Sunday, December 30, 2007

Scandinavian film festival returns to LA!

For all of you Scandinavia loving readers out there, don't forget to check out the lineup for this year's Scandinavian Film Festival in Beverly Hills. What better way to pay homage to such a great bakery country than to watch some Scandinavian film?

I don't know of any other place you can access such a variety of recent Scandinavian films, so I'll surely be checking it out. As tradition dictates, my friend Hae Jin will attend with me and we will drink one honorary Carlsberg to celebrate and relive our glory days studying in Copenhagen.

Sipping away on imported memories, we'll chatter about the films and try to resist staring enviously at people when they speak Danish. As we watch the films, squinting at subtitles, we'll dream of one day returning to that chilly city that won our hearts.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Where to partake in some tarte au citron

Following a delicious dinner at Cafe Stella in Silver Lake, I savored the tarte au citron and found it the perfect light dessert with which to conclude my meal. Just sweet enough and with a softly crumbling crust, the tart lingered in my mouth perfectly.

Before going to Cafe Stella, I read numerous reviews of the restaurant, which I will assume were written by a variety of hip and extremely opinionated LA locals, and perhaps a Vespa-driving Silver Lake resident or two: The tables are too close together, they say. The wine selection is too limited. After eating there myself, I had to wonder: why all of this pressure to criticize?

Perhaps these patrons don't know how to enjoy an evening free from the pressure of having to decide what scathing criticisms they will write on Chowhound or Yelp after the fact. How do you even have the energy to chew your food as your lips simultaneously form dissertation length complaints? Has web 2.0 made us more cynical and harder to please? I'm all for customer empowerment, but some folks are out of control.

I, for one, had a lovely time and a mouth-watering tarte au citron and I'm not afraid to say it.

Montana Avenue: friend to the baker hunter

Having recently moved to Santa Monica, I'm still trying to find the coziest, closest place to curl up with a pastry and a good read. I'd like to establish myself as a bakery regular somewhere, but I haven't yet found a resting stop that feels completely right. I thought I'd try out Jack and Jill's on Santa Monica Blvd since it seems rather inviting from the outside. However, I discovered upon consumption of their red velvet cupcake that Jack and Jill's is a more favorable lunch spot than a bakery destination. With so many cupcake stores populating this land, you have to sell me hard on a cupcake to become one of my destination bakeries, and their Red Velvet just couldn't close the deal.

Luckily, I woke up groggy the other morning and with a particularly intense bagel craving-- and discovered Ambrosia Via Dolce on Montana Avenue. Armed with a craving so strong that I felt as if the productivity of my day depended on obtaining a freshly toasted cream cheese- slathered breakfast, I drove up Montana, the street of many-a-cafes.

While often hyped as a pricey shopping district, Montana Avenue serves the bakery hunter well. I arrived at Ambrosia Via Dolce and fell in bakery love. It had just the neighborhood feel I have been searching for, and best of all, a fresh bagel within just a few moments of my apartment. This bakery rated high for coziness, morning atmosphere, bakery culture (streetside seating), and visual appeal. The displayed selection of baked goods tempted me so that for research purposes, I ordered a few cookies for my after lunch chocolate craving. I might just become a regular here...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

the President of TGABH's Pasadena Chapter takes us on a visit to Europane

Mmm Europane Bakery in Pasadena. I recently accompanied the President of the Pasadena chapter of The Great American Bakery Hunt to hunt at Europane the other day. Nothing like a blueberry tart, a cupcake, and some piping hot tea while sitting in the crisp air of the California quasi-winter. And it's a good people watching spot too. Thanks for introducing me to this one, Kim.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Nordic Bakery, a hop, skip, and a jump across the pond.

Any bakery hunters in the London Area? I would love to visit Nordic Bakery over in the UK!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

love for gmail=love for bakeries

I love gmail like I love a good bakery.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Burgeoning Korean Bakery Scene in Georgia

Check out this article to read about the burgeoning Korean bakery scene in Georgia. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia is home to the nation's third fastest growing Asian consumer market, which has interestingly led to particular success for Korean bakeries. The bakeries fuse Korean ingredients with European styles, and serve as community and social gathering spaces. Some even maintain later hours than the local Starbucks Coffee. Another win for the late night bakery hunter!

The system is down...

Readers: You may have noticed that I haven't been diligently recording my bakery conquests through photo journalism in addition to the written word. Unfortunately, my digital camera is broken, so it may be awhile before you'll be feasting your eyes on photo capabilities here at The Great American Bakery Hunt.

To cheer ourselves up, let's sit back and reflect on the bakery find of the week: the variety of baklava at Papa Cristo's, a Greek restaurant and market on West Pico in Los Angeles. Delicious food and sweet desserts, all in one location.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Late night bakery hunting

For any nocturnal bakery hunters out there, finding desserts after 7 pm or so can sometimes pose a daunting challenge. Of course, there are restaurants open past 7 pm that include desserts on the menu-- but all too often the dessert is secondary to the meal itself, an afterthought. Quality late-night desserts are a rare treasure. While Los Angeles does have its 24-hour bakery gems (take our landmark Canter's Deli as an example), I found New York to be a much friendlier city to late-night dessert junkies-- Not only were bakeries open late, but other late night business owners were wise to the bakery-lover's moonlit sugar cravings: several bars featured dessert cases with the cupcakes and sugary delights that dreams are made of. I only wish their West Coast counterparts would learn.

So if you find yourself with a quasi-late-night hankering for some baked goods and you're wandering the streets of Santa Monica, take a gander at the display case over on Main Street at Urth Caffe. Urth Caffe has a generous selection of desserts including cheesecakes, mini-pies, cakes, and fruit tarts, with the extended business hours of a coffeehouse. Urth Caffe's hours are not that late, but they certainly do the trick. While the prices are high in this trendy organic latte sippin' scene, their desserts are so darn good I cannot complain too much: try the peach pie, the pistachio strawberry tart, the berry tart, the pecan pie...I've tried many of their goodies over my first few months on Santa Monica, and I've rarely been disappointed.

If anyone else has any good late night Los Angeles dessert tips, please call The Great American Bakery Hunt late night dessert hotline. Night owls need bakeries too.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Non-partisan Cookie Brigade sends cookies to American troops

The Cookie Brigade defines itself as an independent, non-partisan organization of bakers who volunteer time and donate supplies to bake cookies for America's troops. It was founded in 2006 by Susan Hager of Frederic, Wisconsin, and Yolanda Segovia of Riverdale, New York. According to this article, Cookie Brigade's members are neither anti-war nor pro-war. There are currently three chapters of Cookie Brigade and more than 25,000 cookies have been shipped to troops. For information about volunteering to bake, starting a local chapter, or to request cookies for a deployed soldier or convalescing service man or woman, visit

A day in the life of a baker...

BBC News recently covered a day in the life of a baker in this article. The baker explained that he is now immune to the smell of baked goods, leading me to confirm why I could not ever be an official baker: I would miss the loveliness of those smells drifting through the space of an apartment, or invading my nostrils as I step into a household. I would miss that far too much.

Pie-wranglin' for a good cause

This woman in Connecticut calls herself the pie-wrangler, and helped to lead the "Night of 1,000 pies" to benefit a program that helps working families of moderate means to own a home. The money from the event will go towards purchasing land for this program, reminding us that nonprofit organizations and excessive amounts of pie is a combination The Great American Bakery Hunt fully endorses and celebrates.

And speaking of pie, has anyone been watching the ABC show Pushing Daisies? The Great American Bakery Hunt is definitely a fan of "The Piemaker" character, and has been wanting to try a pie with Gruyere on top ever since that one episode...

