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Monday, August 3, 2015

Bit O' Denmark

    It's June again and John and I are once again celebrating our birthday month like it's a jubilee! We decided to spend a week in Southern California driving up and down the Pacific Coast Highway. Our first stop was at a quaint town in the Santa Ynez valley called Solvang established around a century ago by Danish immigrants. The particular building that houses Bit O' Denmark has been there since 1911, and originally served as a folk school, a sort of community center. Later, it served as a Lutheran church, and since 1929, as a friendly eatery serving authentic Danish dishes.

     The interior is exactly what I would expect to find in any given establishment on a small Scandinavian city street. The space is divided into sections of differing sizes, all cozy and dimly lit. The furniture is rustic and surrounded by exposed brick. Paintings depicting Danish landscapes and scenes adorn the walls.   
     For lunch, John ordered the Bit O' Denmark burger with Havarti cheese and sauteed mushrooms and onions. The patty was thick, seared on the outside, juicy on the inside and the perfect shade of medium-cooked. I asked him how he liked the Havarti and he said it didn't add or subtract from the flavor, but it did add a pleasant creamy texture. The fries it came with were served freshly fried.
     I went Danish. I ordered the Frikadeller, Danish meatballs in brown sauce served with sweet and sour cabbage and mashed potatoes. I was apprehensive, I won't lie, but as I've heard it said before, when you're bold, unseen forces come to your aid. The meatballs were delicate and spongy and well complemented by the savory brown sauce. The cabbage was a delightful surprise. It was a brilliant shade of magenta, and the marinade added a refreshing balance of sweet and tangy. I found the potatoes buttery and a warm contrast to the light cabbage. That was a relief because I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to mashed potatoes. Not to boast, but I have a secret recipe that has yet to find a match.
     One element on my plate that wasn't advertised on the menu deserves special mention. Cucumber shavings marinated in vinegar, lemon juice and sugar sat unassumingly to the side, almost as a garnish. I'm having a hard time describing the flavor experience. They were like vegetable candy but delicately sweet. This could definitely make it on my 'bottomless snack bowl' list.
     I must confess I wasn't expecting the sophistication I found in my Danish meal, but every component complemented each other and combined to make a well-coordinated and surprisingly subtle dish. I'm ready to try some more Scandinavian fare!

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