In the minds of many, Denmark (and Scandinavia in general) isn’t a region that rings a foodie bell...yet. With more restaurants than ever before featuring organic cuisine (“green is the new black,” as the Danes are saying) and Copenhagen's new total of 14 Michelin-stars (more than any other Scandinavian city), Denmark is poised to become one of the world’s newest culinary capitals. At a recent lunch sponsored by Visit Denmark, the country’s tourism board, I was acquainted with many of the emerging trends in Denmark’s dining scene.
The lunch started off with a delicious Copenhagen cocktail that has recently become the country’s “signature drink.” I count myself as more of a vodka drinker, but the mix of gin and Heering cherry liqueur (the only spirit made in Copenhagen) was so divine that I served it at my own holiday party the following week.
I was also introduced to smushi (pictured) – the Danes’ own version of sushi consisting of small pieces of raw fish placed on a slice of bread instead of rice. The dish (and it’s quirky name) is a fusion of Japanese-style sushi and smorrebrod (smorrebrod + sushi = smushi), a staple of traditional cuisine in Denmark that consists of an open-faced piece of rye or wheat bread with a topping (usually seafood like salmon or shrimp, or meat such as roast beef, sausage, or chicken) and sometimes topped with dill sauce. Along with the smushi, I sampled shrimp-topped smorrebrod, followed by another with lightly fried flounder and, lastly, chicken salad. All were delicious combinations of fresh toppings and hearty, healthy bread.
While meatballs and smorrebrod remain the national mealtime mainstays, smushi is gaining in popularity as a favorite quick bite. It’s even better when washed down with Aquavit (it's like a strong cognac) or a swig of Danish beer. Speaking of beer, be on the look out for micro-breweries, the latest rage in Denmark’s noteworthy beer scene.
If you can’t catch the next flight to Denmark, throw a Danish-themed dinner party and bring the country’s flavors home. To really wow your guests with cultural bravado, pick up some Royal Copenhagen china. At my luncheon, we dined on the famous porcelain firm's newer dishware designs – contemporary reinterpretations of the traditional, classic patterns that reminded me of my grandmother’s china, but with a modern flair.
I love all of Scandinavia, and Copenhagen is the perfect, medium-sized cosmopolitan city with a charming center, bike loving culture, modern design scene, fresh new culinary heights, and, most importantly, an incredibly friendly population. When you do visit, consider combining a trip with neighboring Sweden or Norway (the fjords!) as connecting between the three countries is easy.