Prior to our long weekend in Stockholm, I knew painfully little about Sweden and its capital city save for some broad generalizations. Its always cold! (not true, P got sunburnt). There are H&M stores on every street corner! (just on one junction where they took all corners). The people are all tall, blond and beautiful (almost true). Of its cuisine, I had even lesser clue, the only forms of Swedish food I’ve eaten coming from Ikea. So with some research and tips from our Swedish classmates, we, together with our friends S&S, headed to Stockholm to discover its visual and gustatory offerings.
One of the key observations about Stockholm, and Scandinavia in general is the high standard and cost of living. With a short tram ride costing 30SEK (~EUR 3.3), plus pretty high entrance fees to sights, the kroners seemed to do disappearing tricks on us. For us, one way to combat the high costs was to seek lunch deals, called the Dagens Lunch. In fact, we ate our first Dagens Lunch right outside immigration at the airport restaurant, starving after a frills-free flight from Paris, a satisfying buffet of fish and chips served with a green salad, fruits and bread. A pretty good deal given that a meal at McD would’ve cost us 60SEK. We followed this formula for the remaining lunches, eating anything from meatballs to falafels to lasagne at reasonable prices, giving us some flexibility to splurge on dinners.
Serendipitously, our trip to Stockholm coincided with its annual food festival. Of course we had to join in the festivities, the lines, crowds, music and all.
Oddly, most of the stalls on location served not traditional Swedish dishes but a myriad of international cuisines, ranging from Thai to Tex-Mex. We did however find some distinctively Swedish grub at the Melanders Fisk stall, digging into a fresh but paltry plate of mussels and the ubiquitous Skagen Toast, the succulent small shrimp cascading over a mound of good egg mayo and toast.
We participated in 2 other Swedish food activities. The first was to go for a fika (Swedish verb to go have coffee). Who knew the Swedes were such heavy drinkers of coffee? The coffee we had were quite good, aromatic and smooth and best chased down with yet another Swedish specialty, the cinnamon bun. With the advice of P’s classmate, we bought some to try at Vetekatten, a venerable bakery in the heart of the city. While not as buttery and soft as the French pastries we have grown used to by now, it was redolent of cinnamon and other spices and quite tasty in the heavy, doughy fashion. I instantly regretted not buying 2 pastries to try like S&S had.
Life is not just about eating. It is about shopping too, and we did window and actual food shopping around the 2 marketplaces in Stockholm.
We gaped at the beautiful produce and prepared foods at the chichi Ostermalms Saluhall, located in the tony part of town but decided against eating seafood there (if only we knew Pontius by the Sea was going to run out of shrimp! at 7 pm! A seafood restaurant without shrimp, as Mrs S sagely noted, is like a Chinese restaurant running out of rice). We also munched on ripe fruits bought outside Hortogshallen just as the vendors were about to pack up, profiting from the discounts vendors were throwing out in order to clear their stock.
Part 2 of our stockholm feast, the Smorgasbord’s next!