Having legitimately sustained myself on chicken fingers and buttered noodles until the age of twelve, nobody in their right mind would have ever guessed I’d grow a serious appreciation for food. Quail’s eggs, bone marrow, whipped mint mousse… these days I’d gladly savour it all. Dining at the world famous Noma has long been high atop my bucket list, but until I make my way to Denmark, I’ll have to live vicariously through Maggie & Heidi. PS – there’s so much more culinary art in the overflowing gallery. And if you missed their trip to Paris, it’s 100% bliss.
From Maggie Battista of Eat Boutique… Sometimes, you just have to leave Paris. Because really, the gorgeousness of all those ancient bridges across the Seine, the grey towering buildings and l’heure bleue (the period of twilight just before sunrise or sunset when the sky shows off amazing light) will drive you a bit batty. You’ll become a little Parisian, thinking there’s no place else on the planet as beautiful as the city of light and everyone else must be stupid to not take up residence here. While many Parisians believe that to be true, leaving Paris keeps you wild and marveled to its delights.
So, on one month-long visit to the city, I squeezed in an escape. During some punch drunk, unbelievably early morning calls to Denmark, I managed to secure a lunch reservation at the best restaurant in the world. Noma, in Copenhagen, had been on my must eat list for years and each time it won its annually “best restaurant” designation, I whined a little while adding up the fees for a visit.
But when it’s time, it’s time. And with Heidi of White Loft Studio as my culinary travel partner, I spent 36 hours in Scandinavia, five of them at Noma.
Chef Rene Redzepi’s charge is simple: cook with what you have right now; use what the earth and the weather are offering at that very moment. It was March, a time when two seasons were clashing, and the very first bulb flowers were practically exploding from green plots around the city.
Noma’s menu featured some of my very favorite flavors like verbena, dill, juniper, pine, currants, radishes, and fish fresh from the sea that pounds on Noma’s dock. My most loved dishes delivered a varying palette of surprising tastes. For example, a dish that included dried scallops and beechnuts was oddly fresh and salty. The squid with unripe sloe berry, white currant and Douglas fir woke me up as if I’d eaten nothing tasty all winter long. And the plate of pickled vegetable slivers – Nordic-centric vegetables like beets and carrots alongside just picked flowers and herbs – and bone marrow coins was the perfect balance of the transition from winter to spring. I found it clever, filling and most certainly the best use of pickled-anything ever.
With each bite, Paris vanished into grayness, seeming thousands of miles away, and Noma’s dining room became the most beautiful place on the planet, metaphorically, and quite literally.
A mix of old and new, the restaurant’s thick brick walls surround modern Danish furniture. The dishes are handmade by a local potter, simple and elegant, especially when played against the whitewashed beams that run across the building’s ceilings. The flowers were rustic, like a mash-up of twigs and early herbs found nearby, but each stick felt precisely placed and welcoming. It may come as no surprise, but the cocktail cart made me smile as I imagined all the bits we’d taste throughout the meal.
After a stream of courses, little desserts appeared, including half-sweet half-savory chocolate bites that were wrapped and concealed in vintage tins sourced from local antique shops. And the soft, rich caramel, made with animal fat in lieu of butter, was served in a hollowed-out bone, wrapped in butcher’s craft paper and tangled red butcher twine. It may not be how I would have made caramel, but the message was clear: the “best” ingredients no longer need to be sourced from far away. Food should have a sense of time and place. Genius is in using whatever you have on hand, no matter the season.
Just a day later, I returned to Paris and ordered a late night meal at my local café. A little French red wine with some fresh local cheese and just-baked baguette, my dinner was before me in mere moments. Whether Copenhagen or Paris, Europe has this way of focusing on the present, making supremely amazing meals from whatever is on hand a la minute. I was reminded to appreciate both meals as a way we should eat. I ordered another glass of red and started planning my next meal; I’ve got many more miles to go before I eat.
Where We Stayed: First Hotel TwentySeven
It was definitely trendy, awarded such by TripAdvisor users in 2012. But it was also clean, simple and modern. The bar was a nice spot to rest our weary feet at the end of the day. However, beware of the cost, a single cocktail equaled $25 USD – and we didn’t have more than one.
How We Got There: Air France
We flew from Paris, France to Copenhagen, Denmark in under two hours. The ticket was less than $50 USD; the fees through Expedia were more than the cost of the flight! I wonder if the fees would have been less if I had purchased at the last minute, from within France.
Maggie Battista started Eat Boutique as a blog in 2007, and sold out of her first gift box of small batch independent food in 2009. Discovering the best small batch foods by boutique food makers, Eat Boutique has been featured in The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, Gilt Taste, Daily Candy and now Style Me Pretty. Maggie continues to offer unique and delicious handmade food in monthly tasting subscriptions and seasonal gift boxes for food fans and home cooks. Maggie also hosts Eat Boutique Markets, where she gathers cookbook authors, food and drink makers, and food fans.
Heidi Murphy of White Loft Studio, wedding + lifestyle photographer, and aspiring foodie. Though her heart belongs to Martha’s Vineyard, she lives north of Boston with her husband and their three dogs in a charming seaside town. She has an affinity for simple flavors + simple pleasures, farmer’s markets, organic everything, s’mores, corn from the grill, and all served up with a glass of champagne. Heidi’s work, on film, has been featured stateside and abroad; and her musings + imagery can be found on her blog – White Loft Style.