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Posts from the ‘Copenhagen’ Category

What Do You Call a Danish in Danish?

Ok, I said I was going away. ENDCHUNK. But first, allow me to leave
some photos of danishes (well, mostly danishes) that I was sitting on with a
different purpose in mind and no longer feel like writing about. I naively
wondered if Danish people eat danishes. They
do, but call them  wienerbrød  a.k.a. Viennese  bread like our french fries and english
muffins, I suppose.

These specimens come from:

Sankt Peders Bageri


La Glace

Nordic Love

No word on whether kelp, rhubarb, pine or ramps were involved in the proposal. If it were up to me, I would've had the ring slipped onto a duck neck.


Amass will soon take the spotlight, but for now
BROR, only open since March, is the latest entry in the Noma chefs set out on their own genre.

Relae projects the illusion of casualness, BROR actually is lower key. In
theory, I could see stopping in for a glass a wine and a few snacks like
catfish cheeks, chicken wings and kelp, or deep fried bull balls, which I
imagine as Danish Rocky Mountain oysters.  In practice, I'm not sure anyone does that;
people without reservations were being turned away and I didn't see a bar, at
least not on the lower level where I was seated.

Bror duck neck

My snack of choice was the duck neck, bread crumbed and sprinkled
with pine needles. You're given a finger bowl instead of utensils, and encouraged to pluck out the meat with your fingers.

Bror bread

The bread in Denmark was especially good, from the traditional dark rugbrød to the crusty artisanal loaves served in higher end restaurants.

Bror mullet, grilled cucumbers, pine

You can order a la carte, but the four courses of the
kitchen's choosing for 350 dkk (more or less $61) is the way to go. Since
there were only three starters and three mains listed, you will be served a
majority of them. First came mullet with grilled cucumbers, also tinged with
pine, and topped with nasturtium leaves, a seasonal favorite in these parts.

Bror catfish, onions, seaweed

Fish was followed by another, this time more substantial
catfish, double seaweed (from both Iceland and Sweden) and pickled onions.  I could see this being paired successfully
with sake. (I did not make notes of the wines served, with the exception of an
unusual orange Jura sparkling wine, ‘Tant-Mieux’ Petillant Naturel – Philippe
Bornard, though they were also biodynamic and French as at Relae.)

Bror pork neck, ramson, cauliflower

Pork neck, a shift from more austere to naturally decadent, was the main,
served with a charred leek, cauliflower puree, and countless leaves and wild
greenery, despite ramps being the only specimen named on the menu.  I would have to eat more extensively in
Copenhagen and revisit the few restaurants I tried before figuring out the nuances that make each place distinct.
If both pork dishes I had at Relae and BROR were put in front of me, I don't think I'd be able to say which was from where.

Bror buttermilk, walnut, blackcurrant

I was half-hoping I wouldn't get the rhubarb dessert for
variety's sake, and no, it turned out to be a strongy nutty  buttermilk-walnut ice cream, blackcurrant granita, and a poof of woodruff that I
really tried to taste because I'm still not convinced it's an appropriate
flavoring for green beer, as they do in Berlin, but the barely sweet dried foliage seemed to be more about texture
like the shredded phyllo coating used in kataifi.

The amazing thing, though I jest about the tight
repertoire of ingredients shared by restaurants, is how radically the menu changes with time. I saw a
set of photos from the following week and the only dish in common was the

BROR * Skt. Peders Stræde 24A, Copenhagen, Denmark

Kødbyens Fiskebar

Kødbyens Fiskebar may have won for prettiest plate
of food. The seafood restaurant in the meatpacking district (the name
translates to Meatpacking Fishbar) another Noma alumnus project, was also my
first night safety pick  I like having a
non-elaborate, no reservations required option
within walking distance in mind for my first night in another city. I'm just
not a serendipitous traveler. Even though Fiskebar was just around the corner
from my apartment, it didn't pan out because that initial evening because it
was closed for a staff function.

