Arctic char does, indeed, come from the Arctic. Related to salmon and lake trout, it has similarities in color, texture, and flavor to both. It is not a fish that can be easily preserved, but locals fish for it in the summer and ice fish for it in the winter. While traditionally boiled or fried and served very simply with butter and salt, today it’s offered in more modern and flavorful preparations. Try it at Camp Ripan in Kiruna.
If you want to eat and drink coffee cheese in an igloo, the only way to do it is with the Taste of the Arctic program offered by the Off the Map Travel. Chunks of “kaffeost” cheese are served in cups of hot coffee. This comes after a feast on some unusual delicacies such as smoked reindeer heart, black crowberry slush, and juniper butter on traditional flatbread. A local guide does the cooking and igloo building, and he will regale you with harrowing tales of Arctic rescues and close encounters with a polar bear.
Reindeer are a way of life for the nomadic Saami people, also known as Laplanders. Drying and smoking are the traditional ways of preserving meat in the Arctic and even predate the use of salt. Suovas is reindeer meat, traditionally smoked in a peaked hut for eight hours over an open fire and lightly salted. The meat is then cut into thin slices and grilled or eaten raw. Try it at the Café Sápmi in a lávvu-tent just down the road from the famous Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi.
Many kinds of berries grow in the Arctic, including acidic crowberries, bilberries (wild European blueberries), and golden tangy cloudberries. But lingonberries are most common. They are frost resistant and because they are high in benzoic acid, they do not need to be preserved and can be stored outside all winter long. They are served with meat, but also with dairy products like yogurt and sour milk at breakfast. Try them at Hotell Fjället in Bjorkliden.
Made by New Carnegie Brewery, a Swedish brewery that works in conjunction with Brooklyn Brewery, this beer is a Vienna lager brewed with Arctic ice from Sweden’s Torne River. It’s served almost exclusively at the Ice Hotel restaurant in Jukkasjärvi. Gently carbonated, it’s amber orange and frothy, with grassy, malty, fruity, and caramel notes.
Roe is very popular in Sweden and is often served at breakfast with bread or mixed with pickled herring. In the Arctic, whitefish caviar is also served as a snack and in elegant preparations—such as on an ice plate at the Ice Hotel restaurant or with a leek puree at Camp Ripan in Kiruna. It’s mildly salty, clean, and bright with a stunningly brilliant orange color. Most prized is Kalix caviar, harvested from the Bothnian Bay of the Baltic Sea in northern Sweden and the only Swedish product with PDO status, issued by the European Union.
Drinks in ice
Thousands of ice cups are made for serving guests at the Ice Bar at the original Ice Hotel, which is now open 365 days a year. The design of the bar changes each year, and vodka drinks are a mainstay. Whether or not you are spending a night at the hotel in a 23-degree Fahrenheit room, you’ll want to swing by the bar to have a drink and marvel at the artful and otherworldly environment composed entirely of ice, snow, and “snice”—a combination of the two.