Does anyone know where to obtain such a pie, or a good recipe for one?

Turkey trotting to the bakery...

After participating in the Dana Point coastal Turkey Trot this morning, I was ready to gain those lost calories back with a little bakery hunting.

Imagine my delight when I came across a delicious chocolate chip walnut cookie at the race festival: this cookie had a perfectly gooey center and a crispy outer ring, made by one of the restaurant/bakeries in Dana Marina Center. I transported it to a nearby Starbucks, where I shared it with an old coworker and friend who had also raced that day. Among other conversations exchanged over coffee, we talked about how thankful we are to have had experiences in the nonprofit sector early in our professional careers.

I am thankful for many things and people in my life, but one thing out of the many that stands out to me is how fortunate I am to work towards causes that I believe in, and with others who believe in the same things.

Happy Thanksgiving!

p.s. Another cookie tip on the L.A. County side: Check out Schmerty's cookies over on Ocean Park in Santa Monica if you have a sudden cookie craving. This Mom and Pop cookie shop offers an assortment of delicious cookie treats...

Additionally, rumor has it that Jamaica's Cakes over on Pico might have some seasonal items to check out during the holidays...I seem to recall a conversation back in October about appealing sounding molasses cookies that may appear in a few months. Although beware, Jamaica's Cakes offers many items only if you order them first, and has a more limited daily selection of counter goods on display. Another note about this bakery is that it offers vegan and vegetarian options for cake fillings and other items.

Monday, November 12, 2007

infatuated with Simplicity

It is sometimes unreal to me how the simple things in life can make me so happy. For example: the wedge of Humboldt fog cheese I am currently snacking on, a great run, or laughing so hard that my stomach might explode. It is with this in mind that I would like to thank the folks at Yummy Cupcakes. I was strolling along Santa Monica's 3rd street with a few friends when I suggested we wander over to get some cupcakes. As we walked up to Yummy Cupcakes, we spotted a table in front of the store that read "FREE CUPCAKES: Take 1, take 2, just enjoy." We gathered some cakes just as a crowd started to form, right before the cakes disappeared in a flash! What are the odds that The Great American Bakery Hunt would stumble onto this?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Santa Monica: The bakery hunt begins!

After my all too prolonged separation from the hunt, I'm back to posting regularly. I had the day off today and explored a few local bakeries in the Santa Monica area. I started off at breakfast with a kiwi, raspberry, and strawberry fruit tart at Le Marmiton on Montana Avenue. Le Marmiton is owned by Jean-Marc Kiffer, who also began running a restaurant in Marina Del Rey following the success of his first operation. While usually I am partial to fruit tarts with minimal custard, the vanilla custard in this fruit tart complimented the fruit beautifully. Now, I wouldn't say that ordering a tart here is easy on the billfold, but to be fair, the fruit portion is quite generous and is clearly very high in quality. Plus, I firmly believe that you can't put a price on a good, authentic French tart these days. There was also a savory onion tart in the display case that looked delicious, but I have to save that one for another day.

My second bakery stop for the day was in the late afternoon, at Yummy Cupcakes on Wilshire (right near the 3rd street promenade). I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this cupcake shop. The plump cakes had the taste and feel of the much- praised Magnolia Bakery cupcakes: honest, simple, warm creations that hold universal appeal and keep people coming back for more. Yummy cupcakes wears its heart on its sleeve: it wasn't trying to sell me based on fancy shmancy imported ingredients. In an age where each trendy cupcake shop seems to resemble the next, Yummy cupcakes feels like more. It has more of that friendly neighborhood quality to it. When I stood there deciding what to order, I could watch them frosting and making the cupcakes right in front of me. And as I left the shop, there was no branded box to carry my cakes in as I strolled down the promenade- only a simple, unpretentious brown paper bag. As Yummy's finger lickin' super sugary icing coursed through my veins, I experienced pure unfiltered joy! (My only gripe is that this bakery, along with so many others, sells clothing for dogs, an exercise in cross-promotional absurdity I will never comprehend.) Yummy, please keep Santa Monica honest: If you don't, who will?

This just in: studio apartments are perfect for baking

The Great American Bakery Hunt is finally settling in to its new digs: a tiny studio apartment in Santa Monica. It turns out that studio apartments are ideal for the baking enthusiast. For my inaugural apartment bake, I started off with a classic: chocolate chip cookies. The smell of the cookies wafted throughout my entire living space, lingering around each corner (all two of them). Home sweet home!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Great American Bakery Hunt is moving on up...

In the legendary spirit of The Jeffersons, the Great American Bakery Hunt is movin' on up-- but not to the East side, and not necessarily to a deluxe apartment in the sky. I'm moving to West LA, where I will not only pay homage to the great sitcoms of the 1970's, but also find and conquer every delicious bakery around. I will spend a small fortune on rent, and a slightly smaller fortune on new bakeries.

(sidenote: I'm not sure why semi-obscure retro television/musical references bring such joy to my life, but that's probably why I so wholeheartedly appreciate Chuck Klosterman's pop culture inspired rants.)

Anyway, I've been roaming around this week looking for places and enjoying the LA culture-- mostly via its eateries. First I met up with my old friend Kim, an uber-talented yet relentlessly modest car designing art student and fellow bakery enthusiast. After eating some curry in the Sawtelle area, we wanted to hit up the bakery Doughboys-- but when we arrived, they had closed up shop mysteriously. Kim lamented that her favorite LA bakery is now closed, so please, send her your sympathies!

We opted for Toast instead, a bakery/cafe whose counter includes a variety of cupcakes-- the very thing I was craving, naturally, after a meal of curry (and a short, yet unavoidable Pinkberry diversion). After our bakery raid, Kim and I parted ways and I met up with Peter, a college buddy who shares my love for absurd comedy, food, history, and graphic novels, just to name a few. We tried unsuccessfully to eat Greek food (things close on Sundays apparently!), then sang the praises of never-closed delivery Thai, watched Flight of the Conchords on HBO OnDemand, and feasted on the cupcakes from Toast.

I didn't find an apartment yet, but it might have been the perfect LA day.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The end of an era....

Now that camp is over, I'll be returning to civilization indefinitely. While I'm going to miss camp, I'm looking forward to a reunion with my oven so I can bake some tasty treats for my family, my friends, and I. There's nothing better than wrapping up the summer with some apple tart dough in your hands and a camp song in your heart.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Great American Bakery Hunt Hiatus...

The Great American Bakery Hunt is taking a hiatus! My posts have dwindled as of late because I am working and living at a non-profit summer camp right now, and I don't have access to time or transportation that allow me to bakery hunt. Also, my laptop broke so I am sharing exactly four other computers with an entire summer camp staff. But fear not! I haven't forgotten my quest to hunt the bakeries of America, and I promise I'll have more frequent posts in the fall for you. Until then, keep me posted, dear readers, on any bakeries you might find in your own adventures...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Travel pangs

I've been having Europe pangs lately, so I googled a route from my hometown in California to my old residence in Denmark. Turns out I'll have to "swim across the Atlantic Ocean" around step 28 of the directions, but at least I'll be entering through France! We all know there's nothing I love more than a swim in the Atlantic and some pain au chocolate!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Cinco de Mayo brings cravings for Mexican food, relaxation, anti-social amusement, and reruns

It's Cinco de Mayo weekend, but with my big East Coast bakery hunt trip nearing, I'm taking it easy. After working this evening, I was craving a genuine good night IN, and a good meal from my favorite taco joint. I made my way over to Taco Mesa and ordered some grub to-go. It's amazing how the familiar flavors of your favorite food can work wonders for the weary soul. And speaking of wonders, I caught the tail end of an old Wonder Years episode as I was finishing my meal.

