The pure taste of the mountains, plains and seas are abundant in Trøndelag. If you’re feeling adventurous, though, the urban gourmet restaurants use those same local ingredients in surprising, pioneering dishes.
Text: Morten Andre Samdal
“Originally this small octopus was only used as bait, but we think the cuttlefish is a very exciting ingredient. It has a slightly sweet shellfish flavour,” says chef Mette Beate Evensen, at the brand new restaurant Røst Teaterbistro in Trondheim.
Deeply concentrated, she wreaks a starter made of the cuttlefish, from the kitchen inside the traditional Trøndelag Teater – one of Northern Europe's oldest theatres.
The cuttlefish is in the squid family and grows about one meter long. It doesn’t live for long. The local fishmonger in Trondheim is catching some of them every now and then. Chef Evensen is always quickly on the spot when that happens.
“It is a challenging creature because it is a little chewy. It is important to prepare it properly. We slice the head into strips and fry them. The arms we put in a tub that holds a stable temperature of 65 degrees for one day, and from the ink we make pasta.”
A lot is going on with the food culture in Trøndelag these days. The farmers' market, which is open every Saturday in the city centre, attracts hundreds of thousands visitors each year. And exclusive restaurants like Nordøst, Folk og Fe and Nyfiken have gained a lot of positive feedback recently.
“There is great optimism in the industry right now. We help each other out, and the city is benefiting from that so many are doing a lot of different things,” explains Evensen.
The ”nordic noir” wave is getting international recognition.
Evensen used to work at the Michelin restaurants Maaemo and Ylajali in Oslo. Now she spends a lot of time on her restaurant’s own farm, right outside Trondheim.
“When you spend a whole summer on your knees and pull weeds out of the soil, you get more respect for the food. The vegetables get a completely different taste when they come straight from the soil, rather than laying around in a grocery store for a few weeks.”
It is not just in the city that local food has experienced a real upswing lately. On and around the Inderøya peninsula in the Trondheimsfjord, there are long traditions for self-made products. Along “The Golden Road” one can find breweries, butchers, fishmongers, cheese factories and idyllic restaurants only a few minutes apart. In the summertime you can rent a bike and travel between more than 20 idyllic places that supply high quality local food.
One stop you can make is Gangstad Farm, a gorgeous farm with proud traditions going back more than 100 years. Visitors are greeted by a rich and vibrant environment, authentically preserved through all these years.
Here you can experience farm workers producing everything from cheese to ice cream with their own hands.
“We let people walk right into our daily lives. All the houses around the farm are open. It was my grandfather who built this in the early 1900s. Many of the tools and objects we find around on the farm can be dated back to that time,” says the farm owner, Astrid Aasen.
The award-winning cheeses are turned over by hand three times a day, before they are individually processed and manually packed. In 1998, the farm was the first to be given authorization to produce their own cheese this way.
In addition to taking care of the traditional process of cheese making, the farmers at Gangstad also do something more innovative. They produce ice cream, in 15 different flavours.
In addition to traditional ice cream such as vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, Gangstad delivers tastes like aquavit and liquorice – as well as their special recipe based on pine needles and lingonberry. “It tastes like the forest! Everything here is produced with milk from cows that walks and eats from the grass around the farm,” Aasen says.
Their ice cream has even gained international recognition. It is available at an exclusive selection of grocery stores in Central Norway and at Hurtigruten, the coastal express service that transports thousands of passengers along the country's long and beautiful coastline.
Røros, the old mining town in the southern part of Trøndelag, is an important part of Norwegian cultural heritage. The former copper mining town is one of Europe’s oldest preserved wooden towns, and is included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
Today, though, it is known just as much for its enchanting cuisine: This is one of Norway’s leading regions for a variety of high quality, locally produced food.
Røros’ distinct, barren landscapes and changes in temperature make for local products with a rich and pure flavour, with tastes of the mountains, plains, forests and seas.
More than 30 local producers have joined forces under the name Rørosmat (“Røros Food”), whether it is beer from Atna, exclusive cheese from Galåvolden gård, fresh baked goods from Kalsa Gårdsbakeri or delicious dairy.
Destination Røros has educated 25 local food guides and are offering local food safaris – three different routes that each contains three stops at local eateries and food producers. The safaris have been a huge success and will continue to grow and improve this season.
Torsvoll Farm near Røros is one of three producers in Trøndelag that specializes in deer meat. In the summertime there are about 150 animals that runs around here. In this deserted and magnificent landscape you can feed the tame deer right from your own hands.
“It is a great experience for the ‘city people’ to see these beautiful animals up close. Our guests also get a glimpse of our farm history, and how we got the ‘wild’ idea of deer farming here on Rørosvidda. The cold climate is of course a challenge,” says Helge Torsvoll, who together with his wife Signe runs the farm – in addition to their full time jobs.
So what is so special about deer meat? “It is considered a delicacy with numerous health benefits. It is low in fat and cholesterol and high in iron. Furthermore, the deer meat has a lot of B-vitamins,” Torsvoll says.
At the restaurant Vertshuset Røros one can get served first class deer filet from Torsvoll. But how does it taste?
“The deer meat is a cross between moose and reindeer. It has a slightly sweet taste and it is wonderfully tender. If done right, there is nothing that beats it!”
The deer farmer explains that the organization Rørosmat is important for small-scale producers and is the reason why the region is so popular. “It has become a famous trademark, and we notice that it's starting to attract international interest. The key to our success is that we stand together and that we make each other better.”
The best way to really get to know Norway, to feel as one with nature and breathe in the freshest of air, is either on foot or by bike and nowhere is this more true than in Trøndelag.
As surely as the grey goose travels north every year, the cod swims along the Namdal coast to spawn. In the same way, fishermen from Trøndelag throughout history have sought the mysterious and now abandoned paradise of Sør-Gjæslingan.
Founded by a Viking King. Fought over in our most famous battle. Accepted as the seat of religion. In Trøndelag, there is history in every inch of the soil.
Arne Carlsen is the last man standing in the depths of the historical Olav’s Mine in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Røros.
With countless producers of local food and a major focus on local food, Trøndelag is Norway’s leading food region. Scallops from Frøya are served at the best restaurants from Dubai to Tokyo, crabs from Hitra are sent to the seafood buffets in Paris and a variety of other products have won awards in Norway and abroad. Did you know that the tradition of “line aquavit” – barrels of aquavit being transported across the equator before being bottled – originates from Trondheim, and that the first written record of aquavit can be traced to Trøndelag? When in Trøndelag - eat and drink local.
The many farm shops, food festivals and restaurants make the whole of Trøndelag a culinary paradise.