… AND A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC

We’re off on our way
What a beautiful day
For a weekend in the country …..

The next day was sunny and warm and perfect for our roadtrip, Per driving the Volvo.

As we meandered along the roads, Lena noticed a roadside stand selling fruit and vegetables. We got out of the car to buy the new potatoes, sitting in a large cardboard box and still covered with chunks of dirt, and baskets of strawberries. The vendor was surprised that we were Americans, and pleased to speak English. As our car began to pull away, his wife and daughter hurried over. “Stop, we want to sing you a Swedish song.” They apologized for not having their guitar … and sang a capella. A lovely song, with Lena joining in, she explained later that it’s about being welcomed into a tavern.

Wow. Just wow.

We continued our drive, enjoying small towns with charming homes and long stretches of coastline. As midday approached, it was time to look for a place to have lunch. And that’s how we found GLOMMENS FISKEGROG, a “Caribbean Bar” on the shore in the eponymous town of Glommen.

We walked out to the patio, and picked a table closest to the shore. With a push of a button, the glass windscreen went up … and we sat, smiling, in the sunshine.

I can’t remember the last time I couldn’t read/understand a menu. As we decided, mini loaves of an dark, orange-tinted bread arrived at the table, along with butter. With a soft crumb, it was slightly sweet and very delicious. We asked if they included carrots or squash, were were told no … and no, you cannot have the recipe.

While Lena and Per had beer, David and I opted for white wine. The item that caught my eye was a winemaker called The Beach House … so with memories of Poipu Beach, we each ordered a glass. Sauvignon blanc … light minerality, crisp without being too acidic, very sippable.

Lunch arrived … three of us ordered cod, Per had picked braised beef. It was the best cod I’ve ever eaten! Moist and flaky and full of flavor, it was topped with savory shrimp, asparagus spears, and a curl of fried carrot. There were new potatoes in butter … and a salad of wild field greens in a light vinaigrette.

Lena said we had to have a quintessential Swedish dessert. Angel’s Dessert with crumbled “Dreams.” It’s vanilla ice cream with loganberries, and this version had amazing, almost bitter caramel (seems counterintuitive that sugar could become not sweet, but this was great) and topped with crumbled “Dreams” … a lighter-than-air cookie. The waiter brought over a couple for us to try … meringue-esque, but still a cookie … Lena said it gets its ultraight texture because ammonia is part of leavening. I’ve heard of that, but never used it. Guess I might need to try it … (though I tend to be a soft cookie, warm cookie kind of girl).

We continued our drive, weaving our way through the beautiful countryside. It’s easy love Sweden. As the temperature tumbles, no wonder they say, There’s no bad weather, only bad clothes.

We noticed a shop on a nearby lane, and Lena suggested we stop. The red barn is being used as a bric-a-brac store … FARMORS LADA, in Lynga … with all its rustic charm. Kaffe & Kuriosa, says the business card. As we walked toward the front door, I reminded myself that we wouldn’t be able to buy anything since we only have small suitcases. Hold that thought. Lena said that so many of the items brought back childhood memories, everything in very good condition. As I looked around, I noticed a stack of braid rugs. Handmade and classically Swedish. I picked up one with blues and pinks and reds … about 180 krone (18 euros). That’s a great price for a rug this quality, this size … I began folding it to see if and how it could fit in my suitcase. I put it aside, and continued to look.

The owner, Thomas, came over, and began talking with us. He offered us coffee and apple cake … take your time, it will be ready when you want it. By now, David was looking, too. Don’t look there, he cautioned … but it was too late. I had already seen the little wooden cat with blue eyes. I’m not sure if David mentioned Italy or if it was me, but once Thomas heard that we lived in Tuscany, he said that he and his wife were going there in September … and he’d be happy to deliver whatever our purchases.

