There’s a little dispute between Denmark and Sweden about whose capital is the capital of Scandinavia: Stockholm or Copenhagen. (Oslo isn’t really in the running). Now having been to both, and being fully aware of my own bias, I have to say it’s Stockholm. But if you want to talk food capital, it’s Copenhagen. And not just of Scandinavia… it’s the capital of food. During our two days here in the capital of Denmark we ate extremely well. It was an excellent way to end our celebratory trip. Plus, Copenhagen is beautiful; it felt like a combination of Amsterdam (due to the cyclists, language and some of the architecture) and Stockholm (and all the Scandi goodness that entails).
Of course, Copenhagen is known for Noma, a restaurant that continually wins Michelin stars and “Best Restaurant in the World” awards. We tried to get a reservation. I woke up early the day the reservations opened online for the month of October, but even in the moments it took me to log on, the spots all filled up ! I guess it’s just that good. Luckily for us, there’s so many other truly amazing places to eat in Copenhagen, perhaps partly thanks to Noma and the New Danish cuisine movement that followed.
The New Danish (a subsection of New Nordic cuisine) concept is simple. It’s about blending traditional cooking methods of Scandinavia with modern ways of preparing food. It’s about using local produce and meat that highlight and celebrate the Nordic region’s agricultural history. And it’s about being as seasonal as possible, to both respect the environment in which the food is grown (especially the soil, which plays a heightened role in New Nordic food) and to offer the freshest and truest possible flavor. And it’s not just limited to fancy restaurants, or to restaurants in general. New Nordic is embraced at all stages of food production from the soil to the mouth. I deeply admire this way of cooking and eating, and gladly took up the opportunity to eat at Höst, which offers a delicious New Nordic menu in a seriously fantastically designed space. Höst has been recognized for its design, and gave us a taste of what it’s like to be Danish for a few hours.
During our 3-course (really 7-ish-course) menu we had:
- Housemade pork rinds with seasoning
- Scallops with chicken broth, mussel juice, puffed wheat grains and parsley
- Hake with broccoli and sunflower seed puree, apple juice, caramelized yeast and dill plus a puff cake with caramelized onion and beer
- Pork sausage and a crisp bread filled with mushrooms and lingon berries topped with cress, and mushroom soup (drank from a straw!)
- Poussin (young chicken) with wild garlic, beet root and black currant, raw beet root and smoked cheese sauce on roasted poussin-skin
- Danish yogurt with licorice, chocolate and dried sea buckthorn
- Chamomile ice cream with apple puree, wheat grain, meringue and grated lemon verbena
- Cardamom biscuit with pear marmalade and dried raspberries, accompanying our coffee
It took nearly 3 hours to go through the entire menu, and while we were stuffed to the max after it was all said and done, it was so enjoyable. Here are some pictures:
Not every dinner or meal took 3 hours to eat. But that didn’t stop us from still eating like every meal was our last. For example, we spent the majority of our second day in Copenhagen at the famous Tivoli amusement park. It was quite fun, and I wasn’t expecting much from the food. But I should have. Because I ate this incredible smørrebrød in an amusement park. And it was good. The smørrebrød is the traditional Danish lunch made of rye bread (rugbrød) slathered with butter (smør) and then slathered with pålæg, or the pile on. Because I had the classic stjerneskud smørrebrød, or shooting star open faced sandwich, my pålæg consisted of two fried plaice fish filets (rødspættefilet), shrimps (rejer), mayonnaise, black lumpfish caviar (sort stenbiderrogn), lemon (citron) and cucumber (agurk). Amazing, no?!
And, to further indulge, I had a delightful meal of lobster soup (hummersuppa) and just regular brød. I figured I needed lobster at least once, since we were so close to some of the best lobster fishing in the world. True, the best of the best is found where we just were, along the rocky coasts up from Göteborg to Norway. And Denmark cuisine consists of more fish filets than shellfish or crustaceans. But still. It was delicious.
Like the Berliner donut, perhaps the most widely-known Danish “dish” is the Danish. And also like the Berliners don’t call Berliners as such, but rather pfannkuchen; the Danish don’t call a Danish as such, but rather wienerbrød or Viennese bread. No matter what they are called, they’re a delectable treat. Most Danes only indulge in them on Sundays; however, we bent the rule since we wouldn’t have time on Sunday to search out superior wienerbrød. On other days, we indulged in some good rye bread (rugbrød) with butter and cheese, which is what most weekday breakfasts consist of here. Both were very good.
One last Danish food on my list was æbleskiver, the cute little Danish popover pancakes that are eaten during the December holiday season. (I managed to find them in Tivoli though, lucky me!) I was first introduced a long time ago to æbleskiver through our family friends, the Jensens, but I think they’re pretty popular now since you can by æbleskiver pans almost everywhere now. I was surprised at the lack of bits of apple, given the name æbleskiver literally translates to apple slices. Apparently, they used to be made that way, but now the usual method is to serve the æbleskiver with jam and confectioners sugar, just as you see here in mine — served with jordbærsyltetøj or strawberry jam.
And just for fun, we had some raspberry-topped cake on our last night in Copenhagen. Is it particularly Danish? Probably not, but it was good, and we enjoyed our last evening for now in Scandinavia.
Unfortunately, this is our last stop on this trip, in lovely Copenhagen. It’s hard to believe we’ve been on the road for two weeks… because it’s both gone by so quickly, and it feels like we have been here for forever. Despite the fact that we have only been in Copenhagen for two days, it seems like we’ve been here for weeks. [Perhaps our evening at Höst and the incredible amount of food we ate made the one day feel more like a week!] I think it goes without saying that I’ll miss being in Europe, and particularly Scandinavia. The more we’re here, Keith and I, the more we feel at home. In a real sense, I think one of the reasons why it feels like we’ve been in Copenhagen (and Göteborg) much longer than we actually have been is how much it does feel like home. It’s almost indistinguishable, not considering the hotel room and the constant eating out. We’ll be back here very, very soon!