Wait, what? Ice cream season closes in Copenhagen? Yes. In fact, it does, for most local shops. For the vinter. And every year, come the end of February or early March the shops all over town open their doors again. And some offer gratis is. Free ice cream. Or special discounts. And we always grab some. Danish ice cream is good. Happy cows remember? Although recent World Happiness rankings might put Norwegians cows ahead of their Danish neighbors. Moo.
So spring officially began here in Denmark on March 1st. To be honest, that is just a date on your wall calendar. Or ical or phone app or abacus – wherever you figure out what stinkin’ day of the week it is out there. In Denmark, a few vintergækker blømster, or snowdrop flowers, pushing up through the earth do not equal spring in my opinion. A harbinger for the season ahead, perhaps. But, since the month’s start, we’ve had snow flurries, temps averaging around 4°C and a progression of cold, damp and gray days. That is. Until last week. Finally. It feels a little like spring.
Enter the vernal equinox. Is it just me or is there something sexy about that word. Vernal. Maybe I’m misinterpreting. March 20th is halfway between the darkest December day and the peak of summer. The spring equinox ushers in an equal amount of light and dark on the Danish days. The weather is still not that warm. Per se. But then again, it’s all relative. When the sun is out even at 5°C, put your face upwards and it feels like heaven. Here anyway.
So now it is spring. To me – spring is sprung when the crocuses pop at the Kings Garden. That beautiful purple and white plaid carpet that stretches out before the Rosenborg Slot. NOW. It is spring in Copenhagen. Now we can eat ice cream. Continue reading “Spring means Ice Cream in Copenhagen”→
When I say porridge – you say? Grød! No, no, no. Not grod. Grød. Listen.
When I say porridge – you say? Grød! At least the Danes do. Grød is porridge. To me, the word porridge conjures up visions of huge kettles of oatmeal that has been sitting out way too long at the breakfast buffet of your hotel when on a long weekend away with your son’s lacrosse team. Oh sorry. Just me? Maybe the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? I always steer clear. Of the “porridge.” Goopy. Soupy. Snotty. Oatmeal. Don’t get me wrong. I love oatmeal. But it isn’t porridge to me. It is oatmeal. And that stuff in the kettle? That is not oatmeal.
Here the Danes love porridge. Specifically risengrød. Rice porridge. When presented with new foods, I instinctually scroll through my mental rolodex of experiences and tastes. As you do when trying to make connections with that strange dish placed in front of you. The closest thing to risengrød that I have tried before would probably be rice pudding. In the States, it is a salad bar staple, but often gelatinous or potentially chunky. Now before you judge, not all American rice pudding is bad, but many can be. We do love the Trader Joe’s rice pudding straight from the container. Especially when served cold with cinnamon and nutmeg. Wait. Cold? Nutmeg? Did you say NUTMEG?!?! Records screeching silent. Looks of disdain. Utter shock and horror. You do NOT put nutmeg on risengrød, says my Danish friend. Oh. Ok. Duly noted. Thanks for the tip.
When we moved here two years ago, we found a tube of risengrød at the local Netto, a local market that I can only describe as a cross between Safeway, Tesco and the Dollar Store shoved inside the space of a 7-11. But Netto is an institution here. And a shopping experience it is. You either love it or you hate it. Or you grow to love it. Nothing is ever in the same place. There are boxes everywhere and there is nary a concern for presentation or atmosphere. Of any kind. But the prices are good. Very good. For Danish prices. Before arriving, I had read a little about Danish Christmas and knew that this tube at Netto was potentially a key player. It said Risengrød. That was an important Danish dish. You can see our first attempts at testing it here. Oh what we didn’t know that we didn’t even know at that time.
In Denmark, grød is a staple. (You’re still trying to say it correctly aren’t you? Keep trying.) You can eat grød for breakfast, lunch AND even dinner. Risengrød gets elevated status as a special dish at Christmas time. Think about it. Rice doesn’t grow here in Denmark. It was imported. You had to buy it. So if you normally made your daily grød from commonly grown grains like oats or rye or barley, rice was special. A treat. As was the exotic cinnamon which topped it. A risengrød was for Christmas. And when served at the beginning of the rich Danish Christmas dinner people filled up and it helped meter the costs of the more expensive dishes like the Duck and Roast Pork. Today, when modern Danes serve risengrød to their families, they make connections to history and those cultural roots. Those roots set in early, as most children have grown up with porridge for breakfast. It is comfort food in a bowl. And my family was eating it all wrong.
