Several years ago, Yuko and I watched the final episode of the first season of the Netflix documentary Chef’s Table. We became transfixed by the personality of Chef Magnus Nilsson and the idea of his creation, Fäviken. Located halfway up Sweden, in the woods, far from cities, visiting the restaurant has become a pilgrimage that only true food lovers are interested in taking. By the end of episode, we half-joked that we should go.

Eventually, Yuko got serious about it. She planned for the day the restaurant would release reservations for the summer season. The best way to experience the restaurant is to stay the night at the adjoining inn, avoiding the need for taxi service to another hotel, permitting additional activities before and after dinner, and getting an included seat at the reportedly fabulous breakfast the next morning. She booked our spots and we planned a trip around what we expected to be among the best dinners of our lives.

Copenhagen, Denmark

The secondary goal was to visit some friends who live in Copenhagen, Denmark and experience what that city had to offer. As an avid cyclist, I’ve wanted to check out this city which is so famous for its successful transportation policies.

SP34: We got off of our red-eye and needed a long nap, so we went straight to our hotel. One thing I’ve learned about most design-oriented hotels is that they look pretty but are often not terribly functional. Everything was pretty, but the rooms were cramped and not very comfortable. Some of the design choices just made the room not that useful. The included breakfast was good, though. The gym was so depressing we didn’t use it. SP34 at least delivered on its promise in our reservation of having actual beds to sleep in. While the location was excellent, I’d probably try to stay elsewhere next time we’re in town.

Manfreds: Our friends made reservations here, which is a casual restaurant by the same people behind Michelin star award-winning Relæ, who are also former NOMA alums. This organic, biodynamic, plant-focused menu was great. This casual and rustic spot was a good choice for a meeting between some locals and some out-of-towners. Get the biodynamic wine pairing: you likely wouldn’t make the same choices, which were enlightening.

Mikkeller & Friends: One thing I appreciate about Mikkeller is their commitment to bringing good quality, interesting beer in a nice environment around the world. One downside to that commitment is that each of their locations feels more or less the same. This was no different: great beer, unremarkable venue. Though, there are unmanaged picnic tables across the street which was a nice place to enjoy a good brew in the last hours of a long Scandinavian summer day.

Architecture Tour in Ørestad: One of our friends is a practicing architect and he offered to bring us to this neighborhood which is under active development with some very interesting buildings in various states of construction. Just driving around is interesting, but getting out and exploring particular buildings is recommended. We walked the entire loop around 8 House, so named because of its integral, inclined, exterior figure-eight walkway connecting the building’s residential units. We snuck into the the Tietgen Residence Hall and daydreamed what it would be like to live there as a student. Finally, we saw the cool funicular-like elevator in the VM MOUNTAIN. Our friend isn’t available for private tours, but I recommend finding a publicly-available guided tour of this neighborhood.

Ismageriet: A great way to beat the heat on a sunny day in Copenhagen (yes, that was actually the weather while we were there!) is delicious ice cream. The outpost in Ørestad had dozens of flavors on offer and felt like stepping into a bygone classic era.

La Banchina: Another way Copenhageners cool down is a swim in a canal. Doing it with a good restaurant nearby is doing it in style. We had a refreshing drink here at a picnic table shielded from the sun.

Sögreni: This is a pretty famous bike manufacturer that happened to be next door to our hotel. I chatted with the staff member tending to the front-of-house for a while. It’s worth a visit if you’re into bikes and worth a purchase if you’re staying in Copenhagen.

Taphouse: We had some time to kill before a dinner one night, so we stopped into this place that has 61 taps of local and international beer. It was fine; we sat outside which was nice.

The Coffee Collective: Delicious coffee being served artfully and with intent and passion. We visited their outpost in Torvehallerne, which has a bunch of really delicious-looking food stalls under one roof. We sat outside on a picnic table and had some delightful pour-overs. I’d come back here and to Torvehallerne in a heartbeat.

Tivoli Gardens: We’re not really amusement park people, but this one is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world and is quite pretty and lively inside. It was worth the price of admission to walk around for a while.

Hey Captain: Our friend recommended this canal boat tour operator to us because it bucks the mold of the other operations. Hey Captain has smaller boats and offers complimentary wine and beer onboard. Our guide was great and the tour was very pleasant. Recommended.

Vaekst: This is the restaurant attached to SP34, but has gained high marks for its vegetable-oriented menu. The food and service was good and the convenience factor high, but I regret not trying to snag a table at a more interesting restaurant in a city full of Michelin star award winners.

