Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Saturday Night at Belle Epoque

I think it's time to buy a swanky new phone.  Preferably one with a high resolution camera built in.  That way, wherever I go, I can take photos of the food I eat, so that I can share it with you.  Makes sense, right?  Sometimes I forget to bring my little Canon Ixus with me and get home from a lovely meal or impromptu fika, without a single photo.  I never forget to bring my phone with me, ergo I need a new phone.

Last weekend Mountain Man and I had visitors.  My cousin and his wife spent a few days with us.  We cycled around Malmö, showed them the sights, had delicious coffee in Cafe Number 6 and on Saturday evening went for dinner in a restaurant called Belle Epoque.  Situated in the pretty, hip area between Triangeln and Möllevången, Belle Epoque is a mix of cocktail bar and restaurant.  They only do evening meals and are closed on Mondays.

Of course, I forgot my camera (the pic above is from the BE facebook page).  Thankfully my cousin had brought his swanky new smart phone with him, so in the dim light of the restaurant, he snapped a few pics as each course arrived.

At Belle Epoque, the menu changes weekly and consists of 3 main courses and 2 desserts.  That's it.  I love the confidence.  One main course is meat, another fish, another veggie.  Since our first visit here in June, they have introduced a tasting menu, where you get a small portion of each main course, plus one of the desserts, of the chef's choosing, for 390kr.  It might seem like a limited menu, but every detail is so well attended to, they do not need to offer anything else, in my humble opinion.

We started with an incredible pasta dish, delicately flavoured with a light creamy tarragon sauce (which can often be overpowering) and topped with a runny poached egg.  Amazing, all on it's own.  I was swooning and we were only one course in.  If I had a photo I would share the beauty of this with you, but on emailing my cousin yesterday to get the prized photos, he replied, in consternation, that I wouldn't be very happy to hear that he had deleted all the photos he had taken.  Apparently the quality wasn't good enough for his high standards.  See?  I really do need my own smart phone...

The second course was a fish dish.  The waiter didn't know the English word, but it was white and firm - haddock like in consistency.  This was perfectly pan fried and served on a bed of celeriac mash.  Yumsky.  I wish I had the photo to double check the details, as I realise this description doesn't really tell you much, but honestly, it was better than we ever expected it could be and our visitors were hugely impressed.  Score.

The final course was slow cooked wild boar, served with a local forest mushroom and bean ragu.  The portion was so generous I couldn't finish, but thankfully Mountain Man was on hand to help me out.  The boar was incredible; gamey but not too strongly flavoured, with little chewy, caramelised pieces to savour.  Utterly delicious.

We were all served the chocolate brownie for dessert, which was the lightest, more flavourful brownie I think I have ever had, and I've had a lot of brownies.  The entire meal was just incredible and luckily, the least expensive bottle of wine on the price list was also fantastic, so we felt we did incredibly well.

At around 10pm the DJ kicked things off and the atmosphere changed.  The lights dimmed and the bar started to get busy.  This is a great spot to come to for food and hang out in before moving onto a club, as they are open until 1.30, later than most bars.  If you want a quiet drink without the crowd and some really good food cooked with love and panache, then come early.  A lovely spot, one I will have to go back to once I get that smart phone...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Introduction to Swedish Food

I just realised that I may have been keeping you on tender hooks!  Months ago, we had a dinner party, where our lovely Swedish guests brought some Swedish food for us to try out.  I posted a tantalising photo of it all on facebook, promising to blog about each item and then promptly forgot about doing so.  Oops, sorry.

I haven't worked my way through each item yet.  Some I've tried and enjoyed so 
much have bought more of.  Others got a taste and now lurk in the fridge...barely touched.  So, what did we get?

Given that it was close to the festive period, we were given quite a few Christmassy items, including;

'Julmust' a spiced Cola type drink and a Swedish favourite.  I'm not a cola drinker, so I guessed I wouldn't really like it, but nor did anyone we tried to give it to and Mountain Man wasn't convinced either.  We won't be buying it again.

'Västerbottensost' a most delicious, 
crumbly, salty, cheddar like cheese.       
This is one of 64 products to receive the prestigious 'royal warrant' so it's obviously something special.  'Ost' means cheese and it is something that the Swedes have a bit of a love affair with, if the cheese section in supermarkets is anything to go by!  This is probably one of the more expensive cheeses in the chill cabinet, but oh my...I love it.  It now features regularly in my cheese box.

'Kalles Kaviar'.  What to say.  I don't like it.  Perhaps if I had been reared on fish roe I would appreciate eating it from a tube.  Somehow, it just makes me feel squeamish (and that's not easily done).  Apparently it is best enjoyed with hard boiled eggs, served on hard bread.  I haven't attempted that yet, but I did try a tiny bit with cheese and the fishiness was overpowering.  Kalles Kaviar has been around since 1850 and is well loved in Sweden.  This TV Ad says it all for me.

