Faithful readers of this blog will know of my fondness for church bazaars (another link here). For the 2014 Christmas Bazaar season, we decided to concentrate on those with a big food component. Many in this category were the Nordics (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland), but others were right up there. Here are some of the best we visited.
The Danish Bazaar at St. Elizabeth’s in Rockville has grown considerably since we last visited, several years ago. A big crowd comes for the excellent selection of open-faced sandwiches and desserts. Getting there before the bazaar actually opens is a good idea, because even though they have many tables lined up for seating, they can’t seat everyone waiting to get in until some folks leave.
The ambiance is reminiscent of a high-school cafeteria, if your high school lunchroom had included whole families.
But the sandwiches were the best of all the bazaars we went to this year. The bazaar also included a baked goods table and a selection of imported Danish stuff, but the thing that made this bazaar unique was the Aebleskiver Operation.
Little round pockets of dough, not unlike pancakes but plumper, and often stuffed with jam, these treats are produced by the combination of a special pan, a certain skill in turning, and some practice.
I was especially interested because I happen to possess the first of these, and when I tried to acquire the second by dint of the third, I was a miserable failure. However, by carefully watching the expert aebleskiver operators, I was able to uncover the subtle technique that I sorely lacked. I expect much better results with my next batch.
The Finnish Bazaar at the River Road Unitarian Church in Bethesda also attracted a crowd, one which could not be accommodated in the relatively small dining room. People were finding seating and eating all over the building. It was cozy, but cramped. Fortunately, no one seemed to mind.
The food was similar to, but with fewer choices than, the Danish bazaar’s offerings, and suffered slightly by comparison. The serving line had extra added attractions in the form of winsome Finnish serving elves.
The non-eating part of the bazaar was expansive. In addition to the requisite baked goods and ethnic tchochkas, there were fiddlers, an instant-win drawing with gingerbread houses for prizes, and a selection of giftware.
And some ornaments that brought me right back to elementary school.
The smallest and homiest of the three was the Hungarian Bazaar at the Women’s Club of Bethesda. Everyone there seemed to know everyone else – it was like a big party for a few hundred of your closest friends. Who knew there was such a big Hungarian community around Washington?
There were only a few tables selling goods (but there was a big used book sale on the lawn, all in Hungarian). The main emphasis was on food and entertainment. And what entertainment! The Tisza Ensemble, musicians and dancers, performed to Hungarian folk tunes for an hour.
The food was hearty and somehow appropriate to the woodsy, folkloric vibe. We came late (about an hour after the bazaar started), and some of the dishes were already gone. Of what remained, we decided on a sausage on a bun and goulash soup. Also, I indulged in a chestnut puree dessert, but was disappointed in the very faint chestnut taste.
Overall, we would not go back to this bazaar for the food (unless early enough for the presumably best stuff), but will definitely plan to return for the dancing and overall gestalt. A children’s dance was scheduled for later in the day, but we could not stay for it. I’m sure the kids were just as entertaining as the adult performers!