I was 16 years old when I first traveled to Denmark on an exchange program in order to spend one month in Aarhus with a Danish family. After 3 days I realized that it was impossible for me to stay there because of the food. The breakfast was bread and herring, the lunch again herring sandwich and the dinner consisted of a tasteless spaghetti. In one week I decided to go back to my hometown Istanbul and literally ran away. I never wanted to hear about this country again. However all this changed on a recent trip to Copenhagen where I discovered a gastronomic heaven. Now I am ready to go back next year
Till 2004 nobody was talking about Danish cuisine let alone traveling for it. But a small restaurant on the Christianshavn waterfront changed everything : Noma was founded by Claus Meyer in partnership with head chef Rene Redzepi with the intention of reinventing Nordic cuisine. The menu is populated with items such as musk ox and wild berries, and sauces are made with beer rather than wine. It’s all very experimental and cutting edge but the success of Noma has enabled other restaurants to step forward and offer local dishes.
The new Nordic food is about purity, freshness, simplicity and cooking with ingredients and produce whose characteristics are particularly in local climates, lanscapes and waters. Today to make a reservation to Noma is not easy but don’t worry there a a lot of new places like Bo Bech’s Geist where there is no formality and apart from good food you can relax, unwind and savor the moment. Or Manfreds which is a small place and the guests are seated closely together. The intimacy is reflected in the servings that invite to sharing around the table, even if you are just two persons where the food is served informally and arranged without frills. Instead they spent time in the kitchen, creating dishes in a playful and respectful attitude towards the seasonal produce. The steak tartar I ate here was the best I have ever had in my entire life.
The Nordic diet seems to be emerging as a substitute for the sun-ripened Mediterranean one. With its blend of fish, root vegetables, grainy bread or french baguette loaf, nuts and wild game, it is as tasty as it is exciting.
As Noma founder Claus Meyer puts it: ‘This new kitchen ideology is not at declaration of war against Thai food, Mexican mole or sushi. It is not at crusade against pizza. We don’t feel any affinity with nationalistic ideas. We just think that food from our region deserves to have a voice in the choir of the world’s other great cuisines.’