“Swedeiopian”. Obviously a fusion of two words, two nationalities, Swedish and Ethiopian. It’s a word I had never heard before, but it perfectly described the evening I had at Coppa in Boston’s South End last Monday. The “Yes, Chef” dinner with Chef Marcus Samuelsson, born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, was an event that highlighted just how good combining things can be! A little Ethiopian. Some Swedish. And, why not toss in some Italian as well!
That’s exactly what Coppa’s Chef Jamie Bissonnette did for this event. It was an interpretation of Ethiopian and Swedish dishes and flavors, with an occasional flash of Italian (Ethiopian & Swedish Pizza, anyone?). Addressing the assembled guests, Coppa co-owner and Chef Ken Oringer pointed out the fact that Jamie and his team had put considerable time in to planning the menu for the event. Apparently the first time Jamie even had the opportunity to experience traditional Ethiopian fare was the day prior, at Addis Red Sea on Tremont Street! (On a side note, I had the pleasure of sitting at a communal table with one of the chefs from Red Sea. If you haven’t, I highly recommend checking them out.)
The menu for the event was most definitely unusual, but was also quite brilliant. It was an eclectic mix of flavors and ingredients that I personally had never experienced, and doubt many in attendance had either. Of all things on the menu, I was excited to try the berbere roasted rabbit. I first learned of berbere while reading Chef Samuelsson’s memoir “Yes, Chef”. Berbere is a mix of spices: chilies, paprika, ground ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon. I’m not certain of the exact quantities Jamie used for his berbere, but I was impressed that it didn’t overpower the delicate flavor of the rabbit (Which for the record… tastes like rabbit. Not chicken.).
There were plenty of other highlights on the menu. My wife was just short of chasing down hors d’ouevres trays carrying chicken fried zucchini flowers with a Buna coffe aioli, the aioli in particular adding a nice kick to the zucchini flower. A not so typical smörgåsbord was also off-the-wall great. I made multiple visits to the pickled vegetables, in particular the carrots, as well as the sweet & savory candied peanuts.
An amazing end to the night came in the form of a blåbärssoppa. A blueberry “soup” panna cotta. It was extremely light, with a perfect texture, which has to be expect of an Italian enoteca, regardless of what the inspiration for the overall meal was! It was a great finish to a great meal.
At the end of this article you’ll find a full transcription of the entire menu from the evening. It’s drool-worthy… and I didn’t even include the wines!
Man of the hour (or four)
While the Ethiopian and Swedish cultures are inspirational all their own, this event was ultimately inspired by an individual who embodies both: Chef Marcus Samuelsson. From the moment we walked in to Coppa, Chef Samuelsson was making the rounds. He spoke with everyone. He shook hands. He even served the berbere roasted rabbit to the Red Sea chef sitting at our table (she’d never tried rabbit before and was unsure that she wanted to). Chef Marcus made it happen.
That’s the charm of Chef Marcus. He has a quality that is very disarming. An easy, genuine smile that is contagious. An event of this kind obviously requires that attention be paid to those in attendance, but at not point did it feel like Chef Marcus was “on the clock”. He enjoyed wine and food with the rest of us, answered some questions, cracked a bunch of jokes. And of course chalked us up as one of the better book dinners thus far (“Nobody rocks like … Boston!” [“He said Boston!!!”]).
Prior to the dinner, I had already managed to read about half of “Yes, Chef” on my Nook. Now, with a freshly signed hard copy, I look forward to finishing off the fascinating memoir of this amazing individual.
In the end…
The entire experience from start to finish was, in a word, inspiring. Amazing food. A boat load of culinary firepower. The opportunity to be around that much food knowledge is downright humbling for a foodie, and it is most definitely a night I won’t soon forget. I look forward to a “family reunion” with our table-mates one day at Red Rooster. To the entire team at Coppa, a heartfelt well done. To Chef Marcus Samuelsson, thank you for sharing your story and your passion. And, do I look forward to crossing paths again?
Kitfo – Ethiopian beef tartare on injera
Raggmunk – Swedish potato pancake with crab and corn
Chicken fried zucchini flowers – Buna coffee aioli
Inlagd Oysters – Pickled oysters with korarima and coconut
Shiro – Yellow eye pea puree with baharat
Inlagd Anjovis – White anchovies with lovage & black olive
Inlagd Grönsaker – Pickled vegetables
Swede Rotmos – Green rutabaga and carrot salad
Sweet & Savory Candied Peanuts
Ethiopian & Swedish Pizza
Gomen Wot – Braised greens with favas and tomatoes
Falukorv – Smoked pork offal and beef sausage with ricotta
Berbere Roasted Rabbit
Mac n’ Greens – House made cavatelli with Swiss chard & cloth bound cheddar
Kolo and Kale Salad – Puffed barley and kale salad
Blåbärssoppa – Blueberry “soup” panna cotta