A danish is a pastry and my favorite one is not too sweet.
Normally, when I fly out of Copenhagen, I get a final danish at the airport. The bakery at the airport in Copenhagen is a branch of Ole & Steen, which is a franchise version of the old venerable Lagkagehuset (layer cake house).
But, New York City has four branches of this franchise! I had to visit.
Obviously, the dough and bread is different (like with NYC pizza, it’s the water, don’t ya know). The menu was also different. They still had my favorite pastry so I got two. My favorite is called “tebirkes” in Danish but they have changed it to “copenhagener” in English. It is in the first photo, covered in poppyseeds. It is a basic pastry with a subtle almond sugar paste layer inside.
The roast beef sandwich that I got was awesome with horseradish cream and rare pink roastbeef (a bit cooked in my photos because it traveled in a bag for six hours). I also bought rye bread and rye bread rolls. My eight rolls were so dense that they had to go to secondary screening at the airport.
Recently, some friends and I were discussing ice cream and gelato, again. One of my friends reminded me of that place in Denmark that we had visited… I was sure that I must have blogged about this place… But, somehow I had not. So now I will.
The ice cream place that is still on my mind is called Ismajeriet, and it now has two locations in Denmark.
One day, several years ago, when visiting Copenhagen, we were at a lunch party. After eating smoerrebroed (open faced sandwiches), a cooler tub was taken out of the freezer, and inside were four flavors of ice cream from Ismajeriet. It was so delicious that we had to visit the actual shop. My friend and I grabbed bicycles and off we went, in search of ice cream. This was a few years ago when the shop was located out among the summer houses of Amager, the island south of Copenhagen. The Ismajeriet (translates to “the ice cream dairy”) has a large selection, including sorbets. The style of the shop was in a retro design (a bit like an ice cream parlor of old) but the ice cream was fresh! I was delighted to see that they had many flavors, including licorice (I understand that licorice is an acquired taste but I acquired it a long time ago). The shop also has sorbets.
Why is this in my dreams? Because it was so creamy. The ice cream has a high fat content so it is creamy, really ice cream. Cream is the fat part of milk and fat on the tongue adds a creamy texture when it melts. In contrast, most gelato is made with milk. Gelato’s creaminess is derived from how it is made. Some gelato is actually ice cream (which must have a fat percentage of more than 3.5 percent). There are gelato shops where they will advertise that their plain flavor is “fiore di panna” (panna = cream) and not the usual “fiore di latte” which is the “milk flower.” Basically, calling something the “cream flower” is like saying that it is the “cream of the crock” — the best.
In Denmark, gelato is quite popular now, but the Danish style ice cream lives on in places like Ismajeriet. In Italy, one can add whipped cream on top of one’s gelato (most places will do it for free and it should be unsweetened freshly whipped cream). In Denmark, that is the norm. Another thing is that the Danes like to add a “floedebolle” on top. This “cream ball” is a meringue topped wafer covered in chocolate (the one in the photo has coconut flakes on it) that can be eaten on its own, or used as the cherry on top of the ice cream cone.
One thing that the Danes and Italians share in relation to their ice cream/gelato is that any time of the year and day is a good time to eat it. In Italy, gelato shops are some of the food shops that are open almost all day long, some open as early as 8 am and close after midnight.
As for Ismajeriet, I will be back some day to see if it is as good as in my dreams.
The title of this blog posting refers to a Danish movie from 2000, and my current activity. “Italian for Beginners” is a lighthearted entertaining movie about Danes who want something a bit more interesting in their lives so they go to Italian class. Romance and “viaggio” to Italy ensue.
Learning Italian is a bit topsy turvy for me as Italian is, in many ways, the opposite of English and Spanish. For example, the “che” is a “kah” sound and the “ci” is “cheh” sound as in “ciao.” The double ell in Spanish is spelled with a “gli” in Italian but the double ell like in “bello” is a really forceful ell sound. The ñ in Spanish is spelled “gn” in Italian so that “gnocchi” is “ñ-o-key” — and so on.
Actually, the phrase I’ve learned the best is “attenta su pronuncia” – watch your pronunciation.
But, it’s most important to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank you. So far I’ve learned that the Italians are very formal so one should not use “ciao” unless you are family or you are close friends. (Also, “Ciao” derives from an old Venetian saying for “I’m your slave.”)
Hello: “buongiorno” (bwon-jorno) until sundown and then it’s “buona sera” (bwon-ah sarah)
Goodbye: “arrivederci” (a-riv-eh-dare-chi)
Please: “per favore” (pear fa-vore-eh) or “per piacere” (pear pah-chair-ee)
Thank you: “grazie” (gra-ts-ee-ay)
Excuse me: “scusi” (skoo-zee) is the formal form and “scusa” is the informal.
