This time of year, conversations at Chow Bella staff meetings tend to turn to who's eaten what -- where. With the summer travel season still in full swing, we bring you Food Tours, our writers' suggestions of what to eat and drink out of town.
In 2011 Food and Wine named Copenhagen one of three cities to watch for its "supercharged" food scene. So if you don't know much about Denmark, know that this beautiful city is at the forefront of the New Nordic cuisine trend, thanks in no small part to the food of Rene Redzepi, chef of Noma, the restaurant named best restaurant in the world not one, but three times.
But you don't have to go white-table cloth to find a great meal in Copenhagen -- though if you want to, there are so many places to choose from it's becomes a real time and budget balancing act. In fact, I'd venture to say that there are so many great eating adventures to be had in Copenhagen that you don't have to feel bad if you don't make it to Noma or any of the 13 Michelin Star restaurants in the city. And I promise I'm not just saying that because I couldn't get a reservation at Noma five months out.
Kartoffelmad or Hønsesalat smørrebrød Café Dyrehaven Sønder Blvd 72, 1720 Copenhagen, Denmark www.dyrehavenkbh.dk
If you go more than a day in Copenhagen without eating smørrebrød you're probably doing something wrong. The open-faced sandwiches are the lunch of choice in Denmark and at Café Dyrehaven the two most popular variations are kartoffelmad, or potato, and hønsesalat, or chicken salad. This is mostly locals-only neighborhood joint so while an English menu exists, you'll have to ask for it. No matter what time of day Café Dyrehaven, located in then youthful Vesterbro neighborhood, is usually busy so don't be surprised if you have to wait for a seat. It's counter-service, so you'll order your food and drink (ask for a beer suggestion) and grab a seat inside or out, preferably out if the weather allows.
Both the potato and chicken salad smørrebrød are simple, fresh and serve as great examples of this typical Danish dish. In fact they were the best smørrebrød we had during the trip. Oh, and if you want to blend in definitely use a fork and knife instead of your fingers.
Coffee or latte Coffee Collective www.coffeecollective.dk
There are three Coffee Collective locations in Copenhagen, all of which will offer a coffee experience like you've never had before. The specialty coffee micro roastery is known as not only one of the best in the country, but in the world. As such, getting your drink will probably require a wait, but consider it a lesson in Danish living, where patience isn't just a virtue but a way of life. If you have to wait extra long, the friendly, knowledgeable barista might even give you a complimentary cup of espresso to help pass the time.
Admiralitetsthe or Lady Grey tea Østerlandsk Thehus Nørre Voldgade 9, 1358 Copenhagen, Denmark osterlandskthehus.dk
And if you're not into coffee, you'll probably enjoy this tea house, which you'll find just off the Norreport metro stop. On the outside it blends, for the most part, into the line of shops and restaurants at the bustling intersection. But head inside and you'll find an adorable tea and coffee shop with beautiful hardwood floors, shelves and counters stocked with an impressive array of coffees and loose-leaf teas. Bring home a very affordable bag of the Admiralitetsthe, a house mixture of Darjeeling, Ceylon and Keemun teas. It's been made the same way since 1887 when a Danish sailor traveled to England for the English Queen's 50th anniversary. It was there he discovered this blend of black tea and brought it back to Copenhagen to found Østerlandsk Thehus. The Lady Grey tea is a similar blend, with bergamot also added.
Hake Kødbyens Fiskebar Flæsketorvet 100, 1711 København V fiskebaren.dk/en/
Fiskebar is only of many restaurants in Copenhagen with Noma ties since the chef used to work there. But whether or not you'd care about that won't make dinner here any less of a fun experience. Ironically this fish-focused restaurant is located in the city's former meat packing district. And it's inconspicuous enough that we passed right by it on our first lap of the block. The atmosphere is casual (at least by Danish standards) with sleek, industrial décor. If you make your reservation (and you will need a reservation) for a Friday or Saturday night you'll probably be dining with a very trendy crowd, lingering after their meal over a bottle or two of wine before hitting the nearby nightlife scene.
As for the menu it's very concise with a small selection of cold and hot appetizers less than a half dozen choices for "bigger courses." There are meat options but if you've made it here you're probably going for the fish and the hake is a good choice, though the cod is a tasty option as well. The hake, a delicate white fish, comes simply prepared by being lightly fried in seaweed butter. Yeah, seaweed butter.
