Bart Vandaele: Nordic Seafood at B Too

Bart Vandaele

What’s behind the milk mustache, ripe avocado, or mound of walnuts? Associations and councils help market food to consumers and chefs, increasing our consumption, introducing us to novel products, or improved quality of the products we already know. Food associations often hire celebrity chefs to pitch to consumers, offer recipes, and help create more demand. Chefs are eager to work on these projects, not only because they can be lucrative, but also because they often include travel and education about the product – as well as exposure to journalists to cover the story.

Super Chef attended a tasting of Norwegian seafood at Chef Bart Vandaele‘s Washington DC restaurant B Too. Bart is an enthusiastic chef. He cooks with exuberance and bounty. He is one of seven chefs who the Norwegian Seafood Council invited to join a Chef’s Board, joining others who were chosen last year. These include:

Neal Fraser – owner and chef of Redbird at Vibiana, BLD and Fritzi Dog in Los Angeles
Tim Graham – chef of Travelle in Chicago
Greg Hozinsky – chef of The Strand House in Los Angeles
David Seigal – chef of Cull & Pistol in New York City
Paul Backer – chef of Tilia in Minneapolis
Steven Brown – executive culinary director of Tilia

The chefs were invited to Norway in order to learn about seafood practices:

The chefs were educated in aquaculture practices, which included visits to the pristine salmon and halibut production facilities. The Culinary Board members had the opportunity to work with Norwegian chefs to learn local and traditional cooking techniques, sample authentic Nordic Cuisine and prepare an array of fresh seafood, putting their unique, modern spin on each dish.

The chefs then participate in events like NORTH, a Nordic Food Festival in New York this fall, and present Norwegian focused menus at their restaurants.

Chef Bart’s Norwegian Seafood Tasting Menu will be served for at least one week, if not longer, at B Too. He started with a surprisingly light and crispy salmon waffle served with champagne. His amuse-bouche of Norwegian Sea King Crab Legs with a pea puree and grapefruit was a playful balance of crunch, sweet, salty, bitter with a splash of vibrant color. Grilled Norwegian Mackerel, marinated and charred, with radish, finger lime, cucumber and dill sauce, had a lemony sprinkling of sumac, and magenta pineapple sage flowers sprinkled over the dish from the chef’s garden. The most impressive dish by far was the Whole Josper Norwegian Halibut with Purslane Puree, Beech Mushroom, and Hay-Infused Sauce. Halibut was perfectly cooked, firm, yet succulent, and flavors of mushroom puree, parsley puree and grilled mushroom matched it wonderfully. Chef Bart remarked that halibut tastes best when it ages a few days, compared to a freshly caught fish. He and his fellow chefs had experimented in Norway and determined that a three-day-old fish, kept properly chilled, was preferable to the freshly caught fish.

For dessert, journalists were served another waffle, this time a cinnamon waffle (a play on a Danish) with fantastic elderberry syrup granite. “It is a warm and cozy dessert, just like I felt when I was over there. This is a thank you to everybody I met in Norway,” said the chef. Here is the entire menu:

Hendricks & Tonic Push-Up, Celery, Basil
Norwegian Sea King Crab Legs, Grapefruit and Yogurt

The Nordic Dinner

First Course
Kelp Marinated Norwegian Salmon
Blackberry Jelly, Yogurt,
Oyster Sauce, Sea-Beans, Caviar

Second Course
Grilled Norwegian Mackerel
Radish, Finger Lime, Cucumber & Dill Sauce

Third Course
Whole Josper Norwegian Halibut
Purslane Puree, Beech Mushroom, Hay-Infused Sauce

Fourth Course
Norwegian Cod
Smoked Holland Leeks, Black Salt, Shellfish Jus

Blueberries, Cinnamon, Skyr, Rose Hip
Roasted Pineapple in Vanilla Syrup, Elderflower Granite, Graham Cracker Cookies

Diners should expect to choose three courses to explore Norwegian seafood. If you happen to be eating in Washington DC, this is the week to enjoy a Belgian chef’s love letter to Norway.