My time in Sweden was brief, but memorable. And there were photos, of course.
If you’ve read the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, you’ll probably remember that there are several mentions of Lisbeth Salander’s meal of choice, Billy’s Pan Pizza.
You might have assumed that Stieg Larsson just made it up for the book, but nope — it’s a real thing. So of course I ate one.
I’m not gonna lie: I was fully expecting to hate it. I’m not a fan of frozen pizza in general, and the last time I ate a square piece of pizza from a freezer, it was literally the worst pizza of my life.
Well maybe it was the rock-bottom expectations, but I actually thought this was okay. I mean, it is what it is: cheap cheese, tiny little pieces of some kind of mystery meat, sauce that tastes like it’s made almost entirely from tomato paste and a lot of sugar, doughy crust…
But it wasn’t horrible. It’s one of those things where you know it’s not very good, but there’s something about it that compels you to keep eating.
I’m glad I’m only here for a few days, because this city will straight-up bankrupt me. Everything is so expensive here, it’s nuts. Most things seem to cost two or three times more than you’d think they would.
Want to ride the subway? That’ll cost $6.50 Canadian. For one ticket. A candy bar will run you two or three bucks. A regular movie ticket (i.e. not 3D or IMAX)? Twenty dollars.
They have an Abba museum here, and I thought, hey, that might be fun. I’m not a huge Abba fan, but why not?
I’ll tell you why not: a ticket costs 40 dollars.
They take credit cards here more than anywhere else I’ve been in Europe. In fact, I went to a couple of places that were credit/debit only — no cash. And I can see why! If they paid cash for everything, they’d have to carry around fat stacks of bills like an extra in a rap video.
Is everyone a millionaire here??
They have something called the McBean on the menu in McDonald’s in Sweden, and I think it’s the first veggie burger I’ve seen at a McDonald’s so far.
It’s not bad! It’s topped with lettuce, tomato, and mayo, and the patty is nice and crispy on the outside. It’s also surprisingly creamy on the inside, which is a bit bizarre at first — but it grows on you. The burger itself almost has the consistency of a bean dip; it’s mostly a creamy bean paste, with a few whole beans interspersed throughout. This seems like it should be off-putting, but the creamy/crispy contrast actually worked reasonably well.
I also got the Chili Cheese Tops, which were triangular fried nuggets stuffed with cheese and jalapeno peppers. The cheese was a little bit gluey, but these otherwise weren’t bad. They were slightly spicy, creamy, and crispy. I mean, it’s basically fried cheese, and it’s hard to go wrong with that.
If there’s one thing Ikea is known for (aside from vaguely flimsy but very affordable furniture), it’s the Swedish meatballs. They’re cheap, satisfying, and pretty tasty.
I’m in Sweden now, so obviously meatballs were very high on my to-do list.
I went to a restaurant called Meatballs for the People, which is acclaimed for their classic take on this dish.
And yeah, if you’ve been to Ikea, everything here is going to seem very familiar: the gravy-topped meatballs, the mashed potato, and of course, the lingonberry sauce (the only thing here that you won’t find at Ikea is the addition of thinly-sliced pickles).
The thing that really surprised me is how close Ikea gets it. All of the flavours were very, very familiar.
The meatballs themselves, however, were clearly superior here — no contest. It’s really not even a fair comparison; the meatballs at Ikea are from a freezer and taste like it. The ones here are moist, meaty, and just a little bit crispy on the outside. They’re great.
The princess cake — which consists of sponge cake layered with raspberry jam and cream, which is topped with marzipan — is clearly the best dessert at Ikea. Here in Stockholm, the most popular version is served at a bakery called Vete-Katten.
Again, I was struck by how close Ikea gets it. There was no contest, though — the version here was so much better. It was just so light and creamy and perfect. And like a lot of desserts here versus the ones back home, the sweetness was much more subtle. The cream wasn’t sweetened at all, which tempers the sweetness from the jam and the cake and the marzipan. It was so good.