Combining cheese with other flavours is the secret of this store, which aims to produce the best and high quality cheeses in town.
by Ella Navarro, photos by Giang Pham
An acoustic playlist sets the mood in a deluxe boutique where sweet dreams are made of cheese. You are driven back in time as you witness what resembles an antique cheese shop with white tiles and a long glass vitrine showing off a variety of cheeses you have probably never seen. Don’t fret; we are here to reveal all.
Treasures worth finding
Aarhus’ Latin Quarter has an enchanting charm about it, not only in its scenery but also in its treasure troves, like the Arla Unika boutique which opened recently in October 2015. You might think they are paying me to say this, but no. I discovered the store accidentally and became utterly mad about their cheese. Not only do I know that cheese makes life heavenly, but by the look of my Vietnamese companion on the mission – who definitely didn’t know what he was about to savour – trust me, his life will never be the same again after trying Arla Unika’s cheese.
Unika began as an experimental project back in 2002, inspired by a gastronomic revolution which was going on in Denmark in the search of new flavours. It was suggested by many that Arla should be involved in making quality cheese. Some daring chefs wanted cheese with better quality and extraordinary taste, different from what they could regularly find in the supermarket. They were on a search for new recipes to dare their clients, and so Arla tagged along to fulfil their requirements.
They began producing small batches of new cheeses and only sold them to restaurants. But the word started to get out, and people wanted to know who produced this cheese and where they could buy it. So in 2012 Arla opened the first cheese store in Torvehallerne in Copenhagen, and after some success among the public it was decided to open the flagship store in Aarhus.
The boutique immediately shines of quality, but by mixing that with a homemade feeling Arla hopes to reflect the uniqueness of their produce. Most of the cheeses on offer are only found here; their production is dedicated and singular, and they are not mass-produced.
Arla Unika cheeses are only developed in Denmark, and around eight dairies based around the country are in charge of the different produce. They do sometimes collaborate with Arla Germany or Sweden, as some cheeses are too good to be copied, so they want to make sure they sell the original product in the store.
The process each cheese takes is rather more complicated than your normal breakfast cheese. There is therefore a team of one or two people who are dedicated to producing each batch of quality cheese, to enhance the perfect flavour and texture in every single batch.
Which one to choose?
The story behind each process is outstanding. Every detail is taken care of and some of the cheeses take up to two years to mature. That is the case for Gammel Knas, a reinterpretation of the classic Havarti cheese. It is named after the long period of maturity that helps to achieve that creamy, sweet taste, almost resembling white chocolate, and a crunchy plus of protein crystals surprises you as you indulge. I might say it’s my absolute favourite.
But there is more. The organic Havgus, produced in the Tistrup dairy, matures for 52 weeks to develop its richness. Tasting this yellow cheese is an exceptional palate experience that gives name to the dairy’s culture of a carefully nurtured lactic acid, and sea salt from the Wadden sea, both of which enhance the flavours that you will discover as you bite piece by piece.
Finally, I would suggest – because it is always best to surprise your senses – the Gnalling, a soft cheese that melts on your tongue and matches perfectly with the tomato marmalade, another of Unika’s products. It’s all about challenging the flavours and combining things that you wouldn’t normally put together. But when you do: boom! You get magic. And that’s what happened with the tomato marmalade.
Don’t be shy, give it a try!
The great thing about the Unika store is that, even if you know nothing about cheese, they will be sure to guide you. And you can definitely try whatever you want before making up your mind on what to buy.
“The idea of this store is not that you walk in just to buy cheese. We want the customer to learn about how to match it better with drinks and different kinds of toppings and garnishes. It’s all about the experience,” says Eva Lunddahl, store manager.
That is why they hold an event every first Thursday of the month, when people can ask whatever they want about cheese. “We help people to be more professional when they serve their cheese. We make suggestions on how to make a cheese table, how to cut it and with what drinks the cheeses would go best,” she added.
It is also an ideal place for gifts, or for hosting a cheese and wine night to impress your friends. If you have a fine palate, you might just want to come in and buy your cheese for the weekend.
The result is in the combination
Arla Unika also sells Mikeller and Warpigs beer, Njord Gin and tea and coffee as matches for the different cheeses. Lunddahl explains their hope of inspiring people to do something different to what they normally do; that’s why they also sell quality hot drinks. Cheese and coffee in the morning is common, but maybe you wouldn’t have the likes of Unika’s cheeses with your morning bread. However, at Unika they encourage you to experience their cheeses with tea or coffee, because the sensation is rewarding to the flavours they are trying to achieve.
But I won’t tell you more; you should go and witness for yourself. Because if you feel like breaking the rules and trying out whole new levels of flavour, combined with unique delicacies to take you beyond pleasure, then Arla Unika awaits.
Arla Unika is one of our picks of the best spots in Aarhus. When visiting the 2017 European Capital of Culture, be sure to stop by for some delicacies, gifts and secrets on cheese combinations. They are located at Klostergade 20, Aarhus C. Every first Thursday of the month they have cheese tastings. Tickets are 250 DKK, which includes seven beverages and cheese tasting, and can be purchased in the store or on the web shop. You can also buy cheese on the web shop, which is distributed all over Denmark. Follow Arla Unika on Facebook to stay tuned in to future events.