I went back five days later, on my own, despite my
irrational aversion to solo dining. There's a 
prominent bar in the center of the room for walk-ins and it's not really
a big deal. I got my glass of French rose (American wines of any style are just
not a thing in Copenhagen) and settled in among the other tourists eating
alone. Midlake, a band I hadn't thought of in some time, played
"Roscoe" quietly over the speakers, and for a second I was lulled into
thinking I was in Brooklyn.

(Unlike Brooklyn, they take reservations and credit cards,
both with weird caveats. I was hesitant to use a credit card since ours don't
have chips and PINs and get rejected by machines, but also because most menus
had a blurb about credit card company fees being charged to the card. You are
also given a two-and-half-hour time limit at most restaurants, even the Michelin stars, when you book.
I'm trying to decide if this is a matter of transparency, rigidness, or
literalness in the Danish character and how it connects to being the happiest
people in the world.)

It's one of those casual restaurants with high
quality ingredients. Despite the relaxed atmosphere, quality does come at
a price, especially if you hail from somewhere with an unfavorable exchange
rate. At home I'm surrounded by $1 oyster specials so I'm warped; even on the
high end a Belon might be in the $4 range, so $7-$10 oysters felt punitive enough
for me to pass. Then again, I've never tried an Irish (Ostra Regal) or French (Roumégous,
Gillardeau, perle blanche) oyster so I could very well be missing out.

Fiskebaren langoustine tartar, smoked bone marrow, ramson flowers, pickled onion

The Norwegian langoustine tartar was very delicate,
so too the ramson a.k.a ramps and its flowers. Smoked bone marrow was mixed in
with the fluffy raw shellfish and the pickled onions were blackened, creating a
striking flavor combination based on char. Something was also contributing
bursts of citrus.

Fiskebaren scallops, peas, granola, capers, morels, dill vinaigrette

Scallops, also from Norway, were just one part of an
intense spring tableau. I have no idea where the granola from the menu
description comes into play, but the peas, pureed, whole, shoots and flowered,
definitely stood out, sweetly. Capers added zing to a dill dressing and the morels
grounded the brighter components.

Danish shawarma

I debated a third dish and then frugaled out. My
most favorite food cliché is the Big Mac supposedly needed after a fancy meal,
often a tasting menu. I'm not sure that two small plates (technically, these
fell under the raw bar and medium courses from the hot kitchen categories)
qualifies, but I did get a shawarma an hour later.

Kødbyens Fiskebar * Flæsketorvet 100, Copenhagen, Denmark


If you can't get into Noma, odds are you'll quickly
find a short list of alternatives, many  alumni ventures. Relae, helmed
by former sous chef, Christian Puglisi, is bound to come up. (Geranium, Radio, Fikebaren, Bror and soon-to-open, Amass, too.)

Relae menu

It's casual–blonde wood, tablecloths, printed-out paper menus (pardon my scrawling), self-serve
silverware, Joy Division might be playing–like a
nice weeknight dinner restaurant, if your weeknight dinners had seven courses with
French biodynamic wine pairings. Next thing you know, you've spent over $500. Oh,
Denmark. You also happy, tipsy, thinking about seasons and place.

Actually, you don't start thinking about late spring
and local ingredients until your second encounter (Bror in my case) with this relatively recent style of
modern Scandinavian cooking. I've seen others' insane itineraries; one blogger who
arrived in Copenhagen as I was leaving was going to Noma and Relae on the same
day and doubled-up daily. I'm no longer that gung ho even though I understand the American urge to
cram as much into our precious days off as possible. (I almost cried, not
figuratively, upon hearing about the five-week Thailand vacation being planned
by the train conductor  who befriended me in Copenhagen.) I've learned that two,
maybe three tops, is enough Michelin stars for one week or you start losing
perspective. Even in different guises, no matter how well executed, one can
only eat so much rhubarb, ransom, nettles, cucumber, nasturtium, seaweed, necks and
collars in a short time frame.  

With that said, I really liked Relae. I would, and
have already, recommended it. One aspect of note, and I don't know if this is a
Nordic thing, was the literallness. If they say seven courses, they mean seven courses,
no amuses, interim desserts or mignardises like you'll encounter with tasting
menus  elsewhere. Another Nordic quirk, if you happen to be visiting this time of year is amount of natural light during dinner. Since the sun doesn't set until close to 10pm, you can eke out some photos without relying heavily on candles or overhead lamps.

