Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Fun and Friends and Food in Denmark! (Copenhagen, Aarhus)

the beautiful Danish flag! 


Part two of our 3-week trip to Europe was a very special visit to Denmark. In fact, our time in Denmark was the impetus for our whole trip: we went to see some very dear family friends, some of  whom we hadn't seen in years. It was really fantastic to see them all - and we just had so much fun together. How amazing. 

Way back when my parents were just out of college, they were living in San Diego and met a nice Danish couple. They had 3 kids, the youngest of whom, Cecilie, is just about my age. Over the years, this friendship has remained intact, and at various times, we've had opportunites to connect, sometimes in the US, sometimes in Europe.. but it had been a really long time. Until last summer! Last summer I bought a plane ticket with a 16-hour overnight layover in Copenhagen. This gave me a chance to connect with my pal Cecilie. Oh my goodness, we had so much fun together. And so a plan to return with my husband and parents in tow for a proper visit was hatched! How amazing it is that friendships can endure and that my parents' friends can have children my age who I also love so much! The affection and connection feels so lovely. 

Just look what we arrived to: it was our very first night in Denmark, and we were lovingly fetched at the airport and brought to our friend Birgitte's house for a beautiful and delicious family dinner. You can see the love and warmth in all our faces. Birgitte was so kind, and made sure that there would be plenty of good food for me to eat, and even bought ingredients for special vegan pancakes for dessert. They were so delicious! What a warm and lovely welcome. 


Sunny weekend breakfast in our friends' backyard

Mr. VE&T and I stayed with our friends Cecilie and Martin and their three excellent kiddos. My parents stayed in another family member's house closer to the city center. It was so fun to stay with our pals, and we especially loved the daily family breakfast routine. It was charmingly efficient on school days, and happily luxurious on the weekend. Just thinking of those sweet people waking up and having their breakfast every day makes me feel happy. 

One day during our stay, we had a weekend morning, and my parents were off with Birgitte, so we enjoyed a lazy and sunny breakfast in the backyard. We were so impressed with their coziness system: a warm fuzzy blanket on every chair! It was sunny, but it was still cool out, so it was nice to be able to bundle up as needed. We went out and got pastries and there was bread and green porridge, and juice, and my vegan yogurt, and lots of coffee! 


A VEGAN FEAST!

We went to Henrik and Elizabeth's house for a big family dinner together - and oh my goodness. Apparently those two love to cook, and so they took on this amazing project: vegan eggplant casserole (complete with homemade vegan cheese!), vegan spreads for appetizers, huge and glorious vegan green salads... and even a huge and decadent fruit platter. You guys. I am not sure anyone has ever cooked such a wonderful and elaborate vegan feast in my honor before, ever. I couldn't believe it! 

They had some (non-vegan) baked goodies for dessert, but as a gesture of goodwill, Henrik had also picked up some vegan licorice! Oh snap! I was just in heaven. So much fun to see these old friends and be welcomed with love (and food!). I was so beside myself with joy and absorbed in the ease of the evening that I completely forgot to take a picture of our wonderful hosts. The highest compliment? 



One rainy day, we all set out into downtown Copenhagen to have some fun and make the most of our time together - rain be damned! For lunch, we made our way over to Papiroen -- it's a super cool, huge former industrial space that has been converted into a hip food court situation. Inside there are ALL SORTS of vendors selling food from various global cuisines, coffee, beer, and lots of communal seating. We were there on a holiday, and it was *packed.* So we staked out a table for our big group of 9 people, and circled like vultures until we finally got some seats. 

I got myself a wonderful burger from the vegan stall called La Tienda. As you can see, it was huge! As you can only imagine, it was also delicious!! I was definitely stoked to find such a great vegan option. Places like this are so great when you have a big group with such diverse food interests/needs. Everyone found something they were happy with, we all ate well, and even with food from so many different vendors, we all got to eat together. 

*note* unfortunately, Papiroen will close down on December 31st, 2017... so it may not be there anymore if you are using this post to plan your own travels. I'm so glad I got to see it! 

eating wild sea kale

We took a side trip to Aarhus with my parents and Birgitte. I had been to Denmark a few times, but only ever to Copenhagen and that area. It was great to see a bit more of Denmark... especially with our lovely Danish friend to teach us more about what we were seeing. For example, here's something wonderful we never could have discovered without Birgitte: the joy and tasty delight of eating wild sea kale!!! 

