SURF & TURF – Skargardssmak – PART ONE

18 May 2004

The landscape is not unlike the US northeast coast or the islands of the Pacific Northwest: red cottages with steep-pitched roofs balanced on rocky points, quaint farms that run down to the sea and small harbors filled with jolly wooden sailboats, working fishing fleets and cheery white ferries chugging toward the horizon. Known collectively as the Archipelago, these islands are where Swedes, Finns and three million visitors per year go to relax.

The collection of many islands runs more or less from the coast near Stockholm, east through the Aland Islands and on to southwestern Finland. The Archipelago is known for its light, its all-around charm and its regional food products and fish. Summer visitors want to eat locally and take home local products. In November 1996, using both European Union and local funds, the four-part Skargardssmak project was begun to promote restaurants, handcrafts, raw produce and shops of this area. Skärgårdssmak consists today of 33 restaurants, 35 craftsmen, 22 shops and 22 primary producers.

Featured local cuisine might include smoked salmon on dark rye bread, fillet of elk with a confit of local berries, Baltic herring with dill and mustard sauce and rhubarb tartlets. These specialties may be served in a simple boathouse right on the quay or with white tablecloths in a neoclassical building overlooking a river or harbor. Boaters can tie up and stop for a meal at some member restaurants or the restaurant itself may be boat .

As does the Chefs Collaborative here in the States, Skargardssmak sees “the restaurant as locomotive”, an engine with the momentum to influence and educate the public. Participating restaurants and producers that have received the Skargardssmak White Wave seal are committed to creating networks, markets and demand for the best local producers. They also receive various training opportunities, including rigorous environmental protection seminars.

“Our policy is to meet national environmental quality demands and go further,” asserts Skargardssmak member, fish farmer Thomas Carlsson. The White Wave trademark of the Project guarantees annual quality control of the standards of the restaurants and food products.

Skargardssmak identifies and publicizes Master Tastes of the Archipelago, similarly to the efforts of Slow Food. For example, the best apple brandy, cheese, smoked fish, limpa bread and potatoes are selected and promoted by the Project with booklets of recipes, opulent coffee table books, catalogues of handcrafts and pocket-sized restaurant and producer locater booklets.

This impressively comprehensive effort connects small businesses in remote locations. On the Swedish island of Vano, which can only be reached by private boat or helicopter in the winter, Anna Horngren and Thomas Carlsson established their family business, Vano Fisk, in 1978. “We have full control of the entire production and take personal responsibility for the quality. The fish is never transported more than fifty meters from the farm to the smokehouse.” As members of Skargardssmak since 1997, Carlsson and Horngren continue to build markets with local restaurants and shops which feature their products, such as smoked salmon pate, cold smoked fish and even fresh whole salmon.

On the island of Ljustero, Birgitta and Lars Tengelin, the only goat farmers in the area around Stockholm, value the connections to local restaurants, established through Skargardssmak, such as Grinda Vardshusm, Uto Vardshus and Hotel Havsaden. “Restaurants buy bigger quantities than families! And farmers markets take us away from the goats too long,” says Birgitta.

In 1995 the couple left respective careers in land surveying and occupational therapy and purchased 14 kids. Now they tend 39 females and produce 4000 to 5000 kilos of cheese from the pasteurized goats’ milk. Among the ten to twelve different types are a blue, best aged five months, a soft, linen-wrapped cheese similar to havarti, the rich, internationally-known “brown cheese”, typical of both Norway and Sweden, feta and a newer white Caprin, aged 3-4 months at least and their most popular product. “Restaurants serve slices with tomato chutney or on top of sliced beets,” explains Birgitta.
(to be continued)

For more information:

Judith Hausman, a Slow Food member, contributes regularly to Gastronomica, The Valley Table and Westchester Magazine

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