Tag Archives: scandinavian cuisine

malmö, sweden

Sweden for Christmas! Malmo is located just over the Oresund bridge north of Copenhagen, meaning I could cross off another European country off of my list with just a twenty minute train ride from home.

Josie and I had wanted to do a weekend trip to Paris or Norway to go snowboarding before heading back to the Bay Area for Christmas, but a couple of planning constraints (i.e. the plague) kept us closer to home. We had rented out our Stevnsgade apartment on Air BnB for the night, so in turn, we rented out a room in Malmö. Just adding to our Air BnB reviews.

A wee bit ghetto

Josie had been to Sweden three times previously, and had mentioned that Malmö just felt different from Copenhagen. As soon as we got off the train at the Trianglen train station, I could agree- the architecture layout were all the same, but it was eerily quiet; no kids, no massive hordes of bicyclists, no conversations anywhere.

We then found the street our apartment was on, just a few blocks from the Trianglen station. At home, the Norrebro area we live in is commonly regarded as the ghetto part of Copenhagen. It’s considered trendy and ‘up-and coming’ at the same time, which is interesting, but for many it’s not a preferred area to live. (I like it.) The street that runs through our beloved Norrebro is Norrebrogade, nicknamed ‘Shwarma Lane,’ and would probably be an equivalent to the street we were going to be staying on for the night. But rather than trendy clothing boutiques and bars scattered with kebab places and bike outlets in between, this street had lots of very temporary-looking stores all selling odd items of no cohesive theme. This is what I’m pretty sure I consider ghetto. So far, I haven’t come across a street in Copenhagen quite like it.

The American Store

Exactly as it sounds. Stocked with almost everything I missed, but for obscene prices- smoked chipotle Tabasco sauce ($12), all different flavors of Doritos ($5), CANNED PUMPKIN ($10, we would have gone bankrupt over this during Thanksgiving), Ocean Spray cranberry sauce in cans ($8), and an entire aisle of steak sauces and barbeque marinades. Oh, and giant posters of Justin Bieber.

Fortunately I’m on the way back to the States as I write this and have already anticipated taking back an extra suitcase for hot sauces, but if you ever need your fix, this would be the place.

Design store

I now know the difference between cheap Swedish design and expensive Danish design, but all of it falls under the umbrella of pricy Scandinavian design anyway. We found a gift store filled with all these great design ideas transformed into products, like a scoop collander (no more holding the heavy bowl over the sink!), wire birds that attach to hanging lights, carafes with cooling rods, pasta servers with a cheese grater built into it.

Moderna Museet

The museum of modern art in Malmo was located in an old converted drill hall, pretty well hidden off of the main street, but was pretty obviously an eccentric art destination once we found it. The exhibit this weekend was on surrealism, including works that attempted to ‘disturb viewers and shift their perceptions of what was considered reality.’ One that stood out was a piece by Salvador Dali, titled The Enigma of William Tell. I’d never seen an original Dali before. It was done in 1933, and portrays William Tell with the face of  Lenin. I tried to eavesdrop on the docents leading tours, but they were all in Swedish. All I remember was that of all the pieces in the surrealist exhibit, this one was the most thought-provoking in a way that made the most sense. I’m probably not at liberty to comment at all on art like this but most of the other things we saw were just strange.

All in all, not sure how I feel about modern art, but I do really like the concept of composite photography/ photomontages.

Brooklyn style cheesecake in Sweden?

I had no idea Swedish were so into their cheesecake until we got there and saw it advertised on the A-frame outside each and every café. We stopped in a cozy one, ordered two slices of cheesecake and a hot chocolate, and sat in a couple of squashy armchairs upstairs enjoy it. So, so so good. Josie had been feeling a little under the weather and literally passed out in her chair afterwards, but when she woke up, it was SNOWING! Immediate happiness.

Big Fat Swedish Movie Theater- Biograf Royal

We paid forty bucks to see Twilight. No shame. Downside- unlike in Germany, they did not sell beer at the movie theater. Actually, they don’t really sell beer at all in Sweden… fair warning. It explains the Swedish teenagers taking the train into Copenhagen all the time to buy alcohol just to bring it back.

And the Twilight movie was NOT that bad!! Relatively speaking. There’s horrible dialogue and still a questionable plotline, but the cast is easy to look at and the last 30 minutes make up for all of its shortcomings.

Jule brunch with Josie @ Restaurang Smak

Before catching the train back to Copenhagen, we decided to search out a place for brunch. Maybe I never noticed it in the States, but in Scandinavia, weekend brunch is definitely the experience to be had.

