Falling in love with Copenhagen’s food scene: an English speaker’s guide

Hazel Evans arrived in Copenhagen in January 2014, with two suitcases to her name. At the time, she spoke no Danish. She had two friends in the city, but other than that she was completely on her own.

Falling in love with Copenhagen’s food scene: an English speaker's guide
Mad About Copenhagen started in 2014 and now has 72,000 followers - and an upcoming book. Photo: Mad About Copenhagen

She’d always gotten to know new places by researching the best places to eat and drink, and not just those that pop up at the top of TripAdvisor or Yelp, but the local favourites, the new places, anything different from the norm.

“I hoped to find guidance online to get me into the Copenhagen food scene, but what I could find in English at the time was seriously lacking. I had to resort to old school methods – asking everyone I met, spending my evenings trawling through various Instagram profiles, blogs and so on, just to find somewhere to drink my morning coffee. It was worth the effort, I found some really great places, but it was becoming almost like my second job. I was obsessed!”, Evans says.

Eventually, the Brit began to curate her foodie findings, so that other people in need of a little guidance in Copenhagen wouldn’t have to go to the same lengths to discover coffee shops, wine bars, brunch spots, restaurants and the like.

In September 2014, Mad About Copenhagen was born.

Mad About Copenhagen started off as an Instagram account (@madaboutcopenhagen), and over the next couple of years, it grew in popularity. It wasn’t only expats and foreigners who took an interest — even though all of the content is in English, about half of the audience who use Mad About Copenhagen’s recommendations are native Danes, Evans says.

Today, the channel’s online audience has grown to over 72,000 people.

In 2016, it was time to be more ambitious. Evans quit her day job and formed a company with two friends – Marie Abildhauge Olesen and Antonio Rosado. Together, they got their teeth into a variety of projects, all of which involve food, people and Copenhagen.

The team are now working on a book that delves even deeper into the stories of the people who make the food scene in Copenhagen so wonderful.

“We really feel that it is about time there is a book that celebrated Copenhagen’s food scene in all its deserved glory. Sure, Copenhagen’s food scene is often in the international press and media and there have been guide books and magazines written about it, but the focus tends to be on the top new Nordic restaurants, skimming over the rest,” Evans says.

From the late night hotdog stand to the rooftop restaurants, from the city beekeepers, to the nitrogen ice creamery and the new Nordic restaurants, Mad About Copenhagen strives to tell the stories of the huge diversity of people, places, food and drink that exist in the city, says the creative director of the English-language Copenhagen food guide.

The book is scheduled to be published in September or October 2018 — just in time for Christmas gifts — but in order to print and bind the books, the team is currently running a Kickstarter campaign, where anyone who wishes to support the project can do so by donating, pre-ordering a book, a Mad bag, or one of the foodie experiences featured in the book. These include mushroom-growing kits, rooftop dinners, ramen, ice cream, and more.

You can support the project and pre-order the Mad About Copenhagen book here.

Hazel Evans is the Creative Director of Mad About Copenhagen. She is originally from Bath, United Kingdom and now lives and works in Østerbro, Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: 'We wanted to make chocolate to reflect Denmark's seasons'

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Why does Denmark produce so much cheese?

From Danbo to Danablu and the Danish feta that can't be called feta - Denmark produces over four hundred thousand tonnes of cheese each year and exports it across the world. So why is Danish cheese so popular, and what are the country's best-loved cheeses?

Why does Denmark produce so much cheese?

Cheese-making is a serious business in Denmark. In 2021, the country produced a total of 454,500 tonnes of cheese and Danish cheese has won awards at the World Championship Cheese Contest.

The tradition goes back to the Viking era and today, the country’s climate and pastoral land make it ideal for producing cheese (ost). About three quarters of the country’s milk production is turned into cheese, butter and milk powder.

Not only is cheese popular in Denmark, where it’s eaten with pretty much any meal and snack (can you even have a bolle [bread roll] without ost?), it is also eaten around the world in countries including South Korea, New Zealand, Canada, Nigeria and even France.

