Try To Breathe As The World Disintegrates

TV On The Radio released a new album today (Monday). I saw them last night (Sunday) at the 9:30 Club, and it was excellent. But let me back up.

I’ve seen TV On The Radio 3 times by my count (as if any other count matters) – once in Boston, once in San Francisco, and now in DC. The Boston show was excellent, but the San Francisco show in 2011 struck me as rather sad. Well, of course it did – the bassist passed away from lung cancer about 20 days before the show, and I couldn’t imagine trying to entertain the SF yuppie crowd after going through THAT. But let me back up.

Sophomore year in high school, some kid gave me Hum’s Downward is Heavenward. This album remains one of my favorite albums of all time, a space-rock epic in which the songs all sound like the future instead of a collection of easily decipherable instruments played in a studio or a garage or whatever. Radiohead then dropped OK Computer and everyone understood that sentence I just wrote. Textures, other-worldly sounds – a huge departure from The Blue Album or The Colour and The Shape.

Fast-forward a couple more years and Zach lightly recommends an LP (not quite an album, but longer than an EP, ugh remember all these terms?) from some band called TV On The Radio. I ignored his recommendation at my own peril. Then 2006 rolls around and Return to Cookie Mountain and all that spaced out future-rock is back, except with a tighter connection to the realities of the human condition.

So, TVoTR was making all this excellent other-worldly beautiful music full of textures and significantly lacking obvious guitar parts, and then their world exploded in April 2011.

And then today their new album comes out, and last night at the 9:30 Club they started their all-around excellent set with … “Young Liars”, track 4 of their 2003 EP that was released before Return To Cookie Mountain, before their first album Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, before all of it. And then they ripped into the rest of the set. And then it was fucking amazing.

Let me be clear – I’ve been listening to Seeds on repeat for the last week straight and I am far from tired of it. It is an excellent album from a band that just keeps making excellent albums, full of songs that don’t sound like prototypical songs but are at the same time so very dance-pop. TV On The Radio went away for a few years, for which no one could blame them, and they came back with a fucking epic. And instead of immediately demanding that the DC crowd humor these new songs, they went back to the beginning.

And then they built it all back up right in front of us.

And it was awesome.

Life is what it is – it’s hard but easy, and challenges come up all the time. Sadness fits me like a glove, and so it seems difficult to step past challenges – it is easy to call life hard in a way. Seeing this excellent band come back to form by doing exactly the easy thing in front of them – make a fuckin’ record, make the best goddamn version of the music they already have made – when sadness was easier, when saying the very easiest, most natural thing for this band to do may have been too hard – and then to take this amazing thing they made and remember that it wasn’t some sort of standalone accomplishment but fits naturally within all their accomplishments – well, well-played, TV On The Radio. Well fuckin’ played.

Basically, sometimes shit seems hard. It seems really fuckin’ impossible. But then you see a real good show by this real good band that somehow remained really good through some actual difficulties, and you realize that maybe, just maybe you are making shit harder than it needs to be. Those things you thought were easy actually took more effort than just, you know, enjoying life.

And then you just have to hope it isn’t too late, and maybe you can build it all back up right in front of us. Because, shit, that’s what you’ve been doing this whole time.

The end of football

The other day at work, Josh asked if there was any interest in joining a product team fantasy football league. I said something about hating the NFL, and Eden asked why. I glibly started spouting off some recent PR calamities by the NFL, but I realized this is a thing worth writing out and explaining a bit clearer, because the sport of football and the NFL in particular need either serious revamping or to go away.

There isn’t much wrong with looking at the most recent bit of NFL blowback to understand immediately why the league, which markets itself as a public entertainment, cares more about money than its fans, its players, or society at large. On one hand, the league takes public money to build stadiums that can only be used for very specific types of events, while on the other hand it ignores society directly by saying being 1 milliliter over the limit of a substance that the New York Times just said should be legalized is worse than knocking out a women in an elevator. This is plainly and obviously awful, and it is just the most recent in a string of violent acts by men who have been taught by a sport to be violent. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is terrible, but off-field incidents and inconsequential punishments exist in all sports and in really all walks of life. In a world where no one was arrested for collapsing the U.S. economy, etc.

