For the Gourmet Walks holiday staff meeting we dinned at Pläj, a restaurant where Californian ingredients and Scandinavian cuisine collide. With white tablecloths, a pleasantly quiet ambience, and a location adjacent to the Opera House and Symphony, this is definitely a special place to treat oneself. Though Pläj aims to serve bold and rustic flavors, the food is presented in a fashion that is sophisticated and complex. The boundless layers of flavors and colors made this a whimsical experience for the eyes and the palate.

The only proper way to start off a Scandinavian meal is with some homemade rye bread and preserved fish. Along with our rye bread and house-churned butter, we each started our meal off with an unusual cocktail that used traditional Scandinavian ingredients. I personally sipped the Elderflower Gimlet which composed of right gin, elderflower liqueur and lime. Some of the other fun ingredients used by the mixologist were lingonberry syrup, aquavit, kronan punsch, and glögg- not all together, of course.

Many of the dishes are heavy, but the small plates, which are meant to be shared, made for manageable portions. One potato dumpling, one meatball, half of a salmon fritter, and a smidgin of a elk/oxtail sausage later, I was well on my way to being satiated. One of my favorite combinations of the night, which I had never tried before, was a mustard green salad with rye bread crumbs and an aquavit vinaigrette. Clearly, the Scandavians love their spirits and try to find as many excuses to incorporate them into their diet as possible. I also loved the lingonberry sauce that was served with the meatballs and mashed potatoes.

Of course, a dinner with professional chocoholics would not be complete without dessert. We shared a chocolate kladdkaka (because we always try anything on the menu with chocolate), as well as the Swedish pancake, and the house-made princess cake. With fresh pastry cream, layers of raspberry jam, a delicate white cake, and a thin, bright green layer of marzipan, the princess cake was the jewel of the desserts. There is no doubt that I would give this Michelin rated restaurant a gold star as well.