'Fäbodknäcke', which is a Swedish 'hard bread' and one of the many cracker type breads available here.  It is a rye cracker, but not like any I've had before.  The ingredients are very simple - rye flour, cornflour, water & salt.  It is really, really good.  Perfect with the aforementioned cheese, or just with some real butter and a bowl of soup.  

'Rårörda Lingon' or lingonberry jam which is a staple in Scandinavian cuisine.  Served with meat dishes or the classis Swedish meatballs, it is also sometimes served with sweet pancakes.   I haven't tasted this particular jar yet, I look forward to trying it out with something I've made myself.  If anyone has suggestions, send them on!

'Abba' Löksill & Senapsill - pickled herring, in onion (lök) and mustard (senaps).  Again, these jars remain unopened, as I must admit I was a little bit scared of them, but I think I'm ready to try them now...  At Mountain Man's Christmas party last month, I was lucky enough to sit beside one of his colleagues, who is really into food.  He suggested I try the pickled herring that night and I was astounded at how good it was - delicate texture, not at all slimy, brimming with flavour and absolutely delicious.  He also explained how to approach a Swedish buffet, so if any Swedes would like to invite me to a party I know the etiquette now!

'Gammeldags enrisrökt korv', an old fashioned juniper smoked Swedish sausage.  Swoon.  This stuff is delicious.  I ate it as a snack, in casseroles, in pasta sauces...really versatile stuff.  Sausage seems to be something that swedes are big fans of.  Like the now ubiquitous IKEA hotdog, but worlds apart in terms of flavour and quality.  This particular one does  have sugar and preservaties added, which I'm not wild about, but there is a 'Korvhus' (sausage house) around the corner from our apartment, so I will see if I can get something a bit purer there.  

'Lucia Choklad Starkvinsglögg' is last but certainly not least.  This is a fortified mulled wine with hints of chocolate, so definitely a seasonal treat for those days around Christmas when you don't need to drive anywhere!  Throughout December, I had glögg served to me with blanched almonds and dried fruit or sometimes just on it's own.  It is absolutely delicious and this one was that bit more potent as it was enriched with a spirit, brandy I think.  I drank it while decorating the Christmas tree and didn't make a note of it.  

So, 'go raibh mile maith agat' (that's thanks a million, as gaeilge) to Lars, Karin, Jonathan & Lena for a wonderful introduction to Swedish food & drink.  I am enjoying the adventure.   Can anyone make some suggestions for the lingonberry jam or pickled herring?  I'd love to hear what you think...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Coming out of Hibernation

Have you ever wondered why the beginning of the year is, for us northern hemisphere dwellers, still in the middle of winter?  It doesn't always feel very 'new-year-ish' to me.  Making resolutions and sticking to them is kinda hard when it's still dark and cold outside.

Mountain Man and I returned to Malmö 4 days ago and after 2 weeks in the Emerald Isle, I realised how much warmer it is there!  Daffodils are shooting up, cherry is already in blossom and there is a definite feeling of Spring in the air.

As we hiked up Scarr in the Wicklow Mountains on new year's day, it struck me how much I missed the hills and the outdoors.  The incredible view, the easy chat that was carried away by the wind, the feeling of being away from distraction - it's unbeatable.  Living in a city is wonderful, but being without our car means we're a little bit stuck in urbania.  One of my resolutions for this year, which should help me get out of the city, is to do 30 minutes of exercise every day.  On Sunday we cycled out to Lomma, a pretty coastal village about 10km away, ticking the box for daily exercise, as well as getting into the countryside.

As I cycled past fields in fallow and a nature reserve by the sea, it struck me that Mother Nature is still hibernating.  While we may have cleared away all signs of Christmas by now, ready to kick off another new year, the natural world is preparing for Spring.  There is still plenty of time to bounce forward into the new year and for me, this is a time for reflection and contemplation...on the year that has been and how I want 2013 to be.  Picking some bare twigs, withered berries and grasses may have looked a bit crazy to passers by, but they are a reminder to me that there is no rush.  I'm still in hibernation.

Of course, that doesn't mean I want to continue eating Christmas cake and mince pies for the next month.  Along with my daily exercise resolution, I am also determined to get more greens into my belly.  Yesterday I made the easiest soup on the planet (more anon) and have begun to take 'Synergy Natural Super Greens' a green powder mix of spirulina, chlorella, barley grass and wheat grass.  It's definitely an acquired taste and capsules are always an option if you can't hack the particularly dark, earthy flavour, but this stuff actually tastes ok.  I'm not sure how they've managed it, but I had a teaspoon in water earlier and didn't gag.  The whole point of all the green foods is to get the PH of my body back into balance.  Sugar, dairy, stress, life...all contribute to acidity in the body but green foods (among others) push us back towards alkalinity, which the body prefers and discourages disease of all kinds. If I take two teaspoons a day the tub will last me about 20 days.  I expect to have more energy, lose a few pounds, sleep better and eliminate some niggling joint pain I've been having.

I'll keep you posted.  Happy New Year.