Crazy about ABBA’s costumes?

11 Jul

Owe Sandström is the world famous designer who created all the magnificent costumes worn by Swedish super group ABBA. On Tuesday 17 July, Owe will be at Kronberg’s Ateljé in Skansen open air museum – where ABBA’s last studio album cover Visitors was shot in 1981. He will talk about how the costumes were made and he will also bring along some unique ABBA memorabilia. Kronberg’s Atelje is open 11 AM-4 PM.

Later in the evening Owe Sandström and The Original ABBA band will take part in the TV show Allsång (Sing-A-Long), broadcast live from the Solliden stage at Skansen.

Besides being ABBA’s costume designer, Owe Sandström directs Stockholm International Horse Show, works as a safari guide in Kenya and is the founder of Sweden’s largest animal care education center.

Owe Sandström with Agnetha Fältskog and her daughter Linda Ulvaeus. Photo: Tibor Bárany,


Sing-a-Long at Skansen, Stockholm

18 Jun

The host of popular TV show Allsång på Skansen (Sing-a-Long at Skansen) Måns Zelmerlöw, is is carried by his young supporters in the audience. Photo: Lars-Eric Örthlund

Tuesday 26 June marks the beginning of the highlight of Swedish summer – the Sing-a-Long at Skansen (in Swedish Allsång på Skansen). This televised event is broadcast live between 8 and 9 PM every Tuesday evening until 14 August. So if you want to sing your heart out in the company of others, this is the place to be. The host of the show is the 26-year-old multi-talented Måns Zelmerlöw, former Idol, Dancing with the Stars and actor/dancer in the musical Grease.

The event has in increased in popularity over the years – the first sing-a-long was back 1979 – especially among the youth, and queues form early in the morning in order to get the best seats, although Skansen doesn’t open until 10 AM. The record audience is 36 000, but usually it’s about 20 000 people trying to get a peak at their favorite artist and sing-a-long. Both Swedish and international starts perform. On Tuesday, 10 July, Eurovision Song Contest winner 2012 Loreen will enter the stage.

Yummy Lard Sausages at Backstugan

15 Jun

At restaurant Backstugan you can enjoy traditional Swedish dishes like Lard Sausages (Isterband). Photo: Ewa Beit

If you’re visiting Sweden and someone suggests that today’s lunch will be Lard Sausages (Isterband in Swedish), it may not trigger your appetite much. And you will probably not believe that they’re any good. But try and move beyond the initial resistance.

Like many other traditional dishes from times gone by, lard sausages are now considered a delicacy. They’re no longer a poor man’s diet but a favorite among many Swedish chefs, and quite expensive in the restaurants that still serve them. Hardly anyone makes them at home anymore.

Lard sausages are made from barley groats mixed with lean pork, lard, ginger, salt and white pepper, they are cured in hog skins for a week. In this time a slight lactic acid fermentation takes place, leaving the sausages smelling somewhat sour. Once fried in a pan or oven the smell disappears and the spices blossom. The traditional trimmings are stewed cabbage or potatoes and beet-roots.

I had some excellent lard sausages at Restaurant Backstugan (cottage on the hill) the other day. The restaurant is located on Greta Garbos Väg (road) in Filmstaden in Solna, a neighboring municipality to Stockholm. Filmstaden was once Sweden’s Hollywood, where famous actress Greta Garbo starred in a number of movies before crossing the Atlantic. The friendly restaurant proprietor Lennart Johansson will greet you and treat you to homemade bread, homemade Tapenade spread and delicious food. Lunch is SEK 90 (USD 13) and includes bread, salad, beverage and coffee.

Euphoria performed by the Royal Guard at Stockholm Castle today

27 May

Sweden won the world’s biggest televised event – ESC, the Eurovision Song contest last night. Singer Loreen leaped to the top in the finals, just as the odds had predicted. Still, when the vote in Baku, Azerbadjian, was confirmed, the Swedes back home got euphoric and dove into the fountain at Sergel’s Torg in central Stockholm.
Today, at the changing of the guards at the Royal Castle in Stockholm, the Royal Guard performed the piece and the crowd cheered on when they were through.

Spritmuseum is an ABSOLUT hit

24 May

From the very first bottle of Absolut vodka portrayed by Andy Warhol, they now exist in all shapes and forms. Photo: Tibor Bárány ©

Today Spritmuseum – the Museum of Spirits – will open its doors to visitors. The museum’s exhibitions will focus on all aspects of life – the  joy and the laughter, but also the agony and the pain – with and without the “booze”. It will tell the tale of how Swedish society and its politicians have chosen to deal with alcohol. In a restrictive Big Brother way, some would say, others claim that it benefits society to restrict the accessibility of alcohol. Alas, Sweden has no privately owned liquor stores but alcohol may only be bought Mondays through Saturdays in the government operated outlets. I’m sure quite a few of the foreign visitors will raise their eyebrows in disbelief  when they learn about the “Swedish model” while others will concur.

