Of course I had to order the 6 varieties of pickled herring. We were staying at a hotel floating on the sea called “Salt & Sill” — “sill” means herring. Each of the rooms is named after a spice or a fruit, such as Citron (lemon) or Kanel (cinnamon).
The restaurant there has a deck that juts out over the water. It was very windy and 86 degrees in the sun so we opted for the porch/sunroom that’s been converted into a dining room and ordered some Swedish draft beers, Swedish “Pripps Blå,” to cool off while we looked over the menus.
I was happy with my appetizer choice. A beautiful mound of creamy crab salad with egg and spring onions was topped with fresh pea shoots. Next to it on the long plate was some mustard sauce, a seared and pickled piece of mackerel (I got used to eating this in Japan), and a piece of raw lobster that had been “ceviche-ed” for lack of a better term and sprinkled with dill.
Dustin’s appetizer was three kinds of pickled herring paired with three kinds of “snapas” or schnapps. Personally, I think the schnapps may greatly enhance the taste of the herring. But I’m getting to that
My second course was hotel’s namesake, the “herringboard” – which is exactly how it sounds. A wooden board was brought to our table with 8 little cups on top of it. 6 of them contained various flavors of pickled herring: herring with bacon, herring in mustard sauce, herring marinated in vanilla and orange, herring in red vinegar, oh and two more (honestly, they all started to taste the same, though the vanilla and orange one was memorable. Dustin enjoyed that one a little too much and even ate some for breakfast the next morning (!) The last 2 little cups contained minced red onion and pieces of cheese (classic accompaniments).
Another plate arrived soon after the herringboard; some more classic pairings – boiled potatoes with dill, hard boiled egg, and creme fraiche. Although I didn’t love the herring (and was more excited by the accompaniments ), I’m glad I tried a Swedish staple! It seemed appropriate to eat it while we were next to the sea, watching boats go in and out of the small harbor.
Breakfast the next morning was as satisfying as ever. After we loaded our plates (well, at least my plate) with salami, cheese, bread, a hard boiled egg, pickles, a baked tomato, and cucumber, we watched a seagull swoop down into another guest’s orange juice glass and take a few “sips” (whatever it is that birds take).
When the man came back from getting his breakfast from the buffet, we had to inform him that a bird had shared his juice. The man’s reply was “incredible.”
By the end of our short stay on this little island off the western coast of Sweden, we were grateful for the salt (the presence of the sea, and the smell of the air) and were enlightened by the sill (a culinary challenge, but one I do not regret!)