The Ultimate Dining List for Copenhagen

I am leaving Copenhagen this weekend and sad to be leaving Denmark.  A new adventure is underway. I am headed to Silicon Valley in California.  I am looking forward to new dining experiences and design.

This past year living in Copenhagen I’ve tried my hardest to dine around town.  If you are headed this way soon here are a few not to miss…. (in no particular order). I hope this list points you in the right direction…. there are many wonderful things to eat in Copenhagen. It is one of my favourite culinary cities.

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May this list bring you good eats in your travels- see you state side next time we speak.

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October Photos In and Around Copenhagen

A few visitors later and you really get around the city.  Here are a few of my favourite shots this month. Ahhh Copenhagen, such a beauty!

01 Lover of the sandwich in all shapes and sizes

Lamb411 Photos Around Copenhagen

02 Inside and outside cultural institutions

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03 A short castle trip outside of the city

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04 Admiring the beauty of a different time period

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05 Multiple cafe visits for cosy (hygge) moments….

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06 Interesting and unusual architecture and urban art

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07 Touring old monuments with old friends

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08 and making sure to start the day off right, Copenhagen style with some grod, muesli or Øllebrød!

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Warning: A Lot of London Food Photos

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting one of my favourite cities in the world to celebrate my sister-in law’s birthday and to visit friends.  I can’t get enough of London. Ever changing architecture, in particular some of the modern buildings in the City, is spectacular to look at and the food could keep me occupied for weeks on end.

I had 48 hours in the city and wanted to maximize my time with family and friends, which is why most of the photos below are of food.  I tend to socialize around food, eating as I converse, browsing markets and eating… I could have easily shot buildings, graffiti, or fashion but my group and I were after flavours!

I did manage one double decker bus ride from Borough Market to Notting Hill which was a blast, especially if you can score the window seats up top. It’s way easier to take the Tube to zip around London but you miss so much of the streetscape underground. If you haven’t been on a bus in London in a while- do it. I felt like I was back in Hong Kong on a double decker bus.

I walked Clerkenwell, Shorditch, Islington, Notting Hill and the City (not in that order….)

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Lamb411 London September 2013

Here is my London map, a growing list of fun spots in the city that I like:


View London, England England in a larger map

 

If anyone is heading to London soon, I hope this map gives you a few handy tips.

Hope to see you again soon, London!

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When in Copenhagen…. Learn how to bake bread

When you want to learn about your surrounding when living in a foreign country, start with the food and build from there.  In an effort to get in touch with our Danish-ness and celebrate my husband’s birthday, I put him (and me) to work on Sunday in a four hour bread baking class with my favourite cooking teacher in the city, Mia from CPH Good Food. I wrote her to organize the class and mentioned that I wanted the focus to be on all the delicious Danish breads and pastries we find around Copenhagen.

I am obsessed with eating Danish rye bread. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t have a slice.  I prefer to eat it with almond butter or a bit of cheese on top.  Danish rye is nothing like the rye bread in North America- you know the white kind with seeds that you find sandwiching deli meat.  Danish rye is dark, and as dense and heavy as a plate- because it was used as a plate to make open face sandwiches way back when.  You bake it in a loaf pan and cover/fill it with lots of nice seeds and nuts.  Scrumptious.

As we got started on our baking morning, I barely got a chance to stir a thing as my husband dove into the art of Danish bread making. He kneaded, stirred, rolled, spread, measured, and used the “magical” electric mixer with a dough hook when he became tired of kneading.

Lamb411 CPH Good Food Bread Baking in Copenhagen

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I managed to get into the action too!  But hey, who am I to hog a birthday present.

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We baked four types of bread and pastries (rye, cinnamon swirls, a wheat bread and a white bread) and Mia baked a sourdough with us that she started from the day before.

Lamb411 CPH Good Food Bread Baking in Copenhagen

 

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Brussels: Architecture and Graffiti Hunting in the Rain

Okay… so Brussels- it’s a government city, it’s a transportation hub and it’s sprawling.  It may not have the design or fashion reputation of Antwerp but that did not deter your trusty Lamb411 tour guides from packing their rain accessories, jumping on a plane and spending a weekend touring the city.  Our goal was to hunt architecture (specifically Art Nouveau) and cartoon graffiti.

Typically when we travel, our exploration revolves around food and design.  Perhaps living in Copenhagen, a city full of both food and design, has spoiled our eyes and stomachs slightly, because if I were to judge Brussels on this criteria, I would not rush back.  It doesn’t have the bakeries of Paris or London.  We both found the food in Brussels rather mediocre- as in fine, but nothing to write home about. The customer service was also veering on the very laissez fair side.  We very much enjoyed spending time around Rue Antoine Dansaert,  and the Sablon, Ixelles and Uccle areas- they seemed to have more action going on and had a nice mix of retail/residential/arts/design, otherwise we found the city to be rather quiet, a typical touristy center and a tad boring- The mobs of tourists clustered around the little peeing statue- I don’t get it!  Haven’t people seen a statue with water coming out of it before? I believe it is called a fountain!

