Meet the Winner!

California resident Eva Crose won a “road trip of a lifetime” in the Car Plus Vacation Contest presented by West Sweden, Volvo Overseas Delivery, and VisitSweden. Eva and her husband Gregory just returned from their long-awaited trip to Western Sweden, where they spent ten days touring the region in a rented Volvo. We called her up to hear about her trip.

So first of all, tell us a little about your trip to West Sweden.
Wow—everything was absolutely wonderful! The trip was very well arranged, the weather was perfect, and the accommodations were exemplary. And just seeing so much green and water all around us was very relaxing. We just had a wonderful time.

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A Lobster Safari in Western Sweden

As seen in Intermezzo Magazine, story by Jessica Mueller

Jessica Mueller from Intermezzo Magazine, toured the seas of West Sweden on a lobster safari excursion. Read the story of her incredible adventure here as told in her own words:

“Thursday didn’t seem like a good day for a “lobster safari.” Sheets of rain made for bad driving from my guesthouse in Ljungskile to the fishing village of Grönemad, and a boat ride seemed impossible. But, as the morning wore on, the rain eased up, the clouds parted, and the “yellow house by the sea” I’d been told to look for popped obvious and bright through the mist. There were no signs and no parking lot—just a friendly-looking guy in a wool cap, coming up the weed-lined walkway to meet me. In soft-spoken, perfect-but-cautious English, he introduced himself as Per Karlsson.

As seen in Intermezzo Magazine, story by Jessica MuellerI followed Per into the tidy fishing cottage. But the prettiest part was just outside the sliding glass door. Grönemad is located on the Bohuslän coast, in the province of the same name, just north of Gothenburg. The waters are dotted with about 8,000 islands—some inhabited, others little more than hunks of rock.

Also outside, tied up to the dock, was the lobstering boat—all twenty-eight feet of it. Before boarding, Per instructed me to put on a gigantic, waterproof, buoyant bodysuit. It was black and orange and very ugly, but very comforting. I couldn’t have drowned if I tried.

I climbed onto the boat, named Tuffa and built in 1952, and we set off. Per’s brother Lars is at the rear, steering. The brothers own the boat and the house, and operate the whole coastal experience—collectively, the business is called Everts Sjöbod (“Evert’s boathouse”).

At first, the water was pretty smooth. But after we rounded a big island the conditions became, by my standards, rocky. Between reassurances that the boat would definitely not capsize, Per told me about this gorgeous slice of coastline. Bohuslän is a big vacation spot for Swedes, and in the summer these waters are chock full of recreational watercraft.

But we were after the lobster. Beginning the first Monday after the twentieth of September and running until April 30, Swedish waters are open to the lobster harvest. The rest of the year, Per and Lars take visitors out for mackerel fishing, crab harvesting or just swimming and island-hopping.

Jessica MuellerAfter about twenty minutes, we came to our first lobster trap (there are twenty-eight in all), identified by a bobbing red buoy. Hand over hand, Per hauled it up, and success! Inside the trap was a black lobster, speckled with red around its tail and claws. Per took it out and let it (actually, her) walk around on the seat cushions and snap at his gloves while I took scores of pictures. But before he could officially harvest this lobster, Per needed to measure her. The requirement is eight centimeters from about the lobster’s roving, bulbous eye down to the end of its head, and Per had a special ruler for making the calculation. Our lobster passed the size test.

At our next stop, Per told me I would be hauling up the trapho. About two seconds into this endeavor I handed back the rope and informed him that the trap was caught on the bottom, and what would we do to untangle it? He smiled, shook his head no, and handed me the rope. I tried again, and it was like playing tug-of-war with an elephant. Per insisted that was just the strength of the mighty ocean and that eventually the crate would come up. It did, but not before my arms were like jelly.

But we got another lobster! Per and Lars talked to each other in rapid Swedish—apparently, it’s pretty uncommon to get two in a row.

We checked a few more traps but found nothing but crabs, all of which we tossed back. By law, we could have taken them, but there was just no need. Lars and Per are in the tourism industry, and they don’t actually sell anything they catch.

Instead, they cook it for guests like me. Back at the cottage they boiled our lobster (the female) and split it in half to reveal bright white flesh. There was lemon and butter but mostly I ate it plain, as the meat was too sweet and pure to mess with. There was also a pasty, greenish-beige “something” up in the abdominal area that Per told me was the “best part,” though I was skeptical. It turned out to be the tomalley, part of the lobster’s digestive system. Our lobster also had abundant bright orange roe, another delicacy. I tried a little of both, but was happiest by far with my white meat.

Food definitely tastes better when you grow it or catch it yourself. And though I’m thankful I personally wasn’t the one who had to drop our lady lobster into the pot of boiling water, this ocean-to-table experience is undoubtedly the best way to taste the west of Sweden.”

Recipe: Lobster Pot au Feu with Hake, Serves 4

For cooking lobster:
1 live lobster, about 10 to 14 ounces
4 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon dill seeds

For lobster sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1 teaspoon dill seeds
Roasted lobster shell
3/4 cup white wine
Water, as needed
1 cup cream, or to taste
Splash brandy (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper

For finished soup:
1 1/3 pounds hake, cod, or other firm white fish
Meat from 1 lobster
2 carrots
2 parsnips
1 kohlrabi
2 cups lobster sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh dill, finely chopped (to taste)

Lobster soup1. Prepare lobster. Combine water, salt and dill and bring to a boil. Put live lobster head first into boiling water, cover and boil 20 minutes. Remove lobster and cool.

2. When cool enough to handle, remove all flesh and set aside. Reserve shell.

3. Preheat oven to 450°F.

4. Place shell on a baking sheet and place in oven. Roast about 15 minutes, tossing and stirring a few times. Remove and cool.

