You may have noticed I don’t often write about food here on Sophie’s World. That’s for good reason. I’m rather picky – there’s lots I don’t care for (most meats, for example – and most Norwegian Christmas staples, adored by just about everyone else). Furthermore, I don’t really appreciate the subtleties of flavours enough, and don’t do food the justice it deserves.
Sometimes, though, food critiquing is easy as. Last weekend, I had two gorgeous meals in one day, that I want to share with you, for when you’re in the Aarhus region. (Also, it’s 3.21 pm and I still haven’t had lunch – or breakfast, come to think of it – so my mind is wandering. To Denmark. To Danish food.)
1. Hotel Julsø at the foot of Himmelbjerget (Sky Mountain)
Mountain climbing in Denmark is highly doable for anyone. This little country is so flat you can probably do it in a wheelchair. The most popular ‘peak’ – and one of the highest – is ambitiously named Himmelbjerget (Sky Mountain), a whopping 147 metres high.
If you’re going up, you’ll do well to arrive by solar-powered slow boat. There to greet you before you amble up the mountain, is the charming Hotel Julsø (website in Danish).
Hotel Julsø has been around for more than 150 years. Despite the name, it is no longer in operation as a hotel, but the restaurant has been lovingly restored and Calabrian chef Pasquale Ceravolo lays on a veritable feast. Together with his Danish wife Kristina and their team, Pasquale runs this gourmet restaurant at the foot of the mountain (pictured with team mate Katrina below).
We stop for lunch, where Pasquale whips up delicious treats for everyone at a moment’s notice. That’s no mean feat; our group of seven includes one vegetarian, one with gluten allergy, and one who’s allergic to lactose and onions.
No reason not to go green with this feast: on the left, a gorgeously colourful plate with quinoa, beets, apples, barley, and ricotta. On the right, gnocchi au gratin, with squash and an asparagus pesto. Our vegetarian assures us it is all scrumptious.
Just as scrumptious is the regular stuff. For starters (left): scallops with pureed Jerusalem artichoke, fermented pumpkin puree, ricotta, and a sauce of basil oil, capers and truffles. Mains (right): hake, with prawns, a curry coconut, pureed spinach and parsnip, pickled mushroom in a sauce based on elderflower and balsamic vinegar, with beet root cream and fermented gooseberries.
To finish, a delicious homemade gelato (Italian chef, after all); various flavours are on offer; here’s liquorice.
2. Danish food in Silkeborg: Restaurant Orangeriet
Silkeborg: I associate this little Danish town with the Tollund Man. Heard about him? He was found near Silkeborg in 1950 and thought to have been the casualty of a recent homicide. Well, scratch the word ‘recent’ and they were right. This exceedingly well-preserved murder victim had been in the bog since the 4th century BCE.
But I digress. Silkeborg has more than fascinating Stone Age corpses. There’s a rad art museum – and equally rad fine dining. At the old world hotel Gamle Skovridergaard in Silkeborg, you’ll find Orangeriet (website in Danish), a relaxed gourmet restaurant (yes, it is possible), surrounded by nature.
We’re to sample a five-course dinner. Phew! Have to admit, I’m dreading it just a little bit. Such enormous meals always seem to get the better of me. I end up leaving most on the plate, and feel defeated. Fortunately, the dishes here are of a manageable size – focussing on the star of the respective show: seafood, fish, poultry, meat and sweet.
- pre-starter: new potatoes, pureed peas, red onions and crumbled rye bread. (A delicious combination of flavours. So good, in fact, I could easily have this as mains!)
- oysters with cabbage and blackberries
- hake with salsify root in a carrot sauce (salsify is a new discovery for me – in a word, well, two actually: savoury, flavoury)
- chicken with sweet corn, stewed peas and chanterelle mushrooms in a chanterelle sauce
- veal with pureed beets, beet roots and black currants
- blueberry sorbet with more blueberries, and thyme
In little Denmark, distances are comfortably short. Thinking of a weekend break in the country’s second city, Aarhus? Then, I suggest you add a day to get out of town, for a bit of über lazy hillwalking and some delectable Danish food in pleasant surrounds.
There you have it, folks. I’m off to pop a trout in the pan. Bon appétit to us all!
Disclosure: I’ve been in Denmark more times than I can count, sometimes for work, other times for pleasure, usually for both; sometimes at the invitation of someone else, sometimes of my own accord. This time I was a guest of Visit Aarhus. Every word, every thought, and every opinion are mine, all mine. As always, as ever.