However- with a big BUT- if you like looking at buildings and appreciate street art (and of course antiques), Brussels is a wonderful place with a little from column A and a little from column B- throw in all the antique stores and markets and it can make for an exciting little weekend trip.  At the bottom of this post, I included my extensive Brussels map with lots of restaurant, retail, coffee, bakery and gallery recommendations.  We tried to visit as many as possible but like all good European cities, Sunday most things are CLOSED- which is why we save the museums/galleries for the city’s day of rest.

Lamb411 Brussels Hunting Architecture and Graffiti

Breakfast of champions at one of the few places in Brussels that will make filter coffee: Or Espresso Bar.  The other one, AUB SVP, was closed when we arrived.

Lamb411 Brussels Hunting Architecture and Graffiti

Lunch of champions at God Save the Cream: British inspired cafe

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Copenhagen Brussels September 201311

On to cartoon mural and graffiti hunting in Brussels….  Brussels is the comic book capital of the world and throughout the city you will see the most beautiful cartoon murals on the facades of buildings.  There is an official comic book mural walk which you can follow- We did not do the walk because we wanted the challenge of finding them ourselves. You can see more of the murals on the Mattador website article about comic book murals too.  We were not as successful as the article but made a nice dent in tracking them down!

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There are lovely details on and around the buildings throughout the city including decorative cast iron doors, and random artistic adornments on the exterior of buildings.

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Another thing that stood out to me was the use of symmetry in the design of public spaces and buildings.  Here are a few of my favourites in the photos below.

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I admired how diverse the architecture of residential buildings were in the various neighbourhoods.  You could be looking at the style and architecture of 10 different decades on one street!

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We found beautiful examples of street art in the most random places.  Graffiti that tells a story, in contrast to tagging adds to the feel and community of a neighbourhood.

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There were also several examples of tiles on the street and on the sides of buildings which I thought was neat. I walked into an antique store and the guy had a big box of individual tiles that came off buildings. I was tempted but did not purchase one.

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My favourite was hunting for examples of Art Nouveau around Brussels- a great reason to visit the city if you are into that style/time period.  We visited the residence and museum of the famous Belgian architect who championed the Art Nouveau style, Victor Horta to get a better understanding of the public and private houses and buildings he designed around the city. Four of his buildings are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

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Lamb411 Brussels Hunting Architecture and Graffiti

Brussels is, no doubt a great starting point and base from which to travel to other places around Belgium or western Europe.  Two days is more than enough in my humble opinion to observe, walk, taste and see.  Next time I visit, I would rent a car or buy a train ticket to see the countryside and other smaller cities.   Even in the rain- and there was a consistent mist-like rain, the city is a beauty.  As for the hair- that is another story….

Sunday NOTE:  There is a new cafe called JAT’ that is open on Sunday. We visited twice and it is a wonderful spot (free wifi, good snacks, nice atmosphere/design).

My Map of Everything Wonderful in Brussels

View Brussels 48 Hours in a larger map

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Around Copenhagen These Days: Photos

A few photos taken around Copenhagen…

When the sun is shining, the city looks so beautiful. There is always something colourful going on.

Lamb411 Around CPH

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The Nighthawk Diner in Oslo

Did I tell you I like visiting diners when I travel? I like to visit diners in non-traditional diner locations.  It’s my secret mission to find diners in the most unusual countries. My interest in diner food is purely comfort driven.  For me, it is a means to indulge in familiar food and give my brain a brake from analyzing foreign ingredients, dishes and cooking methods that go hand in hand with living abroad.

My diner-visiting ritual started in 2003 while I was living in Hong Kong and attending a semester of philosophy classes at HKU.  It was a time where I frequented The Flying Pan, a diner opened by a woman from New York which was located in the Mid Levels (also Wan Chai). The Flying Pan made a mean stack of pancakes and their kitchen sink omelette was to die for; how could I resist eating pancakes while reading Plato?

In an article I wrote for Honest Cooking, I equated the French cafe to the European equivalent of an American diner maintaining that the ubiquitous nature of a French cafe, its lively atmosphere, and predictable yet location adapted menu was like the diners around the US. I am aware that there are a few American style diners in Europe (Paris, Berlin and Prague have) but I didn’t expect to see a diner in norther Europe.  Surprise! In Phaidon’s ‘Where Chefs Eat‘ book that I like to consult before I hit the road, I read about an American diner located in a hip neighbourhood in Oslo that came with praise from the author.

I decided to give the Norwegian-American diner a try and give new Nordic cuisine a break.

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On the main tram street of Oslo’s Grünerløkka neighbourhood, and located within walking distance from Tim Wendelboe’s scrumptious coffee shop (part of Oslo tourism these days) is the Nighthawk Diner.

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Lamb411 Tim Wendelboe Coffee

I kid you not, stepping inside the Nighthawk Diner was like crossing the Atlantic Ocean back into America.  They had the interior spot on!

The tiled floor restaurant, situated in a corner property includes a smaller front section with yellow leather bar seating, a larger dining area in the back with booths and outdoor patio seating.  This place was packed with locals waiting for their milkshakes, burgers, salads, eggs, sandwiches and pie to be served by waiters and waitresses dressed in diner attire.