Snegl Lagkagehuset Multiple locations www.lagkagehuset.dk
We were directed to Lagkagehuset ("It's the best breakfast in the city!") by one of the friendly locals who offered directional help during our trip. It's a relatively large bakery chain, but also one of the only places that opens before 10 a.m. and if you're jet lagged and looking for breakfast, that's a big deal. When you walk in the first thing you'll need to do is grab a number from one of little ticket dispensers on the counter. There not just for decoration like at the grocery stores here - in Denmark, wherever there's a line there are invariably also tickets.
If you choose the snegl out of the overwhelming array of delicious looking options, you'll get a buttery, flaky pastry rolled with cinnamon and topped with icing. There are several varieties to choose from if that doesn't sound appealing, including one without the cinnamon that features colorful round sprinkles.
Torvehallerne Market Frederiksborggade 21, 1360 København K torvehallernekbh.dk
I would tell you what to try when you make it to this indoor market, but that would take away half the fun. Similar to the urban food markets La Boqueria in Barcelona and Borough Market in London, Torvehallerne Market offers more than 80 different stalls where artisans sell everything from smoked fish and meats, to cheeses, vinegar, take-away lunches and pastries. Give yourself plenty of time to peruse the selections but the best way to taste it all might be to assemble a picnic style lunch. We spent the morning gathering a nice variety of smoked meats, cheese, bread and salads (sampling everything as we went), all of which we had packed up for the road so we could enjoy it after a few hours of sight-seeing.
Mikkeller Vesterbro Spontanale Mikkeller Bar Viktoriagade No. 8 B-C, 1655 Copenhagen mikkeller.dk
As of this year you can check out a Mikkeller outpost in San Francisco, but the Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen is the headquarters of sorts for this mysterious microbrewery. Since being started by two homebrewers in 2006, Mikkeller has won Danish Brewery of the Year twice, which is pretty impressive considering there's no real home base or brewery to speak of. Instead self-described gypsy-brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø rents space around the Copenhagen and Europe to brew his beer.
As you might expect Mikkeller Bar's aesthetic is distinctly Danish with minimalist tables jutting out of the wall in lieu of high tops, and an awesome green floor and black subway tiles behind the bar. There are 20 beers on tap all of which will probably offer a pretty unique flavor - the brewery goes out of the way to "challenge the concept of good beer and move people." If you ask the busy bartender for a few suggestions he might say, "Do you like sour beer?" and then pour you a Mikkeller Vesterbro Spontanale as you nod yes. The light orange-colored lambic style beer is moderately sour in both taste and smell but well balanced and totally enjoyable.
Linguini with clams Un Mercato Frederiksborggade 2, 1360 København torvehallernekbh.dk/office/un-mercato
If you're craving Italian, there's great food to be found at Un Mercato, a casual eatery located at the Torvehallerne Market. The idea here was to create a cafeteria-like ambiance with restaurant-level food and they've executed excellently. Almost all of the seating is outside on a charming patio with heaters and blankets available if you get chilly. The specialty here is roasted meats, all of which are grilled in the restaurant's large brass grill. The half chicken is delicious but if you opt for the linguine with clams you'll get a taste of Copenhagen's fresh seafood mixed with tomatoes, garlic and just a touch of lemon.
Tasting menu Amass Refshalevej 153, 1432 Copenhagen www.amassrestaurant.com
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Amass opened this summer to "the largest international interest in a new Danish restaurant ever," according to booking statistics from Danish online portal DinnerBooking. Why? Because owner and chef Matt Orlando is the former head chef at Noma, though to be fair that's just one of many notable aspects of his resume. He's also done stints at Heston Blumenthal's Michelin three-starred restaurant, The Fat Duck; Thomas Keller's Michelin three-starred restaurant, Per Se; and Eric Ripert's Michelin three-starred restaurant, Le Bernandin. To put it simply, this guy and this place are going to be big.
The only real option here is the tasting menu, which includes seven courses for just over $100. Orlando, who started his career in San Diego, has said he doesn't want to create another overly expensive, white tablecloth restaurant and has done everything to create a more casual vibe at Amass. But despite the street art-style mural on the wall, the food is the same style of modern Nordic cuisine for which Noma has become known. The menu changes constantly but if your lucky you might get to taste something like the foie gras with raw shrimp and bread crumbs pictured above, or better yet the egg yolk with virgin butter and grass that's an unforgettable experience of textures. For dessert there might still be milk ice cream with crouton and olive oil, accompanied by some sort of seasonal fruit. It's like a cross between panna cotta and sorbet with extra crunch from the chunks of bread.
Wine pairings are an additional $70 but will enhance the experience immensely so go all in if you can. For our visit sommelier Bo Bratlann had selected a unique line up of varietals including an excellent dry Riesling and most memorably, an orange wine that would do a good job of convincing nay-sayers that orange wine doesn't suck.