two shops offer a taste of scandinavia
From open-faced sandwiches (smørrebrød) to the Swedish pancakes dressed with lingonberries, the inventory at Scandinavianbutik is authentic and growing, as owners Marianne Beresford and Doris Levene scour the best resources for the foodstuffs their clients crave. Both women came originally from Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula; in their shop, which they opened last spring, a striking poster-sized photograph of a field of red poppies captures the bracing beauty of this rural part of the country. Marianne does double duty as chef and baker while Doris serves as the shop’s front person and resident green thumb.
Located in Wilton on Danbury Road, Scandinavianbutik promises to be a home away from home for homesick Danes, Swedes, Norwegians and Finns. And what better way to touch their hearts than traditional Scandinavian breads fresh from the oven, specialty cheeses, smoked meats and salted fish, and of course, the indigenous condiments that go with them?
The shop also sells orchids and accoutrements to transform any table with Scandinavian style, including Danish candles that the owners insist should be a staple of any evening meal and the classic low glass vase that works so well with flowers and floating votives.
In recent years, the internationally acclaimed restaurant Nomo has put Copenhagen on the global gustatory map. Its team of foragers scours the countryside for rare and delectable delicacies that make the meals there so memorable. Danish cuisine has been shaped by the constraints and attributes of that region—long summer nights and short growing season—and enriched through its distinct traditions. Danish pastry, unlike its American namesake, is light and flakey, while fish is often eaten raw, smoked or pickled. Pickled herring is a mainstay in virtually every home and children grow up on leverpostej and rugbrød. “We all carried them in our school lunch boxes every day,” says Marianne.
The Danes, Marianne and Doris tell me, are social creatures by nature and love to gather and chat. Already their expatriate clients are gently lobbying for tables where they can visit together over a traditional Scandinavian meal. So don’t be surprised to see the shop relocating to a larger space in the not-so-distant future. But for now, the logo, which features the stripes of the Scandinavian flags, and the foreign name have been pulling in Scandies and non-Scandies alike. On the day I stopped by, a Dane from New Canaan had just arrived, while a non-Scandie convert, who’d been drawn to the place out of curiosity, was making what has become a routine visit.
Just minutes away in Wilton Center, Gåva taps into another important aspect of Scandinavian living—its craft and design. Established four years ago by Patti Damon, the shop was conceived after a visit to her husband’s family in Sweden, and a special tour of the Orrefors factory in Småland, the country’s crystal-making region. There they watched in amazement as a craftsman fashioned a swan over a molten flame. When not one, but two, swans arrived as gifts from the artist a few months later, Damon’s nascent idea to open a Scandinavian-inspired shop began to germinate in earnest.
Today Gåva’s extensive inventory showcases the work of many fine Scandinavian artisans, from porcelain and stemware to the lovely art glass birds crafted by Finnish artist Olva Toikka. Damon trawls for beautiful objects in other countries as well, and offers jewelry, music boxes, knives and wind chimes from England, Germany and the American Southwest. No wonder it’s become a favorite destination for brides-to-be as well as people in search of an unusual gift for someone special.
Gåva, which translates as “Gift” in Swedish, also doubles as a craft and community center, with a room devoted to yarns procured from many sources and drop-in hours for knitters. While some of crafters are more than up to the exacting skills required to knit a proper Norwegian sweater, the knitting room is there to offer help as well to beginner.
Scandinavianbutik, 24 Danbury Rd., 203-529-3244. Info@scandinavianbutik.com. Gåva, 72 Old Ridgefield Rd., 203-210-5776, or firstname.lastname@example.org