We wouldn’t be able to buy anything since we only have small suitcases …

Looking and finding. There was another smaller wooden cat with a curly metal tail … two hand-painted plates by well-known artist Bjorn Wiinblad (for a Danish pottery company called Nymolle), one was a girl with two cats!, the other with a girl and birds … a set of Bavarian fish plates and a platter that David found … linen/cotton kitchen towels with red stitching, some with my grandfather’s initials … green glass plates … record albums from David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac … a decorative heart made from small cork-sized pieces of driftwood … a 50-year old Moulinex grater that my mom used to have … and a wooden trunk with an old Buenos Aires to Hamburg sticker on the side. Simply to hold all of it … and the braid rug!

We then sat outside … wildflowers in the field across the road and the shimmering sea in the distance … eating delicious apple-cinnamon cake with creamy vanilla custard and drinking coffee.

We got another souvenir, a very special souvenir … a pair of Lena’s handmade pottery cups, perfect for espresso.

Dinner that night was Lena’s home-cured gravlax. Yes, yes, yes … it was the best version I’ve had (since the one time I made it in college) … we ate a lot … I will make it at home. David will have to grow dill, aneto, since I’ve never even seen dried dill in an Italian supermarket … I brought back a jar from Florida. New potatoes with sour cream and dill shared the plate, and Prosecco was poured and enjoyed. Dessert on our last night in Sweden was strawberries and whipped cream. Sweet dreams indeed.

Now we were heading to Oslo. Per and Lena were concerned that road closures … starting that morning … would not be indicated on our navigation, and a detour and delay would mean we’d miss our bus. So Lena generously offered to guide us, taking the long way to work. We followed her to the car rental office downtown, and then she drove us the 10 minutes to the bus station.

Lena gave us an amazing care package filled with homemade cinnamon rolls, bread, cheese, muesli, a bottle of blueberry juice, and (tucked at the bottom as a surprise) a container of strawberries and whipped cream. Lena and Per were generous hosts, strepitosi is the Italian word I’d use, and their friendship made our visit to Sweden perfect … we’re looking forward to seeing them again, here or there, and to seeing more of this beautiful country.

Our Flixbus leaves at 9.30 for the 3-hour ride to the Norwegian capital. Lena said to sit on the driver’s side … for the better view and to avoid the sun.

Grazie mille … thank you so much … tack sa mycket.

POST SCRIPT: Thomas and Angelika delivered our goodies recently, and it was like Christmas seeing everything again. We sat inside on a drizzly Tuscan day, drinking espresso and eating banana-oatmeal cake and cookies (brutti ma buoni … butter cookies … cantucci … nutella cookies). They have a condo near Siena, and visit once or twice a year … and are thinking about updating it. I offered my Italian language skills, which they were pleased to accept. I did say that my dealing with Italian bureaucracy and red tape would be the subject of a new story [wink]. Our new friends. They’re not from around here either.

(Next episode … NORWEGIAN WOOD)

MOSTACCIOLI WITH BROCCOLI RABE AND PANCETTA

6 oz. pancetta, cut into long dice
1 large bunch of broccoli rabe
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup white wine (optional)
1 lb. mostaccioli or penne
Pecorino … for grating

- In a frying pan large enough to hold the pasta, saute the pancetta.
- In the large pot where you will cook the pasta, bring a small amount of salted water to a boil. Cook the broccoli rabe until tender … remove with tongs, letting it sit in the colander for a minute or two.
- Chop the broccoli rabe.
- When the pancetta starts to get brown at the edges, add the garlic. When the pancetta is brown, add the chopped broccoli rabe, and salt and pepper to taste.
- In a pot where you cooked the broccoli rabe, add some more water, and bring it to a boil. Cook the mostaccioli until barely al dente.
- Add the white wine and, if necessary, some of the pasta cooking liquid so the broccoli rabe-pancetta mixture stays very moist.
- Reserve some of the pasta cooking water, then drain the mostaccioli.
- Add the mostaccioli into the frying pan. Toss well, adding pasta cooking water to keep moist. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil.
- Serve.
- Sprinkle with pecorino.
Enjoy!