Vestiges of Norway in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn: Kringler, Firklover, and Knackebrod
Don't let all the trolls in the window scare you away from Nordic Delicacies.
When the Norwegians -- and later, other Scandinavians -- arrived in Bay Ridge late in the 19th century, they loved its open countryside and expansive views of the ocean. The Narrows of the Lower Harbor, now spanned by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, supposedly reminded them of a fjord. From the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th, Bay Ridge became known as Little Oslo, and by 1930 there were over 60,000 Norwegians living in the neighborhood. Many found work as seaman and shipbuilders in the Brooklyn waterfront.
Scrumptious Danish pastries from Leske's Bakery
Sadly, few reminders of their culture remain. Leske's (7612 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-680-2323) is a Scandinavian bakery that's over 100 years old. Nowadays, apart from a handful of Danish pastries, the bakery mainly sells Italian cookies, chocolate éclairs, and frosted cakes. The pecan-studded and frosting-drizzled sweet rolls that originated in Denmark are superb, though, with the kind of just-baked goodness you may associate with foodie artisanal bakeries, and no stinting on the fresh butter. Leading up to Christmas, the bakery prepares such specialties as yulekage (a candied-fruit bread) and kringler (pretzel-shaped cookies covered with granulated sugar).
The neighborhood surrounding the bakery is now mainly Middle Eastern.
Norwegian Constitution Day (May 17) is still celebrated in Bay Ridge with a parade. It kicks off this year on May 15 at 1:30 at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 67th Street, a neighborhood now mainly Lebanese.
Norwegian and American flags flap outside of Nordic Delicacies.
But the most significant remnant of Norwegianism in the region is Nordic Delicacies (6909 Third Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-748-1874), a store that sells mainly Scandinavian products. The window is filled with trolls, perhaps for the purpose of scaring away children. Inside, the products run to hardtack flatbreads; hard cheeses; fluted, iron-pressed wafers with intricate designs on them; fruit preserves; and canned fish products. A section of the store is devoted to Norwegian tourist crafts, including sweaters, lapel pins, and miniature trolls, of course.
The store is worth a visit, if only to buy lefsa, the thinly rolled potato flatbread that may be spread with jelly or butter. The deli also provides prepared meals in a Scandinavian vein, three or four per day, for carryout.
Potato lefsa -- this flatbread is damn good, and could be used for all sorts of purposes!
Next: More products available at Nordic Delicacies ...
Cod liver oil -- once spooned into the mouths of countless Norwegian children by worried mothers in Bay Ridge.
Humorless giant round wheaten flatbreads that go surprisingly well with cheese and pickled-fish spread squeezed from a tube. These were once a major part of the sailors' diet.
A hazelnut chocolate bar
Who knew fish had balls?
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