Monday, August 20, 2012

Crayfish Party

Last week, the Twin Cities IKEA shop hosted a crayfish party. As soon as Magnolia invited Daisy and I to go with her, we jumped at the chance!

IKEA, at least in Minnesota, hosts these huge buffet dinner parties a couple of times a year in celebration of different Swedish holidays, charging $10 in admission. I have no idea what the atmosphere is like at these events in other parts of the country. In Minnesota, where, legend has it, there are more Swedish people than there are in Sweden, these events are ENORMOUS! Tickets always sell out during the event, if not before, and the lines are so long, the cafe usually will eventually run out of either food or dishware, or both.

We had a 7 o'clock reservation, and we got there a little bit early, hoping we could maybe beat the line. No such luck. But, we did have a nice view during much of our wait!
As we got closer, I noticed they had decorated the dining room with what are apparently traditional crayfish party decorations:
I had never even heard of a crayfish party until IKEA started advertising this event. I did some Google research to find out everything I could about it - as far as I can tell, it's a tradition that is limited to Sweden. (IKEA's two other annual parties, at Midsummer and shortly before Christmas, celebrate traditions that are also popular in Norway). Apparently, the hanging lanterns that depict "the man in the moon" are traditional!

While the wait seemed long, I guess it really wasn't. We were seated and then immediately sent off for the buffet. YES!
Okay, so here's the feast: salmon, cheese, cucumber salad, lignonberries, some hashbrown-looking thing that tasted like fish, lignonberry pop, and the bowl of crayfish. What else is on the table? The card with instructions about how to eat the crayfish and the silver bucket behind my cup is for the trash from the fish, since all you can really do with them is remove the meat from the tail.

The food was pretty good, though I definitely like Scandinavian food more than many others. Magnolia got a little creeped out by the fact that the crayfish still had their heads on, but I didn't really notice. After all, you just remove the tail so it's not like they're watching you... I thought the flavor was good, though I did get some spatter on my glasses. I'm not sure I'd order them in a restaurant, but trying them out at the buffet was fun! We also hit up the dessert tray after we ate and they had all kinds of yummy delicacies.

My favorite thing about going to these parties is that they remind me just a little bit of St. Patrick's Day. You know how everyone's a little bit Irish that time of year? Well, when you're at one of these parties, everyone's a little bit Swedish! The IKEA cafe usually serves some "American" food options but they are not available during these dinners. Here in the Twin Cities, they also bring in some kind of cultural entertainment. This time, it was a Swedish fiddling group. I think the last time I was there, it was some kind of Swedish choir. I would imagine that, in other parts of the country, groups of people who get together to celebrate Swedish heritage are a little less common, but here, they're everywhere! The group of proud Swedes is huge, too, so I always seem to run into someone I know (in addition to the friends I came with), which makes the party extra special.

After eating WAY too much, we took a walk around the store. (I know they host these to get people in the door.) We picked up only a couple of things. I think the best part, though, was that the store was quieter than usual, so we took our time. And we got to see some of the rooms at night. Like this one!
Doesn't it kind of look like the lights of a bustling city out the window? It's actually just the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, but I can always use my imagination, right?

We kept up our snails pace until we were halfway through the showroom area (not yet having even reached the marketplace), when the announcement came on that the store would be closing in 5 minutes. ACK! We moved through the rest of the shop at a pretty good clip, though we were certainly not the last to leave. We had a great evening and I'm pretty sure we'll be back at Christmas!

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