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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Denmark - The 2010 FIFA World Cup Bites and Boozes

Denmark

The Danes are out of the World Cup, but that won't stop me from featuring the nation on Bite and Booze. According to Frommers, "Danish food is the best in Scandinavia -- in fact, it's among the best in Europe."  A quick look at their cuisine and it isn't hard to see why a travel publication would say that.  Denmark is known for fish and cheese, two things that chefs on the peninsula country know plenty about.  Still, I'm on a journey to find something else that the Danes love, so today we'll take a look at smørrebrød. And while I'd love to wash it down with a cold fadøl (draft beer), I'm sure it will be covered on the BR Beer Scene, so I'll instead have a taste of akvavit.

denmark smorrebrod smørrebrød
The favorite dish at midday is the ubiquitous smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) -- a national institution. Literally, this means "bread and butter," but the Danes stack this sandwich as if it were the Leaning Tower of Pisa -- and then throw in a slice of curled cucumber and bits of parsley, or perhaps sliced peaches or a mushroom for added color. Two of these sandwiches can make a more-than-filling lunch. They're everywhere -- from the grandest dining rooms to the lowliest pushcart. Many restaurants offer a wide selection; guests look over a checklist and then mark the ones they want. Some are made with sliced pork (perhaps a prune on top), roast beef with béarnaise sauce and crispy fried bits of onion, or liver paste adorned with an olive or cucumber slice and gelatin made with strong beef stock. Smørrebrød is often served as an hors d'oeuvre. The most popular, most tempting, and usually most expensive of these delicacies is prepared with tiny Danish shrimp, on which a lemon slice and caviar often perch, perhaps even with fresh dill. The "ugly duckling" of the smørrebrød family is anything with a cold sunny-side-up egg on top of it.

denmark aalborg akvavit
If want something other than the local lager beers, look for some Danish akvavit (schnapps), which comes from the city of Aalborg, in northern Jutland. The Danes, who usually drink it at mealtime, often follow it with a beer chaser. Made from a distilling process using potatoes, it should be served ice cold. Akvavit is a flavored spirit that is produced in Scandinavia and typically contains 40% alcohol by volume. Its name comes from aqua vitae, the Latin for "water of life".  Akvavit, like vodka, is distilled from either grain or potatoes (after making a mash from them then, e.g., breaking that down with malt, and then fermenting it). It is flavored with herbs, spices, and fruit oils such as caraway seeds, cardamom, cumin,anise, lemon or orange peel, or fennel. Dill and "grains of paradise" are also used. The Danish distillery Aalborg makes an akvavit distilled with amber.

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