Many apologies for such a long time between posts! I actually wrote this post almost a week ago while over caffeinating (surprise surprise) at a shop in Dublin and when I hit Save & Publish *poof* the server kicked me off and into the fire pits of college essay hell went my post. Ah well. The upside is that the original post only contained food from Austria and Norway but this version will also include my first taste of Swedish meatballs! Gird your... uh... lips.
Can we talk for a minute about the lost art of cake and coffee? The scene: a European café, marble tables, a socially polite level of humming conversation when you walk in, waiters in well pressed and matching uniforms, smells of coffee, pastries, cognac, and the occasional waft of laughter that seems to fit rather than annoy. This happened to me in Salzburg at Café Tomaselli. Why is this place special? Oh, just because Mozart happened to write about it in his journal. I was taken there by my long time friend from ASU, Chris who recommended I get an "Einspänner" which basically could have been the only thing I had there I would still be happy. This little beverage puts any espresso con panna to SHAME. Picture a double shot sized mocha, not at all sweet, topped with a little layer of soft whipped cream which resembles more coffee foam than actual cream. I died. But then a woman came back with a massive tray with every iteration of cake imaginable. My brain immediately turned to mush as I tried to frantically decided between slices of Sachertorte, Linzer Torte, Kardinalschnitte, Charlottentorte, rolls of sponge of cream, fruit tarts, stacks of Victoria sponge with fruit preserves and chocolate, and that's barely scratching the surface. In the end I went with Chris' suggestion once again and was not disappointed. A multiple layer slice of cake consisting of a walnut cake brushed with coffee, filled with thin layers of coffee pastry cream, all wrapped in a layer of walnut fondant and topped with a toasted walnut. DEAD. There is so much more to write regarding how Salzburg stole my heart. But for now, let's have the focus just be on cake.
To be clear, there was a lot of great food on this trip. Remember that life saving jam? Rachel gave me an entire sealed jar of it... *sheds a tear of joy* Also, while visiting my friend Jackie at her new home in Graz, she introduced me to world of pumpkin seed oil. Apparently this is a staple in the Styrian region of Austria and is a hold over from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I plan of pouring this liquid gold over everything that doesn't already have Rachel's jam on it. Or maybe both. Omg... vanilla gelato with black currant jam and pumpkin seed oil?? *dead* Then came London where, let's be honest, I really didn't care about having some amazing dining experience. Sure, there are some amazing restaurants in London that had I an expense account I would love to try. But really, I was there for less than a day and all I wanted to eat was opera and pints of malty pub temperature beer. So I did.
This now brings us to Bergen, Norway where my buddy Tyler has just relocated to be the first tenor in the Edvard Greig Kor (yay, Tyler!). The first thing to mention is that Bergen is STUPIDLY BEAUTIFUL. The sun never came out while I was there and it didn't matter. It was still stunning. Picture the grey misty feel of Seattle except add fjords, a lot more trees, and a much higher percentage of beautiful people. Those Norwegians have some secret to beauty, I swear. The next thing to mention is that Norway is cripplingly expensive. No really. The cheapest beer I had was about $11. Yeah. A beer. That being known, I did budget for at least one meal out and of course I wanted it to be Norwegian. Here's to Tyler for knowing exactly where to take me for such a meal. Bonus: it was one block from his flat. We decided to split two dishes so I could have more to try - again, amazing friends are amazing. First dish: plukkfisk. Ok, full disclosure: I typed that word and just had to stop writing for a moment to savor the memory of how glorious this dish was. Basically it was a giant mound of mashed potatoes mixed with white fish, onions, bechamel sauce, more butter than a Paula Deen pound cake, and topped with crispy chunks of slab bacon. Guys, it was like everything I have ever wanted. My German heritage got all the levels of fat and simply carbs it loves while the fish plot twist was SO WELCOME. I will dream of this dish for a long time. The second dish was kind of a combo plate of mashed turnip, smoked reindeer sausage, brined pork, and the most dense potato dumpling I have ever eaten. This dumpling literally laughed in my face when I tried to cut it with just my fork. Even adding a knife didn't really do the trick. I swear I am still digesting this behemoth of starch.
After a quick return trip to Dublin, I then headed back to Scandanavia with Anúna to perform in Gothenburg, Sweden. Again... everything cost an arm, half a leg, and if you want a beer with your meal then you can just kiss that first-born goodbye. But I came prepared for this. While I was in Dublin I went to TK Maxx and purchased a $9 bento box and used it to hoard food from the breakfast at our 4 star hotel (it was seriously amazing and we all had private rooms - thanks, Church of Sweden!). So I had one meal out while in Sweden and turned the rest of my per diem into profit. How's that for a pro tip? The meal was of course Swedish meatballs. Confession: I have never had Swedish meatballs. Yeah, I know. All y'all who swear that the meatballs at IKEA are bomb.com will scoff. But I don't care because my first taste of Swedish meatballs was IN SWEDEN. (Seriously, where is Molly Shannon running in yelling, "SUPERSTAR", when I need her?) They. Were. Glorious. Four dense meatballs surrounded by a salty, rich gravy, a mound of mashed potatoes (I don't even like mash but these were like a cloud of butter laden heaven) and rather than the traditional lingonberry jam to accompany, they served it with local blackberry compote. While the meatballs and gravy were amazing on their own, the compote made the dish. All that salt, butter, and meat were taken up several levels when the sweet kick of the blackberries took a machete straight through all fatty richness. $22 later, I was fully, happy, and so glad that I had a 25 minute walk back to the hotel. Between that and the potato dumpling in Bergen, I might be hungry again by the time I return to America...
HAHAHA who am I kidding? I'm already dreaming of donuts.