It should be served piping hot. With a “knob” of butter. And covered in cinnamon sugar. COVERED. Let the butter melt, but don’t stir it all in. Nibble like a Nisse from the edges. What’s a Nisse you ask? Those mischievous little sprites that live in the forest and help at the farm, but only if you treat them well. In December they move inside. Modern children place nissedør (doors) in their homes to allow the Nisse access. Leave them a little risengrød and they might leave a present in your boot. But forget and they might hide the toaster. Or move your shoes. They’ll play tricks to remind you. I can’t help but think that the “Elf on the Shelf” tradition has some roots with the nisse. Nisse love risengrød.
And risengrød has to be the perfect consistency. Recipes allow for any short grain rice, but Danes only use grødris. Follow a recipe. Keep stirring and stirring. Don’t walk away or the milk will burn. The rice shouldn’t be al dente, but definitely not mush. You want to feel the grains when you chew. It needs some tooth. Too much to take in? Not interested in making your own risengrød? But you are intrigued by this Danish tradition? Don’t worry. You can try it. At GRØD.
Yes. There is a restaurant that serves only porridge. In bowls. Piping hot. In fact, GRØD loves to claim that they were “the world’s first porridge bar.” You can visit the mother ship in Nørrebro on charming Jæggersborgade or in the glass market at Torvehallerne. Lucky for me, my Danish friend loves GRØD and we have one right here in our Østerbro neighborhood.
Today, we met for a bowl of the klassisk risengrød. Served just how she taught me. It’s simple. But homey. And definitely not soupy. Just right. Let the butter melt. Don’t stir it in. Warm and filling. Do I need it everyday? Probably not. But I would not say no to another bowl of porridge served hot.
A warmed spiced cider with elderflower.
Ready to nibble like Nisse?
My little Nisse, still not so sure.
GRØD serves many different kinds of porridge beyond the simple and traditional risengrød. They want to elevate what they believe a classic and elegant meal in a bowl. I will admit that last time I visited I enjoyed the curried lentil porridge. Been to GRØD? It is definitely worth seeking out. What did you try? This time of year – don’t miss the risengrød. Cozy Danish Christmas in a bowl.
WHERE TO FIND GRØD
Torvehallerne Glass Market
Hall 2, Stade 8A, Linnésgade 17
1362 Copenhagen K
Monday – Friday: 07.30-19-00
Saturday & Sunday: 9:00 to 18:00
Jægersborggade 50, kld. TV
DK-2200 Copenhagen N
Monday – Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 21:00
Saturday – Sunday: 9:00 to 21:00
Nordre Frihavnsgade 55,
2100 Copenhagen Ø
Monday – Friday: 7:30 to 21:00
Saturday – Sunday: 9:00 to 21:00
Additional locations in Frederiksberg and on Jutland in Aarhus.
I may not be fluent in Danish. Actually enrolling in classes would probably be a good way to get cracking on that. But I have picked up some Dansk words and phrases and I definitely know how to eat in Danish. Not eat a “danish.” Eat Danish. Spoiler alert – that breakfast pastry that you may know as a “danish,” is called Viennese bread here, because it actually originated in Austria, brought here by immigrant bakers a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong Danes make darn good wienerbrød. Rigtigt godt brød in general. Really good bread. Because man can not live on bread alone, I am grateful for the culture that promotes sustainable seasonal produce, grown in Denmark. In fact, much of Denmark outside the main cities is covered with agriculture. Right now with warm summer temps across Denmark – there are plots full of delicious Danish early summer fruits and vegetables. Strawberries. Jordbær. Peas. Ærter. Asparagus. Asparges. And rabarber.
Rabarber = rhubarb in Danish. It is fun to say. One of the few words I can say correctly. Almost. To my Danish friends, if you make me say it, pretend you understand and give me this one. Just this one. Rabarber. You can correct me on all the others. Rabarber is plentiful right now. Where you are too? I know rhubarb isn’t uniquely Danish. (If you are interested in what is, check out this post – 5 Most Uniquely Danish Foods)