LET THE SWEDES FEED YOUR MIND AND PALATE IN 2016
LET THE SWEDES FEED YOUR MIND AND PALATE IN 2016 by Andrea Rademan This is the time of year when “Nordic film winters in Southern California” at the (17th annual) Scandinavian Film Festival (SFFLA). For two weekends, January 9 and 10, and January 23 and 24, take refuge from Oscar fever at the Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny in Beverly Hills. That’s where James Koenig, of the American Scandinavian Foundation of Los Angeles and the festival’s founder and director, who has been decorated as a Knight of the Order of the Finnish Lion, screens “the top films from the top of Europe — Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Baltic neighbors Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.” Koenig uses the same mellifluent baritone to introduce the films that he uses to perform in opera, concerts, and recitals, or when voice coaching or teaching at the Bel Canto Institute in Firenze. He says. “A hundred years ago social issues that could not be discussed publicly were presented on the operatic stage. When Verdi wrote about Hebrews and Babylonians in his opera, Nabucco, everybody knew he was talking about Lombardy and Austrian oppression. Verdi later became a member of the first Italian parliament, just as playwright Vaclav Havel became the first president of the Czech Republic.” He adds, “I like film that has a purpose; that gives a voice to the voiceless. Even in countries where censorship is very strong, film still gets the message across.” This year, that message launches at noon on January 9 with The Idealist Idealisten (Denmark), Christina Rosendahl, in which a whistleblower attempts to reveal the secret behind a nuclear disaster that occurred during the height of the Cold War. continues with Maiko: Dancing Child (Norway) Åsa Svenheim Drivenes, documentary about the Norwegian National Ballet prima ballerina, whose mother sold their house to send her to the most prestigious dance schools in Europe. and heats up with one of seven scheduled Oscar-nominated films, The Wave Bølgen (Norway), based on the fact that a mountain pass in a fjord will one day create a tsunami that will crush everything in its path before it hits land. A geologist learns about this and begins a race against time. The excitement reaches a crescendo with the opening gala and ceremonies, a delicious Scandinavian buffet that, for many years, was prepared by the late David Larson. Following this will be a screening of Klaus Här's The Fencer Miekkallija (Finland), which is nominated for a Golden Globe and short-listed for Oscar. That’s nothing new for the director of previous Oscar submissions for both Finland and Sweden. He will present his current film, a true story based on the life of a young Estonian fencer who is forced to flee from the Russian secret police back to his Finnish homeland where he must choose between protecting his students or himself. Other Oscar contenders include: A War (Denmark), Tobias Lindholm A Company commander and his men in Afghanistan are caught in heavy crossfire with grave consequences; Rams, (Iceland), Grimur Håkonarson In a remote farming valley, two estranged brothers must save what’s dearest to them—their sheep; A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting on Existence (Swedem) Roy Andersson. A pair of hapless novelty salesmen explore the human condition in reality and fantasy; 1944 (Estonia), Elmo Nüganen. The war in 1944, through the eyes of Estonian soldiers who were forced to fight against their brothers; The Summer of Sangaile (Lithuania) Alanté Kavaïte, about Sangaile, an aspiring aerial acrobatics pilot with a fear of heights who meets Auste—and shares her most intimate secret with her. The rest of the lineup is equally compelling: Horizon (Iceland); Moomins On The Riviera (Animation, Finland); The Butterfly Man (Estonia); Rosita (Denmark); The Other Girls (Finland); Modris (Latvia); Second Chance (Denmark); Girls Lost (Sweden); and the SWEA Film Stipend, presented to Ninja Thyberg and showing her short film, Catwalk. On January 10 at 1 pm, attendees will celebrate the late Ingrid Bergman’s 100th Birthday with a screening of Gustaf Molander's 1936 Swedish masterpiece, Intermezzo, starring the actress who was Hollywood royalty and also made many films in her native country and her native tongue. The audience is an enthusiastic mix of L.A. film lovers, industry folk, and real life Scandinavians who laugh ahead of the subtitles because they’re not reading them. Sponsors include the Scandinavian Film Festival L.A.’s parent organization—the American Scandinavian Foundation of Los Angeles; ELMA (European Languages and Movies in America) www.ELMA.org and all of the Nordic film institutes and consulates. Buy a Festival Passport ($140.00), the Gala Buffet & Film ($40.00) or any remaining individual tickets ($12.00) or make a donation at www.sffla.net or call 323 636-6404. LET THE SWEDES FEED YOUR PALATE A TASTE OF STOCKHOLM TAKES FLIGHT AT REDBIRD Kim Axelrod Ohanneson, guest contributor With its distinctive space and luxe culinary offerings, Chef Neal Fraser’s Redbird is a destination restaurant no matter what’s on the menu. At any time, Redbird is worth the trip with Chef Henrik Norén and Chef Magnus Villnow of the much lauded GRO restaurant in the Sankt Eriksplan section of Sweden’s capital, the divine menu inspired by the new SAS flight between Los Angeles and Stockholm. The celebration is the food. Presented by "TrySwedish", the Stockholm Visitors Board, and Scandinavian Airlines in collaboration with Nordic food expert Kalle Bergman’s NORTH, the multiple courses reflected the seasonal, locavore philosophies of both Redbird and GRO. The latter is a particular favorite with foodies for Norén and Villnow’s innovative way with vegetables. . As the chefs plated the food in Redbird’s upstairs open kitchen, guests sipped seductively savory cocktails that included aquavit and chartreuse slicked with a hint of chili heat. Dinner was served at long tables on Redbird’s upstairs covered patio. The glittering lights of downtown Los Angeles and the stunningly lit backdrop of the deconsecrated St. Vibiana cathedral provided drama; tea lights and evergreen branches created a warm intimacy at the table. The food, beautifully plated without being the least bit fussy, was clean and fresh with rich accents. The most successful dishes were welcome interpretations of current restaurant staples. A course of Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash eschewed the ubiquitous bacon and heavy sautéing treatments. The sweetness of the squash tamed the baby brassicas for a bright, compulsively eatable dish. Rutabaga and Pork Belly with Allspice and Mustard Greens was an innovative update of the classic Swedish dish Fläsklägg med rotmos (translation: “ham hock with root mash”). The peppery bite of the rutabaga and mustard greens cut the meat’s richness and proved that the ubiquitous pork belly can be robustly satisfying without the layer of fat. The spare but delicious Wild Boar, Salsify and Parsnips with Violet Mustard tasted like a foraging expedition on a plate. The finale, Caramel Apples with Cardamom and Oats, was the ultimate harvest comfort dessert elevated to sophisticated levels with the addition of Frozen Sour Cream. After an evening spent with GRO and Chefs Norén and Villnow, “Try Swedish” seemed less of a marketing suggestion and more of a must-fulfill culinary mandate: one more easily achieved with SAS flights from Los Angeles to Stockholm starting in March 2016. “Eat your vegetables” never tasted so good. GRO, Sankt Eriksgatan 67, 113 32 Stockholm, +46 (0)8 643 4222. http://www.grorestaurang.se/ Redbird, 214 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, (213) 788-119. http://redbird.la/ Kim Ohanneson, a certified Whisky Ambassador (BiiAB), is a food, drink and travel writer and co-founder of The Whisky & Poetry Salon. She just launched the West Coast chapter of Women Who Whiskey, which was founded by Julia Ritz Toffoli in New York City in 2011 and now has chapters in Geneva, Nairobi, Toronto, Washington D.C., Boston, the Twin Cities and (pending) London. To attend one of the organization’s few mixed company events per year, sign up at http://www.womenwhowhiskey.club/join/.