Like I said, this recent event and every incident like it that the NFL sweeps away to protect its stars and its revenue is terrible. What takes it to the next level is how very clearly the sport of football affects the people who play it, and by extension the people who watch it and support it.

When I was 6, I did not know much in my life. I knew I moved around a bunch growing up, I knew I lived in a place called Nashville that didn’t have any sports, and I knew I was born in Chicago. While Nashville didn’t have any professional sports in 1987, I liked sports a lot for reasons I still don’t quite understand. Being born in Chicago, I immediately determined that I liked the Chicago Bears in the way that children determine they like things – irrationally, unquestioning, wonderfully. I didn’t have many friends and didn’t really care about that, but I liked running around in my backyard pretending to play in the NFL – running around in my Bears Halloween costume pretending to score touchdowns and recreating celebrations I had watched on Sundays.

1987 is also when I got a Nintendo for Christmas. And 1989 is when I got Tecmo Bowl. And then I didn’t have to pretend anymore.

Tecmo Bowl didn’t have a full NFL license because no one knew what that meant yet, but it did have 12 popular teams with the right colors and the right names – the first game to use real names. In 1989, the Bears were still a pretty good team, with a lousy offense but a strong defense headed up by players I had watched and pretended to play with. They weren’t quite as good as New York, with Lawrence Taylor and his automatic blocked extra point, but Mike Singletary and Dave Duerson were really good and it was the team I rooted for. So, I played as Chicago, and I started telling my friends that Dave Duerson was faster than Ronnie Lott (he might have been!) and only second to Lawrence Taylor. And then my friends would come over and I would beat them with the Bears because my defense was excellent. And there was no more reason to play pretend in the backyard, because I had this Nintendo and it extended my imagination pretty damn well.

I grew older and I shook off the Chicago loyalty and started picking up local teams. I also continued to move around – San Antonio, Cleveland, and then on to adulthood. In my parents’ home, there is still a photo up of me, wearing my Bears Halloween costume, celebrating a touchdown like I had seen on Sunday.

In February 2011, Dave Duerson killed himself by a self-inflicted bullet to the chest. He was 50. He asked for his brain to be donated to research in his note to his wife and his son.

In order to play in the NFL, you have to make a high school team, which already is competitive. Then you have to make a college team, and then you have to be one of the 224 people drafted into the NFL (out of 110+ teams times 70+ players, and that only includes Division 1). To be clear, if you make the NFL, you have to care about football in a way few of us care about anything other than ourselves.

Dave Duerson looked at his love of football, his love for his family, his deteriorating mental state, and he had enough self-awareness to put a gun to his chest instead of his brain.

Football, and the NFL in particular, has a number of problems, but they are problems shared with all kinds of large organizations – low accountability, protecting immoral actors, caring about revenue above all else. When suicide is a better option than living with the effects of playing the game, then we have created a modern day gladiator, and each of us individually should reconsider spending time, money, brain space, and breath on the NFL.

In the 3 years since Dave Duerson shot himself, the NFL has done a little to address head trauma in its sport, but it seems pretty plain to me that there is no room to truly address head trauma in the NFL. It would be like addressing the hitting of baseballs with bats in MLB — head trauma is almost the core of the sport itself. I have also done shamefully little to relieve myself of the NFL, because as Josh pointed out, NFL football is packaged into easily consumed bites — not that many games, mostly on Sundays, a manageable number of teams — that makes it simple to put on in the background or watch while also being a dad. The Red Zone Channel, Sunday Ticket, and fantasy sports have only increased how consumable the NFL is, so escaping it is increasingly difficult.

However, in a world where players choose to kill themselves because they know their brains aren’t quite right, where the league gives the weakest punishments for the most heinous crimes — why am I still watching? Why are any of us? CBS sitcoms exist, Jerry Bruckheimer exists, The Bachelor exists — simple, mindless entertainment is not a good enough reason. Once we recognize that, it becomes easier to imagine the end of football.


