Friday, July 13, 2012

Midsummer Swedish Smorgasbord at IKEA

We have just returned from the Midsummer Swedish Smorgasbord served for one night in June each year at the store restaurant at IKEA. IKEA has five one night special all you care to eat meals at their store restaurants during the year. This one is held in June each year.

We had been to the Easter Smorgasbord at IKEA this past April and enjoyed it very much. When we learned that there would be another in June we watched closely at the store for signs about when it would be. This year it was held on Friday, June 15th. These dinners are always held on Fridays. There are two seatings. The first is in the late afternoon starting at 4:00 pm and ending at 6:00 pm. There is an hour to reset the dining room and replenish the serving tables and the second seating starts at 7:00 pm and ends at 9:00 pm. Tickets for these dinners must be purchased in advance at the store restaurant and there are a limited number of tickets sold. The price of the meal including everything is $9.99 - and the meal is worth much more.

This is the menu that was presented by IKEA for the meal that would be served at the Midsummer Swedish Smorgasbord:

Assorted varieties of Herring
Hard boiled Eggs with Shrimp
Gravad Lax with Mustard Sauce
Smoked Salmon w/Horseradish Sauce
Whole Poached Salmon
Tossed Green Salad
Cucumber Salad
Rhode Island Salad
Midsummer Fruit Salad
Assorted Swedish Cheeses
Boiled Dill New Potatoes
Meatballs with Lingonberries
Swedish Ham (served cold) w/Mustard
Prinskorv Sausage (sautéed)
Crispbread, Thin bread, Dinner rolls
Strawberries and Whipped Crème
Ice Cream
Assorted Desserts
Coffee, Tea, Fountain Beverage

Everything on this menu was there at the dinner. The Easter dinner had some differences and actually, was more extensive. The set up for Easter was more extensive and a bit more organized as well, but at Easter there were many more people in attendance. At Easter there were hot trays to keep the hot food hot - here the few hot dishes that were served were in smaller serving dishes that were continually brought out hot as they needed replenishing - so everything remained at a good eating temperature.

We arrived a half hour early for the 7:00 pm seating and there was a long line to get in. The regular restaurant is closed for the day when this meal is served. We were let in about five minutes to 7. You enter and find a table. The tables are pre-set with silverware, a glass with a festive color paper napkin folded inside the glass, and for this dinner each table had a plate of Swedish crispbread and also a plate of chocolate bonbon cakes - one large one in the center of the plate and several smaller ones around the outside that were chocolate covered in coconut. The smallest tables seat four, but are separated in the middle so it may seat two couples without each couple touching the other's table. There are tables for larger groups as well - and the staff are very accommodating putting tables together for large groups. We found a table for two/four. No one else sat with us at the other half of the table. There were less people here for this dinner than there were at the Easter dinner - at which another couple did sit down at the other half of our table. You then get on a line to go into the serving area and there are two buffet serving tables with another shorter table opposite each of those at the end. Each side of the serving table duplicates what is on the other side and much is in the middle. On the ends you do have to reach from side to side for a few dishes.

When we had come in April we had jackets with us and it was easy to mark our table as taken. It was over 70 degrees out on this day and we did not think to bring a jacket in with us just to put on a chair at the table. To make sure our table remained ours, the first time we went up, we went up separately. When I returned to the table, I realize that all we had to do was fill our drink glasses with soda and our table would have been saved. As it turned out, there would have been no problem.

