This week’s travel dream: Sweden’s emergence as a foodie destination

Sweden is now “one of Europe’s surging culinary stars.”

Surprisingly, Sweden is now “one of Europe’s surging culinary stars,” said Raphael Kadushin in Condé Nast Traveler. Extending far up into the Arctic Circle, the country suffers a five-month winter that makes farming or raising livestock notoriously difficult. Yet Sweden took silver at 2011’s Bocuse d’Or chef championship, with gold and bronze going to Nordic neighbors Denmark and Norway, respectively. I traveled to Sweden to see firsthand how it overcame a forbidding climate to find gastronomic glory.

I figure there��d be no one better to introduce me to Sweden’s food scene than Mathias Dahlgren, one of the country’s top chefs. Instead of meeting at one of his restaurants, he drives me 10 minutes outside of Stockholm to Rosendal’s Garden, and upon arrival I immediately see why. Perfume wafts from the rose garden, the fruit garden abounds with apples, and a café serves fresh-baked bread. “The whole blooming utopia” affirms that food is alive and well here. Later, at Dahlgren’s Matbaren food bar, overlooking Stockholm’s main harbor, I sample exuberant dishes that explore the “concentrated taste” of moss, forest, wild herbs, and woods. It sounds like a “mouthful of mulch,” but “it makes for a pristine plateful” in the hands of local chefs.

I also visit the pastoral island of Grinda, a two-hour ferry ride from Stockholm, as well as the bleak, northern town of Fäviken. Not only do I find examples of the flourishing culinary culture everywhere, but I also pick up on a theme that applies to both the cuisine and life in general here. With death and winter always around the corner, it’s best to make do with what you have and enjoy bliss when it comes. This is what everyone is doing as I walk through Stockholm, “the entire city giddy now that the sun is shining.” Along the harbor, pale sunbathers take in rays and men cast fishing lines off bridges. In Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s medieval town, “even the old stone houses seem flushed with joy.” The façades lining the town’s cobbled alleys are painted shades of yellow to prolong dusk, so this afternoon the “streets become one long, luminous sunbeam” that appears “lit from within.”

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At Stockholm’s Lydmar Hotel (, doubles start at $459.

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