Fäviken: An enchanting encounter
Our journey to Fäviken started long before this weekend. We managed to score reservations for dinner and an overnight stay at the 2 Michelin starred restaurant in April (6 months ago), so we started planning our Swedish excursion. I will skip over the beginning of our journey which involved an awesome AWS lounge, brunch, meatballs, and the IceBar in Stockholm. Not that it wasn't amazing, but the real magic of Sweden lies to the north.
We took a short flight from Stockholm up to Åre-Östersund airport on Saturday (the day of our reservations). We knew very little about the area upon arrival other than that we would be getting a car and heading to Åre (pronounced Oar-er, which we did not learn early enough) to explore until we could check in at Fäviken that afternoon. The airport was the smallest one I have ever been in, and that includes Roanoke Regional airport in southwestern VA. There were an adorable 5 gates and we just walked off the plane with no guidance onto the tarmac and then out the door. (On our way out, the time it took to get from parking to the gate was just 5 minutes). We rented a car with Sixt and we got to drive away in a Benz (which was a luxurious upgrade from our normal 2006 Vauxhall Astra) and we found ourselves on an hour long drive through a winter wonderland. I'm sure it's beautiful in the Spring and Summer, but the snow on the neverending hills of evergreen trees was better than any photo could be. We found a classical radio station and it was enchanting driving through the snowy hills. There were plentiful moose crossing signs (which Mike responded "Moooooooooooose" to every time we passed the sign, though we never got to see a moose).
In Åre, we had a light lunch at Krus, which is a cafe operated by Fäviken. Turns out Magnus Nilsson is a food mogul, he has his restaurants in Järpen, Åre and Stockholm, a charcuterie shop where they make all of the cured meats for the restaurants, an apple farm in the south of Sweden, a hunting excursion service, who knows what else. Lunch was simple but lovely - I had a vegetable soup which was more akin to a winter vegetable salad with a scrumptious broth poured over. Mike had a few small plates, including fried cod with lemon and mayo (I stole much of this), boiled salted new potatoes with "good" butter, and some charcuterie from their shop. All of this with some good bread and butter and we were satisfied and began mental preparation for dinner (which basically meant resisting the urge to eat for the next 7 hours).
To take up the rest of the time before we could check in at 4pm, we headed to Åre Chokoladfabrik, a local chocolate factory where, against our better judgement, we sampled all sorts of goodies. We also drove over to the Tannforsen waterfall, which is the biggest waterfall in Sweden where we perfected the long exposure setting on iPhone live photos. We also popped by Ristafallet, another waterfall closer to the restaurant. Though it was snowy everywhere, the closer we got to Fäviken, the snowier and more beautiful it got.
Now, the main attraction - Fäviken. We arrived just after 4pm and were greeted by a team of hosts with the firmest handshakes. The estate is truly magnificent, it felt like we were transported back in time. There were chefs already in the kitchen which had big windows to the outside, and there was constant movement of people carrying items back and forth from different areas of the estate. They took our bags and our keys and whisked us off to see where we would stay for the night.
There are 6 rooms at the estate, and they are each designated by wildlife found around the estate. We stayed in the Lynx room, which was small but well equipped with beautiful lighting, robes and slippers, and fur blankets. The washrooms were communal, but boy were they nice.
The sauna room had an area with chairs, and upon arrival was fully stocked with bottles of bubbly and other wines, and of course some charcuterie to snack on while we got acclimated with our home for the night. The sauna looked out onto the snowy, rolling hills surrounding the restaurant, and the heat felt fantastic compared to the below freezing temperatures outside. We spent the afternoon relaxing and eating charcuterie, then began getting ready for the main event!
Dinner was served in the beautiful, multi-story barn attached to the accommodation. As we approached the doors there were blazing fires and the doors were opened on much of the wait staff for the evening who all introduced themselves by name and again, had the firmest handshakes ever. The room is what you would expect of an old log cabin, kind of dark yet warm, sheaves of grains and herbs hung around the walls, and in Fäviken style, jars of pickled ingredients lined the bar that they will use to serve guests for the entire winter.
We arrived for dinner about 30 minutes before dinner service actually began, but that didn't stop the staff from beginning to serve us immediately. We were shown to our rocking chairs covered in fur blankets and got some cocktails to begin. I had their version of a Negroni with a house-made cloudberry liqueur. Mike had a super fresh cucumber-y cocktail that we can't remember the name of to save our lives.