What?! We took a ferry over to Aarhus, and we got the ferry stop well ahead of schedule... so we took a little detour down a tiny dirt road to see the shore. The short walk to the shore was beautiful: filled with flowers and dunes/meadows. The beach itself was rocky, with low, calm waves. And dotted along the shoreline were these beautiful green plants with white flowers. Birgitte told us that this was wild sea kale, and showed us that you could eat it! It was so delicious!! It was like kale that tasted like cooked broccoli - sweeter and more tender than most kale I know. And the flowers were actually *sweet* - absolutely lovely! We didn't want to take more than our fair share, but we picked a bunch and ate it with our meals throughout the week. I wish wild sea kale grew on the beaches here! 

the *amazing* Rainbow Walk, high up on the top floor of the ARoS Art Museum in Aarhus.
Seriously what a special experience. You get to walk in a loop through gradually shifting color planes, looking out with grand vistas across the city. It's really wonderful.

a quaint little rainy street in Aarhus
we had a lot of rain on our trip, but we were undeterred! 

AirBnB Breakfast!

We found a pretty good AirBnB in Aarhus, with a huge and beautiful big common room on the top floor. Plus, this super cute little area rug that I loved sitting on. In my quest to eat as much European vegan yogurt as possible, I stocked up on lots of high-quality Alpro vegan yogurt for my breakfasts, plus some muesli, soaked almonds (courtesy of Birgitte!), and Danish strawberries. Plus coffee. And bedhead. 


Vegan lunch for everyone!

In Aarhus, I lovingly dragged everyone to Mikuna for lunch. In exchange for dragging 4 non-vegans to a vegan lunch spot, I decided to treat everyone. What a super cute place this is, in a very fun and hip part of town. We all wished that we had a little more time to check out some of the shops and streets around Mikuna.

The options here were really appealing and we all loved our choices. Three of us ordered the burger, one person got the dahl, and one person got the chili -- 100% happiness rate! The food was fresh and delicious, filling and satisfying. Servings were generous and ample, but not absurd. They also have a great selection of fun drinks in their cooler, and a nice selection of take away desserts too (we shared a couple treats and loved them!). I definitely recommend this spot! 



Aarhus Street Food

Similar to the Papiroen experience in Copenhagen, Aarhus has it's own "Aarhus Street Food" center -- such a great choice for a group of 5 people with 5 different ideas of a "perfect dinner!" There were loads of choices for all of us. After checking out all the different stalls (there were several places with vegan options!), I settled on a Vietnamese Bun Bowl, which was light and delicious and totally hit the spot. Meanwhile, Birgitte and Mr. VE&T got some pizza, my dad got traditional Danish food, and I don't remember what my mom picked out -- something else entirely. I wish we had more places like this in the U.S. It's such a cool way to go out to eat - and I love that it gives a low-rent opportunity to so many foodie entrepreneurs.


Koldinghaus

On our drive back from Aarhus toward Copenhagen, we went to see the beautiful castle in Kolding, called Koldinghus. They had a totally stunning design show that surprised all of us and sucked us in for hours! All of a sudden, we realized that we had better eat a late lunch and continue on our way before we were expected back in Copenhagen. The Koldinghus castle has a very traditional Danish buffet restaurant, and we decided that it was our best option. Honestly, I figured that it would be a total bust for me, and I would just eat some of my snacks in the car. But lo! I was able to get my money's worth - a few different appealing salads, roasted beets, veggies, sauerkraut, fresh fruit, and bread... I was quite delighted!  


Did you know that people in Denmark are just crazy about bikes?
It's so cool! 


Birthday breakfast!! 

Our last full day in Denmark together also just happened to be my birthday. Our friends gave me the most wonderful and love-filled birthday wake-up call, I cannot even tell you. My whole day was totally excellent, from start to finish. Plus, it didn't rain all day, which felt like a miracle at that point! 