I don't know what it is about that Kevin Arnold, but that show makes me nostalgic and sentimental to no end. Perhaps it's because the writing in The Wonder Years exploits all of the adolescent insecurities that the average American experiences throughout his or her own lifetime. But I think it's something even deeper-- there's a little bit of the Arnolds in all of us, and some families, such as my own, even have the classic rock collections to prove it.

Whether your situation reflects the typical nuclear family or not, the show captures something basic about being human that we can all relate to, and I guess that's what I love so much about it. Also, The Wonder Years reminds me of a more sincere time in consumer entertainment-- before writers rested on their laurels and began relying on the easy shortcuts of reality tv.

Even though The Wonder Years dealt with highly dramatic scenarios of tragedy, loss, and war, it always managed to do so with the spirit of light-hearted innocence and a killer soundtrack. Arnold's often humiliating and heartbreaking moments of adolescence always seemed so authentic, and so unlike the calculated, formulaic, and scripted representations of youth that appear on "reality" tv today. And who, I ask you who, can resist a show with a vulnerable inner monologue in the background? Take the success of Scrubs as evidence.

Tonight's episode was classic. First, a scene from Kevin's French class, where all poor little 9th grade Kevin Arnold can remember to say en Francais is "Do you want some butter?"
After a very long day of 9th grade, Kevin feels that he is smack dab in the middle of an existential crisis. Luckily, he runs into Winnie Cooper, who saves the day by making him feel "like home" again.

Sometimes it's a person that reminds you what it's like to be home, and sometimes it's partaking in a great meal at your actual home. As much as I absolutely love being out and about and around people, I also revel in the joy of a truly anti-social night of relaxation, syndication, and good food. Sure, we all need a little help from our friends, but you can't trust a man who doesn't know how to be alone with himself, watch a little Wonder Years, and eat a few tacos.

Plus, this time allows you the luxury of asking all of life's important questions: Was the nerd-influenced Paul character (Kevin Arnold's best friend with the thick-rimmed glasses before thick rims were cool) the inspiration for the modern liger-drawing Napolean Dynamite persona? Did people just watch Boy Meets World because they were upset Fred Savage had finally grown up? Or was Mr. Feenie just that charming? Who's hotter-- Winnie, or Topanga? If Fred Savage owned a bakery, would it be called "Savage Delights"? The list goes on and on!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Great American Bakery Hunt journeys to New York...

Bakery hunters, my long awaited trip to New York is just days away. I'll be visiting my brother, a journalism student at NYU and a California transplant to Brookyn. I can't wait to hunt East Coast bakeries like a champ, running amok all throughout Manhattan and the outer boroughs on a permanent sugar high. Since I'm going for only 5 days, I'll have to increase my meals from 3 a day to roughly 5 and a half a day to cram all of New York's tasty delights into my gullet!

I'm salivating just thinking about it. Of course, I am trying to do my fair share of research so I hit all the culinary gems. I'll be armed with some great tips from some industry folks who are in the know, and I'll also be digesting some reading material for the hunt. So far I've compiled all your regular Michelin and Zagat guides to New York, as well as The Slow Food Guide to New York (thanks to this guide, I gained a great listing of local farmer's markets in the city. And a side note about farmer's markets, they were featured in the food section of the LA Times recently. Sadly my vendor friends and I didn't get even an honorable mention for the Laguna Beach Farmer's Market, but no hard feelings. I suppose every farmer's market girl thinks hers is more charming than the rest!)

I will let you know how the hunt turns out...Though I am going prepared with some destinations in mind, I am most excited to stumble upon the neighborhood haunts that guides like Zagat have not yet discovered-- the places that will touch my soul, and my stomach, with local treats.

Happy hunting!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Black market baked goods...

I was bakery hunting around the lunch hour this Thursday at the Costa Mesa Farmer's Market when I stumbled upon The Black Market Bakery booth. Although I have never been to their storefront, I had checked out their goods once before at the market. On this particular visit, I spoke with one of their employees, Jennifer, a friendly vendor who gave me a sample of their black market bars and some good suggestions about what else to try. I left with an armful of black market loot! (It felt like a steal since all of the breads were on sale-- I came at the very end of the market, so I'm assuming that's why...a very late arrival is a little known farmer's market secret that can potentially ease the damage on your billfold.)

I think what I love most about this bakery is that their website describes their Black Widow tart as "a Joseph Conrad-inspired journey into the possibilities of dark chocolate." Just from that description, I'm guessing that existentialism never tasted so good....

I haven't tried the tart yet, but I did buy a focaccia pocket with mushrooms and shallots, and it made for the perfect lunchtime nibble. I like their theme over at the Black Market Bakery-- it suggests that the their treats are so good, they must be illegal! So next time you're feeling rebellious, risky, or anti-establishment, make your way to the Black Market Bakery and fight the man through your stomach...It's anarchist baking at it's best!! (They should definitely make a t-shirt with that on the back. I will accept payment for my slogan's creative genius in the form of baked goods...)

And speaking of lawlessness, the farmer's market was all kinds of chaotic on Thursday! Those Southern California winds were picking up, and the vendors were getting restless. High velocity winds can mean trouble for the vendor tents, so I pitched in and, in the spirit of Joe Cocker, I gave a little help to my friends. A few of the vendors at the Costa Mesa market work at my farmer's market as well, so I felt right at home. I had a particularly enjoyable time helping the hummus guy pack up his stuff-- he is Algerian and speaks fluent French, so we were able to practice French together as we begged the wind for mercy! (I think it went something like "Au secours!!!")

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Will Danes be ordering Danish pastries in English one day?

Some Danes are concerned that the increasing use of English within their country could threaten the future of the Danish language. Many Danish academic institutions are now teaching classes in English, leading some to fear that Danish will be left in the dust, according to this article at DW-World.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bakery hunting on the silver screen...

Stranger than Fiction, starring the great Will Ferrell, is a flick for every bakery hunter to watch. Maggie Gyllenhaal's character, a baker named Ana Pascal, is Ferrell's love interest. As their relationship develops, it makes for some great bakery movie moments.

The movie has one of the greatest romantic gestures I've ever seen. When Ferrell goes to tell the baker how he feels about her, he walks up to her holding a brown box with several brown sacks inside. The purpose of this box is totally unclear to movie viewers, until he announces: "I brought you some flours".

Later on in the movie, after Ferrell ends up in the hospital, Gyllenhaal brings him Bavarian sugar cookies to cheer him up in his time of need.

The narrator of Stranger than Fiction leaves us with this lovely idea:

“Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies and fortunately, when there aren’t any cookies we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or a subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys, and nose-plugs, and uneaten danish, and soft spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days are in fact here for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives.”--Stranger than Fiction

The movie captures all that is great about appreciating baked goods, and as a result, captures all that is great about the little things in life-- a good piece of fiction, a chance encounter on a bus, Bavarian sugar cookies, and quirky Will Ferrell films.

Denmark and Canada face off...

Ever heard of Hans Island? Denmark and Canada are both claiming the island as their own by hoisting flags, representing with warships, and even burying bottles of brandy in the ground. And according to the Associated Press, both Canadians and Danes have taken out competing Google Ads proclaiming sovereignty over the rock. The disagreement has even led some Canadians to call for a ban on Danish pastries, which leads The Great American Bakery Hunt to ask: Aren't they only punishing themselves?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Geek powered blogging...

