Noma No more?


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Earlier this week a New York Times article announced the closing of Noma, consistently ranked among the top 50 restaurants in the world. Chef Rene Redzepi as the article title suggests plans to reopen in a different Copenhagen location in 2017. In the meantime, he and his team will be busy converting an urban ruin into an urban farm able to support the new restaurant fully committed to seasonal dining. American chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns sets similar ambitions, investing deeply in ingredients by employing on site farmers and farming. The “menus” at both begin with and stay true to the produce. For example, instead of traditional menus designed around dishes and techniques, the meal at Blue Hill is guided by “grazing, pecking and rooting” from greenhouse, field, pasture, forest, farm and cellar products.

This philosophy that dining begins with the ground depends on a creative and intimate understanding of place, seasons, processes of growing, cooking and eating of each diverse ingredient. These chefs, push the idea of “farm to table,” slow and local dining to the experimental extreme by including the farm, in form and content, as the restaurant experience. The challenge to convert a historically domestic practice of garden eating to a professional standard of consistency requires tremendous forethought and faith in the ability to quite literally grow quality products. I can’t tell if these are exercises in hubris or humility. Perhaps, both?

Help! My Bread is Dead!


The whiter flour became, the greater the demand. To be fair, that’s been the history of wheat for thousand’s of years. But for all its efficiency, steel couldn’t match the old-school grindstone in two key respects. In fully removing the germ- that vital, living element of wheat — and the bran, the roller mill not only killed wheat but also sacrificed nearly all of its nutrition. While the bran and the germ represent less than 20 percent of a wheat kernel’s total weight, together they comprise 80 percent of its fiber and other nutrients. And studies show that the nutritional benefits of whole grains can be gained only when all the edible parts of the grain– bran, germ, and endosperm — are consumed together. But that’s exactly what was lost in the milling process.

There was another cost as well, just as devastating. Stone milled flour retained a golden hue from the crushed germ’s oil and was fragrant with bits of nutty bran. The roller mills might have finally achieved a truly white flour, but the dead, chalky powder, no longer tasted of wheat — or really anything at all. We didn’t just kill wheat. We killed the flavor.

from The Third Plate: Field notes on the future of food by Dan Barber

I did not know that until the 1880s and the roller mill, ground flour only had a shelf life of one week. Barber’s book certainly prompts us to consider the unaccounted and problematic system of food production hidden behind current “farm to table” intentions to honor ingredients. The aesthetic and technological evolution of wheat that Barber describes makes me think about our odd preference for dead, white, preserved flour at the cost of nutritional value and taste. Can we call white flour merely ornamental gastronomic pleasure, lacking in functional nutrition? Is white flour symbolic art while stone ground wheat functional design? Does how our produce look outweigh how our produce tastes? If so why? Do we equate a pretty apple with a nutritional, good-for-me apple? How much of my food suffers from competing tastes, visual and gastronomic, I wonder.–has-a-fallacy-attached-to-it/2014/07/07/b71ee83a-021a-11e4-8572-4b1b969b6322_story.html