If you come to the Swedish westcoast on Easter, don’t miss the bonfires. An old tradition, still involving many people in the small coastal villages. People work together to make the biggest bonfire in the village, the one that will burn for the longest time. This is a really serious matter.
But you have to be on the right spot, just beside the sea. Only a little bit into the country, there are no fires at Easter but instead on Walpurgis night, the last of April. And those bonfires are not that impressive as the Easter ones in Bohuslän.
Some pictures from yeasterday’s bonfire building and the outcome. The most impressive bonfire, with the most impressive view! And of course, it “won” against the other bonfire in the village. 😉
13th of December. Lucia day in Sweden. A traditional celebration when Lucia, with a crown of lights in her hair, comes singing with her maids, all dressed in white.
We havn’t seen Lucia today, but had a wonderful walk along the roaring sea, with dark blue waves hitting the cliffs of Bohuslän in the beautiful last sunrays of the day. Later, at home, we feast on our own Lucia tradition, Lucia safron buns with Sauternes.
The buns are however not traditional this year. Except for the safron. That is a mandatory ingredient. The form is new and, additionally, there are some new flavours. Homemade by Him, who made them after own ideas. Filled with cinnamon, cardamom or tasty blackcurrant marmelade.
While most people have coffee to their Lucia buns, we prefer Sauternes. It is a perfect pairing, as the wine gets aromas of safron when stored.
This year we have a Château Grillon 2011 Sauternes, really a little too young. Just a slight touch of safron on nose and palate. Accompanied by apricot and oranges. Apricot kernels and bitter almonds. Juicy sweet, still with good acidity. A good wine. However, would prefer to put it into the cellar some years to let the safron notes grow. Then it will become a perfect Lucia safron bun companion.
Believe it or not, but sometimes we skip the wine. A grey, windy autumn afternoon a nice cup of tea can be just the right thing. Especially when you are sitting just next to the sea. We went to the small fishing village Fiskebäckskil, had afternoon tea at Gullmarsstrand Hotel, and then strolled around the small, cobbled streets.
Fiskebäckskil is one of five small villages on the Swedish westcoast island Skaftö. We are in Bohuslän, next to the sea and the fjord Gullmarn. The village goes back to the 16th century but got its fame as a wealthy shipper village in the 1900ies. In the next century tourism started as it grew popular among the high society, wanting to experience summer resort life. Tourism is still at the heart of the village, and the island, even if its nature has changed.
The hotel Gullmarsstrand is built on the exact spot of the old seaside restaurang. But today it is a complete hotel with modern design and clean straight lines. The latest extension, designed by the renowned Swedish architect Gert Wingårdh, a nice “living room” welcomes us to Saturday afternoon tea. Afternoon tea the Swedish way. We get tasty small sandwiches, Gullmarsstrand’s scones and end with some sweet cakes on the plate. Lovely, just miss my favourite Earl Grey among the tea selection.
A stroll in Fiskebäckskil’s small cobbled streets is always nice. It is a peaceful village all year around, even if summertime is blossom time. But you do not go here to shop or to seek night life. No, you go here to relax, enjoy the sea and have some nice meals. This time of year we are almost alone. The big, fancy old captain houses are mostly owned by summer guests. In October it is quiet. Calm. Relaxing.
We are not the first ones. Lonely Planet was here ages ago. National Geographic also. Then CNN Travel, who apart from kayaking around in Bohuslän also appointed this part of the Swedish westcoast to one of the world’s last great wilderness areas. All of them have done it. Visited the boathouse in Grebbestad, “Everts sjöbod”.
We spend the 28 September exploring the freshly roused Food Feast in Västra Götaland. A day for us, the general public, to visit companies offering locally produced food. Arranged for the very first time this year. Nice visits, where we have plenty of room, no crowds. Well, everything must have a start and we hope for a continuation with more participants in Bohuslän.
We cannot wish for a better beginning of an autumn Sunday. Super fresh oysters and lovely champagne. Of course, there is a hard choice to make. The special oyster porter is an attractive alternative, but champagne is always champagne. So, champagne it is, for me. It is His turn to drive and a more suitable beverage of elder berry flowers is poured in the other glass.
The label says Oyster Champagne. It is beautiful, has matured for some years; the flavour palette has developed and deepened. At the same time the light, fresh crispiness is there. Precisely as pure Chardonnay, a Blanc de Blancs, from Le Mesnil should be. A perfect companion to the oysters. We already know who has made it. The confirmation comes on the bottom of the label.
Champagne Pertois-Moriset. A nice visit on our French wine journey in 2013. In fact it is almost exactly one year since we were in Le Mesnil, chatting with Vincent and tasting their lovely Grand Crus.
Per Karlsson, Everts sjöbod
Fresh Swedish oysters.
In Everts sjöbod Per Karlsson stands behind the barrel, which acts as table today, opening oysters and serving champagne and other suitable drinks. To visit the boathouse you normally have to book yourself an oyster adventure. This is a special day, when we just can pop in.
“Chew it thoroughly,” urges Per. He has quickly and very neatly opened some oysters for us. “It is when you chew it, you really feel the flavours.”
Per Karlsson opening oysters.
Champagne stored under the sea, unfortunately already empty.
Swedish oyster Shells.
Delicious Swedish oysters.
It is delicous, very delicous. Even a beginner on “raw oysters”, as me, likes them a lot. For a long time I prefered oysters cooked, the outcome of a not too successful premiere in Chamonix at young age. However, since Swedish oysters started to be included on His menu (who always has loved the fresh, yelly-like little treats, irrespective of origin), my development curve has shown a positive trajectory.
Ostrea edulis, the Latin name specifies exactly what we are served. The Swedish oyster, a species many connoisseurs hold for the very best offered within the world of oysters. Not everyone can pick them. Since centuries that is right of the land owner and in the case of oysters, the land stretches 200 meters out in the sea from the shore.
It is amazing that these small oysters in fact have an age of seven, eight years when we sink our teeth into them. The larvae attaches to shells and grows in a complicated life cycle, alternating between being male and female. Oysters can also be very old. Per shows us an impressively thick shell of an oyster, estimated to have reached an age of 30 years.
Before we leave the boat house we taste another specialty from Bohuslän, Grebbestads tångbröd, a seaweed bread, offered both as soft bread and hard, with a kiss of the sea baked into it. Available are also several different seaweeds, dried to be used in cooking. It contains a lot umami. A little seaweed or some seaweed salt is known to really enhance the flavours, for example in a fish soap. We buy some, must be tested back home.
Seaweed bread from Grebbestad.
Dried seaweed and seaweed bread.
We leave the seashore in Grebbestad, where strong winds roar the sea and keep many lobster fishermen on land, and head south. First for some honey and stone oven baked bread, but well at home we end the day as it started, with some crispy champagne.