Friday, June 10, 2011

Eating Stockholm - A general overview

We are back from a fabulous trip to Stockholm, Sweden. We couldn't have asked for a better time. As with any other trip food was a big part of the enjoyment for us. Scandinavian chefs are on the cutting edge of the culinary scene and Stockholm has five Michelin star restaurants. Similar to the trend happening in the States nicer restaurants are paying a lot of attention to using local ingredients in their dishes. Apparently Swedes are really into cooking at home too as more cookbooks are released per capita there than any other country, it comes out to something like one a day! If you are thinking of traveling to Stockholm, or just like to armchair travel, I hope you enjoy this overview of what we learned on our trip.
Celebration cake at the palace
Celebration cake for Sweden's National Day
Costs: Let's get this one out of the way, it is expensive, especially with where the dollar is right now. Our cheapest dinners were about $70 but, over $100 was much more typical. These were dinners with one drink each, maybe an appetizer to share and a main each. A nicer meal is going to even go up from there, for example the Smörgåsbord at the Grand Hotel was $76.60 each without drinks, add in drinks at over $10 each and you can easily hit about $150 per person (and that was our second most expensive meal). For lunch a sandwich and drink (usually a light beer or wine) ran about $50 for the two of us. Food and drink was definitely the biggest expense of our trip.

Food: Fish is king in Sweden with herring and salmon sharing the crown. A lot of people turn up their nose at pickled herring but, give it a try. We had about twelve different kinds, I loved them all and Matt liked most of them. A lot of restaurants offer a sampler plate which is a great way to try it. Make sure to pair it with a cold beer. Salmon is usually served smoked or as gravlax.
Smörgåsbord at the Grand Hotel Smörgåsbord at the Grand Hotel
We also saw a lot of shrimp on menus usually as an open-faced sandwich for lunch on rye bread with hardboiled eggs and mayo. This became Matt's favorite lunch of the trip.
Prawn and egg sandwich

Most menus had a steak dish but it was also typical to see reindeer (or elk), veal and ox as the red meat choice. We had all three and really enjoyed them. Chicken seems to always be served wrapped in bacon.
Moose Meatballs

Make sure to try some Swedish meatballs, meatballs in gravy with potatoes and lingonberries. They are available everywhere but, the best we had on the trip were made with reindeer at Blå Dörren.

What about Swedish pancakes? We didn't see them offered anywhere except for our hotel's breakfast buffet. Everything we read said that pancakes should only be eaten at a private home because that is the only why to get them freshly made. Most restaurants that offer them are serving a precooked version brought in from a food service company.

Drinking: The legal age to buy alcohol in Sweden is 18 at bars and restaurants and 20 for the state liquor stores, Systembolaget. Some places may only sell people between 18 and 20 lower alcohol drinks. It is expensive to buy drinks but, that doesn't seem to stop anyone. We saw lots of people having light beer or white wine with lunch and bars and cafes were very busy right after work with people having drinks with friends.

Beer seems to run from $2.50 to $15 depending on the alcohol amount. All menus list the alcohol volume of each beer. Some places have only one brand of beer on tap and you order it as either at light, medium or strong depending on the alcohol volume. Swedish beers tend to be lagers. We found that there seems to be a real interest in American beers in Sweden with breweries making beers based on American beers.
Steamer Matbaren
Matt really enjoyed a beer called Steamer which was based on Anchor Steam. The East River Lager was inspired by the Brooklyn Brewing Company who had come and consulted with the brewery in Sigtuna.

Wine typically started at $10 a glass but, more likely we were paying $12 - $15. It wasn't surprising to find only a house wine available by the glass though most nicer restaurants had a bigger selection of European and American wines.

Since we only had akvavit once I really can't talk on the snaps and other hard alcohol.

Fika: Fika is a verb and a noun in Swedish that sort of means to drink coffee but, it means more than that. Fika is a break with coffee and a pastry. From what I understand Swedes usually take a fika break at 9am and 3pm. Well, who are we to resist and why resist when the sweets are so good.
Time for Fika

We really like the cinnamon bun or kanelbullar. These are not sticky and heavy like American cinnamon buns but, light and airy with a healthy dose of cardamom. Sweden smells of cardamom and cinnamon to me.

Another we had to try was the chokladboll. An uncooked treat of oatmeal, sugar, coffee, cocoa, butter, and sometimes a pinch of vanilla sugar, which is mixed to a compact mass then rolled in Swedish pearl sugar. Yes, that is sugar on that and the cinnamon bun (we heard a couple of guys asking if it was salt).

