Continental Drift

Will you be the first on your block?



Michael Dvorak

A NORDEAST CHRISTMAS: In all my long years of writing this column, I think no story has generated such recurrent interest as the time I wrote about Quang, the Nicollet Avenue Vietnamese restaurant. Why? Because I emphasized that I really, truly go there, on my own dime, as often as I can, thus allaying the suspicions of readers who think this column is purely fictional. With that in mind, as a special holiday treat, here's another place that I really, truly go: Blackey's Bakery. Blackey's is run by Danish baker Svea Ernst, who moved here ten years ago and took over what had been a Polish bakery for 80-some years before that. Today Blackey's sells both Polish and Danish specialties, and some estimable doughnuts. I go there mainly for the rügbröd, a dark-black pumpernickel that is heavy as a brick and as dense as Dan Quayle. One slice of this bread, toasted, topped with a little cheese is an incredibly filling, invigorating lunch. It's one of the primary elements of my diet. You can cut a loaf into quarters and then into thin slices for hors d'oeuvres: Top with herring, cheese, gravlax, or egg salad for some very photogenic, easy starters.

Sometimes I lie to my nearest and dearest and tell them that the fresh loaves of rügbröd on the table were not from a recent trip to Blackey's but were pulled from the freezer. Why? Because if I don't, people whine at me for not having bought them kringle, enormous 27-layer Danish pastries filled with custard and topped with almonds. Kringle are nothing short of heavenly, and I believe if it were up to my nearest and dearest, I would spend the better part of every week delivering kringle to them.

At Christmas, Blackey's does somersaults supplying treats. Mahjoner are paper-thin spice cookies made with slices of almonds. The dough pulls away from the almonds when the cookies bake, leaving little windows of almonds; if you hold them up to the light they seem to glow. They're awfully good, and they cost $1.50 for a quarter-pound bag. This year I tried, for the first time, a Danish treat called mazarin ($11)--basically a pie crust filled with almond paste, topped with apricot glaze and more almond paste, and dressed with chocolate. Ernst insists that mazarin is only for Danish people, and you eat only the tiniest sliver of it. I should have listened to her. Mazarin is strictly only for people who want to eat a wedge of marzipan. I brought mine to a party, and watched with amusement as people cut themselves a big slice, took a bite, and hid the plate behind a potted plant.

Of course, I'm not the only fan of Blackey's. Ernst now sells her bread to some 70 local restaurants: Ever had one of those big, soft hamburger buns at the Convention Grill? Blackey's. Simek's also carries Blackey's bread, buns, and dinner rolls. Sam's Club carries their egg twist, pumpernickel, marble rye, Polish rye, and onion kaiser rolls.

I was at Blackey's a few days before Thanksgiving getting my rügbröd for Turkey Day when a man on a similar errand started ribbing me. "Can't believe you eat that stuff--my wife does too!" He began, shaking his head. "What are you going to do with it, sandbag the river? Shore up your basement foundation? Weight down the car to make it easier to get out of ditches?" He went on and on. We both got our bread, we headed out to the street. When I left him, he was loading cheesecakes ($5 for a quarter pan) into the back of his car, still shouting after me and laughing. "Defense in case of burglars? Building a bomb shelter? Ballast on the high seas?" Quang Restaurant; 2719 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, (612) 870-4739; Blackey's Bakery, 639 22nd Ave. NE (between University and Central), Minneapolis; (612) 789-5326.

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