Trips to Ikea have taken on mythical proportions among my kith and kin. This is saying something as we've only made two pilgrimages in the past 5 years. Ikea's online presence can only to do so much to prepare you for the real-life experience. But let me tell you, Ikea had me at its creative storage units and particle board bookcases that don't look like particle board.
As a young twenty-something who has an acute nesting-instinct, my first visit to Ikea was like visiting a museum or a chapel. For Kent, however, it was like becoming an experimental lab animal, a rat trapped in a cage. For those who have yet to trek to the mecca of Swedish modern design, be warned. The Ikea visit begins with a guide explaining how to shop. You will be given a map. You take a escalator to the second floor showroom, which will deposit you at the start of a maze of stylish rooms, which you wander through, marking item numbers with a tiny golf pencil on your Ikea showroom map, so that hours later when you descend from the heavenly realms of design, you can actually find the items you want to purchase.
On particular trip to Ikea though, I felt more like a rat. My eyes quickly glazed over before I was even through the living rooms and I still had wall units, media storage, work ikea, kitchens, dining, bedroom, and children's ikea yet to explore. All of this makes a person extremely hungry.
And, quite brilliantly, the marketing team at Ikea knows that if you can refresh yourself with a bit of delish Swedish food before you have to face the first floor maze of the marketplace, you'll probably buy a lot more and be a lot happier in the long run.
Kent has been saying this since his first trip to Ikea, "The only reason to go to Ikea is to eat Swedish meatballs." And in a cafeteria miracle, Ikea Cafe's meatballs are gloriously light, yet swathed in rich, creamy gravy, served with a dab of ligonberry preserves to round it out. The gravlax was also ethereal, a perfect balance of sweet and salty had inundated the salmon flesh, which was perfect dipped in a dill mustard sauce. And since I really can't cram any more furniture into my tiny little house...(Especially when we keep finding incredible free pieces of furniture set out on the curb for the garbage collectors. Solid oak table anyone?)...I too, realize that maybe I just went to Ikea for the food.
However, the first section of the first floor marketplace is cooking & eating. And, I couldn't resist picking up a wok ($7.99) and a black marble mortar and pestle ($9.99). Did I mention that Ikea's prices are incredibly reasonable?
Then, just when I thought I was safe, done scuttling through thousands and thousands of square feet of merchandise, even beyond the checkouts...there lay the Swedish Market and Bistro. Yes, you probably will be hungry by the time you actually exit the store. So I bought jars of pickled herring (which I don't have to share!), ligonberry jam, and apple ligonberry vinegar.
I'll let you know about my experiments with Swedish food, and the mortar and pestle has already been put to use muddling mint for Mojitos.
How about you? Where do you shop for cool, affordable kitchen stuff? What is your weakness when it comes to specialty food stores?