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Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Little Taste of Sweden

When we left for Sweden last week, I had visions of Swedish food dancing in my head, but as it turns out, Swedish food is hard to come by in Stockholm. The first couple of days we were there, we searched for typical Swedish restaurants, but to no avail. Apparently, lasagna is now a Swedish food because it was everywhere! (And the piece I had at a little cafe was pretty good...)

So what to do? Our guide book wasn't very helpful. We were staying in an apartment, so we couldn't ask the concierge. (By the way, if you're ever traveling in Europe and will be in a city for more than a few days, the most economical and sometimes even more convenient option is to rent a vacation apartment. Many of these are located in prime spots, but for much less than what you'd pay at a hotel. And you get the added perk of being able to experience grocery shopping and markets in that city...) We finally ended up at a bookshop specializing in books about Sweden (looking for a copy of Pippi Longstocking for our daughter), and I asked the shopkeepers where we could get a typical Swedish lunch without breaking the bank and that would be two-year-old friendly. The looked at me and asked, "You don't want lasagna?" Nope. They mentioned that typical Swedish food could be found in the fancy restaurants, but not usually in regular ol' eateries. But then they said that we should try the restaurant in the Coin Museum next door. The Coin Museum??? But we tried it, and we ended up getting Swedish food for a decent price! (And the waiter loved our daughter, so gave her a little coin purse with chocolate coins in it...bonus!)

As soon as we sat down, we were served this little bulgur wheat (we think) salad with cucumbers, olives, sundried tomatoes and red onions with a very light vinaigrette dressing. We noticed that everyone in the restaurant received this salad immediately. I loved it and wished that I had had a huge bowl of it!

My husband and I both ordered the Wallenbergare (the most Swedish-sounding plate on the menu). It apparently is a traditional dish named after the Wallenberg family** and consists of a ground veal or beef patty (ours was veal and was oven roasted) with potatoes, peas, and lingonberry sauce. It's usually served with a cream sauce or butter. Ours had butter. The entire dish was tasty and one that I may try at home sometime, but the most surprising element were the peas. They came mashed and cold, but were as tasty as could be! Cold mashed peas will make a definite appearance on our summer dinner table...

The children's menu of choice in Stockholm was pancakes. They seemed to be almost-crepe thin and are usually served with a berry sauce and whipped cream. What kid wouldn't love that?!

And one final note on Swedish cuisine--they have their own version of the cinnamon roll. We're used to ours lathered with a cream cheese frosting, but they do theirs without. My husband went out on my birthday morning and got me a cinnamon roll and flowers, and I enjoyed both immensely! The cinnamon roll was rich with cinnamon, and I'm pretty sure that I tasted a hint of cardamom. Mmmm...

**The Wallenberg family is one of the wealthiest families in Sweden and according to Wikipedia, controls about 1/3 of the Swedish GNP. Raoul Wallenberg, one of the more famous of the family members, was a diplomat during WWII and was responsible for saving up to tens of thousands of Jews in Hungary by giving anyone who applied Swedish passports. There is a goosebump-raising account of his courageous actions on Wikipedia for quick reading if you're interested, but I'm sure there are some great books out there too...

There was a very nice memorial to Raoul Wallenberg near the harbor. It consisted of a sphere with his name on it linked to the synagogue (about a block away) by railway tracks. Very moving:


Lori March 29, 2009 at 12:01 PM  

So glad you had a good time and that you are feeling a bit better. What you described is exactly how I felt our first trip to Dublin. The city is so international that even the basic pub foods we all associate with Ireland were hard to find.

That looks like lingonberry sauce. I love lingonberries! I get the jam every time I'm in an Ikea. I hope to try it in Stockholm sometime myself. :)

Mindy March 29, 2009 at 12:10 PM  

Lori--glad to see your internet is working! And you're right--that is lingonberry sauce. And it tasted just like the Ikea jam! ;-) (I always have a jar of that in my fridge, but I never know what to do with it besides meatballs...)

Chef E March 29, 2009 at 1:16 PM  

I had raised goosebumps reading this! Where is the pic of the coin purse??? The food looks good, and how funny when I was in Dublin 14 years ago there was nothing but pubs and no decent upscale restaurants, lol, but that is what I went for the non-touristy pubs, and it was a blast. Hubby has been to Stockholm with his brother, and left me at home :)

Happy Birthday girlie!!!

Jamie March 29, 2009 at 2:37 PM  

That meal looks like it was delicious! What fun going out on a food hunt, too. And that cinnamon bun looks amazing. Happy birthday, too!

Shannon March 30, 2009 at 11:23 AM  

Mmm..Sweedish pancakes! Those look just like the kind that my best friend growing up's parents used to make! They would have about 15 different toppings (from yogurt to jam) on the table and most of the time we'd have them for lunch or dinner instead of breakfast. Now I'm craving them!

Danielle April 1, 2009 at 5:26 PM  

I had so fun reading this, since I'm Swedish and it's very fun to here what other people thinks of our food. I was very surpriced to hear that it was so hard to find a good swedish meal in Stockholm, the most swedish you can eat is meatballs with potatos, just like at Ikea.

And swedish pancakes is something special, and often eaten here too. But you only get wipped cream at restaurants, at home we eat them with apple sauce or jam. And yes, you did taste cardamom in the cinnamonrolls! I always bake mine with cardamom.

I hope you enjoyed your stay here and maybe next time you'll try Gothenburg, it's really nice here.

Mindy April 1, 2009 at 5:33 PM  

Danielle, we did see some meatballs and potatoes, but we wanted something a little different. :-) And I'm definitely adding some cardamom to my cinnamon rolls from now one...it was tasty!

My husband and I would like to return to Sweden and rent a car. Our plan is to spend a couple more days in Stockholm and then to drive around the country some...we'll definitely have to add Gothenburg to our list!

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