Ah, how the mighty have fallen. As I write this on the ever-dreary occasion that is Monday, I am enjoying a very typical midnight snack of Sternis and Paprika Crunchips, dreaming about the meal I had only a couple nights before…
A campfire moment
I started Thursday evening in the garden by a campfire, slipping the buttery flesh of fresh-off-the-grill mackerel into my mouth with my bare fingers. I followed the other guests inside. One by one we dipped our hands into a kind of baptismal ice bath in preparation for what would be an extraordinary meal: whole cod baked in a hibernation lair of the thickest salt crust, a rustic vegetable mash, paper-thin sourdough bread, hot apple cider, cinnamon milk rice...
The highlight was my first raw sea urchin, a luscious, briny gem of curiously both wobbly and chewy texture. I could have had ten more at least.
Where was I eating?
Unfortunately for you, nowhere you can snag a reservation for anywhere in Berlin.
I was at The Agora Collective, a project space in Neukölln with their own café and many rooms for hosting events like workshops, exhibits, and performances.
Agora brought Norwegian chef and fisherman Roderick Sloan to Berlin to lead a module of their educational program “Everything Under the Sun”, a series of artistic events interested in thinking about climate change, food, and the environment. "The Nordic Dinner" was the first public event in the row, conceptualised by the chef and the workshop participants.
Those familiar with high-end food scene in Scandinavia will be envious to know that I had a taste of Roderick Sloan’s famous sea urchins. Sloan is the supplier for New Nordic Cuisine pioneers like Magnus Nilsson at Sweden’s Fäviken and René Redzepi at Copenhagen’s Noma. Sloan is, one could say, hardcore; he lives in a Norwegian coastal village so cold and so far north a fellow guest at the dinner jokes, “he must be in cahoots with Santa Claus”.
I ask this deep-sea diver about his relationship to food and he responds simply: “My life is food…food is a great leveler which means that everybody has an opinion to share; food creates fantastic debates and feelings”.
An impromptu dish from the kitchen: paper-thin sourdough bread
Sloan is right. Conversation at dinner was easy with superb food to react to. The atmosphere in Agora that evening reminded me of the concept of “hygge” in Danish culture, or “koselig” in Norwegian culture. Both speak to the idea of building coziness, warmth, and intimacy to survive the dark, cold winter months. It was endearing to watch people in the room take photos of every new dish that came out of the kitchen. Instagramming has certainly replaced prayer as the mandatory pre-meal ritual. The guests at Agora were eager to commemorate the evening with each other, and for good reasons: a welcome break in the frequently zum-mitnehmen, on-the-go eating routine of many Berliners, Agora’s excellent Nordic-Berliner dinner was representative of Agora’s ongoing mission to bring people together to experiment, put ideas into action, and encourage different thinking and eating.
“Everything Under the Sun" Autumn program:
Module#1 (22/10 - 13/11): Nordic Food Manifesto; From the Backyard to the Table
Module#2 (02/11 - 27/11): In the Age of FOODIE-ism
For more of a taste of Agora, visit www.agoracollective.org