Relae langos

This snack, a Danish take on langos, fried
bread with an herbed yogurt spread, had to be tried since my dining companion was
in Budapest the day before. It was the only starter on offer and not part of the
675 kr menu. Add in a glass of organic sparkling wine, and this was definitely not like anything
I had in Hungary.

Relae raw beef, anchovies, ramsons

Raw beef, anchovies, and ramsons (paired with Sorga
Blanc '10 –La Sorga, Rousillon). I do sometimes wonder if something is askew with
my palate because I don't find ramps to have a very distinct flavor, despite
everyone's mania for them.

Relae new radishes, egg

New radishes and egg (Cul rond '11–Domaine de
l'Octavin, Jura). The "yolk," a salty translucent sheath, is hiding a
dollop of stiff fluff (ok, it's foam) that needs to be mixed into the aggressively
bitter and peppery sprouts for the full effect.

Relae asparagus, sunflower seeds, mint

Asparagus, sunflower seeds and mint (Temp fait le tout '11–Remi Poujol, Languedoc). This is where I got it, the appreciation of
vegetable-forward dishes, strength in simplicity. Asparagus and sunflower seeds
don't sound like the most convincing plate of food, but this was the standout of
the meal. The asparagus tasted like itself but was far from austere, bathed in
a browned butter that was so complex I assumed cheese and lemon were present (they
were not). The seeds gave the dish body and little Grape Nut-esque nuggets added
extra crunch and toastiness.

Relae steamed danish enoki, sand leeks

Steamed Danish enoki and sand leeks (Katori 90, nama genshu–Terada Honke, Chiba, Japan). The  mushrooms, greens and sweet, smoky sauce made
from charred, pureed onions also out-performed their basic nature. The sake was a wise pairing (even though I was practically still feeling the effects of a 1.8 L bottle split among three on Memorial Day weekend, just a few days prior).

Relae hindsholm pork, nettles, cucumber

Pork from Hindsholm, nettles and cucumber (Le boit
sans soif '11–Jean-Francois Chene, Anjou). And yes, there is meat; slices of
naturally rich pork with a very tart jumble of greenery.

Blå kornblomst and green herbs (Plume d'Ange
'10–Etienne Courtois, Soings en Sologne). It very rarely happens, but I forgot
to take a photo of the cheese course, which isn't really a cheese course at
all, but a pulverized blue cheese with herbs peeking through like

Relae rhubarb, buttermilk, potato

Rhubarb, buttermilk and potato (Ze Bulle–Chateau Tour Grise, Samur). I'm not sure how the potato sweet came to be a
Danish thing, but I know Noma has a plum and potato dessert. Unfortunately,
desserts after a procession of dishes and wines, don't always make a strong
impression me, no fault of the pastry chef. I did appreciate that it was light.

Relae * Jægersborggade 41, Denmark, Copenhagen

Meyers Deli

Not everything on bread is smorrebrod, of course.
Meyers Bageri, one of Copenhagen's top notch bakeries (my airbnb rental had two
Claus Meyers books on the shelves, one bread, one sweets; I couldn't read
either, though the photos were convincing) has an outpost in the basement of
department store, Magasin du Nord. It was not my intent to stop in, but it had
gotten to 3pm and I couldn't settle on anything for lunch and didn't want to
waste money on an outdoor tourist cafe. (Actually, I was in this part of town
to find a McDonald's, but felt like eating real food rather than tracking down
a novelty on this particular afternoon.) The deli had some nice looking
sandwiches. In particular, Lun Flaeskestegs. This is as close as I'd get to
traditional roast pork.

Meyers deli lun flaesketegs sandwich

There were thick slices of meat, still rosy in the
center, juicy and fatty with strips of cracklings, separated and added-in for
extra crunch. Pickled red cabbage, cucumbers and slivered red apples added
tartness and texture, and a creamy sweet mustard sauce bound it all together. This
was a serious sandwich, almost too much for one sitting (I would've asked for
half to go, or rather takeway, as the rest of the universe says, but wasn't
sure if that was couth).