It is Tuesday, July 22. 5 days ago, I got back from a week in Tulum, Mexico with my girlfriend and 4 other people.

The last time I took a trip, I wrote about it extensively. There were a few reasons why I did that — I wanted to get back into writing, I was alone on an adventure, the material demanded it — and those reasons speak to why I didn’t write about Roatan last year or my week in Tulum.

First, before the wrong impression is given, Tulum is amazing. It is beautiful, with perfectly sandy beaches and blue water and friendly people and delicious food and historical ruins and and and and. However, I was with friends and thus didn’t have a lot of downtime to write. There is only so much one can write about beaches upon beaches upon beaches, though I could have written tomes about both sets of ruins we saw, if I let myself wander.

This time, I was too busy relaxing, sitting around doing nothing, to try and capture the narrative of the trip. Both are good ways to respond to special trips – capture everything, or soak in everything and capture nothing. Finding that balance is increasingly the challenge of traveling – how will I remember?

It is the challenge of getting older and being in that sweet spot where you are self-aware that you want to remember everything because of everything you’ve forgotten but still being young enough where you think you have many trips, many adventures ahead of you. You take the trip for granted a bit, you also don’t take it for granted a bit. Today, 5 days later, it was a wonderful, peaceful, beautiful dream.

Photos coming soon.

my life, part 593

At work, we have a keyfob system in the elevator. To get to our floor, you have to press the keyfob against the reader and press the “11” button, and then press it 2-3 more times because it generally is a piece of shit that doesn’t work. What I’m getting at is that you have to focus and expect failure when pressing “11” after tagging you keyfob in this elevator – focus, and expect failure.

Today we went and picked up tacos from District Taco, which is probably worth its own post but I’ll leave that detail sit for now. I was holding a big bag of tacos and we’re getting into the elevator and someone asks me if I have my keys so, giant bag of tacos in one hand, I’m rooting around my pocket with the other and pull out the keys with the keyfob on it.

I’m focused, and I’m bracing myself for failure.

I tag the keyfob, and as the green light comes on and the pleasant “here is the beginning of your unknowable counter until you lose access” beep happens, the “11” button lights up immediately. It just lights up. I think for a second if my hands had done something absently, but no, no, I did nothing. I look back to my friends with a face of what must have been confusion and shock.

Tyson simply says “I got you” and points out that he pressed the “11” button on the other side of the elevator, behind me when I was not looking. I told Mike and Tyson, quite absentmindedly and loudly, “who needs drugs?” in response to how this trick completely blew my mind

while the girl who was getting off on the 3rd floor made her exit.

day 10 – noma

during my almost 3 hour visit to noma for lunch today, i had a lot of time to think about what separates a good restaurant from one that can be considered one of the best in the world.

noma is either the first- or second-best restaurant in the world right now. it topped restaurant magazine’s list three straight years, from 2010-2012, and came second in the 2013 list.

the format is similar to that of other top-flight restaurants, made familiar to me when i first read about elBulli: 20+ courses (in my case, 26) that each take no longer than 5-10 minutes to eat, served rapidly and with precision. noma is famous for introducing a new take on nordic cuisine, as chef rené redzepi deeply explores the region for interesting, unique, and clever ingredients and turns them into interesting, unique, and clever dishes.

as i’ve made pretty clear over this series of posts, i’m not interested in food-blogging. i’m not interested in trying to write about specific flavors or impressions on food, because it seems a lot like dancing about architecture and honestly would become meaningless over time. i also discovered something during my meal today: there is something about removing the mystery of the meal that is unfair to anyone who reads this. the food was really fucking good, isn’t that enough to say?

the restaurant was beautiful and they sat me first of anyone because i happened to be the first person that walked into the restaurant. a few other folks were waiting until noon, but i had no such luxury since my flight from copenhagen to chicago was at 340p and i needed to give this meal as much time as i could.

upon entering, a few things happened: first, my bags were taken from me quietly and effortlessly, which is more than i can say about the nicest hotels i’ve stayed in. second, everyone from the kitchen and the 3 hosts all greeted me. third, when i sorted out who of the 20-ish people smiling at me i was supposed to talk to, the host sat me at a single table instead of at the sharing table that i was told my seating would be.

