Monday, October 28, 2013

Work It

So, I know I've written at least once before about this fun tradition I have with my friends. Four times a year, our local IKEA has a holiday-themed Swedish mega-buffet. Score! We're not always able to make it to these crazy adventures, but we've gone a number of times. Our most recent experience was at the Crayfish Party this August. I know that, with November arriving in just a couple of days, this seems like ancient history. Honestly, it sort of feels that way. But, we had such an awesome experience I just knew I had to tell you guys about it.

Here's Daisy's collection: meatballs, mashed potatoes, salad, Scandinavian deviled eggs, and even a little dessert. 

It's possible to buy tickets in advance for these events, which is definitely recommended, especially if you're planning to attend with a large group. One problem, though, is that sometimes the tickets in advance sell out. Eek! We knew it would be possible to stand in line and hope we could still get in, but I was nervous about that. I think it was Magnolia and Daisy who had done that once before, and they were more hopeful than I. They convinced the rest of us, so along we went. We met up at IKEA and joined the huge line. 

It didn't take very long for us to get up to the hostess, who was way nicer than I had expected. She said she didn't know if she'd be able to get us in, but that we could wait. Handily, there were some leather Klippan couches right there (bonus points if you know what the Klippan looks like!), so we sat down and cooled our heels. The couch was facing the clear glass rail that overlooked the entry way, so the people watching was pretty darn great. We sat there for a while, which was actually kind of relaxing. Several minutes later, the hostess said they had a table for us. Given that we didn't have tickets, we needed to pay to enter, but the woman working the cash register was on a break. The hostess sat us at our table and told us we could go ahead, and that they would come get us when the cashier returned.

And here's Magnolia, modeling the lovely crayfish she's about to eat. Weird or yummy? 

Then the crazy fun began! It can be overwhelming, because there's often a very long line, which moves slowly because so many of the choices on the buffet are unfamiliar. But us? We're old pros. We raced up after having scoped it out to make sure the line was short. Each of us got exactly what we wanted and basically worked the buffet like a pro. Even though it was 2 months ago, I'm still kind of proud of us. Also, often when we go to these things, I run into someone else I know. There's one family - with two older parents and five kids who are about my age - who I've known for years. There's another guy who I've known for about 15 years - since before he met the woman he since married and who is now carrying their second child. It seems like every time we go to one of these things, I cross paths with one of these people. As much fun as it is, once I get engaged in talking with these acquaintances, I have a tough time extracting myself. It seems like often, my buffet buddies have made it through the line and back and eaten their first plates before I even make it to the serving area. I don't want to slow them down, and I'm grateful for the chance to see these other people who are old friends, but it can make the entire evening kind of harried. On this particular evening, the contingents of both of these families were particularly small, and did not include the people with whom I'm closest. I was able to avoid all small talk! I stuck close to my buffet buddies and spent the whole evening with them, which was so fun!

And here's my plate: I know its not exactly Paleo, but I did skip the mashed potatoes and I ate a salad. I'm sure I made up for it with extra sweets and the soft flatbread. It was an indulgence, and well worth it. 

All of that was just the lead up. As we were enjoying the end of our first round, the hostess came back. I had kind of hoped she would forget about us - I know that's a selfish thing to hope, but these deals are so totally chaotic, I could imagine it happening. Seriously - it seems like everyone there, staff and patrons alike, is totally stressed out by the atmosphere. There are tons of people everywhere, the buffet is always running out of this or that, lines are long, children are crying, and it seems like no one is having fun. But, like I said before, we are pros at these events by now. We were totally relaxed and having a great time. As she was walking towards our table, I was thinking of the terrible music you hear in movies when the villain is approaching. And then the music totally changed when she started talking: She told us that, because we were having such a good time, the whole meal was on her! Woohoo! We ate our fill and then charged around the marketplace, picking up everything we could think of. We were feeling some pretty serious goodwill towards the establishment after our delicious, comped meal. 

I got this soup bowl, which sort of matches my dishes, and this set of pink and green dish towels. 

I don't have pictures of the shopping craze portion of the evening, but I'm sure you can imagine it. As the lights went down, to remind everyone that the store was closed for the evening, we got in line to settle up with everyone's favorite Swede! 

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