Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Swedish Food

The cuisine while I was in Stockholm the past few weeks was interesting. It was more similar to what we eat in the US then, say the middle east would be, but at the same time the options available are different.

The menus typically consisted of several types of fish (Char, Herring, possibly Pike), some game meat (usually Reindeer, occasionally Elk), and possibly some veal. There were almost never salad entries available, though some meals came with small spinach salads on the entree plate. The usual accompaniment for any entree was potatoes of some kind. Any sauces were usually mushroom based (Chanterelle typically).

Over the course of the two weeks I had all of those items, as well as some duck and many raw/strangely cooked fish appetizers. Of the entrees the char was probably the best, although the duck that I had was well prepared and not greasy at all. Reindeer, once you got past the red nose, tasted a lot like venison and was very gamey. Although a co-worker had a rack of Reindeer rather then a steak and said that it was much less gamey.

Another interesting thing was that there was tons of fresh fruit available: with breakfast, in bowls to take with you, in large boxes in the break rooms at the office, etc. It was strange because vegetables were very scarce, yet both seem equally difficult to grow in a wintry climate.

On the plus side, the bread in Sweden was universally delicious. It was downright shocking how good the bread was no matter where I got it. The breakfast buffet had piles of fresh bread, the little place near the office where I got a baguette sandwich most days made terrific bread, etc.

One thing I did not have was Swedish Meatballs, at least directly. I did have some meatballs with breakfast one day, and the two hamburgers I had both tasted like meatballs, but I did not ever order (or see) a purely meatball entree.

As far as restaurants, if you could ignore the across-the-board ridiculously expensive prices (at a pub - $20 entrees, at a real restaurant expect $75-$100 a person), there were many good places to eat.

Hands-down the best was Kungsholmen, both for variety (though you should get the Char) and atmosphere. Second best was (strangely) the hotel restaurant, but only when they switched their menu to Argentinian for a week and had surprisingly terrific bacon-wrapped black angus fillets. When it was a traditional Swedish menu it was merely run-of-the-mill. The Gondolen was overrated, although the second time I went there my duck was very good. Another notable place was a small restaurant we found in a basement in Old Town which, while overpriced due to its location, had a very nice menu.

Despite the good bread and interesting food, it was nice to get back home and return to the kinds of food I normally eat.

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