Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Eating Europa

The 50 Kroner ($10) Cappuccino.

It's famous in the coffee world. It's even mentioned in the Time Out and Lonely Planet guidebooks. It's owned by the 2001 World Barista Champion, Martin Hildebrandt.

But as everyone in the know will tell you: don't got there for the coffee.

Take the cappuccino above. First off, it's pretty darn expensive by any standard. Ten Dollars. Yowza. For ten bucks, you'd expect cappuccino perfection. And while you get something that looks pretty with its' latte art, the rest falls flat. Drag a demitasse spoon through the foam and you'll see: it's a latte with that prerequisite micro-thin layer of foam.

If you're looking for a coffee mecca, there are other places to go - including Europa's sister company: Kontra Coffee.

But what you do go to Europa for, night after night after night, is the food.

It's truly delicious and exquisite. In fact, their smoked salmon salad is the best salad I've had anywhere.

Adriana and the Vegetarian Salad - King Trumpet mushrooms served with apples baked in thyme, mixed salad with Dijon sauce, organic lentils, grains beans & roasted nuts, honey glazed apricots, bread & butter. 135 Kroner (for the salad, not Adriana)

The girls and I made our first visit to Europa on my second night in Copenhagen. It was slightly chilly but they had blankets to warm the girls (none for me since I'm male and designed to suffer). While the girls had a beer each (42 Kroner), Adriana had the vegetarian salad (135Kr) while I had the Lamb Special (195Kr), the Ingefaer-lime Limonade (50Kr) and the cappuccino (50Kr.).

I tasted the salad and it was very good, but my lamb was beautifully done. Cooked au point to perfection and served with fresh greens, herbs, roasted potatoes, asparagus and the surprise sweetness of pomegranates. Amazing. Ingredients so fresh and alive that they popped on the palate. This is the kind of eating made for excitement.

The Lamb.

It was a lovely evening in the waning sunlight with good friends, but the lamb, a salad, a limonade, cappuccino and three beers cost me $120! I was quickly learning that Copenhagen was not going to be a visit on the cheap.

But the food was good, the company was excellent and I was still flush with cash.

Sylvia and The Bread.

As the week progressed, it seemed to evolve around Europa. At some point of the day or night, we would end up there. One night was a night of drunken debauchery as Holger celebrated Germany's victory in the Euro Cup. We would also end the week there for the WBC Barista Party where the staff would float around with trays of food (the lamb chops - yum!) and beverages.

It was then that I wished I had more time to chat with the cute server who was quite friendly and more than happy to bring me a Coke from the bar. Thank God for you and if you ever visit America, I will be a happy host and tour guide. You know who you are.

Something else I wanted to mention that was notable at Europa but not limited to Europa. Compared to the "Customer service at all costs" attitude in the United States, server attitudes in Copenhagen sucks. Perhaps it's the lack of a tipping culture or (as one friend put it) that Danes are just frank and matter-of-fact about everything that it comes off the wrong way, but I couldn't help but develop the impression that the presence of customers was just off-putting and a bit too much of an imposition on the servers.

Weird, but I was actually glad the tipping culture didn't exist because the tip would have been small indeed.

Shane, Imma, Sanders and John.

One of our excursions to Europa was after a cafe crawl with the African Contingent. Again, more amazing food. Sanders' description of the yogurt made it a "must taste" and it was truly special. Smooth, creamy, delicious and perfection with the maple syrup. God, I have to remember to do that at home.

It was good to catch up with returning champions Francis Njobu (Zambia) and John Muli Makaw (Kenya) who both had won their national championships for the second year running. It was also fantastic to meet Peter Musana, the first Ugandan barista champion. A truly pleasant and humble man to be around.

John, Claire and Francis, 2007/2008 Zambian Barista Champion.

The Yoghurt - strained with fresh fruit and maple syrup.

Smoked Organic Salmon Salad - smoked salmon serve with mixed salad with Dijon sauce, organic lentils, grains, beans & roasted nuts, smoked cream cheese, lime, fresh herbs, bread and butter.

Ever since I watched Shane and Drew order yogurt and fruit plates for breakfast in Minneapolis, I've been trying to think more carefully about what I eat, so I thought I would go for the salmon salad. I'm certainly glad that I did. Without reservation, that had to be one of, if not the best salad I've ever had anywhere. It was perfectly balanced with greens, grains, salmon and citrus. Unbelievable. I want to recreate it at home, it was that good. From now on, whenever another salad crosses my plate, this will be the benchmark I hold it to. Fresh, light, seasonal and filling. They offer two sizes and this one is the smaller. Can't imagine what it would be like to eat the larger serving.

Chicken Sandwich - organic rye bread, chicken marinated with basil vinaigrette, grilled pancetta, tomato, fresh herbs, curry sauce & mango chutney.

Chicken Sandwich - on organic wheat bread.

Burger Europa 1989 - slices of filet beef from Danish Jersey young cattle, matured by Europa 1989 standards, salad, tomato, pickled cucumber, barbecue marinated onion, cheese & grilled pancetta. Served with baked lemon marinated potatoes, fresh herbs, barbecue sauce & aioli.

At the end, if you ever make it to Copenhagen, it's worth eating brunch and lunch at Europa. In fact, if it should be a must. Start off the day with one of the two brunch selections (I would probably choose Brunch 2), then go off and walk around the city for awhile. Trek up to see the Little Mermaid. By the time you walk there and back, you'll be plenty hungry and then try the Organic Salmon Salad. Afterwards, take a stroll along the lakes and visit some shops in the north section of the city then walk back for an evening meal with the lamb, or whatever special they're running (it'll be worth it, guaranteed). Sit outside with some blankets, have a few beers and smoke a couple of Havanas and you would have spent the perfect day in Copenhagen.

It certainly will not have been cheap, but it will have been delicious.

Europa 1989
Amagertorv 1
1160 KĂžbenhavn K, Denmark
+45 3314 2889

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