Swedish train gastronomy

SJ trerätters

Judging by the common complaints against the Swedish state train services (SJ) – the constant delays and breakdowns, the high prices, and the 50 years of overdue track repairs – I never expected much of their food. But given SJ’s weird booking system, I recently came across a first class ticket between Lund-Nässjö which oddly was cheaper than a 2nd class ticket. Having saved 100 kronor by travelling first class, I opted for the “Three Course Menu” for 145 Swedish kronor (appox. 16 euros) with quite some excitement.

Swedish train menu

Having rolled out of a rainy Lund with only 1h 30 to eat, I was delighted that the food arrived promptly after 20 minutes. It was so hot that I burnt my finger, and the entire meal was presented on a tray like airplane food. The heavy china with the SJ logo on was a nice touch, as well as the little note presenting the food. But my optimism was slightly quashed by the first forkful. The ‘starter’ consisted of marinated mussles with a slice of chorizo and some chopped red pepper. They were marinated in something tangy, but had a fishy aftertaste, and I set my hopes higher for the next dish.

SJ chorizo with mussels

The ‘main’ was, unfortunately, a slight downward ride from the mussels. Of course, it was foolish of me to get my hopes up for something blandly described as “Herby chicken with tagliatelle”. The chicken was hot, which was good, but rubbery at places, and the tagliatelle was overcooked. The most troubling part was the sauce, which was so thin that it kept splashing across to my fellow passenger (whom I didn’t know, and probably wasn’t appreciating my eager food analysis).

Herb chicken with tagliatelle

The dessert, a “Chocolate and blueberry mousse”, looked cute, but sounded like a combo that would be weird even in the poshest restaurant. Luckily, the promised fusion didn’t actually materialise – instead it tasted like soft chocolate sponge cake with some tangy chocolate mousse on top. It was decent.

Chocolate and blueberry mousse

All in all, the SJ lunch tasted much like airplane food, which I suppose is what you should expect given the price, the setting, and the standard of SJ services. So nothing terrible, yet not quite worthy of the lush “3 course menu” description on their website, or their elegant wine suggestions to go with it. I imagine it’s a lifetime of difference from the food on the Orient Express, where a single trip from Paris to Istanbul sets you back almost €7000. I long for trying it. Until then, I leave you with a wet photo of the Swedish countryside, to match the SJ gastronomic experience.

Sight from the Swedish train


More Food Trucks – Boston

As mentioned in my previous post I took it as my mission to taste as many of Boston’s food trucks as I could. On Sunday I walked all the way to the South End to SoWa Market – a big market that takes place every Sunday. I quickly moved to the food truck section which was already crowded with hungry Bostonians. I started my lunch with a pork taco at BBQ Smith.

For $3 you got a taco filled with crispy and smoky pulled pork topped with avocado salsa and a spicy sauce. This was incredibly tasty and a really good start to my lunch. They also had really good looking sandwiches but I had to save my stomach for my next truck: Lobsta Love.

Lobsta Love’s lobster slider was all that Chowda’s slimy lobster roll wasn’t: fresh, not drowned in mayo and made to order. The lobster was mixed with mayonnaise and tarragon but kept its strong flavour. The brioche bun was lightly toasted and seemed to be brushed with butter and was the perfect accompaniment to the lobster. Lobsta Love offered many lobster options including a lobster mac and cheese which I will absolutely have to try before I leave Boston. By this point I was pretty full but could not leave before trying famous cheese melts from Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese.

Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese are a bit of food truck royalty as they have won many prizes and have taken part on the Food Network’s Great Food Race, so I knew I was in for a treat. I thought I might as well go all out so I went for the Mighty Rib: Fontina cheese, braised back ribs and caramelised. Yes, ribs, in a cheese toastie! After 20 minutes waiting with other 50 people the beast finally came out. It looked glorious, all cheese and and pork amazingness. This toastie completely changed my idea of what cheese toasties should be and I am definitely recreating this at home. The only thing missing was a bit of spice like some sliced jalapenos or a salsa I could dunk the toastie in. Aside from that…fatty perfection!

All I can say is that Boston is a great city if you like food! Now I can’t wait to go back to London and explore the food truck options there.


Amazing Sandwiches and Food Trucks – Boston

After the disillusion of Chowda’s lobster roll I took it to my online bible of American food – Serious Eats – to find some tasty food for my next few weeks in Boston. I began my search for a place to have lunch around my office – Downtown Crossing – and came accross Chacarero’s, a small place that serves enormous Chilean sandwiches called Chacarero’s. I came back to the office and quickly messaged Miss Meatball to tell her about one of the best sandwiches I had ever had. This thing was gigantic and so so good. It’s basically and white homemade bap, smeared with avocado, topped with your choice of beef, chicken, or both (I tried chicken but really should go for both next time), munster cheese and then runner beans (yes, runner beans), tomato, lettuce, and an incredible mistery green spicy sauce.

All the ingredients were incredibly fresh and every sandwich was made to order. A large chacarero came to 8 dollars (that’s roughly 5 pounds) which fed me for both lunch and dinner (it is a really big sandwich). This made me think about the amount of times I had a horrible sloppy sandwich from Pret or worse, Sainsbury’s, simply because there are no other affordable options around (read Holborn). If only I could have walked five minutes from LSE and pay five pounds to have a gigantic, fresh and made to order (no Pret making your sandwiches in the morning doesn’t count as ‘fresh’) for five pounds. But on to more food from Boston.

On my third day of work I was asked by my boss to replace someone at a talk at MIT.It was a conference on food trucks and mobile payments (yes these exist) and while it was totally useless from a work point of view I got to find out a lot about the Boston food (and fashion) truck scene. I found out that Boston is one of the cities in America with the most food trucks per capita and I have made it my mission to try as many as I can. I started by having my leftover sandwich with some rosemary french fries from Clover – one of Boston’s most famous food truck enterprises (they have over 5 trucks and a restaurant) which has one of its trucks close to my hotel on the Boston Common. These fries were so good – crisp outside and soft inside and speckled with fried rosemary. At first I thought the rosemary was just a gimmick but then I started thinking about all the possibilities of dishes that could be sprinkled with fried rosemary – which made the herb milder than usual and very crispy.

My next food truck experience was my next day’s lunch at Bon Me. Sadly I have no picture of my food so you will have to drool on this image of their menu from their Flickr page. Bon Me is a Vietnamese food truck and serves three  main dishes plus some extras (no more noodle soup). You choose your base then add your filling. I had the Bahn-mi with bbq pork which was incredible. Fresh bread, pork pate, punchy pickled carrot and daikon and smoky bbq pork topped with fresh coriander. This was amazing and incredible value for $6. The truck stops quite close to my work on Fridays so I will be sure to try the other options next week. Now I’m off to SoWa open market to test as many food trucks as I can.