In addition to my aspirations to be a Great American Bakery Hunter, one of my goals in life is to become a genuine computer nerd. I don't know that I will ever measure up to the great techies of our time, but I would like to become more technology savvy.

Enter Lifehacker, a handy dandy blog whose motto says it all: "Don't live to geek; geek to live". I adore Lifehacker for its useful tech tips. I also just discovered the technology blog Geeks are Sexy, and you can't argue with that! If anyone knows of any other geek-powered blogs, give them a shout out on The Great American Bakery Hunt so I can go for the geek gold and learn all the tricks of the trade.

I am particularly interested in any programs that will make me a more efficient bakery hunter...suggestions are welcome!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cupid strikes again!

Dear readers, it seems I'm always a day late and a buck short these days. Sorry about the delay, but Happy Valentine's Day. I wish many a baked goods to you and yours.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Jeg savner from my family in Denmark

"Jeg savner dig" means I miss you in Danish, a phrase that is impossible to forget since I am always thinking about how much I would love to see my Danish host family again. It has been much too long since I have seen them last, but to my delight, my host sister called me this morning to chat! I heard about all the latest news, including what my host mom has been baking lately. Of course, it made my mouth water-- it's a little hard to think about missing her lovely baked creations...

Sara and I talked about FCK, her favorite football team, and their defeat to rival Brondby last night. I also learned that my host sister just chose what language she will focus on in middle school: French! So now, in addition to her helping me learn Danish and me helping her to practice English, we can also practice our third language of choice together! C'est super! And thanks to the American Scandinavian Foundation of Los Angeles, I could even speak with her about the recent Danish film I saw at the Scandinavian film festival!

It was so good to hear her voice! I had written the host fam awhile back about my efforts here at The Great American Bakery Hunt. Sara asked me to confirm the address of the site over the phone. She said that maybe she could show it to her English class at school!

I started spelling the web address, but I wanted to make sure she got it right. "D" is for dog, O is for "ost", R is for "rundstykke", F is for "Farvel!", S is for "snake", B is for "bus", l is for "lang"...and we went on, confirming each letter by giving Danish and English word examples. So if her English teacher comes on the website, she can see that Sara is quite a diligent student. For some reason, it just makes me happy to think that somewhere on another continent, a group of European schoolchildren might randomly come on to this site* as a part of a show-and-tell exercise!

*So Sara's English class, if you are out there, you should know that you are VERY lucky to live in a country where there are SO many good bakeries. I am one jealous American girl that you can eat warm rundstykkes every day, and drink Matilde chocolate milk whenever you want! Also, I would like to say: Hej fra America, og jeg elsker dig Sara! Du er dygtig!

Poilane is in the news yet again...

BusinessWeek is running an online slideshow about "The Making of Poilane Bread".

Poilane is run by a French owned company that has gained an international reputation.

According to the slideshow commentary, 1/5 of Poilane's revenues come from online orders. Thus, it is clear that bakery hunters everywhere are using the power of technology to transform the international bakery hunting landscape.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Bakery hunting through the golden years

Elderly bakery hunters in Northern Europe need not struggle with the bus system: now they can easily gain access to limitless pastries due to new advances in personal transportation. It's good to know that if age brings mobility concerns, I will still be able to hunt through Scandinavia with ease as a feisty old lady! Now if I can just get every baker in Copenhagen to give me a 55 and over discount, I will be the happiest golden girl of them all.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Great American Bakery Hunt shoutout post!

This post is a shoutout to my friend Justin Paul Veiga, who took the photos below with the spirit of bakery hunting in mind. In addition to being named the FedEx Package Handler of the Month for September 2004 (Placentia, CA Hub), he is also one of the most talented, original, and artistic people I know. (When we met to discuss the future of The Great American Bakery Hunt the other day, he offered some clarification about his past accomplishments: "You know, I really handled packages quite well during all the other months too. I'm sure if they could have awarded it to me more than once, they would have.") I would have to agree. Whatever the context, his talents never cease to amaze me.

A student of photography at Cal State Fullerton, Justin is also gifted in painting, and he makes a wicked mix CD (a skill which should never be underestimated-- although, read Chuck Klosterman's Sex Drugs and Cocoapuffs for a theory about mixed cd's Vs. cassettes, he makes some valid points. If you're interested, Klosterman's book also contains a profound theory about why John Cusack is ruining the lives of Americans everywhere.) Anyway, I'll state here for the record that if you see any interesting photos on this site, chances are that Justin took them. The ones that are a little rough around the edges are probably mine!
He profiled different professions for his last photo project, so of course, I dressed up like a baker to help the cause! I'll let him leave some details under the post comments about what kind of camera he took the photos with and why this is probably significant in some way.

All I know is that he is the fearless leader of my one-man tech support team here at The Great American Bakery Hunt. Thus he gets the first and most honorable techie shoutout of the entire blog. If you want to help his artistic cause, give him a fruit custard tart, his number one bakery muse.

We have a running deal to exchange html advice with baked goods: I'll make the tarts, he'll teach me to be a tech wonderwoman. I'm still a long way off, but eventually I hope to become proficient in computer geekiness. And hopefully I will get better at baking along the way. Justin, thanks for all your inspiration and encouragement! The Great American Bakery Hunt would not be the same without you!

A hunting nightmare...

Bakery Hunt Gone Bad!

Icelandic in a week

Daniel Tammet learned Icelandic, one of the world's most difficult languages, in one week!

Brownito ceases to habla English...

Have you heard of Brownito? He's a friendly, dancing brownie that serves as the "mascot and figure head" of a Dominoe's pizza Brownie Squares promotion.

Standing proud, Brownito is three feet tall with Mickey Mouse-like hands, wholehearted greetings like "Hola, soy Brownito!," and wicked break dancing moves he busts out at the click of your mouse. For a while, Brownito was bilingual, and performed his moves under the pseudonym "Fudgem" on the English speaking sister site. But every time I try to use the "visita a brownito en ingles para ver a fudgems" button, I get a blank page and a "HTTP 404 Not Found" message.

What gives Dominoes? I know the press release dates way back to August, but some of us English speakers were just getting to know Brownito in our native language. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful the legend still lives on en espanol. But this HTTP 404 business is a mystery indeed.

I suppose we should count our blessings. After all, the whole brownie promotion did bring us this humorous story.

Even so, I can't help but feel that these large corporations are just toying with our emotions, bringing friendly brownies into our lives and then changing their minds. I haven't actually tasted the brownies, but I sure liked the idea of a brownie hypnotically beatboxing and dancing to techno music. You just don't see that every day. It's breakthrough marketing if I've ever seen it.

Fudgem was soon replaced by another promotion to make way for Dominoe's Brooklyn Style Pizza, where anyone with the name "Brook Lynn", or "Brooklyn" was the recipient of a free pizza in honor of their name. Maybe if I name my future children "Bake Ree" or "Paste Tree" I can use them to get all sorts of free pastries from a willing corporate sponsor! I'd say it's definitely worth chancing it. (But along those lines, what was Gwyneth Paltrow thinking with the whole "Apple" debacle? I'll never understand it.)

In any case, Bake Ree it is! I have to keep my eye on the prize. That's right: I will become the most powerful American bakery hunting mastermind, whether my children like it or not. One day they'll thank me.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The other San Francisco Treat...

In a recent New York Times article, Mark Bittman wrote that San Francisco's Tartine takes the cake for his favorite bakery in the United States. That's quite a grand statement, and I'd like to know how Bittman arrived at this conclusion. (Does Bittman have the bakery hunting bug too?) At the same time, I don't doubt that it's a valid one. I have heard nothing but good things about Tartine, although I haven't had the pleasure of going there yet.

