If you missed on purpose, like myself, all the episodes of Welcome to Sweden–pet project of Amy Poehler’s brother–Greg Poehler’s fish-out-of water American describes a semla (singular) as “kind of like a donut exploding in your mouth.”
The love of the Scandinavia sweet bun, perfumed by cardamom and filled with almond paste and whipped cream, is well documented in the annals of history. One king of Sweden infamously died after consuming 14 semlor (plural). It’s not clear this was due to excess, but check in with me next month. This rich treat is eaten in the spirit of Shrove Tuesday, aka Fat Tuesday (February 17 this year)–meaning you should get all your gluttony out of the way before you start observing Lent. In olden times, these buns were served in a bowl of hot milk, but most people prefer to have one with a cup of coffee or tea.
While I don’t take my love of semlor to the heights of Swedish kings (one even reportedly built a secret tunnel to the front door of his favorite bakery in Stockholm), I’ll be doing my best to stuff my face with as many of these treats available only on weekends from now until mid-March at Olsons Scandinavian Delicatessen on Pico Boulevard just south of LACMA.
Though Olsons, which is getting its semlor from Caroline Nilsson’s Swedcakes, had been a Scandie outpost for 50-odd years under the stewardship of Bertil Ohlsson, it changed ownership from Swedish-American to Swedish two years ago. Christian Kneedler executed an entire chic and modern remodel, and now the walls depicting rows of sun-dappled birches is a perfect place for homesick Swedes and curious Angelenos to sample sandwiches and strong coffee for an afternoon break. And don’t forget the candy wall!