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

Copenhagen Brussels September 201327

Copenhagen Brussels September 201328

Copenhagen Brussels September 201329

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

Copenhagen Brussels September 201330

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



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.

Lamb411 The Nighthawk Diner Oslo IMG_2448


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.



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.



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.




breakfast in hamburg and the European diner

For all you breakfast lovers out there, listen up!  If you find yourself in Hamburg, here are two great spots for breakfast. I am slowly collecting a list of European breakfast spots and sometimes feel a bit like Guy Fieri in the television show, Diner’s Drive In’s and Dives! I’ve eaten breakfast in over 20 cities in the past two years, so the “experience” is mounting.  When you find a keeper, I call it the equivalent of finding a good American diner in Europe.  They have good, reliable food, good energy, often a unique decor, and a menu that includes a few local specialties (most important).

I spent three days in Hamburg and prior to my trip, read through several blog posts, newspapers and online review sites to figure out where I should have the most important meal of the day. My first and third stop was none other than Cafe Paris. Cafe Paris is located in the center of Hamburg and is housed in a space that dates back to 1882.  The original slaughterhouse was later converted to a turn-of-the-century French cafe and today is beautifully adorned with iconic French cafe decor features such as its dark wooden tables, Art Deco posters, banquette seating, a long bar with wooden stools, floor to ceiling subway tiles and a jaw dropping Art Nouveau ceiling.

Cafe Paris Hamburg Breakfast

The menu features standard French fare such as hard boiled eggs, croissants, baguettes, jam, cheese, juice, Croque Madame, and Croque Monsieur. It also includes a few breakfast twists including a “Moroccan” version of French toast topped with roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and orange marmalade, an “American” breakfast that comes with a pancake, a fried egg, peanut butter, and syrup and the local “Hamburg” which consists of a piece of toast, crab salad, herring, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs with chives and a glass of Hamburg’s local Holsten pilsner (a brewing company founded in 1879 in the city’s Altona-Nord quarter).

July 2013 CPH Marbella Hamburg1

On my first visit, I tried the Moroccan and on the second visit, I opted for something a bit lighter (just some muesli and a hard boiled egg with green tea). I must note, I returned twice to Cafe Paris (out of three breakfasts) for another bite of their croissants. The baguette was nothing to write home about but their croissant was some of the freshest, butteriest, light viennoiserie that I have tasted outside of Paris.

I will post about my second breakfast at Mutterland in a follow up post- equally worth it.

July 2013 CPH Marbella Hamburg2

Other breakfasts worth a visit around the continent in addition to Cafe Paris in Hamburg, include Cafe Savoy in Prague, Cafe Schwazenberg in Vienna, Cafe de Flore in Paris, or the modern Cafe George in Amsterdam, close your eyes and let your senses observe the hum of a well oiled dining institution hard at work and churning out diner classics European style. If you have any other suggestions to add to this list of where to find a decent breakfast at a ‘European diner’, please share your suggestions in the comment section below.  I am always up for exploring new places that are worthy of “diner” status.

Cafe Paris, Rathausstraße 4, 20095 Hamburg



A trip to Höganäs and Magasin 36

A few weekends ago my husband and I were invited to celebrate our friend’s 35th birthday in the quaint coastal town of Molle, in Sweden.  Molle is just across the Straight and accessible by ferry from Helsingor (just north of Copenhage- and also where Shakespeare’s play Hamlet takes place in Kronborg Castle), so we decided to rent a car and make it into an exploration weekend.


The ferry transports cars, people and bikes and takes about 20 minutes to cross from one side to the other. I can’t remember the last time I drove a car onto a boat to cross a body of water, but it’s a blast.  On land, you wait in line until the ferry docks and then you are signaled to drive onto the boat.  Once on the boat, you park your car in a line behind all the other cars on deck and get to exit the car to go upstairs on deck.  This particular ferry was more like a mini cruise ship.  It had multiple cafes and restaurants, beautiful lounge seating and duty free shopping.  I’ve never seen a longer line to buy liquor and candy in my life.  My favourite was sitting outside on the deck.

Once across, you are motioned to return to your car and continue your journey to your next destination.  Simple as that.


Our first stop was to check into our beach hotel, the Kliterrhus, in a town called Ängelholm.  Driving up to the main building reminded me of a beach hotel in New England (in the US).  The hotel was very pretty  with it’s light wood furniture, white and blue beach decor, and accents of seashells, old photographs and wainscoting.  Our room looked right out onto the beach.




