Bits, Bites, and 1500 tiny Swedish Meatballs – Ingebretsen’s at the Food&Wine Experience 2015

Photo courtesy of MInnesota Monthly
The 2015 Minnesota Monthly Food&Wine Experience at Target Field
Participants tasting curry
People at the Food&Wine Experience didn’t hesitate to try Ingebretsen’s offering of yellow pea coconut curry with fried lefse strips

In a total of 8 hours over 2 days, the intrepid cook and servers behind the Ingebretsen’s table at the Minnesota Monthly Food & Wine Experience served 6,000 people a variety of foods, including 1500 Swedish meatballs and 186 cups of soup.

Guest sampled Swedish meatballs with orange zest and ginger on a bed of quick-pickled slaw, Nordic Cool smӧrgås, yellow pea coconut curry with crispy-fried lefse, and tempura-fried pickled herring with lingonberry hot sauce.

Patrice Johnson
Patrice Johnson developed the recipes for the Food&Wine event, cooked, served, and remained smiling throughout the process

“The event was awesome,” said Patrice Johnson. “People lost their minds over the meatballs and herring!”  Patrice created the recipes and oversaw the preparation and service. “We had a steady stream of people coming to the table. It was a little slow at first when we were serving the tempura pickled herring, then the word got out that it was good. People started coming to the table asking, ‘Are you the herring table?’ and taking a sample.”

sliced veg
Vegetables ready for quick pickling
Swedish meatballs with slaw
The end result: Swedish meatballs with ginger and orange on a bed of quick pickled vegetables

People who attend the Food & Wine Event are generally an adventurous lot when it comes to flavors and combinations, so only a few questioned why Asian influences were paired with Nordic foodstuffs. But adding new twists to old favorites is an idea as old as the Vikings, who made use of the foods they encountered on their raids and explorations.

A much more recent example is curried fishballs (fiskeboller), now considered a “comfort food” in Denmark. According to Danish chef and food writer Trine Hahnemann, an English curry blend was popularized in Denmark around 1935 and combined with classic meatballs and gravy. The varieties of meatballs expanded, including vegetarian versions with lentils and root vegetables starting in the 70s.

“When someone approached me with a ‘This doesn’t look like Scandinavian food’ comment, I reminded them that across Scandinavia, just as in the East Lake Street neighborhood where Ingebrestsen’s is located, we greet many new immigrant neighbors every single day. Taking old immigrant ingredients and updating them with new immigrant flavors honors both communities and tells a new story of immigration,” says Patrice.

zested oranges
Denuded oranges, after contributing their zest to the meatball mix

But does one really need a reason for adding orange zest and ginger to the Ingebretsen’s Swedish meatball mix besides it’s tasty and fun to try?  Most people at the Food & Wine Experience weren’t concerned about the sociological implicatons of bahn-mi-inspired slaw with their meatballs. They simply enjoyed good food and great flavors and in the spirit of another great Minnesota food enthusiast, Andrew Zimmern, they were willing to try the new and unknown. We hope you’ll do the same.

yellow pea coconut curry
Yellow-pea coconut curry with crisp fried lefse