Now that finals are over (whew!) it's time for me to start catching up on what's been going on the past couple of weeks. So, in celebration of the Jul Season, I'll jump back a couple of week's to a Sunday afternoon when we took part in a long-standing Swedish Christmas tradition: the Julbord. The Julbord is basically the Christmas version of the smörgasbord, the Swedish version of the buffet. It refers to the large meal that Swedish families normally lay out on Christmas Eve, but in more recent times it's also been popular for restaurants to have Julbord seatings around the holiday season.
Jennifer had been told by co-workers that we should really try to go to a Julbord sometime, so when she found a couple of coupons to the Julbord at Odinsborg Restaraunt it seemed like we should go. The coupons were only good for the first week in December (high Julbord season doesn't really kick off until St. Lucia on December 13, so I guess they were trying to drum up some early business), so despite being crazy busy that week we made the time to go out to Odinsborg on the weekend.
Actually, we had planned on going Saturday afternoon, but while getting ready we began to wonder about some detail or another and decided to look at their web page, which in turn led us to call them, which was a good thing: they were actually booked up for the afternoon, and what's more it isn't the sort of thing you can just wander in to any old time. There are three seatings a day on the weekend, at noon, 3 and 7. Feeling a little foolish, we booked a table for two at the mid-afternoon seating the next day.
Odinsborg has been a local favorite for decades, primarily due to its location right next to the burial mounds at Gamla Uppsala. It used to be quite a bit closer to them: before it was decided that the mounds merited preservation and a museum, the restaurant occupied the best piece of real estate in the area, with a panoramic view of all three main burials. Its location was so good that when it came time to build the museum, the restaurant got the heave, although a protest from the locals prevented its being demolished. Instead, it was shifted off to the north a couple hundred meters. Its big picture windows don't have much of a view anymore, but it's still the same cool old building, and to all appearances it's still serving exactly the same menu.
When we got there, a few minutes after three, there was a line out the door of dressed up people waiting to get to their Christmas feed. For a few minutes we felt distinctly casually dressed, but then a couple more families showed up looking even more casual than us, so we felt OK after that. Anyway, it was quite a crush at the beginning, and it took us a good half hour to get in, get our coats squared away, and be shown our table. We were kind of far removed from the food, but on the other hand we had a cozy little corner with a fireplace, and it was much quieter than the big room. Anyway, I went off to try to score us some quick food to nosh on while the line died down. I picked the shortest line I could find, and then stood in it for the next 4 hours. OK, maybe not that long, but I was hungry, and the line I was in never seemed to move despite the continuous stream of people coming out of the next room, each of them laboring to get their massively laden plate back to their table.
However long it took, I was very glad when I finally made it to the front, and even more glad when a new supply of plates showed up and I could begin. I made my way past the eel (I'm not completely averse to a little smoked eel now and again, but when confronted with a dish which appears to be nothing more than a large eel with its spine ripped out, chopped into rounds—well, I'm going to pass on that, even if I am hungry) and got down to the important stuff: Jansson's Temptation (sort of potatoes au gratin, but with herring and Christmas spices added for good measure), julskink, meatballs, and of course several kinds of potatoes. I almost got to the potatoes, anyway—just before I could reach them, a group of half a dozen well dressed older ladies walked into the room, ignoring the line completely, grabbed plates and set to the potato dish right in front of me. I decided that, in this case, eating was the better part of valor, and retreated to our table with what I'd managed so far.
By my next trip I was feeling a little more daring, not eel daring exactly, but enough to move over to the unidentifiable meats line. This whole side of the buffet was covered in dishes of sliced meats, which included some ham and salami, but also a variety of elk sausage, some smoked reindeer, and a variety of paté like things all of which, on sampling, seemed to have been made of ground herring. I suppose that somewhere in this mix there must have been the julkorv, another Julbord required item, but I must have missed it somehow.
Also worthy of mention, of course, was the dessert table, found naturally enough just past the fireplace with the stuffed badger. It (the table, that is, not the badger) boasted a selection of puddings that rivaled even the most sumptuous of Norwegian buffets, a variety of cakes and ice creams, some pomegranates (mmm…), and a selection of tiny, chocolate dipped marzipan pigs. Ahh, the sweet melancholy of the marzipan pig…