A snack to start us off also came out of the kitchen, which were lacto-fermented carrots (which is essentially pickling but instead of vinegar, lactic acid is used), and some charcuterie in the form of emulsified beef and pork sausage. The carrots were still fresh enough to maintain the crunchy, sweetness of a carrot, with a hint of sharpness from the fermentation. The charcuterie was fatty and tender and melted in the mouth. Before the "rapid fire" small bites began, we got topped up on our cocktails (the Negroni came out of a bottle that had to be at least 2.5 liters big). The room was full of people, including the 16 that fit in the dining room upstairs and 8 more at the Chef's table in the main room downstairs where we began the evening. Each dish was served to each table at the same time, which was a fantastic experience compared to the normal Michelin restaurant, where you feel you are either racing against the other tables, or constantly eavesdropping to figure out what the next course is. Here though, when the chefs would come into the room with their heavy footsteps carrying trays of scrumptious snacks, the excitement in the room was palpable. The chefs would deliver the food in sync to each table then the sous chef or head waiter would clap twice and explain what we would be eating.
So - let's get on with it, what did we eat? 7pm began the rapid fire small plates, where each dish was served about 60 seconds apart.
Flax seed (aka Linseed) cracker + mussel mayo
The first snack was an impossibly thin flax cracker. To make it they make an oatmeal-type mixture out of the seeds that are crushed up, which releases enough starch to become the agent to hold the seeds together. The seeds are spread out thin, but not too thin, and the oatmeal mixture poured on top and baked. It was sprinkled with vinegar to give it some sharpness, and the dipping sauce was everything good about a mussel, except creamy and luxurious with the mayo.
Next was a tea that they infused in front of us. The sous chef brought us a small glass teapot with a light beef broth and some aromatic veg in it. He then showed us this birds-nest looking glob of what we found out were Mycelium fungi (yes, this was the type of spore they used to power the spore drive in Star Trek discovery, a moment was had and I drank tea that could make me travel the Mycelial network). This is basically the roots of fungi, and he poured the beef broth over it and let it steep for about a minute in the mushroom-goodness. He then poured the broth into two cups with fresh curd in the bottom, which is called mouse curd. The curd is a local dish to the area, and it got its name from the old ladies who make it by hand, molding and squishing it until it ends up looking like a mouse. He instructed us to please "slurp" the tea, which I always welcome the opportunity to slurp in a restaurant that's not my cereal bowl at home. The tea was wonderful and savory, with little pockets of creaminess from the curd.
Raw Kohlrabi with Wholegrain Cracker
The next rapid fire dish was made with Kohlrabi, which is a type of turnip that is often prepared raw. They prepared a thinly sliced kohlrabi salad with kohlrabi seeds on top of a warm wholegrain cracker, which was closer to a warm, thin biscuit (american biscuit, not cookie biscuit). It combined wonderful warmth from the biscuit with the cool freshness of the kohlrabi and was a fabulous bite.
Trout roe in pigs blood crust
Stay with me. If you're unfamiliar with any sort of blood-anything (namely in the UK and their black pudding), it is not as gross as it sounds. This little bite was crunchy and full of deep umami flavor from the pigs blood crust, then the salty freshness of the roe. It also was one of the cuter dishes (not that it's that important, but I remember the cute ones best).
Deep fried sourdough pigs head with gooseberry and tarragon salt
First, anything wrapped in a bread or sourdough batter and fried deserves a special award in my book (to this day one of my favorite dishes was a chicken thigh cooked in a loaf of bread at the Restaurant at Meadowood). This little bite was tantalizing. The rich tender pork, the crunchy, tangy battered crust, the sharp acidity of the raw gooseberry on top finished with tarragon salt. It was one of the best bites of the evening!
Birds liver custard, fermented garlic, pickled red currants, malted cabbage
What can I say about this dish. It left me speechless. It was rich, tangy, salty and savory. It was a liver custard with fermented garlic covered with a thick layer of crunchy goodness that was the malted cabbage, topped with the red currants. A bite with every element was breathtaking, I never wanted the little ramekin to be empty.
Cured, 1 year aged female pig cheek
Oddly specific, but phenomenal. What does the female-ness of the pig add to the flavor? I don't know, not really my area of expertise, but this sliced pork was extremely fatty, but not heavy. It was a beautiful, tissue-paper thin bite that melted in the mouth.