Smak café/restaurant was located in one of the back rooms of a concert hall. Brunch came with a larger entrée, salad, coffee, and tea. We ordered two dishes- one very Spanish-inspired potato pancake with olive tapenade and arugula (basically a fancy version of traditional tortillas españolas– my host mom in Granada made these all the time!) and a traditional Swedish minced meat pie with lingonberries and mashed potatoes. The Swedish dish was familiar, mostly because it’s a better version of comfort food served at IKEA. It was essentially a giant Swedish meatball served up.

The salad bar was MMM good. There was a garbanzo bean salad, a slaw made from fennel root and lingonberries, sliced cauliflowers in an herb dressing, among others. I didn’t try much of it, though, because I was too busy being fixated on the rugbrod and giant loaves of sourdough with balsamic and olive oil.

The restaurant had a great DIY tea selection, with a spread of jars with different teas in them and filters to steep them to the strength you want. I just scooped a bunch of maté into mine and dropped in a giant mug all together, but Josie did it the correct and civilized way with a toothpick through the handle so the tea wouldn’t be steeping with the whole bag. Working at the CoHo made me really rough with my beverages. Sometimes I forget that there’s a proper way to eat things, tea in particular…

This meal was wonderful. I really, really love the holidays. I’ve never been so conscious of how I was spending them, and who I was spending them with. Now that everything is out of sync, without being in school with a simple annual routine, I’m feeling a little pressure to start making my own traditions, and surround myself with just the people I know I want to spend it with. Happily, it’s been easy so far.

merry christmas!!

LC

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Filed under Restaurants, Sweden, Travel

manfreds & vin: part II of scandinavian restaurant crash course

I came across Manfreds while rolling around Copenhagen with a hangover one morning with Josie looking for food.

I generally don’t like paying to eat breakfast at a restaurant, since it’s my favorite meal of the day, and I usually really enjoy making it myself. I basically live off of fried eggs, bacon, and different varieties of cheese, and don’t know who I am without my dad’s hash browns. Everyone I’ve ever lived with has pretty much perfected the art (rewind to the morning of my 22nd birthday earlier this year, when I was awoken by scrambled eggs, pancakes, fruit, and an Irish coffee) so I’ve never had much motivation to leave the house and pay for IHOP.

But every once in a while, a crisis occurs when I’m too tired to know how to feed myself and so, on this Copen-heinous Saturday afternoon after staying out too late, we decided to try Manfreds, a much talked-about restaurant, take-away, and biodynamic wine bar, which was just a 3-4 minute bike ride from our apartment.

We walked in around 12:30, getting the last two covers for brunch before the kitchen switched gears for lunch. We both ordered a heaping plate of sausages, fried eggs, bacon, and bread with a glass of freshly squeezed blood orange juice for about 119 DKK (~$20 USD). It definitely did not disappoint. It was obvious the kitchen used quality ingredients, the yolk in the eggs was runny and perfect, the bread was sourdough-y and very reminiscent of San Francisco, and (AND!) it came with bacon.

However, had we not gotten chef’s counter seating for this particular meal, and had our friend David not met us halfway through to order lunch, this experience may have been completely different. We ended up staying at Manfred’s for approximately three hours drooling over what those boys were doing in the kitchen while David let us eat his food. Watching the chefs cook was probably the most fun I’ve ever had watching food being made that was not ultimately for me to eat… a perfect definition, we realized later, of ‘foodporn.’

So, when I overheard our waiter talking to the couple next to us about how the majority of the chefs working at Noma and all associated kitchens were student volunteers, I immediately asked how I could get involved. Which is how I ended up with a position as a stagiaire. And now, I’m pretty sure Manfreds is my favorite restaurant in Copenhagen.

Manfreds, the sister restaurant of Relæ which I covered in an earlier post, combines all the quality with just enough class to create a very awesomely non-prissy atmosphere that guests love. Oliver Strand at the New York Times sums it up in a recent review much better than I can expect to:

“If Noma transforms Nordic food into high art, and if Relae renders it accessible to a wider audience, then Manfreds & Vin turns it into a party.”

It’s remarkable to me how they pull it off. At Relæ there was a consistently high level of stress to deliver food to Michelin standards. But at Manfreds, as the sous chef told me, it’s extremely important that the kitchen can relax because it carries over quickly to the guests- the staff should enjoy the experience just as much as they are.

Anyway, the menu format for all this goodness is a choice between a larger ‘daily special’ or a rapid succession of smaller courses for the table to share (like Chinese! But smaller). Ever get a dish that is presented in a way that makes you afraid to touch it and want to take pictures of it instead? This food is the opposite. It’s plated in a way that invites you to dig into it, basically ‘food on a bed of other food,’ with added treats hidden at the bottom of many of the small plates- creamy goat cheese under yellow beets, walnut emulsion under blanched broccoli, or mustard with egg cream under the tartare. The dishes change every day, based on what the kitchen has and what the chefs feel like experimenting with.

