When we first walked into the Avalon, we were met with a babbling indoor water feature, colorful, modern decor, and techno music playing softly in the hallways; This feng shui certified hotel was a fun change of pace from the peaceful harbor setting the day before.
Göteborg has a bustling, up-and-coming city feel, juxtaposed by beautiful, old buildings, squares, and churches. Many shady parks offer tired shoppers, families, or pretty much anyone a place to eat, read, take a nap, or socialize.
Touristy boats guide groups of people through the city’s many canals. A Botanical Garden is a little eden in the middle of the busy city.
There is so much to take in. First stop – a Carlsberg beer at the hotel’s sidewalk cafe and a “snack plate” including olives, seasoned nuts, cheese, mushroom tapenade, and apple sauce (yes, we also thought it was a random addition, but welcomed the sweetness on which to end).
We sipped, chewed, and watched various beautiful, fashionable people walk by. Many stopped and looked up at the hotel’s clear-bottomed terrace pool that juts out over part of the street above their heads.
(Notice the pool at the top right?) Walking around the city made us hungry, especially when we walked through the famous indoor food market, Saluhallen, which holds over 40 little stores selling everything you can imagine: baklava, marinated olives, salami the size of your head, fresh produce, and Swedish beer, etc, etc.
Now officially starving, we decided to eat at Avalon’s restaurant for dinner. One of the most innovative appetizers I’d ever had was waiting for us: Thin, delicate slices of beef carpaccio were wrapped over cubes of yellow watermelon (think updated version of prosciutto-wrapped melon). The surprising accompaniment was cauliflower puree and florets, as well as edible flowers. Somehow the sweet, nuttiness of the cauliflower really worked with the saltiness of the carpaccio and the refreshing sweetness of the melon. Genius.
Behold, a Swedish classic: the räksmörgås (open-faced shrimp sandwich). It’s impossible to see, but I swear to you that there is a piece of bread hiding at the bottom – a dark brown, sweet rye bread. On top of that is chopped hard-boiled egg, some mixed greens, an abundance of perfectly cooked shrimp, a spoonful of roe, and tasty little dill flowers. Usually the shrimp is mixed with mayonnaise before going on the bread, but at this place there was a thin layer spread on top of the bread. As soon as I get over my shrimp-sandwich overload feeling (this was the first of several times that I ate it during our trip), this will be very easy to recreate at home!
Another Swedish classic rounded out our meal: thick pieces of salt-preserved salmon, served with creamy dilled potatoes, a pile of mixed greens, and a small bowl of spicy mustard. We also had a dessert that was almost too complicated to explain, but it involved green rhubarb ice cream, some kind of light brown foam (hazelnut, perhaps?), milk chocolate and little tapioca balls. We all agreed that there was too much going on that we didn’t really get, but we were definitely impressed by the concept.
On our second day in the city we visited the Göteborg Museum of Art , where we walked up many floors and worked up a hunger looking at fabulous works of art; everything from photography to landscapes of Sweden in the 1500s. A cart outside was selling the most intruiging thing: hot dogs topped with mashed potatoes, drizzled with ketchup. We couldn’t say no. I’m hoping this catches on in the States. Other than the fact that it’s a carb fest, creamy potatoes are the perfect thing to put on a hot dog! We gave it a thumbs up. The cart also offered a vegetarian hot dog, as well as other toppings (to top the mashed potatoes), such as creamed herring. I chose not to add that to mine.
It took some time (as you can imagine) to regain our hunger after that dog, so my mom and I did a little shopping and a lot of walking around. We also did one of our favorite activities; reading menus in restaurant windows, trying to choose our next meal, even though we were still full from the last. We chose a place called Tvåkanten, one of many cute restaurants with outdoor patios, complete with soft couches as chairs and comfy pillows (some cafes even provide blankets outside!) Before we had even decided on what to order, the waitress (who spoke English just as well as I can – why don’t we require foreign language study in American schools!?) brought each of us a tiny jar, containing something red. She explained it was a gazpacho, with a thin layer of olive oil resting on the top – the chef’s treat. We unclipped the jars and devoured the refreshing, cool soup, feeling spoiled already.
As we finished the last spoonful, our appetizers arrived. I didn’t capture it in a photo, but it was another carpaccio dish – this time with almonds, baby swiss chard leaves, an artichoke puree, and balsamic reduction. Delicious flavor and texture combination! I then decided to take a small break from herring and salmon and order the vegetarian entrée: slightly crisp asparagus served over a barley risotto with fried shallots (or something oniony), yet another kind of foam (have you noticed we encountered a lot on this trip?) mushrooms, sun-dried tomato, and a gremolata on top (chopped lemon zest and fresh herbs), which added a bright zing to every bite. I confessed that I could be a vegetarian right then and there.
Dustin did not take a break from herring and salmon. In fact, I believe he ate herring for breakfast almost every morning (among other things). His salmon dish was spectacular, he said. It was seared, and served over raw apple, horseradish, new potatoes, and a creamy white sauce. A pile of roe was on the plate as well.
The lighting was getting too low to photograph our desserts – a baked apple & caramel tart with a crumbly topping, served with lemon ice cream, and a drizzle of maple syrup on the plate. It tasted more like fall than summer, but it was still one of the best desserts I had on the trip. Dustin quickly consumed his bowl of strawberries, black sugar, lime, vanilla ice cream, and litttle cardamom crisps. Both desserts impressed us. No tapioca balls here. We walked back up the street to the Art Museum – the place where many couples (and others) come to sit on the steps and look out over the city and the sunset. Can you believe this is how light it was at 10:30 pm?
Even after setting, the sky does not darken, and the nightlife starts full swing. A spirit of excitement was in the air as we walked back to our hotel, looking up one last time at the light sky against the old buildings.