‘You’re getting the fillet, unfortunately’
The dining room is bathed in a warm glow from green and brown beer bottles that sway above the rough-hewn wooden table with built-in slabs of soapstone that serve as natural hot plates. Among countless bunches of herbs and flowers hung from the ceiling is also the head of an old pike, right next to a bunch of sheep bones boiled clean. The latter, we later learn, are a homage to the old ewes that have been served here. The tour guide on this unique food trip is no lesser a person than chef Gustav Öhman’s mother, Christiane Öhman, who has already made sure that we had no problems getting here and that we aren’t cold. Not at all, the fire is crackling and we’re sipping warm consommé infused with dried autumn mushrooms. At Taxinge, the high is consistently the low, and the low the high – and everything that’s served comes with a story. Like the little strip of toffee-tough carrot – what would it have been except just wonderfully toffee-tough without the story of how the sea buckthorn juice it’s covered in has been ‘hand-milked’ straight from a thorny branch on Åland? And the bread! The Öhman sourdough starter has been around for almost a decade now. And what an exegesis we get on the ups and downs, and the tough growing conditions for grain in 2018 – apparently it’s never been better than it is now! We can but agree as we dip the heavy, slightly moist, and fragrant pieces into the clear lard. But on to the ewe. ‘We serve the whole animal, and I’m afraid we’ve now reached the fillet. Of course I wish I could have given you the entrecôte or perhaps the stomach, which is much thicker and more tender on a six-year-old ewe than on a lamb,’ Gustav Öhman says with concern, ‘but now you’re getting the fillet, unfortunately. Which I’m serving with something I hate: brown beans. Or at least I hated them when I was a child, but I’ve mixed these brown beans with miso.’ (Brown beans, bruna bönor, is a traditional sweet and sour Swedish dish of beans flavoured with vinegar essence and treacle). The little dollop looks lonely next to the coarse twig with which the kebab-sliced fillet has been speared. The meat is definitely among the tastiest mutton we’ve ever had. And the vin nature Barbera d’Alba it is served with certainly doesn’t disappoint. ‘Alba, that’s in Piemonte, isn’t it?’ Mum has this year’s most delightful wine tool – a small notebook she reads out loud from before every serving. If that feels unprofessional? Not a bit. She is so sweet and sure about what she knows and what she knows less about that each presentation, instead of becoming a grinding monologue, turns for once into an edifying and enjoyable conversation. A visit to Taxinge is a solace for the soul, and satisfies many more needs than those centred on the stomach.