Last Updated on June 9, 2023 by Leah Hall
We made a trip to Elk Horn, Iowa to go to the Danish Table, and got to try some aquavit cocktails, then made our own!
Since this was posted, the Danish Table has closed permanently.
Elk Horn, Iowa is one of the most Danish places in America. There are Danish festivals celebrating Danish food and culture, and the Museum of Danish America, which we toured! We were invited to come to The Danish Table by Mari, the owner, and decided to spend a day in Iowa with the boys with us! Plus, we were promised aquavit cocktails, so win-win!
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There are also places to get a taste of Danish food: The Danish Table: Hygge Kitchen. The Danish Table is a lovely restaurant right next to the Danish Windmill in Elk Horn! Upon entering you are transported to Denmark and Scandinavia, with the feeling of Hygge all around.
What is a Hygge lifestyle?
But, it seems that there is also hygge in the summer. Warm weather hygge is outdoor: picnics, cookouts, bonfires. Summertime hygge is about friends and being outdoors while you can! I don’t know about you, but I am down with all of these things, especially right now as I am staring at 6 inches of snow on the ground!
We definitely felt the hygge in The Danish Table because of the following:
You will recognize The Danish Table’s aesthetic as Scandinavian: natural wood, white walls, slight minimalism, but modern, eclectic and rustic touches with colorful throw pillows, check napkins and pops of color. The host stand is even a repurposed bicycle, for the love of biking in Denmark!
We loved the bright and light interior on a snowy winter Sunday we were there, and felt the hygge!
There’s a Danish kitchen portion of the menu that includes entrees such as frikadeller, which are Danish meatballs, and I had them, and they were delish. Also, stegt flaesk, fried pork belly, which Jay had, and was also delicious topped with carrot and pea gravy. They serve these dishes with a side of warm red cabbage and cucumber salad, made in house.
There are touches of Denmark in all parts of the menu. But, there is the American Kitchen page for those who don’t want to get to scary! These include all kinds of sandwiches: chicken, burgers, pork tenderloin and a French dip.
For those who want to be braver, there are starters with herring, a Danish meat and cheese board, and a Smorgasbord with open-faced sandwiches. For those going for breakfast or brunch, there are the typical American flavors with pancakes and biscuits and gravy. But, again, for those who want to cross over you can get the medisterpolse and aebleskiver.
The medisterpolse are Danish sausages with boiled potatoes and gravy, and then Danish pancakes, the aebleskiver. Oh, the aebleskiver.
We had the aebleskiver (like a pancake and a doughnut hole all in one) for dessert. The aebleskiver are served with powdered sugar, plus sugar, jam, and butter on the side. Yeah. Little bits of heaven. Needless to say, the boys gobbled them up!
Aquavit or Akavit
A neutral spirit distilled from grain or potato, aquavit is commonly flavored with caraway as the main flavor. Styles of aquavit vary and can other spices too, such as dill, fennel, coriander, citrus and anise. The Danish Table isn’t making true aquavit, but they do produce a pretty tasty approximation by infusing vodka with their own blend of spices.
A shot of aquavit pairs particularly well with any of the Danish food. They also use aquavit in some of their house cocktails, a Danish Mule, Bloody Dane, and the New Norre.
We got to sit down with Mari Nielsen Harries, the owner, and talk about their opening last year, as well as their developing recipes that are Danish in nature, but appealing to Iowans. Mari also owns another restaurant in Minnesota, and felt called to open The Danish Table in Elkhorn in 2019.
We talked about the cocktails and sipped their regular and dill aquavit, and how they developed their flavor profile for their own kit, which they sell at their restaurant. Mari and her staff were so welcoming and warm, and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.
Elk Horn, Iowa
Elk Horn, Iowa is a short drive from Omaha, and door to door from Elk Horn to our house, was 70 minutes. And, that was even in a snow storm on the way home. So, very doable for a day date, or a great winter evening to go feel the hygge that encompasses The Danish Table.
Of course, the lovely Mari gave us a make our own aquavit kit, (and an aquavit candle!) so we had to of course make an aquavit cocktail. I mean, that’s what we do, duh! And in playing with the flavors, we ended up pairing the caraway and anise flavors in their DIY kit with some pear brandy and Lillet Blanc.
The wine based apertifs stood up really well to the flavorful aquavit. The gave a slight sweetness, but added lightness and freshness too.
As the aquavit stood up to those flavors so well, and it was like late winter/early spring in a glass. Almost like when the snow is melting. We added in some grapefruit Oleo Saccharum, and a few drops of sassafras bitters. Regular aromatic bitters would work too!
We hope you try this cocktail, as well as make a trip to Elk Horn, Iowa and The Danish Table, you won’t regret it!
Plus, it’s sooooo Instagrammable, you will be posting all over the place – check these pictures!
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Like this recipe? Try these below, too!
Other Wine Based Cocktails
- Lillet Lemonade Cocktail – Salt and Wind
- Whiskey and Apple Brandy Cocktail – Cooking for Keeps
- The Rising Star – Umami Girl
- Brandy Alexander – Miss in the Kitchen
- Apple Brandy Allspice Fizz – Sugar and Cloth
These aquavit cocktails are so full of flavor wtih aquavit, pear brandy, lillet and oleo saccharum. Topped with sassafras bitters, this is a great tasty one.
- 1.50 ounces aquavit
- .50 ounce pear brandy
- 1 ounce Lillet
- .25 ounce Oleo Saccharum
- 2 drops sassafras bitters
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.
- Stir to chill.
- Strain into glass.
- Garnish with lemon peel.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 167Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 5mgCarbohydrates: 6.4gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g
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