I am not one to pick favorites. Those who know me well know that I don't have a favorite movie or artist or bottle of wine...I like a lot of things and have trouble with superlatives. "This is better than that" is no sweat, but when it comes to "this is the best and better than all the rest," whoa, please don't make me go there. So when I say that I had the best bite of food that I've ever eaten at Frantzen in Stockholm, it's a BFD and I want everyone I know to know.
Frantzen, ranked #31 on the San Pellegrino World’s Fifty Best Restaurants, is a 19-seat jewel tucked into the twinkling, cobblestoned, maze of Stockholm’s Gamla Stan (Old Town) neighborhood. And while it’s a spot that globe-trotting foodies seek out for two-Michelin-star Scandinavian food, it hasn’t yet been glorified by documentary filmmakers for the edification of a mass American market. In planning our vacation, Chris and I had agreed that our “special meal out” would be at the Chef’s Table profiled, #25 ranked, Faviken in Jarpen, Sweden, about 7 hours’ drive north of Stockholm. One epic dining experience seemed like enough to me, yet on the flight from Iceland to Sweden, I caught Chris trying to get a reservation at Frantzen. It was booked solid, but he tenaciously emailed the restaurant to request a spot on their waiting list for our last night in the country. “If it’s meant to be, we’ll get a table.”
And get a table, we did. We actually got the best seats in the house – front and center at the kitchen-side counter – on a late reservation which meant that we were last guests in the joint. The twenty-something course meal – from the moment we were greeted by name by a tall Mr. Jeeves type character on the street outside the door to the last bite from the signature box of sweets – skirted the line between yummy and magical. For all intents and purposes, the best thing I’ve ever eaten was a pile of vegetables and a drizzle of crème fraiche. It sounds like a salad, but it was transcendent.
Frantzen calls the dish “Satio Tempestas” which, loosely translated, means “satisfaction of the season.” It is the only dish which remains on the ever-changing menu year-round because it is a plate that changes with the seasons to mirror the bounty of vegetables, herbs and flowers grown in the chef’s two gardens. The Satio Tempestas that we ate was a veritable jubilee of forty (yes, 40) ingredients, that gave form to a type of culinary expertise, patience, and an understanding of flavors that stopped me in my tracks. The elements of the dish were prepared individually using a variety of techniques meant to enhance the raw materials (oh the prep work involved!) and were plated with the utmost Scandinavian care for balanced taste and texture. Delicate yellow leaves, tender ruby red beets, unctuous buttery shallots, vinegary artichokes, and crispy baked kale played together with dozens of other morsels to proclaim an ode to the autumn harvest. VEGETABLES! Even now, thinking about eating forty ingredients makes my head spin, but the resulting simple harmony of bite after bite was what made Frantzen’s Satio Tempestas the Best Thing Ever.