Swedish Candy!

I’ve been doing work in Sweden lately and staying a couple weeks at a time. Last time I traveled there, I thought I would bring home a large assortment of Swedish candy, which is quite different from the Canadian Candy we know. I picked up a small assortment myself, but I mentioned this to my Swedish colleagues, and they surprised me with a large sac full of assorted candy.

In this post, I’ll place a description of each type of candy under its photo as well as a review and rating. There are a few distinct categories of candy here:

  1. Gummy and gummy variants
  2. Licorice – Salty, sweet, hard and soft.
  3. Deliberately unpleasant candy
  4. Astounding chocolate

So here we go:
1. Gummy and gummy variants
This includes gummy and semi-gummy marshmallowy candies which seems to be in abundance.

Gummies 1

Half-citrus, half-berry gummies. A little more solid than classic gummies. Very nice.Gummies 2

A mix of red and black licorice. Again, more solid than gummies. A little less solid than the tougher licorice. Not salty, but sweet licorice. Good stuff. Gummies 3

Absolutely classic, quintessential gummy bears. The original. Truly soft and gummy. Pretty much perfect.

Gummies 5Cross between the tougher gummies and marshmallows. This is a fairly common candy type there. Chewy, fun to eat, sweet and kind of meh.

Gummies 6Juleskum! LOL. Christmas time treats. Christmas marshmallows that are kind of the texture of the marshmallow peanut candies that are ubiquitous in North America. Of the flavour, I can only say that they’re pink and white flavour…

2. Licorice
Licorice comes in huge variety in Sweden. Various levels of hardness, saltiness, and sweetness make for dozens of offerings

Licorice 1Tough gummies that are salty licorice. You can see the salt and sugar coating. Not too salty, and very pleasant.

Licorice 2These are salt licorice versions of the tough, marshmallowy cars above.  I couldn’t taste the difference between the black and brown ones but then the a-salt (ha!) on your tongue after a couple leaves no ability to discern subtlety.

Licorice 3Just like the fish above, but more of the skull and crossbones shapes. Coated in a salty coating.

Licorice 4I liked these the best of the licorice. Basically a wonderful variation of the licorice all-sorts. Fresh, tasty and full of variety. Will definitely buy more.Licorice 5This was an interesting mix of licorice and fruit paste flavours. Salty but nice.Licorice 6Gummy licorice with only a little salt. Nice.Licorice 7More sweet and toothsome. My favourite pure licorice.

3. Deliberately Unpleasant Candy
We have this category here, too (sour patch? super-hot cinnamon? hello?) It seems their thing is salt and heat, but mostly salt. My goodness, but some of this stuff is salty.

Unpleasant 2Unpleasant 4To be fair this is Danish Candy  (I picked it up at the Copenhagen central train station). These were terribly, disgustingly salty. They had a very salty outer coating, sweeter hard candy and then a powdery centre of ultra saltiness.  My goodness, but these were awful.

Unpleasant 3Well, these were the three-alarm variety. This is candy for those who like things hot — folks who find the hottest hot sauce. Not for  casual enjoyment.

4. Chocolate

Chocolate 1Chocolate 6Oh. My. Goodness. This may well be the best chocolate treat ever invented. In Canada we have Caramilk — a chocolate bar enrobing soft caramel. Imagine excellent European chocolate surrounding salty-sweet licorice that’s as sooth as caramel. Unbelievably good.

Chocolate 2 Chocolate 3So, while Canadian chocolate has not been ruined like much of the American chocolate that’s broadly available, Scandinavian chocolate is simply wonderful. Creamy and delicious, without being waxy or too sweet.Chocolate 4 Chocolate 5Paradis is kind of like a super high quality Swedish version of Pot O’ Gold chocolates. A holiday tradition and every Swede seems to know all the flavours.  Again, amazing chocolate quality and lovely fillings, although tuned to the Swedish sense of what makes a good filling. Elderflower and others may seem strange to the North American palate.

Copenhagen Street Food

I had some downtime on the weekend, so I accepted an invitation from friends to hop the train to meet them in Copenhagen (about an hour away). After some “tracks are closed, take a bus part of the way” drama, we were soon meeting up in gorgeous downtown Copenhagen.

CopenhagenStreetFood 011 It’s a very old city, but one that is not shy about mixing in new buildings and the place seems to be booming with building cranes obstructing much of the skyline.

