I blogged about this over on my Live Journal, but completely forgot to post here. The fact is I was probably still so full there was no room for my brain to work. As it was, I pretty much figured I’d never have to eat again. Because last Saturday I was treated to a Julbord at Tre Kronor. A Julbord is the traditional Scandinavian Christmas smörgåsbord, and when I say smörgåsbord I do not mean a few plates of lunch meat and cheese and a hot dish or two, I mean the real deal, four-course, oh-dear-god-I-ate-too-much-is-there-any-more-rice-pudding? smörgåsbord.
is one of the few genuine Scandinavian restaurants left in a city which once had a thriving Scandinavian community. Ann Sather’s, which has not been owned by Ma Sather in decades, still serves up brown beans and Swedish pancakes, but tends to cater to the upscale market in Wrigleyville, Lakeview and Andersonville. Svea, once excellent, has apparently gone down the tubes (I haven’t been there since I worked in Andersonville, but I heard this from one of my dining companions last night, and since June is a daughter of Karlskoga
, I’m gonna take that as gospel.) Wikstroms is gone since my mom’s old buddy, Ingvar Wikstrom, retired and Erikson’s is still more a deli than anything else. And while you can get glögg over at Andie’s Middle Eastern restaurant all winter, it’s not what I’d call a real Scandinavian dining experience.
Every year at Jul/Christmas Tre Kronor puts on this kickass Julbord which is so good that the folks I was with are actually contemplating going to the Christmas Eve one instead of making their own. Now for those of you not familiar with how these things work, let me break down the experience into manageable units. You start with a tiny cup of glögg. Glögg is a kind of mulled, fortified wine drink served in teensy cups because more than a couple of ounces can seriously impair your ability to walk, and therefore to eat, since the Julbord experience is serve-yourself. I’ve been served teacups filled with glögg and can tell you that my mind remained crystal clear, but appeared to disconnect from my legs entirely, rendering me unable to get up off the sofa for several hours.
The first course is the herring course. The herring course also includes other fishy goodness, but it’s traditionally mostly herring. Last night there were nine different sorts of herring on the bord.
- Glass Blower’s Herring
- Mustard Herring (SO good that I’m actually jonesing for it now.)
- Herbed Herring
- Matjes Herring
- Curried Herring
- Hus Fru Herring
- Tomato Herring
- Dill Herring
I managed to try five types plus the traditional new potatoes, the gravadlax and smoked salmon, as well as the oysters and shrimp. I also cheated a bit and piled on the pickled cukes because if there’s anything I dearly love it’s pickled cucumbers. Also the pickled beets because, hello? Yum. And a couple of pieces of crispbread because you need crispbread in your diet. I have to tell you, all the herring was excellent, the gravadlax was heavenly and the cukes were to die for.
Step two: Discard plate, pick up clean one. Head for the salads and cold meats and cheeses. Last night there were shrimp, citrus, potato and crab meat salads, thin sliced meats including Goteborgskorv and sult (*shudder*) a delicious country-style pate, and a generous tray of cheese including Danish blue and brie. For me, there was more pickled cuke as well.
Interim step: Recognize that there is still the hot course to come and decide not to go back for more herring, gravadlax, pate and cucumbers.
Step three: Pick up clean plate. Head for the chafing dishes where you find:
- Meatballs with or without gravy
- Mashed potatoes
- Red cabbage
- Roast pork with prunes
- Biff à la Lindstrom
- Lutefisk (Oh yes, it’s not Christmas w/o lutefisk in all its glory.)
- Jansson’s frestlese (literally Jansson’s temptation, a heady casserole of potatoes and anchovies)
- Brown Beans
- Potatiskorv (potato sausage, and damn good potato sausage, too.)
Interim step two: Wonder what on earth possessed you to take so much Jansson’s frestlese. Observe that the lutefisk isn’t a patch on the stuff made by June and have her add that neither is the Jansson’s frestlese. Think to yourself that the latter is still pretty good.
Interim step three: Wonder how on earth you’re going to eat rice pudding.
At this point the lights go down and one of the servers comes in wearing a white gown and a crown of candles, singing the Sankta Lucia song. It’s very pretty, though I can’t help but wonder how many hapless Scandinavian girls have been set on fire on St. Lucia’s day. I was also rendered half blind because a photographer for Metromix was there, snapping a thousand photos in the darkened room. You know what that’s like.
Dessert follows. Mercifully it’s limited to: rice pudding (There’s a law somewhere that says it’s not Swedish if there’s no rice pudding. Pam reports that at the last Daughters of Sweden meeting she attended, someone read a report from the Rice Pudding Committee.) Creme bruleé, butter cookies, chocolate mousse cups, more lingonberries, mixed nuts and clementines. There’s also good Swedish coffee.
Pentultimate step: Wonder why you ate so much. Revise that to wondering how you ate so much. Pay check. Make no move to leave because you fear your legs will not support your weight.
Final step: Stumble out into several inches of fresh snow, and think how beautiful it all is. Then think it sure sucks to have to walk through this to the car, knowing that if you fall down you’ll lie there like a beached whale until you freeze to death.
I don’t actually mean to complain. Everything was delicious and it really was my own fault that I ate that much. It did my Danish side much good to commune with native foods, too. If you’re local and want a real Swedish meal, I really recommend Tre Kronor, especially their Julbord which is tremendously impressive.