As much as I enjoy researching and planning where to eat out while traveling, there’s nothing like receiving an invitation to a local’s house for a home-cooked meal when you’re living out of a suitcase. I love seeing how people in other areas cook, eat, and entertain, while my inner voyeur gets a kick out of being inside buildings I’d otherwise only glimpse from the street. Plus, that little frisson you get when you think about sitting down with a bunch of perfect strangers with only a bottle of wine for a buffer? Impossible to replicate.
I was informed early on in the Copenhagen meal-planning process that our Saturday night was spoken for—my cousin has a friend in the city, and her family had invited us all over for dinner. Magic hour was just hitting when we got off the train in Hellerup, a well-kept suburb to the north. (Fun fact: If you stand in the spot where I took the picture above, turn about thirty degrees to your right, and look out over the water, you’ll see Sweden. Hi, Malmö!)
Nanna’s family lives in a gorgeous, modernist apartment complex, not a fifteen-minute walk from the train station. With huge windows that make the most of every bit of the northern latitude’s seasonally limited light, typically classy Nordic style elements, and warm wood and cream tones throughout, it’s pretty much a dream apartment.
A peek inside the kitchen revealed hints of the meal to come: rounds of goat cheese, awaiting their date with the broiler; bouquets of asparagus, ready to be steamed; colorful, fruit-topped salad, individually portioned on Royal Copenhagen china. Simple. Beautiful.
After Champagne and getting-to-know-you chat, we sat down to dinner.
There was no shortage of conversation, or wine—our hosts (above left and right; that’s my aunt in the middle) kept both flowing with ease.
Peeled, boiled potatoes, perfectly salted and strewn with parsley, were a great vehicle for the emerald-green sauce that stood in for gravy.
To completely generalize based on two personal experiences: Those Danes sure know their way around a bunch of herbs.
The salt-crusted lamb and steamed asparagus were both great on their own, and even better with a drizzle of that sauce. We sat around the table for hours, refilling our glasses and telling stories, helping ourselves to seconds (…and thirds), and by the time the idea of dessert and coffee was floated, the sun had long-since set. We enjoyed our homemade molten-chocolate cake, fresh strawberries, and strong coffee by candlelight, the reflection of the flames flickering in the surrounding windows.
Over the course of the evening, the talk had wandered from the differences in our two countries’ health-care and educational systems and how we handle our respective homeless problems to stories from our hosts’ peripatetic youths; Nanna and her younger sister told us about growing up in Denmark and shared anecdotes about their daily lives. We talked about Copenhagen’s restaurants, and public transit system, and what American TV shows are popular among the city’s school-age population. They welcomed us into their home with open arms and made our experience so much more personal than it would’ve been any other way, and I can’t thank them enough for it.