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How do you forage in Williamsburg?

We find out how Swedish chef Fredrik Berselius is doing pure Nordic locavore cooking at Aska, his Brooklyn restaurant

  • How do you forage in Williamsburg?
  • How do you forage in Williamsburg?
  • How do you forage in Williamsburg?
  • How do you forage in Williamsburg?
  • How do you forage in Williamsburg?
  • How do you forage in Williamsburg?
  • How do you forage in Williamsburg?
  • How do you forage in Williamsburg?

Aska may well sit on New York’s hippest corner – in Williamsburg’s factory-chic Kinfolk art studios, down the road from the famous Brooklyn flea market and opposite the new Wythe Hotel.

And Fredrik Berselius, the Swedish chef inside it, has been generating serious buzz since he opened a modern Scandi pop-up restaurant called Frej here last year. Frej was a sensation, and Aska – which opened in February – is its progression into a more serious restaurant, serving daily US$65 (NOK385) tasting menus or a more casual à la carte menu. It’s already been named on Bon Appétit magazine’s list of America’s 50 best new restaurants.

Yet for all the hipster credentials – the sparse 18-seat space, the website filled with bleak photographs of farm animals and empty seas – laidback Stockholm native Berselius, 33, insists his aim is simplicity rather than buzz, even if critics have focused on wilder dishes such as an amuse-bouche of pig’s blood dried into a chip and topped with sea-buckthorn purée. “I cook based on memories of growing up in Sweden,” he says (he moved to New York in 1998). “It was always about local, seasonal ingredients – and I’ve tried to recreate that in New York.”

Berselius has insisted on using only local produce – fine if you’re in Scandinavia, but still almost unheard of in top-end New York restaurants – and does all his own salting, curing, pickling and fermenting. He goes to the farmer’s market three or four times a week, and searches for ingredients straight from farmers or foraged in forests and fields. “All along the Hudson Valley, there’s loads of greenery,” he says. “If you drive up to Bear Mountain or Woodstock, the produce won’t be that different to what you’d get around Stockholm. People focus on the experimental things, but for me it’s as much about getting carrots, onions, beets, cabbage at the right time.”

Dishes range from duck and fermented cabbage to skate wing and crown dill, while the à la carte menu has the likes of pork and potato dumplings with lingonberry preserve. Critics have noted the intense flavours drawn from the simplest ingredients.

So is this classic New Nordic cooking? “You know what, I’m fine with that description,” says Berselius. “Respect for nature and utilising everything is a good way of looking at food.” 
askanyc.com


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