INTO THE (NORWEGIAN) WOODS
The way is clear,
The light is good …
Breakfast wasn’t included at CityBox. The concierge recommended her favorite coffee bar … STOCKFLETHS … just a block away. We had big cups of very good dark-roast coffee with a generous amount of milk. We paid with the few Norwegian coins we had, courtesy of Lena (who handed us the currency with an asterisk … saying that the Krone was changing, so we might need to take the bills to a bank to convert them). We sat facing toward the window, backs to the shop … and secretly enjoyed Lena’s cinnamon rolls, pulling bites and bits out of the bag. We told the girls behind the counter that we’d be back the next day.
Hei hei … pronounced hi hi … is a causal Norwegian way to say hello. I love it … it was always said with friendship, with a smile in the voice. Phyllis Lindstrom, but without the quirkiness.
It was warm and sunny with a vast blue sky as we walked to the waterfront to begin our three-hour tour … a Fjord cruise. A must on any visit to Norway. I had taken my double dose of Bonine and applied an extra layer of SPF50. The trip wasn’t through tall and majestic fjords, but it was lovely gliding across sparkling blue water … an art gallery shaped like a glacier, a sculpture of glass representing an iceberg, an office with a swooping roof to resemble a sail, the old fortress that was the capital centuries ago, pine trees, tiny sheds for fishing, amazing mansions, charming and colorful homes, docks for boats and docks for daiquiris, a church built on a small rock promontory, boats and yachts and dinghies, stone cliffs and craggy rocks … all set in the myriad of beautiful bays and isolated islands that surround and define this capital.
Back on terra firma, it was time to think about lunch. We walked along the shore … past City Hall where Nobel prizes are awarded, past the Nobel Museum … to an area filled with shops and eateries. In one square were five food trucks, but with so many options to mix and match, we couldn’t decide. We’d see what else was along the way. From fine dining to kiosks … ice cream to fried fish to pizza. We walked into a mall, and near the entrance as a place making wraps. Sold.
We opted for create-your-own. Into a large flour tortilla, tinted golden with tumeric, the server stuffed chicken, hummus, lentils, marinated carrots, spinach, black beans, roasted pepper … and avocado. They were yummy, very yummy, chocked full of our favorite flavors. But not Norwegian. Dinner would have to be Norwegian.
We continued our walk on the mild side along the shore before heading back to the hotel.
For dinner, our plan was to stop at any place that caught our eye. A few blocks away was CATHEDRAL CAFE,which is part of the old buildings at the rear of the Domkirke … we could dine al fresco. David ordered a local beer … I had a glass of Prosecco.
We started with two appetizers … smoked salmon and dill-cream cheese was a “rollup” on lefse, a flakey Norwegian flatbread, and served on arugula (salty and creamy and tender) AND reindeer carpaccio, with lingonberry-cream cheese vinaigrette and a salad of arugula topped with parmigiano (bold, it is a tasty cousin of venison). Our choices for secondo were moose stew simmered with carrots and onions with a generous scoop of chunky mashed potatoes, spears of broccoli, and a cup lingonberry preserves (rich and hearty, more ”beefy” than gamy) AND baked salmon with asparagus, new potatoes in butter, and a slaw of fennel, oranges and apples (perfectly cooked and flaky, with tasty and bright vegetables alongside).
We walked to the Domkirke, but the large doors were locked. As we left, we saw a couple other restaurants in the courtyard. David walked over to a maitre d’ at Baltazar Ristorante & Enoteca to ask about the next night … and the man said that he had seen us ! the night before ! as he waited at the bus stop ! near a bar. Wow. We chatted, and exchanged info. Adi is his nickname, and he had moved from Italy a few years ago to open this restaurant with an Italian chef … and he assured us it was authentic. Authentic enough that they had won a wine award, with the prize of a trip to Tuscany in the fall.
