Wednesday, April 13, 2005


There is a diner in the Village called Shopsins. It used to be a diner in a townhouse in the Village called Shopsins. Now it has a prime corner address, two walls of big wide windows, and an awning announcing its name. What has not changed, however, are the Shopsins. The Shopsins are in the kitchen and in the restaurant and pretty much everywhere in the experience of dining there. In fact, Shopsins (the restaurant) is the benchmark from which I now determine how "family-owned" other family-owned restaurants are. Sometimes you get to eat massive plates of eggs in the middle of a family battle. Sometimes you eat those eggs in the middle of a family reunion. Sometimes you eat them in silence. Sometimes it feels like the whole restaurant is eating them with big dollops of laughter. Pretty much always, though, you're eating something with Shopsin (the family) personality.

Shopsin's menu is long. Many pages. And it gets revised often, though not often consistently. So it is completely possible that each of the four people at your table (you're only allowed to come in groups of 4 or less, and all will be kicked out if one dares to show a cell phone) will be looking at different versions of menus. It is also completely possible that you will order something because it sounds interesting, but noone will remember what it was originally intended to be. The food items can be pretty standard; and they can be pretty bizarre. Shopsin (the father and the chef), I'm told, has been known to sit down with his kids, make-up a country, and then invent the native cuisine for the made-up country. And sometimes the native cuisine of known countries gets grabbed, and Shopsin'ified, and served back at you.

That's how it was with Ebelskivers.

Or, at least, that's how I learned that something called Ebelskivers can go deliciously with coffee. There was a random line in one of the appetizer sections, this particular one on a page that was crammed with possibly 200 or so various soups, that said, simply and without explanation: ebelskiver $3.50

It had to be ordered.

It was remembered.

This weekend I made the purchase that will allow me to attempt to recreate a piece of Shopsins in Alaska. It was an inadvertent purchase. J. was shopping for binoculars and gear at the Sportsman Warehouse. He found it entertaining, but perhaps not surprising, that I somehow managed to find and get absorbed in an entire aisle devoted to cast-iron pots and tin tea kettles in the middle of an outdoor gear store.

The prize, the thing that still has me smiling in anticipation four days later: I found, finally, and bought, and brought home, and can't wait to use a heavy, plain, cast-iron aebleskiver pan.

I know I should probably write out a recipe, or maybe a description of aebleskivers/ebelskivers.

But somehow I think one has to stumble across the discovery.

Obviously, I'd encourage everyone to go to Shopsin's for this stumble. I've learned that they may not necessarily be "traditional" there, but they're an experience.

But if you can't make it to Shopsin's to see if they are on your version of the menu, stay tuned: I'll be posting the trials and errors of teaching myself how to make traditional aebleskivers. The process will involve a knitting needle.

In the meantime, perhaps the mere mirth of the word "ebelskiver" or the spelling of "aebleskiver" will be hook enough.


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