Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
Returning home after a trip to a place with world-class pastries is often bittersweet: though it's nice to be home, it can be challenging to find anything that matches those sweets from abroad. Since opening a little over a year ago in Culver City, Copenhagen Pastry has aimed to fill that void for fans of authentic Danish pastry.
Prior to opening her business, owner Karen Hansen struggled to find quality baked goods like the ones she grew up with as a child in Denmark. Hansen set her sights on what had been an auto upholstery shop on Washington Boulevard, and, along with Copenhagen Pastry's chief baker Henrik Gram, conceptualized the design for the entire bakery: from the striking wood-paneled facade to the layout of the whole kitchen. To help her design the facade, she even took classes at L.A.'s Otis College of Art and Design.
Gram, who also hails from Denmark, has been baking all his life, so joining the Copenhagen Pastry team was a natural fit. In order to keep up with the bakery's demand, Gram's days begin at 4:30 a.m. and he and his team continue baking throughout the day to replenish items that sell out.
The menu features an assortment of flaky pastries filled with a variety of fillings like almond paste, custard, and hazelnut cream. Seeing the need for gluten-free items, Karen added the Kransecake and Coconut Top desserts to the menu. "When we first opened, I often saw couples come into the shop and only one would be able to order from our menu," said Hansen. "The point of our bakery and our pastries is to share and enjoy with family, friends and loved ones, so we decided to add gluten-free desserts. We're really pleased to be able to offer something for everyone."
For many customers, the icing on the cake is Copenhagen Pastry's gentle prices. The majority of their pastries range from $1 to $2.25. An exception to the rule is their hearty rye bread ($4.50/half loaf and $6/full loaf). It's composed of whole rye and wheat flour, rye berries that are soaked and cooked to be chewy, plus flaxseed and sunflower seeds for an added crunch. "Rye bread is ideal for the great variety of salted, cured, and smoked fish and meats in Denmark," said Hansen. "Our rye is delicious on its own or maybe just lightly toasted. I've also become a fan of topping a slice with a bit of avocado, salt and pepper. It's so simple and easy, but so satisfying."
On the horizon for Copenhagen Pastry is the debut of their second store. Hansen and her team are shooting to open in Pasadena in the early spring of 2014.