The Queen of Smørrebrød
Updated: Sep 11
Copenhagen’s iconic Ida Davidsen invited us into her kitchen for lessons to make her famous open faced sandwiches called smørrebrød. She is the fourth generation to take charge – and both her son and daughter are following her. The restaurant opened in 1888 by her great grandfather, Oskar just making smørrebrød to accompany his wine bar trade and by 1900 they were making 187 varieties. Their menu is a long folded affair that comes to a yard and a half in total length, a world record, to accommodate the seasonal selections.
Smørrebrød is a Danish word meaning bread and butter. Hence that is the base of all the canvases for this work of art. The Danes are known for form, function and color in their craftsmanship and this is no different. Ida is the guardian of Danish tradition, a world famous National dish and a daily lunchtime staple for most Danes. To pass this along, she gives classes in making smørrebrød…. We signed up as we had a free morning in Copenhagen.
What a treat to be with this sparkling personality, the personification of sunshine and spunk wrapped in her chefs whites and her necklace of pearls. Into the kitchen we went as she explained all the details that make the proper sandwiches. One significant element is the thin sliced bread, there can be four kinds, but most are dark rye or wheat and then the components of taste to top it, using four to five complimentary items. Key is that you never see the bread, your toppings must be generous to be well done. Ida will let you create your own Smørrebrød as long as it is the pinnacle of Danish gastronomy.
Preparing and serving these open faced canvas' for well over 100 + years, the sandwiches have been named after celebrities and regular customers. A favorite Dane like Victor Borge loved his Danish seafood; there is the Kaiser, Ritt Bjerregaard the Mayor of Copenhagen and Princess Marie, but many more. One of my favorites was the steak tartare with an oyster instead of an egg yolk. As you can imagine there is herrings done is a variety of flavors, egg and shrimp, salmon and caviar. Plus Ida’s husband smokes an array of things at their country home like duck breast, blue marlin, salmon, tuna, eel and even potatoes. They all find their way onto her canvas.
Not only the smørrebrød a national treasure but so is Ida Davidsen. What a great and delicious day!