My tuna salad with whole wheat toast was so good, I returned again the next morning and waited in line for nearly 40 minutes so I could have a plate of blueberry pancakes that went by over my head the night before.  My dining partner opted for the pulled pork and was equally satisfied with the tangy-sweet marinade on the meat.  Aside from the good food, I liked that The Nighthawk Diner made an effort to call attention to their intentions of working towards becoming a 100% organic diner and shared the names of their suppliers. They get their organic beef from Halstenov farm.

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Lamb411 The Nighthawk Diner

By diner standards, do not expect this to be a cheap meal.  I repeat: Nothing is cheap in Oslo, not even a meal at a diner.  As long as you can put ‘affordable meal’ out of your mind when eating in this city and block out the temptation to compare the cost of a plate of pancakes in the US with the cost of your blueberry stack  in Oslo, you will more than enjoy your meal here.  It’s the real deal!

Breakfast is served all day.

 

 

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Oslo Weekend

Oslo: An incredibly expensive city that we will never return to.  On Friday afternoon, we boarded a ship in Copenhagen and relaxed while listening to the hum of the engine. One picnic, two movies and 15 hours later, we arrived in Oslo at 9:30 the next morning.  We had no expectations except to see Snohetta’s Opera/Ballet house, taste some Norwegian salmon and drink the coffee of the World Barista Champion, Tim Wendelboe.
Lamb411 Oslo Weekend
The population is 600,000 in the greater Oslo area, which means, it’s tiny. It’s a sleepy backwater of a ‘town’ which I would equate Oslo to London, Ontario in size.  There are a few affluent pockets which look like the upper east side of New York without all the retail, one artsy-up and coming neighbourhood, a modern new redevelopment mixed use project (retail, commercial/residential/institutional) on the waterfront and a downtown core that is falling apart/neglected and empty.  There is nothing going on here except for busing tourists in and out,  fishing, oil and putting oil dollars to work with new construction projects- the new harbour (it’s stunning!)- that and mediating global conflicts which the Norwegians are apparently quite good.
Lamb411 Oslo Weekend
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Tumbleweeds role by in the downtown core.  We’re talking a total ghost town. Where do people go on the weekend?  It was visibly lacking people.
Perhaps people come to Oslo as a gateway to nature, or that Norwegians vacate the city to their summer homes every weekend.  The lady at the front desk assured us that this weekend was busy in the city because the Europeans were still on vacation.  This was in good weather- sunny 21 degrees. When the weather turns to winter- what happens? We were wondering where all the people went at night because it sure wasn’t in the city.  The harbour had people, the artsy neighbourhood had people, everywhere else was empty!

The raw fish, which is hands down, the best/buttery/melt in your mouth goodness, is only matched by the quality of coffee in the city (my husband’s observation- I am still a tea-only drinker).  My travelling partner must have consumed three coffees a day and we were only there for 36 hours.  We visited four major micro-roasters (Tim Wendelboe, Kaffa, Fuglen and Supreme Roastworks- there are two others that I could count)  in the city who are in fierce competition with one another, which keeps coffee quality high and clients caffeinated. I suppose coffee tourism could bring in dollars- now at $7 a cup- it’s a reminder why you should brew your own at home.  Speaking of cost- Copenhagen looks like a discount in comparison to Oslo.

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I read in PHAIDON’s Where the Chefs Eat book, that one stand out spot in the city was an American diner called The Nighthawk Diner.  I thought it would be neat to eat at an American diner in the artsy part of town and have a bit of a break from new Nordic cuisine.  One tuna salad, one pulled pork sandwich, and two ice teas later our bill comes to $70. Mini heart attack!!    Enthralled by the experience and hungry for more “comfort food” we decide to return the next morning for brunch.  Two blueberry pancakes and two teas later our bill comes to $50.  Double heart attack.  Even one of the many pastries we sampled, you could not walk out of a bakery for under $10/$15 for two pastries. Nevertheless, it is part of the experience and a reminder why 36 hours in Oslo is more than enough time to go broke.

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One standout part of the city was the Gustav Vigeland Park- Vigeland was a Norwegian sculptor (died 1943) who specialized in bronze, granite and wrought iron. He made an odd arrangement in the city after his house burnt down- where the city would grant him”free housing/studio” as long as he agreed to donate all subsequent works to the city.  Over 20 years he crafted 200 sculptures, which all belonged to the City of Oslo and are sitting in a massive sculpture park in the nicer part of the city.  His most famous works include the Monolith – there is a photo of a totem pole of people climbing to the top all carved out of one piece of granite- the angry baby, which I could not shoot because it was mobbed by Japanese tourists both times we visited the park, and his circle of life bronze sculpture. It was beautiful and worth visiting.

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August 2013 CPH and Oslo9

The best way to end off an evening in the city is to climb the roof of the new Opera/Ballet house and watch the sun set over the harbour.

Lamb411 Oslo Weekend

My Oslo Weekend Map:

 

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