Jülbord is the Yule table set by the Swedes this time of year to gorge on all manner of traditional hot and cold dishes from Sweden. This December, Albany Park’s favorite Swedish restaurant, Tre Kronor, hosts its version of the feast with song, aquavit and endless spread of food. There are only two seatings per night until December 23, so if you want to include it in your holiday plans you should call for a reservation now.
I’ve lived within walking distance of Tre Kronor for nearly a decade, but didn’t manage to make my way here for Jülbord until last week. I don’t know why I waited so long, but I’m putting the feast of Saint Lucia on my calendar for next year so I don’t forget about it. I love pickled herring and owners Larry Anderson and Patty Rasmussen have not one, not two, but ten versions of pickled herring for guests to choose from. If you get the chance, try the sweet Christmas herring — a ghastly pink version made with pickled beets. It’s delicious.
Herring was followed by a whole smoked salmon and array of seafood including oysters on the half shell, jumbo shrimp, and shrimp salad. New potatoes, pickled cucumbers and beets, and assorted Scandinavian cheeses and cold meats nearly defeated my first plate of food. I went back though to try Jansson’s Temptation, a casserole of shredded potatoes, onions, and anchovies in cream — it’s so much better than scalloped potatoes, trust me. Meatballs, ham, braised red cabbage, creamed spinach and prinskov rounded out the second trip through the jülbord. I was ready for stretchy pants and a nap by this point, but I perked up after a shot of aquavit infused with lingonberries and another infused with saffron. They were both palette cleansers. I know you understand.
The dessert table was covered with little butter cookies, petit fours, a long dish of rice pudding and a short dish of lingonberries to top it with, burnt custard, and overflowing bowls of Clementines and nuts. I pocketed my Clementine for later, but truthfully that was the only restraint I showed during the two and half hours it took for dinner.
Thankfully, that time wasn’t spent entirely on food. Our servers for the evening, Maja and Caroline, shared the story of Saint Lucia, whose feast day is December 13, and sang traditional songs in Swedish, including a lovely version of Silent Night. There were a few people in the room who could sing along in Swedish, but I did my part by stomping when told and capping the meal with a heartfelt salute, “God Jul och Gott Nytt År” and a promise to return next year.
3258 West Foster Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625-4828