This week we talk to Hanna Gabrielsson, the woman behind the delightful little Scandinavian bistro with an even more delightful name, Beaver Choice. The restaurant has been open in Tempe on the corner of Broadway and McClintock for only ten months but the community is quickly discovering the wonders of Gabrielsson's fish-rich menu. We had a lovely time hearing about her unusual path into the food business and later this week she shares a recipe.
Hanna and her husband Marek opened the original Beaver Choice restaurant in Kingston, Ontario and the name has an interesting back story:
When we came from Sweden to Canada I wanted to have something that was both Swedish and Canadian. Canada's national animal is beaver. We said, "Ok let's get a beaver," and we put this jersey on him. I had no clue what beaver meant at that time. You know, the other....There were a lot of funny stories at that time. We started actually with a food truck and we were so popular! My food is mainly Swedish but I have this Polish touch and Canadian too.
I was born in Poznan in Poland, then in '82 I moved to Sweden. I lived in Sweden till 2002. 2002 I moved to Canada, and 2010 we moved here.
My arthritis. In Canada my doctor told me that I have to go to a dry climate, so that's how we moved here.
Where you a chef back in Sweden?
I learned to cook actually when I was working as a waitress when I was studying math at university in Stockholm. I was working because I was a single mom because my kid's dad died so I had to support myself. There was no unemployment actually in Sweden, everyone could get a job. So I got a job as a waitress.
They needed waitresses at this place where they have the Nobel Prize banquets....I was always coming like one hour or two hours earlier to check what they were doing on cooking shifts, that's how I learned to cook. I had no formal education in cooking.
Whatever happened to your math degree?
I was working as a mathematician but when I came to Canada I said "No." No more math. You know math is very boring. Math is fun but working like eight hours and sitting.....I'm very social and I was sitting in front of a computer like eight hours, nine hours a day, it's not really fun. This is better, I love it.
Why are people choosing Beaver Choice?
It's made to order. We don't use anything that's canned. We use canned red beans which we re-marinate but everything is fresh. But to tell you the truth I don't know. Why is this such a big hit? I have no clue!
What is the essence of Scandinavian food? Dill. Dill makes it. Fish makes it. And we use fresh ingredients....I think the whole thing is fresh ingredients and never more than five spices. The guy who taught me actually, who is one of the best in Sweden, said "You don't want to kill the taste of the fish."
Dill is such a rare find in most supermarkets, where do you get yours and how do you know when it's the right stuff?
From two places, from Rainbow Produce and from Restaurant Depot. And it's really expensive. I think because of the weather, I think it's just too warm, or too dry. I use like three pounds of dill a day. It can't be old, dill has to be very tiny. If you have those big, dry stems it means that it's too old and that it hasn't been nourished properly.
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Have you had to change the menu at all since the move?
I removed a few items that weren't selling at all, like chanterelle sauce. People didn't know what it even is. They don't know what morel is. But it's south of United States, it doesn't grow here.
What is the hardest thing to get?
Mushrooms. Good sauerkraut. Morels I have to buy on Internet, and procini, which are so expensive here. I buy them dried and because I used them for the schnitzel, for the porcini sauce, I have to rehydrate them overnight. And fish of course, good fish. And you know what, caviar. Swedish anchovy I have to go to Ikea.
Check back tomorrow for more Scandinavian secrets from Hanna Gabrielsson.