When I did finally travel to Stockholm for the first time three years ago, however, I quickly discovered how much I had been missing—in terms of architecture, city life, and, especially, food. The freshness of the shrimp and crayfish was astounding, and the gravlax was rich and silky smooth. I came home from that visit craving herring, any herring—pickled with onions, in mustard, in sherry. I found myself ordering herring in cream—at breakfast. I also began frequenting the few Scandinavian restaurants in New York City. It was, in fact, after feasting on the Christmas smorgasbord at the elegant Aquavit (my favorite among them) that I decided to return to Stockholm. Only this time, inspired by that repast, I would go for the holidays. Hakan Swahn, the Swedish-born owner of Aquavit, applauded my idea and gave me some very specific advice: "You must go to the Christmas market in Gamla Stan, the old part of town," he said. "You have to try lutfisk and go to at least one Christmas smorgasbord. And you must call my friends Lena and Michael Isoz."