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Beyond Baltimore: Cruising the Baltic Part 3

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Dining on the Celebrity Constellation can be an adventure. Each menu offers opportunities to try dishes new to me. A salmon mousse with pink caviar; vegetables in a phylo crepe; radicchio and frisee salad with a creamy lime vinegar dressing; tuna carpaccio sliced so exquisitely thin. Without fail, at every dinner I order two appetizers just so I can taste as many new flavors as possible. My waiter, Isidro Guity from Honduras, has become my co-conspirator, giving tacit approval of my choices or advice to enhance the gustatory adventure.

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Going ashore, Stockholm, Sweden is my first Scandinavian experience. Boarding a “hop-on, hop-off” harbor tour boat, my first stop is the Vasa. In 1600s, the Swedish king ordered his marine architects to build a massive warship—the Vasa--to serve as a monument to his reign and Sweden’s naval might. Unfortunately, the good king failed to take his engineers’ advice and kept adding deck upon deck, ornament upon ornament, decorative carving upon carving, higher and higher. When finally launched, the top heavy ship sailed 1,700 meters, rolled onto its side, and promptly sank. It lay on the bottom of Stockholm’s harbor for more than 330 years until raised and preserved in the 1960s.

Today, the ship has become one of Stockholm’s most visited attractions. Entering the Vasamuseet, the giant hulk looms up through the darkened gallery, eerily looking as if it should have seaweed dripping off of its railings, ghostly sailors flitting along its decks, and spectral St. Elmo’s fire flickering on its masts. Incredibly well preserved, the Vasa is a behemoth time capsule and the world’s only intact 17th Century ship of its kind.

Riding the “hop-on, hop-off” tour boats is a superb way to take in the sights. From the Vasa, I cruised to the Royal Palace to watch the changing of the guard, and then strolled into Gamla Stan, the Old City. Following the narrow, winding streets past numerous shops, galleries, and restaurants, I eventually wound up in Ostermalm, one of the city’s better shopping districts. Wandering down a sidestreet, I found Mix Café, a very non-tourist restaurant serving typical Swedish lunches.

The lunch menu had a half-dozen platters and a handful of specials. Each platter had a protein such as grilled salmon, entrecote of beef, or meatballs in a light gravy. I had to go for the Swedish meatballs and was very pleased with my choice. The meat was coarse ground, well-seasoned, and definitely not 90/10 hamburger beef. Fingerling potatoes, lingonberry sauce, and garnishes completed the platter. A help-yourself salad came with the meal and included diced beets, cucumbers, and about a dozen other items not usually associated with an American-style salad. A huge loaf of bread—slice it yourself—was an unexpected find. Crusty, with whole grains, it was delicious and further enhanced the very filling meal.

For recipes and more of Reed Hellman’s signature culinary adventures, visit my Website at www.reedhellmanwordsmith.com. You can follow my monthly columns in Recreation News and read my feature articles in Business Monthly and Annapolis Lifestyle.

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