Food & Drink
Stellar gastronomy in laid-back Aarhus
A few years ago, this region of central Jutland was best known for its large-scale production of food, but was relatively unknown territory when it came to gastronomy.
The Aarhus’ food scene seriously began to take off though in 2015, when restaurants Frederikshøj, Gastromé and Substans became the first Danish restaurants outside Copenhagen to be awarded coveted Michelin stars.
Now the city has been named European Region of Gastronomy 2017 and places that sell and serve quality food are shooting up everywhere.
Common to all those active in Aarhus gourmet circles is a relatively low average age, a desire to break with convention, and the courage to learn a craft – sometimes from scratch.
They also share and promote an understanding of what food should be and how it should be produced. Ecology, animal welfare, sustainability, and local produce are the pillars of most establishments here.
One of those to have gone all-in on these values is Philip Dam Hansen, who runs eco farm Troldgården and restaurant SÅRT. Four years ago he dropped out of university to go to agricultural school and he began breeding free-range black-spotted pigs, an ancient breed that might otherwise have been cast aside in the name of efficiency. He chooses free range both for animal welfare reasons and for the taste.
“The pigs here find their own food and they go outside all year round. They breed naturally and the piglets stay with their mother until they’re ready for solid food. It makes for stronger, unstressed pigs and a good meat structure with better flavor and more fat in the meat because the pigs have to store fat so they can keep warm outside.”
The 200–300 pigs he slaughters each year go into making his own sausages and his own charcuterie, as well as supplying meat to Aarhus restaurants such as Hærværk ARoS Food Hall, and SÅRT, which he co-owns. He learned it all from scratch and “made mistakes, lots of mistakes, along the way,” which have now become useful knowledge.
“The new ‘amateur farmers’, who, like me, have gone into this without having inherited a particular view on how to do it, are the ones who are reintroducing old breeds and bringing new ideas,” he says. “I’ve noticed significant interest among small farmers in new ways of doing things.”
When it comes to the food scene, Aarhus excels in everything from the above-mentioned free-range pigs and homemade charcuterie, through kombucha, seaweed pesto, and fried insects, to biodynamic wines, cider, and all things fermented.
Ambitious gastronomy and Michelin stars are often associated with sharp elbows and fierce competition, but the atmosphere among the gourmet elite in the capital of Jutland is remarkably friendly. Many of them seem almost as preoccupied with promoting the city’s overall gastro scene as they are with showcasing what their own restaurants can do.
Enthusiasm and modesty go hand in hand in Jutland, but make no mistake: the standard here is sky-high and the gourmet city of Aarhus is looking forward to 2017.
Text: Lise Hannibal
Published: October 10, 2016