttermilk; Dried Berries, Meadowsweet Candy and Tar Pastilles. A selection of different sweets awaited diners with their coffees and teas downstairs. Alongside them, three interesting homemade liquors were also ready: raspberry, duck egg and sour milk.

Atop a block of rock rested ebony pieces of dried blueberry and blackcurrant, separated by a peachy streak of meadowsweet candy pearls; a small wooden treasure chest held tar pastilles too. All these were precise in flavour and somewhat addictive – especially the liquorice tar, which is apparently an acquired taste. Brought out shortly after the drinks, some excellent pine tree bark cake with buttermilk was warm, moist and tasty.


The wines were all very good and matched the food well. The delicious 2008 Schwarzhofberger Riesling Kabinett from Egon Müller was the standout, but it was also great to see the inclusion of Fäviken’s own Pale Mead from Bengt-Johnny and Jan-Anders in Öster-övsjö on the menu.

Service, directed by Mr. Agrell and assisted by Miss Hanna Roth, was first-rate. Efficient, elegant and humorous, we were entertained and tended too superbly well. Agrell especially was engaging and very knowledgeable about the cooking, beverages and the restaurant, regaling us with many interesting stories about both Fäviken and, much more amusingly, Mr. Nilsson. Although it was literally only the two of them running the front-of-house, one never had to wait for anything nor was it ever any effort attracting someone’s attention. Furthermore, timing – of food and wine – was expert.

The dining room itself is the romantic incarnation of a fairytale imagination. It completely lived up to expectation. Rustic and quaint, it was warm and charming. If there was anything that could be described as imperfect, it was dinner’s soundtrack: this local folk music was sometimes a little distracting during the meal’s quieter moments.

Nilsson and his team made several appearances throughout the meal in what has almost become de rigueur in these parts – service à la nordique, if you will. A couple of courses also entailed à la minute elements completed in front of the guests, including the sawing of the bone and churning of the ice cream. Where possible, some sort of family style interaction was encouraged too: snacks and sweets were served from shared plates, as were the scallops and additional cuts of beef.


Dinner made an impression.

From the first morsel of fermented arctic char – a seemingly simple, small square, maybe enough for a single mouthful – it was evident that this meal might be something special. This minimal nibble was in fact full of flavour and surprise: its pungent musk initially misleading one into assuming something quite intense and powerful, it actually seduced the tongue with subtlety and its instantly recognisable quality. This was quickly succeeded by a series of delicious tastes that showed off Mr. Nilsson’s persistence and patience. Wild goose that had been curing since last August, fatty sow from Christmas over two years ago – such forethought and consideration were remarkable and certainly delectable. The courses proper, preceded by fantastic bread and butter, started with arguably the finest dish, the scallop. More on this shortly. Next, the langoustine and cod really revealed the wealth of amazing ingredients that Nilsson has to hand. Later plates boasted restraint and delicacy, prior to the matured, beefy main that reminded the diner once again of the chef’s providence and planning. Desserts were nice, but arguably not as notable as what came before.


My abiding thoughts from Fäviken are focused about the produce and the personality of the cuisine.

The ingredients were incredible. The shellfish especially were some of the best that I have seen – the scallop and cod perhaps both new benchmarks. The beef here could also include this restaurant in the number of places that I would return to just to eat this meat. It was almost as good as that of Asador Etxebarri and Japan. The repeatedly praised bread made from carefully sourced flours and the wickedly moreish butter deserve yet one more mention here. The eggs do too. Upon arriving at the estate, we were able to visit one of the chef’s suppliers – the increasingly famous Mr. Duck, Peter Blombergsom. This gentleman breeds half a dozen organic and free-range varieties of duck and chicken whilst providing Nilsson with his eggs and bird blood; he has also recently expanded into snail farming. The eggs are certainly of a high standard and I was privileged to try them once more a week later at his newest (and second) customer, noma. The exceptional wild trout roe that arrived super fresh and unsalted must be singled out as well.

