The moveable feast of Paris

December 9, 2015

in Travels

“For all of us who have lived in Paris, we will never forget it because Paris is a moveable feast.” Ernest Hemingway in A Moveable Feast.


I just spent four lovely days in Paris. It was just the getaway I needed to feel inspired and recharge my batteries for surviving the Stockholm dark season. Visiting there so soon after the attacks, I was not sure how things would be and if I would feel safe. But I did and Paris was just as charming as it’s always been for me.

A big highlight of any trip to Paris for me is always the food and wine. So this time, I did things up well and took a foodie tour with Paris by Mouth. It was fabulous. There were only seven of us in the group, so tour guide Emma was able to give a very personal tour of the Latin Quarter’s food.


Paris The artfully done and amazing pastries at Carl Marletti are made fresh daily. All photos copyright Sandra Carpenter 2015.


Let me start by saying I’ve never done a food tour before. It’s not typically my kind of thing. But this tour made me a big fan. I learned so much, had fun and was happy from our very first stop at Carl Marletti on to the very end. I won’t give away all the tour secret spots we went to, but I will say that Carl Marletti had some of the most elegantly crafted and gorgeous pastries I’ve ever seen. And they weren’t just pretty either. They also tasted amazingly good. As for what we had, it was the chocolate eclair and the tart au citron (lemon tart).

From there, we tried fresh macarons–salted butter caramel and a violet one for me. I can’t begin to say how much better a fresh macaron is–the jammy center, the airy meringue. If you haven’t had a fresh, just-made-that-day macaron, then you have not had one!

To recover from all the sweets, we moved on to the savory. Basically, Emma would bring us into a shop, introduce us to the owner and explain the specialties, different food designations and regions. At each stop, she would offer us choices and then select and make a purchase for all of us and put them into her basket so that at our final stop, Maison Claudel Vin & Whiskey, we were able to sit down, drink and sample all of our goodies.

So what did we have in our picnic? Here are a few of the highlights for me: Pave au poivre (cured ham with black pepper), rillettes a l’oie (goose), croute aux moiled (pork pate in pastry), a to-die-for Comte’ –an 18 month old, cooked, pressed cow cheese from the Alps, and Tomme de Saint Sulpice pressed sheep cheese from the Correze region. For dessert, I loved the dark chocolate ganache and Kirsch dark chocolate cherry we had. And it was all topped off with a Cheverny 2014 Sauvigon Blanc from the Loire Valley and a 2013 Syrah from the Languedoc Roussillon.

It was a wonderful way to spend a few hours. And it was indeed, a moveable feast.


Paris The chocolate eclairs and lemon tarts that we sampled from Carl Marletti.


Paris Tour guide Emma serves up a few pastries in the park.


Paris Flavors of Auvergne.


Paris A selection of Paris cheeses.


Paris Trying the cheese at our picnic lunch.




Stockholm The Thanksgiving menu at American Table Brasserie. Click on the image to see the full photo.


Stockholm The main course at American Table.  All photos copyright Sandra Carpenter 2015.


Thanksgiving is such an American holiday that it often makes me feel like I am far from my homeland and family. This year, I was in a November light-deprived funk and felt like I did not want to mess with all the work. But knowing me as he does and that I would be really down if I didn’t do something, Robert talked me into just making a small-scale dinner on Friday evening. So I agreed.

Not surprisingly,  it ended up not really being a small scale meal. (I don’t think that’s possible with thanksgiving). But after I lugged home a six kilo fresh turkey from a local market hall on the subway, it was destined to be bigger. At least it was all a lot of fun.

On the actual day, I worked (it’s not a holiday here in Sweden) and then met my friend Zanne for dinner at Marcus Samuelsson’s American Table Brasserie. The restaurant was running a special menu that promised we could “celebrate a true American Thanksgiving,” so we thought we would check it out. We had a blast. The music was fun, the waiters were friendly and the service was attentive. We got to chat with Marcus for a bit, too. And the meal? It was the best Thanksgiving dinner that I’ve ever had at a restaurant in Stockholm.

We had thyme- roasted butternut squash soup, carmelized pear and frisee salad, roasted turkey with cranberry relish, green beans, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes and gravy. We started with a glass of champagne, ran into friends who were also eating there and in general, just had a great time. Later I talked to my family in the US just before they were ready to eat.

