One of the experiences we were most excited about when visiting Stockholm was the chance to tackle a traditional Swedish smörgåsbord.
By all accounts, the place to partake is the renowned Grand Hôtel.
It's a very extravagant setting for what originally was not particularly fancy fare.
The idea behind a smörgåsbord has a more humble background.
The name is a combination of the words smörgås, meaning sandwich, and bord, which means table, but in practice there is a whole lot more than sandwiches going down.
In fact, there is an entire method to properly approach the smörgåsbord which our server kindly walked us through before we took our first bites.
Most important, we were told not to pile too much on our plates at one time. Using multiple plates is not being piggy; it is expected, perhaps even mandatory.
Each group of delicious delicacies requires separate attention -- and china.
We began with cold dishes, first a section of herring prepared several different ways, each with a sauce as a sidekick.
The next plate was salmon, smoked, salted, or marinated -- also with various sauces -- and warm potatoes with dill accompanied both of these first two fish dishes.
Bread and cheeses, especially knäckebröd -- a rye crispbread that seems to go with just about everything throughout Scandinavia -- is also introduced at this time.
Another common companion for the smoked and salted fish phase of the meal is aquavit.
Aquavit is basically vodka that has been flavored with herbs, usually caraway and dill, but cumin, anise, fennel, and lemon or orange peel can make an appearance too.
Unlike most liquors, aquavit is almost always a part of a meal, consumed more like wine than a cocktail.
We then moved on to meats, but only those on the cold table.
There was a wide array of beef, raw, roasted, smoked and otherwise, along with cold cuts and salami. Again, we had to be careful not to get carried away, because there was still a long row to hoe.
Yup, a whole table of hot foods awaited, led by the classic Swedish meatballs.
These were just as we dreamed of them, swimming in a crazy-good sour cream sauce, the real deal. There were quite a few other meat dishes too, and finally some vegetables to round out the meal.
Actually, a smörgåsbord is more of an event than a meal; we spent a good three hours partaking - having a blast the entire time. Good company, new friends, lots of stories - great fun.
Of course there was also a dessert table and, in recognition of the abundance that precedes it, it was mercifully small. We manage to find room for a little more.
There is always room for ice cream, right?
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com