Friday, July 13, 2012

The Danish Pastry House: License to fill (your tummy)

Red Velvet cake

On the occasion of July 4th, I decided to treat myself to a place I'd heard about in almost hushed, glowing whispers. Here, there, and everywhere, whenever I mentioned my hobby, people would pass notes into my purse, send one word emails with no reply address, little scrolls of paper via messenger pigeon...and they all had just these words: Danish Pastry House.

Marzipan frogs, of course!

With visions of cuckoo clocks on the wall and hearty, buxom Danish girls in flour-strewn aprons, I decided I could stand the half-hour walk to get to the Danish Pastry House. Given that it was thunderously muggy and hot, my determination flagged before I even passed Teal Square. But I imagined I was walking toward ten-pound blocks of marzipan, and I survived the not-insignificant hills around Tufts that block a pedestrian from dessert. At last when I did arrive, I found a very modest cafe in a small cluster of shops that serve Tufts students. And right across the way? A bus stop. Yep, had I consulted google maps, I've would've seen there was no reason to suffer dehydration and heat stroke. I refrained from cursing in front of the bubble-eyed frosh-girl primly sitting at the bus stop. After all, it wasn't her fault I'd just duped myself into exercising. But cheered by the task ahead, I made haste for the DPH.

There were no buxom Danish women at the counter. No ten-pound blocks of marzipan. No cuckoo clocks. Instead, I found a mix of warm wood and industrial brick, not entirely unlike what you might find at a Starbucks. And rather than herds of baked goods, what I found was a display case selectively filled with not just sweet goodies, but salads, quiche, and sandwiches. In short, this was not the bakery I'd imagined it was. The actual baking facility is elsewhere (they supply quite a lot of goodies around Boston to other businesses, and also have a stall at the Davis Farmer's Market). Once I got over this, I looked around at a happy crew of Tufties and young parents who had come to arguably the only coffee shop within walking distance of campus for coffee and a sandwich or perhaps one of the breakfast pastries or croissants.

And let's not forget the kringle.

These breakfast treats do set DPH apart from your average cafe, although the croissant I had did not transport me to any particular heights. The vanilla cupcake and cream puff were also decent but not mind bending.

I began to wonder why all those people recommended this place. Then I stumbled onto the far end of the counter and found the cakes. Big glorious confections with interesting flavors like passion fruit mousse and red velvet.

For five dollars, you may have a slice the size of Wisconsin carefully deposited on a plate, which I did. The red velvet cake really was extraordinary. The three layers of cherry-red cake were so moist as to almost surpass the texture of cake and veer into breed pudding or cake batter. The frosting was very cream-cheesy and sweet, with a marzipan flower on top. It was, perhaps, a tad too sweet, as I got about 2/3rds through the piece and began to feel that I was about to go into insulin shock and/or stuff my gullet so full that there would be no recovery. In that regard, it was a little like eating at the Cheesecake Factory: there is the inevitable guilt of leaving your plate half-finished because the quantity of food is super-human. Almost as if that piece of cake is laughing at you as your fork drops to the plate and you sit back, stuffed.

In the end, I felt that the Danish Pastry House is a good cafe and a nice place to hang out. It would not be a bad choice for a Birthday cake or for a pit stop if you're on a tour of Tufts. But I can't claim I would travel across Boston just to go again. Sometimes, friends, legends don't always shine as brightly as you thought they would. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try a slice of red velvet cake from this Somerville institution.  

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