Monday, January 01, 2007

Christmas in Sweden and a great dinner at Grappa

Back in business again after spending Christmas in Sweden with family and friends. We had a great time seeing everybody and had our fair share of the foods at the traditional Swedish Christmas Smorgasbord, Julbord. The Julbord is a big feast of Christmas ham with mustard, sausages, Swedish meatballs, creamed spinach, oven baked omelet, cheeses, salami, liver pate, a wide selection of pickled herring, Janson's Temptation (potato au gratin with anchovies), grav lox, deviled eggs, a creamed cod dish,red beet salad, braised red cabbage, crisp bread, a special Christmas bread (Ortbrod), and whatever else you see fit. It all goes down with the traditional Julmust (a carbonated drink available only around Christmas), Christmas Beer and of course the snaps, in the Swedish case not a sweet shot but a shot of vodka or aquavit, properly spiced for Christmas (a common combination is fennel, cumin, and anise). So needless to say we were stuffing our self during the trip.
We did have one free night from family dinners/events and we tried a new restaurant in my home town, Varberg. We had gone for a glass of wine at Grappa a couple of nights before and glanced at the menu that looked delicious. Grappa is an Italian influenced restaurant, with modern Scandinavian interior design. The restaurant proprietors are Magnus Palmquist (who has a second restaurant in Varberg as well, Harry's) and Fung Dee, and the head chef is Sanna Apelqvist. Italy shines through both in the wine list and the menu. They have put together a great selection of wines by the glass that can be enjoyed over dinner or in the great little wine bar. It is made up of mostly Italian wines but also a couple from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
We had a late night dinner and decided to get the main course only. My husband had the Salami Stuffed Chicken Breast with Basil Risotto and I had the Sun dried Tomato Crusted, Oven Baked Halibut with Asparagus Risotto and a Basil Foam (?). My husband ate every last bit of his food and I loved my dish equally. The halibut was perfectly cooked, moist and flaky, which is far from always achieved in restaurants. I am a huge fan of great risotto and they could certainly make one here. Perfectly creamy from constant stirring and not from added heavy cream and great flavor from the crisp asparagus and right amount of added cheese.
With the meal we had a bottle of Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004 from New Zealand. We had at first chosen a big, fruity, full bodied wine from Chile, not because we thought it would matches our choice of food, but because we were curious of the wine. Our waitress was very knowledgeable of the wine offered and immediately picked up on our non matching choice of wine and recommended the Pinot Noir instead as a great match. We decided to abandon our initial bottle and try the Pinot instead that we had failed to notice as we looked through the wine list. As anticipated (being a Pinot Noir) it turned out to be a great match for both of our dishes. It is not very often that you get help/guidance from staff (or the staff is knowledgeable enough to give help) when you pick a wine that does not necessarily match your dinner. A big bravo to Grappa for educating their staff of the wine list and teaching them how to smoothly guide you and/or suggest another wine if yours is not the best option.
Overall we had a great dining experience with delicious food and great service. Hands down the best restaurant in Varberg right now and I am looking forward to return this summer during our next trip home to Sweden.

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