THE CHANCES ARE YOUR CHANCES ARE AWFULLY GOOD
EDITOR’S NOTE: Until this moment the acronym SRO meant Standing Room Only. But now, those three once-disappointing letters symbolize something desired, something people would joyously get in room without seats to be a part of; a Silverton Reichl Ochoa gastronomic adventure in search of the finest dining on Earth.
Last week, SRO - Nancy Silverton, Ruth Reichl and Laurie Ochoa - took two dozen intrepid - and high paying - diners on a Los Angeles Times sponsored trip to Modena, Bologna, Panzano and Florence in Italy and then finished up - without them - in Copenhagen for 45 hours. When the trip was over, so were several long standing gastronomic records including most “OMG”s, most “So good”s , most “this is fuckin’ delicious” uttered as the three ladies - aided by Italian stars Dario Cecchini and Massimo Bottura - enchanted on arguably the greatest food trip in modern recorded history.
However, this reporter accompanied the three legends only on the Copenhagen campaign, so my dispatch merely alludes to some Italian dining highlights while focusing on the Danish capital.
THERE’S SOMETHING AMBROSIAL IN DENMARK
I arrived in Copenhagen on a Wednesday, 36 hours before SRO, (largely due to a $525 round trip, nonstop Norwegian Air flight) and did recon for Nancy, Ruth and Laurie. My time alone included two stops that were so delightful that I went back to them every day of the remainder of my trip.
The first of those was the Mexican restaurant of Chicago-born Rosio Sanchez. Twenty months ago, in February 2018, arriving - for the first time - in Copenhagen a day before Nancy, I went to Sanchez with Jonathan Gold and Laurie Ochoa. It was outstanding.
(EDITOR’ NOTE For the record, as good as Sanchez was, the most memorable thing about that night - and Laurie will back me up - was the walk back to the hotel when Jonathan tripped, went down fast, performed a roll for which Nadia Comaneci would have held up a 10, got to his feet and continued on with his walk like the tumble was part of the program. It would - unfortunately - not be the only fall of the trip. Read about Nancy and the Frightening Fall of Copenhagen here . http://www.krikorianwrites.com/blog/2018/2/23/7iegjqbaimvldegyd2l87ryvopc22i By the way, the day after Nancy’s fall, she wasn’t up to going out and I went to Sanchez and became the first - and still only person - ever to get take-out tacos there. I bragged about this Wednesday night to my adorable server Alisa at this dinner. “Of course you did,.” Kate Green will say.)
Anyway, after the octopus tostada, “dirty’ carnitas tacos and black currant and lemon paleta at Sanchez, I went back to my hotel, the Astoria, located next to the central Copenhagen Train Station. $80 a night.
The next morning I set out on foot to Hart Bageri (Bakery). This is the bakery of Richard Hart formerly of Tartine in San Francisco who I met and - with the pinpoint accuracy and timing of a Montana to Rice - dropped the names of SRO to him. “Of course, you did,” will say Kate Green. The result was a luscious loaf of sourdough bread, a stunning cardamon croissant, a blondie bar, chocolate cookies, a panettone and cappuccino. On the house. All i had to do was deliver SRO to the bakery the next day. I did.
The rest of Thursday was walking (12.6 miles in all) and eating at Hija de Sanchez, Rosio’s taco joint in the city’s meatpacking district and a “classic” at John’s Hog Dog’s nearby, a place recommended to me by legendary L.A. TImes copy editor Saji Mathai who learned of it from Anthony Bourdain.
SRO came in Friday, at around 2:!5 pm and they were all very hungry. After we all settle in to an Air B & B Laurie found, it is off to get something to eat. Nancy, Laurie and Ruth cannot wait to the 5 p.m. dinner reservation we have at a celebrated restaurant called Noma and demand to eat right now. In a cab we head to the meatpacking district. The taxi driver was an Iranian whose family had fled Khomeini.
First stop is a seafood place called Kodbyns Fiskebar. It’s fine. Oysters, mussels, sea urchin, some salad. I have a view of a clock and notice the time when we get there, 2:45 and when we leave, 3:48. Noma is only 72 minutes away. Still, SRO is SRO and they want to go to Rosio’s nearby taco joint, HIga de Sanchez.. But on the way, Nancy demands a “classic” from John’s Hot Dogs across the street. SRO eats this dog at 3:58, 62 minutes before our dinner at this Noma place.
SRO wants more! We go to Rosio’s and get three tacos. It is 4:06 p.m., 54 minutes until Noma.
We grabbed a cab back our place to change .The taxi driver was a Chilean whose family had fled Pinochet He waits while we quickly freshen up and takes us to Noma.
