As our film crew converged on Veuve Clicquot's Country House in Verzy village, Manoir de Verzy, (on a bitterly cold winter’s day for a group of pampered Central Europeans) World’s 50 Best Restaurants France Chairman, Andea Petrini, remarked that a morning spent filming in Reims could be no test for the mighty Magnus Nilsson who is used to far crueller temperatures at his restaurant Fäviken Magasinet in the north of Sweden. We were not let down, gone was the floor length fur coat we have become accustomed to seeing Magnus wearing when foraging his native landscape and in its place a modest scarf and hat. In the chef’s hand a suitcase carrying vacuum packed fermented carrots, dehydrated rosehip flowers and preserved mushroom juice in preparation for the Winter Feast he was to prepare the following day.
After the most elaborate "quick sandwich" lunch our team has ever eaten, work commenced with the film crew and photographer following Magnus around the vineyard and countryside surrounding the Manoir. Whilst foraging played a more important part of Magnus’s upbringing than it would do for many, this was the first occasion that he had had to forage in a vineyard. Chef found and sought out old leaves, moss, roots and branches, all would be put to good use.
Having removed his muddy boots, Magnus took up a breather in the Manoir's living room and the film crew took advantage to forage through his mind. ‘Make the most of the situation you find yourself in’ he urged, as he expounded upon winter cooking.
Undoubtedly, the most challenging of seasons for the chef, he admitted, but for him the examination of these difficulties alongside contemplation of the possibilities was what spurred his creations. Perhaps surprisingly, Magnus’s favourite winter produce turn out to be vegetables. Having grown and tended to them all year on the Faviken estate, they are painstakingly prepared and stored. It is this level of attention, we were told, that makes them especially precious to cook with in winter.As the light failed crew and chef descend down the stairs in the magnificent and highly mysterious Veuve Clicquot cellars snaking for more than 24 km beneath the city ofReims.
Meeting one of Veuve Clicquot’s wine makers, Magnus, who initially joined Fäviken Magasinet as its sommelier, tasted and selected a flight of champagnes to accompany his dishes. Sommeliers have a better sense of taste than chefs he proposed.
An evening of champagne tasting ensued at Veuve Clicquot's Private Mansion Hotel du Marc where a few hours later Magnus was to be found skinning and poaching the heads of a fine fall of woodcock. These were split, pan-fried and plated for the cameras and gathering crowd the mansion’s Atelier and as the fine scallops steamed on the barbeque on the terrace in the sun’s weak light. Here and for the cameras he shared the highlights of his menu:
Scallop "i skalet ur elden" (Fäviken’s iconic dish); Lobster with rosehips and a fermented juice of mushrooms; Porridge, fermented root vegetables, dried chives and a light beef broth filtered though foraged leaves; woodcock breast, leg and head; and a wooden box filled with goodness.
A wooden box filled with goodness was enjoyed with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée 1990 before Magnus urged everyone to try a shard of pine resin gum, a curious creation which drew a very definite and surprising full stop to both feast and palate. Magnus sure knows how to wrap up a meal and with that we scattered back to our respective countries.