Coming In From The Cold

Warm and inviting Swedish cuisine

whitebait roe served atop a cheese biscuit and deer with black current sauce leave little room for dessert. But the temptation is irresistible: a peach composition with pistachios and mocha ice cream followed by handmade chocolates. And to aid in digesting such a delicious and complex meal, Sweden’s famous spiced vodka, aquavit, is always the perfect finish.

A SWEDISH STAR COOKS IT UP INTERNATIONALLY
Swedish cuisine is relatively unknown in the U.S., but when chef Marcus Samuelsson came to New
York in 1995, he was convinced Swedish fare could follow in the popular traditions of French, Italian, and Chinese food.

“Swedish food is poor man’s cooking,” says Samuelsson. “We have seafood and a lot of game and a lot of pickling. Chefs take it to an elegant nuance.” Samuelsson, who is part owner and executive chef at New York City’s premier Swedish restaurant Aquavit — named after Sweden’s famous spiced vodka — is a celebrity back home.

Originally from Ethiopia, Samuelsson was raised by adoptive parents in Gothenburg, Sweden. His mixed background represents the increasing diversity in Sweden and its cuisine. Culinary schools teach French and Italian cooking while incorporating regional specialties and foods brought by North African and Turkish immigrants.

“Now we eat couscous with meatballs, and pasta is a big part of Swedish food.”

After working in Austria and Switzerland, Samuelsson came to New York because he wanted to “be in an open-minded city with a lot of ethnic restaurants.

“I just followed my gut. I wanted to be somewhere where I didn’t have to explain why I’m from Africa. I wanted a clean slate. That way, I’d only be judged by my food.”

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