The new museum, located just a stone’s throw from the Vasa Museum, is also the new home of the Absolut Art Collection, under the guardiance of Spritmuseum. After many years abroad, the complete collection of art works were finally gathered in Sweden. The first major, retrospective exhibition by Absolut Art Collection is entitled Face it! and is a cross section through the art of the 1980’s and 1990’s. An era associated with the disco balls of Studio 54 in New York, the first victims of Aids, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the birth of IT.

Shirley Rabé Masinter © V&S Vin & Sprit AB 1995 / Shirley Rabé Masinter

The very first artwork created by order of Absolut was Andy Warhol’s painting of the Absolut vodka bottle in 1986, followed by the works of Keith Haring, Jane-in-Vain Winkelman, Shirley Masinter Rabé (Absolut New Orleans pictured below) and Ronnie Wood, to name a few.

For people hungry not only for art and liquor history but for real food, you’re in for a treat. The restaurant at Spritmuseum is bound to be an ABSOLUT hit. Proprietor Alexander Magnusson will serve the best Swedish cuisine with locally grown produce, fresh game of elk, dear and venison, arctic char, vendace roe and salmon. Menus will shift according to what’s in season and the well educated staff will teach the guests about the Swedish schnapps culture. Prices start at SEK 125 and you can order half portions of all dishes. In addition to the restaurant there is also an outdoors dining patio and a seaside bar.

Inaugural lunch at Spritmuseum, clockwise from top: Gubbröra (anchovies, eggs, onion, mayo), cured salmon, poached char, beetroots with goat cheese. Photo: Ewa Beit

RiGastronomy – Latvia is moving up the culinary ladder

23 May

Lunch at Elements. Lightly smoked and grilled salmon, duck eggs and grilled vegetables in a lemon curd sauce. Photo: Ewa Beit

I recently made a trip on Tallink Silja’s ship M/S Romantika, across the Baltic Sea from Stockholm to Riga. If you’re a bit picky with your foods, as I am, instead of eating the buffet dinner, I recommend that you dine in the ship’s Russian á la carte restaurant, where I enjoyed great service and a very nice meal. And the great food continued as I arrived in the Latvian capital. It was all sunshine for mind, body and palate.

The inviting bar at the Tallink Hotel Riga. Photo: Ewa Beit

I stayed at the Tallink Hotel Riga, which is conveniently located close to the railway station, a big shopping mall and the huge market, housed in five old Zeppelin hangars. Tallink Hotel Riga offers excellent rooms and good service. I had a “quick”  three course lunch in the hotel’s own restaurant Elements, where Chef  Svetlana Riskova prepares tasty and elegant food from local produce.

I had a Caesar salad with bacon, followed smoked salmon with horseradish, grilled spring veggies with a tangy lemon sauce and duck eggs, which was actually a first for me. A feast for my eyes as well, lunch left nothing to be desired, it was simply a perfect harmony of flavors, colors and textures.

The Swarowski stone ornate stairway at ESPA in Riga. Photo: Ewa Beit

After a quick guided tour of Riga in-between lunch and dinner I went to the Skyline Bar, located on the 26th floor of the Radisson Hotel. This bar offers a breathtaking view of most of Riga, the largest city in the Baltic States. Another great amenity at the hotel is the five star, six story ESPA spa, offering a full range of luxurious treatments, health and gym facilities, pools and different saunas in a very relaxing atmosphere.

For dinner, I decided to try out Kalku Varti, on Kaļķu ilea 11a (Kalku Street)  This turned out to be an excellent choice and three hours later I was full of not only food, but positive vibrations for Rigan cuisine. For starters I had the basil-marinated spring carrots with white fish mousse, rhubarb (!) and sorrel sauce.

Starting the meal off with basil-marinated carrots and white fish mousse. Photo: Ewa Beit

As is customary in eastern and middle Europe, after salad comes soup, which I really enjoy. At Vincent’s I slurped down a creamy fresh goat cheese soup with wood sorrel. Then a strawberry sherbet to clean the palate, before the main dish – a masterpiece; roasted chicken ballottine with mashed potatoes, fresh harvested tomatoes and a mushroom velouté.

The delicious chicken ballottine at Kalku Varti. Photo: Ewa Beit

Time for dessert, carrot cake with acorn mousse and japonica quince sauce. Look at the photo and you will understand it would have been a crime not to eat it! The carrot cake melted its way down my throat. Vincent’s is located on the busy walking street Miesnieku in the Old Town. It’s advisable to make reservations ahead, as it’s a very busy during the peak season.

