Saturday, January 9, 2016

Authentic; global

Hammarby, Stockholm, January 9, 2016—
HERE I AM in an authentic (I'm sure) Swedish brasserie of the old school, where under the silvery ceiling and within the lovely blue walls a parade of floor staff prances through, in white, red, grey, or buff uniform jackets, with epaulets at the shoulders.

And the clientele, outside of the Contessa and I, couldn't have seemed more Swedish. Blonde or dark-haired, they could step out of Central Casting or an Anders Zorn portrait. Many tables were occupied by groups of four, five, or six men, little glasses of snaps and big ones of beer at their elbows; others hosted families, some with small children. It's Saturday noon, time to be out on the town.

We'd done our shopping and visited the impressive public library and were now hungry. The brasserie-style menu offered a lot, but we took the least imaginative: moules marinière for Companion; meatballs for me.

First thing set down on the table was a double dish containing lingonberry preserves on one side, sliced cucumber pickles on the other. Promising. Soon after came an absolutely classic French-style marinière, the tiniest mussels we've ever seen in a rich, creamy, slightly tarragon-scented broth; and my plate.

Classic: nothing but seven or eight savory meat balls, speaking of veal and beef, cloves and cinnamon, care and tradition; the smoothest imaginable potato purée; and a thick brown gravy.

I added the lingonberries, of course, and the pickles. Before long I found it was best to mix them all up — on the fork, not the plate. Afterward, a very tart, very smooth lemon sorbet cleansed the cavities. It was truly a delicious lunch.


Côtes du Rhône, "Les Abeilles," Jean-Luc Colombo, 2012
•Sturehof, Stureplan 2, Stockholm; 08-440 57 30
DINNER WAS QUITE another matter. We weren't terribly hungry, of course; and we were a little tired; and we didn't feel like leaving our hotel, in the suburbs, to investigate the icy dark streets. So we ate in an inexpensive hotel's own restaurant.

I could have been worse: but, as I said to Companion, the quality of commercial hotel-style cooking in Sweden seems not to have advanced beyond what The Netherlands had left behind in the 1970s.

I ordered the daily special: "John Stone" entrecôte. Mr. Stone turns out to be an Irish producer of grass-fed, sustainably raised beef, and the meat was in fact quite nice: very tender, and with a flavor reminding me of the génisse we used to eat when I was a boy, the flesh of superannuated milk cows. It doesn't sound appealing, I know, and I suppose it's an acquired taste: but I had no choice but to acquire it.

The steak was cooked medium rare and had a lot of flavor. The sauce was very rich, with perhaps a hint of the Maggi cube, and I wasn't excited by the deep-fried sweet potatoes, but what can you do. It could have been worse.

Shiraz-Cabernet sauvignon, "Rawson's Retreat", Penfolds (South Australia), 2014
•RBG Bar and Grill, Midskeppsgatan 6, Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm; +46 (8) 5050 7000

Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

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