This ended the rapid fire small plates (for now..) and we headed table by table upstairs to the main dining area. We were escorted to our table in the corner, surrounded my more sheaves of grain and the addition of hanging cured meats all around the room.
We then started our drinks pairing for the evening. I had the wine pairing and Mike had the "juice", or non-alcoholic pairing. We started off the evening with Meade, a traditional viking drink made of fermented honey. Meade is normally sickly sweet (see: aged honey??), but this was specifically a very light one. They also added malted barley and hops, and if I didn't know it was meade, I would assume I was drinking a light IPA (if you know me well you know I'm really not an IPA fan, but it was a perfect pairing). Mike's non-alcoholic version was a light honey tea, also with malted barley and hops.
Scallop cooked over Juniper Branches
The meade was paired with our first dish, which was a fresh scallop. The scallops are from Fäviken's fisherman in Norway, and they were cooked over an open fire of juniper branches. They then open up the scallop, reserve the juices, remove the muscle (aka the part you eat), clean up the shell and then place the scallop back in the shell and top it with the sea juice, as I'm calling it. They served the scallops in the closed shell on juniper branches, so we got to experience opening the shell and slurping out the juices and eating an almost raw scallop with just our hands. This was such a fun dish to experience and it was a beautiful, fresh taste that transported me to a beach somewhere far, far away.
The next wine was a beautiful chardonnay from Burgundy by a vineyard whose owner refuses to use pesticides or chemical treatment on his grapes, so much so that when it was dictated by the government after an outbreak of some harmful bacteria in grapes, he faced jail time and excessive fines for not treating his grapes - which he still didn't.
King Crab & Almost Burnt Cream
Next was a very simply presented piece of king crab. It was beautifully seared and still so rich and tender. It was served with an "almost burnt" cream, which is what it sounds like. They cook cream until it reaches the cusp of burning and removed it and made it into a thick dipping sauce. They instructed us to make sure to get some cream with each bite, so my rationing was calculated very carefully. The cream with the crab was outstanding, adding velvety richness to the fresh, delicate sweetness of the crab.
Steamed Perch, Butter
Perch is a firm white fish, which they steamed. This allowed the fish to maintain a firm, light texture while not adding any overpowering flavors used in normal cooking methods, so we got the real taste of the fish. They topped the fish with two pats of their "good" butter mixed with a fermented fish sauce and topped with the cooking juices from the fish. The juices mixed together with the butter that melted off of the fish which we sopped up with fresh sourdough bread. This dish was light, fresh, and rich with all the goodness that butter brings. Also on the topic of their butter, they kept calling it good butter, and it was. One of the chefs congratulated us on finishing off the first plate of butter, which he claimed set a record of eating the most butter. I'm sure it was playful banter and we set no actual record, but the Recachinas family loves their butter.
Next came another round of rapid fire dishes to propel us into the height of dinner. With these dishes they paired a sherry. We grew to love sherry during our time in Washington DC at a little bar called Mockingbird Hill run by Drink Co. It is unfortunately no longer operating as a sherry bar because of the wildly successful Pop Up Bar (if you're ever in DC, check them out, they are always amazing). What you learn very quickly about sherry is that they are as varied as normal wines. Most people who have tried sherry typically only try PX, or Pedro Ximinez, which is a deeply sweet fortified dessert sherry that tastes like raisins (there is a time and a place for that, especially poured over ice cream), but often people never try the lighter sherries. The sherry they paired with the following dishes was a Manzanilla Pasada, which if you know sherry is an oxymoron. An aged Manzanilla - it had the color of an oloroso sherry, but the distinct salinity and freshness of a manzanilla. It was aged in 30% fresh oak and 70% used oak, so it had a wonderful oakiness that was sharp but subtle.
Sourdough Pancake with Beef Butter
Need I say more. There was a sprinkle of seaweed on top of the pancake that gave a little extra crunch and saltiness against the tangy, soft pancake and the luxurious beefy butter. I love butter, but especially when it's mixed with the fat of an animal.
Lupin Curd Gratin
Lupin is a bean similar to a soy bean, so they treated it like a tofu and made a beautiful firm curd. It was fresh, tangy, soft, and creamy.
