Friday, 21 November 2014

Dining and w(h)ining in Stockholm: Boqueria

I love going to Sweden. But it can get confusing. First there's the time difference. For the life of me I can't understand how a mere hour can be so troublesome - especially for someone equipped with at least average mental capacity who's travelled extensively in over 30 countries. And has a smart phone which automatically changes time zones! But it can: one's never quite sure what time it is. On which timezone. So, I have a suggestion! How about we all move to a one-time zone-era? And just to be on the safe side let's make that one hour ahead of everybody else!

Another is the currency. See, they stubbornly stick to their own. Which is not euro. So, one should have some cash on hand just in case (read: for that token tunnbrödsrulla). But as I find myself at the cash point, sweating over exchange rates and desperately trying to minimize the amount of leftover crowns I'll have no use for back home I always get so cheap I withdraw the absolute minimum. Like, 50 crowns. For which I then pay €2,50 fee along with a commission. Only to realize I've actually only withdrawn about €4,50. Which won't get one anywhere in these parts of the world. Don't you worry though- I have a solution for this one, too! Yes: a global currency! Personally I'm all for Sao Tomean dobras. Not just because it sounds fun, but also because I'd love to finally know what it's like to be a millionaire ( 100 € = 2 463 390,66 STD).

And then there's the issue of language. Which I don't actually have any issues with at all. One of my favourite things in Stockholm is playing a game "I can do it too!" I speak to them in my Swedish, they pretend to understand it, talk to me back in what probably is Swedish and then I nod and smile and pretend to understand. Jättekul! (which, by the way, is Swedish for "so cool")

But weekends turn already fun Stockholm into something even more fun as brunches take over the cafes and restaurants. Nobody seems to eat at home and every place is packed with jolly families and groups of friends. Which also means that the queues to toilets are an absolute nightmare...

For Dagen's Nyheter's (the biggest daily) brunch recommendations please see here and for What's Up STHML's tips click away to here. And hey - there's even a petanque brunch!

Having already sampled Hotel Mornington's calm and classic brunch on an earlier trip I still had the Holy Grail of the brunches to conquer. Bern's Asian brunch is nothing short of legendary what with about 300 different dishes. But unfortunately it was sold out for this Saturday, too. That's something you should bear in mind where ever you go: make a reservation. Well in advance.

For us The Boy Next Door chose Boqueria, a hip tapas restaurant located on Jakobsberggatan in Östermalm.  Good job we had that reservation - the place was packed beyond belief. I don't think I've ever been to a restaurant that busy which wasn't really conducive to any relaxation which was sorely needed after the whirlwind tour of Stockholm we'd just completed. That is also probably to blame for the fact that the some of the orders didn't exactly go to plan. The waiter kept a brave smile on his face the whole time though.

Luckily we didn't have to brave a buffet table and a fight for the last bits of coagulated scramble - everything was served to the (minuscule) table of ours. On weekends there are seven brunchier options to compliment the regular tapas menu.

And so we ordered...

From the brunch list we had Scrambled Egg Chorizo and Eggs Benedict - that classic yardstick of brunch foods.

The scramble was loose and creamy but bland. Chorizo on the other had was packed with taste (salt and fat). Eggs Benedict was depressingly served on a piece of toast. Use of salt was on the stingy side throughout the menu and Hollandaise too could have used some more.

From tapas menu or absolute favourite was salt & pepper squid. We ordered another one as soon as we'd polished off the first one.

Papas fritas could have used a bit more cruch (and salt). But nice nonetheless.

Even moule classic suffered from lack of salt though usually with mussles it tends to be the other way around. Didn't bother The Boy though - it was one of his favourites. 

the beans in Chistorra & beans tasted generic and the tomato sauce something straight out of a tube. Chistorra, a chorizo-style sausage form Basque country on the other hand was jolly good.

Tortilla Española was too busy to find its way to our table and pata negra and salsichón iberico that were sold as bellota certainly didn't convince us. They were good alright and might have come from iberico for all we know but they sure lacked the depth in colour  and taste that usually accompanies bellota, owing to its nothing but acorns-diet. Shame we were in too much of a hurry to ask them to check it - bellota was double the price of a regular jamón after all. 

Orangey Crema Catalana we had for dessert was sheer perfection. Perfect sugar crust and a divine custard filling with just the right amount of orange. Had we not been in a rush to catch the taxi I would have had another for sure.

With pitcher of Sangria the feast set us back 1120 Swedish money - roughly €122. 

I do like the place though. Rustic chic setting, delightfully authentic ingredients, equally authentic, no fuss-way of serving them, good size portions... good vibe. I would go again. During a less busier service. 





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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Foodie tour of Stockholm

We had a little mini-break in Stockholm last weekend. Though there was nothing little about the ambition that went into planning our day there... Over the years I've spent a lot of time in there whereas for The Boy Next Door this was the first trip in nearly two (!) decades!

See, a day in Stockholm- cruise actually only means 6,5 hours in Stockholm. I'd planned the day so rigorously there were only two roughly 15-minute-windows for any kind of "relaxation", "kicking back" and "holidaying" - even those by a sheer accident. I'm starting to realize why I usually travel alone... even Goebbels would probably make better company!

