It is appropriate that an experience in Solvang would revolve around food. A small town in the Santa Barbara wine country of California, Solvang began as a Danish settlement in the 1900s. Today, people travel there to experience the unique architecture, appreciate the history, and indulge in the Danish lifestyle. In the five block downtown core, there are five Danish bakeries. At sunrise, the sweet aroma of just-out-of-the-oven pastries and breads fills the early morning air.
Choosing a pastry when there are so many available is not easy. Strudel. Butter cookies. Danishes. Tarts. Éclairs. Butter rings sell out by early afternoon. The eight-inch round version of this coffee cake at Mortensen’s Danish Bakery is made with real butter, almond paste, and custard.
Ingeborg’s chocolate factory continues to create chocolate exactly the way Ingeborg made it in 1962. New flavors to the selection are sea salt caramel, mint and orange chocolate sticks, and mini-loaves of chocolate covered marzipan.
At Bacon & Brine, daily specials combine smoked pork and fermented greens. Tête a Tête consists of traditionally prepared Parisian headcheese with herbs, mustard, figs, and apples on a ciabatta bun. For a side of B & B poutine, pulled pork is tossed in hoisin sauce to give it an Asian flavor before being mounded with curds and gravy over fresh cut fries.
Solvang’s 50s-style diner, Chomp, serves the expected milk shakes, burgers, and fries. A surprise on the menu is a Caprese burger stacked with large fragrant basil leaves, sliced tomatoes, hamburger patty, and a thick layer of fresh mozzarella cheese.
The Greenhouse Café is a Nordic bistro where new twists are put on Old Danish styles of serving food. The house specialty is smorrebrod, Danish open-faced sandwiches, where attention is paid to flavor, texture, and eye appeal. On the combination plate, thinly sliced roast beef and sliced meatballs are served on pumpernickel bread with havarti cheese, sweet and sour pickled cucumber, red cabbage, and potato salad. Delicate deep fried onions are an accompaniment.
At The Solvang Restaurant, apart from traditional Danish dishes like sausage and split pea soup, the attention-winner is aebleskiver, pancake batter dropped into circular holes in a copper muffin-tin-like griddle pan. Using a bamboo skewer, at just the right moments, the batter in each hole is lifted and rotated until it turns into a golden brown ball. Aebleskiver is served three on a plate with a generous drizzle of raspberry jam and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
The original Danish smorgasbord was a variety of small appetizers, often bread, fish, cheese, and sausage that Danes ate prior to sitting down for dinner. For a smorgasbord of flavors available in Solvang, the selection is much greater – from early morning fresh pastries to burgers, smoked pork, open-faced sandwiches, chocolates, and aebleskiver drizzled with raspberry jam.