Work has brought me to Copenhagen for the week – and while I did not have hours upon hours to explore the city (like I typically blog about), I figured I should at least pass along what I did have time for!
Copenhagen is a very small city, and fairly walk-able, though the public transportation system is pretty easy to use (and unlike France, they won’t try to arrest you!). The food scene is simply amazing – though I recommend breaking up the Nordic cuisine with a few other varieties, otherwise you’ll never want to see asparagus, radish, fish or dill again. More on that later…
I flew Icelandair again, but this time had a seat in the Saga class. The difference between Economy and Saga? You actually sleep on the plane (5 out of 8 hours of flying!), they bring you a hot meal (breakfast was scrambled eggs with chorizo, chives, potatoes, asparagus and peppers) and it was simply quiet. I know there are better airlines to fly a red eye on, but I was pleased and relieved to not be 100% spent upon landing. Even better? The airport is surprisingly close to the city center – maybe a 10 – 15 minute drive. On the return trip, I was able to use the SAS lounge – which has everything from Wifi, food, showers, meeting rooms and more. Connecting in Iceland? Don’t make the same mistake I did and go through customs before realizing that the lounge was on the other side, and two hours was between you and boarding.
The food scene in Copenhagen is a foodie lovers dream. It’s simply amazing. I was fortunate to be traveling with someone who did all of the research, and made reservations for each night we were there. The Danes favor fresh ingredients, simplicity and an abundance of radishes, asparagus, peas, fish, beef, fresh herbs and rhubarb.
I ate breakfast at the hotel every morning, and I will admit, the last two times I had a visceral reaction to the idea of soft boiled eggs, radishes, cucumbers and peppers. Unfortunately the gluten free bagels I brought went moldy before I could enjoy them and break it up a bit. But otherwise, everything was delicious and it was fun to experience a new type of cuisine.
Another thing to note – every single place I went to was incredibly accommodating of my gluten sensitivity. Every waiter I talked to understood what I needed, and were able to relay this to the chef. This was critical because I didn’t make any of the reservations and so I hadn’t been able to give anyone a heads up!
On the first day here, after I checked into my hotel, I decided to walk to Torvehallerne, Copenhagen’s food market. It was about two miles from my hotel, so a decent walk through the city, and the first time I navigated a foreign country on my own. I did fairly well! Since I didn’t land until 1:30, I didn’t end up eating lunch until after 3 p.m. I was determined to try Paleo – a place I knew I could eat anything off of the menu. I chose the salmon wrap, which was a paleo wrap filled with smoked salmon, avocado, herbs, spinach and cabbage and paired it with a ginger carrot juice. For street vendor food, it was excellent and refreshing after a long flight.
For dinner on my first night, I went to Radio. The concept of this restaurant is to use local, fresh ingredients – and ancient grains and legumes. Essentially, everything was naturally gluten free (except for the bread, but they brought me some delicious crackers so I could try the caramelized onion butter). The menu is a tasting menu where you can get three or five courses. We opted for five, and it did not disappoint:
- Scallops with thinly shaved carrots and a yogurt sauce
- Mackerel with asparagus
- Fingerling potatoes in a cheesy foam sauce with “glass” potatoes on
top (very thinly sliced potatoes that were translucent and tasted like a
- Barbecue cream sauce with pork and pickled onions
- Cucumber and celery ice cream with thinly sliced cucumbers and
Everything was incredibly flavorful and different. It reminded me a lot of Dill in Reykjavik. Plus, the chef was the former sous chef at Noma (which has been rated the best restaurant in the world and impossible to get reservations at).
This was definitely my favorite.
Maven is in a restored church, but in the summer, they open a large patio outdoors, complete with heat lamps and fluffy fur blankets. The food here was good – though definitely not as good as some of the other places I went. For a starter I had white asparagus in hollandaise sauce with crumbled bacon, shrimp and herbs. My main course was lamb with new potatoes. Dessert was rhubarb sorbet with a gelatinous white chocolate pudding. I could see this place being excellent in the winter time – it was cozy inside!
La Vita e Bella
Having filled up on lamb, fish and dill, we decided to switch things up and try Italian. The restaurant itself had a cozy familial feel, and the wait staff was excellent and occasionally yelled “Mama Mia” much to our amusement, throughout the evening. For my appetizer I had the caprese salad and for my entree the mushroom risotto. Both were good, and definitely a nice change from the (amazing) Nordic food I had been consuming.