Nothing in Nilsson’s kitchen comes from more than two hundred kilometres away. Meat is from Fäviken; vegetables are from the estate too, grown by gardener Magdalena Engberg; the seafood is from Trondheim; with only sugar, salt and wheat sourced from southern Sweden. One might suppose such geographical concentration a constraint – especially considering that snow covers this land six months out of twelve – but not this chef who confides that he has ‘never worked with better produce than here’. He is in a fortunate position. Upon the restaurant’s own grounds, he is able to hunt for moose, grouse and hare; fish in its lakes; and forage for berries, mushrooms, moss and lichen. ‘Of course we could buy vegetables from somewhere else during winter,’ Nilsson declares, ‘but by using our own produce and preparing it in the way that used to be necessary to survive, we force ourselves into thinking in new ways’.

Mr. Nilsson’s own attitude towards ingredients is simple: the initial step in every new recipe must be finding the ‘perfect raw material’. The second step is maximising that product’s potential. The chef enjoys focusing on one principal protein when building a dish, keeping it as intact as he can and altering it as little as possible. It is in the garnish that spicing and additional flavours may augment that of the main meat/fish/vegetable. The prime example of this is the scallop ‘i skalet ur elden’. This course corroborated Nilsson’s argument that the ‘combination of the perfect ingredient and the perfect cooking technique’ negates all need for extra seasoning. It is a total eating, drinking, sensory event where everything you taste, all that you taste is scallop – it is the essence of scallop. Stunning and memorable, it conjured up similar sensations as René Redzepi’siconic langoustine dish did the first time that I ate it. The chef himself admits that his wish would be a menu composed of a dozen such dishes.

Time and place’ is an expression that is becoming more and more established – and important – in the average eater’s everyday lexicon. Fäviken has both in abundance. It is a terrific illustration of where the eating experience is the essential digest of what one sees and feels around them filtered through the imagination and intelligence of the chef cooking their meal. Accordingly, this is an immensely personal cuisine.

Nilsson explains it best himself. ‘We do things as they have always been done on Jämtland’s mountain farms: we follow seasonal variations and existing traditions. We live with the community. During the summer and autumn, at the peak of each ingredient’s ripeness, we harvest what grows on our land and refine it using methods that we have discovered from our rich traditions or which we have found through our own search for quality. We build up our provisions ahead of the dark winter months; we dry, salt, jelly, pickle and bottle. The hunting season starts after the harvest and is an important time, when we take care of the exceptional food that the mountains provide us with’.

This restaurant could not be anywhere except in Jämtland. And its chef could not be anyone but Magnus Nilsson. Besides the fact that the restaurant relies nearly fully on its surroundings to fill its stores, many of the techniques and routines of the kitchen are informed by indigenous customs of preserving, curing, fermenting and the like. Rightly so then that the chef is a native too. More than that, he fulfils all the expectations of a Jämt given that the etymological root of the word derives from the Proto-Germanic term meaning persistent, efficient, enduring and hardworking.

Indeed, no shortcuts are allowed. This is one expression of the old-school ethos here – that there are no thermometers and all the cooking is judged by touch are others. As is the open charcoal fire in the centre of Fäviken’s kitchen, which the chef enjoys using as much as he can and where he experiments with the flame and different kinds of wood. These are responses to Nilsson’s childhood and reminisces over the wood-fired oven at his grandmother’s farm. Other idiosyncrasies of the chef are easily distinguishable too. For example, Mr. Nilsson has a sweet tooth and fondness for candy, something that the petit fours, a choice of different confections, are doubtless indicative of. There is also an uncommon incidence of dairy during the meal, which is actually acutely reflective of where one is eating: in Jämtland, there is a strong appetite for milk and thus many milk products, especially cheese, as it is the easiest way to conserve milk. Consider it carefully and this food reveals Nilsson’s terroir, upbringing, personality, tastes and even those that have influenced him too.

It is in such ways that the chef articulates his own character and thus colours his cuisine with individuality.

The chef that has made the greatest impact on Nilsson is Pascal Barbot. This is from whom the Swede has learned the most. The striking minimalism, optimistic use of colour, seasoning style and indifference to saucing of some of the courses all intimated that this is someone who might have spent time with the Frenchman, but it was really the cod that was the single largest clue of this. The cut, cuisson and even caramelisation of it reminded me immediately of Barbot. That being said, this is not in any way an implication that this is imitation in any form. Not at all. This is clearly Magnus Nilsson’s food and one of his greatest gifts is his originality.