We had a super special breakfast that morning with Danish flags and sparkly blue decor and cards and prezzies! I felt so loved!! Lucky me. Martin has a special "Green Porridge" that he makes every single morning for himself and for Cecilie. The children are not interested in this concoction. Neither was Mr. VE&T. But, I was up for trying it, and to my surprise, I even fell for it! I had it every morning that we were there! And, even more surprising, I have continued to make it for myself at home! It is extremely hearty and robust -- not for the faint of heart, my friends. I'll include the recipe at the end of this post, in case you want to try it for yourself!


Naturbageriet

One of our first stops in central Copenhagen was Naturbageriet, an all-vegan bakery. They also have several gluten-free items, in case that is important info for you. I reviewed the offerings and made several purchases (I had to!). By far my favorite was the vegan Thebirkes (seen bottom right), a super Danish pastry filled with butter, sugar, and marzipan and then covered in white poppy seeds. Holy bonkers that thing was good. It was so good that I bought a few more for myself at the end of the day when I was walking home. Ha ha. What a special treat! 

Next we headed toward this amazing market in central Copenhagen, called Torvehallerne

What a super cool spot! There are cafes, prepared foods, bakeries, candy spots, a super special tea store, and loads and loads of fresh fruit and veggie vendors. We got some coffee & pastries, and I got my first big bag of birthday cherries. The sweet young guy who sold me the cherries told me that his birthday was just the day before, so we were both cherry appreciators and nearly birthday twinsies! That was fun.

This place was a really special market -- so fun. In fact, we came back later in the day and LOADED up on all sorts of goodies for one last big family dinner together. 


One of excellent Instagram pals (woot, shout out to @lenetroen !) just happened to see that I was in Denmark and she is also Danish and she gave me some excellent birthday advice to go to Cafe Kaf - great choice!! By the time we got here, we had a big group and everyone was pretty pooped out from a day of sightseeing and sunshine and grocery shopping for dinner... and no one was really feeling very shiny in that moment. But we piled into a little picnic table out front, and ordered our sandwiches. The sandwiches are all vegetarian, but not all vegan, and the menu isn't in English. But you can ask and they will help you. Everyone there spoke English. Mr VE&T and I split those two huge sandwiches you see here, and they were 1) massive and 2) super special and delicious. Would eat again!! OMG so good.

And we were all stuffed, but it was also my birthday, so I was going to have to try their cakes!! So we all split this wonderful piece of cake: it had a lovely light mousse and then a super perfect brownie crust. We all loved it... in fact, it motivated me to buy myself a whole bday cake! But you have to wait to read about that. Mwahaha. 


Nice Cream

After our huge lunch and piece of cake, everyone else went home to start preparing dinner... but Mr. VE&T and I got to take our time and walk home together. I know you are probably thinking "Holy Batman, Amey, haven't you already had a pastry and a giant sandwich and lots of cherries and a piece of cake?! Do you really need ice cream?" The answer is YES. Nice Cream was probably the #1 spot I was determined to try, and this was my last evening in Denmark, and it has a location that is conveniently about 1 block away from Cafe Kaf.

OMG you guys. OMG. Mr VE&T and both agreed that this was the best vegan ice cream we had ever had. And, honestly, it's not like we were starving at this point, so that says even more. I got a scoop of coffee & Mr VE&T got a scoop of chocolate between two (gluten-free!) chocolate chip cookies. Seriously this place was just amazing and I can't even tell you how many times I have thought about and longed after this ice cream since going there. They also make some super amazing looking healthy "nice cream" bowls that are very tempting. I will have to go back to Copenhagen and make it a priority to eat here every day.

greedy-grubber super-snacker birthday girl!


Birthday Feast!

For our last dinner together, we had a wonderful time cooking and assembling our various purchases from the market that afternoon. Many non-vegan items were present (avert your eyes!!), but the vegan offerings were ample: roasted veggies, marinated and grilled tofus, spring potatoes, dolmas and hummus, fresh bread, green salad, and this amazing salad that Cecilie made. I wish I remembered more about that salad -- all I remember is that we were all raving about it and couldn't stop eating it. What a beautiful, festive, and delicious evening it was together -- happily spending time in the kitchen together, and then all going outside to eat in the yard...


The Gang's All Here!
What a lovely gathering of love & affection! 
Friendships rekindled. What a special time together.
and what a super special birthday dinner!!!

and last but not least... my birthday cake!

