The Nordic Touch

Even though winter is longer than for us in the US Northeast, it seems to wear less on the spirit here

Even though winter is longer than for us in the US Northeast, it seems to wear less on the spirit here

These are taxi driver numbers (and all of our taxi drivers spoke English fluently) — about 5.5 million population in Denmark and between 7 and 800,000 in Copenhagen — and they elicit from me a roll of the eye and an “of course” muttered under my breath as I notice the following:  streets you could spread a picnic on; flowers banking outdoor stands; young and old pedaling against the wind; mothers biking their young in barrow-like contraptions with smiles on their faces; copper politely asking a pair of hungover men to quit their scuffling (actually their tussle looked quite serious); hundreds of bikes left street side, unlocked; museums and shops with attended playrooms; crazy, out there, food, some of it delicious, some a bit strange and all pushing the edge of the sustainable envelope.

sop for moving around with children

sop for moving around with children

Chef Matt Orlando hails from San Diego, worked at Noma, Fat Duck and Per Se, and now presides over AMASS

Chef Matt Orlando hails from San Diego, worked at Noma, Fat Duck and Per Se, and now presides over AMASS

 AMASS is located in a large warehouse outside of town on the water’s edge.  It is a two-story, industrial, wonderfully spacious environment with tables widely spaced, an outside terrace with bonfire and a small lounge area.  All of the tables have a view of the open kitchen which is smoke free (electric stoves), white and stainless steel, pristine.  There are three tasting menus that focus on seasonal produce, locally produced herbs, and fish.  As this was our first dip into the culinary waters of Copenhagen, I associate Amass with the whole sprouted, recycled and repurposed conversation about food – but we heard this again at Relae the following night, so I assume that this is an important topic for chefs.  RELAE, Chef Christian Puglisi’s successful restaurant (both he and Orlando worked for Redzepi at NOMA), also focusses on organic and mostly vegetarian produce.  Again, with a choice of tasting menus, many of the course descriptions included information on the repurposing of the produce.  I preferred my meal at Amass to Relae for I found the latter heavy on butter and cream, but both had some really interesting dishes (Relae’s frozen yoghurt desert with egg yolk was a real conversation piece).  In the end, like the food or not, the vibe and energy in the restaurants, the passion with which they produce and present their fare, the stripped down surroundings (hang your own coat; chef also serves the food) is new and fun – at least for me.

It’s a very appealing place, Copenhagen.  I envy the design, the quality of life (even if taxes range between 40-60%), the high degree of emotional IQ, the attention to the children, to health, to the environment.  A couple of years ago a magazine appeared in Brooklyn, NY, called KINFOLK (see blog posting on it) which enchanted me – mostly for its visuals but also for the message which celebrated slow living, sharing of life’s pleasures, simplicity, quality, soul.  In my hotel room at Hotel d’Angleterre I came across a twin of Kinfolk called OAK

Kinfolk

Kinfolk’s twin?

When I googled the magazine – after devouring the heavy paper and lovely images – I saw it photographed with Kinfolk but I still don’t know if they are from the same folks.  I imagine so as they are too similar in design.  But seeing this and imagining that they are cut from the same cloth makes me a little happier going back to NY tomorrow… maybe we are not so behind the times as I have felt this weekend.

And now, having just returned from my final dinner at Puglisi’s Baest, a fun, relaxed (they are all relaxed..no need to dress at all) restaurant of charcuterie (most made on site) and pizzas, I really am amazed at the breadth and depth of culinary and design acumen..remember, as my taxi driver said, we are a city of 700,000 people here.  Amazing. And if I were 20, I might just come and live here for a stint.

Sunday in Copenhagen

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Sunday started out rainy and gray and then, as we made our way to Torvehallerne, the two covered markets that sell everything from flowers and cheese to artisanal breads and smorrebrode, the sun shone through.  This is a city that truly comes alive in the sun, for the orange and yellow painted building facades pop in the light, as if Copenhagen suddenly hits its mark and moves into the spotlight.  The market is fun – one of the best, in fact – for the loveliness of the produce and for the pleasure families take in the delicious breakfast foods.  And then, as the light rain began again, we hopped an Uber car with Ahmed and headed out of the city to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Located on the water 40 minutes outside of Copenhagen, Louisiana is the foremost contemporary art museum in Denmark

Located on the water 40 minutes outside of Copenhagen, Louisiana is the foremost contemporary art museum in Denmark

Louisiana is wonderful, for its permanent exhibit of garden sculpture, for the marvelous Giacomettis, for the view looking out on the Nordic waters streaked with sun and reaching to a low horizon.