Running around Christiania: This was a really nice run mostly on a well-maintained gravel road through Christiania. Along the way were some old buildings and a different way of life.

All in all, we loved our short stay in Copenhagen. The people were nice, the good and beer were great, and the cycling culture is a breath of fresh air compared to New York. Coupled with the sane, human-oriented policies Danes have decided to support — universal healthcare, good childcare and schooling among them — we could even see ourselves living here.

Åre, Sweden

Getting from Copenhagen to Fäviken turned out to be a little awkward due to the scheduling of flights to nearby airports. We decided to fly from CPH to Trondheim, Norway and drive 133 kilometers across the border to the ski-town of Åre, Sweden, where we’d stay for a couple of nights until checking into the inn before dinner.

Holiday Club Åre: I booked this hotel for a couple of reasons: 1) From the pictures, the gym had a ton of free weights and monkey bars, which I’ve never seen at a hotel before. 2) The pool complex had a multi-story water slide, a lazy river, and multiple whirlpools! 3) The breakfast menu looked good. 4) They had just completed construction of a new wing of rooms (which required a small premium over the older rooms). We visited during the time between ski season and the summer season, so the hotel was almost completely empty, despite being massive and clearly built for peak ski season. It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. I was the only one using the waterslide while visiting the pool, as a group of kids and a group of senior citizens looked on.

Wersens: After getting settled, we left the hotel to explore town and get some dinner. Our first choice, Parkvillan (see below) wasn’t open for the new season, but Wersens was open and seemed to be hosting the entire town for dinner. The food was decent and the local beer selection not terrible.

Hike to Åreskutan: We woke up to beautiful weather for our planned hike. We had just missed the end of the ski season and the downhill mountain biking season had just started. The largest ski lift was taking a break for a few weeks between winter and summer, but a smaller lift was operating for cyclists; it was even free the day we wanted to use it, the first day of the mountain biking season.

The hike was lovely, though my hiking companion was not happy about the verticality. [ed: What do you expect when walking up a mountain?] There were sizable snow patches that needed traversing; though they remained non-technical, we each slipped and slid on our butts down one such field. We ended up only hiking up to the end of the larger, closed ski lift and cancelling our summit plans due to the falling temperatures and remaining snow on the ground. Still, the sights were lovely. Recommended.

Krus: But, it was most fortunate to have turned around when we did: we were able to get back into town just in time for a late lunch at Magnus’ pop-up casual restaurant. Everything we had was delicious, and Yuko claims their roast chicken is the best she ever had, which, as a chicken lover, is one of the highest praises she could award. We happened to strike up a conversation with the other couple eating so late, who turned out to be from Iowa and dining with us the next night at Fäviken! My only regret is not coming back for pastries the next morning (as breakfast was included at the Holiday Club). Highly recommended.

Parkvillan: We went back to the hotel to hang out for a bit. Yuko started watching Blades of Glory, but I wanted to explore a bit more and visit this brewpub in town that gets high marks for both their beer and their food. I’m glad I did: their offerings lived up to the reviews and then some. I sat at the bar and struck up a conversation with the owner (after he offered to translate the menu to English for me) plus a couple of other locals, one of whom invited me back to hang out with his group of friends. It seemed like the whole town eventually came through that night. While the burger is the most well reviewed, the cod special they had that night was artfully prepared and presented. The beer was even better. Highly recommended; I can’t wait to get back.

Lilla Saluhallen Prästgatan: We checked out of the Holiday Club and had a couple of hours to kill before checking into the inn at Fäviken. It turns out there isn’t a whole lot going on in the villages in the area; no town centers, no particularly interesting attractions. We decided to drive to the nearest city, Östersund, and walk around. We surveyed all of the restaurants along our walking route and decided this one looked the most interesting. We weren’t disappointed. While the shop is mainly a butcher and charcuterie shop, they had one meat and one seafood lunch dish on offer; we got one of each and both were delicious. Sitting at the window stools and watching all of Östersund go by was enjoyable.

Fäviken: This was one of the most special, enjoyable experiences of my life. From the time we met our host at the inn, Simon, to the time we checked out the next morning from Hatim, we were taken care of in the most warm ways imaginable. Even before having dinner, we enjoyed the reindeer jerky and local beer, the guided garden tour with a surprise snack, and I enjoyed the dry sauna.