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We walked along pedestrian malls, a Christmas village and Copenhagen’s most famous and picturesque main canal before we hopped a cab to a unique place called “Copenhagen Street Food“. It’s in the warehouse district along the working part of the canal.

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It’s a large warehouse with food stalls, food trucks, shipping containers with food businesses and tables. It had a food market, street food, shanty town, alternative vibe going on.

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Here vendors were selling all kinds of well-made food, including fish and chips, Mexican, Persian, Japanese, Korean, Local, Vegan, burgers and other cuisines with flair. There were also wine, craft beer and beverage stalls as well.

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I knew what I wanted for lunch as soon as I saw the Korean truck and ordered japchae, sweet potato starch noodles with onions and carrots and a sweet and savoury beef mixture, in this case drizzled with Korean hot sauce.

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The same stall also served bulgogi  (grilled beef short rib in a sweet sauce of soy, sugar, garlic, and sesame oil) and some spicy fried chicken with dumplings.

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The japchae was what I hoped for: sweet and savoury with slippery, glassy noodles and beef with sauce rich in umami flavour.

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Street Food was a tremendous place to hang out — we spent probably 2 hours here just talking and catching up. The servings are not so large that you could easily sample a couple of these great vendors in a visit.

Italian in Sweden

Gobbagoo. Proshoot. It’s not really Italian. The language, like a cuisine starts a new evolutionary branch when it’s far from home and time passes. If you’ve been to the North End of Boston or Little Italy in Ottawa, you can get amazing, but North American versions of Italian food. They do stand on their own as a culinary style, but it takes a trip to Italy to see the difference.

I am traveling on business and am in Sweden and hit the spot where locals rave about the food as being authentically Italian. I want to check it out because I’ve already been here for 3 weeks and am keen to try something else besides the local food, which is absolutely wonderful. Sweden is not Italy, but it’s one ocean closer than the North End or Ottawa. Any bets the food is too?

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I go to VESPA. It’s a bright, sunny place in a dark and grey Lund November visit.

Time for a beer. They have lots of Italian choices to I go with a relatively crisp, light Italian lager, called Gradisca. It’s good, but not great. Has a bit of a chemical finish.

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Then comes my appetizer, an antipasto misto — a salad with prosciutto, salami, olives, pesto, parmigiano reggiano, and artichoke hearts with thin crispy breadsticks. Absolutely delicious. It’s fair to say that I might get something like this closer to home, but I’ve never seen it.

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But the real test is pizza. When Maureen and I went to Italy we found the pizza to be a revelation. Perfect thin, crispy yet pillowy crust, simple tomato sauce, only one or two ingredients and some fresh mozzarella dotting the pie. In Ottawa, Back Lane is the only place that comes close.

The pizza at Vespa is very, very good. I opt for one with red peppers, porchetta and olives. The sauce was perfect, the crust was thin, but a little too chewy and the toppings and cheese were very nice.

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As is proper, when you have prosciutto or, in this case, porchetta to add to the pizza, you add it just as it comes out of the oven and it kind of melts into the pie.

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I’d like to say that I’m caught up in lively conversation, but I’m by myself, so dinner goes by quickly. All in all a wonderful meal and closer to proximity to Italy really does make a difference.

The Perfectionist at Heathrow

He goes to ridiculous lengths. If you’ve seen his old show on the Food Channel, you couldn’t help but be amused at the obsession he has with perfection over even the most banal food item. I’m talking, of course, about Heston Blumenthal, celebrated English Chef and one of the most famous behind that blond, shouty guy.

A little while ago, Heathrow decided to up its food game and Heston Blumenthal opened The Perfectionist’s Cafe in Terminal 2. On my layover in Heathrow, I decided to have breakfast here.

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One look at the menu and you get a sense for hand-wringing over every detail to almost eye-rolling proportions.

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Because I was there for breakfast, I thought I’d try his spin on what they call the “Full English Breakfast”: 2 eggs, bacon, grilled mushroom, baked beans, sausage, black pudding and toast. I was evaluating both the iconic breakfast as well as Blumenthal’s take.

