Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Wrap up: Food in Norway

Outdoor dining on the ship -- cold!
Throughout the trip to Norway we enjoyed wonderful food at restaurants, breakfast buffets in hotels, and breakfasts, lunches, dinners, teas, barbecues and other meals both outdoors and indoors on the National Geographic Explorer. We ate lots of fish dishes, open-faced sandwiches, dairy products, bacon-and-egg breakfasts, exotic game like reindeer and seal meat, and other dishes that met our expectations for Norwegian cuisine. But when I asked one of the Norwegian guides to name their national dish he said "pizza"!

German sausage with Norwegian beer: another cold day for eating outside on the deck.
Reindeer stew: among the many types of game
we tasted on the ship and elsewhere.
Every meal on the Explorer was delicious, and the extra barbecues at 4 in the afternoon, such as the reindeer stew or German sausage, were an amusing extra meal. I was surprised when the chef told me that they had no set menu, but figured out what to cook day-by-day, depending on what their suppliers had provided for that particular voyage and what he and his line cooks thought of making. The staff and crew, he said, ate the same food as the passengers, except for the Filipino deck hands and maids, who had their own cook to prepare their own ethnic foods.

Waffles with sweet brown cheese --
a Norwegian snack at the kennels we visited in Longyearbyen.
Midsummer appetizer on shipboard, including smoked fish with dill,
half a small potato, cumin cheese etc. Served with two flavors of
Aquavit and wine chasers.
As one would expect in a country with all those fjords and islands and fishing villages, fresh fish, cured fish, and shellfish like shrimp dominate buffets and menus. Norwegian fish soup, which we had a couple of times, has a light cream broth, dill flavor, and generous chunks of salmon and white-fleshed fish and sometimes shellfish. Open sandwiches are piled with tiny shrimp and mayonnaise.

We helped ourselves to heaps of large shrimp and spiny lobsters at a lunch buffet in a hotel in Longyearbyen. Salted and dried cod created delicious main courses on many dinner menus, as did a large number of fresh fish. Breakfast buffets consistently offered several types of smoked salmon, other types of smoked and salted fish, and several varieties of herring, as well as the usual sliced meats, cheeses, and lovely whole-grain breads. I was always disappointed that I was unable to eat everything.

Fish soup in a courtyard restaurant in Oslo.
Potatoes garnish almost every dinner plate. Hash browns or roasted potatoes appear on the hot breakfast buffet along with the many types of egg dishes. Boiled potatoes and other root vegetables are almost always served with fish. I tasted several types of cold potatoes or potato salads with mayonnaise and often with dill. French fries seemed less common, but that's probably because we were eating in high-end places.

"A typical Norwegian dinner apparently hadn’t changed much in the past thousand years: a hunk of fish, plated beside a boiled potato, both served with only butter. ... the great Norsk storyteller Odd Børretzen invites the Lord to come down from heaven and 'have a potato' with him." So said a recent article in the New Yorker -- with shocking inaccuracy or maybe just with New-Yorker style humor. Actually the new-world potato arrived in Norway in the mid-18th century, not in the dim mists of imaginary history: but when you eat there it does feel as if potatoes have been on the menu for 1000 years! (At any rate, I checked out the intriguing Odd Børretzen, who died in 2012; doesn't seem to have any of his works translated into English.)

I didn't systematically take photos everywhere we ate, especially on the ship where I was usually either tired out from hiking and watching for wildlife or rushed to get ready for the next adventure. Here are a few more examples of what we ate as we traveled:

Braised veal with vegetables, served atop boiled potatoes.
Midsummer dinner on the Explorer.
Oslo has many Asian restaurants. Our one experience
was eating delicious Thai food at a restaurant called Plah.
Stockfish, a type of dried cod, in Anno restaurant in Alesund. 
Beautifully plated dessert on shipboard: cake, ice cream, fruit, etc.
On the Explorer, the daily lunch buffets had a beautiful selection of cakes, creamy desserts like mousse, a variety of fruits, and one day fabulous individual pavlovas with lemon curd. Dinner, with table service, offered a choice of a composed dessert like the one above, a cheese course, or ice cream. Or "all of the above." In restaurants we usually ate too much to order dessert.

Cake at a pastry shop in Oslo.
Our adventure on the island of Runde included not only watching birds but also cooking our own meals.

Kitchen in the apartment in Runde.
When we arrived at the Runde Nature Center where we had reserved an apartment, we asked about the meals that were mentioned on their website. Oops: it turned out that meal service started two days later; we were in advance of the season. To get groceries, we had to drive to another island, crossing over three bridges via some very sketchy directions to a supermarket "in a building that used to be a fish-processing plant." Luckily we found the recommended supermarket, which was in a tiny town called Fosnavåg. Cooking in the apartment kitchen, we had bread and jam and orange juice for breakfast, a ready-made meatball dinner, a variety of sandwiches, potato chips, and fruit.

Bread with a logo in our Runde kitchen.
We even invited some acquaintances (a Dutch couple who took a boat tour of the island with us) to have a cup of coffee and some cookies in our temporary kitchen. They were happy to be inside our warm apartment for a while, as they were living in their camper as they toured Norway.

Len talking to our Dutch friends as we waited on the tour boat.
This wraps up my blogging about our two weeks in Norway on land and at sea, unless I think of another subject to write about. Links to documentation about our wonderful trip:
  • For Len's wildlife photos on Flickr, CLICK HERE.
  • For all my posts about our Norway trip on my travel blog, including posts about reindeer, the tundra, and a map, CLICK HERE.
  • For all food blog posts about Norway, including this one, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Lindblad Expeditions daily trip reports, CLICK HERE. (You will see the first post and can continue to go through them.)


Pam said...

What a great trip, Mae! I've really enjoyed reading about it. But, pizza??? And here I thought our area here in Chicagoland is what pizza is all about. My MIL was Swedish so she always made a lot of delicacies, really delicious food, but I drew the line on Lutefisk! Thanks for sharing! You're an interesting informative writer!

Barbara said...

Wonderful photos of your trip, Mae. Loved reading about it. Our trip to Norway was such fun and the food was marvelous.

rippleeffects said...

What an exciting journey you were on. Love your travel posts and the food pics, also the wildlife and birds esp. I see from the clothes you had to wear that the weather was cold despite June/July months. Len's wildlife photos are fantastic. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experiences.

Johanna GGG said...

Sounds like a great trip - though perhaps more of a trip than you bargained for to find your dinner when in your apartment accom - it looks cold there and like you need an extra meal to warm yourself

Jeanie said...

Loving this to the max. Oh, Mae, it all looks incredible. All that seafood makes me sigh! Shrimp and lobster and smoked fish... yum! And beautifully served! Your apartment looks lovely -- and that ship's deck mighty brisk! I'll be checking out maetravel and Len's birds soon! He's such a wonderful photographer!