Sunday, June 15, 2014

Seeking Ceviche in Stockholm?

As a rule, I don’t take vacations. After spending roughly five months every year in southernmost South America, updating my Moon Handbooks to Argentina, Buenos Aires, Chile and Patagonia, simply staying at home and sleeping in my own bed constitutes something of a vacation. I rarely travel for pleasure alone, though my South American travels for work are still pleasurable.

Still, while my recent Scandinavian travels were something of a holiday, I couldn’t overlook the Latin American presence, starting with the Oslo pizzeria about which I wrote recently. I especially looked forward to Stockholm, where we spent last weekend, because the Swedish capital was a refuge for many who fled the Southern Cone dictatorships of the 1970s – ironically, in the Stockholm police drama Arne Dahl, one of the detectives is a Swedish-born Chilean named Jorge Chávez (though Matías Varela, the actor who portrays Chávez, is the son of Spanish immigrants).
Unfortunately, we arrived late Friday night – so late that restaurants were closing up their kitchens and we missed the opportunity to dine at La Patagonia or Paladar de Cuba, both easy walking distance from our rented apartment in the Norrmalm district. We had to settle, instead, for plain takeout sandwiches.
On Saturday, though, we walked through Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s medieval nucleus, but we had already lunched when we heard South American voices – Argentine and Chilean - and stumbled upon the restaurant Samborombón. That’s a story in itself – for some incomprehensible reason, Swedish composer Evert Taube chose a nondescript bay in Buenos Aires province as the site for the kitschy Fritiof och Carmencita that’s remained a popular sing-along for Swedes ever since 1937. In fact, there’s no specific locality named Samborombón, though it’s perhaps the sort of place former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford might have fabricated a few years ago.
That evening, we considered walking back to Gamla Stan but, en route, we stumbled upon Smaka på Stockholm, a five-day food fair in Norrmalm’s Kungsträdgården park, where a Peruvian stand tempted me with ceviche but, unfortunately, it included mussels – to which I am allergic. Still, we found enough appealing food that we postponed another possible excursion to Samborombón.
Sunday, though, we took to the train to Uppsala for a long leisurely lunch with Mats Högberg, one of my newly discovered cousins, and his family. While we didn’t anticipate anything Latin American on the multi-course menu he and his wife Sofia had prepared, we did enjoy the gravlax salmon that’s often a presence in Buenos Aires restaurants such as celebrity chef Germán Martitegui’s Argentine-Patagonian Ølsen. This, though, was the closest to a full vacation day that I’ve experienced in decades.

Returning late to Stockholm, we didn’t bother with dinner, which would have been superfluous, but on our last full day in Sweden, we returned to Gamla Stan only to find that Samborombón was closed Mondays and we settled for an ordinary lunch. That evening, we set out to try La Patagonia but, after finding it closed as well, we settled for Paladar de Cuba – where a Chilean waiter served us mojitos opposite a wall that included photographs of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. It wasn’t quite what we had hoped for, but my wife’s beef dish and my fish stew left us satisfied and prepared for Tuesday’s flight home.

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