this was an overwhelming, happy start to the meal. i felt incredibly welcomed. no one else could get such a greeting, because, well, i had sat and some of the staff was busy preparing my meal and then the meals of those who sat after me. and i felt lucky… lucky isn’t the right word. blessed? blessed that i was given a table alone. upon sitting, my waiter came over to me and said, plainly “so, you know gabe?”

when i first planned this trip, whenever i first planned this trip, i was just late on making a reservation for february at noma. i was on the waitlist for 2-3 different days, but my hopes were… minimal. i lacked expectations, because who can ever expect to get that kind of call? then a funny chain of events, a wonderful chain of events happened:

1) i happened to go to my favorite bar in dc with pablo, because i heard my boss was there with some folks who were in longer meetings earlier that day. this was maybe 1 week before my trip began.

2) at the bar with my boss, trei, was lockhart steele, founder of the racked/eater/curbed network which was recently acquired by vox media. lockhart saw me and broke into a huge grin and said “niv, we just closed our tab, but for you i will have one more beer.”

now, lockhart and i have only encountered each other a few times in passing, but by all accounts he is a great guy and apparently by all accounts i am not so bad myself. my work intersects deeply with one of the value propositions we offer sites we are interested in acquiring, so without me really knowing it, some of the new, exciting people in our office are pretty well aware of me and view me in a positive light.

this is how i’ve rationalized this entire thing, so let’s just assume i’m right, because otherwise i am just the luckiest person on earth. or maybe lockhart is incredibly nice.

3) lockhart sat with me and had a beer and asked me how things were and trei mentioned my trip to him and he was immediately drawn in. he found the entire trip exciting and brilliant. he listened to me talk about my hopes for the northern lights in norway and how i was excited to eat in copenhagen because i’d heard such great things about the food there and on and on and on. and i forgot that i was talking to the founder of, until he mentioned to me that a former writer of his gave notice in the best way possible, because he was recruited to move to copenhagen to write about food for chef rené redzepi. gabe, he assured me, would get me into noma without any problems. my jaw hit the floor, and i thanked my lucky stars for going to churchkey at the beginning of the snowstorm.

4) lockhart introduced me to gabe, and gabe ulla is smart and kind and wonderful. he reached out to nadine, who runs reservations at noma. everything went silent while i was in norway.

5) then nadine emailed me and said i was set for the shared table at noma on tuesday, february 25 at noon and asked if that was fine.

6) AND THEN, as if he had not done enough, gabe reached out to me via email and while we were not able to meet up while i was in copenhagen, he sent me numerous recommendations for some of the best restaurants and bars in the city. it was incredible. it was high-cuisine lonely planet, and as a result i had very few culinary missteps while i was in copenhagen.

so, lockhart, gabe, and nadine all have my greatest thanks for pulling all of this together and helping me experience noma. i’m sure as hell buying lock the next round, and hopefully gabe will be back visiting the states sometime soon.

back to the experience at hand: the shared table was starting to fill up and i realized what it was – one-offs sharing a table for 8. all of them strangers, except for one couple. i couldn’t help but think of the movie clue and hoped that they all secretly knew each other and then someone would turn up dead. well, maybe not the last part.

eating alone was how i’ve been used to eating. i’ve had four spoken conversations since my trip started. i didn’t want to be stuck at the pace of anyone else and i surely didn’t want to sit next to anyone who would over-analyze the magic being put in front of us, so the treat, the gift of getting to eat alone was more than i deserved.

i mentioned removing the mystery of the meal earlier and i just referred to the meal as magic, and i wanted to expound upon that by way of another side story. there was a gentleman sitting to my left, probably my dad’s age, with his wife who spoke loudly and confidently about the food as it was placed in front of him. he asked many questions about how things were made and spoke assuredly about how they could buy most of these ingredients in new york city and he could make most of these dishes in his house with his fancy kitchen gadgets but they were still delicious anyway.

