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For foodies, Noma is known – and ranked on theworlds50best.com – as the best restaurant in the world.  Actually, it’s an investigation led by its head chef René Redzepi of authentic Nordic cuisine and original sources: Icelandic skyr curd, halibut, Greenland musk ox, berries and purest possible water. But what if you trek across the world, arrive in the heart of Copenhagen, jump on a bike, pedal like mad and miss your dinner reservation?   Still hungry? You might try your luck at the just-opened Noma Food Lab, a place of experimentation with locally-grown and foraged food.

A palate of silver-ice, Nordic wood and dark historic flooring makes for a sublime combination, as imagined by Denmark’s 3XN architects and interior designers.  Actually, the design was led by Kasper Jorgensen, head of the 3XN’s innovation unit, who spends his days testing materials for endurance and thinking about ways to upcycle buildings rather than merely demolishing them.

 Noma Food Lab is set in an 18th-century heritage warehouse, not far from the original Noma, so the designers were required to deliver without banging a single nail into the walls or floors.  Instead, they innovated a series of stacked wooden cubes made of Nordic plywood that rest on the historic floors. Are they really planning to crack open those blue speckled eggs?

One of the things I try to avoid in life is shopping at a grocery store.  Which explains why I still order most of our groceries from the awesome “Vincenzo’s” family-owned grocer on the Danforth in Toronto.  Mr. Vincenzo cures his own prosciutto and invents his own spicey chicken sausages.  His wife, “Sam” still works the cash. Their high-energy daughter, Mary, a fabulous chef, has advised countless times on what to serve at raucous kids’ birthdays or fancy dinner parties.  The boxed groceries are delivered (for free!) by the gracious Al.  I’m sticking with Vincenzo’s…but as an alternative it’s actually exhilarating to shop at the newly opened Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens in downtown Toronto. (Pics by Trevor Mein.)

Pure foodie joy has been designed into this monumental space – what used to be, of course, the Art Deco home of Rolling Stone concerts and hockey played by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Unlike the cerebral Nordic aesthetic at Noma, there are lots of reds and oranges to whet the appetite at Loblaws.  Get this irony:  the flagship store, within one of Canada’s erstwhile cathedrals of hockey, was designed by an Australian…nicely done, by the way, by Mike Landini of Landini Associates.  The  cheap, shiny plastics used in most supermarkets were replaced with enduring materials:  concrete, stone, white marble, ceramic tiles, and wood as well as a lighting scheme that plays up natural shadows. Feels deliciously civilized here. Go Leafs !

When I see Christmas in my head, I don’t see green and red.  I prefer combinations of deep purple and electric blue.  Which is why the Moorish Palace at Tivoli (1853) in the entertainment gardens of Copenhagen gives me an extra thrill at Christmas time.

Or this season’s Christmas packaging at  LeNôtre fine foods in Paris, where the glossy paper bags are mini works of art and the tea comes in hot pink tins.

Inspired by the season of rich tones, I recovered our Danish teak couch (originally upholstered in a boring oatmeal colour) in a deep purple.   Velvet seemed the only option.  What do you think???

  Actually, because the velvet shifts from purple to burgundy to pink depending on the sun and the way the plush moves, I’ve decided to rename it our Mark Rothko couch.

 

Nobody does deep purple and electric blue like the great American painter Mark Rothko.  Possibly Henri Matisse, but not with the kind of endless meanings floating out from abstraction.  I just saw a fantastic play in Toronto about Rothko called Red.  There was paint flying, and clouds of pigment when the passion of making art went sky high.  Whenever I’m in Washington my first pilgrimage is to the East Building at the National Gallery to see the colour-drenched Rothko’s hovering there.  Luckily, I have a Rothko right here at home.  It’s a fridge magnet. I think I got it for Christmas.

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