Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Copenheaven

Sorry for the hiatus yesterday, it was (yet) another wonderful bank holiday in the UK (same as the US), so we got the day off. I spent it shopping and meeting up with Specs, Sweets, and Spaz. But I'll get to that some other entry. For now enjoy a double posting to make up for the absence.

tSH

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This is what we ended up calling the city, after walking around it for about 20 minutes. Once again similar to Oslo, it was hard not to compare it to Helsinki.

It was like Helsinki and Oslo had a gorgeous bastard child and it was called Copenhagen. We would later learn that it was an incredibly expensive version of these two cities (way more expensive even than Oslo, which was shocking to us, in all ways), but whatever. It was wonderful.

We also recognized that it was likely we were rating it higher because the weather was more beautiful - sunny, around +13. This was the best weather that Hong Kong P and German K had had all season. Probably for the last 8 months. I had been a little more lucky - I'd had Thailand, of course, and my time in California for the holidays, but also London had finally had spring arrive (though in spurts). We'd actually had a day around +18 earlier in the week. And it was wonderful. I'd finally been able to put away my socks for a day and wear flats to work. My British counterparts actually wore flipflops to work in celebration. It was hilarious. And a little overdone I'd say.


(My feet from that one warm day in London when I could wear flats to work).

But Copenhagen. It really is as beautiful as they say it is. And clean, so clean. And friendly. We actually had people smile at us on the street. Not your typical Scandinavians. Wonderful.





We ended up walking basically 3 kilometers to our brunch restaurant that first day. An unintentional walking tour of the city. Along the way we stopped into various bike rental shops, hoping to rent some bikes and make our journey a little easier. No such luck - on a beautiful day like the one we had, everyone had had the same idea (and much earlier in the day), so all bikes were out and rented. Plus we did some price conversions and dang...those bikes were not cheap. Not by a long shot. So we continued to plod our way into the central part of town (near the canal) and eventually made it to Stroget, the famous shopping street area:


Around this area is where our destination was: a (mostly) vegetarian buffet recommended by my family as well as the guidebook (and numerous others on the internet and other sources). It's a place called Riz Raz. Commended as a "budget eat" you can eat as much of everything as you like. It's a mixture of salads, cheeses, veggie sticks and dips, and even a small amount of desserts. It was pretty tasty business.



We sat outside to take advantage of the sun (which unfortunately was fading in and out of dark clouds, though no rain appeared). We stuffed ourselves with delicious food.

It's kind of funny though - for a budget eat we were still paying basically 20euros for this buffet. If that's budget we were not really sure we wanted to find out what non-budget eats looked like. It was good and everything, but 20euros? Jeebus.

Btw in case you're curious, the conversion rate is about 7 Danish kronors to the euro. So our individual bills were about 140kronors each. Yeah. We each had a drink (two apple juices and a diet Coke, each 35kronor) and that was it. No alcohol, not even more than one drink. Just a single drink.

After sitting and talking for awhile we decided to take in some shopping. There was an amazing design store right across the alley we were sitting in, so we stopped in there and once again, noticed how ridiculously expensive everything was. But Danish design really is something to stop and stare at (and purchase, should you have the money). So things were bought.

We wandered the city after that again. Hilariously we didn't make it far though. Maybe it was the temperature dropping or something else but we got as far as a teahouse and decided to stop once again for refreshment. We ended up staying until 6pm, when it closed. It was called Sing Tehus.



It was run like a more traditional Asian teahouse but put into contemporary Scandinavian settings. Kind of a confusing but strangely comforting setting. And we had the most wonderfully friendly Korean server who was happy to serve two Asian girls and a German girl who were clearly becoming one with their sofa. We literally sat there for hours and drank all of the tea he offered us, even after our original pots had long gone dry.

We had mint tea with licorice and oolong as our original teas. But soon after this, when the shop was emptier he took it upon himself to start making more original concoctions and share them with us. It was delightful. He also told us his story - he was from Southern Korea and had come to finish his second bachelor's degree (his first he'd finished in Korea, which was in industrial design). This second degree was in financial management. He had a longterm girlfriend back at home and planned to move back there relatively soon. He'd grown up both in Korea and Denmark though, hence why he could speak Korean, Danish, and pretty good English.