His methodical approach and his curiosity are two more of this chef’s strongest qualities. These are perhaps the automatic manifestation of Mr. Nilsson’s scientific mind. Like a scientist, he has an innate affection for researching and testing new techniques and ingredients. Such keenness might be behind one of dinner’s most interesting items: the juniper-infused vinegar. This is basically alcoholic vinegar – the same that is used to clean dishes – yet in such small amounts, it was superbly effective. There was also a logic and attention to detail here that was at times so subtle that it might have been missed. My favourite demonstration of this was with the Icelandic moss. These lichen possess a bitterness proven to whet the appetite and stimulate hunger – hence, they are inherently ideal as a snack. Another symptom of this mind-set is his insistence on an evolutionary process with new dishes rather than a saltational one: ‘the menu is changeable, when one ingredient runs out, it needs to be replaced by another. We never replace dishes ‘just because’, instead we would rather wait for a new ingredient, idea or dish that is actually better than the one being replaced. Much of what we serve has its own lifespan and remains on for a long time, slowly becoming something entirely different to the original, despite having the same name throughout its existence’.

Magnus Nilsson sums up his philosophy as Rektún food. Real food. ‘[The] literal meaning is very simple, but for me it has a lot more values than that. We respect our raw ingredients for what they are, what they look like and where they come from. We strive to monitor production of each ingredient from seed to plate. We accept nature’s own choices as the primary factor and apply our own knowledge in order to maximise every product’s potential before we select the ones we are going to use. We concentrate on harvesting, preparing, cooking and then serving it in most thought through and exact way possible. We present every single ingredient in a manner that conveys feelings that arise in the process to create rektún food…We don’t follow trends. We serve what we want, when we want. Respect, control, selection, concentration, presentation. [This is] rektún food’.

It is inevitable that similarities will be drawn between noma and Fäviken. Both restaurants reside in the same region and both limit the ingredients they cook with to that area too. This is enough for many to conclude that they are essentially the same. This is wrong. Where the two overlap is only on ideology, geography and thus some basic foodstuffs and methods.

Whilst the raw materials might be similar, the results are certainly not. For one, at Fäviken there are three in the kitchen; at noma, there are thirty more. Redzepi has the resources to create perfectly complete new dishes quickly and in quick succession; Nilsson pursues a more measured pace where recipes evolve over time and with the seasons. Here, the cuisine is a little simpler, more straightforward and direct – and rightfully so. But it is not just about what is on the plate. When leaving Fäviken, one departs with the most abiding, brightest conviction of a potential immense and not yet met. The chef is refining – still cultivating – his craft and even now discovering what is realisable with what he has still waiting, unearthed, around him. To see the impending consummation of such a beautiful ideal as his is compelling enough reason to return.


Today, terroirism is trendy and sexy. Thanks to the adherents of new naturalism, eating natural, local food has become cool again. Chief amongst these is indeed René Redzepi, who has shown chefs worldwide – and instilled within them a confidence – that cooking what is native to each is a realistic ambition and, more than that, meaningful and worthwhile. It is not a new idea, but a forgotten one remembered again.

When Magnus Nilsson arrived at Fäviken, it was not with a calculated mission to cook with ingredients as immediate to him as possible. His superlocavore attitude was an intuitive, subconscious – and eventually self-fulfilling – impulsion that grew from an increasing intimacy with the natural world directly around him. It was a slow, steady success and it was not without stress. However, it is Redzepi who Nilsson cites as the one who showed him that it was not a futile effort, but something fundamentally valuable and actually viable.


Food is currently fashionable and the greatest interaction that the average urban individual now has with nature  – real, raw nature – is arguably with what they find in their refrigerator or on their plate at a restaurant. Thus, what chefs like Magnus Nilsson and René Redzepi are doing – though doing differently – is incredibly relevant.

They are changing how people eat. They are renewing man’s relationship with nature.

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