Copenhagen is a city where everyone seems to be doing interesting things. Designers, entrepreneurs and restaurateurs are celebrated, approachable and everywhere. It’s also a place where sustainability is ingrained in the culture. Danes are fervent recyclers. Bikes crowd out cars on busy urban streets. Thirty percent of the country’s electricity comes from wind power, and Denmark is constantly setting itself new and more ambitious renewable energy and waste reduction goals.
To top if off, Copenhagen is also a place that’s long been known around the world for its delicious Nordic cuisine. This may be due to Noma, the frequent winner of "best restaurant in the world."
I can’t tell you anything about Noma. We couldn’t get a reservation there. But that doesn’t matter.
Everywhere I dined in the city -- from the smallest of coffee shops to the fanciest gourmet seven-course, prix fixe menu -- restaurants served food that will blow your mind. But beyond the delicious eating there is a bigger and better story where the concepts of food and sustainability are becoming more and more entwined with restaurants placing the triple bottom line at the forefront of their business model.
Nearly every restaurant I found had a message of sustainability on the menu, but none were heavy-handed with their approach. Indeed their modesty was as impressive as their accomplishments.
“The pigs stay with their mother as long as they like, and they wander around in the fields their whole lives,” head chef Schram told TriplePundit. “He actually kills them in the fields so they never need to leave the farm ... They live in a beautiful field on a beach. I want to live there.”
The Baest menu uses the whole animal -- from nose to tail -- in pancetta and house-made charcuterie that includes a pork liver pate, fennel salami and ciccioli.
“I know it's trendy to say nose-to-tail, but we do it from a business standpoint,” Schram said. “From a business standpoint it allows us to use this expensive product in a restaurant that is more casual. Put it side-by-side with a commodity pig, and the difference is just so clear. This meat is just better quality.”
Baest is primarily a pizza joint with wood-fired pies cooked in an instant in a Stefano Ferrara oven. Their mozzarella comes from milk farmed locally and sustainably and is hand-stretched in the dairy directly above the restaurant every single day.
It’s happy food from happy sources, and that makes all the difference.
A map adorns the wall of the bar area showing exactly which farms in Denmark Manfred sources their veggies from, 90 to 100 percent of which are organic. When it comes to sustainability, Manfred and its sister restaurant, the Michelin-starred Relæ, focus on sourcing, environment and society. They don’t sell pre-packaged bottled water at either restaurant and recycle the restaurant’s wine bottles as water decanters instead. When the water bottles return half empty, they use the remaining water for staff meals or staff meetings.
The perfect meal at Manfreds starts with their bowl of raw meat layered over a bed of lightly poached eggs flavored with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. It continues with a seven-course vegetable tasting menu which does things with veggies you didn’t even know were possible.
"Do you both eat all the things in the world?" our waiter asked.
“We do,” I replied.
"That makes me happy," he said.
Every dish on the Amass tasting menu of five courses comes with a story. One of these includes finely-shaved carrots with the consistency of pasta, curled around salted goat cheese and sprinkled with pickled fennel seeds.
The goat cheese is aged for two years. The chef had recently stumbled upon a small dairy farm without any goats, just cows and sheep. The farmer unveiled a small supply of his aged goat’s cheese, the last of the farm's haul from goats who had left more than 18 months prior.
“We call it inception goat cheese,” our waiter laughed. “Because it comes from goats who don’t exist anymore.” Amass bought the whole lot.
But this isn't a place that's too cool for its own good. The staff is sweet and kind and actually cares about whether you’re enjoying their food. All the wines on the menu come from producers around the globe who are still more farmer than winemaker. Amass’s green kitchen waste goes to feed free-range chickens at one of their meat suppliers. There is a fully functioning worm farm on-site to fertilize all of the plant growth, which allowed Amass to reduce their waste from five trash cans emptied three times a week to just two emptied twice a week. All excess water from the kitchen is put into storage tanks for use in the garden and greenhouse, saving 5,200 liters a year.
“It was amazing to us how much water we were able to save,” explained Jackie, the urban farmer for the restaurant. “It was a great way to make a bridge between what goes on in the garden and what goes on in the restaurant.”
Jo Piazza is an award winning journalist and bestselling author. Her latest book How to Be Married will be released in April.Images courtesy of the author
Jo Piazza is an award-winning reporter and editor who has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the New York Daily News, New York Magazine, Glamour, Marie Claire, Elle and Salon. She has appeared on CNN, NPR, Fox News, the BBC and MSNBC. Her novel, The Knockoff, with Lucy Sykes became an instant international bestseller and has been translated into more than seven languages.
Jo received a Masters in Journalism from Columbia, a Masters in Religious Studies from NYU and a Bachelors in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed If Nuns Ruled the World and Celebrity Inc: How Famous People Make Money.
She currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and their giant dog. Her latest book <a href="http://www.howtobemarried.us">How to Be Married</a> will be released in April.