Julbord – a smörgåsbord of colors and flavors

Around this time of year, many companies like to take their employees out to a “julbord” dinner.  The phrase “julbord” literally translates to “Christmas” (jul) and “table” (bord), and it always involves some massive portions of traditional Swedish “holiday” food.  I call it “holiday” food because it’s the same kind of food you would eat during Easter and Midsummer too!

As a #TrulySwedish American, I’ve gone to many julbord dinners during my time in Stockholm, and I remember certain things about each one.

  • Grand Hotel: The service was incredible, but the meal was ridiculously expensive.
  • Pontus by the Sea: Colleague arrived late and ordered shrimp. The candy was really good.
  • Some restaurant on a hill in Stockholm: My first introduction to Gustavs korv – horse meat sausage.
  • Some restaurant we went to in the archipelago: It was in the archipelago.

As you can see, all good memories!

This year, we went to Ulriksdals Wärdshus with one of my small teams.  It was a very nice location out in the Solna area of Stockholm.

They started us out with some glögg and then asked us what we wanted to drink.  Some ordered wine, some ordered beer, and I ordered a light beer since I had to travel the next day.  But normally, you also order snaps.  Hardcore snaps.  Think of it as vodka but flavored wit spices and herbs.  Then add the “ick” factor to it.  That’s snaps.  When Swedes are getting ready to drink snaps (at Easter, Midsummer, or at a julbord), they sing.  Why? Because it helps you build up courage.  But we wussed out for various reasons – it was a work event, it was a Tuesday, and some of us were driving.

Then we were released into the wild.  The next room contained all of the craziness – buffet style!  When you walk in to a “proper” julbord, you can’t help but be impressed by the diversity of colors and smells.  It’s a lovely sight for hungry eyes.

The way you start a Swedish meal is to start with the cold stuff first — sill (pickled herring), potatoes, salad, smoked salmon, sausages, salami, prosciutto, etc.  You take all that back to your table and eat.  Once everyone is back at the table and working their way through the sill, potatoes, and the sausage, you take a swig of beer and propose a toast, and then take a shot of the snaps that you’ve poured.  Oh, and sing.

Once you’re done with that, you go back to the big room with all of the food and take your favorites from the cold section and add stuff from the warm section.  In the warm section you can pick from meatballs, little sausages, fish, various casseroles, bacon, and more pork products.  It’s all heavy in fat but all very flavorful.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Finally, the grand finale – the dessert table.  This is my favorite part of julbord because you get to try out every single sweet on the table, and then go back for your favorites.  I actually behaved myself this year and went with a few dark chocolate candies and then went through a lot of clementines.

So that was julbord 2010.  Another Truly Swedish experience.  I wonder what my favorite memory will be about this one?

  • Ulriksdals Wärdshus – We didn’t order snaps.

We’ll see, I have time to think about it. 🙂

God Jul!

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