Goldring Travel’s 2019 Culinary & Cultural Cruise sailed into Oslo, Norway for our first private event: A Culinary & Historical Walking Tour.
At the outset, I have to make clear that Norway is not exactly the hotbed of culinary expression nor is it a culture of great enthusiasm, and strong sunny days are infrequent, so there was an interesting contrast to last year’s vibrant walking tour through Corfu!
With an overcast sky and the threat of rain (which fortunately didn’t happen), our guide met us as we strolled past a sculpture of the traditional drying racks from northern Norway where cod is hung to dry as part of the process of creating bacalao. But this artist used shirts in an apparent homage to conserving energy by air drying clothes. (A few years ago, during the 2015 Goldring Travel Culinary & Cultural Cruise, we visited Svolvaer, Norway and immersed ourself in the real thing.)
We than strolled past the new, and striking, Olso Opera House, which is supposed to represent a glacier sliding into the sea.
|Oslo, Norway’s Opera House
The new Munch Museum (not yet open) is on the right side
As we neared the beginning of our culinary experience, our guide, Ivana explained that she was from Croatia. Huh? Well, her boyfriend is a chef and she followed him to Oslo. She told a culinary and cultural story about the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded in Olso and that the celebratory dinner, always at the Grand Hotel, must be a fusion of Norwegian and the cuisine of whomever the winner is. Her boyfriend, being one of the Nobel dinner chefs, was tasked with combining the Columbian and Norwegian cuisines. That must have been a challenge!
Our first culinary stop of the day was the biggest. Reindeer meatballs. Moose. Salmon. and so much more.
|Salmon. It is farmed, but signficantly better than that sold in the U.S.|
|Mushy peas and potatos|
|Loganberry sauce, lightly pickled cucumber,
sauces for moose and reindeer.
An interesting discussion was had about how the potato came to Norway, kept the country from famine during World War II and its use in the production of its famous Aquavit liquor as we enjoyed this rather hearty meal; noting that visually and spice-wise Norwegian cuisine is not exactly exciting; with salt and pepper being the main spices and various shades of brown/yellow being the predominant colors.
After a bit of a stroll, with many pausing to do a bit of window-shopping for traditional Norwegian dress
we came to a small plaza where we briefly recalled the horrific massacre of 56 Norwegian children and the terrible ideology that drove the person to do it. It was poignant, and unfortunately, a reminder that encouraging divisiveness truly only has a dark side and sorrowful result.
|Monument identifying the 56 children murdered in Norway’s worst domestic attack.|
We then took on a much sweeter topic: Norwegian Waffles! It was an interesting and tasty event. We were presented to two large waffles; much thinner than what we think of. Half of them had a block of Norwegian brown cheese in the middle (it is not actually cheese, but more of a baked whey) and half were slathered with sweet strawberry preserves (noting that Norway has lots of strawberries since they need a lot of light and Norway’s summers certain provide that!).
These are not choices, but rather ingredients! You deftly flip one onto the other, cut it in half and then fold them, scooping the result into a napkin. And there you have a Norwegian waffle!
|Norweigan Waffle…and Ivana|
We then strolled through a beautiful cemetery stopping at the grave of the famous Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (with a lively discussion first of his impact on dramatic theater and then of whether he died of syphilis; it was a stroke…possibly related to syphilis). A little further up the cemetery, we came to the grave of Edvard Munch, who painted The Scream discussing his life and his incredible art collection that he donated; soon to be housed in the Munch Museum next to the Opera House.
With our culture portion of the walk coming to a close, it was time to head to the Mathallen Food Hall passing traditional Norwegian homes and the graffitied walls of the new avante garde artistic district.
After free time to wander (giving me an opportunity to purchase some reindeer and moose sausages and reindeer and pork pate for one of my on-ship events),
we were seated at a long wooden table with very attractive slate plates filled with Norwegian delicacies.
Loganberries in the center, two nice cheese in the lower right to start and going clockwise, followed by reindeer, moose and whale sausage (I will talk more about whaling later, so don’t think I wasn’t angered though understanding the culture), reindeer, reindeer heart, whale, delicious smoked salmon, a traditional and very strong cheese; ending with an actual brown cheese (as opposed to the brown cheese/baked whey in our waffles).
Accompanying our gourmet tasting was some local Norwegian flatbread.
This was followed by a three Norwegian beer tasting; reinforcing to me that just because you call it a craft beer, it doesn’t make it a good beer!
finishing up with aquavit; noting the one offered was very mild…and almost encouraged me to have more than one!
With such a “Full” day, I was not going to eat dinner, but at the last minute my mind (and stomach) said “Sushi!” so I was off to sit at the counter at the Seabourn Ovation’s Sushi for a light and delicious dinner and some saki.
|The sushi and sashimi served at the Seabourn Ovation’s Sushi restaurant is truly world class|
|I love the saki presentation|
I was up early the next morning for the sail up a little fjord to Sandefjord, Norway.
There isn’t much to see in this little former whaling center other than the whaling museum. But what I saw as a depressing museum with its first floor filled with old stuffed seals, penguins and seabirds along with whale bones. After spending time in Antarctica and experiencing the magnificence of penguins, leopard seals, fur seals and more, looking at pathetic samples was quite upsetting. Why are in Norway? Because the whalers went to Antarctica and brought them back.
More upsetting was when I went downstairs where many whale skeletons were on display along with the only place there was a crowd (young and old). They were fixated on a Norwegian documentary showing how whales are caught, killed and “processed”. No upset. No hint that it was wrong. Nothing. This was “culture” on display.
I have a great deal of difficulty justifying whaling or eating whale in this day and age; especially after the devastation of so many whale species has occurred from the largest of the large, blue whales, to some of the smallest of dolphins. I appreciate the retention of culture, but in every culture there are traditions that eventually are lost…and usually with good reason. Norwegians today have access to foods, oils, clothing, etc. from around the world, so the need to carry on whaling in Norway simply does not have any justification…other than retaining a culture. But those professing this, do not light their houses with whale oil, for example. Oh, how I wish they would truly see the light, rather than claim they are “responsible” because they no longer hunt blue whales (hunted to the brink of extinction) and now target the smaller and more populous minke whales (falsely) claiming their populations are too large.
After walking that experience off, I did find a couple of shops where I purchased some Norwegian ciders and liqueurs for another Goldring Travel event that I will discuss another time.
After a soak in “my” hot tub on the bow of the Seabourn Ovation, in the evening I dined at the Seabourn Ovation’s Earth & Ocean with instructions from its creator and Seabourn’s culinary wizard, Anton (Tony) Egger to sample everything, but definitely have the fish. OK, I had my instructions! And my meal was extraordinary!
|Earth & Ocean’s starter with smoked chicken, olive tapenade, tomato tapenade, butter, and great bread|
Rather than explain each dish, here is the menu and the photographs. Amazing!
You may have thought I was skimping on dessert, right? Well…just as I got up Chef Tony came over and said, “I was just coming to see you!” So down I sat, had my wine glass refilled (I do recommend the new white Bordeaux on the Complimentary Wine List – more on that in a later article too), Tony had a beer and we started talking about everything and nothing.
Tony then said, “You need to try the Vietnamese Banh Gan!” OK.
We chatted some more and then he said, “You have to try the Baked Camembert!” What was I going to do, create an international incident? So…
I could not have ended my evening better than with a great friend, great food and some pretty darn good wine while sailing in calm seas on the Seabourn Ovation.
If you are interested in a Seabourn, or any other, cruise, give me a call, drop me an email or send me a Facebook message!
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