We have had a few really lovely culinary experiences in the last few weeks, making the most of Denmark’s thriving food scene.
A few weekends ago we went to Stedsans ØsterGRO, which as per their website is ‘a restaurant placed in the greenhouse of Scandinavia’s first rooftop farm’. Of course Copenhagen has a rooftop community garden, and of course it is home to a very new Nordic seasonal restaurant.
The produce from the garden is actually all promised to the local co-op members, so the restaurant gets its produce from elsewhere. The food they serve still feels like it could conceivably have come from the garden, so you can maintain the illusion of an inner-city farm-to-table operation. I think my absolute favourite moment was when the host achieved peak Danishness while introducing the main course of roast pork – ‘it was a really very happy, very well looked after pig, that had a nice life right up to the moment when someone walked up behind it with a bolt gun and ended it’s life and then we cooked it… but you know, before then it was very happy…’. The Danes seem to like dropping the harsh facts of life, even at the dinner table.
Another interesting element is the focus on co-operating with your neighbours around the communal table to create a friendly atmosphere. Only in Scandinavia could being friendly be touted as a ‘radical social experiment’, but no complaints – we had such a ‘hygge’ dinner chatting with some very lovely Danes and Swedes.
Stepping it up a notch, this week we have Ant’s folks visiting, so we really pushed the boat out and went to Geranium. Noma gets all the fame, but Geranium actually has more Michelin stars – even more surprising given its incongruous location in the football stadium that is home to København F.C. Looking down on people running around the athletic track gave things a nice olympic touch. Like Noma, I couldn’t bring myself to take many photos, but we did get a running list of the dishes so here goes:
- Lobster, milk, fermented carrot juice & sea buckthorn – a suitably obscure mix of tastes to start with, given I’m pretty sure no-one outside of Scandinavia is downing sea buckthorn on the regular (for reference, it has a really intense citrus flavour).
- Jerusalem artichoke leaves, walnut oil & rye vinegar – the first of many dishes with very showy presentation – these were perfect looking wafer-thin ‘autumn leaves’ made of dried artichoke paste to dip in a very punchy vinegar mayo… basically the thinnest substrate that you could conceivably use to eat lots of delicious mayo.
- Tomato water, ham fat & aromatic herbs – imagine the taste of the juicy part of a ham, cheese and tomato jaffle… this was the fancy broth version of that. It was both amazingly delicious, and uncannily reminiscent of a jaffle.
- Charred potato in aroma from bark & sheep’s butter – a little blackened potato that was somehow not at all burnt tasting. It came on a spoon nestled into some nice buttery substance. The Danes and right to be very proud of their potatoes.
- ‘Dillstone’ mackerel, horseradish, frozen juice from pickled dill – this was a perfect little glossy ‘stone’ that looked like it was straight from a river, except it was bright grass green and secretly filled with tasty mackerel (Anna – you would have loved the ratio of dill to other ingredients).
- ‘Razor clam’ with minerals & sour cream – another trick dish, this time a pretty realistic fake/edible ‘razor clam’ shell filled with something nice and creamy (I assume actual razor clam?). You could just chomp into the whole thing, shell and all, and pretend you were a brown bear or something.
- Celeriac, scallop & dried trout – the dried trout was a little thin tart shell filled with a very bright pink fluffy crystalline substance kind of like fairy floss crossed with fish food. It could not have tasted any more like fish. I think I just made it sound horrible, but it wasn’t! The celeriac and scallop was a nice subtle partner to the wispy dry fish powder – it was a broth with thin ribbons of celeriac and scallop. Our time in Denmark is really making us appreciate celeriac.
- Salted hake, parsley stems & finnish caviar in buttermilk – this looked insane. The fish was served as a thin disc (like a coaster) on a marble plate, and something about the greyish flesh with ribbons of black skin through it made the fish itself look just like marble, and thus exactly like the plate it was on. Then, once you had finished marvelling at how much it looked exactly like marble, they tipped a whole pile of green sauce on top of it with tiny little black caviar balls in it. The other strange thing about this dish was I think the fish had the scales left on it, or put in it? The texture was weirdly scaly but surprisingly good in a way that made us question why we don’t usually eat the scales…
- Crispy grains, bread with old grains & gluten free bread with seeds – this was a little crispy cheesy wafer shaped like a head of wheat, and then two kinds of bread with whipped butter. They have managed to make a gluten free bread that is so delicious that we were all eating it in preference to the regular gluten-riddled option – a minor miracle.
