A Dinner to Remember…

Well. Well, well, well. What can I say about the dinner we had last night? It was truly one of the most memorable dinners of my life, a true taste of Norway, some simply magnificent food, and fantastic beer pairings from one of Norway’s most respected breweries in the world: Nørgne ø.

And the setting matched the menu in grandeur, for sure. We were transported by bus from the day’s event space in the center of Oslo, to Hvalstrand, a famous old beach area and restaurant on a fjord. We completely took over the restaurant, which was staffed by a team of chefs specifically chosen for this event, and led by Martin Arentz. Martin actually has participated on Team Norway at past Nordic Barista Cups, so he knew the kind of crowd he was designing the meal for. And it certainly showed.

Chef Martin Arentz explains the menu to the crowd, prior to the meal. At right is Scott Larrick, who is the general manager for Nøgne ø.

As we disembarked the bus, we were welcomed to a small tent set up by the water, where we were served glasses of champagne by the water. The setting couldn’t have been more stunning!

Kayaks glide by the restaurant, and we raise our champagne glasses to them as they pass.

On to the food! The menu was an eight course tasting menu comprised of traditional Norwegian foods prepared with care and precision by Martin and his team of chefs. As we were a group of 150, we were divided into three groups to pass through three courses, then three more courses, then the last two courses, each of course accompanied by a different beer.

The first pass through, which includes courses one through three.

In the photo above, we have, from left to right:

• Braised red beets and carrots. These root vegetables were braised in a casserole in butter. They are paired with a Belgian style brown ale called Brun, which was meant to bring out the sweet and earthy flavors of the vegetables.

• Whale tartar with poached quail eggs. The whale, incredibly fresh, was served atop a piece of rye bread, and the quail egg was poached hard, served cold. This was served with a Tiger Tripel beer, a heavy beer to match the richness of the whale.

• Salmon carpaccio with coffee oil. This was one of my very favorite dishes. The salmon was a total surprise, as it hadn’t picked up the brown color of the coffee oil, so the flavor was intense. The coffee was from Aida Batlle’s Finca Kilimanjaro, ground coarse and soaked in sunflower oil for 24 hours. Then the salmon was dressed with it, and salted. The brewer said he thought the pairing was a bit strange, as the beer was a heavy one, Havrestout, and he worried it would overwhelm the salmon. But it didn’t—in fact, it was one of the most complementary pairings—for me—of the meal.

The second pass through, courses four through six. (Note: I am posting more photos of the food (this is for you, Jay Caragay) to Barista Magazine's Facebook page.)

In the photo above, from left to right:

• Warm smoked moose steak with pine sprout jelly. Martin’s mother made the pine sprout jelly (pictured at the very bottom atop the slices of meat), and it was one of my favorite parts of the meal—sweet and grassy. The beer served with it was an India Pale Ae. The beer was selected for the pine, citrus flavor of the hops, which was meant to complement both the meat and the jelly. And it did!

• Whale roast beef with remoulade. This whale meat was prepared in a traditional way, baked in the over until the center was 50 degrees C. It was served with an almost sour (in a good way) Pale Ale.

The thrid course, a dessert course.

• In the little glass is a Cowberry panna cotta with marinated plums. The berries are Lingenberries, which are found in the forests in Norway and are small, red, and sour. This creamy dessert was served with a beer called Tyttebaer, which is also made with Lingenberries, and actually just won a gold medal in a beer festival in New Zealand!

• Along the side on the plate is a brown goat cheese with apple puree. The cheese is a very traditional food in the Nordic countries, made by the rest of the milk after it’s been split for making normal goat cheese. It’s boiled down and caramelized, which is why it’s brown. It was incredibly dry and ferment-y tasting—almost meaty. The apple puree, which was like a chutney, was perfect for it, the sweetness of the apples bringing out the almost sour, savory taste of the cheese. This course was served with an Imperial Brown Ale.

At the close of dinner, we were treated to an absolutely phenomenal coffee, Kiunyu AA from Kenya from the Ngariama region. It was an entirely SL 34 batch grown at 1644 meters. Zachary is still talking about this coffee today, it was so special. Thank you, Solberg & Hansen!

Finally, the announcement was made of where the teams had placed in day one. At the NBC, the winning team of the day is announced each day, leading up to the last day. But at the start of each consecutive day, the slates are wiped clean, so the teams can begin again. This is meant to reward good work and motivate the teams to continue to pursue the end goal.

And so, without further ado, the teams’ placement from Day 1:

1st: Iceland

2nd: Sweden

3rd: Norway

4th: Denmark

5: Finland

Apparently all five teams were very, very strong, and the placings were very close. The judges all agreed they were quite impressed by the baristas as a whole. So bravo, Teams!

Announcing the team standings after dinner.

The crowd applauds Team Iceland for winning Day 1 of competition!

About the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.