Calder never looked so well

Calder never looked so well

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Installation of Jeff Wall photography

Installation of Jeff Wall photography

We returned with our Uber to town and stopped off to have a look at the much publicized new boutique Hotel SP34 (not terribly impressed) and then ducked in to FIAT once more for lunch (Italian lunch was appealing after all of our Nordic restaurant experimentation).  One of my favorite shops offered the perfect opportunity for a photo befitting bicycle crazy Copenhagen

Copenhagen selfie

Copenhagen selfie

Nimb Hotel

The Nimb

The Nimb’s brilliance is its fine blend of fantasy and attention to detail

 

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With only 17 rooms (more to come in the next year), the Nimb hotel is part of a larger conglomerate, owned by the Tivoli gardens, that includes numerous restaurants, bakery and wine bar.  Sited across the street from Copenhagen’s central train station and backing on to the Tivoli Gardens, this is a real surprise.  Certainly Copenhagen’s best boutique hotel, it is a delightful property that recalls 1001 Nights with its Moorish arches and sprinkling of Asian furniture and objects.  But it is also wholly Scandinavian, with bare, wide plank wooden floors, clean lines and wooden country tables and armoires.  The 17 rooms all look on to the gardens, a fantasy land itself that comes alive in the spring, summer and fall when the gardens are in bloom, lights twinkle, performers take to the stages and children to the skies on the amusement rides that wind up and away.

It has a wonderful vibe as a meeting place to eat and drink but, if you are a guest, you will have a front row seat on to the revelries out your window and off the terraces that spread along the back of the hotel.  And I am assured that, even with floor to ceiling windows in the downstairs suites giving on to the gardens, there is no noise or pedestrian intrusion.

The Nimb, as with any hotel, may not be for everyone but, frankly, I was really taken with it.

http://www.nimb.dk/

A Weekend in Copenhagen

IMG_2720It has been many years since I was last in Copenhagen and so I decided to come back for a long weekend with my son, Justin. I opted for the non-stop on SAS which was a mere 7h15m from New York but with a 6:30PM departure that had us arriving at 7:15AM – not ideal for a decent night’s sleep.  So, a bit loopy, we taxied in from the airport to the Hotel d’Angleterre, the lovely grande dame of hotels that has had a costly and very successful facelift.

early morning on the way in from the airport

early morning on the way in from the airport

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With 90 gracious, spacious rooms clothed in fabrics that meander the gray, beige and lavender spectrum, we settled in to our suite with great relief and delight.  Dropping our luggage, we headed out at 9:30 for the first of the canal boat trips offer an excellent overview of the city’s layout and its maritime history.

Nyhavn

Nyhavn

Nyhavn

Nyhavn

The time to be in Copenhagen is spring, summer and fall, I imagine, when the water sparkles and the ochre painted houses gleam in the sun.  Today was cold and became grayer as the day progressed, but young and old seemed unperturbed behind their upright bicycle handles as they pressed on into the wind, oftentimes pushing carts filled with a child or two.

Chef Matt Orlando

Chef Matt Orlando’s AMASS Restaurant

 

 

Best seat in the house next to the smooth running open kitchen

Best seat in the house next to the smooth running open kitchen

Our 9-course tasting dinner was at AMASS, American Chef Matt Orlando’s wonderfully innovative restaurant outside of the city center at the water’s edge.  Orlando was a protege of Rene Redzepi, owner and illustrious chef of NOMA, voted the world’s best restaurant, and he has worked at both Per Se and the Fat Duck to earn his stripes.  Tall, calm, open and friendly, he has an earnest desire to produce delicious, innovative food in a conscious, sustainable manner and, to that end, they have their own herb garden on the premises and are engaged in interesting recycling efforts.  The restaurant, a large, open warehouse- converted space, has a wonderfully happy vibe — the tables are wide apart, the chef-amassed playlist is upbeat (and peppered with hip-hop) and the food is presented at times by knowledgeable servers and at times by the chefs and the chef/owner himself.  We had a most wonderful evening seated at the kitchen window where we watched the chefs deftly prepare the tasting menu bites while stopping, from time to time, to chat and explain their moves.

http://www.amassrestaurant.com/

http://www.dangleterre.dk/

http://www.nimb.dk/en/

Bending Sticks and Making Magic

MonksPatrick Dougherty -

Born in Oklahoma in 1945, Dougherty was raised in North Carolina. He earned a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina in 1967 and an M.A. in Hospital and Health Administration from the University of Iowa in 1969. Later, he returned to the University of North Carolina to study art history and sculpture.

Combining his carpentry skills with his love of nature, Patrick began to learn more about primitive techniques of building and to experiment with tree saplings as construction material. In 1982 his first work, Maple Body Wrap, was included in the North Carolina Biennial Artists’ Exhibition, sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of Art. In the following year, he had his first one-person show entitled, Waitin’ It Out in Maple at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

His work quickly evolved from single pieces on conventional pedestals to monumental scale environmental works, which required saplings by the truckloads. Over the last thirty years, he has built over 250 of these works, and become internationally acclaimed. His sculpture has been seen worldwide—from Scotland to Japan to Brussels, and all over the United States.

He has received numerous awards, including the 2011 Factor Prize for Southern Art, North Carolina Artist Fellowship Award, Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, Henry Moore Foundation Fellowship, Japan-US Creative Arts Fellowship, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Princeton Architectural Press published a major book about Patrick and his work in 2009.

www.stickwork.net