KULINARISK SYDFYN – Don’t forget your picnic basket!
We’ve been looking forward to the Kulinarisk Syfdyn festival for some time. Any event that aims to bring taste, good food culture and sustainable production of foods into focus deserves the plaudits it receives! Guestaurant sent Diane Hansen-Ingram to Svendborg in Denmark to cover this brilliant event.
We loaded up the car early Saturday morning with the essentials for a summer food festival in Denmark. Wellie boots, raincoats and sunglasses. Yes, the weather may be changeable but as the Danes say, there’s no such thing as bad weather – only inappropriate clothing! Luckily the Danish weather gods were smiling so, one hour later, as we crossed the bridge to the island of Funen, it was time to don our sunglasses! Odense, Funen’s largest town and birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, has been hogging the spotlight for years but Svendborg, on the south coast, is fighting back. This year they’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of Kulinarisk Sydfyn (‘Culinary Southern Funen’) – the largest food festival in northern Europe – where the emphasis is quail ty, sustainability and local products.
And what better setting than Funen, ‘the garden of Denmark’, to hold the festival? As we left the motorway and drove south we spotted tiny produce stalls along the road : eggs, peas, potatoes, strawberries, onions, freshly cut flowers… The stalls aren’t manned – they rely on trust: take what you want and leave the cash in the box, please! Note to self: remember lots of Danish coins for the drive home.
Half an hour later we checked in at Hotel Christiansminde, which sits right on the waterfront with fabulous views of Tåsinge and the even tinier island of Thurø (pop. 3,800). The hotel was in full swing, not only because of the food festival, but because 23 June is Sankt Hans Aften ‘Midsummer Eve’ – the evening when the Danes gather together on beaches to sing and light bonfires. Lucky for us, the hotel had a full evening’s entertainment arranged: a fish and seafood dinner, a live band and a huge bonfire topped with the traditional witch! There’s a wonderful white sandy beach, an icecream hut and a tiny marina in front of the hotel but we tore ourselves away and walked along the promenade towards Svendborg.
Kulinarisk Sydfyn takes place in the heart of the old town. You’ll need a wristband to get into the area – kids go free, 12 year olds and over cost Dkr. 40 (about £5). But Dkr. 50 will give you entrance for both Saturday and Sunday. Highly recommended as you really need two days to see – and taste – it all.
Down to serious business. We started at Area 4 (Torvet ‘the market’) where DH (dear husband) and I bought a wine glass and three beer/wine tasting tickets (Dkr. 25). Extra tickets cost Dkr. 5. Now, where to start: whisky, organic wine, cider, ale or cava? To be completely honest, with over 30 beer and wine vendors represented, it was all a bit overwhelming. But then I spotted Knud and Ria from Odense, who were very obviously pros. Yes, they said, they always come early (the festival opens on Saturday morning at 10am) and they only have two items on their shopping list: ryebread and sausages. Then they finish off with a beer and are home again by 12.30pm!
Knud was drinking Hopfest (literally ‘hop party’) from the Ugly Duck Brewing Co., so I followed suit. It’s a very light India Pale Ale – almost pale orange in colour – which smells heavily of hops. A slightly bitter taste but very summery and refreshing – especially on what was turning out to be a wonderful warm day. Mmmm! I asked Martin Jensen about the name of the firm – surely it had something to do with Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale “The Ugly Duckling”. After all, some of their other beers are sold under the name, “The Swan”? Partly true, he says, though they preferred ‘duck’ to ‘duckling’ (which was a bit too sugary sweet) and, besides, Ugly Duck is easy to pronounce in all languages!
The next beer caught my eye because the labels really stood out from the crowd, the kind you’d normally associate with luxury chocolate or alcopops. Coisbo’s motto is “Stil med god smag!” (‘Style with good taste’). Anders Coisbo has only been brewing for 5 years but has a very clear strategy behind his beer: quality and design. He wants to combine New York style with the Scandinavian kitchen. There was quite a queue to be served and everyone in front of me asked for ‘the elderflower one’. Now, I’m a sucker for anything with elderflower (I make elderflower champagne and strawberry and elderflower jam from the bushes in our garden), so I copied everyone else. The beer is called Urban Haze and you’re hit immediately with the smell of elderflowers. Rich, though not in an overpowering ‘eau de parfum’ way. I could certainly drink a lot of this, and was surprised to find that it’s also a hit with men. Surely the pink label was geared towards female customers? Anders Coisbo said “Absolutely not. One sniff, one taste and the men are hooked!” The range also includes beers by the name of Manhattan Dawn, 5th Avenue and Brooklyn Fall.
Svendborg council had its own special brew – the local ‘smiley’ water. We were handed bottles to fill straight from the tap.
Meanwhile, over in the cheese tent, the judges were hard at work deciding the winner of the Nordic Cheese Festival.
At 2pm, once the judging was completed, you could taste the cheeses for yourself!
The kids were now desperate to start tasting the food, so we headed towards the food tents in “Torvet”. We took a deep breath and ran the gauntlet. It was a fantastic sight, food lined up on either side – icecream, jam, marmelade, chocolate, pâté, bread, oil, biscuits – and the noise was almost deafening! My Little Viking No 1 (dear son, 12) made a fantastic discovery at the Greco Farms stall. His two favourite foods combined…peanut + honey! Jan Preisler imports products, made to his own recipes, from Greece. We tasted everything he had to offer and decided on pots of bergamot orange marmelade, peanut honey and Johannesbrød (carob) honey. So not only were we supporting a local business but also helping the Greek economy…
The biggest surprise of the day was our pit-stop lunch at Svendborg’s Cultural Centre. We ordered a ribbensteg sandwich (roast pork on a roll, Dkr 50) and it arrived just minutes later, wrapped in the trademark red and blue ‘fast food’ paper that you get at any Danish hotdog stand – not exactly a good sign. It turned out to be the best ribbensteg sandwich I’ve ever tasted – and I’ve tasted quite a few in my 14 years in Denmark! The crackling was cooked to perfection, the thick slabs of pork were warm and juicy. And the red cabbage was raw and crunchy – not the usual pickled stuff straight from a tub. A real winner. And a great cheap and cheerful place for lunch in Svendborg, even if you don’t make it for the food festival.
The organizers of Kulinarisk Sydfyn are spot on when they say that the food festival is “just like being on a picnic without dragging a basket!” Though, to be honest, I’d recommend that you take one with you anyway…an empty one!
Images by Diane Hansen-Ingram and family. Diane is a Scot who lives in Wonderful Copenhagen. She’s married to a Dane and is mum to two little Vikings. Diane blogs about food, the Flylady and, more often than not, “those crazy Danes”, who are a constant source of fascination. She has two passions in life. Rock music (the louder the better). And year-round skinny dipping at the local beach (the colder the better). You can find her at her two blogs - ‘Daily Denmark’ and ‘Diane Denmark’