Last week, I was fortunate enough to spend eight days on vacation in Copenhagen, Denmark. The original purpose of my trip was to spend time with my youngest daughter Sophia and another family. But we ended up having a grand culinary adventure due to my good fortune of having foodie friends!
Well, I’m here to tell you that because of my many new tastes and sensory experiences, I would highly recommend an extended visit to Copenhagen to anyone who is open to explore and be surprised.
It started four months ago when the trip was booked. I immediately went online to secure dinner reservations at the number one restaurant in the world: Noma.
Have you heard of “New Nordic Cuisine”? It was a movement initiated at Noma in 2004 by two chefs, Claus Meyer and René Redzepi. It took them 11 years to achieve this preeminent status. To no one’s surprise, I had to put us on the waiting list for all seven days of of our trip for dinner and lunch, in hopes that we would secure a table. After many emails and phone calls during those four months of planning, two days before our trip we were told we had a lunch reservation on our second day in Copenhagen!
The 17-course lunch with wine pairings took place over a very fast four hours. Here are a few photos of the most memorable courses. (Click on the picture to view full size.)
When we walked in, I was blown away when I found out that Noma’s team lead, Kat Bont, knew who I was, had gone to our company website and read my blog. And she made sure to be the one managing our table experience the entire afternoon.
Of course, I asked if we could see the kitchen after our meal. That was when I learned what makes Noma so special. In a restaurant that has about 15 tables, and only one seating for lunch and one seating for dinner, there are 70-80 chefs in that kitchen. Yes, that’s correct: 70-80 chefs! Some of them are from Denmark, but my sense is that most of them were from other parts of the world and came to Noma to be inspired. It also explained why a different chef came out to present each course he/she prepared. At first, I thought they were servers! What pride they each had in the preparation, the presentation, and the experience!
The second floor of the restaurant was entirely for the team of chefs. During the time we toured, they were enjoying their attractive and deliciously prepared meal together—a “family meal” in restaurant talk—in a venue that was as beautiful and well-kept as the public restaurant below.
After Noma, I was wondering how the balance of our culinary week would be. I am pleased to share that each of the other restaurants had equally well-prepared food that was original and inspiring. When you go to Copenhagen, I would recommend all of them:
Proud of their well-deserved, one Michelin star rating, Kokkeriet owner Sammy Shafi was our sommelier for the evening. The most interesting course was the Tomato Juice Cocktail, “shaken not stirred,” served in martini glasses with a dash of dill oil. We also enjoyed the 2011 Montefalco Russo from Alfredosa, Umbria, Italy which is only served here at Kokkeriet and nowhere else in Denmark. And it was amazing!
(Canal in Danish)
In a building that sits on one of the main canals of Copenhagen, Kanalen has a small menu that featured mostly small dishes (tapas). The fish was prepared perfectly and the use of fresh vegetables was inviting.
(Pronounced like geese with a T)
At Geist, I was introduced to a lifestyle concept, well known in Denmark: hygge (pronounced hooga). Translated, it mean “coziness.” In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family are hygge too. There’s nothing more hygge than sitting round a table and discussing the big and small things in life. Perhaps hygge explains why the Danes are the happiest people in the world. The small dishes we ordered were flavorful and beautiful. My two favorites were the roasted cauliflower with black truffle, and wafers of avocado with lightly salted Rossini caviar.
For those of you that wonder if I did anything but eat, here is a fun shot of a famous landmark inside Copenhagen: Christiania. It is an independent neighborhood inside Copenhagen that is well known for its hippy, artsy, free spiritedness…and open access to marijuana and other paraphernalia. It’s like a Burning Man village, really. There are no photographs allowed inside Christiania and it was a bit unnerving to see many inhabitants wearing masks to hide their identity.
I wonder where my next culinary adventure will be. Perhaps Colombia or Panama?
Velbekomme! (Bon Appetit!)