Thursday, July 20, 2006

The best summer meal, so far!

Drop me in a country I've never been to before and I guarantee you I will find good food. You could say it's my calling. Which brings me to Stockholm. Stockholm is hot, especially the food scene, so anyone who loves food should make the pilgrimage as soon as possible.
Stockholm is made up of many islands, and in the summer people pass their time going from one to the other for meals and visits. The Swedes seem to spend the rest of their year planning for the summer: two to three months of warm weather and bright skies late into the evening.
Oaxen Skärgårdskrog is on the small island of Oaxen (100 inhabitants) and is one of the finest restaurants in Sweden, with a wine list that almost surpasses the food. Its owners, Magnus and Agnetha, also own Pumpen, a small restaurant on the dock opposite Oaxen Skärgårdskrog where they serve day-trippers and guests who stay overnight on a boat they've docked next to Pumpen.

My meal at Oaxen Skärgårdskrog took eating to a whole new level, but the simple menu at Pumpen was the most perfect and refined short menu I've ever seen. There were just four dishes. I sat there and thought, why restaurants in the United States don't have this kind of confidence? Pumpen gives you what everyone wants—a few beautiful choices made from the best of what is in season.

Here's what I had: A bowl of chilled smoked shrimp served with the silkiest garlic aioli, homemade bread, raw milk butter from Jarna, the Rudolph Steiner complex an island away, and a Swedish beer that I swear had a Darjeeling tea finish.
Here's their unusual method for cooking the shrimp. They put them in the oven frozen and cook them at a low temperature. Then they heat the chips over a burner in a cast iron skillet until they begin to smoke. They then cover the chips pan while it is still smoking hot and place it the oven below the shrimp and cook for several hours. (I'm waiting for the official recipe which I'll post when I get it). I think we can approximate this here even though we don't have the same kind of shrimp.
Anyway, you eat the whole meal with your hands, outdoors, in the most spectacular setting and you think, this is what summer is all about. When it comes to the most memorable and delicious food, I always go for something simple. When something beautifully simple is done right, it is the ultimate in refinement.

Oaxen Skärgårdskog_153 93 Hõlõ_Phone +46 (0) 8 551 531 05_Fax + 46 (0) 8 551 531 70_E-Mail:


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