Thank you for subscribing to Dishtillery! This is a special combination of “We Meet Again” and “Tidbit,” our paid subscriber-only features that usually appear in the first and middle weeks of the month. As a holiday gift, this one is free for all! If you like what you read, please tap on the heart, consider gifting a subscription, or share Dishtillery with a like-minded friend. We appreciate your support. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to bring you recipes and recommendations from restaurateurs, chefs, artisans, winemakers, mixologists, and, of course, us! And if you don’t already, please do follow us on Instagram / Twitter / Facebook.
We Meet Again: Julbord Lessons from Liseberg Amusement Park
How do you approach a buffet? It’s an interesting question for an interesting time. During the holidays, we tend to see quite a few of them, even this year, despite the incoming Omicron tidal wave. After all, after last year’s cancellations, nothing will stop the holiday outings now. That includes Christmas Champagne brunch buffets such as the one at The Biltmore in Coral Gables, where my family has gone with good friends in the past, and Prime Fish on South Beach, where we’ll be going with that same family this year. Observing over time, I've found that everyone has a different style for tackling an overwhelming array of dishes: Some start with salads, others go straight to hot fare, and a few – let’s be honest – begin with the dessert table. Seriously, who wants to run the risk of being too full for sweets (if that’s even a thing)? But the reality is, no one really knows where you’re supposed to dig in. Not only that, but it’s difficult to judge just how much to put on your plate in order to eat it all without wasting it. On a recent trip to Gothenburg, the second-largest city in Sweden (and yes, it was cold! and snowing! and cold!), I discovered that there actually are a few guidelines to help you navigate such a spread with good manners and a minimal-waste policy. I was there, in part, to sample the outstanding julbords, or Christmas buffets, that are a tradition. Some restaurants serve them during the entire month of December, and tables book up months in advance. At the julbord we enjoyed in the nearly century-old Liseberg amusement park, which hosts the largest Christmas tree in the city as well as a long-running, popular, and deliciously fragrant Christmas market, our server told us about the seven-plate rule. If we employed it, she said, we’d be able to sample a bite of nearly everything at the buffet. Simply take a fresh plate seven times, and make sure to load it sparingly. Then work your way through the following: herring and gravlax with boiled potatoes, sour cream, and chopped or decorated eggs; prawns, crawfish, crabs, and oysters; beetroot, cabbage, kale, and other cold weather-vegetable salads; cold carved meats and terrines; hot carved meats, main courses (including the eponymous meatballs and the classic potato and fish casserole Janssons frestelse), and side dishes; cheeses; and cakes and sweets. The key is taking a new plate for every course and eating everything you put on it. That way, you know how much room you have left in your belly for the next round. And, our server said, “Don’t eat bread.” It just fills you up for no good reason. These julbord parameters are easily adaptable to American buffets, which usually offer a range of the same types of food items, if not the exact ingredients of them. It all depends on where you live. In Miami, for instance, substitute ceviche for herring and tiradito for gravlax. But you can still employ the seven-plate rule and achieve the same stomach-groaning effects. It’s a counterintuitive exercise in simultaneous self-restraint and indulgence, and it’s effective at reducing the half-eaten mounds of food waste carted off by servers from every table. I’ll confess that I failed – twice – to complete the mission of tasting it all and avoiding waste. The first julbord at Tullhuset Restaurant, located in Hönö Klåva harbor, featured a fish and shellfish theme, and I got carried away by the double handfuls of pickled herring dishes, followed by so many cured and smoked salmon plates that I lost count. (But I did see a wild mink playing on the ocean-sprayed rocks below the restaurant, which I found thrilling. And clearly, since it was wearing its rich brown coat, it was warm.) At the second, despite at least a little experience, I again filled up with too much of that herring with onions that I just love, taking advantage of what we never see in America. Although I did make it to plate number four. I think. Victory? And, I admit it, I ate bread. But that’s an American for you. We never do exactly what we’re told.
DISH: Classic Winter Takes (for When You’re Running Late)
Grapefruit glittering with sugar and a maraschino cherry. Iceberg with “Russian dressing.” Tinned mandarin orange segments glistening with syrup. That was our family in the Seventies. At least, that was it during the winter when the produce variety was scarce, but every meal began with salad and ended with fruit. The Eighties sometimes reversed the order and introduced radicchio and endive. Yes, we were the first on our suburban block to discover that meals (back then) could end with salad. Luckily the tre colore components of this era blocked the celery that commonly inched its way from bin to bowl, which I’m positive was partly an effort to jazz up the anemia of January produce in New Jersey. (I’m also sure, however, that Naomi loves celery in a salad. For me, not so much, unless it’s an herb salad – but that’s a whole other story from a previous post.) From there it was a short trip to combining the best of said fruit into the salad itself. In this chicken-and-egg situation it’s hard to say where our mom picked up the trend or why it continues to last, especially in chain restaurants via the so-called Chinese chicken salad. Still, after resisting for too long, I now appreciate how savory, quick to make, and healthy this can be, especially when the fruit is not out of a can. Not to mention, how economical and seasonal. Right now, for instance, citrus season is starting, as Jen knows better than anyone. Even though produce is widely varied and often improving (I’m eye-balling you, cherry tomatoes!) through the winters of the Midwest and East, fresher is almost always better. And citrus sections of any type improve greens, protein, and dressing alike with their sweet acidity, as do berries. Just last week, I channeled our mom with just such a contribution to a pot luck brunch. Of course, you don’t have to make this for brunch. The salad and dressing can grace any meal as a side dish, or become an easy main course with the addition of grilled salmon or chicken. The measurements are benchmarks. I shopped and prepped in 45 minutes because I was running late… again. Salad 10-12 ounces (or more) mixed greens or baby romaine 2 navel oranges, skinned and sliced horizontally (reserve the juice from skinning and the skin itself for squeezing into the dressing) ½ pint blackberries 1pint strawberries, cut in half or quarters ½ cup sliced almonds On a platter, arrange greens. Divide and arrange fruit decoratively on top. Finish with almonds. Serves 8 (or more) Dressing 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar Reserved juice from oranges 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard ½ teaspoon kosher salt Black pepper to taste 1/3-½ cup olive oil Whisk all of the ingredients except the oil. Slowly stream in the oil until a consistency you like (a little thicker for me, a little thinner for my sister). Taste and adjust. Serve dressing on the side. Extra salad can keep in the refrigerator but will wilt if dressed.