I was given the Tartine cookbook for Christmas, which does me little good since it is rare that I have a solid chunk of good baking time these days. All it does is sit there on the shelf, teasing me! I need to make weekly baking a goal.

And forget about traveling up to San Francisco to feast on the real thing. I must save my money for a yet-to-be scheduled future European adventure. Indeed, I fear the only San Francisco treat I'll be enjoying anytime soon is Rice-A-Roni. Although it's possible that my fellow Denmark-obsessed friend Haej and I might splurge and travel up to Solvang, CA (a so called "Authentic Danish village")for a few days on February. You might think February is a month for lovers, but it's also prime season for random celebratory platonic bakery hunting trips. That's right, I hereby officially deem February an exceptionally ideal month for b-hunting. Lonely this February? Get off your butt and find a good bakery. You'll be the better for it.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

It's the little things in life...

Did I mention how much I love the fact that 7-11 has free mini- marshmallows to go with your hot chocolate? Sure, they don't really taste that much like real marshmallows, but it's still a nice treat on a rainy day.

I only wish that American 7-11's actually had quasi-legitimate baked goods like the ones in Denmark do. As it is, the food that they sell isn't so appetizing.

Even more of a stark difference is found in the hot dog culture that surrounds both countries: The hot dogs in DK 7-11's are amazingly better than their US counterparts. Danish hot dog culture in fact, is something I sorely miss. While a cold Californian might warm their hands with a cup of cocoa, it's all about pølse in Scandinavia, and I happen to like it that way. On the other hand, I don't know if the Danes get access to free mini marshmallows.

The grass is always greener my friends!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Carbohydrates, Destruction, and True Love

Does anyone else find this a little disturbing?

I asked the woman at the bakery if people really eat these, or just use them as some sort of absurd decoration. She said that customers typically use the bears for their dinner rolls...

Personally, I thought that they might be special promotional items for Valentine's Day, since the bear has a heart shape in its torso. After all, God knows there's nothing more romantic than sitting down to a dinner with your sweetheart and simulating the dismemberment of an innocent bear.

So all you lovers out there, if you must, pick up one of these dinner rolls of destruction and get rough with your carbohydrates. Just remember: Butter knives don't kill bears, people kill bears.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cookies for a good cause

Chocolate chip is the only way to go...I suggest trying it with the "Nutty brewnette" brew from BJ's, winner of the Silver medal at the 2006 LA County Fair Beer Competition for best American style brown ale. I do love a good brown ale and a chocolate chip cookie!

BJ's Restaurants, a West Coast pizza and brewery restaurant, announced this month that they will donate money to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation based on the sales of their "Pizookie" cookies. I haven't actually gone to BJ's since the press release, but thank goodness, I happened to have some stock Great American Bakery Hunt Pizookie photos from my last visit. There's nothing I love more than a cookies combined with a good cause. Let's just say I have a soft spot for non-profit organizations.
Food based fundraising is my favorite kind of fundraising ever: When I was working for a non-profit this summer, I helped to organize a fundraiser through Ruby's, and it made my milkshake just that much better knowing it was going to a great cause. On a sidenote, their staff was so friendly and really supportive of the event. They are good people up at Ruby's San Juan Capistrano!
Anyway, I have a definite appreciation for what BJ's is doing here...Plus, the restaurant serves "Pizookie" cookies warm out of the oven, and this earns them the Friedersdorf stamp of approval. I'm too serious about home-baked chocolate chip cookies to give them a four-star rating. I mean, they're not my mom's home-baked cookies, which I have to favor above all the rest. But the cookies are satisfying, and BJ's gets props for being one of the only places you can get a warm chocolate chip cookie (and a beer) past 9pm in Orange County. God knows I always have late night cookie cravings, and Diddy Reese is a bit far away (although I have journeyed there before from Orange County just for the sake of a Diddy dozen.)
Baked goods for a good cause, that's what I like to see in the world!

This month, Hollywood went Scandinavian for the 8th annual time

A few weeks ago, I gave a Great American Bakery Hunt shout out to the Scandinavian film festival. The event took place at the Writer's Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, and was organized by the American Scandinavian Foundation of Los Angeles.

Though the festival spanned two weekends, I was only able to attend one of the Friday screenings on January 12th.

I would have loved to watch all of the films, but time did not permit me to attend every screening. So my friend and I chose to watch "After the Wedding (Efter Brylluppet)", which was directed by Susanne Bier and starred Mads Mikkelsen, a well known Danish actor who also played a supporting role in the recent James Bond movie.
Although it was highly dramatic, After the Wedding was a really beautiful, human story, and I'm not surprised that it just received an Oscar nomination for best foreign film.
The best part about it was that it contained that very Danish element of dark humor, the one which has you feeling awkward and emotionally drained at one moment and full of hilarity at the next. (The best analogy to this technique within American entertainment is seen in the HBO television series Six Feet Under.)
For all you film geeks out there, the movie was somewhat reminiscent of Festen, though not as intense. And Bier kept it light by including the 1982 (thanks, Wikipedia) Weather Girls classic "It's Raining Men" in not one, but two scenes. Is that a European thing?

I really enjoyed watching the movie, a large portion of which was filmed in Copenhagen. Watching the film and listening to the Danish brought back a lot of great memories, although in all honesty, there could have been more bakery scenes! Humor me Susanne Bier!
It was really enjoyable and interesting to be able to speak with other members of the audience after the show. Naturally, we were curious about what led everyone else to this event, to a small theater that screens Scandinavian films for two weeks out of the entire year.
We thanked the organizer of the event for a great film, a man who, as it turns out, is not Scandinavian at all. Much like my friend and I, he said he became involved in the culture through "life experiences."
We also talked with an older fellow for quite awhile about his interest in Scandinavia. After establishing that none of us were Scandinavian, we asked him the next logical question: "So...what brings you here?"
The man, who is a local L.A. actor, spoke openly about his younger days, when he had once fallen in love with a Swedish girl back in the 70's.
We understood. "It happens to the best of us," I said. My friend nodded. Not that I am in the business of falling in love with Swedish girls, nor is my friend who accompanied me to the film festival. But we do understand the charming nature of Scandinavia and its people. If you've been there, you know this charm as well.
During the festival, we threw back a Carlsberg for old times sake. As Denmark's national beer, it was only appropriate that it should be on sale during the event. I can still remember when I had just arrived in Denmark, only a few weeks into my program, when we went to tour the Carlsberg brewery.
They loaded our entire program, mostly Americans, into a big group of buses, and shuffled us into a room with some company representative. He gave us an entertaining presentation about the beermaker's brand, which carries the famous slogan "Probably the best beer in the world."
Then we were shuffled into a huge hall and told that we could drink whatever we wanted, but for only one hour. Needless to say, Carlsberg is one smart brewer, because in all of those wide-eyed barely legal Americans, they found many customers for life by opening up their beer supply to us. And, they gave us a refreshing view of the world by allowing us to be human instead of giving us a one beer limit and worrying about what lawsuits might occur if they dispensed more alcohol. (That's right, people in Denmark just don't sue each other with the litigious zeal of folks in the United States...Imagine how Budwieser could increase its revenues just by giving one hour's worth of beer to a few hundred foreign exchange students!)
No matter how many other beers I may like better, Carlsberg will always be the one that tastes like Denmark, the one that tasted so good ice cold after going outside and pulling it out of the snow at a house party. It was the beer that welcomed me to the country, warmed me on long walks and train rides home, and a beer that made my Danish better with each sip that I drank.
It's just too bad you can't get the seasonal Easter version here in the U.S.
If you want to check out more Scandinavian film, you can try Babette's Feast, which tells the story of a French woman taken in by two old Danish sisters in a small rural Danish town. To my amusement, I discovered that there is a bakery in Long Beach named after this very film, but sadly the bakery's offerings make no comparison to the glorious food featured in the movie. The film can be a bit slow at times, but has an awesome, seriously mouth- watering dinner scene if you're into that sort of thing.
Anyway, thanks to the ASFLA for a great film festival, I will surely be returning next year for more Nordic delight!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Washington Times says bakery business is booming

According to a recent story by the Washington Times, bakery business is booming everywhere. Now if only they would bring a little more sweetness over my way to Orange County.