this, to me, undermines the entire premise of noma. noma is a world-class restaurant because the dishes are like magic. i thought about my first meal in copenhagen, at amass (still the second-best meal i’ve ever had), and the dishes there were magic as well. both restaurants presented a list of ingredients and even visually presented things that were familiar. amass was like a good magician, presenting dishes you could reverse-engineer with a bit of thought and very few questions but were incredibly enjoyable regardless of understanding them. noma was some david copperfield making the statue of liberty disappear shit. i joked about wanting to call the kitchen staff at amass ‘witches’, but noma was some dark, secret black magic. things were presented that made no sense but were delicious, things were presented that you thought you understood, but then realized quickly you had no earthly comprehension of what you were eating, things were presented that you’ve even tried to make, only to realize the things you thought you did well were not even close to good.

noma was some black magic shit and i could not recommend it more. amass might get there soon, bror is a little bit short but on its way, and nowhere else i ate came close. manfred’s is a great counterpoint – a delicious, wonderful meal that made perfect sense and was executed exceedingly well. noma only had 2 dishes like this, and they were both taunting, as if to say “yes, we can do that black magic you’ve never had this before and will never find it again stuff, but we can also make things you’ve had every day better than you’ve ever had it”.

so to me, asking the waiter, the magician, to immediately reveal his trick is exceedingly bad form and doesn’t allow noma to be as good a restaurant as it is.

back to the beginning of this story, i mentioned that everyone greeted me upon entering the restaurant. i spoke a bit to the waiter and showed an interest in seeing the kitchen and saying hello to gabe, and before i knew it i was set up for a tour of the restaurant after dessert and before my taxi arrived to take me to the airport.

let me remind you that this is one of the best two restaurants in the world, they are booked full every day, and i just had a meal for one with a juice pairing and was dressed in jeans and a flannel button-down. i was a friend of gabe’s and little else, and i’m not even sure that i needed to be a friend of gabe’s to get this treatment – i just had to ask. the service and friendliness was exceptional, and captured so much of what i liked about copenhagen in one 2.5 hour chunk.

i saw the finishing kitchen, the main kitchen upstairs (with a weird, apologetic note about the interns from my guide nate, who softly defended noma’s practice of not paying interns), the test kitchen, and the office and library. everyone said hello, thank you for coming in, and good bye as i walked through the tour. i was so overwhelmed that my camera was in my pocket until the very end, where i got some shots of the finishing kitchen.

and after 26 courses and a lot of juice and 2.5 hours at noma, it was time to catch my cab and make the mad dash for the airport and my flights home. i’m writing this as we approach greenland, 3 hours into our almost 9 hour flight. the glow of the meal is still with me, i feel lucky and blessed and happy about my trip to scandinavia, and i am glad to be on my way home with that sending off.

and with that, here are my cellphone pictures of noma.

day 9 – winding down

today was my last full day in copenhagen, and effectively my last full day of vacation. i’m flying for a good chunk of tomorrow (over 12 hours) and then i have wednesday off back home but i have to get my life, my real life back in order.

copenhagen is great. i really, really enjoyed the central part of the city and nørrebro, the two areas i spent time in. the people are friendly and nice, the city is safe and interesting and almost but not quite diverse. the only complaint is that it is a tad bit too cold, though i guess looking at dc weather right now it is about the same. i really like how rather than tearing things down only to rebuild them, this city seems to recycle itself to meet modern needs. its very much a modern city with a medieval feel to its architecture. i mean, its a european city i guess. that is how it works here. they’ve been around a while and they figured out what works, rather than starting over from scratch every once in a while.

the lack of diversity is a bit annoying but it didn’t really cause any issues. a fair number of people thought i was danish, but that might just be a safe assumption that danish people choose to make when they aren’t quite sure. it’s the safer choice, i guess?

anyway, today was a nice, relaxed end to my time in copenhagen. i realized i had only been eating fancy tasting menus and i needed a steak, partially spurred by a text message from clif and partially by finding myself hungry late last night. i found pastis last night and then had a dream in which i told pablo about some tremendous steak frites i had in copenhagen so my decision was made for me when i woke up. i read a bit more of islands in the stream and took off for pastis around 2p for a bite. i drank some wine, ate some steak, and read some more hemingway. how very american-in-europe of me.

