Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Dose of Denmark in New York

When passing through Racine, Wis., on road trips, a favorite stop is the I-90 gas station with the Danish bakery showcasing kringle, the delicious, buttery, flaky, fruit or nut-filled pastry associated with Scandinavia. According to this article, the southern Wisconsin town best known for Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings is also best known as the center of Danish culture in the U.S.

So with sweet kringle on the brain, on a recent New York trip I enthusiastically trekked to TriBeCa to visit a dear friend and and experience a taste of Denmark at Aamanns-Copenhagen, now open at 13 Laight Street, sharing a building with the Tribeca Film Festival office.

From the street, Aamanns beckons with huge black and beige signage highlighting culinary treats. They had me at pork, potatoes and currants.

Inside its glass doors, the restaurant's cozy dining room, white walls and tabletops, light wood fixtures and tea lights were warm and welcoming on a chilly December afternoon (come July the same dining room will feel cool and calming relief from sweltering summer temps).

My friend recommended the house specialty, smørrebrød. That's Danish for open-faced sandwiches, and at Aamanns, each served on rye bread. My first two smørrebrød, from the lunch menu, were the smoked cod and chicken salad. They had me at hazelnuts. My friend enjoyed the gravad laks and panfried white fish, which looked as tasty as my selections; both were filling, popping with spice, and best enjoyed with knife and fork.

The Aamanns menu also tempted with herring, pâté of pork, aquavit (a Danish libation) and smørrebrød of braised duck. I'm not much of a tartare fan, but for those who enjoy their smørrebrød on the raw side, the beef or fresh kale options may entice.

I was so swept up in conversation and savory smørrebrød, I did not notice whether kringle made the menu (it did not, as Aamanns is an authentic Denmark restaurant in the U.S. not a "USA version" of an upscale Denmark restaurant), though looking at the online menu now, Aamanns' fresh Danish cookies, honey cakes and a sweet rice-infused (though not pudding) desserts look to be great treats for my next visit.

Another bonus about Aamanns is their pricing. Whether enjoyed in the dining room or for takeaway, their food is a filling and great value for a Manhattan lunch or dinner. I envision many an Edelman colleague (offices one block north), or film festival patron, enjoying Aamanns for a quick midday bite or an after work/after film treat. It was worth the trek from the Guggenheim, and from Atlanta, to experience Aamanns-Copenhagen, and I hope the folks in Racine will take notice and fly east for a taste of the real deal (rest assured, kringle also remains as real a sweet treat).

Heading to Aamanns, I had no idea that Copenhagen cuisine enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, earning Michelin stars and drawing chefs from around the world. A great New York Times article by Julia Moskin, who also wrote the first (and glowing) review of Aamanns, gave me a better background on the rise of Danish cuisine. I wish this came to my attention when Chicago, Rio, Tokyo and Madrid were duking it out, for the 2016 Olympics hosting duties, at the IOC Session in Denmark in 2009

To Aamanns-Copenhagen, skål!

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver; Brian Harkin/New York Times; Marta S. McAdams/ Citizen; HonestCooking, Snackish, and via Gloobi

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