On this particular week the dish of the day was a pork leg with beans, cress, turnips, and sauce. It sounds simple… but it’s not.

Meanwhile… the set menu consisted of 8 different dishes or so, meant to be shared for 245 DKK per person (~$42 USD):

We prepared: lamp carpaccio with radicchio and onion with toasted buckwheat, poached eggs with brown butter potatoes, crispy breadcrumbs, truffle sauce, and chives, beef tartar with watercress (as the chef asserted, “It’s in between veal and actual beef, its ADOLESCENT COW!!!”), goat cheese and yellow beets with vinaigrette, creamy walnut emulsion with blanched broccoli, chicken hearts with grilled radicchio and onion again, smoked veal bone marrow (there are no words that can describe how good this smells) baked carrots with seaweed sauce, baked carrots with wood sorrel and sorrel puree, turnips in butter with olive sauce, pork legs with a ‘broken sauce’ of mustard and sherry with another ambiguous tasty brown sauce, beet tartare with smoked goat cheese, chives, and crispy bread.

(I will also take this opportunity to say that smoked chicken hearts are delicious and I ate every single one that got sent back. My cholesterol levels will soon kill me.)

So clearly, the place has a lot going for them in terms of what comes out of their kitchen. Like Relæ, everything is tasty, but also challenging (just like every beer on tap at Mikkeller); the chefs don’t want to serve you food that you’re used to. However, what I thought was really valuable about my experience at Manfreds was understanding how the staff worked to impart the feeling of hyggeligt-ness. It took working there for a few days to figure it out, but now, I have an idea what makes this restaurant feel different from many restaurants in the States.

A favorite TV show of mine, Louie, has been called a DIY comedy, in reference to the fact that its star, Louis C.K., is not only its lead character but also its director, producer, writer, and editor. And it’s a great show. It seems a little slow at first, but definitely grew on me over the years. It’s now one of the only shows I can watch without getting up to clean something or sleep. Louie is the opposite of the typical television sitcom- he just wants to provide, with much comedic effect, a simple look into his own life. It’s organic and unrefined.

It’s interesting how a show that is so raw and handcrafted can carry such an appeal. I think viewers appreciate that Louis C.K. contributes to every facet of the show’s production, rather than delegating tasks to a wide base of employees. Because of this, the experience is so much more personal.

A similar effect can be found in an experience dining out. While I’ve recognized this sort of individuality and warmth in family owned restaurants and other small businesses alike, I can now attribute that feeling to the style of operations on the inside.

At Manfreds, the chefs bring out the food (and present it lovingly as if to say ‘hey, I made this just for you’). Both the sous chefs and the underlings scrub the floor, scrape down the grill, and polish the stainless steel countertops. There’s no hostess working for minimum wage and tips at the front- instead, everyone makes sure that anyone walking through the door feels welcome. It’s reflective of Danish socialism; individual responsibilities here don’t really fall into compartments, they’re committed to helping each other out and want to help the system work as a whole. And, if anyone is faced with the slightest difficulty, everyone will help to pick up the slack, for example:

“Fuck! I need to make soup but I don’t have a bowl.”
“Come on Kris, just put all your vegetables in a bag, vacuum seal it, put it in at 68 degrees for half an hour and then thermal blend it, duh.”
“Yeah Kris what were you thinking??”

(I mean, that’s exactly what I would have suggested.)

They’re like a new breed of problem solvers. And since each of them sees every dish pretty much from when its ingredients arrive in crates to the dishes being put through the dish pit (hence the 16 hour days), it makes Manfreds about as DIY as a restaurant can get.

So… dinner anyone? Flights are less than $800 round trip from SFO right now. Seriously.

Manfreds & Vin
JÆGERSBORGGADE 40
2200 COPENHAGEN N
+ 45 3696 6593

Tips on visiting Manfreds:

  • Learn to share. There’s enough to go around.
  • The wines are not very expensive, but they are extremely rare- each bottle is natural, meaning no sulfites. Have at least a few glasses.
  • Order the tartare, as ‘it is an institution of Manfreds!!’ Check the NY Times review above for a up close and personal picture.
  • Manfreds is a total boy’s club. Like two girls work here. Enjoy the leather aprons.
  • Pay attention to the herbs- the biggest flavor is sometimes in the smallest things.
  • Also, their disco wine cave is an inspirational vision so do make sure to check it out. It makes me dream about building my own with, like, a shark tank in it, or something.

I plan on eating here as soon as my bank account isn’t in the negatives.

vi ses senere,

LC

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Filed under Cooking, Copenhagen, Restaurants, Travel