denmark,  europe,  gastronomy,  travel

A smorgasbord of smorrebrod and Renaissance delights – Day 12


We were delighted to discover wifi had been restored at some point during the night, and so I hurriedly searched the internet and finalized our meal plans for the day (in case we lost it again). Continuing our coffee tour of Scandinavia, we set out to visit Coffee Collective, a local Copenhagen roastery, in glorious sunshine. We walked up to the Christianshavn metro station, which was two escalators deep underground, and popped over two stops. We emerged and attempted to get our bearings, stumbling across what looked to be a glass-encased food market. Upon entering, D and I were both transported to gastronomical heaven, for amidst the Saturday bustle of folk were rows of vendors selling delicious-looking foods–everything from baked goods, fresh seafood, chocolates and oils.

To our happy surprise, the Coffee Collective was actually located inside the market. We pulled up a pair of stools, and D ordered his usual coffee pair of a pour over and double espresso, while I nursed a delicious hot chocolate. D commented that the coffee had a somewhat sour, grassy flavour, which he attributed to the super light roast of the beans–but that they were both good and interesting (it’s always difficult for me to tell if he’s providing positive or negative comments, as “grass” or “peaty” don’t usually denote good flavours to my palate). Buoyed by his caffeination, we walked through the adjacent indoor market and salivated over the many prepared food vendors selling sandwiches (including a duck confit sandwich!) or fish stews. As I was only able to get a relatively early reservation for our dinner restaurant (5:45 pm), we opted to have an early lunch. I wanted us to try a Danish specialty, smørrebrød, which is a kind of open-faced sandwich on rye bread. I’d heard good things about the Orangeriet, set in a conservatory next to Rosenborg Castle. We trekked over there only to find, to my dismay, that they were full. I should have known that a Saturday brunch on Easter weekend at a popular restaurant without a reservation was a bit of a long shot, but alas. The hostess pointed us to a different restaurant, which we attempted to find to no avail. Our walk took us into Nyhavn, the famed 17th century waterfront district, lined with brightly-coloured 17th and 18th century buildings.

In my search for a smørrebrød restaurant, I remembered coming across a well-reviewed place on a side street off of Nyhavn. Thankfully, my memory served me well, and I was able to find it. Told og Snaps was cozily tucked away in a near-basement space. They were able to accommodate us, though they told us that we’d need to be finished in just over an hour. Our server recommended that we order two smørrebrød each. We perused the lengthy list of options and ultimately settled on three to share between us: brisket of beef boiled in brown ale, served with relish and horseradish, liver pâté and salt silverside, and finally pickled herring with hard-boiled egg, potatoes and mayonnaise. D ordered a beer from Braunstein, a Danish microbrewery. I’d read that this restaurant was known for its home-made akvavit, a traditional Scandinavian flavoured spirit, which I later learned in reading about it is often traditionally associated with Easter lunches (appropriately for us). So I encouraged D to try have a dram. He settled on the “Told & Snaps’ Special”, which was described as being “brewed on orange peel, star anise, cinnamon bark, green cardamom, mace, lime leaves and black pepper” and matured for one year. Also, apparently they recommend this snaps for clearing melancholy. D was thrilled with the akvavit and declared it to be super delicious. Our smørrebrød soon arrived, and we scarfed them down. They were all delicious. D and I agreed that Scandinavians do not appear to shy away from seriously intense flavours. I tried a bit of the beef brisket smørrebrød, and grabbed a nice sample of what I thought were Parmesan cheese shavings, which D generously consented to, and I soon discovered was actually horseradish, much to his amusement.

We were able to finish up, right on time, though D was exceedingly full (as he had borne the brunt of the eating). D was so impressed with akvavit, that I inquired whether they sold any bottles. We were able to pick up a pack of three small bottles (totaling 750 mL) for about $45, which I thought was a decent deal (in the context of what one might pay for Scotch). Plus, it makes for a great, meaningful souvenir of our travels for D. Our bellies full, we waddled our way back towards Rosenborg Castle, an imposing brick Renaissance castle. We grabbed our tickets and were required to stash my purse in one of the provided lockers. Which was fine, except for the fact that upon entering, we discovered that if we wanted to take photos we’d have to pay 20 Kr (each). So D, grumblingly, had to go back and retrieve my cash to pay the photo fee (which seemed a bit ridiculous). That aside, the castle itself was gorgeous and very different in feel from Christiansborg Palace–much darker and almost ostentatiously opulent in some rooms, with a penchant for large, intricately-detailed clocks. I was pleased to see a plethora of ornately painted ceilings (which I’d loved when touring France). The Throne Hall was particularly impressive, containing the king and queen’s thrones, the latter of whose is made, somewhat bizarrely, of narwhale tusks, and are encircled by three silver lions. From there, we descended into the bowels of the castle to visit the royal treasury to view the Danish crown jewels. I don’t think I’d actually ever been to see the crowns of any country I’d been to, so I was suitably impressed by their jewel-encrusted finery (I also mused that they would likely be awfully heavy, having worn my share of heavy dent-in-head-making headdresses that aren’t even real!).

