Erin McGinnis remembers decades ago when the spouses of Pacific Lutheran University faculty would bake Scandinavian treats, such as rosettes and fattigmann, for the now-defunct Yule Boutique.
“My father taught at PLU and I would help my mother volunteer as a young girl. I was fascinated by the bunads (a traditional Norwegian outfit), the specialty molds, the lefse griddle, aebleskiver pans — the list goes on. We celebrated Sankta Lucia at home and learned how to make all of the traditional recipes.”
McGinnis, executive director of hospitality services and campus restaurants at PLU, wanted to return a slice of those food memories to campus.
In 2013, she started offering a Scandinavian holiday menu during December. The menu is underway and will continue through the end of December at 208 Garfield, a campus restaurant that’s open to the public.
She changes the menu every year.
“We have tried lefse wraps and quite a few versions of smorrebrod, one of my personal favorite food categories. There is something so simple and amazing about a well thought out open-faced sandwich,” said McGinnis.
“A few years ago we made our own rullepolse. I think that was my favorite. It was a harder sell for our customers. They were not as familiar with it (it’s a Danish meat roll).” She’s going to try making it again next year and will be trying gjetost next year, which is a distinctive type of sweet Nordic cheese.
This year’s menu includes Swedish meatballs ($8), a bowl of dense beef-and-pork meatballs in a swirl of beefy gravy fortified with heavy cream and a drizzle of sour cream. Plopped in the center of the dish, which includes roasted Yukon gold potatoes, was a slick of lingonberry preserves.
The Swedish split pea soup in a cup ($3) or bowl ($5) is made with rendered bacon simmered with split yellow peas, vegetables and chicken stock, said McGinnis. The smoky soup with a hearty texture came garnished with crisp bacon and was served with crunchy rye crackers and Swedish mustard. (Tip: That menu item is available year round.)
A lefse plate ($5) arrived with four rolled-up pieces of the Scandinavian potato flatbread, with all the fixings for a do-it-yourself lefse feast with butter (molded into delicate, pretty orbs), lingonberry preserves and a shaker full of cinnamon sugar.
Pickled herring is a dish I find that most people avoid (myself included), but I dug heartily into 208 Garfield’s version ($3) with rye crackers. The fishiness of the herring was muted behind a sour cream sauce that beautifully intersected sweet and sour. McGinnis said the kitchen at 208 Garfield has tried to make its own pickled herring, but none was as good as the version they serve this year from Minnesota’s Viking Herring Co.
The rest of the menu includes a pork loin sandwich with kraut from OlyKraut ($8), a seared ahi salad with a mustard dill vinaigrette ($8.50) and a selection of Nordic cheeses, including a version of gjetost.
Be sure to check the bakery case for Scandinavian treats. Last week, the case held cardamom spritz, but coming up are fyrstekake bars and ginger heart cookies.
Scandinavian Holiday Menu
Through: Dec. 31
At: 208 Garfield, near Pacific Lutheran University, 208 Garfield St., Tacoma; 253-538-5990 or 208garfield.com.