When Patrik Brummer, chairman of Stockholm-based hedge fund Brummer & Partners, acquired Sweden’s storied Faeviken estate in 2003, it had been in a slump since its glory days as a grouse-shooting retreat for Edwardian aristocrats. The 20,000 acres at the edge of the Arctic Circle bounced back fast, however, and what used to be a royal playground can today be rented out in whole or in part for a three-day retreat of haute hunting and gathering, Bloomberg Pursuits will report in its Summer 2013 issue. Think stag weekend -- with actual stags.
Faeviken first registered on contemporary radar screens when wunderkind chef Magnus Nilsson took over its namesake restaurant in 2008; four years later, Faeviken was ranked No. 34 on San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
“I spent every summer here on my grandparents’ neighboring farm,” says Nilsson, 30, who trained at three-Michelin-starred L’Astrance in Paris before he “came back and realized what was here under my own feet.”
What Nilsson saw, and later shared with the world, is what we stop to taste as we tramp through the fields. Out of land once dismissed as barren tundra, Nilsson scavenges Arctic raspberries, lavender mushrooms, reindeer lichen and Norwegian angelica, an aromatic plant whose stalks are typically candied before being eaten.
Today, it’s hard to know which is more compelling: the extreme flavors of Nilsson’s locavore cuisine or the destination itself. A 45-minute flight from Stockholm, the site is surrounded by birch and spruce forests, a lacework of lakes and streams, and the eastern flank of snowcapped Aareskutan mountain.
“You can drink the water straight from the creeks,” Nilsson says, tucking a hank of blond hair behind one ear.
Throughout their stay, and depending on the season, guests can forage, hike, hunt, kayak, river raft, ski, snowmobile or line fish for Arctic char and trout before bedding down in one of six rustic guest rooms housed in a former dairymaids’ dorm.
Every season offers its own seductive haul: moose in fall, hare in winter, beaver in spring and grouse and woodcock in summer. One popular all-day expedition includes a guided snowmobile trip into the mountains, an alfresco picnic lunch of elk stew, shotgun shooting on Faeviken’s range and a pre-dinner sauna.
I opt for a cooking course with one of Nilsson’s sous-chefs during which participants learn how to butcher, cure, ferment, pickle, salt and smoke all manner of game.
Meals transpire in the estate’s granary, where hunks of curing ham hang from the beamed ceiling like meaty chandeliers. Dishes vary nightly, but each is introduced by Nilsson with a little back story and almost all are cooked over an open fire.
Depending on the night -- and what you bring back from the fields and forests -- you might see trout roe cupped in a warm crust of pig’s blood, scallops cooked over burning juniper branches or duck dressed with pasteurized leeks and birch syrup.
The meal’s centerpiece is almost always Nilsson’s showstopper, during which he saws through a massive cow bone and scoops out the velvety marrow. But it’s his quieter appetizer that will stick with me a week later.
“I remember watching my grandmother make this when I was a boy,” Nilsson says while setting down a dish of fresh cheese curds floating in a bowl of warm whey and topped with a single lavender petal, which he has gently rolled between two fingers to release its scent. The delicate, earthy broth reminds me of the understated lichen we’d eaten in the field, and the whole bright bowl is as sunny as a Swedish morning.
“Come back in August and we can climb into the mountains and pick cloudberries,” Nilsson yells after me as I depart the following day.