Friday, April 25, 2008
I was invited to lunch at Esperanto - brilliant star restaurant, excellent food - by Swedish Match, the largest producer of snus in Sweden. Snus is a very Swedish thing - not quite like chewing tobacco, but a popular alternative to smoking. (You can read all about it here.) It's apparently used by over 1 million Swedes, which should tell you something about how widespread it is. I've never tried it, but my dad was an avid "snusare" in his days and I remember it strongly from my childhood.
Snus can be flavored in many different ways, and the objective of the lunch was to point out some of these flavors and see how they would interact with nicely paired food. Interesting - even for those of us who preferred not to actually try the snus, but to just enjoy the food. (I did sniff the snus, and it did work very well with the food - chefs Sayan Isaksson and Daniel Höglander had definitely done a good job in matching the flavors!)
Before the first course, we were served "mock-snus" - the chefs had made up three concoctions that looked like snus, but weren't. One was made with dried olives, one with browned butter and one with madeleines colored with squid ink. Huh. This was quite strange, and not especially tasty - the butter one was particularly scary. (These are the tins in the first photo.)
First course was a havskräfta - a Norwegian lobster/Dublin Bay Prawn/Langoustine, it has many names! - that was flavored with peach and licorice. Interesting flavor combinations, but the problem for me was actually the texture - it was a bit too soft for my liking. It was topped with a roe, and served on a slice of avocado. It was made to match with the flavors in Röda Lacket snus.
Main course was my favorite - a potato cream topped with fried morcilla sausage and black morels (morchella elata in Latin, or toppmurkla in Swedish.) Just beautiful - the flavors went so well together. This was supposedly reminiscent of Ettan snus.
Then, for dessert, a divine rose-infused sorbet on top of a rose creme. It was served with tiny madeleines, that the chef had spritzed with rosewater before serving. Very tasty! This was matched with General snus.
The wine was brilliant too - Evolution, from Oregon, a mixture of Pinot Gris and Riesling. Unfortunately not available in stores here, but perhaps where you live - if so, do try it.
At the end, we had the opportunity to flavor a snus of our own. I made one with cognac and cloudberry for my friend at work, and she reported back that it was actually quite good! Maybe that's my alternative future, snus-flavorer...
..or I could always grow tobacco. We were each given a tobacco plant, and I plan to put it in my garden soon. Wish me luck.