5. Prepare lobster sauce. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 7 minutes.

6. Add tomato purée and dill seeds and stir to combine. Add lobster shell and wine and cook for 2 minutes, then add enough water to cover shell. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

7. Remove and discard shells. Simmer until stock is reduced by half. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and into a clean pot. Add cream and brandy (if using). Briefly return to a boil, then remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

8. Prepare soup. Cut hake into 1-inch cubes. Chop or shred lobster into slightly smaller chunks.

9. Peel and finely mince or julienne carrots, parsnips and kohlrabi.

10. Preheat oven to 350°.

11. Place fish, lobster and vegetables in an ovenproof dish and pour sauce over. Bake about 10 minutes, until fish is cooked through. Season to taste, garnish with dill and serve.

As seen in Intermezzo Magazine, story by Jessica Mueller.

Carrie’s Vacation: Tjorn and Grebbestad

Photo: Carrie Coolidge

Photo: Carrie Coolidge

Floating hotels and some of the world’s best oysters in abundance. New York-based travel and lifestyle writer and top blogger Carrie Coolidge decided to see as much as possible of Sweden’s west coast in just a few days. Read about her adventures in stunning West Sweden. A floating hotel and sauna on Tjorn and “Oyster Safari” in quaint fishing village Grebbestad, are some of the highlights. Read more

Way Out West Live Blogging: Världskulturmuséet

WAy out West 2010Famous even before its opening, Världskulturmuséet is a very special building. It was designed by world renowned architect Gert Wingård and opened officially in 2004. This year it has once again been included as one of Way Out West’s “club scenes”, meaning that after the last concert at the Slottsskogen area, we will all fight for entrance to the museum in order to stay awake all night and enjoy live acts and DJs. Before that, though, we had to try out the place on Thursday night’s “sneak preview” – one day before the actual festival started.

The night included three live acts, in addition to the resident DJ, and after running around six different bars we arrived at Världskulturmuséet just in time to see jj enter the stage. The crowd waiting for hours in line had to discover the hard way a bitter fact about Göteborg – once it starts raining, it never really stops…

Inside, it was hot, humid and crowded. Once JJ got on stage, the place went bananas and never came back. On big screens, everything from vacation pictures to Youtube clips of Zlatan was streamed and the crowd went nuts. Jj, being a local act, did all they were supposed to and delivered a dancy yet subtle performance. When they finished, the place was quickly emptied and the crowd shattered. Your correspondents left for Park Lane, one of the other club venues, and the night went on for a long, long time. And so did the epic rainfall, symbolizing Gothenburg. There’s not a dry pop soul in the city tonight. Some cried from jj, some couldn’t afford the tax ride home and had to walk.

Live Blogging Way Out West: DAY 1

There’s no big ceremony with balloons and fireworks, but the 2010 edition of Way Out West is now officially alive and kicking. The three day festival in Göteborg starts off with a club night that brings together all of the city’s bigger clubs as well as 25 different live acts, but the actual festival area does not open until tomorrow. Friday and Saturday are the major dates, when the city’s biggest park Slottsskogen will teem with hipsters, teens and tourists looking for a world class music event but of course also for a true west coast experience.

This long weekend in August is when Sweden’s second city shows itself from its best side, especially since its synchronization with Kulturkalaset , a citywide fiesta aimed at the crowd not so very interested in beer, loud music and muddy sneakers. The two events combined mean that Göteborg is turned into something very different for a while. The clubs and cafés stay open longer, the city squares are filled with improvising musicians and behind every apartment door there’s a party going on. Many hours before the festival schedule officially starts, the city is literally filled with music, as shown by this clip we just shot from Kungsgatan, one of the shopping streets normally not occupied by pop musicians:

Untitled from explore westsweden on Vimeo.

The Explore West Sweden blog will be your confident guide during the next couple of days, providing concert reviews as well as interviews and vivid accounts of Way Out West’s beer and shellfish selections. Tonight we will sample the club night, taking place at 10 different venues around the city. Stay tuned!

Car Plus Vacation, Last Year’s Winner.

Gothenburg! We wanted to find out just how amazing her trip was so we asked her a few questions. Enjoy!

Mary-Jordon in Gothenburg! We wanted to find out just how amazing her trip was so we asked her a few questions. Enjoy!

1) What was your first impression of Sweden?
I was taken by how well kept everything was there. Anywhere you looked it could have been a view from a postcard.

2) What was on your itinerary?
We began our tour in Gothenberg, then headed north along the coast. After we got our Volvo loaner, we visited Klädesholmen, the Nordic Watercolor Museum (and saw an Andrew Wyeth exhibit, funnily enough), Handelsman Flink on the Flatön island, and the Vitlycke Museum in Tanumshede. Later we traveled to Fjällbacka and tooled around the village while waiting for our ride out to Väderöarnas Guest house. On our way back for one last night in Gothenberg, we stopped for lunch at Villa Sjötorp.

3) What was the greatest culture shock that you saw/experienced while in Sweden?
Coming from the sometimes chaotic New York City, I was surprised to see such order in Gothenburg. It was evident that the Swedish Government devotes a great deal of resources to making the country a pleasant place to live.

4) The beauty in making your own travel itinerary is that you could tailor your trip to your liking – What was your favorite part?
I appreciated getting off what I would consider the beaten path and seeing the Swedish countryside and the more remote sights. We traveled the backroads instead of the E6 whenever possible and enjoyed the farmlands.

5) Is there anything that you left off of your itinerary that you wished you were able to do or see?
Too many to list. I will have to go back one day and see so much more!

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