After one week on my own in Paris, M. Cheesemonger and I met up in Stockholm, Sweden. It was relatively nearby– a 2-hour flight from London and 2.5-hour flight from Paris. We stayed in an Airbnb rental in the rather posh Östermalm neighborhood, where we experienced the city’s orderliness and impeccable design sense, but also the government’s monopoly on alcohol sales, all-around elevated prices, and chilly temperatures.
M. Cheesemonger, thanks to lots of business connections, had a quite a network in the city, which came in handy! We met with some local friends at the Östermalms Saluhall, a large covered market teeming with sea life—sea life that’s been fished and cleaned, ready for you to take home or eat on the premises. There were fishes of all shapes and sizes (including one chunk that was the size of a small blanket), crabs, lobsters, shellfish, and roe. That’s not all, though! I noticed a fascinating love affair between Swedish cuisine and pastes, or spreadable stuff in general. I spied meat (like reindeer or even bacon) pastes, spreadable fish or fish egg pastes, shrimp pastes, cream and herb pastes, and more. Little shrimps, too. Little shrimps were in just about every dish, except for the traditional Swedish meatball dish. I saw my first smörgåstårta, a sandwich layer cake with sourdough bread, creamy savory fillings, and elaborate toppings that can include vegetables, shrimps, charcuterie, or whatever else strikes the maker’s fancy. There were also great looking butchers, mushroom vendors, importers, and pastry shops. M. Cheesemonger took great pleasure in some of the creative presentation choices featuring suckling pigs or pig heads in a variety of poses. So much food, so little space!
Oh, but let’s not forget the cheese! The Saluhall gave me my first experience with non-Gjetost/Brunost Swedish cheeses, like the nutty Västerbotten Ost, which is apparently the “King” of Swedish cheese, thanks to its long affinage (about 11 months) and fuller flavor. We tried the ultra-mild, pale Brännsvins Ost and Herrgårds Ost, but I found these a bit bland for my tastebuds. All in all, the Swedish cheeses were great to try, but ultimately, I’m not sure I’ll go out of my way to look for them. I’m open to be convinced otherwise, though!
Later, we got to experience a Swedish fika (pronounced “FEE-kah”), the equivalent of a pause café in France, or a coffee break in the States. A friend shared with me some traditional Princess cake, which is a sponge layer cake with a fine layer of raspberry jam and pastry cream in the center, topped with whipped cream, and then covered in a “robe” of green marzipan. With temperatures in the 40s in early May, I was happy to have some energizing sugary deliciousness! If I didn’t have Princess cake already, I would have gotten a bite of Swedish cinnamon rolls, or kanelbulle. Ah well, next time!
M. Cheesemonger and I did manage to squeeze in one gourmet meal, at Smörgåstårteriet. We opted for their tasting menu, a culinary tour of 6 regions in Sweden, offering one representative dish per region. The amuse bouche was a small roll of dark bread filled with fresh butter, comforting and tasty. I was very excited about our first course, a rich, creamy soup with white asparagus, ramps, chives, perfectly cooked farm egg, butter, and bacon. Our second course consisted of a bed of smoked fresh cheese, on which lay an array of crispy bread chips, nasturtium leaves, and pike roe. Heaven. Our third dish featured blood pudding (my fave!) but also silky foie gras, caramelized rhubarb, and grilled onions balanced on layers of crisp spruce meringue to complement the salty pudding. The main course was a baked cod and tomato dish, accompanied by small white asparagus columns. Just when I thought I couldn’t eat any more, it was dessert time, featuring yogurt ice cream, topped with grilled sourdough bread chunks, a drizzle of olive oil, local honey, and raspberries. Tea and coffee followed, along with bite-sized chocolates. The restaurant is small, run by family and friends, but it has gained enough attention to be written up in publications like Food + Wine. Dining here, I could understand the excitement over this place. Every dish is jewel-like in appearance and taste. Its attentive cuisine is simple and complex all at once. Its inspirations are traditional, but each dish is infused with novelty to keep anticipation levels high. If you’ve only got time for one great dining experience in Stockholm, I could easily recommend that you come here!
The morning of our departure, M. Cheesemonger and I decided to close out with a small neighborhood eatery for brunch (or as I like to call it, “lunch.”). We chose Nybrogatan 38, a modern European bistro that thoroughly charmed me with its décor (white tile walls, unusual light fixtures, candles!) and cuisine. The food is rustic and familiar, but well executed. I was more than happy with my Egg Royal, with cold smoked salmon, poached eggs, spinach, and bleak roe hollandaise sauce! All the other dishes that appeared at tables around us looked appetizing, too, and the place was bustling. If you’re in the neighborhood and hungry, Nybrogatan 38’s definitely worth a visit!
As for the non-food things I loved about Sweden—there is a gorgeous Opera House in this city, on the river, that I would highly recommend visiting if you can! Sadly for us, it was closed for renovations. The old town provided a nice strolling ground for us to work up an appetite in. And if you love design—you’re going to LOVE Sweden. Ikea may be the popular “design” export, but the Swedish are keeping the real goods for themselves, it seems. I got all giddy admiring exquisite wallpapers, furniture, home appliances, lamps, curtains, and cushions that I found around the city. Why, oh why, couldn’t I take it all back with me?
What are your favorite food experiences in Stockholm? In Sweden? Let me know in the comments or on social media! I fell in love with this city, and was sad to leave it so soon! See you soon!
Östermalms Saluhall: Östermalmstorg, 114 42 Stockholm, Sweden.