Studio at the Standard
Studio was a truly unreal experience. We went for lunch (and it lasted three and a half hours!), and ordered the seven course menu with snacks. In total, we were brought 10 plates of food, plus bread. As I mentioned, because I did not make any of the reservations, I did not have a chance to alert chefs to my gluten sensitivity. Studio went above and beyond to ensure that I had a gluten free, enjoyable meal. While most food in Denmark is naturally gluten free, Studio even pulled out some homemade buns and gallettes for me to enjoy. It was definitely appreciated!
Each course is definitely an experience – and full worth the time and price. I didn’t take pictures of every course, but hopefully you get a sense of how whimsical it was from those that I did.
- Potato chip with cream and herbs sandwiched between (it looked like a
- Soft boiled quail egg with truffle (the waiter instructed us to just
“pop it in your mouth” and “let it explode”)
- Buckwheat gallette with a cream cheese roe and herbs
- Scallops with snow peas, pea sauce, elder flower and yogurt snow
- Danish flounder with new onions and a sauce of white wine butter and
- Danish new potato salad (eaten with a spear they crafted out of a
- Veal sweet bread wrapped in cabbage and burnt garlic emulsion
(beautiful dish, incredibly hard to eat this)
- Dry aged beef, braised beef tails, beef broth sauce, a milk patty (it
was like a milk gelatin), asparagus and herbs
- White asparagus ice cream with herbs, green strawberries and a
- Rhubarb mousse covered in dark chocolate and marzipan
- Rhubarb fruit roll up
At the close of our meal, we ordered coffee for the table, to which we were delighted to find out it was made with a siphon. Our waiter humored us as we took photos and videos.
Overall, this is a definite must try – especially if you can’t get into the coveted Noma (we were unsuccessful – but there are many, many wonderful options!).
Our last night in Copenhagen we had a larger group that wanted to go out to dinner – which meant our reservations at Cofoco were null and void. We ended up at Fuego, an Argentinian steak house. I had super low expectations of Fuego and was literally shocked when we arrived. It was a high end Argentinian restaurant. We were given a private room in the wine cellar, with candle light and a beautifully arranged table. My mouth dropped.
The meal was excellent. For my starter, I had an avocado soup with herbs and shrimp. For my entree I had steak with bacon mashed potatoes, peas and asparagus. For dessert, the most amazing creme brulee I have ever eaten, paired with a dark cherry ice cream.
During a break between meetings, a few colleagues and I went for a walk through Copenhagen with the intention of seeing the famous Little Mermaid statue. We weaved our way through the city, stopping at the famous Nyhavn streets, passing through the courtyard of Amalienborg Castle (sadly we had missed the changing of the guards ceremony) and wandering through the park that the Little Mermaid is located in.
We spontaneously decided to climb the Round Tower on our way back. The tower, which is located dead smack in the middle of a shopping district (known as Strøget), is Europe’s oldest functioning astronomy observatory. The tower was built in 1641, and is today open to the public for a fabulous view of the city. For less than five dollars, you can climb the winding ramps up to the top and are greeted with a blast of fresh air and views all the way to the ocean.
Strøget is filled with tons of boutiques, designer and your typical run of the mill shops. I stopped by quickly one afternoon to pick up a notebook I saw in the window for my sister and some chocolates from Summberbird for my mom. Apparently chocolate is also big in Denmark – and is typically filled with marzipan, licorice and caramel.
One afternoon, I headed to Copenhagen University’s botanical gardens. It was incredibly beautiful. I wish I had more time there – and a book and blanket! I strolled around a pond, filled with lily pads, spent a few minutes watching a crane fly across and preen itself on the shoreline and peering into the massive green house (which sadly closed a few minutes before I arrived).
On my last day, I stopped by Carlsberg brewery. A coworker was picking up some souvenirs, and while we didn’t go on the tour, the brewery itself is very cool. It was a Saturday afternoon and the courtyard was filled with people drinking, laughing and having a good time. The brewery, which was built in the 1800s, is expansive and even offers gluten free ciders! (including, you guessed it, rhubarb cider).
I stayed at the Radisson Blu Scandinavia. The hotel itself was fine – and the location is superb. It’s on the outskirts of the main part of town, but you can walk there within 10 minutes. Running paths are plentiful, and if you were brave enough, there is even a swimming pool in the harbor nearby.