Then on Friday, we had a few close friends over for dinner and did the whole big meal all over again. As I prepared all the touches during the day and pulled out my good china, the glasses from my grandmother Clara, and different serving dishes and silver pieces from my mom, I was launched back into the traditions and meals I’ve celebrated my whole life. I felt intrinsically connected to my family in the US.

As for the dinner here, it was wonderful. Zanne brought brussel sprouts roused with pancetta, cranberry sauce and a pecan and a pumpkin pie while Suzanne brought sweet potatoes and chocolate. Nici and Roger brought really tasty wines and we started with a Crémant that Zanne had found that was excellent. Robert and I collaborated on the turkey and I made a pretty good stuffing with Italian sausage and cranberries. Together with green beans, cornbread muffins, potatoes and gravy, it was all fantastic.

Stuffed as we were on all that food, we somehow segued into dancing and playing music for hours. That helped a lot with the food overload. But more than anything, it was just such a celebration of friendship and good food. And for that, I am grateful.


thanksgiving My dinner at home.


Stockholm Thanksgiving with friends.


thanksgiving For some reason, late night dancing required hats.


“I see you’ve gone Swedish,” said a fellow American who I had just met.

As I looked at her quizzically, she explained further: “You’re dressed all in black, just like the Swedes.”

While I was dressed in a black dress, black tights and black boots, I was surprised by her comment.  I’ve always worn a lot of black, probably too much, to be honest. (Here lately, I’ve made an effort to not wear so much black.)

But that said, when you move to a new country, you do spend a lot of your time figuring out how to fit in. When I first arrived in Sweden, I had to learn about so many new things, from the basic take your shoes off  as soon as you walk in the door of someone’s  home, to the more behavioral not making small talk with strangers  and even about the quirky traditions like the fact that kids dress up like witches for Easter.

I’ve learned to like most of the food and eat salmonknäckebröd and kanelbullar, as well as fika with the best of them. And I’ve even survived the communal laundry. OK, perhaps these are some cheeky examples, but they have all been part of my transition process in some way or another.

But perhaps the key to being at home in my adopted homeland has been figuring out my balance. Discovering what new things to take on and enjoy both behaviorally and culturally, while still holding on to the things that make me, me. It’s about adapting to the culture, but not going too far. It’s about wearing the black because I like to, not just because it’s what everyone else does.

Living here an an expat, there is a set of questions that you are always asked: why are you here, do you speak Swedish, do you like it here and are you Swedish yet? It’s that last question that still gets me after all these years. I just don’t know what the answer is supposed to be. So I typically take the middle ground and say something like: I love where I come from and I love where I live now. And I suppose that’s my balance.


Stockholm A little summer yoga on kayaks moment. Click on the photo to see the image in full. (Photo copyright Sandra Carpenter 2015.)



Swedish cooking King crab, ready to sample. Click on the photo to see the full image.


Scandinavian cooking Chef Fredrik Juhlin, ready to bake the pizza. All photos copyright 2015 Sandra Carpenter.


About a month ago, I had the chance to spend an evening in the kitchen with a Swedish chef. It was a “team bonding” type session with coworkers in one of the Electrolux kitchens with award-winning chef Fredrik Juhlin. We got to watch and chat with Fredrik as he prepared and served us a variety of Scandinavian-style appetizers.

First up was king crab with browned butter, fried bread, ginger and carrot cream.  Interestingly, only the two Americans in the group had tried king crab before–none of the Swedes, Brazilians or Uruguayuans had. But everyone loved the crab as it was amazingly fresh and tasty. Next up was a baked celeriac (also known as celery root) that was topped with pickled celeriac and a truffle cream. This one was surprisingly good.

Fredrik then fried rice paper, added a dollop of a mayonnaise spiced with miso, ginger, lime juice, oil and vinegar on top of it and finished off this appetizer with a portobello mushroom that had been pickled with soy and rice vinegar. At this point, I was happy and pretty much full.

But then Fredrik created a chanterelle pizza. The mushrooms were sautéed in oil and salt, then placed on a puff pastry with creme fraiche and västerbotten cheese. It was too good-looking to resist. So I tried it too. And even had part of another piece.