DINNER AT THE WORLD’S GREATEST ALBANIAN RESTAURANT
Noma is the kingdom of Rene Redzepi and its previous incarnation a mile away had been named the world’s best restaurant in that Pellegrino guide four times, a feat also accomplished only by the now closed elBulli in Spain. It is usually called a New Nordic restaurant and is named after the distillation of two Danish words, Nordisc (Nordic) and Mad (Food). But, it turns out Rene, though born in Copenhagen, is half Albanian and since Albania gets a bum rap - or at least a rap - and most everyone Rene introduces to me and SRO in the kitchen is “a cousin from Albania”, I have taken to calling Noma the world’s greatest Albanian restaurant.
Whatever you call it, it turns out to be among the most memorable and wonderful experiences of my life. It wasn’t just because of the food. It was the whole thing, especially the company and the near disaster of last year. There was a moment when i was looking out of the window with this view of a puffing smoke stack and Nancy was framed in it and Laurie was across from me and Ruth to my left and whatever we were eating - probably reindeer offal - was delicious and i thought of all the world’s unfortunate people and how fortunate I was and I - without SRO noticing - got a little emotional. “Of course you did.,” will say Kate Green.
We went home The taxi driver was an Indian from the Punjab who I didn’t ask why his family came to Denmark.
SRO AUTOGRAPHS A BOOK AT HART BAGERI
The next morning, Saturday, Laurie, Ruth, Nancy and i walk across a bridge to get coffee at the Corner at 108. Good spot. Then we catch a cab to Hart Bakery. The taxi driver was from Turkey.. I, as I always do in this situation, fire back that I’m Armenian. “Of course you did,” says Kate Green. We don’t talk a whole lot at first, but then we find a common bond. Lewis Hamilton The cabbie had revved his taxi, a new Mercedes and I ask if he knows of Lewis Hamilton, the great Formula One driver. The cabbie does and Hamilton, an Englishman who drives a German race car called the Silver Arrow, unites us for a few Danish miles.
At Hart, the owner Richard has gone to New York, but his staff is waiting for SRO, primarily, and understandably, for Nancy. Her book “The Breads of the La Brea Bakery” is in the kitchen. It’s a first edition. and, to the delight of the staff. the book, Nancy informs them, is written by Laurie Ochoa and the forward is by Ruth Reichl. They all autograph this now very rare book.
And take a cab to lunch. The taxi driver is from Morocco, though he looks as Danish as Prince Hamlet himself.. Lunch is at Ralae, a one star Michelin place near the cemetery where Hans Christina Anderson is buried. I know that name, but can’t say for sure why.. Kirkergard is buried there, too. He’s in that story above “Nancy Silverton and the Frightening Fall of Copenhagen.” Something about “What’s the point?” The food is delicious, and has a slightly Asian bent which is right up Ruth’s wheelhouse. There’s superb lamb, noodles, various vegetables and the highlight, to me, is a pumpkin dish. Gee, I hope you weren’t expecting a restaurant review. In real life I’m a gang reporter.). Let’s just say it was outstanding and go there.
We walk home. Rest a few, and go to Sanchez for dinner. We are joined by Noma’s Tracy Page, and Melina Shannon DiPietro the executive director of MAD and Nadine Levy Redzepi, Rene’s wife. Good time. Rosio’s food satisfies immensely.
We get a cab ride to Dan Vandrette the wine bar next to our place. The cab driver is a Kurd who came to Copenhagen from Iraq to escape Saddam. I tell him I’m Armenian and was at a demonstration with L.A.’s Kurdish community at the Turkish Consulate. “Of course, you did.",” says Kate Green. The cabbie is thrilled to hear this. The light red wine offered is rejected twice by Nadine. Finally a darker wine is offered and we have a bright time.
Back at our place. Nancy can’t find a book I ordered her on her Kindle. The title, she reminds me is “Chances Are.” We break into singing the Johnny Mathis classic. Ruth finds “Chances Are” on YouTube. It sounds old school beautiful https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEH3uqbpsm8
The next morning, Nancy and Laurie get a early cab to the airport. Their cabbie is an Kurd, too. (Kurds win, 2-1) Ruth and I take a nice long walk , past Noma, to another good bakery called Lille. A couple hours later, Ruth leaves in a cabbie who I didn’t get a chance to ask where he was from.
I walk back to the Hotel Astoria, check in and go to Hart. My money is no good there, they tell me. That night I go to Sanchez.
The next morning, I walk from the Hotel Astoria 200 meters to the train station, pay $5 for a 12 minute ride to the airport and get on my non stop back to Los Angeles. On the flight I write some of this and watch “Casablanca”. Of course I did.
Guess you feel you’ll always be the one and only one for me
and if you think you could
Well chances are your chance are awfully goood.
The chances are your chances are………