Claus Meyer, Denmark’s most famous food personality, lives in a handsome, sprawling house in western Copenhagen. There’s vaguely exotic electronic lounge music on the stereo, a Hans J. Wegner Ox chair in the living room and a big kitchen surrounded by pantries stacked with dried goods, but what Meyer really wants his visitors to see is in the stables behind the house. The horses are long gone, and in their place are stacked casks of juniper, cherry and mulberry, all filled with fermenting apple or plum juice. In his stables, Meyer is trying to make a Danish vinegar to rival the best vinegars in the world.
It’s a typical Meyer project, brilliant and vaguely quixotic; the sort of project that helped him rise from an evangelizing university student walking around the streets of Copenhagen, demanding that strangers taste foods he’d prepared, to a TV cooking-show host with a series of cookbooks and various food businesses, including two Meyers Delis, Noma (which offers modern Nordic-inflected cuisine) and a selection of regional preserves and prepared foods. This month, Meyer will introduce contemporary Danish food to U.S. audiences on American Public Television’s New Scandinavian Cooking.
"There is no great cooking without acidity," he says firmly, reeling off a list of ingredients that includes Spanish sherry vinegar and the tart Japanese citrus yuzu. "But in Denmark, all we had was industrial beet vinegar, the cheapest there is, without nuance or depth." His dream is to create a Danish equivalent of the famed Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena.