Sunday, October 21, 2012

Flickorna Lundgren: Decadent coffee breaks in Southern Sweden since 1938

It's a curious time for the modern traveler.  It's an era where you can visit a bakery tucked away along the Southern Sweden coast, whose charm has been preserved since opening in 1938, and later 'Like' this bakery on their Facebook page.  

So what if hidden gems aren't so hidden anymore?  Gems they remain, even if the internet is making the world feel smaller and less mysterious.  And if a solid web presence means that more people know about Flickorna Lundgren and can savor their hand made vanilla hearts, so be it.  The world is better for it.

These days, many bakeries are social media savvy, tweeting or posting status updates about what's fresh out of the oven.  I happen to love engaging with my favorite bakeries in this way.  But when I entered the beautiful gardens of Flickorna Lundgren, it was a destination with such a faraway, fairy tale quality that it never crossed my mind I would be able to show my allegiance to their decadent creations with a simple thumbs up on my newsfeed.  You get lost in the magic of it all, wandering down the property to see the view of the water, visiting their resident farm animals, admiring the incredible scenery of flowers and fruit trees, and discovering cozy nooks in which one can enjoy pastries and coffee.

One small section of a huge garden 
Peeking through the trees at another garden area
A father carries his daughter's stuffed dog as they make their exit.  I imagine the little girl masterfully attempting to leave it behind on purpose so they would have to come back to retrieve it, and thus eat more vanilla hearts during the rescue mission.
More charming garden views
Walk off your pastries with a visit to the farm animals, who hang out on the land adjacent to the dining areas

And yet technology helped me again when I wanted to translate the history of Lundgren, written in Swedish on their website.  Thanks to Google Chrome, just one click of the 'Translate' button gave me a greater understanding of all that this family business has survived to make it to 2012.  The tough times during the 1930's gave birth to the business, when the family's oldest daughters got the entrepreneurial inspiration to start a coffee house.  Their powdered sugar-covered and vanilla custard-filled heart pastries grew in popularity and fame, irresistible to anyone with a sweet tooth (including, as the story goes, members of Swedish royalty.)  At one time, all baked goods were made and served out of the original cottage.  

Pastries sit on this window, adjacent to the garden.  The cottage storefront is just inside, where you can buy treats to-go.   This setup reminded me of the scenes in old cartoons, when fresh baked pies sat on windowsills, tempting passers by.
Have your coffee break in the greenhouse if it's raining

Eventually needing more space, the business expanded by building a separate bakery area.  Generations later, this place still captures your imagination-- and your stomach.  These hearts belong permanently on any itinerary of  Southern Sweden, much like beignets belong on any worthwhile tour of New Orleans.  Every good traveler knows you can't let a trip pass without sampling the regional powdered sugar confection of choice.  If you need more reasons to visit, they also have cake.

Some of you might be wondering if the traditions of such bakeries will get swept away by modernity, but I wouldn't worry.  Take as a testament the guestbook sitting in the cottage at Lundgren, where visitors can take pen to paper to proclaim their devotion to this coffee and pastry refuge.  

No need to sign up, log on, press a 'Like' button, or write on a virtual wall: just the simple act of leaving your mark on a special place that is sure to leave a mark on you.

Copenhagen Cake Festival

If there were ever a food event for me, it's the Copenhagen Cake Festival, hosted by the Copenhagen Pastry Guild.  The Cake Festival is a part of a larger food festival called Copenhagen Cooking, an event jam-packed with an overwhelming amount of culinary events across the city. 

Cakes from La Glace, the famous Copenhagen cake shop
Beautiful La Glace cookbook
Hanging out with the Copenhagen Pastry Guild
Whimsical festival sign at the entrance of Carlsberg Gardens 

The Cake Festival was held this summer in the gardens of Carlsberg Brewery, where visitors could participate in the perfect combination of tasting cakes from local bakeries, drinking good strong cups of coffee, participating in cooking tutorials, and watching professional demonstrations. 
This chef was doing a live demonstration of sugar sculpture technique.

Samples at the demonstration tent
A chef reaches out her piping bag to give the audience a quick finger lickin' taste

Entrance to the festival earns you a cake of your choice and one cup of Estate Coffee. I chose this licorice flavored cake from Johansen's Konditori.  The cake had flavors of almond, licorice mousse, and a crunch of Danish rugbrød/rye bread.  It also included apple and havtorn (sea buckthorn). 

The soundtrack for the day was provided by live string instruments, which made stuffing one's face with cake an even classier affair.  The players were hidden way in this alcove at the back of the garden.  

Eating sweet treats at a cake festival is only half the fun, in my opinion-- better to get your wrists deep in marzipan, butter, flour, chocolate, and icing to get the full experience.  

Thankfully, the Copenhagen Cake Festival did not disappoint in this regard: the festival entrance (150 Danish kroner, approximately 25 USD) included the chance to get small group skills sessions led by professional chefs.  

Trying my best to follow the Danish directions, I piped chocolate and icing and made marzipan flowers with the best of 'em.  And once the instructors realized my Danish was limited, they were nice enough give me some pointers in English.  
Once you felt you had worked hard enough honing your baking skills, you could enjoy a coffee or a beer in the garden

Clouds loomed in the sky over Carlsberg Gardens.  The weather was lovely for the most part, perfect for having your cake and eating it too.  
Before and after: sunny skies transitioned to rain, which led all the festival participants to huddle under one big cozy cake demonstration tent.
The view from the cake demonstration tent
During this portion of the event, local politicians engaged in a cake decorating competition! Onlookers enjoy the fun while trying to stay out of the rain.  
The young audience member on the left side of the picture is particularly enthralled with the cake competition.  

I would definitely recommend the Copenhagen Cake Festival to any cake lovers who might be visiting Scandinavia.  People here know how to make a great cake, so if you attend a cake festival in any city, let it be Copenhagen.