Mahogany Clam with Fresh Lingonberries
What is a mahogany clam? It is one of the oldest clams in the world, some of the oldest ones found reaching 500 years old - the ones we had were only around 300 years old though. They picked these clams because part of the muscle is almost crunchy, and they were seeking a crunchy texture to pair with lingonberries for a small bite. It was slightly sour and bright from the lingonberries, and the clam was chewy and crunchy (sounds weird, but it was fabulous).
Ash cured egg + dried trout and marigold sauce
This was one of the most unique dishes of the night. They explained the icelandic tradition of curing items in ash as a cooking method. They would NOT tell us how they did this, so it must be really cool. They placed the eggs in a little nest in front of us with a small dipping sauce made of dried trout and pickled marigold picked from the estate. We then "peeled" the eggs, which involved peeling back the ash. We think that the egg was soaked in vinegar to make the shell "disappear", then was cooked slightly in the warm ash. The egg was beautifully runny, but not too runny, and the rich yolk + trout sauce was fantastic.
Next came 2 final "big" dishes, the entree if you will.
Grilled globe artichoke, cream + roe
This artichoke (or cardoon as they call them) was amazing. It was beautifully tender but still firm, and they poured "very good" cream on it (Mike and I both misheard and thought it was "Oat cream" or "Goat cream" - both of which were making it far too complicated). It was finally served with Finnish roe, which had an incredibly interesting flavor. It was more savory than the traditional salty roe and it offset the rich creaminess of the cream and added bite to the mild artichoke.
This dish was served with a traditional German Riesling. This winery has been producing wine since the 900s (casual).
Wild Duck & Bird Cherries
We were shown the ducks a few courses before actually getting it served to us. They hunt much of their meat from the estate and these ducks were no exception. They were plump little boogers just waiting to get saucy. We were served a piece of breast and a small piece of thigh with a fruity compote. It was a fabulous duck dish.
Duck Liver & Toast
While we were eating the duck, we were also brought a small plate of duck liver on toast. It was the perfect bite that added more bits of the bird into our final savory dish!
The wine paired with these duck dishes was a premier cru Pinot Noir.
Next came more rapid fire small plates to thrust us into dessert! The reason I specify rapid fire is that the timings for these dishes' arrival at our tables was carefully calculated. Logistically, with so many courses, there is only so much room in your stomach, but the faster you eat the less time you have to think about it.
Colostrum with blueberries
This was my favorite dish of the night. Colostrum is the milk from a brand new mother cow (like..brand new). I can't even fathom how they go about sourcing enough of this for dinner service, but I'm glad they did. It was thick like sour cream but had the mild, creamy taste of milk. This was nestled in a small meringue shell and topped with blueberry jam. This is the only dish, consequently, that I don't have a photo of because we were told to immediately consume it as the meringue was at risk of melting at any moment. It was a wonderful creamy bite with a kick of tartness from the blueberry. SCRUMPTIOUS.
Raw Jerusalem artichoke, darkly roasted cereal
This small bite was a small sandwich type thing, with two thin slices of Jerusalem artichoke with a spread of dark roasted cereal in the middle. I had never had a raw Jerusalem artichoke before, though it is one of my favorite root vegetables. It was crisp and mild, with an almost bread-like flavor in the middle from the cereals.
This was one of the most interesting dishes. They made everything in this small bite from potatoes. The potatoes were boiled down until all the starches separated and then made a fried dough, then put a potato caramel in the middle. It was just plain old delicious. This was Mike's favorite dish of the whole night.
Spoon of Silage Ice Cream
Silage is basically fermented grass. So this was essentially fermented grass ice cream. Mike kept on trying to compare it to other flavors like "has interesting matcha notes" or "tastes kind of like a ___ green tea", to which I continued to respond "because those things taste like grass, and this tastes like grass". Despite a weird flavor in general, it was refreshing and a perfect palate cleanser for the remaining desserts.
Dried, Braised Plum with Fresh Cottage Cheese
This was our final dish in the upstairs dining room. One of the chefs was braising it at the island in the middle of the room for most of the small bites. They served this simple slice of plum with very fresh cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is one of those things that has always freaked me out, but after this experience I may have officially been spoiled. The curds were noticeably fresh and the light creaminess added wonderful bright notes to the deeply rich plum.