Unfortunately the weather was not conducive to a day on the sand.  Scandinavian summers are known to be changeable.  We saw, sun, we saw dark clouds and we saw rain in 48 hours. The temperature also went from hot to cold.  Being outside and enjoying the view was good enough for me.

On the day of the birthday celebration we decided to spend the day exploring the city of Höganäs as we weren’t expected until late afternoon. Höganäs is a town in Sweden that developed a reputation for its ceramic production.  Perhaps you are  familiar with the ceramic brand that bares the same name, Höganäs Keramic?  In Höganäs, we had two spots on our agenda for the morning: Magasin 36 and the Iittala Outlet.

Magasin 36 is a smart and exciting re-purposed piece of industrial real estate  in town that has become quite popular with the locals.  The building dates back to 1835 where it was used as a factory for salt-glazed utensils and also housed a few large kilns.

Today, the property has been converted into a fabulous mixed use retail, restaurant, cafe, grocery store, museum, office and artist studio space with a focus on vintage and gastronomy.

It’s a breathtaking space and a lot of fun to visit.  Magasin 36 is split over two levels and what looks like two buildings.  There is a cafe on the ground floor when you enter the space  and you can order lovely baked goods (cinnamon and cardamom buns – I went back both mornings for a cinnamon bun and a tea).  Behind the cafe you find the stunning local-focused grocery store called Hoganas Saluhall with tons of organic produce, freshly baked artisan breads, local farm products from around Skåne (the south western region of Sweden), meats and other specialty food delicacies.  We picked up a lemon sourdough bread and a few interesting flat breads to bring to the birthday party later that afternoon.




Magasin 36 also houses a number of furniture, antique, clothing, art gallery and home accessory stores.  On of my favourites was a shop/gallery called Hoganasgrouppen that made neat ceramic “puck-looking” coasters to protect surfaces from heat. Butiken Hoganas also had several cute items. I could have purchased one of everything!!





Another interesting part of the building is the re-purposing of the old kilns into a museum to show what the area became known for. In this section of the building, you can walk right into the kilns to see what they look like as well as visit the adjacent ceramic studio/store where tableware pieces and flower pots are still being produced and sold today.









Walk up a large set of stairs to the second floor and you find a large restaurant build around the tops of the ceramic kilns that looks down onto a portion of the grocery store.





Lamb411 Hoganas Magasin 36

And if that is not enough food and excitement in one building, on the same property, around the corner from Magasin 36, you’ll find a car garage that was converted into a 1960s American (Swedish) gourmet burger joint/bar.  We stopped in for lunch and had one of the tastiest burgers in a long time.  The meat is local, the buns are handmade on premise, the beer is also locally brewed.  A lot of thought, care and consideration was put into the menu and ingredients used at this burger garage.  It was also very busy on a Saturday afternoon with locals lining up for pints of beer and burgers.

If you happen to be passing through Skåne, Sweden’s equivalent of the Hamptons, the town of Hoganas and Magasin 36 is not to be missed.


Grød (porridge) Taste-Test

What a weekend!  I’ve been battling with a smoking issue in my flat where smoke from a downstairs convenience store seems to be filtering into my unit through an unidentified hole.  We had a carpenter come twice to seal our baseboards and I think the problem has now been solved.  To celebrate, my husband and I spent the afternoon hanging pictures on the wall.  We were sitting on the fence over finishing our decor due to the possibility of having to move.  We also took our first outing outside of Copenhagen- a visit to the Louisiana museum of art- (another post will follow with pictures later this week).

I am finally getting around to posting pictures from my Grod taste test.  The week before last, Lasse Andersen’s Grød, the all-day, sweet-savoury-porridge-only Nørrebro hotspot opened a second location in Torvehallerne market.  Grød is a special dining concept unique to Copenhagen.  It was started in 2011 as a porridge only establishment and has since developed a loyal following of porridge-heads in CPH (I am now one of them!).

Porridge in Copenhagen is not your standard flavourless mushy oat gruel.   Of course you can find  oatmeal in Copenhagen but here, porridge is typically dolled up and has been elevated to a respectable dish of admiration.  In fact, porridge is taken so seriously there was a city wide  Grød competition in February where 23 of Copenhagen’s chefs battled it out for the title of  best porridge in the city.

