Sunday, April 29, 2012

Denmark’s Deluxe Sandwiches

Pedestrians rule in Højbro Plads, a lively square in the central, car-free Strøget shopping district

Danes know how to turn a humble snack into a lavish feast, for the eye as well as the palate, with their traditional smørrebrød open sandwiches. In Copenhagen, entire restaurants are dedicated to this wonderfully versatile dish, and there are many other delights to sample, from shopping paradise Strøget to royal palaces and the colorful Nyhavn harbor area.

The Danish capital – “Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen” as the old movie tune goes – has a long history as a center for trade and commerce, growing into one of Scandinavia’s most diverse and cosmopolitan cities. Southern Sweden and all of Norway were ruled from here for several none-too-peaceful centuries, making Copenhagen the main hub of Scandinavia, a role it still lays claim to today. Warmongering among neighbors is now thankfully past; old enemies Denmark and Sweden are connected via Europe’s longest bridge and the bartering in the harbor has been replaced by shopping in the fabulous pedestrianized district of Strøget.
Despite its size, Copenhagen has a nicely compact center, where most of the main sights can be visited on foot. A busy day’s sightseeing can take in several royal Left Brightly painted canalside buildings in Nyhavn palaces, the Little Mermaid of children’s story fame, the old harbor area of Nyhavn, and much more – all fueled by smørrebrød, the most Danish of snacks.
Careful attention to the aesthetics of
presentation turns a simple sandwich into an elegant dish

Originally called smør og brød, literally meaning “butter and bread,” the Danish open sandwich today has developed from a simple worker’s packed lunch – perhaps a couple of slices of rye bread with cheese – into quite possibly the most varied dish in Denmark.
While Swedes make their smorgasbord a feast of small dishes, Danes simply heap goodies onto slices of bread, piled high and beautifully arranged. Making these open sandwiches has become an art form, with the stylishly arranged toppings a perfect match of flavors, textures, and colors, all splendidly coordinated.
Traditionally, dark rye bread is used, setting off the other colorful ingredients, although it’s not at all uncommon for smørrebrød toppings to be so heavily piled that you are left guessing as to whether there is actually a slice of bread hiding underneath. Popular toppings include pink slices of roast beef with pickles and golden roasted onions, roast pork with red cabbage and orange, smoked salmon with dill, cucumber, and lemon, or indeed whatever the chef has on hand. Find a cozy restaurant, pick your favorite(s), and dig in. Smørrebrød makes the “wonderful” in Copenhagen even more well-deserved.

Best Places to Eat Smørrebrød

Ida Davidsen 

Five generations of Davidsens can’t be wrong.
Boasting the proudest smørrebrød tradition in Copenhagen, this family has been making open sandwiches since 1888. Today Ida Davidsen is queen of the kitchen, with her son Oscar running the cozy cellar establishment right in the heart of central Copenhagen.
The original Oskar, the current proprietor’s great-great-grandfather, was a wine merchant, aiming to quench thirsts, not fill bellies, when he first set up business. But customers weren’t used to simply sipping without nibbling, and so the bar began selling smørrebrød to go with the wines. Today the restaurant has a selection of 250 different smørrebrød to choose from – the largest in Denmark. The humble sandwich has never looked so good, and the only problem is actually choosing what to have. Whatever your heart’s desire, you can probably find it as a sandwich topping here, from the traditional to the more adventurous. Leg of lamb on a smørrebrød? Not a problem! Bacon, pâté, herring, meatballs, smoked cheese – anything goes, and usually very nicely too.
Store Kongensgade 70, Copenhagen (with another outlet at Ketchup in Tivoli Gardens); open 10:30 AM–4 PM Mon–Fri;
Also in Copenhagen
Slotskælderen hos Gitte Kik on Fortunstræde (+45 33 11 15 37; moderate) is another long-runner in the smørrebrød stakes, celebrating over a century in business.
Housed in what’s known as the Castle Cellar, the restaurant lies directly opposite the Danish Parliament building, making this a busy spot at lunch time. Traditional recipes are used, and they even pickle their own herring and make their own schnapps.
Also in Denmark
Brøndums Hotel (+45 98 44 15 55; inexpensive) is beautifully located in Skagen, on the tip of Jutland – former home to Scandinavia’s most famous colony of painters.
It’s perfect for old-fashioned smørrebrød in a scenic setting. The building oozes old-world charm and has picturesque terrace seating in summer overlooking the sea.
Around the World
At Madsen Scandinavian Restaurant (www.; moderate) in London’s fashionable South Kensington district you can sample traditional smørrebrød in a trendy setting. They’ve even made up their own, slightly smaller lunch-snack version, called “Smushi,” on either dark rye or sourdough bread. Toppings include well-known favorites such as roast beef with remoulade, roast pork with crackling and red cabbage, and several tasty vegetarian options.
What Else to Eat In Copenhagen
Danes eat more pork than any other nationality, and not a single part of their most beloved of meats goes to waste.
Roasted, salted, smoked, cured, even pickled pork is popular, and fabulous-tasting sausages, hams, and salamis abound.
Frikadelle, pork meatballs or rissoles, is one of the best-known and loved national dishes, often accompanied by boiled potatoes, bright red beets, deep green pickles, and a warming, thick brown sauce. Beef is almost as popular, and a dish managing to fit in both meats is biksemad, a hash of cubed beef and pork, along with potatoes, carrots, and onions, all topped off with a fried egg, sunny side up: hearty food to keep the cold at bay in winter and energize you in summer.
A Day in Copenhagen
Central Copenhagen lends itself to easy strolling, and many parts are pedestrianized. Royal parks and gardens further add to the charm.
Take a stroll around the harbor area, starting at the Kastellet fortification for good views of the city. Nearby is the world-famous statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid, sitting on a rock in the harbor. From here it’s only a short walk to the so-called Marble Church, with the largest dome in Scandinavia, and, almost opposite, the somewhat unassuming royal palace, Amalienborg.
Continue your walking tour to Nyhavn; this colorfully painted waterfront quarter, dating from the 17th century, is full of restaurants, bars, and cafés popular with locals and visitors alike. Squeeze in a visit to Rosenborg Castle with its splendid gardens before hitting the shops. Strøget is the longest car-free shopping area in Europe, with all the big names, quirky designer shops, and eateries; many are open late in summer and for Christmas.
Getting to Copenhagen
Copenhagen is located on Zealand and Amager in eastern Denmark. Flights arrive into Kastrup International Airport, 5 miles (8 km) from downtown. There are metro, local buses, and bike rental options to get around the city.

Where to stay in Copenhagen
Cabinn City (inexpensive) is a centrally located, comfortable budget hotel.
Hotel Alexandra (moderate) is a retro hotel with modern Danish art, not far from the shopping district.
First Hotel Skt Petri (expensive) is the city’s latest über-cool hotel, and the birthplace of the Copenhagen cocktail.
Vesterbrogade 4A; +45 7022 2442

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