Vild Mad René Redzepi's Food Festival in the Wild

Since 2011, René Redzepi has invited industry people to his MAD symposium at Refshaleøen in Copenhagen and it’s been wildly popular. This year, Noma didn’t just invite chefs and restaurateurs, but anyone and everyone who were interested to take part in a wild food festival called Vild Mad. They’ve even launched an app to help people with foraging. The event took place in Amager Fælled, a protected natural area in the middle of Copenhagen city. It was going to be a day of delicious food, learning about wild plants, cooking with some of Copenhagen’s best chefs, and just getting in touch with nature again. Needless to say, I was hyped up!

Vild Mad – the wild food festival of René Redzepi
Vild Mad – the wild food festival of René Redzepi

A Quick Digression About Copenhagen’s City Bikes

I headed towards Amager Fælled on a Bycyklen bike – my new favorite means of transportation in Copenhagen. I’m used to the Oslo Bysykkel city bikes whenever I’m back in my hometown. Not owning a bike means you don’t have to worry about it getting stolen or needing service. You jump on and jump off. If you wanna take public transportation home, or catch a taxi, that’s no problem.

The Danish concept is even simpler than what I’m used to. Registering is done directly on a tablet which they’ve installed on the handlebar of each bike. You create a username and password and by adding your credit card details, you’re just a quick login away from your next ride. Bycyklen offer only electrical bicycles, which has both pros and cons, in my opinion. The bikes are quite heavy and clumsy to maneuver before you start pedaling, and since there’s an electrical engine that helps you cycle, you’ll obviously get less exercise than on a regular bike (I’m sure some view that as a pro). It’s quite ironic, as it would have made much more sense to have electric bikes in hilly Oslo rather than the flat landscape of Copenhagen. Another major advantage of the Copenhagen city bikes is that you can lock them anywhere, simply by touching the tablet. You can even deliver a bike right next to a full docking station, while in Oslo you have to look for one with free slots (not always easy to find). The GPS system of the Copenhagen bikes sure could improve, though …

Copenhagen city bikes – Bycyklen
Copenhagen city bikes – Bycyklen

I had never been to the specific part of Amager where I was headed before, so I decided to park at the nearest docking station at Island Brygge and walk from there. Little did I know, that I was still a good half hour walk away from the actual festival area, which wasn’t all that easy to find inside the big forest. I guess this was the first challenge of the wild food festival.

Rose Hip Ice Cream by Kristin Nielsen & Sasu Laukkonen

I used the map of the festival area to find my first stop: Roses and berries. My good friend, and Norway’s undisputed foraging queen, Kristin Helene Randulff Nielsen was stationed together with one of Helsinki’s most well-known chefs, Sasu Laukkonen of restaurant Ora (formerly known as Chef & Sommelier). Together with the Danish ice cream manufacturer Jacob & Jakob, they had prepared an ice cream, or rather a sorbet, made of red currants and petals of the beach roses which later turns into rose hips. I remember when we were kids, we used to crack open the rose hips to make itchy bombs. We extracted the fine hairs and seeds inside, and put down each other’s necks, then watched as mayhem unfolded. Little did we know, that the rose petals could make such good ice cream!

Kristin Nielsen & Sasu Laukkonen
Kristin Nielsen & Sasu Laukkonen

Cherry Tea by Prolog Coffee Bar

I thought I was headed for a coffee break, as the spot was marketed as cherry coffee on the map, but it turned out that Prolog Coffee Bar had made cherry tea in stead.

– It’s almost like a matcha tea. We dehydrate the cherries and grind into a fine powder, which we then whisk into hot water, one of the baristas told me.

Cherry tea stop by Prolog Coffee Bar
Cherry tea stop by Prolog Coffee Bar

Honey Caramel by Rødder

I spotted another familiar Copenhagen face through the trees. It was natural wine guru Solfinn Danielsen of the small wine shop Rødder & Vin. As per usual, I had already visited his store the previous day, and this time I even purchased his latest book on natural wine. Together with his colleague, Esben Grundtvig, Solfinn also runs a very successful pop-up concept called Rødder. This morning, the two companions had prepared a range of wild flavors for us to try. One of them was honey caramel, made airy with the help of baking soda. Another one was Japanese knotweed with a flavor similar to rhubarb, cooked for hours and used as topping for a classic Danish koldskål (buttermilk dessert). Finally, we got a shot of honey liquor.

