Chef Dick Soek (55) has a passion for local ingredients. In his restaurant Piloersemaborg, a seventeenth-century farm in the village Den Ham in the north of The Netherlands, he stocks the kitchen with produce from nearby farmers, hunters and fisherman. The pig scurrying in the yard will be slaughtered within a month. ,,I’m already fantasising about the plates that I can compose with it’s meat and about the techniques I can use’’, the cook smiles.
Eat what is served
His restaurant is atypical. There’s no a la carte choice, the cook decides what’s on the menu. About every two weeks something different. There’s also no wine arrangement. ,,When I receive some beautiful fish on Friday, I want to prepare a plate immediately. A wine arrangement would restrict me, because I would have to choose an average wine that, sort of, fits with the dish. This idea came to me in Italy where I tasted a beautiful white and red wine. When I asked for the wine arrangement, the cook told me bluntly: ,,this is it!”
Soek has a long time love affair with Italy. In his younger years he visited the country regularly as a member of a cycling team. Of course, after hours of strenuous cycling, there had to be loads of good food. That’s how he met his teacher Ermano, ‘the cook of Piemonte’. ,,He is the reason why I started cooking, I still visit him every year. He aroused my interest in good wines, because an Italian dish without wine is impossible”, Soek says grinning.
Enthusiastically he talks about Alto Piemonte, the birthplace of Ermano in the food hills of the Alps. ,,It’s spotted with little villages in beautiful wine regions, which are just being discovered now. Due to the altitude it’s a bit colder. It takes a while longer for the grapes to get ripe.’’ Patience is rewarded. ,,You’ll find lots of lovely wines there, like the Nebbiolo and the Barbera grape. In the little village of Carema for example, a cooperation of tiny producers makes a standard Carema, Nebbiolo.”
A mix of Groningen and Italy
Soek sometimes uses wine as an inspiration for his dishes. ,,Some wines are so gorgeous, I just have to create a dish to match it.’’ Of course in general it’s the other way around. ,,After I create a dish we try four to five wines and choose the best pairing.”
There is wild duck of Groningen on the menu in his restaurant right now. Full of fire he explains the recipe: ,,their feet are salted and then candied, the breast smoked on hay and cooked in the oven. It’s corn season right now, so the duck is served with a little mash of corn, some grilled courgette, caramelised onions and mustard seeds. The wine we serve is a biological Chianti Classico Riserva, but last week it was a Rosso di Montalcino!”
PS: Piloersmaborg is opened Wednesday through Sunday. You can also stay in the bed & breakfast.