On last night's episode of Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain traveled to a city that is a little more on the beaten path than some of his other recent destinations: Copenhagen, Denmark. But, as Bourdain made clear, the episode is not so much about the city as it is about René Redzepi, his world-class restaurant Noma, and New Nordic cuisine.
Throughout the episode, Bourdain and Redzepi stroll through parks, share a traditional Danish meal, forage on a beach, and cook together at the farm that is Noma's main supplier. Bourdain also dines at Noma with Cook it Raw founder Alessandro Porcelli and sits in on the Saturday night staff meeting at Noma in which cooks submit their culinary ideas. And now, on to the Quotable Bourdain; feel free to add your picks in the comments below.
1. On coming to Denmark for the first time: "I gotta be honest, I usually try to avoid clean, orderly countries without massive social problems."
2. On the problem with Denmark: "I read something very disturbing on my way here: Apparently Denmark is like the happiest place on Earth."
3. On what the episode is really about: "This show is not about Denmark. It's not about Copenhagen. I'm here for one man and one restaurant."
4. On a dish with reindeer moss at Noma: "There's no way that this is going to look convincingly delicious on TV, but it is really delicious."
5. On René Redzepi: "Ten years after Noma's inception, René is arguably the most famous Dane since Hamlet."
6. Bourdain and Redzepi — who has never driven a car or shot a firearm — step up to an amusement park gun range. The operator offers instructions on how to shoot the guns, at which point Redzepi says, "You don't need to tell him, he's American."
7. Bourdain on other potential activities he and Redzepi can enjoy in Copenhagen: "After this, we're going to steal a car and I'm going to teach you to drive."
8. On Noma's emphasis on foraging: "Between me and nature, there's not so much love. Nature is where bugs live. But I'm learning reluctantly, over time, how much I've been missing."
9. Redzepi on the trouble with foraging as a trend: "The worst moments, the worst meals are when people are just following a culinary trend. ... It tastes like shit, but it's edible and it's foraged, therefore I put it on the menu."
10. Bourdain on Noma: "I think a place like this, in addition to being the best restaurant in the world or whatever else, it offers the possibility that there is food around that with a little effort or a lot of effort you can make into something really delicious."
11: Redzepi on the critics (who have also called his team "seal fuckers" in the past): "I've even been told that I have fascist tendencies and there's been op-eds written in Danish papers linking what we do at the restaurant to some of the most horrible moments in recent history."
12. Bourdain on Copenhagen's Christiana commune, which he says is changing the status quo in the city: "The well-established enclave of hippie anarchist squatters. Sounds about as attractive as being sentenced to life at a Phish concert."
13. Bourdain on cookbooks that don't teach you how to fail: "All cookbooks, particularly American cookbooks, are written from the point of view that if you only follow this recipe, it will turn out great."
14. On Noma's traditional Saturday night culinary brainstorm at which cooks submit dish ideas: "At no point in my career would I have wanted to subject myself to this kind of mass scrutiny."
15. On learning that Redzepi doesn't steal the good dish ideas for his menu: "Really? Isn't it your historical imperative as the chef to take his good work and innovation and put it on the menu and take credit for it as your own? That's the way it's been done for centuries."
16. On drinking with a friend of Redzepi's: "I'm learning Danes may be stiff, but they sure as hell know how to drink."
17. On late-night organic hot dogs in Copenhagen: "All my happiest moments seem to revolve around meat in tube form."
18. On the Nordic Food Lab: "There is stuff rotting in jars and vats that these experiments in fermentation and flavor. You're all doing some sinister shit down there, I know."
19. On a piece of moldy roe deer that had been cured with ingredients traditional used in ancient Egypt's mummification process: "It's not unpleasant. It tastes like Egyptian."
20: Nordic Food Lab's head of culinary research and development Ben Reade on eating insects: "Some of the ants we've been experimenting with, you eat it, it's like zing. It's like excitement in your mouth, party, everyone's invited. A lot of the other ones, they need a lot of work."
21. Bourdain on his final impression of Noma: "I've eaten at a lot of great restaurants around the world, and there was still a little part of me that was saying this is gonna be bullshit. The guy is out in a field yanking weeds out of the ground. I really didn't expect it to be as good as it was. It was delicious. It was amazingly delicious."