Today was one of my very best friend’s birthday, so when he suggested having his birthday lunch at FIKA I was sold. FIKA is a restaurant at the American Swedish Institute (ASI) located at 2600 Park Avenue in Minneapolis. It includes a museum, art gallery, shop, restaurant, and is connected to the beautifully historic Turnblad Mansion (which you can tour). The view from our courtyard patio seat was gorgeous.
I have actually been here a couple of times now. The food is always on point! The staff is friendly and engaging, whether they are walking through the mansion or serving your food. Amazing group of people. And very knowledgeable! The mansion features artwork throughout and changes several times during the year.
Back to the food!! FIKA features Nordic-inspired cuisines – – house made pastries, stunning interpretations of salads, open-faced sandwiches, soups, etc. One of my favorite dishes is the Swedish meatballs! Today we had Potato puree soup, Swedish Meatballs (juniper-spiced, with potato purée, cucumber, lingonberry & mustard sauce), Fried Shrimp open-faced sandwich (tomato, watercress & horseradish on caraway rye bread), Caramel latte, and a Macchiato. We also had the Akvavit. I wasn’t sure how to explain this drink so I cheated and googled it! “It is a flavored spirit that is principally produced in Scandinavia, where it has been produced since the 15th century. ” So there you go! They offer different types and my friend loves them! They were a little strong for me, but I still recommend everyone at least try them, because you never know! The entire menu is very good and every plate is a work of art all on its own.
In Sweden, fika is a daily break, traditionally involving coffee and treats. But at its core, fika is about much more; it’s a Swedish social institution, where friends gather to talk/catch up about life over a drink and a snack/meal. I believe this restaurant captures this tradition and elevates it was incredible food and great staff.
When I was thinking about the book that would pair best with the ASI it only took a second to decide on A Man Called Ove by Swedish author Fredrik Backman. I LOVE everything about this book. I have spent most of the last year recommending it to anyone and everyone who will pause long enough to listen. It was in my Top 3 books I read in 2015 (For those interested, the other two were Girl with all the Gifts and Ready Player One)
A Man Called Ove follows Ove after the loss of his wife and how he learns to live and love again in the aftermath. One of my favorite quotes is:
“Ove had never been asked how he lived before he met her. But if anyone had asked him, he would have answered that he didn’t.”
This is a small glimpse into how he saw her. She was all the color he needed in a life he saw very black and white. When she passed, it sent his world into a tail spin and it took a cat, a young couple, and their two young daughters, to show Ove that the world was full of much more color than he ever thought possible.
Ove can be harsh, straightforward, and stubborn. I highly recommend reading this book with a box of tissues within reach. I was laughing out loud or had tears streaming down my face all in the same paragraph. It is an emotional roller coaster of the best kind.
One of my favorite things about this book is how developed the characters are. You really dive into Ove’s life. You find yourself completely swept away in his pain, his new loves, and his humor. You find yourself shaking your head at him when he’s being overly stubborn, and cheering him on when he takes steps towards opening up. The other characters are developed more as they become more significant in Ove’s life. So while we don’t really get a large view into their lives, I think that makes sense for the viewpoint of this novel.
“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.”
“Ove feels an instinctive skepticism towards all people taller than six feet; the blood can’t quite make it all the way up to the brain.”
I could spend an entire blog just quoting this book. I felt like this story developed naturally. It didn’t feel rushed or inconceivable. To me, this is a key element in Ove’s story. His acceptance of his wife’s death, and his learning to let people in, while still remaining true to the character’s essence was beautiful. It is very well written. I have not read any of Backman’s other books, but I definitely will be.
The American Swedish Institute read this book a few months ago for a book club discussion. I wasn’t able to make it, and I’ve never been so sad to miss a book discussion in my entire life. I love hearing people’s thoughts about any book, but especially those I love. Whether they loved it or hated, I have to know why! Why did you love it? Why did you dislike it? What would you have done differently? When I love a book, I become obsessed with it (if you can’t already tell – – “crazy book lady alert!”)
My hope in this blog is that everyone will rush out to get a copy of this book and to try FIKA at ASI. Like the book jacket says, “Ove is all you need.”