And the potatoes, which made it a real meal, weren't
throwaway. I had to stop myself from eating all the crispy skinned wedges that
had a richness that could only come from being submerged in quite a bit of

Meyers deli lun flaesketegs close up
Crackling close-up

I was asked if I wanted mayonnaise and I wondered if
it was because they assumed an American would prefer ketchup (you shouldn't; I'm
sure it was house made, but it was watery and weird) . Maybe, maybe not, though
I'm pretty sure the cashier checking to see if I needed ice for my bottle of
Pelligrino was trying to accommodate US tastes. (I'm fine without ice, though
my travel companion was dismayed at its absence from the Ikea cafeteria.)

Meyers deli lun flaesketegs sign
It was only after decompressing a bit in the nearly empty seating area that I
realized 125 DKK was $22. Ouch. That was one expensive sandwich. You could try
and reproduce it on the cheap–the recipe is online with the translated
headline "Have you pig left over?"

Meyers Deli * Nytorv 13, Copenhagen, Denmark

Grøften & Schønnemann a.k.a. Things On Bread

If your only exposure to smorrebrod is Copenhagen
import, Aamanns, you might get stymied when figuring out how to order the
open-faced sandwiches in a more traditional, albeit touristy, setting.

Groften menu

At Grøften, inside Tivoli Gardens, you're presented
with a checkbox list, broken down by topping type–seven herring variations,
alone–and each with the choice of rye, caraway or white bread. (Locals know
which pairs with what and there are definitely rules. I didn't want to be the
blueberry bagel ordering foreigner.) Is this like dim sum? Pick away, share? Using
price as a guide isn't reliable since nearly everything ends up costing more
than you think it should anyway. Is a $16 sandwich plenty for one or barely a
snack a la Aamanns?

Groften smorrebrod

We decided on two each, which I now think was too
much (see Schønnemann, below), plus, meatballs, which was definitely way too
much. Yes, there is actually a slice of bread hiding beneath the tuft of
shredded horseradish, sweet pickles, remoulade and fried crumbled onions (a
garnish so popular it's sold in little plastic tubs at Ikea). Oh, and roast

Groften tartare smorrebrod

Beef tartare, egg yolk and horseradish was
straightforward as can be. Capers, chopped onion and turmeric-tinged pickled
vegetables, similar to piccalilli, came in little glass bowls for all the sandwiches
but  made most sense with the slab of
chopped raw meat. The same sandwich with black caviar is called "løvemad,"
or lion's snack in English. Cute either way.

Groften fried herring smorrebrod

Fried herring was a little more subdued.

Groften meatballs

Frikadeller, a mixture of pork and veal, I'm pretty

As my first restaurant meal in Copenhagen, I was a
little surprised (not unhappily, as I love smoking on vacation) to see you
could still smoke indoors since Scandinavia always struck me clean-living–maybe
it's the propensity for biking? (It was also not unusual to see parents pushing
strollers with cigarettes in hand, a practice that would be certain to induce
severe shaming in many parts of NYC.) This was an anomaly that wasn't repeated
at any other restaurant I visited, though.

* * *

Schønnemann is also a traditional purveyor of things
on bread, mostly rye. There's nothing wrong with old-school Danish food; I
would highly recommend a little stodginess in lieu of  seaweed broths and charred cucumbers for one
meal. Luckily, we were seated closely, NYC close, to a Danish twosome who made
sure we ordered right. (I ended up spending Saturday hanging out, barbecuing
and drinking at their "kolonihave" outside the city and was all the
better for breaking out of the New Nordic confines that can limit the

Schonnenmann beer & aquavit

House brews, referred to as "lunch beer"
by our waiter, and a delicate walnut aquavit are a great way to start off an
afternoon. (While I'd recommend eating some regular food in Copenhagen, I can't
say I'd advocate multiple shots of thick salty black licorice liqueur flavored
with pomegranate, which I was exposed to later.)

