Chef and event planner Linnea Johansson has been throwing parties for some of the biggest names in show business including Jennifer Lopez, Justin Timberlake, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sean Combs, Sienna Miller and Julianne Moore. She is the author of “Perfect Parties: Tips and Advice from a New York Party Planner” (Skyhorse Publishing) in the United States, which was awarded Best First Cookbook from the Swedish Gourmand World Cookbook Award.
She is currently hosting a cocktail event that’s part of a live auction at Sotheby’s this evening, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., for Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA). If you can’t make the event, bidding is also available online via CharityBuzz. Click here for more information.
Haute Living: Hello, Linnea. Tell us more about the event at Sotheby’s?
Linnea Johansson: I am currently working on an amazing charity auction at Sotheby’s for a vintage bottle of Cherry Heering from 1890s. It was discovered in the Heering storage cellars in Denmark and is now being offered to the public. The proceeds will go to the charity organization DIFFA.
HL: What are some of your favorite dishes that you create?
LJ: It really varies all of the time; I get tired of old recipes so I constantly creating new ones. For example, I just created an anti-hangover cocktail that promotes hydration after a that third martini last night This idea came to me after running out every morning after long nights of to get coconut water. I figured, why not just hydrate my cocktail? It is super easy to make and delicious!
1 part Xanté Pear Spirit
1 part Vita Coco Passion Fruit
2 part Pellegrino Lemonata Soda
1 lime wedge
Simply mix the Xanté, and coconut water in a cocktail shaker. Pour over ice and top with the lemonata, finnish with a squeeze of lime.
Works like a charm and keeps next morning funks away!
Right now I am also really into pickling. Pickled fruit adds a really flavorful touch to a lot of foods. My favorites include watermelon, rhubarb, and various other combinations. I plan on giving all of my friends jars of pickled fruits and veggies for Christmas!
HL: Where do you like to dine?
LJ: In New York there is always a new place that I want to try out. There are also places that I never get tired of, though. Like any chef, I like going to Momofuku in the East Village late night for their steamed pork buns (they are out of this world!). Mary’s Fish Camp in the West Village is another favorite; I’ve eaten there at least once a week for the past five-plus years. It is tiny and cramped, but it is the best seafood anywhere. Another go-to spot for me is the Ippudo, which has the best ramen noodles outside of Japan. Finally one of my newer favorites is Tom’s Tuesdays, which is only open on Tuesdays and doesn’t even have a menu! They just give you whatever is fresh at the market!
HL: What’s your ideal meal?
LJ: I am all about the sauce, so give me anything with a really delicious flavoring and I am happy! I definitely prefer home cooking to going out, but I think most of my friends are a little scared to have me over for dinner! I really do appreciate it anytime someone cooks for me though!
HL: Your favorite special occasion spot?
LJ: My latest favorite, is the event space The Wooly downtown in the Woolworth building. I recently did an event there and the space is completely hidden in a basement and gives you a feeling that you are in someone’s home, which is kind of exotic in New York City. Another favorite spot is Classic High Tea at The Four Seasons or Plaza Hotel!
HL: What?s your favorite neighborhood in NYC?
LJ: My favorite neighborhood would probably be the East Village, specifically 10th Street. In my opinion, it is the most beautiful street in the city, hosting everything a chef would love including farmers markets, artisanal cheese shops, even an Asian ice cream parlor!
HL: What do you like to do on your days off?
LJ: Considering I more or less turned my hobby into my career, I love working when off! For example, I do some have a blast doing odd activities like growing my own mushrooms in a dirt sack in my apartment closet, going to cheese farms or foraging for mushrooms in the fall, followed by cooking an amazing meal for dinner! During the week I am so busy with events and dinners, that I really cherish my weekends and try to take it easy!
HL: What’s your favorite vacation destination?
LJ: As a food buff, I would have to say France. The cuisine is so diverse and varies in each region, from crepes and cider up north to cheese and clementines down south; there is always something new to discover! I just spent this past harvest time there with a winemaker in Burgundy who accompanied me in eating my own weight in escargot and cheese! This experience helped me perfect my boeuf bourguignon recipe, in addition to my signature Dijon mustard. In addition to France, I love summer skiing on the glaciers between Norway and Sweden. Around midsummer, it is light out 24/7, so you can ski all day and all night. Even the professionals come join in for this. It is quite the experience!
HL: What’s your most memorable meal?
LJ: Elle Magazine once sent me to Spain to do a story, and I go the opportunity to check out El Bulli; which really lived up to its stellar reputation.
But as for home cooking, nothing beats my Grandmother’s Swedish Christmas smorgasbord as a child. My great-grandmother started a gourmet butcher shop that had been run by my family for years; so I food is a solid tradition in my family. Every year, it would take my grandmother a whole month to prepare everything for the smorgasbord, which included homemade sausage, seven different kinds of pickled heering, smoked ham (which she would actually light up the smoker and smoker herself!), arctic car, fresh salmon, seven different types of cookies, truffles, candies, the list goes on and on and was all made from scratch! You can imagine how I learned to cook!
HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?
LJ: Five? I could go on all day with favorites! If I have to choose though, my number one would be cardamom; I love baking with it (amazing in cookies) and use it in everything for the holidays. It also works really well in Asian cooking. For example, I make a chicken with coconut milk, cream, and cardamom that is divine! My second fav will always be bacon, of course! I love it so much that I am even a member of the Bacon of the Month Club and have a new slab delivered straight to my door every month! Another great ingredient is langoustine from the North Atlantic. They are extremely hard to find in the city, but I get shipments from Northern Ireland that are delish! I also love Pata Negrea, a Spanish ham that only recently became legal in the U.S. It is very similar to prosciutto, but from wild Iberian pigs that have been fed acorns and truffles—very exotic. I have been hooked on Pata Negra since having it in the Swedish butcher shoppe as a kid! Finally, I just LOVE orange trumpet mushrooms! They are have a peppery taste similar to Chanterelle mushrooms, but still extremely fruity and fresh! Lastly, my ultimate favorite ingredient is, of course, butter! I actually prefer to make my own butter; it only takes a few minutes and it is so much better when it’s fresh.
Find out more about Linnea Johansson on her Web site.
Need help finding the perfect New York City restaurant? Or want tips on cooking elegant meals at home? Contact Haute Living dining columnist Tracey Ceurvels via her blog, The Busy Hedonist, or email her with any questions.