By Janene Scully
Noozhawk North County Editor
A new food truck rolling around northern Santa Barbara County has added a savory twist to a typically sweet Danish treat.
Alice’s Aebelskabels — yes, it’s spelled in a quirky way, but for a charming reason — recently hit the road in Santa Barbara County to serve aebleskiver, or Danish pancake balls.
So about that spelling, which is used in a community where use of the improper form “aebleskivers” (the proper plural form of aebleskive is aebleskiver) can spark a letter to the editor.
Growing up in Santa Barbara County with Danish roots, Hilary Meilen said the word aebleskiver proved hard to say, leading to the mispronunciation that became the family nickname for their regular breakfast food.
When cutbacks left her without her job in Ohio, her brother, Matthew Moore, suggested Meilen launch a food truck to serve Danish pancake balls using the phonetic spelling of the butchered word from their childhood.
“And I said that’s crazy. That’s just crazy,” said Meilen, who now lives in Solvang. “And six months later we had it built and were up and running.”
The name Alice is in honor of their maternal grandmother, Alice Sorensen.
The story of Alice and explanation behind the creative spelling are displayed on the food truck, which employs their grandmother’s basic aebleskiver recipe and even one of her pans, now 100 years old.
The food truck, a renovated package delivery truck, got its start in Columbus, Ohio, in 2015, where the quirky spelling prompted a few rare comments from people of Danish heritage.
Last year with her four children grown, Meilen decided to return to Santa Barbara County to be closer to her parents and other family.
She recently finished securing the licenses to operate the food truck locally.
“We’re up and running and have events coming fast and furious, which is very exciting,” she said.
She grew up in Santa Barbara and graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1981.
“We came up here a lot as kids,” she said while sitting in Solvang. “We made them at home. My mom made them for us on the weekends so I grew up eating them, grew up making them.”
When it came time to cook up a menu, Meilen figured she needed options beyond the traditional Danish aebleskiver with powdered sugar and raspberry jam.
She had experimented with sweet options while her children were growing up, so the food truck offers aebleskiver with chocolate chips or fresh berries in the center, as well as a cinnamon roll version.
Family and friends were pressed into duty to test which combinations worked or didn’t.
A best-selling savory offering has proven to be aebleskiver filled with prosciutto and Swiss cheese.
Another option is pastrami and gruyere cheese with a dijon mustard cream sauce.
“It’s newer but it’s really popular,” added Nat Meilen, the youngest of Meilen’s four children who is helping out with the truck during the summer break from college.
“It’s like a hot pastrami ball of heaven,” Hilary Meilen added.
In honor of the food truck’s new home state, The Californian offering includes aebleskiver with pepper jack cheese and jalapeños on the inside and topped with fresh avocado, tomato, chives, sea salt and a squeeze of lime.
“It sold very well last week. Our first weekend open, and we sold out of it,” Hilary Meilen said.
“It’s really good,” both said in unison.
A plate of three aebleskiver, of the same flavor, will cost $6; five of them, including two flavors, costs $10.
Several wineries have reached out for the food truck to park nearby.
“So far there seems to be good enthusiasm for it,” Hilary Meilen said.
“For only having been open for like a week, world’s getting out fast,” Nat Meilen added.