As I alluded to earlier, oats are not the star attraction in porridge as you  might find in North America.  Here, many other grains are thrown into the mix such as barley, rye, and spelt.   Porridge toppings are equally as important as the base grain. It is not surprising to add a dollop of Icelandic (or Danish) skyr, or some cream, whipped flavoured butter, chopped nuts, sliced fruit, liquorice powder and I am sure chocolate is also an option on some menus.  Porridge is a creative pursuit, which makes ordering it and tasting it around the city an adventure and a delight.



Lamb411 grød taste test

When I visited the new location in Torvehallerne market, I ordered a spelt based grød (porridge), with bananas, chopped nuts and liquorice sugar powder as a topping.


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It was a little bowlful of heaven.  The texture was just right.  This one take-away cup contained a creamy spelt porridge, crunchy nuts, sweet banana and melty liquorice sugar powder (not overpowering at all).  I was a bit hesitant to select that particular concoction because my love affair with liquorice has not developed to the Danish level of appreciation.  Together with the other ingredients it just worked.


I look forward to returning to the Torevehallerne location to sample more of Grød’s grød. They also have savoury options that resemble more of a risotto than a breakfast porridge.


If you find yourself en route to Copenhagen, a stop at either of Grød’s locations is a must.

No one does porridge like the Danes.


Il Giardino- Finally a top restaurant in the mountains

As I mentioned yesterday, sometimes the food is hit or miss in the Austrian Alps particularly if you visit off season.  Some of the restaurants/hotel restaurants we wanted to try were already on vacation until the next tourism season.

You can always find a simple meal of pizza or schnitzel at a casual Italian or Austrian eatery, but if you are looking for an experience that is beyond a college pizza joint or a smoky old hotel restaurant or bar, the options are few and far between.  On a recent trip to the Alps, my husband and I decided to make a 1.5 hour detour to the Aqua Dome therme in the town of Langenfeld (Tirol).  We knew we would need to figure out a dinner option after our soak and steam and threw it up to chance to find a restaurant on the way home.

Don’t ask what made me say “STOP” as we drove through the town of Oetz, but my Michelin-dar sensors lit up as we passed Il Giardino.  We parked the car outside of the apartment-hotel and walked inside the all white, French-Scandinavian, cosy dining room.  I saw the two big red Michelin nominated stickers posted on the door from 2008 and 2009- a good sign and a significant boost from all the pizza I’ve been eating over the weekend.  The restaurant and hotel is owned by husband and wife Peter and Christine Singer and has been around for 22 years.

Lamb411 Il Giardino Oetz Alps

We were one of four table that night (off-season) and had almost an entire section to ourselves.  We were seated in a sunken, garden room with sliding windows that opened on-to the outdoor seating (in nicer weather).  The room was dimly lit with candles, soft lights and decorated with framed black and white posters, a few plants and white orchids.



To start, we were served an amuse bouche of cooked beef in a jelly roll, a tomato puree and a fresh slice of baguette.  It was delicious and I am not one to scarf down a beef jelly roll.

We both had the ruccola and Parmesan salad, a habit from earlier in the weekend.  Il Giardino’s rucola salad was excellent.  It was spicy, salty and tangy all at the same time.  There was generous shavings of Parmesan and the pine nuts were perfectly toasted.


For our main courses, my husband ordered the pork schnitzel (he was sick of pizza) which came with sauteed cabbage, a homemade cranberry sauce and roasted cauliflower.


I was sick of pizza so I ordered pasta!  I chose the mascarpone and tomato pasta which was a little bowl of heaven. You could actually taste the acidity of the tomatoes among the creamy mascarpone cheese.  Typically it is all cream and no tomato.  The flavours were very balanced and very satisfying.  I devoured the entire mound of pasta.  When pasta is cooked by a top chef, it tastes extra good.



To finish, we had espresso and tea and could not resist an ice.  Over the course of our weekend in the Alps, at every restaurant we ate at, we saw order after order of ice cream sundaes coming out of the kitchen.  We figured if we were going to have ice cream on the trip, it might as well be here.


We chose the ‘Nutty’ ice cream which came with two very long spoons to scoop out cashew and walnut ice creams topped with whipped cream and a tart raspberry sauce.



At the end of the meal, Chef Wolfgang Scalet even popped his head out to say hello.  What a wonderful treat after a weekend of mediocre dining.  I could not recommend this restaurant enough if you happen to be passing through this part of the world.  You will not be disappointed.


Il Giardino, A-6433 Otz: Hauptstrasse 86, Austria


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