By Brad Benson
The more I travel, the more I find that I connect with local cultures most via food. Through local cuisine, not only do you get to inherently sample local delicacies, but the preparation and presentation of each dish really showcase the history, priorities, and pride of its people. It’s dining as an experience, as opposed to the sustenance-based view we so often have in our normal, day-to-day lives at home.
During my most recent trip to Stockholm & Copenhagen, I sampled a wide array of Scandinavian cuisine; especially in Denmark –one of the preeminent food capitals of the world- innovative and diverse meals were the front & center. Here are my top three foodie experiences from each spot!
Walking around Gamla Stan (old town) reminded me a lot of doing the same in similar, chaotic, and beautiful old towns like Prague and Venice. I had read about and performed a fly-by of a number of restaurants but nothing jumped-out; my nose eventually led me here and the Restaurant just so happened to have a place for one. I settled-in and enjoyed beets with seared goat cheese, honey, pecans, & fresh bread, followed by traditional Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes, gravy, & lingonberries. Everything was delicious, the atmosphere was charming, and the service professional yet friendly!
Seafood factors high in Scandinavian cuisine, and one can’t visit Stockholm without hearing about this place before ever stepping off of the plane. I started-off with four fresh oysters (along with some amazingly fresh dill weed), and enjoyed a seafood boil as my main, consisting of steamed cod, shrimp, freshly-grated horseradish, and salted potatoes. The seafood was fresh and light, and the mix of flavors balanced and complementary!
Thai food is my favorite cuisine, and though I was in Sweden, sometimes it is interesting to sample imported fare to note any differences compared to those restaurants at home. For my main, I went with my Thai staple: chicken basil with rice; however, the salad that preceded it was surprisingly the spicier of the two dishes! This is a kitschy restaurant with lots of lights and decorations, but all combine for a pleasantly unique experience –especially during the light & sound simulated thunderstorm in the dining room!
Bonus: Beer al fresco
It’s always good to permit yourself some downtime throughout your travels to catch-up on some reading, write in your travel journal, or just sit and soak-up your surroundings. Picture this: a local beer at a small bistro table along a cobblestoned street, as you people watch via the public fountain and square across the street. My kind of afternoon!
Copenhagen Street Food
One of the absolute best places to visit while abroad (or, anytime) is a food hall; the variety, sampling, and showmanship is unsurpassed! This one in Copenhagen is no exception: a hugely popular spot with tons of options and a large, outdoor area along the canal to enjoy the sun. I settled on a traditional Danish Smørrebrød (fundamentally, an open-faced rye bread sandwich) with smoked salmon, soft cheese, bacon, and greens.
This was my splurge meal: a three-course tasting menu with wine pairing for slightly over $100. But not only that, the Restaurant throws in three unlisted courses as a bonus! My meal consisted of a crémant de Bourgogne spritzer, (bonus) scallops, homemade bread and butter, baked hake (fish) with horseradish/radish/smoked cheese, pork neck with asparagus/peas/lettuce/mushrooms/pork rinds, (bonus) white asparagus soup with roe, juniper ice cream with rhubarb/cake/schnapps, and (bonus) mousse/licorice dessert. This meal was far more than sustenance, but a whole night experience!
This is another restaurant that I came across randomly. I had arrived in Copenhagen during early evening, but by the time I had settled in and ventured out into the City a lot of the spots that I had researched were already closed. I wandered around for close to an hour thenI came across this Restaurant housed in a former church. The starter green salad with Danish cheese “Gammel Knas’” was delicious, and braised veal breast, bok choi, bordelaise, and pearl barley was perfectly balanced and portioned! And the atmosphere in the old church was unique and inviting!
Bonus: Street Hotdog
Travelers should always allow local, cheap street food as an option. Hotdogs are big in Scandinavia, and I partook a number of times for convenience –not to mention an ability to balance-out the cost of a more expensive dinner.
Bon appetit, travelers!
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