One thing I have learned about Italian is how to say “good luck!” Contrary to direct translation, it is not “buona fortuna!” Instead, it’s “jump inot the mouth of the wolf!” Or “In bocca al lupo!” This is the equivalent to “break a leg” in Italian.
In Danish, a danish is a “viennese bread” because it was brought to Denmark in the 19th century by immigrants from Vienna. There are many names and many types of pastry sold in Denmark and the bakeries, although no longer on every corner, are still to be had (today, 7-11 bakes fresh every few hours).
My favorites are actually not the well-known pretzel shaped “kringle” or the “duck breast” or “snail” but, one that is hard to find and the other that is more common. My favorite one is so popular that it’s sold at the airport. It’s called a “tebirkes” or “tea poppy seed” and it’s a rectangular shape with a covering of poppy seeds. Inside, the bottom layers are held down by a thin layer of almond paste mixed with sugar. The tebirkes isn’t overly sweet and I like to splice it open, slather it with Lurpack butter and a slice of smelly strong cheese. The second pastry that I always get, if I can, is called a “rosenbroed” or “rose bread”and it’s made from the basic kringle puff pastry but in a long plank shape. It’s covered with a thick layer of icing and sliced into long strips. Pure sugar, butter, and puff pastry!
Denmark is known for its Danish and in the U.S., there are a few places that claim to do the original kringle or Danish. But, Danish pastry is like New York pizza… it’s something in the water… if you can, go to the source.
Once upon a year, in a little tiny land, at the top of Europe, there are strawberries so ruby and sweet. They arrive just after the sweet pea season. Visit Denmark in late August and you may may be able to get both. The strawberries are red like claret in the sun. Eat them fresh or covered in fresh cream.
Then, if you can find sweet peas in the pod, enjoy them as they are as succulent as crisp morning dew. But nuttier.
Oh, and they are healthy for you. How sweet is that!
As someone who loves good bread, I find it hard to find European-style yeasty bread in Dhaka. There is plenty of pillowy naan, stretchy rhumali, chewy paratha, and flaky dhosa. When I want European style bread, I go to the following places:
Kings Confectionary: This is where to get long baguette-like hoagie or subway rolls. Plus, the sugared doughnuts are chewy, doughy, and sugary.
German Butcher: They bake their own bread. They call it black bread but it’s more of a whole wheat blend. You can even buy a half loaf if you want to start out with that.
Do Mi Ok: The best sliced white bread in Dhaka. It’s doughy. If you squeeze it, it will hold your finger imprint. They also sell a few other types of fresh bread but it’s the white that I like.
Le Souffle. It is slightly ridiculous how expensive they are. They have a bakery and sell French baguettes and other types. The bread is hard crust sourdough style. They sell croissants and cakes as well.
Nordic Club: They do great cinnamon rolls… the black bread has too much molasses and tastes slightly off.
Having been to a fair number of airports, I wish many things of them. One is a flat padded surface for sleeping. Copenhagen Airport is actually one of the ones that is beginning to address the realities of travel. Kudos to Copenhagen for providing padded leather benches the size of a bed. Plus, they have good shops. Singapore airport is another great airport and not just because of its free foot massage machines. Sometimes, a completely bed-like bench is all I need. That, and free WIFI. Please, my deep veins beg you.
I was wrong. In recalling Danish bacon, I simply remembered that it was my favorite kind of bacon. When I got to Denmark this time around, I set out to fry some up. When I cooked the pack of bacon, all 250 grams of it, and realized that no fat came sputtering out of it because the bacon is much more akin to pancetta, thin and not woodsy in smell… (the Danes have their own breed of pigs called the Antonius). When I ate the first crinkly mahogany strip, I realized that I had been utterly wrong. The Danish bacon was much better than the bacon of my memory.
Open faced sandwiches are called “buttered bread” in Denmark. I have some favorites. It is harder and harder to find a place where you can buy ready-to-eat sandwiches but there are still a few places where this can still be done. One goes into the store, takes a number, and when it’s one’s turn, one orders “four halves” or however many sandwiches one wants. Then you can order them by name if you know what they are called (only some have special names like “the vet’s night snack”) but mostly, you can point.
One can, of course, make sandwiches at home. I love the Danish open face sandwich because just like Peking Duck or a Korean Bulgogi lettuce wrap, there is something about the alchemy of certain flavors together that play my taste buds like a xylophone.