It was supposed to be a quick stop, but by pulling into the parking lot of ICA, one of Sweden's largest supermarket chains (if not the largest), I ensured that I'd be late to my next scheduled destination. Because when I'm in a supermarket outside my home territory, I look at everything and take bright-eyed joy in everyday items like cereal and mayonnaise. Kids love candy stores; I love supermarkets. (...And I also love candy stores.) Here's a slideshow of some products that caught my eye.
'Snapshots from Sweden' on Serious Eats
I like breakfast, but I don't like it more than sleep. And sleep wins 99 percent of the time. But during my week in Sweden I woke up early almost every day for breakfast because Swedish breakfast is pretty great—at least, in the form of the complimentary breakfast buffets at the hotels I stayed at. If you're looking for platefuls of hash browns, syrupy pancakes, and bacon, you won't be happy, but if you like the sound of cereal, yogurt, dried fruits and nuts, and a make-your-own-open-faced-sandwich bar featuring a spread of breads, colds cuts, and cheeses, this is for you.
On the outside wall of Heberleins under their windows decorated with red checkered curtains reads, "matbutiken med känsla," or "grocery store with soul." And that's what it looks like at first glance: a humble, just large enough, well stocked mom-and-pop grocery store with produce, dry and canned goods, beverages, dairy products, the requisite wall of loose candy bins...oh, and a long deli counter stuffed with sausages, hams, various cold cuts and cured meats, and more.
The pack of cardamom cookies I brought back from the over 70-year-old café and bakery Flickorna Lundgren didn't last long in the Serious Eats office; by the end of the day only a few crumbs remained. But as good as the cookies tasted here, they probably would've tasted better in their original, fairytale-esque setting in southern Sweden. Flickorna Lundgren bursts with greenery and flowers from their thatched-roof cottage filled with baked goods, to their garden featuring a pond and plenty of outdoor seating, to their airy greenhouse, perfect for sitting indoors on a rainy afternoon like on the day I visited.
Sundsby säteri (Sundsby manor), an estate with over 600 years of history in southwest Sweden, offers miles of trails and a café and shop with locally made food, including some very good sourdough bread.
As summer approaches in Sweden, so does Sweden's strawberry (jordgubbar) season, and thus the season of, "Eat As Many Swedish Strawberries As You Can." If you see a strawberry stand while driving around Sweden, you should stop there and buy some strawberries. Or do what we did: Drive past the strawberry stand, three seconds later think, "Oh wait, that was a strawberry stand, why the heck are we driving away from it?" and turn the car around.
McDonald's may be the dominant burger chain in Sweden, but Max was the first in the country. Here's a look at the over 40-year-old Swedish chain that labels themselves as making "Sweden's tastiest burgers."
If Vikentomater's endearing slogan, "In my food, on my sandwich and in my heart," doesn't grab you, maybe their boxes upon boxes of vibrant, gleaming tomatoes in different shapes (perfectly round, oblong, asymmetrically blobular), sizes (bite- to monster fist-sized), and colors (reds, purples, yellows, greens, striped)—more kinds in one spot than I had ever seen before in my life—will do the trick.
I only ate one cinnamon bun (or "kanelbulle" in Swedish) during my week-long trip in Sweden, which seems a bit low for being in a country where cinnamon buns run rampant (like in its neighboring country, Norway, which I've talked about before)—but damn, did I make that one cinnamon bun count. Because it was the largest cinnamon bun I'd ever seen.
The name of the traditional Swedish cake spettekaka translates to "spit/skewer cake," named so for how the cake is made: Thin lines of batter are pipped in densely webbed layers onto conical molds on a rotating spit. Although the name may not sound like anything special, the end result is impressive.