Twelve years ago, over 3,000 miles away in Copenhagen, twelve visionary chefs got together to devise the New Nordic Food Manifesto. They dreamed of a new type of cuisine, infused with the Nordic values of simplicity, environmentalism, and community. They focused on seasonal, local, and sustainable foods, then set out to share these uniquely Nordic dishes with the world.
Their manifesto was a success, earning international acclaim, two Michelin stars, and four “best restaurant in the world” titles for movement founder Claus Meyer.
Twelve years later, their original manifesto seems to have made the journey across the pond. On Saturday, Sept. 24, hundreds of adventurous eaters descended upon the Smorgasbord Nordic Food Festival in West Newton.
The event was held at the Scandinavian Cultural Center. Although there was no sign on the property, the large circle of brawling, bearded men was difficult to miss on the front lawn of the converted Newton home.
Surrounding the wrestling ring were 15 small tents, which served not cold, pickled fish, but an eclectic mix of new Nordic cuisine. While there were a fair share of tall, blonde Scandinavian folk, the crowd of eaters milling about was a mix of many cultures, most of them from the Newton area.
It wasn’t just the crowd that was local. When asked if she was Swedish, Kim Nadolny, who was preparing the Tunnbrodsrulle, a Swedish hot-dog wrapped in flatbread with shrimp and potato salads, replied, “Not a lick.” Nadolny is a Newton native who has lived here for her entire life. She loves cooking Nordic Cuisine at the Scandinavian Center because, “Local is what they’re all about here. Why would you go anywhere else for food when the best, freshest ingredients are right here around you?”
The shrimp and potato salad hotdog was strange. Combined, the heat of the dog and the chill of the shrimp formed more of an identity crisis than a harmony.
Thankfully, the other chefs were able to strike the right chords.
Other booths served Danish strudel covered cakes, cardamom ice cream, and heartier fare, like salmon-and-lox pizza. A booth serving Vulgar Display of Poutine had the longest line by far. A classic Canadian dish with an Icelandic twist, Vulgar Display consisted of lamb and peas smothered with hand-cut fries and cheese curds.
By late afternoon most of the lines had completely disappeared from the booths, but the line for Vulgar Display stretched at least 15 feet around the circle of wrestling men, even as the chef apologized to each waiting customer; he had served every pound of lamb he brought that day.
Even so, chef Ryan Fisher was still sautéing peas and frying hand-cut potatoes like a mad man. While he was flattered by the attention, the chef wasn’t surprised.
“No one makes poutine like we do, which is to say, like idiots,” said Fisher. “There is really no need for it to be this hard, but I wanted to make my poutine from scratch, so that’s what I did. No one wastes money on making fresh chicken stock, but I do because it’s the only good way; I go down to the market for veggies just to end up throwing them away.”
Vulgar Display of Poutine and Chef Ryan Fisher are a bit new on the poutine scene. However, such enthusiastic responses aren't new for him. His very first competitive cooking outing was at the New Hampshire Poutine Festival this June. Fisher's monster poutine won first place; he even had the golden WWE-style belt on display to prove it.
The rest of the booths were generally tasty and certainly memorable, most being Massachusetts mutations of Nordic classics like Swedish waffles and meatballs.
Although Smorgasbord wasn’t a display of the traditional Nordic fare one might find thousands of miles across the ocean, these innovative chefs took the ideas of the New Nordic Food Manifesto and made them their own, creating some strange and delicious dishes in the process.