March, 2011 — Even the likes of Food Network superstars such as Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse would be spoiled for choices in the gastronomic hot spot of West Sweden. Gothenburg,Sweden's number two city and a popular European weekend escape, tops the regional list. But nearby provinces have a sustainable edge.

For more than a decade key chefs and restaurants throughout West Sweden have focused their sites on making it a culinary destination of such distinction and excellence that it rivals foodie favorites such as Paris and Rome.  A game changer in this bastion of organics, free trade, and superior produce in general has been the "Taste of West Sweden" program. It now entails the commitment of 25+ restaurants and numerous food producers "“ who are turning out the best culinary experiences money can buy. Their offerings integrate the freshest of local, seasonal foods with presentations that relaySweden's rich culture and history. Signature ingredients come from the Bohuslän coast "“ the so-called Big Five of lobster, oysters, mussels, crayfish and prawns, and include varied types of game from wilderness areas such as Dalsland, and specialty cheeses from Västergötland.

Among West Sweden's wide range of high-quality eateries and food producers, the public has its favorites. These include Villa Sjotorp, a Gothic-style villa (built in 1901) with magical views of small islands and the peninsulas in the picturesque resort village of Lyckorna in Ljungskile about 45 minutes north of Gothenburg. Sjotorp is a classic example of "Taste of Sweden" stewardship. This 14-room hotel and restaurant takes guests to a bygone era of gracious, casual living. Easter packages include a sumptuous Easter dinner with specially prepared pickled herring, salmon, lamb and

A stay at the 1914 Art Nouveau style 35-room Bjertorp Manor is a regal experience. Guests can expect great things from Bjertorp, located 110 km north of Gothenburg. Golf Digest rated it as the top course in Western Gothia for two years straight. Whether one's choice is a Carpaccio of beef filet from Ölanda farm or pan-fried trout from Lake Vätten, the food quality at Bjertorp never disappoints and the menu changes seasonally. Root vegetables and wild game are winter fare. Springtime brings dishes with asparagus and rhubarb. From summer into fall there are Swedish strawberries and fresh potatoes, followed by autumn berries and Swedish fruit. And the castle's wine cellar is fully stocked. Of note: the castle’s duck goes especially well with a 2002 Zinfandel Mother Clone from a 90 year old vineyard in California.

Another favorite with Taste of West Sweden accreditation is the Grand Tenan restaurant at the 23-room Grand Hotel Marstrand on the Island Marstrand, one of the most popular Regatta arenas in the world. The four-star hotel dates back to 1892 when it was the summer residence of King Oscar II. Today's guests love the magnificent harbor view — with scads of private yachts  — and the equally enticing à la carte menu, composed by chef Robert Maglia, that offers classics such as Tenans´ crayfish.

For travelers with more casual interests, West Sweden's local beer and schnapps scene also falls under the "Tastes" umbrella. The rural town of Kvänum, located about 100 kilometers north east of Gothenburg, is home to Qvänum Mat & Malt. A renovated stone barn houses the restaurant and conference facilities. And an old cowshed is home to the brewery, where locals congregate to enjoy house-brand beer and schnapps. The drinks, atmosphere, and upscale Swedish pub fare such as herring with mustard on knäckebröd (rye crisps), make Mat & Malt an all around winner. There's a four-room bed and breakfast on site too.

As noted, Gothenburg virtually explodes with fabulous places where eating can be an experience of tradition, innovation, organics, and just plain fun. Five of them have a Michelin Star.

       Basement At the top end of restaurants in Gothenburg and one of the city's best bars. Amazingly good — and very busy bartenders.

       Kock & Vin Superior Scandinavian cuisine using West Sweden's seasonal best. Remarkably knowledgeable waiters. Basement bonus: a popular wine bar offering fine wines by the glass and tapas.

       Restaurang 28+ offers a memorable and classic Swedish dining experience, a fabulous wine cellar, and stylish ambience.

        Restaurang Fond Modern Scandinavian Nouvelle cuisine inspired by traditional methods and local ingredients. Stone, wood, and fabric create a natural and simple décor.

       Sjömagasinet is a feast of supreme quality seafood, prepared in classic Swedish fashion, and served in a dining room overlooking the Göta Älv river. Its exclusivity attracts celebrities.

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