I love it when my concerns – especially over food – are proved wrong. Who would have thought there would be such an abundance of great food in Riga! I quickly named it RiGastronomy. It’s a shame the Latvians, because of the poor economic state of the country, cannot afford to participate in the international cooking scene challenges, such as the Bocuse d’Or. But if they do decide to enter, they will be a force to count on. I’m sure they will quickly advance up the gastronomic ladder to culinary fame.

Apart from food Riga is a really nice city to stroll around in, have a beer, a cake and do some shopping. It’s clean, lush and green, has lots of  parks and when you’re tired of walking, take a trip down the river in one of the canal boats. If you like music, there is the annual Riga Opera Festival, from June 5 to 17The highlights of the 2012 festival will be the impressive performances of Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, full of humour, tension, and references to the realities of Latvia. Richard Wagner lived for many years in Riga and was engaged at the Latvian National Opera.

Though Latvian is the official language, the majority of the Rigan population speaks Russian, as many Russians migrated to Latvia when the country was one the republics in the USSR. For those interested in the Latvian and Baltic history, don’t miss a visit to the Museum of Occupation.

For more tips on what to do and eat in Riga, visit Live Riga. And if you prefer to fly to Riga from Stockholm or Copenhagen, it’s just an hour away with Air Baltic.

Yours truly enjoying the spring sun in the Latvian beach resort of Jurmala. Photo: Martin Brozek

And if you have more than just a day or two in Riga, go to the wonderful Baltic Sea beach resort of Jurmala. Located only thirty minutes by car or train from Riga, it used to be the favorite vacation spot for high-level Soviet communist parti officials, particularly Leonid Brezhnev and Nikita Khrushchevs.

Take a bite at Stockholm Culinary Week 1–6 June

21 May

Don’t be shy! Whether you’re a gourmet or a gourmand, be sure to take a bite. Some of Sweden’s best chefs will treat you to Swedish specialities and cross-over food at Stockholm Culinary Week early June. There will be oyster tasting, chili cook-offs, bar tending know hows, cook alongs, culinary walks and trips to the archipelago (the thousands and thousands of islands surrounding Stockholm).

For more info visit Stockholm Culinary Week.

Love is in the air 9 June – drop in wedding service in Stockholm

21 May

In 2011 the first couple to married started queuing at 6 AM! Photo: Courtesy of Skansen

All of Skansen open air museum will turn into a celebration of love come 9 June. Wedding bells will chime for all wannabe wedding couples. It’s the third annual drop-in wedding ceremony arranged at the famous open air museum in Stockholm. So if you want to tie the knot in Stockholm, be sure to come early. Last year the first couple queued up outside the gates at 6 AM to be the first couple wed.

Everything needed for a successful day will be available: photographers, florists, champagne bar, make-up artists and music. The restaurants offer wedding menus, picnic baskets, pastries and cakes and the musicians will play wedding marches and waltzes at the outdoor dance hall. At the glassworks the happy couples may eternalize their breaths inside of a glass heart.

And it’s a new record! A whooping 436 couples were happily united at Skansen. Last year 252 couples were married, in 2010 the number was 357.

Isle of Lime whisky from Roma, Sweden

18 May

The distillery is in the little village of Roma on Gotland. Photo: Courtesy of Gotland Whisky

The former industrial premises of Roma sugar factory on the island of Gotland (in the Baltic Sea) now houses a modern destillery, created to produce approximately 60 000 liters (16 000 US gallons) of organic malt whisky a year. The very first whisky will be a single malt, named Isle of Lime. It will be ready in three years, in the spring of 2015. The name Isle of Lime is very fitting as Gotland is known for its lime stone.

The beautiful copper kettles come from the re-knowned coppersmith Forsyth in Scotland. Photo: Courtesy of Gotland Whisky

Currently, it’s busily dripping away in the spectacular, newly refurbished destillery. The Isle of Lime produced is a single malt with smokey notes. In time other exclusive types of whisky will also be launched. Expert whisky maker Henry Cockburn from Bowmore Destillery in Scotland has been involved in the process all the way. And as he visited Gotland in March to taste the first drops he was apparently very pleased with what he saw and congratulated on the destillery and its progress.

Check out Youtube for the first drops of Gotland Whisky.

Currently in Brazil…

10 May

It seems the good people of Brazil knows stuff about us Swedes, that we ourselves, don’t know.

“The Swedish nomads travel by reindeer-drawn sleighs between the polar region tundras in the north to the Jönköping plateau in the south of the country.”

Santa’s is actually a Swedish nomad

True or false – you judge. So please, leave a comment!

Greetings from Santa Land 🙂