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Lightning’s Swedish trip allows for dining-driven experience

Beat writer Diana C. Nearhos enjoys a fika, the Swedish social tradition and - cover your ears Rudolph - reindeer.

STOCKHOLM — If in Montréal, I did as the Montréalais, in Stockholm, I will do as the Stockholmare.

Victor Hedman is the Lightning’s resident Swede and has shared many general Swedish recommendations, but he’s not an expert on Stockholm. Hedman lives 350 miles from Stockholm. He said he can recommend the biggest tourist attractions, but he’s never been himself, and that we should ask the Stockholmare.

So I did.

I asked NHL.com writer Janne Bengtsson, who lives around the corner from my hotel, where I should take a traditional fika.

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: Just why is the team here anyways? It's about marketing, bonding and life experiences

Fika is a break, taken at work with colleagues or away from work with family and friends. It features a drink (usually coffee, but I was assured tea counts) and often a pastry. Fika taken at work is usually about 15 minutes, away from the office maybe 45. It’s about taking a break from your day to socialize and reset.

I’m here for taking a moment from your day to step away, give yourself a treat and reset. Plus, I’m always down for an afternoon tea.

Bengtsson said the best place to go was Mr. Cake, which is off the beaten tourist path, despite its very English name and some American pastries. Better yet, he offered to take me since while you can take a fika by yourself, it’s better with others.

Mr. Cake had the traditional pastries like kanelbulle (a cinnamon roll you find everywhere), a take on that called kardemummabulle (similar roll with cardamom), then offerings like a red velvet croissant. Something for everyone.

I couldn’t decide between kanelbulle, most traditional, and kardemummabulle, Bengtsson’s favorite, so just had both. (How American of me)

As Bengtsson and I walked back to the city center, we passed through Humlegårdens parklek, one of the biggest parks in Stockholm) and then Kungsträdgården, an open plaza where the national team celebrated its World Championship in 2018 and 2017. (Hedman was on the 2017 team.)

When we neared the hotel, Bengtsson stopped and asked “Want to see a mummy?” Once I got over the shock of the question, I said sure. We back tracked a few steps and entered the Medelhavsmuseet (Mediterranean Museum), which had an incredible Egyptian exhibit.

All in all, a good day of wandering through Stockholm.

What I ate

If you read the aforementioned Montreal travel blog, you know I travel with my stomach. I make a point to eat things I might not at home.

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: Swedish hockey is an entirely different experience than what we know in North America

The first night in Stockholm, a man at the hotel’s front desk suggested Stockholm Fisk. I considered the salt-cured salmon, which the server cautioned was “very Swedish” and I must like fish. I was sold. The dish was a pile of cured, almost raw salmon with a side bowl of a potatoes dressed in a creamy dill sauce. Delicious.

The next night, I knew I needed to try meatballs. I went to Bistro Bestick, mostly because it was near the café where I had been writing. I ate the traditional dish of meatballs and gravy, served with potato puree and lingonberries. I have to say, Jon Cooper was right when he suggested the gravy might be the best part.

On Tuesday, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News and I went to the oft-recommended Pelikan. He ordered his first taste of the meatballs (well, first in Sweden) and I started with toast skagen, a toast point topped with a prawn salad, because it is one of Hedman’s favorite dishes. Then I decided to go all in with the roasted reindeer (now my sister may tell me off for eating Comet). I have to say, Harrington’s meatballs were better than the ones I had the previous night. The reindeer, however, was better still. The meat was cooked rare and wasn’t all that different in taste from other gamey meat like venison. (Of course, I made Harrington try it, too.) Now I can said I’ve eaten reindeer.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos

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