Saturday, July 14, 2007

A Meal Fit For A Viking

Warning: The following blog post includes some graphic photos of viking food that might be unpleasant for some people. You've been warned.

Roxi and I had been looking forward to the viking dinner since we first booked the tour several weeks ago. We were not disappointed in the least when we arrived in the large banquet hall. We made our way towards the back of the hall and sat down at a romantically candle-lit table. The place settings were pretty simple: a wooden cutting board, a knife, a two-pronged skewer, and a bullhorn for wine. Before the meal began, an announcement was made giving us the order of the courses. The first course would be the bread and salad, the second course would be spare ribs and baked potatoes, the third course would be mutton, the fourth course would be roasted boar and the dessert would be custard pies. Large jugs of wine were already on the table so Roxi and I poured ourselves a bullhorn each, toasted the dinner and began.

As mentioned the first course was salad and bread. This doesn't sound very viking-esque but it was because it was not served in a traditional manner. There was a large basket on the table containing part of a large cucumber, several tomatoes, half a head of lettuce and a large loaf of bread. We were told to make the salads ourselves out of those ingredients. Also on the table was a large bowl of what appeared to be butter with an orange color. We tried it on the bread and salad and it was like butter, but was much saltier with a bit of a fishier taste. It was actually seasoned butter with anchovies. Now I am no fan of anchovies, but when in Sweden...

Soon after the spare ribs were delivered by the viking server. I didn't hesitate to dig right in and enjoy the tender meat. Not long after, the server returned with a basket of very large baked potatoes. With two more courses plus dessert remaining, Roxi and I decided it would be best to split a potato. And just for the record, the anchovy butter on the potato was exquisite.

Next up came the mutton. I thought the spare ribs were tender, but that all changed when I started eating the mutton. It was perfectly prepared in that the flavor of the meat was fully present but not overpowering. At this point in the dinner, we had been inside the fortress banquet hall for at least two hours so it was time to make a trip to the restroom and for Roxi to have a cigarette. Although we had been in Sweden for several days already, we were still both completely surprised to see broad daylight outside. We're just so used to it getting dark during dinner, especially after you've been eating for a few hours.

We returned to the banquet hall just in time to see the viking hosts bring in the roasted boar and begin chopping it up! We made out way back to the table and our server soon followed with large pieces of the boar. It was good as well, but very very salty. Shortly after the boar course, our viking hosts invited us all to climb the stairs to the top of the fortress to admire the view before dessert.

Of course it was still very bright outside, but the sun was closer to the horizon now. The view from the top of the fortress was simply breathtaking. I am still in awe of the geography of the Swedish coast. I never would have imagined that there was such a large archipelago associated with Sweden. We returned to the banquet hall to see that our places had been cleared. The servers brought trays of little pies and a bowl of custard. I of course was not satisfied with one, but after my second, I was pretty full.

On that note, we were told to head back down the hill for our return trip to Gothenburg. We took a ferry boat across to the mainland and boarded buses to return to the city. After all that food and wine, Roxi and I fell asleep on the bus ride back and awoke just as we arrived back at the square in Gothenburg at midnight. It was a long trip from start to finish but I think it was one of my favorite things that we did in Sweden. We got to see so much and experience a part of Sweden that I never would have known about otherwise. And the dinner was fantastic.

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