after that i wandered around the city a little bit. i hadn’t actually looked at any of the many, many stores that lined all the streets of central copenhagen. i decided to remedy that.

in dc, there aren’t any stores anymore. they’ve all gone, driven out by online ordering and bad zoning rules. i used to think this was a good thing, but now i’m certain that it isn’t. these stores and this mixed zoning of bars and restaurants and stores both chain and boutique, unique and mass-produced all jumbled up together creates a dynamic, compelling walking environment in copenhagen. before 7pm on weekdays, this does not exist in dc – only restaurants and bars drive foot traffic, and we miss out on ridiculous treasures like a vintage wallpaper store, 15 antique shops, and all the bookstores we used to have but now we have forgotten.

aside: there are a billion bookstores in copenhagen. the first one i wandered into, in fact the first store i wandered into was a niche bookstore about visual design. i spend too much time with teddy when a place like that is the first one that draws me in.

the kinds of stores that can stay open here shocks me – the aforementioned antique stores for example, and the many niche bookstores, the plethora of cafes, etc etc etc. this is an expensive city, and there must be some intelligent zoning and city planning that allows this walking/biking culture to thrive.

wandering around was nice, but as i felt myself getting tired i headed back to the apartment. i read a bit more and around 745p i headed to dinner at pluto. this place was recommended by the waitress at amass, but so was geist. i wasn’t sure what to believe going in, but the initial impression was a good one – it was low-key if a bit dressy, with friendly waiters and none of the bass-thumping madness of geist.

aside: i wonder how much my impression of geist was affected by going there saturday night instead of, say, monday night.

i got the 12-course fixed menu and a glass of syrah and i read while i waited, which wasn’t long. all of a sudden, 5 of my 7 courses were upon me, and they were each delicious. i wanted to pace myself but couldn’t, everything was entirely too good. that got me through the appetizers, the charcuterie, and the salad courses. of the next 7 courses, i had 3 fish, 2 meats, and 2 desserts lined up.

annoyingly, the fish and meat courses were uninspired and not at all as exciting as the starters. pluto also had a significant pacing problem, with 5 courses coming out immediately, then the 2 fish courses, than a feeling of being forgotten, then another fish course, then 2 meat courses (these were especially bad) and a knowing of being forgotten for quite some time.

finally, dessert, which almost redeemed the lousy mains, except it was dessert and they were mains and the main courses need to do better, you know?

i made it out of there stuffed and slightly unhappy, but energized from the strongest cup of coffee i’ve had on the trip so far. i wandered on back home and now it is now and i haven’t quite started packing yet and i haven’t stopped thinking about tomorrow and my meal at noma at noon, squeezed in just before my flight home. my goal is to pack up entirely and leave the apartment in time to catch a cab for lunch, taking my suitcase with me. the folks at noma already know i’ll be going straight to the airport from my meal, so it should just be up to me.

so let me wrap up this post with a memory of all my copenhagen meals, ordered from best to worst:

  1. amass – undeniably the best meal so far
  2. bror – unfairly had to eat this meal in the shadow of amass, so i took it for granted. in retrospect, it holds up quite, quite well
  3. bar’vin – mostly snacks, but between the owner being the most gracious host and the ham, this one slots in at number 3, just ahead of…
  4. aamanns – really tasty open-faced sandwiches, and an overall enjoyable, simple affair
  5. manfred’s – this place felt like an elder statesman in the overall “new nordic cuisine” movement: less dynamic, more sure of itself, but only one dish that was to me worth returning for
  6. pastis – so different and such a more traditional meal than anything else on this list, it isn’t fair to compare. so put it in the middle and move on
  7. fishmarket – solid, standard, but would fit in fine on 14th street, as would…
  8. dim sum – as would…
  9. pluto – fishmarket, dim sum, and pluto are probably all tied as fine restaurants, with a very slight gradient between them

man, i ate a lot of food.

so tomorrow is noma and flights and home and while i will miss this vacation, i am honestly a bit relieved. i was getting lonely on the road by myself for this long, and i think the cracks are starting to show. it’ll be good to be back.