In 2021, Denmark exported a total of 401,845 tonnes of cheese, making it one of the top cheese exporters in the world. The biggest importer of Danish cheese was Germany (94,419 tonnes), followed by Sweden (52.924 tonnes) and the UK (42,905 tonnes). 18,097 tonnes of cheese was exported to Japan and 5,657 to the United States.

What types of cheese does Denmark make?

The different types of cheese in Denmark can be hard to distinguish and there are a lot of them. You can quite easily end up with a fridge full of strong smells that you weren’t expecting. 

Danbo, often called ‘Denmark’s national cheese’, is the most produced and consumed cheese in Denmark. It has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, meaning it can only be made in Denmark to specific Danish standards.

Danbo is sold under various trade and brand names, including LillebrorGamle Ole, and Riberhus. Lillebror (meaning Little brother) is very mild and often sold in childrens’ packs, whereas Gamle Ole (meaning Old Ole) is matured for a long time, which means it’s strong and smelly. Caraway seeds are sometimes added to this cheese.

Esrom also has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status and is made from pasteurised cow’s milk. It is semi-soft with small holes and is pretty pungent.

Havarti is one of the most famous Danish cheeses. It’s a bit like a cheddar in that the taste can be mild, but the longer the cheese is stored, the stronger it gets. 

Danablu is a Danish Blue soft blue cheese, similar to Roquefort. It has a strong aroma and a sharp and a little salty taste. Danablu is often used in America to make blue cheese dressing for salads and blue cheese dip for chicken wings. 

A dairy farm in Klemensker, Bornholm has twice been named world champion in cheese making. Photo: Morten Juhl/Ritzau Scanpix

Mycella is a veined blue cheese made from pasteurised cow’s milk on the island of Bornholm and is similar to Gorgonzola. It goes well in a salad or cheese platter or even crumbled on top of an open sandwich.

Blå kornblomst, meaning ‘blue cornflower’, is a creamy blue cheese with a mild, slightly salty taste. The cheese is white to yellowish with blue tinges and is made from pasteurised cow’s milk on North Jutland.

Danish rygeost, meaning ‘smoked cheese’ is mild, light and smokey. It originates from 19th century Funen, with some believing it dates back to the Viking Age. 

A dish of potato, monkfish and smoked cheese.

A dish of potato, monkfish and smoked cheese. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix

Vesterhavsost, meaning ‘North Sea Cheese’, is a semi-hard cheese with a slightly salty taste as it is ripened in the sea air of North Jutland. It’s referred to as the Danish version of Gouda. 

Fyrmester or Fyrtårnsost, meaning ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ or ‘Lighthouse Cheese’, is an extra-mature version of the vesterhavsost, aged for at least 52 weeks.

Samsø cheese is similar to Emmentale and made on the island of Samsø in Kattegat.

Hvid ost, meaning ‘white cheese’, is Denmark’s equivalent to feta cheese but uses cow’s milk rather than the goat or sheep’s milk used in Greek feta cheese. It’s milder and doesn’t crumble like Greek feta cheese because it’s made differently, using something called ultrafiltration.

There have been debates as to whether this actually makes it feta cheese. Earlier this year, Denmark lost a case at the European Court of Justice over its farmers exporting cheese outside the EU labelled feta, something only Greece can do. The cheese is sometimes labelled in supermarkets as ‘salad cubes’ (salat-tern).

There is, perhaps, one thing that unites almost all Danish cheeses: they are sliced using the characteristic ostehøvl (cheese slicer), the quintessential Danish kitchen utensil.

There are two types of ostehøvl: a wire-based type and a version that looks a bit like a trowel, with a raised edge and a gap in the middle for the sliced cheese to pass through.

Cheese vocab:

Blød ost: Soft cheese

Halvfast ost: Semi-soft cheese 

Fast ost: Semi-hard cheese 

Hård ost: Hard cheese

Ekstra hård ost: Extra hard cheese

Frisk ost: Fresh cheese

Ostehøvl: cheese slicer