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Eggs: bright orange yolks, and very softly fried. They were finished with sherry vinegar and had a very mild bite to them, but the yolks — not only were they BRIGHT orange, but they tasted…different and not that pleasantly so. They had a fatty note to them that wasn’t appreciated. I don’t know if that’s the standard English egg flavour or the specifications to which these eggs were laid.

Bacon: Oh my goodness, it was good bacon. The restaurant offers the choice of smoked “streaky” bacon or unsmoked back bacon. I went streaky. Letting these pigs watch Saturday morning cartoons sure makes a difference.

Mushroom: This was a small portobello cap that was perfectly cooked. Still firm but richly flavoured.

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Baked Beans: Even the Michelin star holding Blumenthal ain’t gonna mess with Heinz Baked Beans.

Sausage: It was a small English Breakfast sausage that was well seasoned and not fatty.

Black Pudding: Fantastic. Lovely. Great flavour and texture, seasoned perfectly. This would make a believer out of even Maureen.

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Toast: Nice multi-grain toast, perfectly cooled on the ubiquitous British toast cooling rack. Thank goodness too, or otherwise it would have been warm, or god forbid, even hot. What the hell is it with the English aversion to warm toast?

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All in all a good breakfast, weird egg yolk flavour notwithstanding. The attention to detail shows and would probably show even more with lunch or dinner items.

Road trip! Wildfire BBQ in Perth

Despite being a chilly, cloudy day, the ever changing fall colour palette of buff to amethyst and everything in between makes a drive through rural Eastern Ontario a feast for the eyes. The native sumacs are at their fiery peak. Honey locusts glow golden and look as if they could light the way at night. Fall is quick upon us and Wildfire BBQ and Smokehouse in Perth will only be open until Thanksgiving (Canadian, the real one).

Wildfire 1With Josie packed into the back of the car, we head out on our hour trek to find out if the Wildfire is the real deal Southern Q we have been searching for in the Great White North.

Perth itself is worth the drive. A charming, quaint town on the Tay River, it offers a few eateries and pretty main street shopping. BBQ is just a bonus.

Wildfire 16We pull up to a tidy red trailer, attached to another out building.  The patio dining area is fenced with rustic cedar rails and features picnic tables and an oversize Adirondack chair you could photograph a family of five in.

Wildfire 4Parking is in the rear, as is the smoker and piles of split hickory and cherry wood.

Wildfire 7We head around front where a biking couple is just finishing up. Other than that, we are the only other diners. We order up brisket and ribs which come with four sides. They allow Josie to eat on the patio, so I know this is a classy joint.

Wildfire 5Food comes out in in plastic baskets and red and white checkered paper. Classic. Wildfire offers both metal and plastic cutlery which is appreciated. We tuck in.

A nuisance of wasps arrives but for some reason leaves after about three minutes. Wish I knew that secret.

The brisket is ‘wet”. We were not offered a choice of wet or dry (fat or lean) as you often are in Southern USA joints, but I would have ordered the wet anyways because it is the tastiest. Wildfire brisket does not disappoint. It is as delicious as it looks. Rich, deep, rosy smoke ring and beautiful dark bark. It is lightly sauced and a squirt of their own bbq sauce on the side makes for a more than decent brisket. Wildfire 10This is probably the best I have had since Kreuz Market in Texas, which I pine for weekly. Josie also enjoyed the brisket. Happy puppy mouth.

Wildfire 15Two sides come with the each meat order. My mac and cheese is underwhelming. Large, overcooked elbows of pasta swimming in a mild cheesy sauce. The maple cream corn is interesting. While tasty, it is very loose.

Rob’s ribs are fantastic as well. Wildfire is two for two on the meat. The pork ribs are meaty and smoky sweet. Again, the meat succulent with a beautiful, pink smoke ring, is perfectly smoked and sauced.

Wildfire 14Wildfire’s BBQ beans are also a standout. Navy and kidney beans are slow cooked medium sweet and smoky, Rob’s second side is coleslaw which is a decent homemade cabbage slaw but nothing out of the ordinary.Wildfire 12Wildfire certainty has done the South proud and done honour to the pig. A few things are missing but they are minor. Some pickle and white bread would be nice. The over cooked, ubiquitous corn on the cob of the South is happily absent.  Wildfire offers homemade sweet tea but does not offer unsweetened or half sweet so I passed.

Wildfire 6I look forward to trying some of Wildfire’s other menu items on a future road trip in true BBQ weather.

 

 

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