This weekend heralded the frosty kickoff of the NORTH 2014 Nordic Cooking Fest in New York City, a pan-culinary celebration of the cuisine, skill and innovation of Scandinavia. In a world that's come to esteem Danish cooking as highly as Chinese food by way of Oklahoma City, this festival has hopped on the Nordic food bandwagon and is holding it tight by the ebelskivers. From the basics of Danish blue cheese to the secrets of fermentation in the Faroe Islands, if you're a Scandi chaser, Nordophile, or smørre-bro of any flavo(u)r, this festival is for you.
But what of finely-roasted coffee, one of Scandinavia's most esteemed culinary exports (falling somewhere right after fish and before foragable weeds)? The eight day long festival will host just one coffee specific event, a coffee-infused desert experience helmed by the large Swedish coffee roaster Gevalia. Beyond that, the only other inkling of coffee at NORTH happens at the Swedish Pastry Workshop, hosted by local cafe/chocolatier Fika.
What we do know is that the reach of truly progressive, interesting, even challenging roasts of Scandinavian coffee has already grown in appreciation in New York City, even if it hasn't yet found its way to the hearts and roots of a festival like NORTH just yet. With respect and acknowledgement given to Scandinavian-themed multi-shops like Fika and Konditori, we'd like to suggest a short list of superior NYC cafes who feature Scandinavian coffees on their roaster roster. Put down your knitting needles and read on.
The city's most trendy and storied Scandi-themed roaster, this spacious Greenpoint cafe is intentionally and almost completely Nordic in a way no other NYC cafe's dared to attempt thus far. They've braved the logistical challenges of regularly importing some of the country's finest Scandinavian-roasted coffees, from Tim Wendelboe (Norway) to Koppi (Sweden) to Drop Coffee (Sweden). They've even got a full-fledged (and very charming) Nordic gift shop in the back of the cafe, should a sudden autumn chill remind you you've misplaced your best Icelandic sweater. In informal allegiance with the NORTH 2014 fest, Budin is also putting its famous—or infamous?—$10 “Lakkrís Latte” on sale for the duration of the festival for $5. We wouldn't recommend pairing this with the Scandinavian Hot Dog Championships, but you may be made of stronger stuff than us.
This East Village darling stocks an occasional selection of finer Scandinavian coffees like Denmark's The Coffee Collective alongside its regular quality bean supplies from MadCap Coffee and Ritual Roasters. Though the Nordic brews are featured guests and not everyday offerings, owner Cora Lambert expects to have a fresh shipment of Wendelboe coffees in the hoppers by late September (watch Twitter). The Nordic influence of refined quality in minimal, no-nonsense elegance pervades the shop's design as well as its caffeinated output, so no matter what's being served, Scandophiles should feel right at home.
Another Manhattan cafe that offers rotating guest selections, the Joe Pro Shop keeps a healthy dose of Nordic coffees on offer among their other offerings from, largely, the US and Canada. This wee boutique has featured seemingly every fancy roaster around at one time or another, but most recently spotted were Koppi and Tim Wendelboe beans. Next up? More coffee from Sweden's Drop, our 2014 Notable Roaster of the Year, hitting the menu soon.
Tribeca and Midtown may not know how well they have it in Kaffe 1668, a now three-cafe local chain, opened in 2008 in Tribeca by Swedish twin brothers (!) Mikael and Tomas Tjarnberg. The brothers have since gone on to open another, dimmer Kaffe 1668 just up the street from their first, as well as a pocket bar in a Fifth Avenue office lobby. Last year, they began roasting their own beans in consultation and partnership with Robert Thoresen, founder of Norway's Kaffa and Earth's first ever World Barista Champion. The beans, quietly roasted at Pulley Collective, are dubbed “RED”–presumably not just because they looked around the neighborhood and realized it was called Red Hook. Though a full launch and conception of their roasting style remains somewhat mysterious, we think this fully qualifies as Scandinavian coffee. Also, their cafes have little wooly sheep hanging out.
And remember, even if you're not near a seemingly authentic Scandinavian cafe, you can always ask the barista working at your local if he might secretly be a Swedish-born champion of Bulgaria. Hey, you never know.
Liz Clayton is the Associate Editor at Sprudge.com, and helms our NYC desk. Read more Liz Clayton on Sprudge.