- Creamy vegetables with oyster, peas & pickled elderflowers – a nice little soupy broth with fresh peas and an oyster floating around in it.
- Wild herbs, leek, smoked pork fat & melted ‘Vesterhavs’ cheese – the main thing I remember about this dish was the pile of 25 different fresh herbs, leaves and flowers on top. The cheesy soup sauce was also very good.
- King crab & beach crab, cabbage sprouts and söl – perfect balls of crab meat, wrapped in a skin of cabbage with some söl leaves (some kind of green herb) poking out the sides. Very dainty.
- Grilled and salted pork on the ‘bone’, pickled pine and blackcurrant leaves – the most meaty thing we were served. The real high point was the tiny drop of intense pickled pine. Yet again, much like at 108, I find myself wishing more things were pine flavoured…
- ‘A taste of summer’ beetroot, rhubarb, yoghurt & tagetes – a crispy beetroot shell with the rhubarbiest cream filling. So pretty and so tasty.
- Icecream from beeswax, pollen & honey with blackberries – the blackberries were served in a little bowl with very sweet honey and rosehip liquid, but they were totally upstaged by the beeswax icecream. Not totally sure I want to know how the beeswax was incorporated… if anything, the mystery added to the interesting flavour.
- Wood sorrel and woodruff – this was so ridiculously fiddly that I snuck a photo, otherwise it would be too hard to do it justice with words. The tree is made of prunes, and it sits in front of a four leaf clover made of frozen wood sorrel juice and a base of thick wood ruff cream. It was supposed to represent the trees in Fælledparken that the restaurant overlooks.
- Saltlakrids – this was a strange memento mori kind of dish – a chocolate skull filled with salt liquorice cream, like a very fancy and macabre flodeboller
- Caramel / Cake with pumpkin seed oil / Chocolate with oats and sea buckthorn – all very good little lolly cake things, very nearly the straws that broke the camels back but we managed to leave unscathed
- Green egg with pine – yesss, more pine to finish things. A little green easter egg filled with very runny piney chocolate filling. Came with a very serious warning about not dripping the filling onto your best dinner outfits.
- Red currant – subtle, healthful, full of ribs.
- Sea buckthorn – like punchy orange juice, I read somewhere it has a kind of omega I didn’t even know existed, like omega 16 or 34 or something.
- Green apple & elderflower – this was the perfect fresh apple juice. I could have drunk a vat of it, though probably would have regretted it.
- Goosberries, sunflower seeds & tarragon – has a milky, nutty texture like Korean Makgeolli.
- Elderberries & toasted birch wood – some nice white berry juice – don’t recall the toasted wood though?
- Raspberries, honey & hiprose – ugh, another one I would have liked to have a vat-load of. Also looked exactly like red wine, so points for novelty.
- Green sorrel – my old friend wood sorrel, always welcome in my glass. As always, tasted like freshly mown grass.
Aaaand it’s finally over. We were in the restaurant for such a ridiculously long time – over 6 hours all up. It was like a marathon, but if marathons were actually enjoyable. Like Noma, it’s best to not check your bank statement for a looong while afterwards (if ever), so this is definitely our last culinary extravaganza for a while. We try and justify it to ourselves by saying we are really just channeling all the money we used to spend on brunches in Sydney into these kind of experiences…
Lest you think we are living the life of a bon vivant non-stop all the time, here are some photos of the less high-end Dansk produce we have been experimenting with at home lately (I say we, I really mean Ant…):
Delicious tiny green historical plum variety – looks like a midget apple or green cherry but secretly a plum.
Minced up ham and mayo, what can go wrong? (Answer: a lot, and this is coming from someone who loves mayo and has been gifted a whole ham for Christmas two years running).
I really saved the best for last. Sky aka classic Danish meat jelly aka aspic (in writing this I finally learned what aspic is). Apparently the classic way to eat sky is as follows:
Dyrlægens natmad – (Veterinarian’s late night snack – a very dark name that never fails to make me think of Mr.Chinnery). Dark rye bread (rugbrød), liver paté (leverpostej), salted beef (saltkød) and a slice of meat jelly (sky).
I’m yet to brave it but Ant assures me it’s very nice…