Get through the Malm bed frames and Vardagen whisks to find the best part of the Scandinavian chain
Walking through an IKEA is a long-winding aspirational odyssey. You set your shopping cart in motion along the track of enormous arrows on the floor, and you know that you may not emerge for a long time. But when you do emerge from the checkout line, harried and hungry and possessing more closet organizers than anybody needs, you reach one of the most under-appreciated sections of the store—the groceries.
It’s tempting (believe me, I know) to run straight for the exit once you’ve paid for your floor lamps and coat hangers, but the payoff for trudging through the groceries is an array of beautiful Swedish treats beyond the standard meatballs and cinnamon buns that IKEA is known for: gravlax, cookies, cakes, and gummy candies. As I recently learned, if you find yourself at IKEA in the midst of an apartment-makeover, a quick stop in the grocery section will supply you with almost everything you need to throw a low-effort brunch party to celebrate once you’ve finished your home-improvement crusade. The brunch will have the added benefit of adhering to a succinct Swedish theme, so you don’t have to overthink how well everything will go together (ugh, so hygge). This is important, because when you’ve been wandering around a three-floor store staring at picture frame dimensions for four hours, you don’t really have the brain capacity for meal-planning.
On my own recent visit to IKEA, I employed no brunch-shopping rules. I just threw everything in my basket that looked comforting and Instagrammable. From a broad freezer case full of cured salmon, I chose a cold-smoked salmon. I couldn’t resist a package of mini heart-shaped frozen waffles, or a box of pale pink princess cakes (little dome-shaped marzipan confections that are popular alongside coffee in Sweden). I saw a woman confidently putting a tall stack of frozen rösti (thin potato pancakes) in her cart and decided to follow suit. I grabbed coffee beans and lingonberry preserves out of a sense of pragmatism. After all, what would a Scandinavian brunch be without the quintessentially Swedish tartness of lingonberries? The bulk candy section sold gummies that looked like tiny fried eggs, so of course I got some gummies too.
Back at my neighborhood grocery store, coming down from my Scandinavian design high, I bought a handful of fresh ingredients to balance out the frozen foods and sweets; some green herbs, crunchy cucumbers and radishes to use as garnishes, strawberries, lemons, creme fraiche, and eggs. I decided I’d keep things simple and let guests assemble their own combinations from these offerings — a waffle with lingonberry jam and strawberries, or a rösti with smoked salmon and cucumber.
The Ikea Shopping List:
Sjörapport (cold smoked salmon)
Sylt Lingon (lingonberry preserves)
Påtår (coffee beans)
Rösti (potato fritters)
Våfflor (frozen waffles)
Bakelse Prinsesse (cream cake with marzipan)
Lördagsgodis (bulk candy)
The Non-Ikea Shopping List:
A few green herbs, like chives or dill
Some crunchy vegetable garnishes, like radishes and cucumbers
Some fresh fruit, like strawberries
Even after sleeping in, the whole brunch took less than an hour to get on the table. When I woke up, I pulled the princess cakes out of the freezer to defrost (it takes about 30 minutes). I brought a pot of water to a boil while I ground coffee beans and washed strawberries, veggies, and herbs. I plopped some eggs into the boiling water for a quick 8-minute cook, and pre-heated the oven to toast up the waffles and rösti. While the waffles and rösti were warming in the oven, I set out little bowls of creme fraiche, chopped herbs, lemon wedges, cucumbers, and radishes. I peeled the eggs and cut them into quarters, sprinkling them with chives and dill for some extra color.
The rösti may have been a little less toasty on the edges than homemade rösti, and the waffles may have been a little less soft and sweet than homemade waffles, but you could hardly tell when both were acting as vessels for salty smoked salmon and crisp radishes and sweet lingonberry. And if my guests were disappointed in the meal’s defrosted centerpieces, they were appeased by hot cups of coffee and fluffy, cream-filled princess cakes. And I was appeased by having gotten an extra hour of sleep.