Chocolate cake season continues...

And you thought Chocolate Cake Season was a myth! Well check out the goods people.
This Saturday night, we celebrated my father's birthday and continued our celebration of chocolate cake season.
As you can see, our LA Times was full of cake crumbs on Sunday morning.
Chocolate cake season means cake for every meal of the day!
I know what your thinking, but nope--that's not me munching on cake and slaving away at the morning crossword.
I was eating grape nuts and reading the travel section. Then I went for the 2nd course, a little course I like to call "breakfast dessert." Best while reading the funnies (and listening to Breakfast with the Beatles), if you ask me. Happy bakery hunting!

Monday, January 15, 2007

the best thing since Otto Frederick Rowhedder

According to this story, bakers once thought that the idea of a bread slicer was crazy. Back when the first model of a slicer was invented, Otto Frederick Rowhedder had to work hard to gain credibility for his invention. Check out the article and read a bit of history behind the man who eventually inspired the phrase "the best thing since sliced bread."

The risky business of Japan's baked goods

Yesterday, the president of major Japanese cake and candy maker Fujiya Co. resigned after acknowledging that the Company repeatedly used expired milk and other ingredients in their products. The Company also detected bacteria levels at one plant that exceeded legal limits. Although Fujiya Co. has promised to work hard to gain back consumer trust, this occurrence is sure to seriously inhibit bakery hunting throughout Japan.

Danes are a happy bunch...

I've always speculated that Denmark reported high levels of happiness in world surveys because of the abundance of amazing pastries in the country.

The editors of Foreign Policy offer a different explanation.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Chocolate Cake Season is in full effect....

My big brother’s birthday was last week, and so began chocolate cake season, a time-honored family tradition which begins each year on January 7, and spans until the middle of February.

Chocolate cake season is a series of Friedersdorf family birthdays and holidays that results in a high-concentration of cake consumption during a very short period of time. With its start at the beginning of January, it creeps up on everyone just in time to sabotage any diet-related new year’s resolutions (yet another reason I have resolved not to make any).

Technically, we order the cake at other times of the year as well. I’m the Gemini outlier of the family, so my birthday cake does not arrive until June. And there tends to be a few other occasions that come up unexpectedly and warrant the purchase of a cake.
But the season is where the action happens.

At times, chocolate cake season can be exhausting. We have finally finished the leftovers from the first cake after several consecutive days of cake consumption. But as I was eating my cake on one recent night, it started to feel like our hard work would never pay off. I started to lose momentum, and my family grew concerned.

“Kristin, it almost looks like you’re in pain,” said one of my relatives.
“I know,” I replied. “But it’s the season!”

I had to press on, but it wouldn't be easy. And what did they expect? They served me a series of appetizers, an enormous dinner, and then followed it with a monster slice of rich, chocolaty fudge cake.
And not just any cake. A cake that brings with it all the nostalgia of my childhood, the years growing up when I ate it on every birthday, every special occasion, my chubby cheeks wide with grinning, frosting-stuffed delight. An exceptionally delicious, familiar after-school snack, a treat at breakfast, or a nibble after lunch.
(Not only does it taste great, but it's a food that I associate with so many happy memories, which makes it that much harder to resist. It's like getting the same feeling of warm and fuzzy association you felt on a summer day at the age of 9, when your grandma cut you a whole plate of juicy watermelon after you had been swimming in the pool all day. You were hard at work, diving for pennies, or neon plastic rings perhaps, and then she wrapped a towel around you just as you hopped out of the pool, just as the sun was threatening to go down. You were swimming so much, your hair took on the seasonal hue of chlorine green that is standard for every blond-haired California child at this time of the year... You felt as if you had never been hungrier in all of your nine years, after swimming so long and doing so many award-winning cannonballs. The Andrews Sisters were playing on your grandma's classic AM radio station, which never came in so well and always whispered and crackled ever so slightly with the sounds of talk radio interference in the background. But that moment was perfect. And no watermelon ever tasted as sweet. As much as I long for Europe with all of its delightful bakeries, there were some definite perks of a California childhood--and of living next door to your grandparents, who have a gigantic swimming pool and who never let you feel cold for a moment when you reluctantly climbed out of your chlorine playground. If anything ever made me realize how lucky I am to have these memories, it was living in Scandinavia, where the people are just as warm but the weather is most definitely not! Anyway, similar memories live on in my brain about chocolate cake season, memories full of warmth, family, birthday karaoke, a pony ride or two, and many, many, countless glasses of milk.)
Alas, my blogging has become sidetracked, consumed even, by long-winded expressions of nostalgia! I apologize for wandering like that. But I should have seen it coming. That's what chocolate cake season will do to you. It gets me every time!
Meanwhile, in 2007 --
for all you Wayne's World fans, insert scene transition waving hands and ridiculous sound effects [here]:
In the end, I was defeated that night, at my family gathering...which is discouraging since it’s only the very beginning of the season. I could not finish the thick, moist layers of cake, complete with two different types of rich frosting.
The season often includes cake for breakfast, cake for lunch, cake for dinner, and cake at every time in between. And as each holiday passes, the leftovers continue accumulating on our dining room table. So you can imagine my sense of weariness when one of my coworkers had an office birthday the day after we finished the first of many cakes to come. I'm usually never one to turn down chocolate cake after a hard day's work, after any day really, and free chocolate cake at that! But on this day, there was no more room at the inn:
(close your eyes dear readers, and imagine, if you will, an office birthday, complete with awkward singing, and inexplicably, no milk-- the obvious necessity in this situation--but so often an overlooked, ignored if I may be so bold-- aspect of the office birthday. It really is disheartening to someone who holds sacred the union between dairy products and baked goods. I suppose it's the thought that counts though. For what it's worth, good intentions go a long way in my book.)
Anonymous coworker #1: "Kristin, have a piece of cake."
Me: "You don't understand. I really can't. I simply can't."
I shook my head. How could they ever understand? It wasn't about the milk, it wasn't about that at all. Nor was it some health-related, nutrition-based decision.
Anonymous coworker #2: "New Year's Resolution?"
Me: "No. It's chocolate cake season."
I explained the season to them as best I could, I tried to tell them why another slice of cake was impossible. So, incredibly, heart-breakingly, gut-bustingly impossible.
I tried to explain.
Anonymous coworker #3:"So, are you going to get a cake for MLK?"
Me: "What an excellent question. Now that you mention it, I really think we should. I like the way you think, anonymous coworker."
Though it's never been done before, I really think he's on to something. Next year, it's on. There's many more cakes to come, and I am really going to try to power through it, give it some real heart this season. I want to make 2007 one to remember.
Here at The Great American Bakery Hunt, we play every season like it counts. When it comes to chocolate cake season, we know great cake takes serious commitment.

