It was a last minute realization that the week before Christmas might be a great time to grab a week away with my family. With my eldest daughter graduating from college and starting a job in NYC in early July, I started to panic. How many more opportunities will we have to travel as a family. It didn't take me long to convince my family that Christmas in Europe would be special experience. I selected Copenhagen, Denmark as our destination for two reasons: 1) Denmark's Christmas markets are ranked among the best in the world and I could manage to do some buying for the shop, and 2) my husband, the "foodie", was excited about trying many of Denmark's Michelin Star restaurants, including SOMA, ranked number one in the world.
Denmark, in December, has reasonably mild weather but, is relatively dark and sunless. Sunset starts at 3:30 every day which I found interesting! That being said, there is a sense of coziness that this weather seems to bring. In fact, the Danes called it "Hygee". You see the word being used everywhere. Candles are even labeled with the scent called Hygee!
There are five major Christmas markets in Copenhagen, all with the same festive atmosphere. Each one opens around November 19th and goes until December 23rd. Only Tivoli is open until the 31st. Christmas is celebrated on the 23rd in Denmark so most markets are closed on that day. Each Christmas market is a series of small stalls located in a city district selling Christmas crafts and holiday food. The food is amazing! Two things they all have in common. First, is Glogg and the second is Aebleskiver. Glogg is a red wine, port wine, with whole cloves, orange peel, rum and brandy all simmered over a low heat. The Danish add raisins and slivered almonds to the mix ,and eat it with a spoon. I didn't think I would like it because it smelled so strong. It reminded me of cough syrup. Much to my surprise it was delicious and kept me warm on those cold winter nights. Aebleskiver is the Danish version of a donut but it's not deep fried. It's served with a homemade raspberry sauce for dipping. Amazing!
For those of you that have shopped in my store during the Christmas holidays, you know that I commonly have some European decorations. I have always loved the Swedish Santa figure called the Tomte and the Danish version called the Nisse. They are mythological creatures that have morphed into a modern day "Santa" figurine. I couldn't get enough of these adorable creatures and brought home a suitcase full for the store.
Other things to buy are boiled wool slippers, woolen items and chocolate. The chocolatiers display their pieces of dark and milk chocolate in every imaginable shape and form. It's all dusted in cocoa powder and piled high in an amazing presentation that is hard to resist.
On to SOMA, the number #1 ranked restaurant in the world. I have no idea how my husband managed a reservation but he did. I'm almost afraid to ask. It's not uncommon for customers to fly to Denmark just for a dinner reservation that they may have made years in advance. If you have never heard about this restaurant, there is a famous documentary about the restaurant and its founder. It's worth watching. It will put it all in perspective. We arrived by taxi and were greeted by a staff member as we opened the door to the car. You are immediately escorted into the restaurant and warmly welcomed by the entire staff. That's right...the entire staff. This culinary journey consisted of 17 courses which included 3 desserts. The entire experience was part theater, part art and part culinary. I would say that many of the dishes were unrecognizable to me. Raw sea urchin was one of the dishes which I was only able to consume one bite. Their mission is to create dishes that are only sourced locally and are seasonal. For instance, they have one man who scours the forests in Northern Denmark in search of certain mushroom species. Another purveyor dives off the Northern coast for sea urchins. All of this comes together in the most unusual and somewhat outlandish presentation. It was certainly an experience.
One thing I should mention, should anyone decide to go, is that the entire city closes down Christmas Eve, including most restaurants. There are a few restaurants open but be sure to make your reservation early. As our holiday adventure was coming to a close we settled into a comfy section in the hotel lobby for some exciting rounds of Gin Rummy. It was a perfect way to spend Christmas Eve with my family enjoying some Danish Hygee.
Next day...back home to the U.S/!
Christmas Markets of Copenhagen Tivoli Gardens' Christmas Market November 19-December 31Nyhavn Canal Christmas Market November 15-December 22The German Christmas Market at Hojbro plads November 18-December 24Kegs. Nytorv's Christmas Market November 18-December 22H.C. Andersen Christmas Market at Axeltorv November18-December 23