But there is a lot to see and experience (and eat!) in Stockholm. Street food is having a major moment here, too and the closest food trucks in the abundant offering can be found on

Usually (no matter what I've had for breakfast and especially on board MS Gabriella's Food Garden I had a lot... of everything) I'd normally start my day in a rather perverse fashion with a tunnbrödsrulla. See, this little guilty pleasure of mine is usually what the Swedish party-goers finish their alcohol-fuelled evenings off in the early hours of the morning. They are available at just about every kiosk - Valhallagrillen for instance is a bit of a legend. It's local flatbread rolled and stuffed with mashed potatos, sausages (two; grilled - not boiled!), shrimp salad and crispy roasted onion. And ketchup and mustard of course. Every bit as sinfully wrong delicious as it sounds!

We started our tour in Södermalm - how else. Stockholm is much like London (another favourite of mine!) in that it consists of different neighbourhoods, each with a lively village-like atmosphere and loads of great little local restaurants and shops and all things cute. Wonderfully bohemian and laid-back Södermalm has risen to international fame among the travellers and especially its SoFo (area South of Folkungagatan) has plenty of cafes, boutiques, restaurants and vintage shops to keep one busy for the whole 6,5 hours.

But, if you're short on time, head over to Nytorggatan, home to for instance this adorable little old-fashioned RE Oriental Mataffär.

Fika (a coffee break over a freshly baked pastries) is another local institution. We had our first one at String, one of the many funky cafes on the street. On weekends most of them offer an affordable breakfast buffet/ brunch ( SEK 8 over here).

Right next door there's Pärlans Konfektyr that sells hand-made toffee. Insanely good! Like, absolutely every single one of them! But if you can only manage a few, make those vanilla and sea salt, cardamom... and salty liquorice.

"Life is too short for bad meatballs" is the founding principle of another Nytorggatan resident: Meatballs. As the name suggests, they are specialized in meatballs. Good meatballs. Made of beef, salmon, reindeer, calf, game... you name it. Our choice? Wild board with tarragon. Delish.

If you do have time (and the energy) to venture out of SoFo, Östermalm is another good address. For their market hall alone. Counter after counter heaving with fresh produce, charcuterie and fish and seafood I never find back home. This is my idea of Heaven!

Between shopping stop for a glass of wine and continue for lunch at massively popular Lisa Elmqvist (show up early or be prepared to join the queue!) who serves fresh fishy treats from their own shop along with an impressive selection of aquavits. Or, feast on Middle Eastern treats over at Beirut Café (can't go wrong with sambosek lahme and lahm badjin!)

Just around the corner from market hall you'll also find Ladurée, home to macarons I just can't seem to be able to say "no" (or "nej" or "ei" or "non" or "nein") to. Aaaaah-mazing. Especially my perpetual favourite: caramel au fleur de sel. 

And though I might occasionally claim I'm not one for sweets... there's a chance that's not entirely true. Also located in Östermalm, at Sturegalleria shopping centre there's also Gateau, bakery that is home to divine florentines and walnut brownies. 

And in case either one of us was still hungry after all this... we had reservations for brunch!  Yes, for real. Loves to eat, lives to eat... But hey, more on that in the next post!




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Monday, 17 November 2014

OD'ing on Christmas at Viking Line

We've only reached mid-November yet we're feasting on yet another Christmas buffet! And if Klaus K's American-inspired Christmas spread wasn't particularly traditional, this one certainly was. Scandinavian traditions (and herring!) galore!

We had a mini-break in Stockholm, courtesy of Viking Line cruises and on board we checked out the launch of their Christmas season. And rather impressive Christmas buffet (€36/ person, including beverages)...

Like last year, the man behind the buffet is a Michelin-starred chef Leif Mannerström who is also one of the judges on the local Masterchef. He's also the author of a comprehensive Christmas-themed cookbook which also features many of the dishes we sampled.

Rest of our party agreed on fish being the make or break of the Christmas table. And sure enough, this one rocked. My favourite was the curried herring (for my recipe, see here!).

And this cruise marked officially the first time ever I didn't go overboard with shrimp (the way I always, always do). Not because I've learnt anything about moderation but simply out of courtesy to the fellow bloggers we had at our table...

But sure enough there wasn't much space for the warm dishes and meats. Funny things, those Swedes. Be it Christmas, Easter, Midsummer, breakfast, brunch or,well, any meal any day of the year, they've got to have their meatballs and mini sausages...

I liked the Christmas stew with brisket, pork belly and Christmasy sausages but a little surprisingly my biggest favourites (apart from all those tens of different pickled herrings, of course!) were salad made with organic spelt (yes! me!) and sweet and tangy brown beans that were an absolute delight with slow-roasted pork.

Unlike my appetite (I daren't imagine the size I'll be by the actual Christmas...!) the dessert portions were tiny. Maltese rice was my favourite.

Ooh, it is always nice to sit down and let somebody else do the cooking! And let's face it, it isn't too often I find myself with time or motivation to whip up a 100-course fiesta just to surprise my nearest and dearest...!

*In collaboration with Viking Line*




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