We then headed back downstairs table by table to our original seats for the beginning of the meal. We were greeted there with a few small bites and one final dessert! We also had tea and coffee service, but not traditional teas. They do herbal infusions using herbs and leaves they forage from the estate. I ordered an extra herbaceous one with Angelica and birch leaves, and Mike ordered a slightly more fruity one. They put the leaves together in the pot right in front of you - it was very made-to-order!
This was...just a little cold frozen raspberry ice. It was beautifully refreshing
Bone Marrow Pudding, Frozen Milk
Next was a luxurious pudding/custard made from bone marrow. It was served in a copper measuring cup which is one of my favorite vessels for small food. They first poured a generous helping of rum on top and lit it ablaze. After it burned for about a minute, they extinguished it by placing a large scoop of frozen milk on top (note: not ice cream, not even ice milk, it was almost like a milk flavored snow cone). This dish was incredibly rich and an interesting play on a bone marrow by using it in a sweet application. It was so late into the meal / wines that the rum flavor was almost too much for me, but delicious nonetheless.
The remainder of service was sprinkled with nibbles that were mostly sweet. It was wonderful to graze and digest at our leisure.
Pickled Semi-Dried Root Vegetables
These were amazing, I would eat them as snacks on the regular. Couldn't pin down all of them but there were beets, carrots, some sort of parsnip or jerusalem artichoke, and probably some obscure ones that I don't know exist.
Reindeer and Birch Pie
This was their take on a meat pie, but at dessert. It was a wonderful almost-chocolatey flavor with the deep richness of the reindeer and the herbal notes from the birch. It was a quick and tasty bite.
Selection of sweets
There was then a little wooden box filled with tar pastilles, meadowsweet candy, candied angelica, smoked caramel, sunflower nougat, and dried blackcurrants. These were all really interesting, but the smoked caramel won the competition hands down.
This, for me, was one of the most memorable things they did. The last tasting was a selection of seeds that had been candied or coated in a sugary shell, then dyed different colors. There were mustard, anise, mint, dill, and coriander. (One more but I can't remember what kind of seed it was). These were so interesting to try one by one and then go back and combine creatively. Some were overpowering (cough anise), and some I couldn't stop eating (DILL). This was such a fun way to end the meal with something as small and simple as a seed.
Snus & Liqueur
Finally finally, we were offered one of their house made liqueurs. We both chose the "weirder" ones, which were a sour cream liqueur for me and a duck egg yolk liqueur for Mike (it was basically eggnog). Then in Fäviken tradition, Snus, or chewing tobacco, is offered to finish the meal. They make it themselves and ferment it in used bitters barrels. This was optional, but I can't really say no so I tried a little. It was an interesting experience, but one I will likely not have again!
That concluded our meal for the evening and we retired to our room and promptly passed out from food coma.
We were so lucky to get to stay overnight at the restaurant. This was our first time staying at the lodging for a michelin starred restaurant and it was worth every penny. Mostly for the breakfast.
We made our way back into the dining area of the estate for coffee and tea in the morning. The coffee was fantastic, but I think that was mostly due to the luxurious milk they served with it. We then headed upstairs to begin breakfast.
On the table when we arrived was a plate of charcuterie and cheese, as well as a bunch of condiments and spreads that we would use throughout the meal. The charcuterie was smoked pork shoulder, smoked reindeer heart, served with an aged cows milk cheese from a local dairy. This was served with a selection of warm sourdough and rye breads with more "good" butter. We also had sides of cream cheese (which Mike promptly spread aggressively on all the things), a bird liver pate, and trout with caramelized cream. To drink on the table there was a blackcurrant nectar from a local producer, and fresh apple juice from Magnus' apple farm in the south of Sweden (and of course more coffee for yours truly).
We were then brought out two boiled eggs, served with an herb salt and roe cream. I'm just an eggs-for-breakfast type of person so this was my favorite part!
Next, we were brought fresh yogurt that had been made the night before then baked all night (and was still warm), which was served with a cloudberry jam.
Finally, fresh porridge. This was no ordinary porridge though. It was made from a mixture of seeds and wheat, including whole wheat, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds. Of course made with a generous amount of good butter and also served with the cloudberry jam.
Our whole weekend was beyond words (though I've managed to write quite a few). Fäviken exceeded our wildest dreams of what our experience would be like, and we can't wait to return!!