Drive northeast of Santa Barbara, and you’ll reach Solvang, a little bit of Denmark smack in the middle of California:
Even on Sunday morning, the faux Danish streets are bustling with tourists. most of whom are chasing down an aebleskiver — a Danish pastry about the size of a ping pong ball, made of pancake batter, filled with jam, and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar or whipped cream.
Ten weeks ago, I’d have been downing a dozen of these (and washing them down with a coffee topped with Cool Whip). But today, we’re strolling the streets of Solvang feeling pretty much immune to the charms of the Danish bakeries — that is, until we stumble on The Solvang Bakery.
There, hidden among the cheesy jalapeño bread and creamy, egg-brushed pastries are two loaves of dark brown “squaw bread.” We read the ingredients list … and find no animal ingredients at all. So I queue right up, hand over my five bucks, and score a loaf:
Minutes later, we’re strolling down the street, munching slices of rich, delicious brown bread. It comes in later in the day, too, when we stop for lunch on the roadside and slather a slice or two with coconut-infused peanut butter. (And the next morning, when we have the same bread with fresh strawberries and coconut milk yogurt.)
Given that the rest of town seems dedicated to sweet shops, fudge factories, and artesian cheese makers, I figure we’ve had our last treat of the day. But then, after checking Google, we discover most soft-baked pretzels are vegan — if you can catch ’em before the baker slathers them in liquid butter.
At the Old Danish Food Farm Fudge Kitchen, the smiling fellow behind the counter is filling a glass cabinet with freshly baked soft pretzels.
“Have those been brushed with butter?” I ask.
He nods his head. “Just did it.”
“Ah,” I say. “Thanks anyway.”
Without missing a beat, the fellow says, “Hey, let me bake you some fresh ones without butter. It’ll just take about five minutes.”
“Sure. I’m happy to.”
Five minutes later, we buy two unbuttered soft pretzels: piping hot, lightly salted, baked perfectly. The treat’s nice — but the friendliness and customer focus of the baker was even nicer. It’s a good example of how being willing to go out of your way just a little bit for someone can make a big impression.
How can you give someone an “unbuttered pretzel” today?