europe,  sweden,  travel

Holy Swedish meatballs! – Day 2


I thought that we’d gotten off to a nice early start when D and I both woke up around 7 am. We puttered around for a bit, but it wasn’t long before a quick “closing of the eyes” turned into a couple of hours. As a result, it wasn’t until 11 am until we got ourselves out the door. Apparently, Scandinavia is wild about great coffee, and as such, there are a number of boutique coffee roasters and coffee shops to choose from. Naturally, we had to try one out, so we headed off in search of Drop Coffee in Södermalm, what’s apparently a very bohemian, trendy district of Stockholm.

En route, we came across a little supermarket and opted to stock up on some fruit and candy (they seem to like their bulk candy bins, as we later discovered 7-Eleven had them as well). D was tickled at the idea of eating Swedish fish candies in Sweden. The coffee shop was a cute little place, very home-grown feel with a “workshop chic” aesthetic, as D called it. He ordered a pour over with their Honduras beans, and I went for my usual coffee house staple (hot chocolate). The snow had picked up again, and we spent a cozy morning watching the snow fall with our hot drinks (D later ordered a double espresso, which was apparently delicious), discussing coffee shop aesthetics and our plans for the day. My hot chocolate was not exactly what I was expecting in that it wasn’t even the least bit sweet. D assured me it had good “chocolate” flavour, which was likely bittersweet chocolate, but I like at least just a hint of sweetness to make it go down easier. A few spoonfuls of sugar remedied my drink nicely (as I’m sure it does many things).

Our course decided on, we bundled up against the cold (a rather brisk -4 C and a stiff breeze to boot) and headed off. We meandered our way in the general direction of Slussen, with the idea of going up an elevator that allows for views of the city. By chance, pursuing an interesting photo, we climbed up a steep set of stairs that led us onto an outlook that overlooked the city. Money saved and a happy find indeed! It was a blustery viewpoint, but it afforded us a nice view of Gamla Stan and its neighbour islands, Riddarholmen and Kungsholmen. We walked through the sidestreets, coming across an interesting set of old buildings connected by bridges. It was an adorable little neighbourhood, with coffee shops and flowershops as well as the odd medieval church. We had started losing feeling in our fingers and toes, so we opted to go find lunch and get warm. A friend had recommended a place which, quite fortuitously, happened to be right around the corner from where we emerged from our walk.

Blå Dörren had a great old-fashioned pub feeling, and they had a similar fixed menu option (which seems to be a very prevalent lunch-time deal in Stockholm) for about $15 each. As the menu was in Swedish, the bartender translated for us, and I went for the fish dish and David the stew. It turned out to be a delicious meal–mine was something akin to fish and chips, but with roast potatoes instead of fries, and a delightful cream sauce on top. David’s was something like a vaguely Thai-style fried rice, with shrimp, pork, rice, mild chillies and even pineapple. Like yesterday’s lunch, the meal came with a salad buffet and coffee, so D was well-caffeinated for our walk.

We walked in the general direction of Gamla Stan, through the bizarre Slussen interchange with its underground tunnels that spit you out on different sides. We walked along the boardwalk and into a crowd of folk milling about for the Royal Palace Sprint. Skiers were already making their way around the palace, qualifying laps I believe. We were more interested in the picturesque views across the water at Skeppsholmen. The sun even decided to grace us with its presence for a little while, and we basked in the much needed warmth. I’d mentioned yesterday that I’d imagined Stockholm’s islands being connected by cute little bridges that were easy to walk around on and was disappointed by the massive, industrial-strength car bridge that is somewhat unwieldy for pedestrians. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find confirmation of my imaginings on the other side of Gamla Stan. Charming bridges connected Gamla Stan to its surrounding islands, and we wandered across and into a beautiful, vibrant red church (St. Jacob’s Church).

We headed back in the general direction of Gamla Stan, passing by the majestic Riddarholmskyrkan, the burial place of Swedish monarchs, which was unfortunately closed. We thought about taking the metro from Gamla Stan down to the area were we planned to have dinner in Södermalm, but find out that ticket prices were about $5, so we decided walking would be just fine. We headed down the main drag, Götgatan, passing numerous trendy little boutique clothing and shoe stores. We were a bit early for dinner and in need of a little warmth, so we ducked into what turned out to be an indoor shopping mall for some coffee/hot chocolate at Espresso House. We loitered there in the relative warmth, though we noted that Swedish buildings were not generally kept as warm as one would might expect given the cold climate (D noted it was likely because the Swedes had already inured themselves to the frigid temperatures).

We soon ventured down the street to our chosen dinner spot, Pelikan, which the Lonely Planet suggested was a good spot for husmanskost (traditional home cooking). We were greeted with lofty ceilings and wood panelling. D decided to try a Swedish beer (a Wisby stout), and I went with a glass of the house wine, as the least expensive wine option available. As we chose the recipe for its classic Swedish cooking, we decided to try a few classics on for size. We started with an assortment pickled herring and cheese. I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty pickled herring is–firm flesh, great flavour. The cheese was supremely good. I couldn’t resist ordering the Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes served in a cream sauce with lingonberries and gherkins on the side. The only time I’d ever had them was at Ikea in Vancouver (not quite the same). D went with the roast of elk with pickled chanterelle mushrooms and potatoes au gratin. We later confirmed that it is in fact roast moose, as D had suspected (which are called elk in Europe). The food was absolutely delicious. A bite of meatballs with a bit of mashed potato and lingonberry–scrumptious! I’ve now decided that I love lingonberries; how they usually prepare it reminds me a bit of cranberry sauce only better. Upon inquiry, we learned that the meatballs were 70% ground beef and 30% ground pork. D thoroughly enjoyed his roast elk/moose, which was served cold and sliced, like roast beef. It was apparently excellent paired with the creaminess of the potato au gratin. We were so very full by the end of the meal–we only ate 3/4s at best. I’ve been really impressed with the food I’ve had thus far, even at relatively innocuous little pubs. If you can get over the steep prices, which are alarmingly high, the quality of preparation has been excellent overall. We waddled back to the hotel, bellies full of warm treats, satisfied with an all-around pleasant day, despite the frigid temperatures. I charted it out, and we had walked a solid nine kilometers (about 5.5 miles). Not too crazy but enough to have burned a little room for a meatball or three.

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