Dinner was nothing more than phenomenal. The food was beyond comparison. Every element of the service was obviously intentional and well thought-out. The rituals involved were fascinating; for example I hope to never forget the sound the two firm claps from a staff member about to announce the next course!

After-dinner activities included sampling homemade liqueurs, an 1875 madeira, local whiskeys, and the Swedish version of chewing tobacco. The night ended past 1am around a fire in a teepee alongside several of the other guests that night.

That didn’t stop me from getting up early to enjoy the estate’s grounds with a decent run before breakfast, albeit with a decent hangover.

The multi-course breakfast the next morning was delightful as well. I still pine for the table butter.

I thought this was a bucket list, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I hope to be wrong because I really hope to get back here again.

I can’t write better than this Guardian review, and I encourage you to watch the various Chef’s Table and Mind of a Chef episodes that detail the restaurant.

From Fäviken to Trondheim to Copenhagen

After leaving Fäviken, we had a day to kill before getting on a flight back to Copenhagen, and then an early departure for New York the next day. We spent the day driving and visiting some touristy destinations along the way.

Whereas we took the direct route from the Trondheim Airport on E14 on the way in, we took the slightly longer, more northerly scenic route along R72/322 on the advice of the owner of Parkvillan, which I would also highly recommend. The road was fun and undulating, with a variety of interesting topographic features.

Undersåkers Charkuteriefabrik: We first stopped at Magnus’ nearby meat shop to pick up some of the hand soap used in the Fäviken bathrooms. I’m sad we waited so long; the shop smelled of delicious charcuterie and I really wanted one of everything.

Tännforsens Waterfall: This is the largest waterfall in Sweden and is very impressive. After paying a small fee for parking, the waterfall is only a couple of minutes walk down a well-maintained path. Highly recommended if in the area.

Pick-Up Cafe: After driving through some really interesting territory for a couple of hours, and with my copilot fast asleep, I got bored and hungry, so I stopped us at this Americana-themed restaurant — complete with an attached museum — in the middle of a really neat looking valley. The food was edible and a rest stop was well received.

Steinvikholm Castle: The Trondheim Airport is actually quite a bit of distance away from the city of Trondheim itself. We got near the Trondheim Airport with a bucket of time to spare, and instead of driving past the airport to the city, we visited this nearby landmark. The castle was interesting; though the interior was closed by the hour when we arrived, we still walked the perimeter, and tried to imagine what it was like to live there in the 1530s. The roads around the castle were fun to explore, too, with winding roads nestled in between small farms.

Clarion Hotel at Copenhagen Airport: We had a late flight into Copenhagen and an early flight back to New York, so we just stayed at the airport hotel. This was sort of a waste, as it would have been nice to have another night in Copenhagen proper, but couldn’t be helped due to the schedule of flights from Trondheim. The hotel is a standard business hotel but was nice enough; the brunch the next morning was pretty good.

Places that we weren’t able to visit

While I like to do a lot of research before a trip around our interests, I kind of failed to do it in advance of this trip for some reason. Next time, I’d like to hit up some of these places.

…in Copenhagen

Various food:

  • Noma: The epicenter of the revolution of “New Nordic” cuisine. Hard to get tables and expensive, it would have been mind blowing to visit both Noma and Fäviken on the same trip.
  • Istid: Freeze-dried ice cream! I like weird ice cream!
  • GRØD: Oatmeal! I love oatmeal!
  • Punk Royale: Actually a Swedish restaurant, they have an atypical ethos. Recommended by a fellow Fäviken diner.
  • Any other Michelin star award winners.

Various coffee places:

Various other Mikkeller outposts:

Other beer places:

Various well-reviewed cocktail bars:

…in Åre

Svartklubb: Svartklubb is the nighttime version of Krus, a pop-up by Magnus Nilsson serving cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the same physical space. It was only open while we were in town the night we were at Fäviken, so we didn’t have an opportunity to visit.

Ottsjö Brygghus Café & Pub: A small, mostly-organic, mostly-local brewpub in the mountains in remote Jämtland? Whose husband/wife owners and operators mention their dogs on their webpage? That sounds like my kind of place! Sadly, they too weren’t open while we were in the area. Make reservations.

Copperhill Mountain Lodge: This was my first choice of accommodation in the area, but this design-oriented hotel is closed for the month of May in between seasons. I would have liked to stay here or visit their restaurant and their spa. That said, this place is quite far away from the town of Åre, where Krus/Svartklubb, Parkvillan, and Åreskutan are, so it might not be the right choice.