Food Halls and Markets: We visited two food halls in Stockholm. The first was Saluhall which is considered the best indoor market. This hall is very much based on local foods
Saluhall Saluhall
Then we went to Hötorgsallen which had all the local items and a lot of imports and ethnic foods too. We may have enjoyed this market better because it had more non-freah items we could take home.
Hötorgsallen Hötorgsallen
We picked up some Cloudberry jam and horn salt (a leavening agent used in Scandinavian baking that my cousin needs for her special Christmas cookies). We also picked up a lot for Lentils de Puy because they are so much cheaper in Europe.

There was an outdoor market on weekends outside of Hötorgsallen. As you can see it was berry season while we were there. There also seemed to be a fruit and vegetable stand outside every T-bana station everyday.

Restaurants: Here is a list of the best restaurants we went to with links to their websites and in some cases links to posts about our meals there. Most restaurants' menus have English translations and at the one we went to that didn't, the bartender actually came around the bar and translated the whole thing for me!

Pubologi - A fun gastropub with modern takes on Swedish food. Great wine and beer list. A hidden gem on the touristy Gamla Stan. Read about out dinner there here.

Matbaren - The bar at the Restaurant Mathias Dahlgren at the Grand Hotel. The restaurant has two Michelin stars but, the bar actually has one of it's own. A focus on local Swedish and Scandinavian ingredients. Read about our dinner there here.

Veranden at the Grand Hotel - The classic Swedish Smögåsbord, read about our dinner there here.

Blå Dörren - A busy beer hall and kitchen at the end of the fashionable Götgatan shopping street. This is where we had the best Swedish meatballs.
Mussels! Duck Confit
Akkurat - This is a place Matt stumbled on through Wikipedia. From the outside we thought it was a Mexican restaurant but it turned out to be a very Belgium inspired gastropub with huge beer and whiskey lists. We were to see Dave's Brew Farm from WI on the list. They are said to have the biggest whiskey selection in Stockholm. Mussels served eight different ways seemed to be the most popular dish on the menu though I enjoyed a tasty duck confit in kriek over lentils. The staff was extremely helpful with beer pairings. A popular place for locals with live music at the bar sometimes. I recommend a reservation.

For lunches we often found the quality of food at the museums to be very good. At the Nordiska Museet sandwiches were made to order. At the Nationalmuseum they had a selection of hot dishes and a wonderful cold salad buffet. We also noticed some of the museums had microwaves in the cafe area so, you could bring you own food and reheat it.

I asked Matt if he had any advice for someone going to Stockholm in terms of food and his response was, "Keep an open mind and try everything!"

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at OR at then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at katbaro AT yahoo DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author unless otherwise noted. © 2007-2011 Kathy Lewinski


vanillasugarblog said...

lucky you! i am danish and have some very distant family over there i've never met and am dying to meet.
i do appreciate some of the foods, mostly the desserts. kerring shooters not so much lol

Amy P. said...

Sounds like you had a fabulous trip, so fun to hear about all of the food and drink there.

Tangled Noodle said...

I've been neglecting my blog reading and look at what I've missed!! Your overview of where, what and how to budget eating in Stockholm is fantastic. The prices are a wee bit steep ($70-$100, eep!) but it all sounds amazing. And I would love to visit the food halls and markets! Thanks for sharing your trip!

Lori said...

Welcome home. Glad to see you guys have posted all this stellar food. I have already checked out the recipe for those chocolate balls. Dang they look good.

jillian said...

I loved reading about your trip! So interesting to hear about all the food!

patrice said...

Wow! Fantastic details! I especially love your comment about Sweden smelling of cardamom and cinnamon.

Lynne said...

It looks like you had an AMAZING trip! Your mention of "Fika" made me laugh -- I visited southern Sweden and Fika was both a delight -- nice way to relax -- and infuriating -- can't skip it, so it's a rigidly adhered to forced break in your day no matter what you're doing! Loved the food and drink pix. Welcome back!

grace said...

thanks so much for letting us visit stockholm vicariously. i doubt i'll ever get to go myself, so i enjoyed your reports!

Lori said...

Great recap and that is so interesting about the beers. We have some great microbrews here, but I'd take a beer from abroad any day. Maybe they feel the same way. Ha! I love seeing the lingonberries. One of my faves. I could seriously go for a Fika!

Jenn @leftoverqueen said...

Thank you for the over-view! Very informative and makes me so homesick for Scandinavia. I know in Norway, we always had some kind of sweet and strong black coffee around 9 or 10 pm also. They know how to eat, that is for sure!

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