Whew, that was excellent, I thought to myself. I figured we were done. But no, then we got to sit down at a table and were served a main dish of char with vegetables and a dessert. I ended up as overstuffed as if it was thanksgiving. That said, it was a great way to spend an evening.


Swedish cooking Cooking chanterelles.


Swedish cooking The impossible to resist pizza.


Swedish cooking Portobello mushrooms on rice paper.





Stockholm My burger at Vigårda was really tasty and the fries weren’t bad either. Click on the photo to see the whole image.


In the name of research, I have subjected myself to eating many of the city’s gourmet hamburgers of late. You see, I was interviewed by Maddy Savage, editor of Sweden’s The Local, about the burger trend. And I wanted to be able to talk with some degree of knowledge. Hence all the hamburgers.

In Stockholm, it used to be that the option for fast food was the hot dog stand and of course, McDonalds and Burger King. At the stands, the hot dog was OK, but the burgers were really rather disgusting frozen patties of questionable meat origin. So the market was wide open for improvement and in the last few years, it really has gotten so much better.

One of the first restaurants to open was Flippin Burgers but then that was quickly followed by Phils Burger, Lily’s Burger, Prime Burger, Barrels, Burgers and Beer and more. Of course, the burgers don’t come cheaply in this town—they average about 20-plus USD. But all this is where McD’s comes in. There is a new online booking system being tried out by McDonalds in Sweden to coincide with the release of a new gourmet burger. Because of this, there’s been some speculation that they are trying to compete with the gourmet burgers.

So where did I do my most recent burger tests? At Vigårda, I had the original grilled hamburger and it came with  chili, cheddar, tomato, pickled red onion, pickle and mayo. The restaurant chefs say that they: cook fast food with quality and have raw materials coming from farms, fields and the vegetable garden. By the way, it was really good, even by American standards.

At Gnarly Burger–which describes itself as the “simple art of Californian food,” we could not resist having the “Bob’s Hot.” It came with Gnarly dressing, pickled onion, crispy lettuce, oven baked tomato, fried onions, jalapenos and Pepper Jack cheese.  My verdict: Excellent. And at Käk, I had the basic cheeseburger with black angus beef. Here, they  claim to “take the best from the world of fast food.” They also do a good burger. I’ve also written before about other Stockholm burgers.

To find out some more about the burger options, you can listen to the full Monocle Radio interview in the link here.


Stockholm The Gnarly burger was big, fat and juicy. Robert and I split it. All photos copyright Sandra Carpenter 2015.


Stockholm The Gnarly Burger food truck.





Slussen Kolingsborg has been decorated over the summer with street art. Click on the photo to view the scene without obstruction.


Over the summer, a group of top artists from the Stockholm graffiti art scene were asked to be part of a project to paint a building as part of a farewell to an area that will soon be torn down. Bit by bit, the design emerged on the sides and top of the round building known as Kolingsborg. It was an art installation that I–and the rest of the city– watched in progress.

The renovation of the area known as Slussen has been discussed for years and hotly protested. But plans have finally been approved.  The demolition and renovation process is expected to be complete in 2022.

Today, we took the time to go up close to the building to check out the graffiti. From a distance, the art looks colorful and chaotic. But up close, the building has a collection of faces. It’s fun, whimsical and some very creative executed street art. And like most street art, it is temporary.

To see a short video of the art in progress, check out this link.


Slussen A wreath of roses. All photos copyright Sandra Carpenter 2015.


Slussen Pink and green eyes.


Slussen Green eyes.


Slussen Two tone glasses.


Slussen Angel wings.


Slussen The smoker.


Slussen Blue lips.

signature wall




Stockholm gardens Apples at Rosendals. All photos copyright 2015 Sandra Carpenter.


It was a perfectly gorgeous autumn day, so we decided to get out and make the most of it. My requirements were to be on the water and in a garden, so we went to Rosendals trädgård. This beautiful garden is a great spot to wander around, whether it’s through the pick-your-own flower garden, the apple orchard or greenhouses.

The sunflowers and zinnias were huge and the apple trees were loaded with fruit. We hung out in the garden cafe and then I had to get some of the apples. As soon as I got home, I made the pie using my friend Bryn’s recipe as I really like the crumbly texture of the flour and oats crust and topping. (And I also like the depth of flavor you get by adding a bit of bourbon to the fruit!) I substituted apples for the peaches called for in the recipe and was pretty happy with the results. (As was Robert.)

