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