Monday, February 25, 2013

Mexican food in Stockholm - yes!

Welcome Grace Ann of On My Bike with Scissors and a Cast Iron Skillet to Delicious Ambiguity! Here's her take on how a Texas girl survives Stockholm's scant Mexican variety. Enjoy!

What do corn tortillas, leftover baked potatoes, eggs, a cast iron skillet, cheese, avocado, and salsa all have in common? The most awesome skillet breakfast ever, that’s all. 

I woke up this morning craving the taste of Tex Mex and when I opened the refrigerator door, it was as if these ingredients were glowing. My eyes quickly picked out what was relevant to a Tex Mex skillet breakfast and I started chopping, cooking and assembling. The result: deliciousness!

One of the things I have missed the most living here in Sweden is Mexican and Tex Mex food. Coming from Texas, going out for Mexican food and margaritas, or creating a Mexican fiesta at home was something that happened on a regular basis, sometimes several times a week. 

When we first moved to Stockholm, we tried our best to embrace what was available here: combination corn and flour tortillas, salsas with little to no complexity or spice, and cheddar cheese as the best “Mexican” cheese option. Luckily cilantro, avocados and jalapeños were plentiful and tomatillos available seasonally so we were able to make do.

Add to that the occasional, very-much-appreciated care packages filled with salsas, green chilis and enchilada sauce from friends and family at home, and we couldn’t really complain. 

Over time, we've been able to add to our Mexican food resources with the discovery of tiny pieces of Mexico and Tex Mex tucked within the nooks and crannies of Stockholm. The “infamous” La Neta taco restaurant, now with two locations, has several vegetarian options and delicious, homemade salsa. 

And our most recent discovery, a store called Extreme Food, sells an assortment of burn-your-gizzard-out salsas, sauces, and chilis, as well as their quaint little corner devoted solely to Mexican imports. Now, armed with our own tortilla press and a plethora of authentic ingredients, Mexican food is no longer something we have to long for. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

28 Years Young

I have to admit, 28 has been pretty swell so far. 

my birthday party, photo by Heini

I woke up to NS singing me happy birthday with breakfast in bed (a Swedish tradition) - a cheese and marmalade sandwich with dried mango slices on the side (not a Swedish tradition) - and a birthday candle to blow out. No matter that I could only manage 1 bite; not used to eating until I'm at my desk at work. 

Lunch at one of Stockholm's best Thai restaurants (there are many), Koh Phangan. An incredible fika at work of raspberry white chocolate cupcakes, directly followed by the Swedish Fat Tuesday pastry called semla (see below). How convenient (and appropriate, given my love of food) that my birthday fell on such a day. 

And in the evening, a lovely book club meeting to discuss The Kitchen House, an amazing, albeit depressing book. With heart-shaped chocolate cupcakes with chocolate cream-cheese frosting. No wonder my nickname is Kakie.

On Saturday, I threw myself a birthday party with about 30 of my nearest and dearest. I don't imagine our neighbors were too happy given the increasing music volume as the evening progressed into morning - but we didn't mind. And hey, no one complained. 

And on Monday, I started my annual bikram yoga marathon, this time for 10 days. It's the new studio discount, and fortunately for me, a new studio just opened up. Not sure what I'll do when this one's done since I'll have used up my newcomer deals at all of Stockholm's studios, but I'm feeling amazing for now. Hurrah 28!

semla (1), semlor (many!)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cross country skiing and birthday surprises

Since it is inevitable that I'll be turning 28 tomorrow, I have couldn't have asked for a better way to begin what is indisputably my late 20s.

My 30-kilometer Kristinaloppet cross country ski race was on Saturday, and I have to say, I was pretty nervous about it over the few days leading up to that cold, snowy morning. Friday night, NS & I rented a car and did our best to prepare for a hitch-less 6:30am departure for Norberg, about 2 hours northwest of Stockholm.

the start - trust me, I was far from up front

Late on Friday night, NS told me that I might want to bring my bathing suit, "just in case we come across a pool somewhere." I've made it my mantra to bring my bathing suit on every trip for fear of missing an opportunity to jump into whatever body of water we happen upon, but it didn't cross my mind for this particular adventure - it's tough to swim in lakes coated in thick sheets of ice.

"And maybe bring some other clothes, just in case we decide to stop for dinner somewhere," he added.

I was elated! I absolutely love surprises and couldn't wait to see what this one would be.

Our 6:30 departure was a bit delayed, but we still had plenty of time before the race's 10am start. That is, until we missed a turn (I can only blame myself, as the navigator, who needed a quick cat nap). Narrow, back-country roads wind-swept by mounds of light snow led us to our destination with 30 minutes to go go go! I made it to the start line just 20 seconds before the start gun sounded, without having waxed my skis (this is a crucial part of cross-country skiing, and one which I'm far from mastering) - ooops!

coming up on the finish!

The terrain of the Kristinaloppet is not particulary challenging - it's hilly, but nothing too extreme. However, for some reason, I didn't get in a good flow until kilometer 26. That means 26 kilometers of against the wind perseverance - snow in face - ache in lower back - fingers stuck in a grasp of my poles.  I struggled onward, propelled by dreams of blueberry soup (the traditional drink handed out to cross-country skiers at the hydration stations) only to be disappointed after a couple sips.

By the time I made it back to the finish line some 4 hours and 20 minutes after starting in the same spot, most of the spectators had gone home. I managed a strong finish, and passed a couple people on the way, but I have to say it wasn't a heroic performance by any means. Still, I did it! 458th out of 511.

After booking it to the car to salvage what was left of NS' frozen fingers, we headed to the surprise destination, which turned out be Friibergh herrgårdThis beautiful hotel is located along the shores of a lake north of Stockholm in an estate dating back to 1329.  We made it just in time for afternoon tea, and nestled onto a comfy fireside couch with finger sandwiches, baked goods, and beers. It was heaven.

After eating a few too many skagen (a delicious shrimp mix) sandwiches, we relaxed in the hotel's basement pool and sauna before our 5-course dinner. The food was incredible - and we finished it all. Each course was paired with a specially selected drink - white wine, red wine, cognac, something else I'd never heard of. By the end, I was full beyond belief and could barely keep my eyes open. 30km + a 5-course meal will do that to you.

On Sunday morning, we awoke to see ice skaters fly by on the lake outside our window in the annual ice skating race from Uppsala to Stockholm - vikingarännet. We explored the grounds a bit before hopping back in the car and back home. It was an incredible weekend and the perfect start to my late 20s!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Friday at Piren

For the last 2 Friday nights, I've taken NS to dinner - pretty nice deal for him, eh? 

The first was to a restaurant called Piren, or the pier, an appropriate name, as the restaurant is built entirely over the water on a pier. It's modern, straight-lined design creates a cozy interior enclosed by glass walls to enjoy the gorgeous views. Piren is just a 10-minute walk from our place, and I've been itching to go, so I surprised NS with it by leading him through the snowy, waterside, moon-lit trail to our destination.

A bottle of red and some homemade rolls with cream cheese held us over until our entrées arrived - mine a grilled, rosemary & garlic-encrusted lamb filé with creamy carrot mash and truffle oil and NS a grilled entrecote with bearnaise sauce and fries. 

And dessert of course: créme brulée with caramel apple sorbet and chocolate fondant with passionfruit ice cream. Quite a mix of flavors, but they worked.

Then there was our culinary experience this past Friday, of slightly lesser quality - our late-night stop at Max's (the McDonald's of Sweden, but better). But ohhhh how my cheeseburger and fries hit the spot!