That's litterally how much time I had to decide whether I was going to accept the out of the blue New Year's Eve dinner party invitation from my friends in Stockholm at 12:30 in the afternoon on Dec 31, 2011. That's all the time I had including packing my socks/curlers/laptop/night cream, locking up my apartment and get on the bike down to the Central Station in order to catch the train which would arrive at dinner time in Stockholm, five hours up into the cold, freezing wood lands of Northern Sweden.
Of course I said yes, and I had the most fun three days in the old, beautiful capital.
On the surprisingly empty train I got a window seat on first class which included free drinks, snacks, wifi, electric output for my laptop -- and a most scenic view from my seat across icy mountains, deep dark forests, vast lakes and cozy villages hiding beyond the hills and valleys of a wintery Sweden. So much more fun and relaxing than the stress of flying.
Having finally arrived in good spirits just before the other guests arrived, I was handed the evening's first glass of champagne and felt more than ready to let the air out of this horrible horrible year called 2011. Really, it's been crap, including all that happened in Japan. Let's have a new one, shall we?
As we all know, setting a table is of absolute importance to the succes of your dinner party. Creating a safe and intimate atmosphere is essential, making sure no guests are blinded by your table light or feeling cold and bleak from bluish neon lights in the ceiling. Many Americans decorate their kitchens like it was the staff room at McDonalds, but I say that is an abomination. Respect your eating environments, please. A little light & table decor love can go a long way.
Here in Stockholm, the dinner table is set fabulously with lots of Danish design:
Tablecloth "Fold/Unfold" by Margrethe Odgaard.
Plates and porcelain from Royal Copenhagen, silver ware + water pitcher from Georg Jensen.
The red wine was decanted before being served in a nice glass pitcher.
Main dish of the evening:
Julia Child's famous (and very tedious to make) Beef Bourguignon from her cookbook Mastering French Cooking which was reintroduced to the public after the Julie & Julia movie came out a few years ago. If you like movies about food you must go and rent it right now.
Side dishes as the recipe demands: green peas and potatoes (and kindly cooked rice for me due to my insane food allergies).
Sorry about the blurry pic, I only brought my shitty little Casio cam for this trip
All the food was very delicious and a nice contrast to the usual New Year's fish dishes you're always served. A warm beef dish just matches slushy ice rain better than flaccid fish.
A nice, spicy red wine which goes well with the Bourguignon served in cool wine glasses with no stems.
Home baked chocolate cake with freshly whipped Swedish cream.
Lovely gold sparkling truffles for the champagne:
And if you're still in doubt whether we're all a bunch of fags, this should put your mind to ease:
On the shelf in the livingroom: the official DVD of the Royal Danish Wedding back in 2004 between his Majesty the Crown Prince Frederik II and Princess Mary. The gayest DVD in town.
So this is where I could end this post. I have no more pics of the dinner party, and all the guests were in a relationship so there are no slutty singles table dancing actions to report on anyway.
But since this was my first time in Stockholm and since I was very taken by its Swedishness I want to share more pics of my macro holiday.
We took a long walk on Jan 1st to inhale the fresh cold air of a new year.
Stockholm is a city built on islands so there are water fronts and rocky stone walls everwhere, always super close to the elements. It was raining sleet and slush the whole time so no cozy snow pics, but imagine this city on a quiet romantic summer night and you'll fall in love instantly.
Ferries in the many little harbours are sailing to close island destinations or maybe offering dinners and music on board while sight seeing from the waterside.
The many bare rock walls, like standing next to a mountain, were covered in beautiful ice patterns.
Even the metro stations around Stockholm are decorated as if they were cut out into the mountains... which they actually are. So it's very meta.
The metro interiors though are super East Germany 1979. Brown/orange/yellow totally rules.
Gamla Stan (old city) is the old part of Stockholm, really old and really charming. Seems everyone was out walking on Jan 1st.
The narrow streets remind me of Italian villages, it's super cozy.
People are rushing about, looking for a warm seat to hide from the icy rain.
There are many souvenir shops of course, most of them focus on Pippi, Moomin and viking heritage.
Make your own Medieval Clothing. Awesome.
Beer mugs made from animal horns, belt knuckle copies from the bronze age. This truly is the Skankynavia: Style edition.
White chocolate "flødeboller"/gräddbullar:
There is a range of beautiful designer/boutique and traditional hotels along the many waterfronts round the city.
We stepped into one of them to inspect this amazing lounge situated inside an old courtyard which has now been transformed into a hangout space for guests. The ceiling is supposed to be a pixelated version of looking up into green leaves from the ground.
For lunch we stepped into the upscale, but still relaxed Swedish restaurant Sturehof. The interior is like a French bistro with a Swedish undercurrent. The waiters were wearing three different colored jackets -- red, black or white, all with military flavoured ornaments and emblems, depending on hierachy.
Fresh bouquets everywhere, how elegant.
The big menu card is unique and printed new every day (!)
It's also very expensive. But then again, Stockholm is super pricey. Even the real estate market is booming like mad.
We start out with a basket of different homemade crackers and "knækbrød". Scoop on butter or eat bare.
Two of us decided to go for the "rimmad salmon with stewed potatoes in dill and cream" ($39!).
Rimmad salmon is salmon marinated in sugar, salt and spices. It was just beautiful. And so tender you could cut it with your eyelash.
Potatoes also perfectly stewed and soft.
My other friend had bouilllabaise, the traditional fish stew with blue mussels and er.. other stuff. It had a deep umami flavour and was very filling.
The next day we went out for an art exhibition and then went for lunch at Råkultur, a sushi place.
When we arrived, the very friendly staff placed us at a table and went to fetch warm water for the little glass teapot with green tea leaves in the middle of the table.
Then an hour glass is flipped and when all the sand has run out, we could sip the tea.
Your own private little tea ceremony right there, for free, at your table. I think that's good service and great fun.
The sushi was also very good. And that white thing resting on a maki roll there?
Yes, ladies and gentleman, that's a popcorn. It was on both our plates so it probably wasn't a mistake. Borderline silly but whatever, there's a long way to Tokyo, the mothership of sushi, after all.
An hour later I was stepping onto the train back to Copenhagen, away from this great city which I'd love to explore more. I'll just have to come back again in summertime, when you can take long walks along the harbour fronts and soak in more of the Swedish culture.
Happy new year -- let's all wish for an exciting and tasty 2012. And don't forget to set your tables nicely!