Ikea's snack attack: Why is Swedish mustard so effin' good?
After an afternoon of shopping for cheap to moderately-priced unassembled end tables and bathroom shelves at Ikea -- a trip that usually lasts into the early evening if you start on the top floor -- there is one last spot you really can't miss: the Swedish food market. This section of the store is a wonderland of smoked fish, fish in jars, things to eat with fish, and lingonberry preserves. But in addition to the surfeit of sea-meat, on a recent visit I noticed some new items, including weird snack foods that I was surprised to see at Ikea.
J. Wohletz Pizza...from Ikea.
I found a strange brick of chocolate cake, a carton of fried onions, dark and milk chocolate squares infused with berries, gummy fruit candies, potato chips, apple sandwich cookies with tiny apple-flavored hearts on the tops, frozen mini Cheddar and leek pies, frozen rhubarb crumble tarts, frozen pizza and mustard.
J. Wohletz Chocolate cake from Ikea.
Ikea mustard? I had to know more...in particular, whether any of this tasted good. So I filled a big blue plastic Ikea bag with vittles and headed home to spend the next couple of days sampling everything on my Swedish snack smorgasbord.
Up first was the chocolate cake. It comes as a frozen brick-in-a-box, and looked like an oversized brownie, scored into four dainty slices. (An oversized, smushed brownie: I wish Ikea would quit taking such a bare-bones approach to packaging its desserts, because sliding a piece of cardboard underneath this cake would definitely minimize travel-damage.)
After an hour of thaw-time I dug in to a slice. It was surprisingly lacking in chocolate, but loaded with cinnamon. It was also dense, flat and oily, and the layer of icing was so meshed into the cake that I couldn't tell where the cake stopped and the icing began. At $3.99 a cake, I'd have been better off buying a box of brownie mix.
I have always had a weakness for those cans of French fried onions, the ones you sprinkle on the top of green bean casseroles at Thanksgiving. So I was intrigued by Ikea's version of those salty, crispy onion sprinkles. I popped the top of the plastic cylinder, took a pinch and crammed it in my mouth. They were delicious -- a bit more oily and far less salty than the Durkee brand fried onions, but a good buy at $1.50 a pop. I seriously have no idea why Ikea makes/stocks/sells fried onions, but I suppose they'd make a good topping for fish.
J. Wohletz IKEA fried onions.
I absolutely adored the berry chocolates. They were small squares of dark chocolate with blueberries and milk chocolate with lingonberries, individually wrapped, and they came in a white bag with a very pretty design on it -- green vines and berries. The dark chocolate squares were rich and not too bitter, the milk ones were creamy and both kinds smelled like fresh berries. At $4.29 a bag, these would make perfect casual gifts. And with the holidays around the corner, they would certainly liven up a treat plate or Christmas stocking.
J. Wohletz Berry-infused chocolates.
The Ikea brand fruit snacks were apparently so new to the store that they didn't have the price code programmed into the registers yet -- the bags were small but $1.99 each, so I had high hopes that they would be something more special than ordinary grocery-store fruit snacks. And they were: The colorful little sugar-jewels were shaped and flavored like tiny pears, apples, lingonberries, blueberries and sea buckthorn berries (insert record skip noise)...sea buckthorn berries?
These oily, bright orange berries grow on thorny shrubs on sea coasts, and apparently it's a popular landscaping shrub. I chewed on one of the round, orange fruit snacks, and since I'd never had a fresh buckthorn berry, I figured I'd have to take Ikea at its word about what it was supposed to taste like. I thought it tasted like a weird but not unpleasant combination of a cranberry and a papaya.