Aahøj Retreat

The Feinschmeckers guide to Sæby and Frederikshavn

Photo: Rasmus Palsgård

Food critic Rasmus Palsgård, also known as the Feinschmecker, has been on a weekend trip to North Jutland. Here you can read about his trip to Sæby and Frederikshavn. Keep reading to find out how Essens Garden managed to surprise even the most experienced palate.

by Rasmus Palsgård 

Rasmus Palsgård

Photo:Nicklas Ingemann

About the Feinschmecker

Rasmus Palsgård is a trained journalist who has been writing regularly about food and beverages on feinschmeckeren.dk since 2011. In addition to writing about food, Palsgård also enjoys cooking. In 2016, he was a finalist on MasterChef. Palsgård is also the chairman of the Danish jury for the Nordic guide 360 Eat Guide. This guide, which ranks the best restaurants in the Nordic region, distinguishes itself from other guides by having sustainability as its primary focus.

Surprising Hotel stay in Sæby

I will say it right away: I didn't know much about Sæby on the northeast coast of Jutland before this excursion took place. Like Skagen, Sæby is a popular holiday town in the summer, but otherwise, I did not know much about the town as we set course for it. The same goes for the small hotel named Aahøj, where I am going to spend the night. From the outside, it looks like an ordinary villa, but inside, the coziest little hotel with 10 rooms reveals itself. It is owned and operated by Kamilla Vinter Hofmann, who has a great understanding of providing her guests with a unique experience.


Photo:Rasmus Palsgård

The heart of the hotel is the cozy fireplace lounge, where breakfast is served. It offers carefully selected products from, among others, Sæby's butcher, freshly baked rolls, homemade jams, and much more.

Hotel Aahøj

Photo:Rasmus Palsgård

You can also help yourself at the bar with various beverages. The hotel is not staffed 24 hours a day, so everything is based on trust. With all the warmth that the place and Kamilla Vinter Hofmann offer, of course, no one would take advantage of this trust.


The hotel doesn't feel like a hotel – it feels more like visiting someone's home, and that has a very special charm.

Another unique feature is the small sauna that Kamilla Vinter Hofmann has built in the garden. Here, you can sit and sweat with a view of the stream below the garden, and if you need a cold shock, there's a small platform with steps that allow you to quickly dip into the water and get back up again – truly delightful. If you find yourself in this area, I can't recommend a visit here highly enough – it's one of those hidden gems that you might not easily stumble upon but wish you knew about.

Aahøj Retreat

Photo:Rasmus Palsgård

Masterful Culinary Theater at an Old Farm

And just when I thought there couldn't be more surprises, it was time for dinner. Hotel Aahøj does not offer evening meals as such, but if guests wish, Kamilla Vinter Hofmann can arrange for chef Tonny Kristensen to cook. That's not happening tonight – instead, we are going to him. His main business is Essens Garden, located a 10-minute drive from Hotel Aahøj towards Frederikshavn. He took over the farm a couple of years ago and has converted the land to organically grown fruits and vegetables, which are sufficient for Essens Garden to be self-sufficient with these ingredients.

Essens Gaarden

Photo:Rasmus Palsgård

Meat and poultry come from good colleagues in the area, making Essens Garden a true showcase of local cuisine. However, it offers much more than that. The place hosts all sorts of events, weekday dinners with simple dishes, pizza nights, and similar gatherings. The main attraction, which we are about to experience, is "Friday on the Farm," best described as an elaborate culinary theater in several acts. I won't reveal too much, as it would spoil the experience, but I can say that we are far beyond the typical inn experience you might expect.


Krondyr på Essens Gaarden

Photo:Rasmus Palsgård

We are led through a wardrobe, as if we were in a scene from Narnia, and on the other side, Tonny Kristensen is waiting with champagne and appetizers, which he has hidden around the area.

From there, the evening unfolds with one surprise after another, as we are guided from the greenhouse to the barn and then up to secret rooms that you wouldn't discover unless you knew they were there. The menu is extensive and, of course, based on the aforementioned ingredients, with dishes that truly showcase impressive flavors and high quality. The wine pairing is also curated by Tonny Kristensen, consisting of a diverse selection of fine wines he has collected over the years.

Tomatsuppe ved Essens Gaarden
Photo: Rasmus Palsgård
Dessert Essens Gaarden
Photo: Rasmus Palsgård

This experience truly took me by surprise in the best possible way, and if you're dreaming of a unique dining experience within the country's borders, a visit to Essens Garden is a must.

Goodbye and thank you!

It's now the morning after. Kamilla Vinter Hofmann has lit the sauna so I can have a quick visit after the wonderful breakfast. With a certain amount of melancholy, it's time to bid farewell to North Jutland. As I take a seat in the lounge at Aalborg Airport, I try to digest the many impressions the trip has offered. Sometimes, you don't need to fly far from home to have great experiences. This is something to consider the next time you're planning an adventure.