The dinner was very good and the food was very good as well. I tried a little of everything and I was pretty much full at the second dish. Of course, there are always things that I want to try some more of and the third time up was perhaps one trip too many, even with the small amounts that I took. The hardboiled eggs with shrimp also had a bit of caviar on top and this was good. The graved lox was excellent. I have said before that I don't like salmon that is not either smoked or raw. The poached salmon was exceptional and was served with a sour cream and cucumber sauce on the side. This is the only cooked salmon that I have liked. I had this at Easter also and made a point to take more of it this time.The ham was a baked ham that was served cold and was very good. There were little sausages (Prinskorv Sausage) that were sauteed with thin cut onions and these were very good. I had these also at Easter and at that time they ran out quickly. Tonight, they were continually replenished. While I enjoy cheeses, I don't generally choose them at a buffet but there were three cheeses that I had to try - one was semi-soft, one was semi-hard, and the third was hard. They reminded me of other cheeses that I have had. I am not cheese-saavy, so I can't identify what they were or what they were like, but I enjoyed all three. Not on the list about, but out on the buffet were jars of sliced sweet pickles. These were very thinly sliced and while they tasted like most sweet pickles, because they were so thin, they were quite different. I liked all three herrings with the herring in cream sauce as the one I enjoyed most. The other two were herring in wine sauce and herring in a yellow cream sauce that must have had mustard in it.

At the dessert server there was a large bowl of huge, fresh strawberries with the green leaves cut off the tops. Next to that bowl was a bowl with whipped cream. People before they went up for their meal, went straight to those strawberries and mounded them on plates and mounded whipped cream on top. There were also bowls of cut up strawberries and blueberries. There were several desserts. We decided that we would each take a dessert and taste it. We took a small piece of a dense cinnamon swirled cake covered in chocolate and a pudding cup with caramel swirled on the sides and a vanilla custard pudding. There also was fruit salad, the strawberries, the strawberries with blueberries, ice cream cups, small two color chocolate(what looked like) brownies, and a pink dome of smooth frosting with some type of cream inside. The chocolate cinnamon cake was very good. The pudding was nice, but not what I anticipated. It had appeared to be an egg custard - my perception only - and it was more a custardy vanilla pudding.

The people who are working at this dinner and at the Easter dinner are exceptional. Everyone is going out to their way to be welcoming and friendly. They go around the dining room and greet you. This dinner is a Swedish festival at which summer wreathes are made and worn like crowns. They were putting these flower crowns (artificial flowers - no allergies) on the children's heads to keep. We suspect that the people who are hear are store management - they go so much beyond what the general employees do - not saying the regular employees would not be this nice - but this really is beyond what we experience at this same restaurant when we dine here for regular meals that are not special dinners like this one. My wife wanted tea and was not sure what to push on the coffee urn to just get hot water and went over to one of the people working and was greeted and told that she would come over and show her - she could have just said push the orange button in the middle. Everyone was all smiles. And we experienced this same thing in April at the Easter dinner.

You do clear your own table here - as you do when you eat at this restaurant for regular meals. There are stacks of tray carriers with trays walled off from the dining area (two of these setups on the floor) and you take your dirty dishes and put them on the trays - and then go for more. This is not a problem. And if you have dishes stacking up on your table you have only you to blame. Plus there is no one to tip!

We learned on this night that the next all you can eat dinner will be Crawfish - all you can eat crawfish. This will be in August. We will skip this one. I only marginally like crawfish and my wife would not eat it at all.

There will be another big smorgasbord in the Fall. I don't know when that one will be. Following that there is one for Christmas, and then Easter again.

When I have talked about these meals at IKEA in the past there have been some very unjustified negative comments and not from anyone who had ever had one of these meals. If you would like to try something different - with good food - and I will add quality food (much of it is sold in their small grocery department and it is imported from Sweden and expensive) - then try one of these smorgasbords. For $9.99 you can't get a quarter pound of gravad lax at a gourmet counter - you get all you care to eat of that here plus the herring and all the rest for $9.99. If you want to be a food snob, then stay away. This is a loss leader for the store - they do it to get you into the store in hopes that you will shop - and to introduce you to foods that they sell for you to take home. In fact one of the nice ladies came around and told us that we can get much of what we ate down in the grocery section to take home - and gave us a coupon to save money on it, as well! If you want to feel rich on at a $9.99 AYCE meal- go for it. I will be back!

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