Fika fans line up for a treat on a mid-November morning. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

It’s pouring rain and gloomy as I write this, and it was all bright sunshine and unseasonable warmth the mid-November morning I stopped by Fika, a small Scandinavian bakery across the street from the Saco police station. But I don’t think it was solely the glorious weather, nor even the terrific baked goods, that made the place so special. What also made me wish I could shrink the 15-mile drive between me and the bakery was the generous “fika” spirit of the cheerful little shack. (I’m not being unkind. It’s not much more than a shack in a parking lot.)

As the shop explains on its website, the Swedish concept of fika is usually translated as ” ‘coffee break,’ but meaning so much more. It’s taking a break with a pastry and something good to sip on. It’s relishing the present moment, making space in your day to treat yourself. With friends or without, to fika is to allow the pace of life to slow down, if just for a little while.”

Fika’s Norwegian Toast. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

That “little while” did not involve waiting for my food. Within about a minute, a server brought my comely Norwegian Toast ($8) to the picnic table where I’d settled myself after ordering at the walk-up window. On the sturdy, intensely flavorful slice of toasted Night Moves rye bread (it is the only baked good Fika doesn’t make itself), Fika layers brunost cheese, house-made apple butter, bruléed pumpkin, pepitas and a smattering of flaky salt. If you have ever lamented the one-note sweetness of granulated sugar, this earthy, robustly sweet toast is the antidote. Sugar with a backbone. The slight bitterness of the brulée (burnt) also helped. Remembering to “allow the pace of life to slow down,” I savored every bite.

Then I went back for more. This time there was a line, but cute leashed dogs and entertaining pre-schoolers kept impatience at bay. My not-exactly-balanced to-go lunch would be a glossy cardamom bun ($6) and a still warm square of focaccia with delicata squash, caramelized onion and herbs ($5).

Before we talk about lunch, though, let me tell you that the bakery’s overhanging roof was painted in bright Scandi-color stripes, that the to-go bags had a cute yet understated Scandi logo and that the jolly mums, pumpkins and squash by the picnic area made me forget the Lewiston shooting and the wars in Israel and Ukraine for the first time in weeks. I felt as if I’d stepped into a joyous Marimekko print.

Oh that cardamom bun.

I confess I did not “fika” at lunch. I ate at my desk. Still, the focaccia was moist and flavorful – at once piney (rosemary?), sweet (roasted squash) and deeply savory (onions on just the right side of burnt). The cardamom bun, with its pretty sprinkling of pearl sugar, ranks right up there among the most delicious things I have ever eaten.

My one serious mistake at Fika was failing to order “something good to sip on.” Remedying that error is among at least a dozen reasons I plan to return. The others include, but are not limited to, the apple fritter coffee cake; the maple smoked salmon toast; the cranberry cream cheese almond brioche danish; the chamomile vanilla coconut yogurt with house-made granola, quince, pomegranate and persimmon.

As I was walking back to my car, I overheard someone in the line tell his friend, “Man! You’re the luckiest!” Replied the friend, “I know. I know.”

I’ve no idea what they were talking about, but that was just how I felt.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: