Monday, 14 November 2016

Viking Line's Christmas buffet 2016 - best one yet?

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Viking Line's this year's Christmas buffet is designed by Michael Björklund and is quite possibly their best one yet.

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The only things I was bummed about during our excellent excursion to Aland earlier this year were the fact that we didn't have time to squeeze in a visit to Silverskär and that we missed out on meeting chef Michael Björklund at his restaurant Smakby. 

Luckily sometimes the mountain does come to Muhamed: a couple of weeks ago I got to lunch with the man who's won over the hearts of even the broodiest of Finns with his perpetual good mood at Viking Line. This year's Christmas buffet, you see, is designed by none other than Micke, Aland's gift to world. 

I tried my best to get a good shot of the luvvie, but no - he was far too quick with his moves.

We started the feast with Smakby's very own Christmas glög, a Scandinavian take on mulled wine. Lovely, but with a very limited selection: you can only get it at Smakby or on Viking Line's ferries. All the more reason to book that cruise, then!

Viking Line revamped their restaurants this year with genuinely impressive results. Trust me - a cruise in order for them alone!

I was particulary taken with No Name's tasting menu at MS Gabriella, but MS Mariella's Plate restaurant certainly didn't lag far behind either. You can read more about both of them on the blog over here.

Even still... I must bashfully admit that the all you can eat-buffets onboard will always have a very special place in my heart. For one very special reason. 

I can't get enough of the fish selection and myability to consume my own bodyweight's worth of shrimps is (depending on the audience) either fascinating... or just terrifying. 

Much like the previous years, my favourite part of the buffet was the fish. 15 sorts of herring? Bring it on! And since the only way to get through any all you can eat with style is to completely overdo it, I sampled every single one of them. 

And why wouldn't one - whose Christmas table boasts selection like that? That is their biggest attraction I suppose, especially around Christmas time. The whole family can just sit down to enjoy a feast somebody else has done all the work for. No panic-fuelled hours of scouring the shops, no days spent in the kitchen cooking and baking and roasting, no Mount Everest-like piles of dishes to worry about later on. You just sit down, stress-free, and enjoy. 

And hey - roe, roe, roe your boat gently down to this: there's both vendace and white fish roe. Yes, all you can eat with that, too. 

Whole selection has been inspired by places and people close to Micke's heart and that shows. There's fish you can only really find around Aland isles and treats made with his family recipes. 

Micke being a Swedish speaker himself, the buffet also serves as a delightful introduction to Scandinavian Christmas traditions. I, for instance, managed to overcome my lifelong fear of lutfisk, a Swedish and Norwegian Christmas classic made of dried fish and lye (?!)

I know, I know - doesn't exacly get your juices going, does it? But turned out that it's traditionally served with Bechamel sauce, freshly ground allspice and bacon crumbs (oh yeah, it had me at bacon).

Surprisingly enough it didn't taste like much. So, I only went back for seconds because of the bacon. 

Charcuterie selection featured a wide variety of brawns - clearly another specialty one needs to be a Swedish speaker to really appreciate. 

The liver paté comes from Denmark, as according to Micke it is quite simply the best in the world. So much so that even his own attempts at the dish have not gotten anywhere close. 

In addition to the old classics, there are some newer ones, too. Such as Caesar salad... though whether it should have a place in a Christmas buffet is debatable. I for one would veer towards naah- camp.

Vegetarians have been taken into consideration, too, though they're not going to have anywhere near as much fun as omnivores, that's sure. "An all-vegetarian Christmas?"Micke ponders but shakes his head. "Christmas is time when you're supposed to eat heartily: fat, pork, fish..." And hey - you don't hear me complain!

In addition to the Swedish traditional treats such as mini sausages and meatballs (without which the Swedes are apparently physically incapable of celebrating anything!) the buffet showcased some... slightly odder curiosities, too.

One of them was slakt gryn, a porridge-like side dish consisting of barley stewd in the fat of the pigs that were traditionally slaughtered in the run-up to Christmas.

Still not sure what I made of that... but the home-made Christmas sausages and  glög-glazed pork ribs won me over alright.

Chrismas ham, the unrivalled star of any Nordic Christmas table comes from Denmark, so famous for their beloved pork. And to accompany it there are all the casseroles and several varieties of mustard you could ask for.

My personal favourite was the one made in Smakby using Micke's mother-in-law's recipe. 

"Med äkta grädde! - with real cream!" he cheerfully announced while whacking yet another dollop of it on my plate.

Cheese selection had some Scandinavian peculiarities in store, too. Have you ever hear of krokost -cheese in a pot? Nope, neither had I.

Apparently it is a mixture of leftover cheeses, mixed with milk, spices and occasionally liquor such as Cognac and spreaded on bread.

"Låter... interessant - sounds... intriguing", I nodded politely before making a mad dash back to the herrings.

And in case there's any chance you might still be feeling a little peckish, there's the dessert buffet. Oh, yes - hope you saved some room for that?

Sure, there are the lighter alternatives such as orange sorbet or Ris à la Malta in addition to the more robust choices of chocolate mousses and crème caramel...

...but why not just continue completely over the top with my personal favourite of guilty pleasures: Micke's toffee sauce (famous for not scrimping on either cream OR butter) with candied pecans from the cheese table, topped with a sprinkling of sea salt.... and those bacon crumbs.

One of this year's new additions was one of my favourite touches, too: a candy buffet to finish it all off!

After the lunch I was halfway into food coma and gratefully reminded myself how Christmas luckily only comes once a year (or, well, as is the case in the life of a food blogger: 4-5 times a year...) but it didn't take too many hours until I found myself craving for a little something

You know,  little herring, some butter-stewed potatos and maybe some bacon crumbs...? 

Perhaps it's time I booked myself a cruise - those Champagne bottles for New Year celebrations are not going to buy themselves either, are they?

Michael Björklund's Christmas buffet at Viking Line ferries 18.11.2016 - 26.12.2016.

Price  per adult (including wine, beer and soft drinks) €38, children €8.50 (6-11-year-olds) and €12.50€ (12-17 year-olds). When booked and paid in advance, the price is €2 cheaper.



   Jouluinen maalaisterriini possusta_pysty  


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