We left only when their shop was closing and we felt we should leave before it became impolite to linger longer. We wished him the best and left to wander the streets longer before making it to the one restaurant we were able to make reservations at from the guidebook: Salt.



We got there perfectly five minutes before our reservation.

Admittedly this restaurant wasn't our first choice - we originally wanted to eat at Geranium - a completely ridiculous restaurant that totes the awesomeness of biodynamic farming. Basically this takes a holistic approach to farming - everything is considered in the system as a whole (plants, animals, soil, etc). But get this - it gets even weirder - they plant by the astrological calendar and count on the mystic powers of things like crystals and sympathetic magic. This could include things like burying a piece of quartz in a cow horn around the plants that are to be grown and harvested. Did I also mention that everything is grown organic and in a sustainable fashion? Anyway, Hong Kong P and I were instantly fascinated and felt we needed to try this outrageous approach to food. Naturally they were completely booked, as were several other restaurants we tried from the guidebook. So, we ended up at Salt, which was still very highly rated (and was in the Zagat guide).

And it didn't disappoint. It was lovely.


For aperitif (and free with the meal), was a little jar with a potato chip or two and a mixture of nuts, beans, and some sort of thick cream (tasted a lot like really thick sour cream). Tasty and seemed pretty simple to make. A nice start to a nice meal.

Also on the table was a setting of three salt tastings. I delighted in this (as I've always enjoyed tastings of many varieties).



Each of the salts were from a different region - one from Denmark, another from France, and another from Essex (England). They were all very different from one another - my favorite was probably the one from Essex, the one from the middle. Large crispy flakes, pure white in color. Crunchy, great texture, not too hard. A slightly mineral flavor finish that lingered just a little bit on your tongue. The one from Denmark had a cleaner finish, not so strong, much more subtle (Hong Kong P and German K liked this one best). The one from France was dirtier in color and smaller in size but much more aggressive in flavor - very strong finish that lingered long after you'd had it in your mouth...almost a sulfur flavor. Fantastic if you had something strong to pair with it, like a strong dessert liqueur.

And for the main entree (we'd all decided against appetizers at this price...it was already going to be a pricey meal anyway, and Hong Kong P and I couldn't resist a glass of wine...Hong Kong P's motto in life is "Money spent is money earned."):


Baked hake with mussels and spring cabbage with a shellfish bisque sauce. As you can see from the picture they're still stuck on the whole "froth" trend that overtook the culinary scene a few years. Though not my favorite trend by any means it does allow for some incredible flavors. And this was no exception.

The fish was good, though not exceptional in any way. The mussels were wonderful as it seems all sea-bordering countries in Europe have been so far. Smooth and perfectly cooked, no grainy sacks of organs here again. Wonderful.

The best part of this dish though, and I love to admit this: the cabbage. It was literally just a quarter of cabbage that had been perfectly braised. And covered in smoked lard. I kid you not. It was more like crunchy bacon bits by the time it reached me but the braised flavor in the cabbage was to die for. Imagine the most perfectly stewed cabbage you've had in your life that's not overcooked. That slightly earthy almost aromatically bitter flavor of cabbage with the crunchy smokey flavor of well, lard. Imagine perfectly crispy (but not hard) bacon bits. Fabulous. I ate it with relish (as in delight, not pickles).

Wonderful. And paired with the sauvignon blanc that was oddly chosen for me (and which I didn't get to taste before it was poured out for me...shame on you, fake sommelier!) it was great. The wine was nice though not outstanding. It had a really mineral, almost metallic finish, but nothing to shout or complain about. I felt good about it but it wasn't amazing.

Our meal ended up being around 100euros each. Pretty ridiculous for what we got but it was a lovely and quality meal. I can only imagine how much Mr. Biodynamic Farming would have cost, but it would have been worth the experience I imagine. Sometimes things are just worth the price. I plan to try blind dining in London sometime (I've understood that exists here, as it has been shown to me in CSI...yes, I'm that dork).

Anyway, being the delightfully overworked career girls that we are, we went back to our host's house after this lovely dinner and talked into the night before calling it quits. It was a good day.

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