If I could do only two things for the rest of my life, it would probably be traveling and eating, so it’s good to know that apparently you can make a living doing just that! Alison Stein is a culinary travel writer (among other sundry genres of journalism) who spoke with Explore West Sweden about her trip sampling the gustatory delights of the region! She’s About.com’s culinary travel guide, and blogs for Luxist.com and the Huffington Post as well!
Last week Alison was in West Sweden partaking in the Culinary Academy of Sweden – a 4 day long excursion exploring the culinary arts of West Sweden. She sat down and talked to Explore West Sweden about her experiences…
Explore West Sweden: Please tell us a bit about the Culinary Academy of Sweden program?
Alison Stein Wellner: This was a tour around West Sweden focusing on the specialties of the forest, the lakes and the sea. It wasn’t just an opportunity to eat (although there was plenty of that!) but a chance to get some hands-on experience with local foods and specialties, from harvest to preparation. I particularly enjoyed fly fishing (which I’d never done before!) and learning to prepare pickled herring.
EWS: What is your impression of West Sweden?
West Sweden is quite beautiful, it reminded me a lot of New England, actually. The lakes and the forests resembled New Hampshire, and I found myself thinking of Maine while I was on the coast. I think the difference is that while New England has a bit of an “old-tyme” colonial feel, there’s a definite sense of Scandinavian style and design throughout the region — I’m thinking now of the very contemporary Salt & Sill Hotel in Klädesholmen, which I liked quite a lot.
EWS: Please tell us something about some of the culinary surprises from this trip, something you didn’t expect from West Sweden?
ASW: The first surprise came at a garden reception at Läckö Castle, when I had artichokes stuffed with dark chocolate — two ingredients I would never think to combine, but it was very good! (I’m not sure how traditionally Swedish that combination is, but it was certainly very creative.) And while I expected to have a lot of herring, I don’t think I realized exactly how many ways there are to prepare it in Sweden, and how many flavors you can achieve with such a simple fish!
EWS: What are some similarities / differences between U.S. and Swedish cooking?
ASW: This is a slightly difficult question to answer, since U.S. cooking is so diverse — we’re very much a “melting pot” of many different ethnicities and heritage, and there are vast regional differences in the United States as well. So, one difference is that there is a distinctive Swedish cuisine, that you can point to, say, Gubbrora (an egg-anchovy salad) and say “that’s very Swedish”, whereas you’d have trouble pointing to a dish and saying “that’s very American”. As well, I think that hearty US cooking has been quite influenced by Swedish immigrants.
But with that said, I think that while it is true that Swedish food is probably more mild than many in the United States are used to, with the influences of Asian and Latino cuisine particularly, there is a sophistication with the use of textures that is quite pleasing — the crisp of a flat bread against the smooth creaminess of a shrimp salad
EWS: What would you recommend people coming to West Sweden to experience?
ASW: I highly recommend the coast — what can be better than super-fresh seafood? The Koster Islands are a great destination, especially with the new marine reserve. (The cafe at Kosters Trädgårdar is world-class, and serves produce direct from its lovely gardens — owner Stefan von Bothmer is a person well worth meeting for anyone with an interest in…well, almost anything, quite charismatic and passionate.) I also enjoyed Gothenburg, which has a very creative indie food scene. For example, it’s traditional to enjoy a coffee break with a cinnamon bun (kanel bulle, if I’m spelling it correctly), but at Biscuit in Gothenburg, they make a version with chocolate, raspberries and pistachio.
EWS: Where can we read more about your experiences on this trip?
ASW: I will be writing about this trip on About.com Culinary Travel as well as for Luxist. I’ll also be writing about this trip for Perceptive Travel, and in fact, I already have a piece about it on the site now: http://perceptivetravel.com/blog/2009/09/29/calling-the-cows-in-west-sweden/
You can also read her twitter updates from West Sweden on her feed: www.twitter.com/AlisonSWellner. I can just see it – flipping herring with one hand and using your iphone to update twitter with the other!