I have to be honest and confess that I'm quite shocked about how inspired I was during my trip to Sweden! The people were so nice and genuine, the food was ah-mazing, the culture of sport, movement and exercise was refreshing, but the thing that surprised me most was how inspired I was aesthetically, Sweden was a lovely mixture of old architecture and clean modern lines.
Much of the credit for such a inspiring trip goes to our most gracious hostess, TL Stina Albihn. I first met Stina 2 years ago in Hungary where she earned her level 1 and level 2 two weekends in a row, next meeting up a few months later in St Paul MN where she earned her Bodyweight Certification. Stina was generous enough to invite Mark and I to stay in her home for 6 days, and I learned so much about everyday Swedish family life and living. Everything I mentioned about being inspired by the people, food, physical culture and design was represented in Stina's home (her 6 3/4 year old daughter Alicia joined us for the last two days). I'd like to share a bit about the food in this post. It's nice spending time with other good cooks and I learned a lot from watching her cook and prepare our home cooked meals.
First of all, I totally appreciate other people that prefer to stay home and cook rather than always going out to a restaurant! Out of the six nights we were visiting we ate in for half of them! And when we did go out the dinner restaurants were crazy good! (more about my favorite later). Did you know that the top six coffee consuming countries are Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden, where the US comes in 25? I didn't! Getting a good cup of joe was not a problem at all, and in fact I'm convinced Stina makes the best cup of coffee anywhere!
Stina made a lovely chicken curry stew the first night we arrived, which I enjoyed for breakfast and lunch the next day! The other two nights we stayed in she made salmon, which now makes me want a convection oven more that ever! (I'm totally getting one!) Stina was able to cook a completely frozen fillet, with mushrooms, sliced carrots and red onion, to perfection in 25 minutes, without overcooking it! She also made a simple salad of lettuce (or cabbage), tomato, watermelon and red onion to accompany each dinner. (I never thought I would meet anybody who loved melon more than I do and I'm quite sure we went through at least 1/2 dozen watermelon during our stay!) And besides being a really good cook, she had all, or most of the healthy everyday foods Mark and I are used to already in her fridge and pantry, a benefit of staying with health conscious friends for sure! One tip I took away from her freezer staples...frozen strawberries! For some reason I don't care much for fresh strawberries, but as I made my lunch of yogurt and oats every morning I threw a handful of frozen berries in it and by lunch they were perfect! (I picked some up while at the market yesterday!)
For lunches we didn't pack for the day ourselves, we ate out at Stina's favorite soup and salad buffet (sorry, I didn't get the name of it) where I had the lentil soup she orders regularly. So of course I had to come home and make some of my own! (which finished cooking about 30 minutes ago!). This particular cafe also had an amazing bakery case, and although I chose the soup and salad over dessert I did make it a point to buy three items for my trip home. One super large bran muffin, one cinnamon roll, and one piece of carrot cake....okay, and a handful of chocolate truffles, which made it all the way home-unlike the three baked goods :)
I could go on and on and on, but I'll wrap it up with my favorite dinner out. "A Hereford Beefstouw", I'm pretty sure the translation is "The best freaking steak dinner you could ever want!" (http://beefstouw.com/goteborg/) Although I did not have the steak, instead choosing to try the famous local halibut suggested to me by SSFG Tommy Blom, it was everything else on the menu that had my head spinning! The appetizer list was actually my favorite and I could have easily only ordered only from the "Forratter" menu (starters)! Instead I had to only choose one and it was between the Lobster Salad, Red Swedish Caviar, Escargots, or Hereford Oxtail Soup. I chose the escargot....official description; "Escargots in Three Variations: Garlic/parsley, tarragon/goat cheese, mushrooms/almonds" Seriously. What?
Each ramekin came with two snails (I got tired of typing escargot!) which Mark and I shared one apiece. Oh, and the house wine was the best ever, ever, ever! It was also nice to see cheese plates offered on the dessert menu, and although I did not order one (because I chose to eat the bread with my dinners!) I will hopefully get another chance again some day :)
Equally delicious was the decor and vibe of this restaurant! A calm soothing blue grey color of the walls, bold art work, unstained, natural wood tabletops varnished with cream (!), and natural teak and leather dining chairs, topped off with white china and sleek stainless steel accents in the cutlery. I completely want to redo my kitchen and dining area now that I'm home!
All in all, I'm overwhelmed with inspiration. Fingers crossed it will last long enough with the memories still fresh in my mind to follow through with some changes I want to make in my home/kitchen and foods. Big huge thank you to Stina for helping to make my first trip to Sweden a truly unforgettable experience, and one that will last through adopting some of the culture I was so lucky to be a part of, if only for six days.
List of things I'm inspired to do:
Get a convection oven!
Salads with watermelon and red onion.
A more minimalistic approach to quality foods, not quantity.
Chocolate truffle squares.
Third photo down from top, on right; Stina and me at the Hungary Kettlebell Certification August, 2012.
I haven't done a very good job of promoting The Swing Quest this time around but I thought better late than never!
The Swing Quest is 2014 swing rep Marathon Event I lead in my home Studio, No Excuses, four times a year (for address and directions http://noxcusesfitness.com/). This Sunday, July 6th will be the third event, and one that I have a special souvenir to give away to all participants!
Sunday July 6th, 8:00am-9:40am, cost $40. A well earned breakfast afterwards, OR maybe you'll come just to swing off the Fourth of July Celebrations? Not saying you'll need to or anything!