day 8 part 2 – relaxed with a jolt

after an early and easy morning, i wrapped up liverpool’s 4-3 win and took a light nap. when i woke up, i was in a foul mood, so rather than heading out i decided to relax, stay in, and read more of islands in the stream, the hemingway novel zach recommended to me just as i was leaving for this trip. i finished tender is the night in norway, so i figured hemingway on leg 2 made some sense.

of course, these are both wildly depressing novels. i am overall enjoying this trip and i guess introducing some balance by the way of depressing american novels is a way to cope with that, i sometimes question my decisions.

hold on, this fire hasn’t been interested in starting all day and i’m about to exhaust this house of firewood and starter material so i need to focus on that for a minute.

we’ll see what happens, who knows with these things.

i read for a while and i got to the end of part I of the novel and the end of part I requires a drink. i looked around and it was 750p and i hadn’t gotten ready for my 830p dinner at manfred’s, a solid 30 minute walk. so, i pulled myself together and i got going.

i thought the streets were empty this morning, but after 8p on a sunday, copenhagen is emptied out. there are a decent number of people already in cafes or restaurants, but there is no one out and about. it might as well have been a winter blizzard.

i hoofed it on up to manfred’s, which is in between coffee collective and mikkeller & friends, and got to the restaurant right in time for my reservation. i ordered the chef’s tasting and a glass of cabarnet, which was of course natural wine.

a moment of your time regarding natural wine: manfred’s claims to have founded this movement in copenhagen, and i really haven’t seen it elsewhere but every nice meal i’ve had in copenhagen has come with an offer of natural wine (amass, bar’vin, bror). it’s wine that is made without any chemicals or additives, and from what i can tell it tends to be brighter, cloudier (of course) and punchier in flavor. it lacks subtlety but makes up for it in spirit, i guess? i don’t know. wine isn’t really my thing and natural wine almost certainly isn’t my thing, so far.

back to manfred’s: i’ve had the tasting course at a few other restaurants, and this is the first one in copenhagen that was at all vegetarian friendly. in fact, the majority of dishes were vegetarian, and while the best two dishes were not vegetarian, they did a good job of representing. since this wasn’t amass and i’m not a food blogger, i won’t go into much more detail, other than to highlight my favorite dish: squid, roasted eggplant, and leeks. great interplay, great textures, very enjoyable.

i would be amiss if i didn’t mention the first americans i ‘encountered’ on this trip – a group of 4 sitting with a british local who came in a bit after me. it seemed that they may have worked together and been in town for a conference- either way to me it didn’t seem that they had traveled abroad very often and had no feel for really anything. i’m not a huge world traveler, but i know when there is a language barrier with your waiter, the last thing you want to do is try and make jokes with him. i also know not to be the loudest person in the room, and how to not be amazed that yes, one of the best restaurants in the world is in copenhagen because of michelin stars, or something.

i have a great disdain for a lack of intellectual curiosity, and it definitely caused me a bit of annoyance during the meal. if you think i’m being snotty… well, i was. so there.

man, i cannot get this fire to start. one second.

ok, i basically put all my paper trash in the stove and lit it up, and if that doesn’t get it going well i quit.

man that failed faster than i expected.

manfred’s was pretty good, but amass still is the leader in the clubhouse on good meals in copenhagen. the food at manfred’s was good, but the food at amass was interesting and also really good. so.

after the meal, i walked up the block to mikkeller & friends, the scene a few nights ago of me getting drunker by myself than i realized.

tonight i had 3 beers in an abbreviated fashion (more on that in a minute):

