Thanks to Absolut, I recently had the opportunity to visit Sweden to see vodka-making in action. But a girl's gotta eat in between studying and sipping all things vodka. From rich espresso and open-faced smørrebrød in Copenhagen to crayfish and reindeer in Sweden, here are some of my best bites and sips from my time in Scandinavia.
'sweden' on Serious Eats
Rather than purchase raw neutral spirits, which is common practice for many manufacturers, Absolut takes control of the process from beginning to end—from seed to glass—and it's all done locally in Sweden. I traveled there to tour the distillery and learn about how vodka is made—I also got a sneak peek at some new Absolut products that are coming down the pipeline.
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.
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.
As a country whose summer is relatively short, it's no surprise that Sweden goes all out for Midsommar, a celebration of the Summer Solstice that lasts a few days Of course when the sun doesn't set until the wee hours, my feeling is that every day should be a party. Here are some dishes you can make to celebrate the holiday.
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.
It's been over a month since I first posted about Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time, Sweden's answer to the madness of Epic Meal Time. It's time to watch more. Especially when the latest episode is about making a giant sandwich that looks like a cake. (This site is seriously lacking smörgåstårta coverage. Man, just look at 'em.)
Other popular pizzas that fill my Italian friends with fear are the "filet of beef and bearnaise sauce" pizza, which is just what it sounds like, and the "Pizza Africana", which usually includes peanuts, bananas, chicken and curry powder, lots of curry powder.
If you've read Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy (who hasn't?) and are a pizza fan, you may have wondered, Is Billy's Pan Pizza for real? Yes. It is. Along with sandwiches (they are awfully fond of eating sandwiches in those books, arent' they?) Billy's Pan Pizza is referred to several times throughout the course of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. Don't worry, all two of you out there who have not read these Swedish crime thrillers, this post contains no spoilers. Just some Billy's commercials...
August just came and passed. In Sweden, August means end of vacations (the minimum four week ones that almost everyone takes), darker nights and....kräftskiva, or crayfish parties. This is more than a meal. This is more than a party. It's an important tradition signifying the start of crayfish season. And it's fun.
[Photograph: Reddit] Brooks "Pizza Commander" Jones emailed me this link a couple weeks ago. I forgot to blog it. Still worth noting, though ... My old roommate is Swedish and always used to tell me about kebab pizza in Stockholm. I could never really picture what this looked like until I saw this on Reddit, thought you'd get a kick out of it: http://www.reddit.com/r/food/comments/c4pk0/this_is_what_a_kebab_pizza_is_like_in_sweden/Cheers,Brooks...