March: As I approached the halfway point of my study abroad experience, I began to break more into the core of Danish cuisine, both at home and outside. My host mom, Ellinor, slowly began to introduce Jasmine and I to the foods of her youth, cooking us delicious medisterpølse (a thick and spicy, fried pork sausage), creamed green cabbage, which we topped with cinnamon sugar (I know it sounds weird, but this combination was actually crazy good), risengrød (a Danish rice-pudding that’s more commonly served for dinner rather than desert), and ægkage (essentially just an omelette with ham, but hey, the name’s cool), and one æbletærte (apple pie) made entirely from scratch. I enjoyed trying it all, along with learning more about these foods along the way.
Around this time, I also became friends with Michelle, a girl in my Danish class. I had known her since like February or so, but we didn’t really bond until a class trip to Christiania (a free town in the middle of Copenhagen populated primarily by, and I don’t mean to be offensive, hippies, squatters, and other alternative folk). Complaining constantly about the bitter cold and blizzardy conditions we were made to walk through, the two of us decided to grab lunch afterward at the Torvehallerne, or glass market, a food emporium in central Copenhagen. The glass market is this large emporium filled with top quality produce and meat sellers along with stalls and stalls of tasty eateries and artisan product vendors. Basically, it was my second home. We ate at the Boutique Fisk, a stand known for its fiskefrikadeller (essentially like frikadeller but made with fish instead). For about 35 kroner (7 dollars) each, we both got a large fish cake, a slice of dark bread, and a slathering of tangy, house made remoulade (a pickle and mayonnaise condiment that is eaten a lot with fish in Denmark). The fiskefrikadeller were hot and fresh out of the oil and the remoulade, with its slight hints of curry powder, went along well as the perfect accompaniment. During this lunch, I learned that Michelle was also a FOODIE like me! We were just made to be best friends, and we decided that we were going to spend the rest of the semester eating our way through Copenhagen. It was perhaps the best decision I had made in a long time.
At the end of the month, my brother flew in to visit me, and we spent the week traveling together across Sweden and Norway. After spending enough money to take us to the moon and back, I came to realize that I ought to be more generous with the cash back in Copenhagen. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity after all. When we returned back to Denmark at the end of the week, we met up with our Dad, who randomly got a job with Maersk and started working in Copenhagen around mid-March. He was being put up in some really fancy hotel near the royal palace, and after reuniting with him after two long months, the three us embarked on a weekend of good eating. Wow, it sure felt great to not be spending the money for once! We started off by having lunch at a restaurant on the famous Nyhavn canal. Now while most restaurants here are quite overpriced, some of them do put out good Danish fare, including the one we dined at, the Nyhavn 17. We treated ourselves to Smørrebrød, without a doubt the most well-known food from Denmark. Literally translating to “bread and butter”, Smørrebrød consists of a slice of buttered brown bread that is then piled high with a dizzying array of toppings and served open-faced with a knife and fork. I ordered Skagen Toast, a creation with boiled shrimps tossed in a sour cream based dressing with dill, asparagus, and trout roe. My father ordered the “shooting star”, Denmark’s most popular Smørrebrød that consists of a fried fillet of plaice (a whitefish that is similar in appearance to flounder) topped with shrimps and fish roe. Finally, because I wanted my brother to get a taste of everything, I made him order a Smørrebrød platter that consisted of three pieces of Smørrebrød topped with the most popular toppings. It was a lot of food which he didn’t finish. For dinner, I took them for more Danish food at Peder Oxe, a long-standing establishment on Gråbrødretorv, the oldest square in Copenhagen, dating back to the early Middle Ages. The atmosphere was that of an old-fashioned joint. The waitresses were tall, attractive, blond-haired, Danish women clad in traditional dresses. When you wanted to call them, you would only need to turn on a lamp above your table sending a fluorescent green light floating through the restaurant that instantly drew one towards you. The food was more French-Danish fusion than actual Danish. While I wasn’t particularly impressed with my roasted Cornish Hen, I did enjoy the saffron-infused caramelized onions that came with it.
We spent the next day sightseeing, as I ran around trying to show them all of the Copenhagen landmarks that I could think of. Naturally, one of them included lunch at the glass market. We at a stall called Palæo, which features foods cooked according to the Paleo diet, one that is shaped around eating things that our earliest human ancestors ate. I had the most interesting hotdog that was wrapped in an omelette instead of a bun. Packed with protein and a ton of other nutritional benefits, the flavors were also delightful and I like the remoulade and pickled cucumbers in here too. As it was only two days after my brother’s birthday, we decided to go afterward to Konditori La Glace for some traditional Danish lakage (layer cakes). La Glace is perhaps the oldest patisserie in Copenhagen, and it is a must if you want to sample a slice of the old European sweet culture. Even though they don’t have contain much actual cake at all, Danish cakes are still quite heavy and sweet, featuring thick fruit fillings and mounds of unsweetened whipped cream. Order a slice of any cake sitting in the window, and it’s bound to be delicious. Mine certainly was. It was a hazelnut base topped with a rhubarb filling, white chocolate mousse, and then meringue. It set me on a love for rhubarb that would have me eating and cooking with it for the rest of the season.
To cap off the day, my father took us to Khun Juk, an upscale Thai restaurant that he and his coworkers had been to a couple of times. We had a five course meal that was honestly way too overpriced, but it was also way too delicious. My favorite course was the dessert. We had a Thai pancake served with coconut ice cream and tropical fruits. I have never had much luck with Thai desserts before, so this dish was a breakthrough. The richness of the pancake reminded me of Indian gulab jamuns (fried Idough-balls soaked in a sugar syrup) and the coconut ice cream was dreamy and smooth, without that cloying and almost artificial flavor you find in a lot of coconut confections.
In case you had any doubts, I still was in the kitchen a lot during March (I swear, you could have never got me out of there). I made a Pav Bhaji that would have been welcome on any Indian’s table, but proved to be a little too spicy for the Danish host mother, rich and luxurious double chocolate chunk cookies that practically cost a fortune to make, and a less than successful Norwegian-inspired cucumber soup with smoked trout. With its awkward sweet and sour flavor, this chilled appetizer was hated by everyone, myself included. Hey, I can’t be cranking out kitchen wonders all of the time.
Rømersgade 18, 1360 København K
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Nyhavn 17 – 1051 København K
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GRÅBRØDRETORV 11 – 1154 KØBENHAVN K
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Hal nr 1, Rømersgade 18, 1362 København K
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Skoubogade 3, 1158 København K
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