Navigate through the crafts-and-rummage main level — you can return later, especially to the shelves and tables crowded with Scandinavian packaged foods and home-baked seasonal specialties — to the downstairs gallery and a selection of smørbrødene, drinks, and sweets. Despite the familiar components of the karbonade og løk smørbrød ($6), good manners dictate no hands; this hamburger requires a knife and fork. Also shown: several brightly caparisoned fish smørbrødene from prior years; waffles awaiting a slather of strawberry jam.
For a more expansive Norwegian menu, pay a call on the church's justly celebrated all-you-can-eat buffet, held about once each month.
Though the dining room can be snug, good spirits carry the day. This sampler from a bazaar past (the menu, like the $20 price, seems unchanged with the years) was accompanied by baskets of crisp bread with butter and cheese plus pitchers of lingonberry drink. Shown, clockwise from front: gravlax, Swedish meatballs, lingonberry preserves, beet salad, ham, the fish stew called Jansson's temptation, and half a hardboiled egg topped with "Swedish caviar," or creamed, smoked cod roe paste.
Like that plate meal, the cream-filled drömtårta ("dream cake," $10) is even richer and more filling than it looks. While most of the homemade baked goods are clustered on a display table, these rolled cakes are hidden away in a nearby freezer, but only because the chill helps the sponge cake hold its form when sliced. One slice at a time will do you just fine.
The namesake ad agency was this building's prime tenant from its construction in 1926 until early 2013, when Young & Rubicam moved to Columbus Circle. It's unclear whether Y&R inspired the dozens of whimsical figures carved into the masonry near street level. Many depict traditional occupations; many others, like these, illustrate pastimes. Just possibly the connection with the ad agency is the embrace of minds at play. Shown: bagpipe playing, trail blazing, slingshot shooting, and what seems to be sweets eating.
Young & Rubicam Building (also known as the Murray Hill Building) William Rouse and Lafayette Goldstone, 1926; carvings attributed to Arthur Seale 285 Madison Ave. (at East 40th St.), Manhattan
In the early years of the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad (1891-2003), "State of Maine potatoes" were so essential to the company's financial well-being that caretakers were hired to shepherd the spuds during their travels. The chief task of these men was to protect the potatoes from freezing by tending stoves or heaters that would maintain the boxcars at an appropriate temperature.
Better-heated, better-insulated boxcars would have supplanted the caretakers in this model-railroad scenario. The place, according to the model-makers, is a contrived setting in the mountains of northern Orange and southern Sullivan counties, in New York. The time, I reckoned, would be the late 1940s or early 1950s, judging by the curves of the automobiles at the crossing (click on the second photo for a closer look).
Rail aficionado Larry Goss observes that only a very few red, white, and blue State of Maine railcars were labeled "Potatoes," beginning about 1950. These soon gave way to "dual service insulated boxcars which were designed with heaters to carry potatoes in the winter and newsprint paper during the remainder of the year. Probably because of this dual service 'Potatoes' was changed to 'Products' on these and all subsequent boxcars and all later refrigerator cars were painted orange."
Most model railroaders are rigorous about the internal consistency of their railcars and related equipment. For the maximum "gee, wow" effect, however, on occasion they mix and match scenery from very different settings.
According to the hobby company that supplied it, the animated Maxwell House billboard seen here is meant to evoke the New Jersey original. On the Hoboken skyline the sign stood alone, in a bleakly industrial context, but in this HO-scale display, the building is closely flanked by bowling lanes and a mozzarella factory on one side and a Domino Sugar warehouse on the other.
Mado's dondurma lays claim to the mantle of "hardest and densest ice cream in the world." Even more so than Middle Eastern ice cream, Turkish dondurma is bolstered with sahlep and mastic; filling my cone ($2) required two strong hands and an implement wielded like a long-handled chisel. And yet whether chiseled, sliced like doner kebab, or bitten off, it melts in the mouth, I can vouch.
The pyramidal rice dumplings that answer to zongzi often seem leaden and gummy. But, as prepared by Ipoh, Malaysia-born Aunt Ooi, who called this by its Hokkien name, bak chang, the rice was moist and abundantly laden with chestnuts, shiitake mushrooms, pork, black-eyed peas, and dried shrimp. I've never tasted a better one in New York.
The United Nations African Mothers Association (UNAMA) has held this annual fundraiser since the mid-1980s. Proceeds, which in recent years have been devoted to refugees in Africa, this year benefited Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
As always (I'm told, since this was my first UNAMA luncheon), the food was prepared by wives of U.N. delegates and served buffet-style. The variety was overwhelming. I noted the names of 16 African nations at the buffet, though many labels were handwritten, some of them on the spur of the moment; it's very possible that the true count was higher.
Likewise, the buffet's identification of dishes was not rock-solid, and though some were close cousins to items I've come across in the five boroughs, others were less familiar. A working knowledge of culinary French and Portuguese would have clarified a few ingredients. To be sure, most everyone spoke English, too. The atmosphere was low-key, and the company, consistently welcoming and gracious.