Where distances are long, the roads are narrow and the weather is not always on your side – there are mountains and fjords, trails, treasures and tastes on a culinary adventure of a magical place.
Norway may not sound like a tasty destination, but add architecture, art and nature in the combination and there you have it. Long thought as a rough fishy-nation with a spoonful of lamb racks, berry bites and whitefish along the Christmas table – now emerges a new wave of artisan farmers and makers, visionaries plus a strong feel of handmade and genuine cuisine. Whether it is a national treat like hot dog, pølse, a shot of coffee with a bun or a proper restaurant meal, you can spot the Norwegian in it. While exported salmon is being eaten about everywhere in the world with a sip of Aquavit, the locals are enjoying seaweed, homemade ice cream and rabbit steak with ramson as well as brewing some more beer now they are on it. No? Well, soon they are.
Our journey through Norway kicked off from Oslo, the creative capital. We strolled around the city on a walk according to Oslo Escape Routes and had what else than a hearty fish soup to start the culinary tour. Our hotel was located in the Vulkan area, a creative city development project emerging at the once industry-heavy west bank of the Akerselva river. With lots of new innovative and sustainable housing and office space there is also a light and spacious food market, Mathallen. This is where a national food project launched in 2012 that brought us to Norway. Taste of National Tourist Routes (Mat langs nasjonale turistveger) aims to add on the culinary experiences while on the scenic roads. Sometimes the shortest route is not the best option, as we were soon to be discovered.
From Oslo to Juvet, a tiny landscape hotel in the middle of nowhere, it is about a 7-hour drive. Before heading out of the city we shortly meet Anya, the Editor-in-chief of a newly established food magazine NORD (Nordiska Matmagasinet) and chatted about food. There seems to be a natural curiosity even among the local people to get to know more about the near produced and organic foods, the way of making food and also learning from a growing amount of innovative Nordic chefs about their thoughts and takes forming the ‘folk’ (which is the opposite of ‘haute’) cuisine. NORD is printed now also in Swedish, available from over 250 kiosks throughout the country.
Our stummies got happy as we got by major road works and about 4 hours later took a pit stop at local Statoil. Three hot dogs for 10 kronas: okay good, but not so local after all. We were heading to taste the Fast Slow Food menu of the Taste of National Tourist Routes for the season at Norway’s best bread stop, Bakeriet i Lom, but soon realised we would never make it to Juvet before dark. Instead we got to enjoy a breath-taking view on top of Trollstigen, a very narrow path leading to a mountain and a viewpoint on the most popular National Tourist Route in the country. The misty weather was perfect to spot a few ‘trolls’, multiple forms of sharp mountain edges meeting the sky like a giant wall, along the way. The viewpoint is a modern masterpiece made of glass and concrete by Reiulf Ramstad Architects. It hangs in the air far too many meters above the valley.
Finally, when the dust had already landed we crashed at Juvet in a cold but very cool room after a wonderful candle light dinner in the main house. We still are not certain, but assumably the homey restaurant served whale stew for supper. We got a bit lost in translation somewhere in between the international serving personnel and the Hollywood film crew’s sci-fi thriller in the making. Anyway, the wine was excellent and there was plenty.
Morning arose as misty as the evening. Breakfast was served in the farm house with local delicacies, fresh bread and buns, jams and a nice cup of kaffe latte. Knut, the owner, was keen on Finnish design as we poured about Karuselli chairs when he told us about the interiors and the idea of the landscape hotel project. Each room is designed by an international architect or designer and every piece of furniture is custom made. The six cabin units are sustainable and heated partly by solar panels (although we did not see any sun). They seamlessly become a part of the surrounding nature.
From Juvet to Stokkoya archipelago on the Western coast of Norway it is a 9-hour drive. A must stop is at Dovrefjell National Park and Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion by Snøhetta, one of Norway’s leading international architect firms. The sound of silence was so tense it took you to another world, a world of the most beautiful and windy mountain landscape. After three hours of watching, feeling, listening and photographing we realised to be very hungry at had a lunch stop with local friends at the cosy Oss Tållåst kaffebar in Oppdal. After a short drive to Trondheim we boarded on a ferry taking us to the back country on the islands. The last outpost is Stokkøya Sjøsenter in Hosnasand, a small sandy bay, eco-hotel and a sea food restaurant by the Atlantic Ocean.
It was the warmest home away from home coming. Even it was very late, they awaited us at the restaurant with fresh and mouth-watering creamy mussel soup of lemon, carrots, pepper and homemade bread from the oven. Our room had a key in the door as it poured rain and stormy winds upon our arrival. We sat long in the dark and windy night at the beach cocooning inside by a fireplace and a chilled bottle of Chardonnay. We slept like babies, needless to say.
The last day had a bit of sun. At breakfast we had a nice meeting with Torild Langklopp, a friend and one of the owners of Stokkøya, who introduced us also to Henrik Rettrup, the chef. Preparations were in bloom for the annual Copenhagen Cooking festival in Denmark. This time it was mussels cooked in beer, oh those yummy fellows. Afterwards we headed for a short but sweet bike tour – it was nice to stretch legs instead of sitting tight in a rental car. As in Norway we sipped some more delicious fresh sea soup for lunch and said bye – Ha det. For now.
The journey was partly funded by the Hanaholmen Culture Center Finnish-Norwegian fond. We Thank You for the support. Kiitos – Takk!