Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Danish snegle school

Time for a Danish snegle lesson-- a key part of integrating into Danish society.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Copenhagen Marathon Day, 2012

Just a few days after arriving to Denmark, I woke up early and ventured into the city to watch the Copenhagen Marathon.  Naturally, I looked at the race route and strategically chose a spectating spot close to good coffee and pastry access.  
Coffee: the luxury item I prize above all others
I was surprised the area I chose for its coffee-pastry access points was not more packed with people.  After a walk to the train station and a train ride into town, I arrived early to Copenhagen with plenty of time to grab breakfast from Torvehallerne (a food marketplace) and get a front row spot to see the runners.
  Above, the view of Torvehallerne
Laura's Bakery, conveniently located next to the Coffee Collective-- so all of your pastry & coffee desires can be satisfied in one trip
This coffee spot felt like home to me.  I consider this picture an optical illusion, as the sleek design and friendly, hip fellow making my coffee made me feel like this could be a coffee joint in Los Angeles. 

 Confession: I started with a double espresso and then ordered a latte so I could try them both.  I had a lot of marathon watching ahead of me!  
This pastry from Lauras Bakery is called overskåren
Here's where I cheered on runners for the first half of the day.  The tent on the left was set up for a rockin' band that helped to motivate the athletes.  They played classic rock and even some New Orleans jazz. I stayed through their first set and then went wandering further down the race route. 
Above, the streets start to fill up with people. The peaceful Copenhagen morning is gone, replaced by the cheers of the crowd and the sounds of course entertainment (note that the child, atop someone's shoulders on the right of the photo, has the best seat in the house!)

There were a few things that struck me about this marathon: the late starting time of 9:30 am (such luxury compared to the LA Marathon) and the spectator friendly nature of the race-- which allowed me to catch two exciting glimpses of the elite runners from different locations.  Barbara Sanchez (from Ireland) was the female winner, and after some walking, I got to see her on the route twice: 
It was fun to see friends and family pick out their runners as they passed by-- though most of them were speaking Danish during these reunions, this moment looks the same in any language as happy runners receive a little boost!
The course entertainment was great!  A special hats off to the tuba player from this band, who played for a good stretch of time-- a physical feat equally as impressive as running the marathon if you ask me.

Above, these handcyclists went through the route behind the elite runners
 The warm weather encouraged even more spectators-- as you can see, people are enjoying an outdoor cafe while cheering on the athletes 
  A scenic place to put a sign for your runner!
Lots of cyclists were going about their daily business throughout various points of the course.  This father was transporting his kids as usual (note the encouragement signs for runners in the background)
Above, my first  Copenhagen Cycle Chic moment of my trip here.  For those of you who don't know, Copenhagen Cycle Chic is a great blog dedicated to the unique (and chic) style of cyclists in Copenhagen.  This woman paused to let the runners pass and then proceeded along on her chic and merry way. 

  Below, an ice cream shop in Islands Brygge, a charming neighborhood in Copenhagen that hosts the Copenhagen Marathon finish line.  All the ice cream stores were making a killing that day-- the shops were full of captive audience members inspired by warm weather
 Below, these dogs were my favorite spectators.  They were really getting into the excitement.

  Below, a view of Islands Brygge from the bridge--this scenic street hosts the finish line!
  Below, my favorite quirk about the Copenhagen Marathon: a map of the race route that when folded, doubles as a noisemaker for cheering on runners!  But wait, that's not all-- when you flip the map over, it transforms into an encouragement sign for your runner!  No wonder this city is famous for clever design!  

Congratulations to all of the runners of the Copenhagen Marathon 2012! 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Return to Copenhagen

A few weeks ago, I was living under the California sun and preparing for what I was sure would be a chilly weather adventure in Copenhagen.  Last time I was here (spring 2005), it was what I like to call pastry and coffee weather.  I was bundled up, all mittens and scarf and winter hat.  As it turns out, I've arrived for the warmest weather week of the year-- people are sunbathing everywhere as if it's Santa Monica.  In true California style, my packing strategy was mostly motivated by the fear that I would freeze to death in the Scandinavian winter.  But one can't complain when sunshine is such a rare luxury around here!  As you can see from the picture above, our afternoon cake and coffee session was uncharacteristically bathed in light.

With 15 months of an international internship ahead of me, I know I will be looking back on this sunny weather fondly once winter strikes.  You might be wondering what I was doing to prepare for my trip while failing to research average summer temperatures.  Why, food-related research, of course!  To prepare for my extended stay in Denmark, I attended the recent UCLA lecture given by René Redzepi and Lars Williams of noma and Nordic Food Lab fame.  It was by chance that they happened to visit my city just before I was to become a temporary resident of theirs.  The chefs were kind enough to bring the audience samples of their culinary creativity (a plan almost foiled by temporarily lost luggage.)  We tasted cucumber powder, cricket sauce, and ice cream made with seaweed indigenous to Denmark.  (In the lecture, we learned that seaweed is not currently a large part of the food culture in Denmark, though there are hundreds of varieties in the region.)  I would love to eat at noma one day, but if I never do, I consider a $20 lecture ticket (plus UCLA parking pass) a heavily discounted and thrilling opportunity to taste anything these chefs have touched.  

Ranked as the best restaurant in the world three years running, noma celebrates the local ingredients of Denmark by constantly foraging for new culinary inspiration.  Lars Williams even described finding ants that tastes like kaffir lime, which sound just crazy (and also awesome) enough to try at least once.  Maybe kaffir lime ants will eventually invade menus in Los Angeles just like truffle oil-- we'll start to add citrus insects to our high end mac and cheese just like we used to add lobster.  While I've not yet foraged for such ants in Denmark, I have already experienced living off of the land here.  As luck would have it, I arrived just in time for deer hunting season, and enjoyed fresh venison from the fields of Roskilde just a few days after landing.

Above, the hunting grounds and hunting lodge near where I'm staying.

I will spend my first few weeks here staying with a Danish family who I lived with in 2005, during my college semester abroad.  Lone and her husband Jan are the chefs behind the aforementioned special meal.  To put it lightly, they can hunt and cook a mean dinner.  Sometimes the best, most memorable meals are cooked at home and not at trendy restaurants-- and meals at their house definitely fall under this category.  We've been lucky to stay in touch all this time, and my Danish host mom even visited Los Angeles last spring.  

Below, we visited the Bruery, a small brewery based in Orange County, CA who makes a beer inspired by Danish style rugbrød.

 Of course, all Danish visitors must have a picture with the lovely Pacific Ocean!  Here we are at Crystal Cove State Beach.
 Yes, it's just your typical reunion bakery hunting trip in Los Angeles!   Magnolia bakery was one of a handful of bakeries we had the chance to visit together.

The bakery hunting photo brings me back to where I started: the cake bathed in sunlight at the start of this post? It's Lone's homemade coconut cake, just one of many delicious traditional Danish recipes she whips up when inspiration strikes.  Baking is a common passion of ours, and a particular talent of hers.  Despite her talents, she always tells me "Oh, it's very simple to make this recipe."  But I know the truth-- this woman has skills.  And what fortune that I am able to enjoy everything that comes out of her generous kitchen, along the great company that comes along with it. 

tiny and irresistible sugar cookies that will leave you thinking "just one more..."
homemade buns, often enjoyed with cheese and jam at breakfast
a typical Danish breakfast in this household