You can find the Friedersdorf pick of the season at French's Pastry in Costa Mesa. Ask for the chocolate fudge torte and prepare to be dazzled.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Cuban food is the perfect beginning to a Scandinavian night...but I'm sure you already knew that.

As we were considering how to kick off a night full of Scandinavian culture, naturally we set our sights on a tasty Cuban meal! Picture above was taken at Versailles, a popular Cuban eatery in Los Angeles...

I recently ventured into LA to attend the 8th annual Scandinavian film festival. My friend Hae Jin and I counted down to the festival for weeks, in anticipation of good Scandinavian film and good food.

Technically, a drive to Los Angeles should take about 45 minutes, but realistically, it takes at least two hours to make the trek up there on a Friday afternoon. Despite the nightmare of LA traffic, I love exploring the city whenever I get the chance, and I always make it my business to find a delicious meal when I make the journey. As a self-described "culture vulture," Hae Jin is the perfect partner in crime to my culinary adventures!

Hae Jin and I studied in Denmark together at the DIS Copenhagen program in the spring of 2005. We both share a great love for Copenhagen and Danish culture, which is what leads us to quirky events like the Scandinavian film festival.

Many of our conversations revolve around travel, where we would like to go, and how we will get there and travel as much as possible despite being two people who are also driven by career goals and the need to achieve within conventional society. Out of everyone I know, she is probably the person with the most obsessive desire to travel. While I think of myself as quite the travel junkie, Hae Jin is something of an extreme inspiration: The girl would sleep on or in a box every night if it meant she could go to the ends of the earth in pursuit of adventure. Her most recent adventures include a post-graduation stint in Puerto Rico as well as a three-month job teaching English in Korea.

She is a person with friends spread out across the globe, and many of them seem to be bound by similar expatriate desires and travel escapades. One such friend, fellow blogspotter Cheryl, joined us for our pre-film festival dinner. Cheryl is finishing up her Master's in English Lit in Chicago, but was on a brief visit to California en route to Guam, where she grew up. Along with Cheryl came Hee Gyun, a Gaum- raised advertising professional turned LA resident.

We all knew each other through one friend, who knew the other friend, who knew the other friend, and 3/4 of us met while traveling internationally. As the foreign exchange craze continues, it seems like we are more likely to make friends while roaming the streets of Korea or Copenhagen than right in our own home towns. "It's hard to meet people in L.A.," Hae Jin always says. Personally, I think it's our wanderlust holding us back.

It was incredibly fun to experience a reunion of sorts with this random group of dinner companions. It was a dinner full of funny travel stories, laughter, and great food. It was nice to hear a few other people lamenting the tension between immediately choosing an established career and taking the dirt road path that is an expatriate traveler's existence.

Thank goodness we have so many culinary treasures throughout Southern California, to give us little cultural teasers and make us wonder about the possibility of the real thing, the actual destination. I really enjoyed eating the Cuban influenced offerings of Versailles, where I tried two scrumptious dishes this weekend.

Famous roasted chicken dish at Versailles: this dish is the favorite among regulars, and comes with rice, onions, a side of black beans, and plantains

Lechon Asado- Cuban style roasted pork with rice, plantains and onions
We all seemed to agree that the food at Versailles was satisfying and delicious. The conversation was just as good, and often hilarious. While I won't recreate it for the sake of The Great American Bakery Hunt, I will mention one comment made by Hae Jin, one that sums up our pursuit of culture, our love for adventure, and the reason why we are nomadic expatriate chums.
"When I'm out, I think of buying things in terms of plane tickets," Hae Jin said as she took another bite of the mouth watering chicken. "Would I rather buy 4 t-shirts, or put that towards a ticket to the Caribbean?"
My brother and I often discuss this philosophy about big purchases. With many of his late 20-something friends getting engaged, this topic has started to come up more than ever. Now, I might be stereotyping, but some people seem to place a lot of emphasis on flashy engagement rings. And this is something my brother and I do not understand.
Rather than buying expensive engagement rings, we feel that it is much more logical and reasonable to put that money towards a prolonged European residency, a tour in Japan, or whatever impossible sounding adventure might strike your personal fancy!
Why not choose a simple band and let your travels do the talking? (This is assuming, of course, that the people involved can afford either the ring or the international adventure. Just allow me this tangent and assume the correct variables are in place. Assume that the person is financially able to choose at least one, and obligated to choose one or the other: the ring, or the adventure.)
Would you rather have a ring, a hunk of precious metals sitting atop your finger, staring at you obnoxiously, reminding you of how you could have spent the money on an amazing tour of some fabulous destination? Taunting you each day, from your finger, from the bedside table, from your jewelry box, screaming regret every time it catches the sun? Or would you rather hop on a plane, say au revoir to the conventional, skip the humdrum jewelry fitting sessions, and live a life full of amazing culinary possibilities? Even if it were just one great trip, with one amazing meal, and with one charming bakery, it's worth it. Perhaps mainstream society deviates from this logical truth, but the Great American Bakery Hunt deems it so!
I can imagine it all now:
Puzzled onlooker: "Kristin, why are you wearing a ring pop?"
Me: "Why, it's my wedding ring. I get a new one every day actually. It's great for an after dinner snack. We buy them in bulk, you know. Smart and Final. A great place to get coffee filters too, as it turns out."
Perplexed debutante: "A ring pop? I don't understand.
Me: "I suspected as much. Symbolism my friends, symbolism."
And I would leave it at that.
Perhaps a ring pop is taking things too far, but I must prove my point. If anyone has the nerve to question it, you must feel sorry for them that you had the chance to "bathe off the southern coast of St. Barts with spider monkeys*" for example, and they didn't.
(*to quote the classic character Hansel--that's right, it's simply the most appropriate person to quote in this rant. Bloggers, I implore you: let's leave Shakespeare to the poets)
If you really feel intimidated, keep a laminated copy of your plane ticket in your purse/briefcase. If you find yourself surrounded by doubt, pull it out and try to remember that perfect meal, how your mouth watered, and know that you did things the right way. It's not that I don't appreciate beautiful things. It's just that I appreciate beautiful meals more.
Anyway, this is all besides the point. Back to our night at Versailles. While our conversation contained a lot of travel chatter, we did happen to take the time to form an opinion about the food as well. (I think that was the original intention of this post?)
Not only was it a tasty meal, but the portions at Versailles were very generous, and thank god! As I was driving home, I was stuck in traffic yet again and despite being stuffed after dinner, I felt a little "traffic hunger" coming on. (You've all been there: You're on the 405 freeway, at a standstill. The sun is in your eyes, but you don't give a damn, because "Teenage Wasteland" is on the radio, you're in the mood to karaoke, and you remember with great glee that you have some Poore Brothers Salt and Vinegar chips stashed in the backseat. Traffic hunger, the most primal of all desires, takes over, and The Who sound better than ever-- even the traffic becomes less of a painful ordeal.)
On the way back home from L.A., my wicked case of travel hunger was in full effect.
With no fork in site, I used my fingers to scoop up the remaining meat and rice, moaning in affirmation that each bite was just as good as the first time. I know that the chicken dish is the typical favorite, but for a pork-lover like myself, I knew I had made the right decision by ordering the lechon asado. My Volvo was full of the meal's distinctive aroma, so heavy and porky that I could have taken a bite right out of the air. I breathed in the sweet air with a sense of satisfaction.

Our feast at Versailles!

A night of Cuban and Scandinavian culture, all in one? Delicious!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Seems retailers are catching on to my expatriate sensibilities

Do you want your clothing to reflect your deep love of Scandinavia? I sure do! Here at The Great American Bakery Hunt, we have a great appreciation for all things Scandinavian, largely (but not solely) because of the amazing Scandinavian bakeries that make this world a better place.