Schonnenmann  herring salad

Herring salad, yes, on top of a thin, chewy slice of
nutty rye. We were told we should've asked for more bread so you're not just eating
fish, beets and sour cream.

Schonnenmann  veterinarian's midnight snack

Just one smorrebrod apiece, the normal way of doing
things. I had been previously charmed by lion's snack, and this, the
veterinarian's midnight snack, was no less poetic. That translates to a thick
spread of pate, salted beef similar to sliced corned beef, aspic and raw
onions.  This is my kind of sandwich. Dark bread and liverwurst? Yes.

Schonnenmann  the harbourmaster

The Harbourmaster, cured salmon, chives, dill,
potatoes, red onions and smoked cheese, also had an impressive name. The lime
seemed odd to me.

Make sure to have another beer, don't look at the exchange rate too hard, have a good time.

Grøften * Vesterbrogade 3, Copenhagen, Demnark

Schønnemann * Hauser Plads 16, Copenhagen, Denmark



Kings County, Copenhagen

Kings county beer

Danes are just like us. They like to name things
after Kings County (apostrophe, no apostrophe, whatever).

Nespresso & soda machines

They have Nespresso and seltzer machines on their

My counter

My counter with the lower-end Nespresso machine that
I took as a freebie (though not exactly free in reality since those pods are
65-cents each and gauge you like razor blades or printer ink) but never blogged
about and requisite SodaStream. (I keep my blender hidden away because it
never gets used.)

Beer, coffee, and water aside, there's little in
Copenhagen to tickle the fancy of an American culture enthusiast. Yes, there is
a Hard Rock Cafe attached to Tivoli Gardens, and Burger Kings and McDonald's
show up in and near transport hubs, but this is no Bangkok or Dubai.

Nasty danish

Even homegrown chains were lacking. Joe & the
? Eh, I didn't even take a photo. Sunset Boulevard?  Maybe. I'm not sure if The Spot is local. I was bummed that their machine to make Daim ice blended coffees was broken, but they did make up for it a bit by using "nasty" in their ad copy.

Max hamburger

Max Hamburger is Swedish so it doesn't count.

Vesterbro, a.k.a. the Meatpacking district, still a
little red light, supposedly great for clubbing (certainly not for late night
dining–try finding anything other than shawarma after 10pm on a weeknight, and
when a friend helped me by putting out a Facebook call to locals for "bars
that stay open past midnight," suggestions were for places closing at 1am,
which technically answered the question yet was not what I meant. Even in
middle America bars are open until 2am during the week) also had the
distinction of housing a mall, Fisketorvet, a.k.a. Fish Market, just across the
train tracks, a block from my apartment.

The president

There is a restaurant called The President that
serves a Nixon Burger and has footballer statues dangling puppet-style in
Carlsberg jerseys.

The first lady beef sandwich

Instead, I opted for The First Lady, across the
walkway, because it was classier, called itself a gastropub and had burgundy
flocked damask wallpaper. What I thought would be a roast beef sandwich turned
out to be kind of a patty melt, or more accurately, a hamburger sandwich. At least that was actually a cherry tomato and not a marachino cherry, one thing Denmark has over China. This
is where I was introduced to remoulade, the beloved mayonnaise spiked with
pickles and mustard, served with everything.

My first-impression takeaway (why does the rest of
the world say takeaway instead of to go?) was that there is a certain sterility
in Copenhagen, a downer more often attributed to a place like Singapore (one of
my favorite cities in the world). Everything is a little too easy (plus
expensive) which lends to a dullness. If I have to make one reference to
Denmark consistently being the happiest country in the universe, I'll make it now.
I've heard theories on that (where I can't recall) and one that I'm inclined to
agree with is that Danes have lower expectations so it takes less to make them
happy, whereas Americans expect the universe and are consistently disappointed.
Simplicity and security does not make us happy.

More later on New Nordic in springtime, i.e. you'd
better like rhubarb, buttermilk, ramson a.k.a. ramps, nasturtium, necks (pork
and poultry), seaweed, sorrel and nettles.

Read about even less food-related bits here.

Or look at some photos: