In honor of the LA Scandinavian film festival kickoff this weekend, I'd like to get everyone into the spirit with a tip about my favorite Danish breakfast. It involves the following things: a freshly baked roll, like the one pictured above from Hygge Bakery, an aggressively strong cheese (try Grayson or preferably, Hooligan from Andrew's Cheese Shop or wherever you can get your hands on it!), and a sweet jam of some sort, perhaps a little Bonne Maman raspberry-- or swing by the Little Next Door and check out their lovely jam selection.
Now comes the important part: Spread a slab of cheese on the roll, add a layer of jam, and experience a hearty breakfast fit for a Copenhagen winter. Sure, the cheese is stinky, but it's breakfast sandwich magic. While it wasn't Grayson or Hooligan I was eating in Denmark, these cheeses are similarly delicious compared with the unnamed, elusive block of strong Danish cheese that lived in my host family's refrigerator. A few slices of this stinky mystery cheese, a couple pieces of my host mom's freshly baked bread, and some jam, were the essentials I grabbed and quickly threw into a sack before I ran out the door to catch the bus to school in Copenhagen.
It took me awhile of living back in the States to rekindle my love for aggressive, stinky cheese. I didn't know if I'd ever taste that breakfast sandwich again, and I feared I would try to create the same sandwich and face inevitable dissapointment. But then, unexpectedly, it happened: I went to visit my brother in Brooklyn, and discovered Hooligan while strolling the Union Square green market. I sampled it and immediately knew: I had to buy some and create the essential Danish breakfast at my brother's Park Slope apartment.
Now, you must realize that this Danish breakfast endeavor took commitment. My brother had slept in that day, being the night owl writer type. But as a first time New York visitor I had a whole day of early morning exploration planned-- starting with the farmer's market. (There was no time to waste in one of the greatest food cities in the world!)I knew I had to buy the Hooligan, but I was planning to explore the city for many hours beyond the market. I was determined. I rigged up an elaborate cheese preservation plan involving a bag of ice which later left a few puddles on the subway floor. For this unprepared traveler, it did just the temporary trick. Hours later, I arrived in Park Slope, a woman on a serious mission. My stinky cheese in tow, its odorous presence undoubtedly wafted through many Park Slope apartment windows, to the surprise (dismay?) of residents. It was all for a good cause, though they didn't know it.
The next morning, the time had come for the sandwich reunion. I ran to a neighborhood bakery that sold fresh, simple breakfast rolls, stopped at a gem of a specialty shop, Blue Apron Foods to buy some jam, and as planned, proceeded to fall in love with this magical Danish breakfast sandwich all over again. Hooligan came very close to replicating the Danish breakfast sandwich experience for me, and I experienced the perfect culmination of food memories, travel, and culture in a city where anything is possible. Don't ask me to describe the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty: on any given trip to New York, I'm likely to have better memories of a green market cheese sample than most things.
While I'd love to go back to Denmark sometime soon, it looks like the perfect breakfast sandwich can be achieved in LA or New York, for now. As the 30 Rock character Liz Lemon once said, "All of human kind has one thing in common: The Sandwich. I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich." Words to live by, if you ask me.