Fellow Travellers

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stockholm Oct 23 and 24 2010

We were greeted by a skiff of snow and some very brisk fall air on our arrival in Stockholm.  Not surprising as the city lies on the same latitude with Moscow and is some 59° 17' N a little north of Moscow (our home town in Canada, Calgary is 51° 6' N for your reference). 

Stockholm straddles 14 islands, the center island being Gamla Stan where the old town is situated.  The Islands are interconnected by bridges, an underground, trams or ferries.  Surrounding the Gamla Stan are the islands/districts of
  • Sodermalm & Langholmen
  • Kungsholmen
  • Norrmalm & Vasastaden
  • Ostermalm
  • Skeppsholmen & Djurgarden

We arrived in the early evening Friday after a quick 1.5 hr flight from Amsterdam which left us plenty of time to check into our hotel, the Rival, and make our way to Tranan for dinner.  As always, I'd done some research on the where to eat as I was keen to try traditional Swedish cuisine.  Blogs are a great source for local information, I found Tranan via Anne's Food Blog .   

Tranan is located in the Vastaden district, so we hopped in a cab as we were not too interested in trying to find our way via the metro.  We arrived a little early for our dinner so we treated ourselves to a drink in the bar. 
Theme for Friday in the bar - "This is modern disco" - overall great music, stylish hipsters and loads of personality.  A quick drink and up to the contrasting traditional restaurant where they pack them in tight.  We were eyeing up the menu and our fellow diners plates as we considered our selection.  G chose braised reindeer shank and I chose (or rather it chose me) the sirloin steak.  Stockholm does excellent gluten free and I was able to enjoy fresh bread from the oven, a goat cheese round on toast with a delicious salad and the most heavenly scallop potatoes on earth.  Tranan does not disappoint.

If you want comfort food, come to Sweden. 
Saturday morning we bundled up and headed out on foot to Gamla Stan.  We strolled the two main streets, or gata in Swedish, Vasterlanggatan and Osterlanggaten and enjoyed poking around the little shops (read - bought really nice leather gloves and a dandy bowler felted hat!).  The concierge at the hotel had recommended we lunch at Ostermalms Saluhall so we headed north through the posh district of Ostermalms. 

Ostermalms Saluhall is essentially a food market, but is really a gastronomic event.  There are butchers, fishmongers, bakeries, cheese purveyors and restaurants.  After a few tussles with aggressive Swedes to obtain a table for lunch at Lisa Elmqvist, we were seated around 2.  I asked our server what we might try that would be a traditional Swedish lunch and she suggested Toast Skagen, which is a open face sandwich of mixed shrimps, dill and mayonnaise served on toast, and garnished with bleak roe.  Again - gluten free - no problem.  We ordered up two of the same with a couple glasses of Chablis and it was delish!  I now want a Swedish cookbook!
We spent the remaining hours of the afternoon meandering and shopping the gatas of Ostermalam. The shopping scene is Stockholm is raft with exceptionally cool shops that made me want to throw out my traditional leather sofa and opt for a sleek modern sectional.  As we couldn't fit a sofa in our carry on we switched to clothing boutiques, where I found a lovely pea coat at Wynred and some styling black jeans from Acne
Saturday evening we returned to Gamla Stan for dinner at Djuret.  The restaurant concept surrounds the feature of one type of meat which the chef considers various cuts and preparation and they feature a wine style that in their belief is the best wine pairing.  The feature during our dining experience was veal and nebbiolo - given G's love of all wine Piedmont, how could we go wrong!
In the holiday season Swedes traditionally serve a salty bouillon with fresh bread and butter to prepare the pallet for the meal.  G enjoyed a couple pieces of dark molasses bread with his bouillon while I again was treated to a few slices of gluten free bread.  It was an interesting start to the meal.  We loved the restaurant motto "If we're not supposed to eat animals, how come they're made out of meat?" - Tom Snyder - not the right place for vegetarians - beware!
Our first choice, marinated veal shank, sold out in the first seating so we both opted for veal sausage with delicious silkly smooth mashed potatoes and of course a bottle of nebbiolo.  We shared a  delicious chocolate pate dessert to finish off a lovely meal and made our way back to the hotel.  I noticied on our way, Djuret has a sister restaurant around the corner called Pubolgi, which I am going to try next time (look at me - already planning my return visit).
Okay - enough with the food - you must be getting hungry!
On Sunday we woke up to find an absolutely cold and rainy day.  Luckily we came prepared with our sturdy Dutch umbrellas and set off for the ferry to Skeppsholmen and Djurgarden.  We first went to the impressive Vasa Museum where a preserved 330 year old war ship raised from the Stockholm harbor is on display.  The ship was painstakingly raised in 1961 with much of the structure and wood sculptures in tact. 

Historians and archaeologists spent decades preserving the restoring the ship, carvings and war implements such as cannons.  They also found the skeletons of several unfortunate individuals who died when the ship sunk.  Most interestingly, they have done a forensic reconstruction of the skulls to give us a view  of what the ill fated passengers looked like.  Eerie.
We spent the remainder of our visit at the Modern Art Museum where we quickly viewed the current exhibit.  It was a mixed collection of numerous Swedish artists which left me a little flat.  I prefer to see a more rounded collection of one artist to get a sense of the progression of their career.  I continue to compare to the outstanding collection we saw in the Louisiana in Copenhagen of Max Ernest, which hit the mark for me.  There were a few gems, Warhol, Kandinsky and Munch but overall not my favorite museum.
 Alas, our visit to Stockholm was ending - a quick cab to the airport and a smooth flight back to Amsterdam.  Short and sweet (or rather savory if you read the whole post) - Stockholm is on my list for a summer visit.

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