Off the 101 lies a ridiculously large parking lot and a giant blue box, with behemoth yellow letters that read “IKEA.” The store’s one-way traffic flow forms a maze. It is impossible to exit the store until you have wandered through its entirety and bought a Djungelskog. And of course, you can’t leave without having admired rooms you will never be able to afford while sifting through simulated medical bills which, again, you will never truly be able to afford.
As resident IKEAn of the journalism team, I (Damian, who lived in Sweden for an entire six and a half years) provided much needed insight on matters of vikings and ABBA. More than any flag or book, the great blue box reminded me of my homeland. Much like the beautiful Sylan mountains, every room was covered in furniture and price tags. I was stunned by the resemblance. We headed up to the “Swedish Restaurant” to eat. From a smorgåsbord of options, we chose Swedish meatballs for $11.99, cured salmon salad for $6.49, chocolate cake for $5.49, and three drinks, which were $2 each.
First, the meatballs (köttbullar—however you think it’s pronounced, you’re probably wrong). With the dish comes ten meatballs, mashed potatoes doused in gravy, peas, and lingonberry jam. Despite being sold at IKEA, the meatballs do not taste neutral, mass-produced, nor furniture-esque. Instead, they are hearty and tender, contrasting well with the tartness of the lingonberry jam. The mashed potatoes are delicious, with a creamy consistency, and are well-complemented by the gravy. The peas look and taste like peas. Overall, the meal was exceptionally delicious and filling. In the wise words of our accomplice, senior Logan Greenbaum, “It feels like Thanksgiving, but not Thanksgiving, because it had meatballs.”
This dish reminded me a lot of the Swedish holiday season. Despite the hardships of maintaining my family’s traditions, I complete my yearly pilgrimage to IKEA every winter to buy Glögg (mulled wine).
Next, we tried the salmon salad (a.k.a. gravlax). Greenbaum’s three words to describe the salmon were, “cold, light, and refreshing.” It has the perfect amount of dill and spices, creating a nice tang that contrasts with the flavor of the salmon. It’s paired with a light onion cream on a bed of arugula and frisee, which together with the salmon creates a dish that is a masterpiece of texture and flavor. Andhrímnír would be proud.
IKEA provides a wide selection of beverages, from which we tried the raspberry, lingonberry, and pear sodas. The raspberry had a strong but not overpowering flavor with a quality far from the artificial sodas that line American supermarket isles. With just enough carbonation, it felt akin to eating a fizzy raspberry fresh off the vine.
The pear soda is as bright as the burning hay buck in Gävle and more refreshing than the glacier melt of the Scandes. The drink has an esoteric flavor and is tastefully carbonated. It’s also unique, given that America has essentially forgotten the pear, but luckily for us, the Swedes have not. America, take note.
The lingonberry (a.k.a. lingonbär) is a rather peculiar fruit (and somewhat enigmatic, as we discovered when most of us needed to Google what it was). It tastes like a sweeter version of the more celebrated cranberry. Combined with light carbonation, its flavor is reminiscent of chilly winter days and nights spent by the fireplace. Yet another thing that America should take note of.
Finally, the chocolate cake. The cake itself is dense, seeming almost flourless. The richness of the cake is offset by an airy chocolate buttercream frosting and deep chocolate ganache. While the buttercream is sweet, it’s not overtly so. However, if you are particular about frosting, this might not be the cake for you. The sharp contrast in its dense texture and leavening taste creates an enticing paradox, a word we never thought be used to describe a cake, least of all a cake bought in the upper floor of a Swedish furniture store. We were unable to finish the whole thing, so we saved some for the house elf in the hopes that such a boon would prevent it from stealing my socks. In Sweden, we value our house elves. When cared for properly, they are helpful and kind, on occasion even bring gifts to children. An unsatisfied elf, however, gets up to endless mischief.
After our delicious meal, we discovered that the escalator to the restaurant only went up. This clever design forced us to walk through the entirety of the furniture store before finding an escape. Luckily our dear companion, the IKEA bear (Djungelskog), guided us through the labyrinth of staged kitchens and bickering couples.