Copenhagen Street Food

I had some downtime on the weekend, so I accepted an invitation from friends to hop the train to meet them in Copenhagen (about an hour away). After some “tracks are closed, take a bus part of the way” drama, we were soon meeting up in gorgeous downtown Copenhagen.

CopenhagenStreetFood 011 It’s a very old city, but one that is not shy about mixing in new buildings and the place seems to be booming with building cranes obstructing much of the skyline.

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We walked along pedestrian malls, a Christmas village and Copenhagen’s most famous and picturesque main canal before we hopped a cab to a unique place called “Copenhagen Street Food“. It’s in the warehouse district along the working part of the canal.

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It’s a large warehouse with food stalls, food trucks, shipping containers with food businesses and tables. It had a food market, street food, shanty town, alternative vibe going on.

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Here vendors were selling all kinds of well-made food, including fish and chips, Mexican, Persian, Japanese, Korean, Local, Vegan, burgers and other cuisines with flair. There were also wine, craft beer and beverage stalls as well.

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I knew what I wanted for lunch as soon as I saw the Korean truck and ordered japchae, sweet potato starch noodles with onions and carrots and a sweet and savoury beef mixture, in this case drizzled with Korean hot sauce.

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The same stall also served bulgogi  (grilled beef short rib in a sweet sauce of soy, sugar, garlic, and sesame oil) and some spicy fried chicken with dumplings.

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The japchae was what I hoped for: sweet and savoury with slippery, glassy noodles and beef with sauce rich in umami flavour.

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Street Food was a tremendous place to hang out — we spent probably 2 hours here just talking and catching up. The servings are not so large that you could easily sample a couple of these great vendors in a visit.

Italian in Sweden

Gobbagoo. Proshoot. It’s not really Italian. The language, like a cuisine starts a new evolutionary branch when it’s far from home and time passes. If you’ve been to the North End of Boston or Little Italy in Ottawa, you can get amazing, but North American versions of Italian food. They do stand on their own as a culinary style, but it takes a trip to Italy to see the difference.

I am traveling on business and am in Sweden and hit the spot where locals rave about the food as being authentically Italian. I want to check it out because I’ve already been here for 3 weeks and am keen to try something else besides the local food, which is absolutely wonderful. Sweden is not Italy, but it’s one ocean closer than the North End or Ottawa. Any bets the food is too?

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I go to VESPA. It’s a bright, sunny place in a dark and grey Lund November visit.

Time for a beer. They have lots of Italian choices to I go with a relatively crisp, light Italian lager, called Gradisca. It’s good, but not great. Has a bit of a chemical finish.

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Then comes my appetizer, an antipasto misto — a salad with prosciutto, salami, olives, pesto, parmigiano reggiano, and artichoke hearts with thin crispy breadsticks. Absolutely delicious. It’s fair to say that I might get something like this closer to home, but I’ve never seen it.

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But the real test is pizza. When Maureen and I went to Italy we found the pizza to be a revelation. Perfect thin, crispy yet pillowy crust, simple tomato sauce, only one or two ingredients and some fresh mozzarella dotting the pie. In Ottawa, Back Lane is the only place that comes close.

The pizza at Vespa is very, very good. I opt for one with red peppers, porchetta and olives. The sauce was perfect, the crust was thin, but a little too chewy and the toppings and cheese were very nice.

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As is proper, when you have prosciutto or, in this case, porchetta to add to the pizza, you add it just as it comes out of the oven and it kind of melts into the pie.

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I’d like to say that I’m caught up in lively conversation, but I’m by myself, so dinner goes by quickly. All in all a wonderful meal and closer to proximity to Italy really does make a difference.

The Perfectionist at Heathrow

He goes to ridiculous lengths. If you’ve seen his old show on the Food Channel, you couldn’t help but be amused at the obsession he has with perfection over even the most banal food item. I’m talking, of course, about Heston Blumenthal, celebrated English Chef and one of the most famous behind that blond, shouty guy.

A little while ago, Heathrow decided to up its food game and Heston Blumenthal opened The Perfectionist’s Cafe in Terminal 2. On my layover in Heathrow, I decided to have breakfast here.

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One look at the menu and you get a sense for hand-wringing over every detail to almost eye-rolling proportions.

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Because I was there for breakfast, I thought I’d try his spin on what they call the “Full English Breakfast”: 2 eggs, bacon, grilled mushroom, baked beans, sausage, black pudding and toast. I was evaluating both the iconic breakfast as well as Blumenthal’s take.

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Eggs: bright orange yolks, and very softly fried. They were finished with sherry vinegar and had a very mild bite to them, but the yolks — not only were they BRIGHT orange, but they tasted…different and not that pleasantly so. They had a fatty note to them that wasn’t appreciated. I don’t know if that’s the standard English egg flavour or the specifications to which these eggs were laid.

Bacon: Oh my goodness, it was good bacon. The restaurant offers the choice of smoked “streaky” bacon or unsmoked back bacon. I went streaky. Letting these pigs watch Saturday morning cartoons sure makes a difference.

Mushroom: This was a small portobello cap that was perfectly cooked. Still firm but richly flavoured.

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Baked Beans: Even the Michelin star holding Blumenthal ain’t gonna mess with Heinz Baked Beans.

Sausage: It was a small English Breakfast sausage that was well seasoned and not fatty.

Black Pudding: Fantastic. Lovely. Great flavour and texture, seasoned perfectly. This would make a believer out of even Maureen.

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Toast: Nice multi-grain toast, perfectly cooled on the ubiquitous British toast cooling rack. Thank goodness too, or otherwise it would have been warm, or god forbid, even hot. What the hell is it with the English aversion to warm toast?

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All in all a good breakfast, weird egg yolk flavour notwithstanding. The attention to detail shows and would probably show even more with lunch or dinner items.