As for the “water” part of the day, we walked along Strandvägen by the Baltic and then took the Djurgården ferry home.


Rosendals Sunshine picnics.


rosendals The inspiration dessert at Rosendals was made with creme frache  and apples from their gardens.


home baking And the completed apple pie at home was also made with freshly picked apples from the gardens.


Stockholm Clouds and shadow view of Waxholm. Click on this photo to see it in full. All photos copyright Sandra Carpenter.


I am most often happiest when I am on the water. While I did not get to spend as much time as I would have liked to in Stockholm’s archipelago this summer, I did manage to squeeze in a few trips. And when my friend James was in town for a visit this summer, we took an afternoon cruise into the close-to-Stockholm archipelago.

The day was sunny and warm, so I could not resist leaving work just a tad early to join James and Anthony, a friend of his. I had done this boat tour before, and the guys had spent the morning touring, so we were all happy to just sit back and relax. We had a traditional Swedish style lunch of herring and shrimp, together with a bottle of white wine. It was a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon.


Waxholm Boat’s-eye-view: Heading into the archipelago.


Stockholm Lunch on board with Anthony and James.


Stockholm Skagenröra–shrimp salad.


Stockholm And a sample of herring, too.



archipelago Boat passersby.


Copenhagen My friend Zanne at the start of our amazing evening at Radio. All photos copyright 2015 Sandra Carpenter.


It’s been raining for about 24 hours and suddenly, it feels like autumn in every way here in Stockholm. As I’ve had a brilliant summer filled with travel and adventure, I am not feeling too down about the change in season.  And the rainy weather means I can get caught up on some writing, at least.

At the end of June, I had one of the best meals that I’ve ever had in Scandinavia. My friend Zanne and I went to Radio, the Claus Meyer restaurant in Copenhagen, and I can’t even begin to say how fantastic our meal and service was.

The menu is simple: you order either three or five courses, let the chef know if you have any allergies, and then are treated to a selection of locally grown and sourced food that blew my mind with its creativity and taste. We decided to splurge and got the five-course meal with the accompanying wine menu.

Rather than just throw a bunch of adjectives at you about how amazing each course was, I will just tell you what we had and share a few pictures. And I do mean just a few pictures–everything was so good that I actually forgot to take any shots after the midway point in the meal. I can’t tell you about what we drank either other than to say it was all perfectly paired with each course.

To kick things off, we were given sourdough bread with Nordic cow butter. It was so good that we both kept having more, even though we knew that we had quite a meal ahead of us. And then there was an amuse-bouche with root vegetables. We were happy at this point, but then the first course came was seared scallops with seawood, crispy chicken skin and asparagus. And then we were hooked.

The second course was plaice with pointy cabbage, dill and cold cream. Next came the potato course. Of course they weren’t ordinary potatoes, but Danish potatoes with sprouts and juniper on top, potato foam and potato chips. The crunchy bits of texture in this dish and actually throughout the meal were just so dang good.

For the fourth course, it was flank steak with grilled onions, cucumber and BBQ sauce on the side. Dessert was licorice and apple cider sorbet, pickled lettuce and meringue with licorice powder. Different, yes. But so good. Everything was.

Radio is cozy, stylish and the decor is simple: Scandinavian cool with black tables and chairs and gray wood paneling on the walls. And if you are in Copenhagen, try to get a reservation.


Radio restaurant Sourdough bread with Nordic cow butter.


Radio restaurant Seared scallops with sea wood, crispy chicken skin and asparagus.


Copenhagen Danish potatoes, potato foam and potato chips with sprouts and juniper on top.


Copenhagen The dining room at Radio.





Aarhus, Denmark There’s a rainbow on top of the art museum in Aarhus.



SAS The Good Issue from Scandinavian Traveler is available on SAS planes now.


Aarhus Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue.


Recently,  I was given one of the most fun writing assignments I’ve had in quite a while. My mission: to find happiness.  The premise behind all this was that Denmark is supposedly one of the happiest places on earth. So Scandinavian Traveler, the in-flight magazine for Scandinavian Airlines, sent me there to find out whether it lived up to the hype.

I had a fantastic time.

But of course you want to know if I found happiness. Well, read the article on the plane during the month of September. Or  check out the on-line version by clicking on this link.