Cochinita Buns With Wild Flowers by Hija de Sanchez

Rosio Sanchez was present at the Vild Mad festival, with her entire Hija de Sanchez team, and even some friends from Noma, like the head chef Benjamin Paul. At the festival headquarters, they served the main meal of the event – a Cochinita-filled brioche bun that featured a bouquet of wild flowers. I can tell you it was delicious, but you would have had to be there to experience. Hopefully, it will be on the regular menu of Hija de Sanchez one day. Leaving the area and heading out into the forest again, I spotted René Redzepi in the crowd. Casually walking about the area like everyone else, eating an ice cream. Never mind him being the most influential chef of our time – he prefers the role of Clark Kent over Superman. That’s how they roll here in Denmark.

Benjamin Paul, head chef at Noma, and Rosio Sanchez of Hija de Sanchez.
Benjamin Paul, head chef at Noma, and Rosio Sanchez of Hija de Sanchez.
Hija de Sanchez' Cochinita in brioche buns with wild flowers
Hija de Sanchez’ Cochinita in brioche buns with wild flowers

Wood Sorrel Ice Cream by Mirabelle

Ok, so I had to have an ice cream as well. Last week, during the Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival, Mirabelle made one of the best ice creams I have ever tasted at the Farm of Ideas. Raw milk ice cream, made from Christian Puglisi’s Jersey cows, topped with sea salt and olive oil. This time, they had prepared another flavor combination, befitting the wild theme of the festival. Wood sorrel ice cream with blueberry and crumble. Hands down delectable.

Mirabelle's wood sorrel ice cream with blueberries and crumble
Mirabelle’s wood sorrel ice cream with blueberries and crumble

Waterways Workshop With Karlos Ponte & Matt Orlando

Two of Copenhagen’s top chefs, Matt Orlando of Amass and Karlos Ponte of PMY (formerly known as Taller) held a workshop near the small lake of Grønjordssøen. Karlos, who is from Venezuela, made a dish using a native root of his home country called oca. It has a sweet, almost mango-like flavor, and can be eaten raw. In a mixture together with radishes, he added a fermented juice of physalis, Amarillo chili oil, and topped it with dried dry bladder seaweed. The result was a flavorful, citrusy sour, elegantly sweet dish with a gentle sting from the chili. Meanwhile, Matt spread a mayonnaise-like cream made from leftover lemon skins (so bitter-sweet and tasty!) on a big plate and topped it with a selection of wild herbs and leaves from the surrounding area. He topped it with a powder made from Danish flowers that had an intense aroma. We ate it with our hands, scooping it up and getting dirty. That’s how you do it in nature!

The distinctively orange oca root
The distinctively orange oca root
A dish with oca root, fermented physalis juice & Amarillo chili oil – by Karlos Ponte of restaurant PMY
A dish with oca root, fermented physalis juice & Amarillo chili oil – by Karlos Ponte of restaurant PMY
Wild herbs on a cream of leftover lemon peels – by Matt Orlando of Amass
Wild herbs on a cream of leftover lemon peels – by Matt Orlando of Amass

Forest Workshop With Geranium & Kong Hans Kælder

My final stop was in the middle of the forest. Here, three-Michelin-starred restaurateur, and possibly the most decorated chef in the world, Rasmus Kofoed of Geranium held a cooking class. I got a taste of the end result, a soup made from ceps mushrooms, with wild herbs, Danish hazelnuts, and ceps oil. A 100% vegetarian umami bomb! As far on the other side of the scale as you could possibly get was Mark Lundgaard – the head chef at one-Michelin-starred Kong Hans Kælder. Inside his tent, were two young deers dangling from their feet, skinned from neck to toe. The idea: Make your own tartar! I totally loved it. People need to learn more about where the meat they buy at the store actually come from.

Geranium's head chef Rasmus Kofoed to the left, and Thanos Feskos the assistant head chef
Geranium’s head chef Rasmus Kofoed to the left, and Thanos Feskos the assistant head chef

Did you attend the Vild Mad festival? Leave a comment and tell me about your favorite activity.

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