Copenhagen – markets, smorrebrod and street food
I have been waiting with anticipation to visit Copenhagen, it being a food city and home to the famed Noma. Since we are on a cruise this time I did not expect an in depth experience as we had on a recent stay in Italy, but I planned my day so I can at least check out some of the food scene and get a sense of what the city is about. I was ready to leave the ship as soon as it docked in the beautiful harbour and with no taxis available, walked into town along the water and inland where hundreds of people were making their way to work on bicycles.
As is the case when we travel, I first head to the food markets where one can feel the beat of the city’s heart, watch its residents enjoying their morning coffee ritual and see what’s available at the produce stalls, from the fish vendors and at the lunch counters.
We headed first to the upscale Torvehallerne Market in the north part of the city near Norreport Station. The market is set in two low lying glass and steel buildings separated by an open air produce market. It is home to 60+ vendors selling anything from chocolate to coffee to herbs, flowers, fish, meat and cheese, not to mention the lunch counters offering delicious looking foods, smoothies and baked goods.
We arrived early and most of the vendors were just setting up so we settled with coffee at the popular Coffee Collective where they roast the coffee bean varieties individually to optimize their unique qualities. Roasting is done daily so the coffee is very fresh, aromatic and flavourful. The name “collective” comes from the fact that the ownership is collective among four coffee specialists including a green bean buyer, a barista trainer, a champion roast master and a coffee loving architect who also happens to be a barista.
It was early and not too busy when we arrived so the friendly staff was most engaging and helpful, answering our questions and making suggestions.
I was looking around at the other people sitting outside at the communal tables with their coffee and noticed that many were drinking their coffee with a toasted bread topped with cheese. I went to investigate and it turns out that this is a local tradition of Danish style breakfast. The bakery next door was offering a variety of these sandwiches and of course we asked a few questions and settled on a mixed grain bun sliced in half, toasted, buttered and topped with light yellow Danish havarti cheese. This came after consuming a croissant. Still it was delish. It is interesting to compare breakfast cultures. In Spain they have toasted bread with fresh tomato rubbed over it, in Israel, toast with “gvina levana”, similar to soft cream cheese. In our countries it peanut butter and jam.
We walked around the shops and stands in awe of what we were seeing. Gorgeous produce, beautifully shapes loaves of breads and buns, sweet and flaky Danishes (of course) and a shelves of mouth watering soft and semi hard cheeses. Why didn’t I have a kitchen? I could have done so much with all of this.
The herb and flower shop displayed fresh potted herbs (above), one of which was unfamiliar. It looked like a mini red clover and the vendor invited me to taste it. I picked a few little leaves and they had a strong lemon flavour. Sure enough I saw them later used as a garnish on a smoked salmon and cucumber open face sandwich.
I was looking forward to trying these famous sandwiches called SMØRREBRØD and one of the sandwich shops offered and variety of them that were almost too beautiful to eat. Rye bread base was buttered and topped with different fillings, artfully decorated with complimentary pickles, capers, vegetables and whatnot. My head was spinning. I went to the back to ask the ladies who were making the sandwiches about them and they were so proud of their craft and happy to show me how they do it and talk about it. Just beautiful.
I could have stayed there all day but we had some other things on the list so we left and walked through the main shopping street, STRØGET, to City Hall Square where we were meeting our travelling partners. As you can imagine , when I walk through a shopping street I don’t end up without supporting the local economy so I did my best to keep the Danish economy going for a while. It was fun. My husband was carrying the bags.
We were scheduled to do a walking tour with a local company but unfortunately it was not successful. The guide was trying to be funny and spent so much time in a stand up comedy routine (just give me facts and history please) that my sister in law and I could not take it much longer and after a couple of stops left the group (and our husbands) and proceeded on our own.
Our exploring was very successful and at the end I talked her (easily) into an excursion to yet another foodie destination featuring street food. The only problem was that our ship was sailing soon and we needed to be back on board or they say, they would have left without us (Imagine that).
We barely had enough time but she was a good sport for a non-foodie and we fast-walked across two beautiful foot (and bike) bridges, turned left and walked the rest of the way to PAPIRØEN on a namesake island along the canal. PAPIRØEN in its previous life was a storage warehouse for paper used by local print media but has since been converted into a food destination set on one level housing many food and drink stalls that unfortunately I had no time to explore in depth. Inside the warehouse is pretty dark and people mostly settle outside. The outdoor area was packed with picnic tables jammed with people enjoying what I guess is local street food. We had no time for a leisurely stroll so we went in, chose a couple of dishes of roasted vegetables with herbs scooped form a beautiful large skillet and while my sister-in-law was waiting for the order to be served (they were in no hurry) I ran around and took a couple of pictures inside, but it was pretty dark there. Outside we settled at a picnic table with a few locals and asked what the fastest way to get back to the cruise terminal. There were no shortcuts and the incredibly generous and kind Danish offered to take us back themselves, but we felt we could still make it if we walk fast and grab a cab on the other side of the bridge so we gratefully declined, not wanting to bother them. How nice is that?
We finished our street food in a hurry and rushed back across the bridge bypassing freshly squeezed juice stalls that looked so good I was almost ready to miss the ship and catch up at the next destination to experience this some more. But, no, reason prevailed and we made it back to the ship and boarded a few minutes before it sounded the horn and sailed into the blue horizon. It was fun.
So Noma was not in the cards for this trip but I added Copenhagen to my must get to know destinations and plan to come back here for a month or so next time we are in Europe. I definitely felt a connection here.
Some of the places on my list that I didn’t get to but you may want to explore:
- Kunst Og KØKKENTØJ – a kitchen shop that is a must for foodies
- RADIO – a restaurant opened by Noma’s co-founder Claus Meyer and two other chefs, located in the Forum district in the old radio hall.
- AMASS – a restaurant where locals go for high end food.
- ØL & BRØD – a must for open faced rye SMØRREBRØD
- DØP or Harry’s Place for Danish hot dogs – not that I eat hot dogs but I wanted to see this popular traditional hot dog stand.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE BALTIC DESTINATIONS.