NOUVEAU NORDIC: THE NEXT BIG THING IN FOOD
For the third year running, the Copenhagen eatery Noma has been ranked the best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine. A seemingly small step for one restaurant has mushroomed into a giant leap for Danish cuisine. Four additional restaurants received Michelin stars in 2012, making Copenhagen one of the most star-studded cities in Europe.
With a dozen Michelin-starred restaurants, Copenhagen is not only recognized as the culinary capital of Scandinavia but is staking its gastronomic claim on the entire European continent as well. Danish cuisine is going global with its new-found success. Having earned a reputation as being flavourful, fresh and healthy, Danish food exports are on the rise and Danish restaurants and bakeries are popping up in the United States, England, China and Japan. The Nordic kitchen is experiencing a Renaissance in which old Danish favourites, such as the open face sandwich (smørrebrød), are making a comeback and a new generation of restaurateurs, such as Noma‘s René Redzepi and Geranium’s Rasmus Kofoed are finding ways to incorporate local ingredients in exciting, innovative dishes.
The Building Blocks of Nordic Cuisine
The origins of Nordic cuisine predate the industrial revolution and reflect the challenge of having to provide for long cold winters without refrigeration – by using all things salted, smoked, pickled or preserved and plenty of sour-dough rye bread. Danish dishes from this era include øllebrød (a dish made of rye bread, sugar and non-alcoholic beer), vandgrød (porridge, usually barley porridge, made with water), gule ærter (split pea soup), klipfisk (dried cod), and grønlangkål (thickened stewed kale). In the late nineteenth century, milk, potatoes, roasted and minced meat and a variety of fruit dishes joined the menu. So too did the famous Danish pastry, or as the Danes call it, Wienerbrød (Viennese bread), in homage to the Austrian bakers who introduced the pastry to Denmark in 1850 when Danish bakeries went on strike.
New Take on Danish Delicacies
While it is difficult to pinpoint the essence of New Nordic cooking exactly, at least two major trends can be identified. The first is a rejuvenation of traditional Danish dishes and is reflected in the auspicious comeback of the open-faced sandwich. The person credited with the reinvention of the smørrebrød is Adam Aamanns who opened his first Copenhagen deli take-away in 2006. Using the freshest fish, meat and vegetables and adding a heaping spoonful of ingenuity and presentational flair, Aamanns took the smørrebrød to a whole new level. In 2009 he published his first cookbook and opened the Aamanns Establissement restaurant, which in addition to smørrebrod, offers traditional Danish cooked dishes with a modern twist. In November 2012, Manhattan’s Aamanns-Copenhagen opened to the delight of scores of hungry New Yorkers. The restaurant boasts a distinctive Danish experience in its cuisine, food products, décor and cultural events.
Copenhagen’s Royal Smushi Café’s take on the traditional smørrebrød is called the smushi, a kind of intricately designed sushi on rye. The café also specializes in reinterpreted traditional Danish baked goods and doubles as a design gallery, with a 50/50 mix between food and other products. It has become a popular event venue.
Farm Fresh – the DNA of New Nordic The second but not mutually exclusive trend is the incorporation of fresh, seasonal local products. Noma’s menu is decidedly Danish but far from traditional. The restaurant’s motto and mission statement reads: “In order to shape our way of cooking, we look to our landscape and delve into our ingredients and culture, hoping to rediscover our history and shape our future”.
To fulfill this mission, Noma’s founders Claus Meyer and Renè Redzepi launched Nordic Food Lab, a non-profit organization dedicated to exploring the gastronomic possibilities of Nordic ingredients and sharing the results with chefs, academics, the food industry and the public. With an accent on fresh and local, last September the Food Agency of Denmark (FOOD), held its Nordic Food Festival in Aarhus. A celebration of gooseberries, micro-brewed beer and rye, the festival attracted some 27,000 visitors and featured more than one hundred of the best food producers in the region. In addition to lectures, demonstrations, master classes and competitions, an open-air market was held allowing participants to take New Nordic not only to heart but to home as well.
Copenhagen’s Michelin Stars
Noma ** www.noma.dk (“excellent cuisine, worth a detour”)
Den Røde Cottage * www.cottagerne.dk
Formel B Restaurant * www.formel-b.dk
Grønbech and Churchill * www.gronbech-churchill.dk
Kiin Kiin * www.kiin.dk
Kokkeriet * www.kokkeriet.dk
Kong Hans Kaelder * www.konghans.dk
Nimb Herman * (subsequently renamed with new executive chef)
Relae * www.restaurant-relae.dk
Restaurant AOC * www.aaro-co.dk
Restaurant Era Ora * www.era-ora.dk
Restaurant Geranium * www.geranium.dk (Chef Rasmus Kofoed – Bocuse d’Or Europe 2010 & 2011)
Søllerød Kro * www.soelleroed-kro.dk