  1. three floyds blackheart – the only three floyds on tap outside the US, according to the bar. pretty good IPA, very malty but full-bodied, like a good american IPA should be
  2. to øl dangerously close to stupid – really good double IPA, surprised me with how well-balanced and full-bodied it was. heavy on the citra, not too boozy (despite being over 9%), and the only negative is a slight bitterness up front that plenty of people would have no problem with
  3. mikkeller nelson sauvin iipa – grapefruit and bitterness, not a hint of booze despite being over 8% and really good body. just, grapefruit for days, which i don’t necessarily need

halfway through beer #3, an issue came up with ottoneu, and i chugged the beer and paid the bill and rushed home. here is the post-mortem on that whole sordid affair. you know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

overall, today was a good day. i woke up early, i processed photos, i wrote a decent amount, i read a decent amount, i napped, and i got to a few key things i wanted to see. i haven’t successfully started a fire with this goddamn wood (yes, now i am blaming the wood), but other than that it was solid, if not spectacular. the best decision i made was to take a nap and then take it easy between 4p and 730p, because otherwise i would have completely drained myself like i did yesterday.

tomorrow: listen, i like these tasting menus and these high-minded scandinavian dishes, but i need steak frites or a burger for lunch tomorrow. and then pluto’s for dinner. and gift buying in between.

day 8 part 1 – sunday morning

i shut it down early after a rough day 7, and as a result i woke up the earliest i’ve woken up on this trip (8am! hooray!) and got productive pretty fast. i posted a bunch of photos and organized my flickr, and then i went in search of a solid cup of coffee to compete with coffee collective, the leader in the clubhouse for coffee shops.

my search took me to risteriet, a cool little shop on what looked to me to be a pretty hipster street about 10 minutes from where i’m staying. the coffee was fast and cheap, and they had a good amount of beans for sale and some interesting equipment, too. they even had cuban beans, which i guess isn’t much of a novelty for anyone except an american now that i write it out. however, the coffee just wasn’t that interesting. it might have been that they use the simplest beans for their filtered coffee, it might have been that things weren’t that fresh – but i was reminded of the lady at coffee collective telling me that the lighter roasts have more subtlety and flavor, and i tasted something that was dark and lacked both those things.

now, to be fair, the bar is really high and risteriet didn’t meet it, but it was a pretty solid cup of coffee to get the day going.

from there, i walked over to aamanns (which apparently has a location in nyc), walking through some of the central parks in copenhagen. i walked up to the rosenborg castle and saw some danish royal guards doing the whole marching band thing, and wandered around the castle gardens and the neighboring botanical gardens for a little bit. i kept walking up towards aamanns, and saw some cool residential side streets before settling down for a lunch of smørrebrød, which are basically pieces of bread with a bunch of stuff piled on top. i had the herring, pork belly, and roast beef. all were excellent, with the herring being the most delicious of the 3. i also had an elderflower soda, which was pretty interesting and tasty, though not a flavor i’m going to miss when i’m back home.

after a slow meander back to the apartment through a half-alive central copenhagen, i found the liverpool game on a stream and i’m going to watch and read through the afternoon. one of the things yesterday made apparent is that i’m running myself ragged through this city, and i should take it easy every now and again. it helps that everything is shut down here after 2pm on sundays, so unless i want to go to a bar, i’m taking it easy until dinner.

i walked back through a few busy squares and past a lot of closed shops, and there is something interesting to me about how the pop culture here is so american-influenced, if not out and out american. i can’t imagine what it would be like to have popular culture so dominated by a foreign country, and i wonder if that is partially why food has taken such a prominent place here in copenhagen. books, music, movies – these will never be exported from denmark matching the pace and quality required to keep up with america. but food! maybe food can?

or maybe there are niches in all of these things, and i like food more than i care for danish movies. i don’t know.

i have been struggling with my camera choices. the rx100-ii has been my main camera, and the d800s has been unused since norway. traveling alone, i tend to want to be discrete and quick, almost – i want to capture moments quickly, rather than carefully compose a scene. i think this is because of traveling alone, i’m not sure. the rx100-ii also isn’t making life easy by producing very excellent photos very quickly. it seems an ideal traveling camera for me, while i still need to sort out what to do with my d800s other than night skies and sunrises. i guess ‘struggle’ isn’t the right word, but this is both an excellent finding and annoying all at once.

liverpool is having a weird game against swansea right now, and maybe i’ll go down the street for a pint and the second half, or maybe i’ll lounge around here until i can think of something better to do. dinner is right next to coffee collective, and a return trip isn’t out of the question at all.