Many of the myths you hear about Swedes are true. Do you imagine them foraging for mushrooms in the forest? They do. Do you picture them singing and drinking schnapps all night long? They do. Do you imagine them snow-shoeing through a mountain pass to eat at a cottage in the woods that’s famous for its pancakes? They do that, too. During the six years I lived in Sweden, I was invited to pick cloudberries, forage chanterelles, hunt deer, and fish crayfish. On more than one occasion I enjoyed a long meal with friends in a barn made into a makeshift dining room (these were different friends with different barns, mind you).
It made sense that Amy and I would end the first day of our trip through southwestern Sweden at a place like Restaurang Fond. Though the walls at Fond are draped with purple velvet curtains and the service is what you’d expect from a fine dining establishment, I was back at home. It was as though I were experiencing a mini-reverie of my Swedish years, in food form.
One spoonful of Chef Stefan Karlsson’s foamy shellfish soup and I was ten years back in time, eating a seafood bisque in the Stockholm archipelago. A dish of delicately smoked salmon and raw shrimp and I was transported to my first visit to Gothenburg when my friend Tove and I bought local shrimp at the market, then took a boat to an island where we sat on the rocks in the sunshine, peeling off their husks and dipping them in aioli.
The farm-to-table movement has hit Sweden with a bang, changing the often generically continental menu to include ingredients that taste and look like they were plucked from the forest. Our meal was filled with root vegetables like black salsify, Jerusalem artichoke and beets; black currants, which grow wild in Sweden; and of course, seeing as we were in Gothenburg, it was flush with fresh seafood like cuttlefish and cod and brill. To top it all off, a dessert of ice cream on top fried pancake droplets. I practically had one foot in my snowshoes.
“What does “fond” mean?” we asked our server between courses.
“It can mean the base to a sauce as well as the backdrop in a theater,” he answered.
As the sun set over the museum across the square it cast shadows across the dining room of the Carl Milles sculpture out front. Chef Stefan Karlsson took time to greet us and the other guests even as he whisked in and out to host two back-to-back events at the neighboring art museum. I realized we’d outstayed our welcome when I looked over and saw the servers stood polishing glassware at the bar. It may have been theatre, but I felt right at home.