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culture

Vintage Toronto Ads: Danish Delights at the Copenhagen Room

Sit back, relax, and enjoy a meal prepared by a "sandwich virgin."

Source: Best of Toronto 1980.

When it comes to foreign cuisines available in Toronto, Danish food doesn’t cross most people’s brains. Ask the average joe to name an edible from the land of Hans Christian Andersen and most will draw a blank, stare, or describe the eponymous breakfast pastry. Yet for 20 years, thanks to backing from a Danish government agency, Denmark’s cuisine had a high-profile outpost on Bloor Street West—the Danish Food Centre and the Copenhagen Room restaurant below it.

Among the items that might have been on the buffet proudly showcased by a chef imported from Denmark: herring in sauces ranging from simple to creamy, baby shrimp, caviar, cured salmon, pork tenderloin with creamed mushrooms, fruit, and a fine selection of Danish cheeses. According to the mid-1970s guide Dining Out in Toronto, “seasoned travellers testify that many meals offered here are better than back home.”

When the Copenhagen Room opened in February 1971, Globe and Mail advertorial writer Mary Walpole awkwardly wrote that it was “one of the exciting interesting happenings to take the drear out of mid-winter.” She also found the variety of open-face smørrebrød sandwiches to be as “colourful as a still-life painting.”

What the ad fails to mention: those sandwiches were prepared by a “smørrebrød jomfruer,” which Star food writer Jim White translated as “sandwich virgin.” White noted that the restaurant followed the Danish tradition in which only women were allowed to make the sandwiches. Following a two-year apprenticeship, the smørrebrød jomfruers had to demonstrate they could make up to 200 varieties before receiving a diploma.

Take that, Subway Sandwich Artists!

Additional material from Dining Out in Toronto by Jeremy Brown and Sid Adilman (Toronto: Pagurian Press, 1976), the February 20, 1971 edition of the Globe and Mail, and the May 18, 1983 edition of the Toronto Star.

Comments

  • LutzLuckow

    We went to the Copenhagen Room for many years, for lunches and dinners with clients and friends and had many fun filled evenings at the monthly smorgasborg evenings with Mr. Ochipinti providing the musical entertainment,- and everybody singing along.(everybody got a music sheet with the texts for the various songs).
    The food and service and atmosphere was excellent.
    Unfortunately they had to close when the rent on Bloor Street became too expensive for the Danish Government to support/sponsor such venue and nothing took its place to my knowledge.
    Too bad.

  • Survivor

    Danes never get any help from the Canadian government, they are not exotic enough, they have to become Canadian. Danes are a small minority and are not deemed important, they can just shut up or go back where they came from. In Canada it’s okay to discriminate and intimidate Danes, Canadians would not dare do that to people of colour.