John Nechman Writes:
Back in the 1980’s, I visited Copenhagen at least 10 times, mostly stopping for a day or 2 en route to or on return from the rest of Scandinavia. This was pre-Noma and a time when I traveled by backpack, often budgeting under $1 per day for food. So I lived on loaves of rugbrød (super dense dark rye bread), and when I could afford it or found someone willing to buy it for me, I’d get smørrebrød (that same bread topped with butter, cold cuts/fish/liver pate and garnishes) or my favorite snack food of all, pølse (bright red boiled hot dogs sold all over town). In those days, I never had the chance to learn that there was much more to Danish food than that.
How wrong I was! And now, the world, too, has discovered the delights of Denmark. Copenhagen is home to several of the world’s most coveted reservations, in addition to René Redzepi’s remarkable Noma. And finally, Houstonians don’t have to board a 9 hour flight to enjoy Danish food because Copenhagen European Kitchen and Bakery (981 Mason Rd.) has come to Katy!
In a space once occupied by a spot serving mediocre Mexican-inspired pizzas, Copenhagen features a pan-European menu with several dishes of Danish roots. Richi loved his peppery goulash. I tried the chef’s mother’s homemade ham pie, consisting of a super-buttery and flaky puff pastry filled with chunks of sweet ham, a savory cream sauce, and tons of melted gruyere. Both were served with a tasty mixed salad and boiled potatoes in a bland cream sauce. We also split an order of frikadeller (a formed meat patty) that would have benefited from a sauce but that still tasted delicious with the rødkål salad served with it.
The best part of the meal is the sensational coffee and the display of desserts. We chose a classic kransekake. Our sweet server looked at me like I’d blurted out an F-bomb when I pronounced it the way it would be pronounced in Norwegian—I had no idea the Danes pronounce “kake” the way Americans say “cake;” Norwegians pronounce it more like the Spanish slang word for poo poo. The appearance is totally different as well—in Norway, a kransekake looks like a towering Christmas tree, but the version here is a mini-kake though scrumptious nonetheless. It features a chocolate base and a filling that approximates one of my favorite of all foods—marzipan.
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