Enter, an online retailer dedicated to Norwegian inspired t-shirts. Each shirt has a brief English explanation that describes how Norwegian culture influenced the design. Many of the designs capture the carefree, honest humor that is often associated with Scandinavian culture.

For example, a t-shirt featuring a moose design includes a caption that reads:

"The moose is the largest animal in the deer family which trots around the Norwegian woods and is called the king of the woods. Did you know that "hollering for the moose" is Norwegian slang, which means puking after a night of partying on the town? You do now..."

I can't say that I have any sentimental value for that phrase, since I was a resident of Denmark (Although I will surely be flaunting this new lingo around the streets of Orange County. "Did you see ___ last night? (S)he was hollerin' for the old moose like there was no tomorrow!, or maybe "Better not have one more drink, Bob. You'll be hollering for the moose by midnight at this rate.")

One of the shirts really struck a chord in my Scandinavia-obsessed heart:

My favorite is the ostehøvel tee, a wearable ode to cheese and the tool that makes eating it possible. When I lived in Denmark, there was nothing better than a warm home-baked slice of bread in the morning topped with butter, jam, and a stinky (and I mean that in the best way possible) creamy slice of Danish cheese.

Sadly, I do not know how I can replicate this breakfast concoction here in the states. Not only am I lacking fresh home-made bread made by my jolly Danish host mother, but I have no idea what that glorious stinky cheese is called! It never had a label, but always remained a mysterious, lovely presence in our small Danish fridge-- a big block of dairy greatness.

On most mornings in Denmark, I grabbed my open-faced cheese, butter, and jam sandwich as I ran out the door to catch my bus to school into Copenhagen. When I think of mornings in Roskilde, I think of that cheese, my voracious morning appetite, and how I was certain that the bus driver sniffed it as I took discreet bites and tried to bypass the "no eating" rule. (On a somewhat unrelated note, I also recall the theme song of a silly Danish children's show playing in the background as I struggled out the door each day with bookbag, breakfast, madpakke (lunch bag), and overcoat in tow. My host sister was a loyal morning viewer of "Martin og Ketil", a show that featured Martin, and his friend Ketil in a sort of Space Age hyperactive version of Mr. Rogers. Although I could rarely understand what they were saying, it was probably one of the funniest children's shows I ever layed eyes on. The two grown men went through a ritual each day, where they mixed a seemingly random, and often disgusting, combination of ingredients in their blender, which sat in the center console of their spaceship. I never found out why.)

Anyhow, those morning bus ride breakfasts live on in my memory: the thrill of defiance as I nibbled on the soft middle of the bread (the risk always worth the payoff), the perfectly chewy outside crust, my DSB transportation pass smeared with the residue of delicious, heavenly Danish butter, and the jingle of the Martin og Ketil theme song dancing around in my head. The simple ingredients were so satisfying, and as I sit here blogging, it's very possible that if I don't stop daydreaming, I will drool on my keyboard at the very thought of it.

That's all I can handle folks. It is with a heavy heart that I conclude this post. I would love to wear my ostehøvel shirt and support the young Norwegian designers that run, but $40 (including shipping) for a t-shirt is a little too steep for my budget right now.

I am hoping to actually travel again in Scandinavia, and I best be saving up since Copenhagen will hardly be easy on the billfold. If anyone wants to buy ostehøvel for me, I promise to write you a nice thank you letter with a heartfelt "Tusind Tak" inside. But I would suggest buying one for yourself to keep the folks at Norwegian tees in business.

Clearly, a Norwegian tee is a wonderfully clever and whimsical gift, one that keeps on giving. And if you don't get it at the $40 price now, you know the t-shirts will be retailing at some outrageous $80 price at Urban Outfitters later on. I wish I was joking, but it is destined to happen. (I find that the trendy retailer is often exploiting the desires of wannabe expatriates like myself. Take this Europe themed hoodie , for example, an item that preys upon my aspirations to be an adventurous jetsetter. But how will I travel if I spend my money on $54 hoodies? Lucky Brand already snatched up my hard-earned dollars this year by designing a Paris-themed Eiffel Tower t-shirt. This madness has to stop somewhere.)

And so, my heart gets heavier, as I long for wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen once again, and hope that someday, I will return to Europe.

Scandinavian film festival comes to Los Angeles

For all of my fellow foreign film geeks out there, I want to give a Great American Bakery Hunt shout out to the Scandinavian film festival, which is in full swing this weekend in Los Angeles.

Organized by the American-Scandinavian Foundation of Los Angeles, the event is featuring contemporary films from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Eager audiences can make reservations and check out the line-up online, a selection that includes both full length features and shorts.

The event will also feature the "Nordic cafe" in the theater lobby, where film fans can "network and nosh" and "enjoy refreshments and the good company of others who share a love for Scandinavian film and Hollywood". I'm hoping that there will be some tasty pastries to munch on, but I'm not going to get my hopes up.

Jeg elsker dig Scandinavia, and I can't wait for the festival!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year....

"Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever." ----Mark Twain

This year, my New Year's resolution is to refrain from making any New Year's resolutions. Naturally, I have hopes for the future (you might even describe them as high in the sky apple pie hopes).
But I am not going to let a few fleeting resolutions govern my aspirations for 2007.
(It must be my Scandinavian side coming out again: The Official Denmark website reports that only 20% of Danes will make New Year's Resolutions this year, making the Danes the least likely Europeans to try to make a change in 2007).

Whatever the influence, my outlook is simple: When it comes to 2007, and every year thereafter, I want my life to remain a big, long adventure-- full of great food, hard work, excessive comedy, and entertaining people.

I worked on New Year's Eve, at a nearby hotel restaurant where I have taken on some night shifts. While it wasn't the most eventful New Year's, there's something to be said for making sure others are full of champagne, fed, and off to bed. Plus, I had my own feast to look forward to the next day!

On New Year's Day, my family and I had our traditional holiday feast. We were joined by some very close family friends, including one who flew in from San Francisco that morning just to partake. The family has two daughters, one older than me and one younger, and we have all grown up with one another since the very beginning. Ever since I can remember, we have gathered together on New Year's day to eat, lounge sleepily, and watch football. Of course, I have always been partial to the first two.

Not only did this weekend kick off the New Year, but it also marked the 21st birthday for the youngest of the childhood trio. We finished the New Year right and got in the birthday spirit by celebrating with a night of karaoke at a local Japanese restaurant. All the stars were out that night--Pat Benetar, Beyonce, Queen--the list goes on. We sang like champions, the last great performances of 2006.
You will never find another with more love for karaoke than I! It rivals my love for bakeries, and I'll prove it to you: every time I go out to karaoke, I get so excited to sing that I forget to eat dinner. (And when I forget to eat, it's not without good reason). The restaurant had closed by the time I remembered I was starving, but luckily I sweet-talked one of the waitresses into getting me a bowl of cold edamame. It was all I needed to keep the tunes going--- a little soy bean magic, a sake bomb, and I was ready to rock.
Today, we recapped our outstanding performances for the rest of the family, while baking up a storm in the kitchen, feasting on a huge New Year's spread, and toasting our good health.
Nothing says New Year's Day like toasting some champagne and baking up some Cranberry Orange Scones! A simple yet delicious recipe!
Mixing it up with some gingerbread cupcakes Gingerbread cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
From all of us at The Great American Bakery Hunt, Happy New Year!
"It's been a long December and there's a reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last...can't remember all the times I told myself to hold on to these moments as they pass"--Counting Crows