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GWEN'S GUIDE TO STOCKHOLM

STOCKHOLM SECTION

Finding a fab place for fika with a twist

As the daylight in Stockholm dwindles, finding a place to catch up with friends is all the more important for beating back the winter blues. Luckily, contributor Gwen Ramsey has put together a list of great options for your next fika.

Finding a fab place for fika with a twist

I have never been a fan of the word fika. One can wonder if the term is still relevant today since we have come to expect so much more from this Swedish inspired custom of meeting friends or family for a cup of coffee or tea and perhaps a snack.

Instead of serving guests a café latte and a kanel bulle many cafes in town are finding a niche and dramatically exceeding our expectations of what one should expect from this sacred tradition.

Gärdet: Carrotte

Sandwiched between Mekonomen and Tullverket, it is easy to miss the very charming Carrotte. This delicatessen/café is definitely worth the trip out to Frihamnen. For many cafes in town, organic, healthy and locally produced equals boring and tasteless food that costs a lot and lacks creativity.

That is not the case here. Carotte puts their own spin on things. Try their salad with fresh seared tuna or the Boeuf bourguignon with is a regular on their lunch menu. If your lunch was too healthy then stay for dessert and try their fabulous selection of teas and homemade cookies or scones.

Östermalm: Kaffe Verket (also known as Snickarbacken 7)

Snickarbacken used to be an old stable but has since been converted into a place where boutiques, office spaces and cafe merge. Tucked away on a side street, this space is recognizable from Birger Jarlsgatan by the big electric “7” hanging over the doorway.

Whereas most Östermalm cafes are traditional and cozy, Sickarbacken 7 is minimalistic and hip. The narrow café is lined with steel benches against one wall so that guests can watch the baristas perform their magic. The menu here is short and to the point. Order a coffee made from their meticulously sourced beans, a fresh squeezed orange juice with ginger and the homemade egg sandwich on sourdough bread. You wont be disappointed.

City

Kafe Esaias

Believe it or not there is an oasis for coffee lovers in the middle of the chain-packed street of Drottninggatan. Kafe Esaias is a simple location with extremely good coffee. Their traditional brewed coffee is excellent as are their espresso drinks.

Esaias gets their baked goods from the very popular Bakery & Spice, but get there early because most of their baked goods are already sold out by lunch on the weekends. Also worth noting is that their staff is incredibly friendly.

Sosta Coffee Bar

The original Sosta Coffee Bar on Jakobsbergsgatan has won numerous awards for its coffee. Most, however don’t know that they have opened a second location on Sveavägen. This second outpost is much smaller than the original one, much more authentic to its Italian roots and in my opinion, much better.

Businessmen line up elbow to elbow at the crowded bar with their morning papers in a multitude of languages and order a “short” espresso and a small croissant sandwich. There isn’t a lot of room here so leave the strollers at home.

Vasastan: Salinos Espressobar

Salinos Espressobar on the corner of Odenplan is one of those places that you walk by numerous times before you notice it. This family owned and operated café prides themselves on Italian sweets and specialties made with carefully sourced, high quality goods.

Their espresso drinks are much better than their regular coffee, but it is their food, small Italian sandwiches with Taleggio and mushrooms or a hearty soup that makes you feel at home here.

Kungsholmen: Le Petite France

You know that Le Petite France has done something right from the length of the line that extends outside the door. Their numerous awards for best café in Stockholm has made it a challenge to get a table here on a Saturday or Sunday morning, but I can assure you that it is worth the wait.

Here you can order a creamy café au lait together with the best croissant in town or a more luxurious tarte aux pommes. If you want something on the more savory side then go for the croque madame a delectable salad or picture perfect omelette.

Don’t forget to buy a few loaves of their freshly made bread before you head home. If you aren’t yet convinced then check out the owner Sebastian’s blog. These pictures are sure to send you running to Le Petite France.

Södermalm: Johan & Nyström

Johan & Nyström is already well established, but I had to include it here because they have very unique offerings and their coffee is just so darn good. Their employees are true pioneers in the art of coffee making. If the ever-changing menu is confusing then let them help you choose the right beans and brew for you. 

Their staff is well-trained and they enthusiastically discuss the origin, smell and aftertaste of each option. Sandwiches seem a little pricey at 55 kronor ($8.50) but they have inspiring combinations in a town where ham and cheese sandwich is all too common. Their desserts are supplied by Dessert & Chokolad Stockholm and are even more delicious than they look. 

Also worth noting is that Johan & Nyström collaborated with Blossa to select the coffee beans that are used in this years much awaited Blossa Glögg.

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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