Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Having a ball (or 15) at IKEA

I must momentarily pause from my more serious culinary agenda to wax somewhat indulgently about one of my personal guilty pleasures.

Whether you call them Fleischlaibchen (the fried version from Austria), keftedes (made with mint in Greece), kufteh (filled with hard-boiled egg and dried fruits in Iran), bola-bola (served in a noodle soup with pork cracklings in the Philippines), or faggots (made with pig heart, liver, and fatty belly meat in the United Kingdom), the point is... from whichever corner of the globe you reign, you have more likely than not enjoyed a meatball at least once.

While I love the Italian American tradition of crowning my pasta with these minced meat spheres, I have to confess that the version I more frequently crave is the köttbullar, as they do it in Sweden, blanketed in a cream sauce with a side of lingonberry jam.

Since a day excursion to Sweden is admittedly extravagant to satiate my cravings, and I find that when my need for Swedish meatballs kicks in I rarely have the patience to hand-form my own, what better way to feed my tummy and soul than a road trip to IKEA.  After all, if you can't make them at home, you might as well enjoy them somewhere that at least feels like home...

Where else can you get the feel of cooking in your own kitchen without turning on a burner or being pestered with the greasy cleanup of a single skillet or even a plate?

As soon as you enter the Swedish manufacturer's warehouse of assemble-it-yourself home furnishings, a small sign directs you how to skip the showroom altogether and head straight to the cafeteria.  Since we weren't here for a nightstand or bookshelf, we did precisely just that.

You get fifteen of these tasty little meatballs, served with roasted potatoes and a pool of jam (order a slice of garlic toast to soak up all of the deliciousness).  Somewhat similar to a cranberry sauce, the Swedish jam is made with lingonberries, which are packed with Vitamin C.  Because of their natural benzoic acid, artificial preservatives are unnecessary to keep this jam fresh.

The IKEA soft drink fountains even offer a lingonberry beverage, which combined with a splash of Sprite and lemonade is a refreshingly unbeatable compliment to the meal.

It may not be a gourmet bubbling blend of three exotic cheeses, but for cafeteria mac 'n' cheese, it doesn't get much better than this.

The stuffed salmon with lemon dill sauce and steamed vegetables was one of two featured specials the day we went.  Check the website to see what offerings are available on the day of your next visit (we might just have to head back to Hicksville for their Wednesday night ribs!)  The restaurant even features a 99-cent breakfast plate.

The dessert selection varies, but always features one of the sweets from the Swedish Food Market (near the exit).  We of course had to sample the Princess Cake (marzipan, whipped cream, and raspberry sauce) for $1.29.

After lunch, the boys were exhausted, so I shopped for a living room wall hanging while they caught a few Zzzzzz.

Though we didn't find any home accents, we zipped through the remainder of the warehouse and headed to the Exit Cafe for $1 ice cream cones.

IKEA's Swedish Market is incredible... they even sell cans and tubes of ABBA.  The boys were a little bummed to learn the packages were not filled with little dancing queens, but rather crab paté.

And for the next time we have a craving without the access to a car, they even sell frozen packages of their köttbullar, along with packets of their cream sauce mix.

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