From the castle, we meandered our way in the general direction of the Rundetårn (Round Tower), a 17th century tower originally built as an astronomical observatory. It has an interesting design in that to get to the top, one must walk up a 7.5-turn helical corridor. I noted as we trucked our way to the top that it would be great for Tina (super wheel-chair accessible, except for the very last bit which has stairs), though with a fairly steep grade (ranging from 10% to 33%). The view of the city was great, though somewhat obscured by the bars–which were understandable given the high number of families and children that visit. After trekking back down, I wanted to visit a renowned cake shop, Conditori La Glace, for some of their famed hot chocolate. D, however, was looking somewhat subdued, and I learned that his stomach wasn’t feeling so hot (perhaps due to the excessive amount of rich food consumed and/or the speed at which it was consumed), so we opted to head back to the hotel to rest up before dinner.

A nice little nap seemed to do the trick, and we were soon off for dinner at Pate Pate in the Kongens Enghave area of Copenhagen. We bussed to the train station and walked the rest of the way, passing what looked to be industrial warehouses and meat-packing plants (indeed, the restaurant is on “Slagterboderne” Street, which I believe translates into “butcher stalls”). The restaurant itself, as one might glean from the name, is housed in a former paté factory. It was a great space–definitely had an industrial chic aesthetic–and vast, lots of tables. There were only a few occupied when we got there, but the waiters assured us they’d be a full house. There didn’t seem to be many (if any) two-person tables; most were four person or larger. Each table had one or two reservation cards with the name and reservation time listed. Thankfully, we’d only have to share our table about 1.5 hours into our meal.

We perused the menu and opted to order a bottle of bubbles (Cava), which was fairly reasonable for a bottle of anything in a restaurant (even by North American standards). At the recommendation of the waiter, D boldly went with an appetizer of grilled veal heart in browned butter and parmesan; whereas, unsurprisingly, I was lured in by the cheese plate, with a selection of four Danish and French cheeses (münster, brie, blue and a cow’s milk cheese). I was in love with my cheese plate–really great cheese–that came with this fantastic sweet rye bread with apricot and nuts in it. D took awhile to come to a consensus on his veal heart. In the end, he wasn’t in love with it, though he was happy to have ordered it. After the intestine sausage debacle on our honeymoon, we decided that no trip was truly a success unless D had been adventurous enough to try something and found he didn’t really like it. All was well once we got to our main courses: D went with roast Hampshire pork with Jerusalem artichoke, wild garlic leaf and salted beets, and I with veal liver with tomatoes, garlic, coriander and vinegar. I’ve always been a huge fan of poultry liver but I wasn’t sure if that would necessarily translate into a love of all liver. Thankfully, this was the case–the dish was delicious. The richness of the liver (which wasn’t as strong as I was worried it might be) was nicely undercut by the tomatoes. D was similarly having a great time with his pork, which was deliciously tender, that paired wonderfully with the sweetness of the beets. We discovered that Hampshire pork is a breed of pork (not the location the pig came from, as in fact it came from Sweden). D said that this pork was almost as good as the pata negra type of pork he’d had in Paris (which he’d declared was the best restaurant meal he’d ever had). High praise indeed! Full to the brim with deliciousness, we lingered for a time, warm from the wine and company. As predicted, the restaurant was full up, but there was something almost soothing about the din of lively conversations.

We headed out and went off in search of a little café/bar I’d read about called Dyrehavn, which was only a few blocks down the street, for a nightcap. It was bustling when we walked in, but I managed to snag a seat next to the bar. The place was cute and really reminded D of Portland–the crowd and the general aesthetic of the place could have easily been transplanted into Portland with nary a strange look. He ordered a beer of unknown origin, having picked it because many other people in the bar seemed to be drinking it (and thought, when in Copehagen!) and got a rosé for me. In the end, my wine was not really very palatable–kind of a cough syrupy flavour. D’s beer was also not spectacular, kind of a PBResque type beer. But we were happy to experience this very non-tourist-trafficked pub that seemed to be a great neighbourhood hang-out. We finished our drink and headed back to the hotel, full and satisfied.

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