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Sweden’s real Michelin star foodie heaven might surprise you

Copenhagen and Stockholm are undeniably trailblazers within the New Nordic cuisine movement. Not to mention both capitals are home to ethnic restaurants catering to every taste. But an argument could be made that Scandinavia’s ultimate destination for dining may, in fact, be Malmö.

Sweden’s real Michelin star foodie heaven might surprise you
Photo: Mats Vollmer//Instagram

The city may not be able to match the celebrity of its neighbor across the Öresund or the size of the Swedish capital, but Malmö has a fine dining scene that rivals anything in the Nordics. As evidenced by the three restaurants recognized by the recently-released Michelin Nordic Guide, Malmö’s dining reputation isn’t exactly a secret.

Experience more of Malmö here

But still it remains often overlooked and underestimated, which is just fine with local two-starred chef Mats Vollmer.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

Une publication partagée par Mats Vollmer (@matsvollmer) le 4 Nov. 2016 à 6 :55 PDT

“We are always looked at as the underdog. Nobody in Sweden expects anything from Malmö, and that works to our advantage. It’s like David versus Goliath. Even within Sweden it’s like a well-kept secret,” he said.

Vollmer’s, the restaurant Mats runs with his brother Ebbe, retained its two Michelin star rating in the new guide which was released on February 18th. The recognition has helped boost not only Vollmer’s but the whole Malmö dining scene.

“We never thought we’d get a star when we opened in 2011. When the 2015 Nordic guide came out and added Malmö, the international reputation of our restaurant and the entire city really grew because of that international stamp of approval,” Vollmer said.

Vollmer’s is not the only Malmö restaurant to get the venerated food guide’s endorsement. Both Bloom in the Park, overlooking the lake in the city’s popular Pildammsparken, and SAV, just a short ten-minute jaunt from downtown, can boast one Michelin star. Located in a historic building along the canal, the restaurant Sture lost its Michelin star this year but remains one of the city’s most popular places to eat thanks to its fusion of French and Nordic cuisines.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

Une publication partagée par Mats Vollmer (@matsvollmer) le 26 Janv. 2018 à 12 :05 PST

More budget-conscious diners, meanwhile, also have two Bib Gourmand options in Bastard and Namu.

Cooperation with local producers

Anna Berghe, a food critic and Malmö food tour guide, has witnessed – and tasted – Malmö’s culinary success firsthand. She said the trendy downtown nose-to-tail spot really helped put the city on the foodie destination map.

Experience more of Malmö here

“Around ten years ago the restaurant scene in Malmö was quite stripped and had been stationary for quite some time. I would say that the opening of Bastard with chef Andreas Dahlberg changed the food scene and opened doors to other chefs dreaming of a place where the nose-to-tail concept would dominate, cooperation with local producers offering seasonal products would be commonplace and natural wine from smaller wine makers would dominate your glass,” she said.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

Une publication partagée par Anna Berghe (@annaberghe) le 21 Août 2018 à 3 :16 PDT

The sense of local cooperation that comes from working with area producers and winemakers to source Malmö’s menus also extends to chefs who could just as easily be bitter rivals. While this is partly due to the city’s relatively small size, Berghe said it is also because of a unique Malmö mindset.  

“The atmosphere is very relaxed here,” Berghe said. “It is quite a small town even though it’s the third-largest in Sweden, but what characterizes it is that there is good atmosphere and cooperation between the chefs and a great deal of humility.”

With just over 300,000 inhabitants, one could argue that Malmö’s food scene is bigger, better and more varied than it should be. But the smaller size works to the advantage of diners, both the locals and international food tourists.

“The diversity in Malmö is fantastic due to its inhabitants from cultures all around the world. You can have a falafel for 25 kronor and a 20-course tasting menu for just under 2,000 kronor. Compared to Copenhagen and Stockholm, Malmö is still a very cheap town to go out and eat in relation to the quality you get on plate and in glass,” Berghe said.

Experience more of Malmö here

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

Une publication partagée par Bloom In The Park (@bloominthepark) le 18 Janv. 2018 à 10 :25 PST

Vollmer, who stressed that he’s “not a pretentious type of guy” when it comes to eating out, said some of his favorite local dining options include Kvarteret Åkern and the café at Katrinetorp. Berghe’s list of local recommendations is as long as you might expect from someone so intimately in tune with the Malmö dining scene. In addition to Bastard, which she called “an institution in Malmö”, she offered plenty of options including Lyran, Västergatan, Riket, Malmö Saluhall, Mitt Möllan Food Court, Plantmagic Kitchen and Soi 29, to name just a few.

While not all of Malmö’s offerings can carry a Michelin star, the city’s condensed culinary scene means that a fine dining restaurant is always just a stone’s throw away.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

Une publication partagée par SAV (@savrestaurang) le 10 Août 2017 à 7 :26 PDT

Deviating from the typical Scandinavian humbleness (just Google the ‘Law of Jante’ if you’re not familiar), Vollmer took credit for his role in putting Malmö on the foodie map.

Experience more of Malmö here

“When we got two stars people were like: ‘Really, there’s a two-star restaurant in little Malmö?’,” he said. “When my brother and I opened the restaurant, we wanted to give back to Malmö in a way and I am very proud of helping to change the image of the city.”

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Malmö stad.

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FOOD & DRINK

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

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