Door County, Wisconsin, affectionately known to the locals as “The Door,” put on a nice show for my little group when I was there recently to do some taste-testing of Swedish food. I wasn’t like an incognito restaurant critic, and it turned out that a friend we were meeting for breakfast at Al Johnson’s has known Al’s son Lars for more than 35 years. As a Swedish American with lake property in Door County, Don has been dining on the restaurant’s meatballs, pancakes and lingonberries for decades; it was he who actually introduced me to Lars. I hadn’t yet gotten my breakfast order when I spoke to Lars, who now runs the restaurant, but I’m sure he knows how delicious and authentic the food is. The whole place is … it’s even got a patent for having goats on the roof.

Truth be known, I never really liked lingonberries. Until now. I finally feel like I can release this burden I’ve been carrying my entire Swedish-American life - the stuff was always too tart or too sweet, imported from who knows where. But now I love them – at least I love Al Johnson’s lingonberries. Just as their Swedish chef Freddie Bexel planned, the new carefully chosen, direct-from-Sweden berries are the perfect balance of tart and sweet. They were delicious with my meatballs and with my dad’s order of pancakes (which I had to taste, of course). I had to buy a jar.


The wild organic Swedish lingonberries aren’t the only new products for sale at Al Johnson’s, and the establishment was offering samples of their new items at a food and wine event that day. At Uncork Summer, I met Kit Bütz and Lars’ sister Annika, who was happily wearing a provincial dräkt while offering samples of the paper-thin pepparkakor they sell. Kit made sure I tasted the pickled beets and cucumber salad – which I can assure you taste exactly like your mormor’s recipe with all the proper ingredients. Absolutely delicious.

All these items – and so much more – can be purchased onsite as well as online now. I live within a day’s drive of the famously Scandinavian tourist area, and though a person doesn’t really need an extra excuse to visit this beautiful peninsula that’s bordered by water on three sides, I now have all the rationale I need: lingonberries.

Amanda Olson Robison