As a food-obsessed dancer, going to rural Sweden for the Herrang Dance Camp was a mixed bag for me. Sure, some of the best swing dancers, swing musicians and teachers are there from around the world. But what am I going to EAT all day and night? I mean, you can only have so many Swedish meatballs.
The food situation is actually a pretty serious one. You have a thousand dancers burning calories all day and night, pushing their bodies to the limit. So you need reasonably healthy, cost-effective and filling food options to keep all of those bodies swinging for five weeks.
In past Herrang camps, your options were painfully limited. There was the "yum yum" restaurant, the official meal plan of the camp that was widely critiqued as bland and not particularly diverse in offerings. A local hamburger stand served greasy burgers and fries. The only saving grace was the bar at the Folkets Hus, which had its own kitchen and served tasty stews, meats, and veggie plates late into the night. But you had to flee to Herrang marina for pizza or the next town of Hallstavik to get any decent food variety.
All that has changed now in 2011. I'm happy to say that dancers can come to Herrang not only to enjoy the amazing music and dancing, but also the fantastic food.
The biggest improvement is the makeover of the "Yum Yum" to "Heaven's Kitchen." Reportedly, the chefs at the bar in the Folkets Hus have replicated their offerings and more at Heaven's Kitchen, to greatly improved results. The meal that I had there featured a delicious and rich lamb stew or a chick-pea stew for vegetarians. There were an array of salads — from quinoa to pasta, another tasty lentil soup, many varieties of bread, and more. Apparently this was just a normal meal at the Heaven's Kitchen.
For those not on the meal plan, there are many other options available for you.
Another big change from last year was the changeover in management of the burger kiosk over to a very sweet Ethiopian family that actually runs the bar the "Chicago" swing dance in Stockholm. These folks turn out not only the standard takeout far, which is great, but also a hearty lasagna, kebabs, and wraps. And on special days, the family serves a few different Ethiopian injera plates, a combination of various stews, meats, and veggies atop a giant disc of injera bread.
Having delicious Ethiopian food in rural Sweden is amazing enough. But this year there was the addition of a SECOND African food stand, a small trailer set up right outside the entrance to the Folkets Hus itself. Run by a Zimbabwan woman and her husband, they serve a small but tasty selection of African or African-inspired plates, including a veggie couscous platter, samosas, and chicken skewers.
The chef promised me that her samosas are "the best in Stockholm!" I had a plate of them and I can attest to the fact that they are cripsy, savory, and meaty — the way a perfect samosa should be.
Who would have thought that in the tiny berg of Herrang you could get two different kinds of African cuisine?
The bar and cafe at the Folkets Hus continues to have consistently solid meals, particularly the chicken over rice dishes and their stews. I actually took most of my meals while in Herrang in the bar, since it was so convenient and tasty. It's just a great place to hang out, day or night. The brownies and berry pie at the upstairs cafe are almost irresistible after dancing all night in the ballroom or the dance barn.
Since I'm talking about dessert, I should mention all the of the other sweets options in Herrang. There is of course the ice cream parlour in the school area, where you can get lots of traditional and not so common ice cream flavors. My favorite is still saltlakrits, the salty licorice flavor that is very popular in Sweden. They also have the now-famous banana bread that is made fresh every day. And their "anti-cold juice" is a necessity for the hundreds suffering from the "Herrang Flu."
Another new addition is the crepe stand, parked right beside the Zimbabwan stand. They serve both savory and sweet crepes made to order. I never went, but apparently they much be good since there was almost always a line to get one day or night.
Lastly on the sweets front, I have to mention the irresistible pecan pastries that they bake and serve fresh at the "Kuggen" mini-mart. I am incapable of going past it in the morning without having at least one.
As one of my last meals in Herrang , I headed to the Marina Cafe, right on the water overlooking the Baltic Sea. Once a pizza joint, it is now apparently under new management and a bit more upscale. It was a lovely day with mostly local Herrang residents relaxing around me on picnic tables.
The waiter brought me a perfect Swedish plate of pan-fried herring, mashed potatoes with herbed butter, and lingonberry sauce. It was a perfectly calm moment , a much needed respite before my last dance in Herrang and then the long trip back to normal life.