Provenance has become the byword among Sweden’s top chefs, whose locavore leanings embrace not only an ingredient’s origin, but also the hands that cultivated it. This passion reaches almost fever pitch at 30-year- old Daniel Berlin’s eponymous 10-seat restaurant in Skåne Tranås, a tiny village found an hour’s drive from the southern city of Malmö. What the small vegetable patch and tangle of wild berry bushes behind the restaurant don’t supply, Berlin sources from within a 30- kilometer radius. There is Vilhelmsdal goat’s cheese, free-range pork from nearby Olinge Farm, and cod fresh in from friends who fish the Öresund, the stretch of water between Sweden and the Danish island of Sjælland.
Why gamble on such an obscure location? “I simply couldn’t afford to open in Stockholm,” says the soft-spoken Berlin. There are only two other cooks in the kitchen; his parents even left their jobs to help him run the place: his father, Per-Andres, pours the wine and makes coffee; his mother, Iréne, replenishes water glasses and clears plates. The result is a homey, intimate, and incredibly well thought-out experience that is worth every inch of the detour.
My meal starts with wafer-thin crisps of onion and mushroom sitting on a bed of moss and twigs; quail eggs, their sun-yellow yolks still runny, are served with watercress and tomato, and followed by a vivid mushroom soup. A fillet of cod is perfectly balanced with apples and beach plants. But it is the spelt with burnt butter and cauliflower that exemplifies this young chef’s skill and originality.
I see the trickle-down effects of Sweden’s new culinary scene a short drive away at the Vilhelmsdal goat’s cheese factory, a white stone farmhouse set amid gently rolling hills peppered with pockets of forest and distinctive red houses. Owner Lars Anderberg used to work for Ikea, and confesses that he knew nothing about cheese or goats before he and his wife decided to leave their jobs and open Vilhelmsdal. “I was tired of making things that people didn’t need,” Anderberg says. “Now, we make things they do need.”
Producing 75 kilos of goat’s cheese a day, Vilhelmsdal is one of only 200 small cheese makers in Sweden. (France, by comparison, has thousands). Recently, it received a coveted award from the Swedish Gastronomy Society, an accolade garnered by only two other cheese makers since the 1950s. “It’s thanks to the new Swedish restaurants that small suppliers like us can survive,” Anderberg says.