We walked back to our hotel … and as we passed the bar, I kept an eye open for Mr. Drunk (thinking it was a place where everyone knew his name). No sign of him. But a young woman in Bohemian garb and clearly under the influence of Bohemia’s amber beverage tried to talk with me. Oops, gotta go …
The next day, we went back to STOCKFLETHS for our morning joe. When we went to pay with the Krone bills, we were told that they had, in fact, expired. Last week … at the end of the month. We’ll pay with a credit card, and then go to a bank and exchange them. A woman in line said that you needed to have an account at the bank for them to do that … but she’d exchange our money. She would exchange a 100 Krone bill … but said, apologetically, that she didn’t have enough cash to exchange our second bill. Thank you … tack … grazie mille. Nobody else in the shop had money to make the switch. We sat and drank our coffee, enjoyed a wonderful and warm cinnamon bun, inhaling the scent of cinnamon as we people-watched. Ten minutes later, the woman returned … with another 100 to exchange. How nice is that!
When in Oslo, one must do Munch … and we went to the National Gallery to see their permanent exhibit. He is not my favorite, though some pieces are less stark than others. However, there was a guest exhibit of Gerhard Munthe, and it was excellent. To call him an artist is to understate his talents. He designed textiles and furniture and wallpaper and dinnerware and paintings and stained glass in the late 19th/early 20th century. We lingered. This exhibit that made me scream with artistic joy.
On our continuing quest for avocado, we had lunch at TAQUERIA, the Mexican restaurant that had been closed two nights before. We began with two glasses of rose. And with added avocado on everything, we had chicken tacos on flour tortillas with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and manchego (very good with a nice balance of flavors) AND chicken quesadillas with black beans and lime-chipotle mayo (nicely lightly spicy) AND a blend of black beans, red onions, corn, tomatoes, and marinated cabbage (a little bit crunchy, a little bit bold).
While I was not hungry after our late lunch, David had promised Adi, the maitre d’ at BALTAZAR RISTORANTE & ENOTECA, that we would return for dinner. He said he wouldn’t be working that night, but promised David that his co-workers would treat us like VIPs. Nice. We ordered Prosecco by the glass … and a basket of focaccia was there to nibble. We ordered strozzapreti (though, secondo me, the pasta was really gemelli) with pesto, rustically served in the pan AND a steaming bowl of steamed mussels. I had a couple bites of each … surprisingly good pesto on the toothsome pasta AND tender, juicy, not-too-spicy mussels. A scoop of chocolate gelato was a cool, milk chocolate way to finished the meal.
The next morning was another 4.00 a.m. rise and shine. We walked the five minutes to the station (sidebar: I love my lightweight suitcase) and were on the high-speed tram to the airport … for our non-stop flight to Berlin … before 5.00 a.m.
Into the woods,
It’s time to go,
I hate to leave,
I have to, though …….
Fill and fold in half. Favorites are prosciutto and stracchino (a soft, white cheese) OR field greens in vinaigrette OR nutella … OR … be creative.
3-½ cup flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder … 1 tsp. if you are using whole grain flour/s
1 cup warm (110° F / 43° C) water
¼ cup olive oil
- In a cuisinart or mixer, combine flour, salt and baking powder, then add water and olive oil.
- Mix to form a smooth, elastic dough … letting the machine knead for a minute or two.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, cover with a bowl, and let sit for 30 to 60 minutes (or put in refrigerator to use the next day … then let dough come to room temperature).
- Cut dough into 8 pieces, and gently form each piece into a ball. (You can roll-out each piadina now … or wait to roll and immediately cook.)
- On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough into an 8-inch circle. Place on a cotton towel-covered plate, covering with the other end of the towel.
- Roll, stack, and cover each piece.
- Heat a flat grill pan or griddle. When hot, grill the piadina … one or two at a time, depending on the size of your grill/griddle.
- Cook on the first side, and when the top starts to puff up and bottom has begun to color, flip the piadina. Continue cooking until the second side is golden brown. NOTE … the puffing varies from only a little to a lot, and the browning will be patchy (not uniform).
- Serve hot … letting everyone fill and fold their own. Or cut into wedges, and serve as part of antipasti.