day 9 – winding down

today was my last full day in copenhagen, and effectively my last full day of vacation. i’m flying for a good chunk of tomorrow (over 12 hours) and then i have wednesday off back home but i have to get my life, my real life back in order.

copenhagen is great. i really, really enjoyed the central part of the city and nørrebro, the two areas i spent time in. the people are friendly and nice, the city is safe and interesting and almost but not quite diverse. the only complaint is that it is a tad bit too cold, though i guess looking at dc weather right now it is about the same. i really like how rather than tearing things down only to rebuild them, this city seems to recycle itself to meet modern needs. its very much a modern city with a medieval feel to its architecture. i mean, its a european city i guess. that is how it works here. they’ve been around a while and they figured out what works, rather than starting over from scratch every once in a while.

the lack of diversity is a bit annoying but it didn’t really cause any issues. a fair number of people thought i was danish, but that might just be a safe assumption that danish people choose to make when they aren’t quite sure. it’s the safer choice, i guess?

anyway, today was a nice, relaxed end to my time in copenhagen. i realized i had only been eating fancy tasting menus and i needed a steak, partially spurred by a text message from clif and partially by finding myself hungry late last night. i found pastis last night and then had a dream in which i told pablo about some tremendous steak frites i had in copenhagen so my decision was made for me when i woke up. i read a bit more of islands in the stream and took off for pastis around 2p for a bite. i drank some wine, ate some steak, and read some more hemingway. how very american-in-europe of me.

after that i wandered around the city a little bit. i hadn’t actually looked at any of the many, many stores that lined all the streets of central copenhagen. i decided to remedy that.

in dc, there aren’t any stores anymore. they’ve all gone, driven out by online ordering and bad zoning rules. i used to think this was a good thing, but now i’m certain that it isn’t. these stores and this mixed zoning of bars and restaurants and stores both chain and boutique, unique and mass-produced all jumbled up together creates a dynamic, compelling walking environment in copenhagen. before 7pm on weekdays, this does not exist in dc – only restaurants and bars drive foot traffic, and we miss out on ridiculous treasures like a vintage wallpaper store, 15 antique shops, and all the bookstores we used to have but now we have forgotten.

aside: there are a billion bookstores in copenhagen. the first one i wandered into, in fact the first store i wandered into was a niche bookstore about visual design. i spend too much time with teddy when a place like that is the first one that draws me in.

the kinds of stores that can stay open here shocks me – the aforementioned antique stores for example, and the many niche bookstores, the plethora of cafes, etc etc etc. this is an expensive city, and there must be some intelligent zoning and city planning that allows this walking/biking culture to thrive.

wandering around was nice, but as i felt myself getting tired i headed back to the apartment. i read a bit more and around 745p i headed to dinner at pluto. this place was recommended by the waitress at amass, but so was geist. i wasn’t sure what to believe going in, but the initial impression was a good one – it was low-key if a bit dressy, with friendly waiters and none of the bass-thumping madness of geist.

aside: i wonder how much my impression of geist was affected by going there saturday night instead of, say, monday night.

i got the 12-course fixed menu and a glass of syrah and i read while i waited, which wasn’t long. all of a sudden, 5 of my 7 courses were upon me, and they were each delicious. i wanted to pace myself but couldn’t, everything was entirely too good. that got me through the appetizers, the charcuterie, and the salad courses. of the next 7 courses, i had 3 fish, 2 meats, and 2 desserts lined up.

annoyingly, the fish and meat courses were uninspired and not at all as exciting as the starters. pluto also had a significant pacing problem, with 5 courses coming out immediately, then the 2 fish courses, than a feeling of being forgotten, then another fish course, then 2 meat courses (these were especially bad) and a knowing of being forgotten for quite some time.

finally, dessert, which almost redeemed the lousy mains, except it was dessert and they were mains and the main courses need to do better, you know?

i made it out of there stuffed and slightly unhappy, but energized from the strongest cup of coffee i’ve had on the trip so far. i wandered on back home and now it is now and i haven’t quite started packing yet and i haven’t stopped thinking about tomorrow and my meal at noma at noon, squeezed in just before my flight home. my goal is to pack up entirely and leave the apartment in time to catch a cab for lunch, taking my suitcase with me. the folks at noma already know i’ll be going straight to the airport from my meal, so it should just be up to me.

so let me wrap up this post with a memory of all my copenhagen meals, ordered from best to worst:

  1. amass – undeniably the best meal so far
  2. bror – unfairly had to eat this meal in the shadow of amass, so i took it for granted. in retrospect, it holds up quite, quite well
  3. bar’vin – mostly snacks, but between the owner being the most gracious host and the ham, this one slots in at number 3, just ahead of…
  4. aamanns – really tasty open-faced sandwiches, and an overall enjoyable, simple affair
  5. manfred’s – this place felt like an elder statesman in the overall “new nordic cuisine” movement: less dynamic, more sure of itself, but only one dish that was to me worth returning for
  6. pastis – so different and such a more traditional meal than anything else on this list, it isn’t fair to compare. so put it in the middle and move on
  7. fishmarket – solid, standard, but would fit in fine on 14th street, as would…
  8. dim sum – as would…
  9. pluto – fishmarket, dim sum, and pluto are probably all tied as fine restaurants, with a very slight gradient between them

man, i ate a lot of food.

so tomorrow is noma and flights and home and while i will miss this vacation, i am honestly a bit relieved. i was getting lonely on the road by myself for this long, and i think the cracks are starting to show. it’ll be good to be back.

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