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Denmark: Wild Food at the Aarhus Food Festival

Aarhus Food Festival
Cuisine: Scandinavian
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Joe Worthington dodges jelly fish, putrefied herring, and cheese not yet perfected for public release, at the Aarhus Food Festival.
 
With little breathing time between arrival at Aarhus Central Railway Station and arriving at the sun baked fields of Studsgade, stretching along Aarhus Bay, I was rushed into the hectic festival atmosphere, which, according to the friendly and down to earth hosts Sigrid Gjessing Jacobsen and Kasper Fogh, had been in the planning for the past year since the last day of last year’s Aarhus Food Festival.
 
Given that the festival was created by Food Projekt of Denmark to highlight the many foods available in the small nation, the group was asked to take a seat on a bench opposite the stall of the legendary “working man’s hero” according to our host Kasper, Adam Aamann. Adam, the friendly and smiley owner walked over to the table with a white bucket, but before he even had to explain what was in the bucket, the strong smell of putrefied herring caused me to cough uncontrollably. Adam explained that the fish are usually eaten whole after being soaked in sea water for months, then salted, and soaked again for a few months more. Thankfully he took the smelly fish away and brought to the table plates full of ornately designed Danish speciality open faced sandwiches, Smørrebrød. My favourite had to be the one with New Danish potatoes with lovage, pickled cucumber, radish, rye crumbs and herbs.
 
As the smell of the many varieties of cheeses lingered through the air, we were ushered over to the cheese stall of Arla Unika, an artisan cheese company that is backed by the world famous Arla dairy company, but is independent in its creations and expertise. Our host at the stall, the chief designer, placed a chunky wooden cheese board on a small table, covered in numerous Danish cheeses, produced only with Danish milk and ingredients. Firstly we were invited to sample a hockey puck shaped cheese called Gnalling, with its nutty but creamy texture; secondly we tried the pungent but milky Kry; and then out was pulled a large wine bottle quarter-filled with a deep red wine with a chunk of cheese floating in it. We were told that this cheese was known as “Experiment X”, a cheese that has not been perfected for public release yet, and thus was unavailable to sample. This certainly got the group of hard core foodies talking.
 
We next ushered towards Aarhus Bay harbour where our excursion out into the bay would begin. We were told to climb down into a black speedboat-type boat by our driver who joked about everything, including the fact that if he suddenly put on the brakes, those sat at the front, namely me, would fall into the jellyfish and lobster infested waters. We were shortly joined by “Professor Seaweed” or Professor Ole G. Mouritsen as he is officially titled, who would lecture to us about the potential that seaweed has on restaurant tables. He repeatedly stated that seaweed is not indeed a weed, it is somewhere between a fish and a plant.
 
In the evening we were treated to a special tasting menu prepared by the Bocuse d’Or silver medallist Jeppe Foldager and his assistant Christoffer Brinck. Unfortunately, all but the honey ice cream and fresh berry dessert were not to my simple palate’s liking, nonetheless the various offal, snail and lobster dishes did look to be very well presented with not a single thing out of place.
 
The second day of the festival was to be dedicated to the world famous Danish hotdog competition. Eventually won by the chefs that had cooked for us the meal the previous night, with their pork, snail and ox heart sausage covered with truffle cream, fried sweetbreads and vinegar powder; the competition is a big deal across Denmark. Last year’s winner, eccentric British chef Paul Cunningham pulled out all the stops to retain his title, alongside his Henne Kirkeby Kro dog, he had drafted in a Danish army General friend’s tank, surrounded it with Vietnamese young men dressed as women, and with scantily dressed young women dancing atop his van; all with the title “Good Morning Hennedog”. He could have won for his bizarre showcase, but this year the judges thought that his dog just wasn’t good enough.
 
Joe Worthington was hosted by Food Projekt Denmark: www.thefoodproject.dk
 
He stayed at the Scandic Aarhus City hotel:
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19 September 2014
By: Joe Worthington
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