Despite prepping for its 81st Annual Danish Days on September 15-17, Solvang isn’t just going to roll out the aebleskivers. Not that it’s vanquishing all things Viking (heck, there are even weaponry demos), but the hamlet also knows enough to tip its horned helmet at the 21st century and its location amid the Santa Ynez Valley vineyards. That means free concerts by groups like the Ruben Lee Dalton Band, which is more SoCal than Scandinavian, but even more, it means fabulous food and drink.
While you can quaff Carlsberg at the beer garden, also expect local Figueroa Mountain to represent. “From taking part in the parade to the craft-beer garden, the community participation is great to see,” says Jaime Dietenhofer, founder/CEO of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. “Some years we dress up as Vikings and march down the street and end up dancing to a Danish jig or two. My wife is of Danish heritage, hence the Danish Red Lager we brew, and we always look forward to this weekend each year. We also prepare a few specialty cask ales for the event.”
If you care to push the potent potable envelope a bit more, see what the High Roller Tiki Lounge (1636 Copenhagen Dr., Solvang), inside Sort This Out Cellars’ tasting room, is serving up. Owner Michael Cobb and his crew will make you a Suffering Scandinavian (would Kierkegaard approve?) or a Bloody Viking or a Solvang Siren, zippy with a pasilla pepper reduction and lychee fruit. “We’re definitely kind of the rebel on the block,” Cobb half-jokes. “But now people come to Solvang as much for the wine as the architecture. You’re wine-tasted out by seven o’clock, so you just want something cold in your hands.” Why not a drink from what might be the only wine-based tiki bar, period, let alone in Solvang?
The Landsby (1576 Mission Dr., Solvang) ups the ante with an aquavit-based cocktail that’s magnificently modern, The Danish Fly, which also features banana liqueur. You could sip that as you chow down on their version of flæskesteg — a roast pork with crackling, with roasted local fingerling potatoes, whole grain mustard, and white wine gravy. “I didn’t design a menu for a particular Danish era of time; to me it was about the chef and his skill set and cooking what made sense to him using local food,” says General Manager Barry Prescott. “The Landsby is an example of the modernization of Solvang. We didn’t destroy the original foundation here; we just modified its existence. I believe that’s where Danish Days is headed.”
Taking the town the furthest into the culinary future is First & Oak (409 1st St., Solvang). “We’re different than most restaurants in this area, and we embrace that difference,” explains Jonathan Rosenson, owner/general manager/sommelier. “But we also recognize the importance of our location in this one section of wine country, and what makes Solvang what it is … Danish Days is a celebration of just that, and we’ve created a Scandinavian tasting menu, which is along the lines of how we structure the menu year-round, in honor of the Danish heritage of the town.”
What’s Chef Snook have on tap? Aebleskivers. Savory octopus aebleskiver with bonito. That’s just course one. There’s also beet-cured salmon with caviar and boudin blanc sausage with red cabbage and more for the four-course-with-two-bonuses feast on September 16.
That’s not your granddad’s Danish Days.
Delight in Solvang’s Danish Days, from aebleskivers to tiki drinks, from beer garden to outdoor concerts, September 15-17. Visit solvangdanishdays.org.