When we were at Cafe Kaf in the afternoon, I just couldn't resist their amazing display case of desserts. It is both a blessing and a curse to follow these guys on Instagram. After our single piece of cake was so delicious and wonderful, I decided to buy a whole cake to bring home for dessert. There were 10 of us in total -- so a whole cake wasn't too crazy of a notion! The biggest problem was having to choose!! I couldn't decided between something fruity and something chocolatey. The folks at Cafe Kaf were super kind and agreed to give me the lower price for buying a whole cake even though I got half and half of two different selections: half Rhubarb Marzipan and half Chocolate Hazelnut Marzipan. Ooooooh boy! Such great choices! These cakes with a layer of marzipan are very Danish, and so is rhubarb... so I felt somewhat obligated to try those. But, you just gotta have some chocolate too, amirite? They were both absolutely superb! After our lovely dinner outside, we had a heart-filled evening inside - singing and laughing and playing, drinking tea and decaf, and enjoying our cake together.

This was a wonderful trip. It was so special to have this time with my parents, and also with our very dear Danish friends. Next spring, Cecilie and Martin and their kiddos are coming to California for a visit and we are already so excited and planning all the fun things we can do together. Friendships really are a pretty special thing about being alive.



3 out 4 adults think Martin's Green Porridge is yummy!
1 out of 4 adults says "no thank you!"


Martin's Green Porridge
(with my changes in parentheses)
makes 2-3 servings

1 avocado (I use 1/2 an avo and 1/2 cup plain vegan yogurt)
1 apple (cored)
1 lemon (rinds removed)
1 ginger (peeled, a generous chunk)
10 grapes (I use a handful of blueberries instead, fresh or frozen)
5 walnut halves
1 sheet nori seaweed (I only use a half sheet per batch)
4 handfuls fresh spinach
1 bunch parsley (I use a handful, but not a whole bunch)
broccoli (maybe a cup or so, of raw brocco)
bean sprouts ( I never add this, because I don't have sprouts around the house)
1 glass green tea or water

Put it all in the blender and blend it up. It is seriously green!
To really do it Martin's way, top it with some corn flakes and chia seeds. And enjoy it with a piece of bread on the side. Let me know if you try it! 

6 comments:

  1. This sounds like such a special and magical trip! I smiled so much reading your post. And so much beautiful food! Those cakes! That ice cream! And you are correct, there is ALWAYS room for ice cream!

    I am very curious about this green porridge! One day I will have to try it.

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  2. What an awesome adventure; that's great that you got to visit and re-connect with friends who live so far away! And neat about finding the wild sea kale; I didn't even know such a thing existed!

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  3. Wow, what an amazingly special trip! I cannot get over all of the delicious food you ate. But I think the part I loved the most is the special vegan meal your hosts made for you upon your arrival. What a perfect way to welcome you, Amey, who has spent countless hours preparing elaborate, love-filled feasts for so many!

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  4. what a super awesome trip!! it makes me smile just to read about it. and that rug!!! <3 THOSE CAKES!!!!!

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  5. So happy that you had a great trip - and that you really had ALL the delicious foods on your birthday! I've been touring the same places a few times this summer - Kaf (okay I go there a lot..) Nicecream (they now have a BLACK charcoal liquorice chocolate ice cream) Papirøen - with vegan and non-vegan friends and it's always a major hit, so happy it worked with your family and friends as well. I've been a vegan for 8 years now and Copenhagen has just exploded with great options, so I think you made your revisit on a perfect time :-)

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  6. Wow Amey this looks like the most fantastic adventure filled with all of the best things, your family, friends, food, art, and the outdoors. I'm so pleased to see you getting your Alpro fix, if you ever come to stay with me and Nick we will be sure to fill the fridge with yoghurts! I love that you went big with the desserts on your birthday, what a perfect reason to eat everything delicious (not that you need one!). The mousse cake looks particularly great and I would love to try the ice cream cookie sandwich. Good vegan ice cream is the best! I remember frequenting Naturbageriet and I believe that I've eaten that exact apple pastry - it is indeed most excellent and reading this has made me want to re-visit Denmark. I'm so happy that you had such a wonderful trip!

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