Thanks to a new partnership with its home country's most celebrated food expert, Hurtigruten - which has been taking guests on travels up and down the coast of Norway for more than 120 years - is presenting authentic culinary offerings that are truly worthy of being part of the experience that's been called 'the world's most beautiful voyage.'
Through this partnership, chef Andreas Viestad is helping develop the restaurant and café concepts on all 11 of the company's vessels, which sail between Bergen in the south of Norway and Kirkenes in the north. The focus will be on local ingredients, as well as on telling the stories of the people and places that supply these special foods - just as Viestad does in his food writing and on his television shows. For example, guests will be able to enjoy fresh Arctic char that was delivered to the ship just a few hours before dinner service, but they'll also be told the stories of the suppliers who provided the fish and the waters from which it came.
Viestad is the host of the television series New Scandinavian Cooking, which is broadcast in more than 100 countries - including on PBS affiliates throughout the United States. His television programs and cookbooks help focus international interest on modern Nordic cuisine, which has attracted considerable attention in recent years. Hurtigruten's new food concept, called "Norway's Coastal Kitchen," is one more element of the company's strategy to strengthen its brand by best reflecting the true character of the country it explores; its goal is to give guests a literal "taste" of Norway, making the voyage that much more memorable and distinctive.
This is the next logical step in a program that was introduced last year, when Hurtigruten issued a call for local food suppliers. Ultimately 200 responded, offering 500 different products from all 19 of Norway's counties. The Norwegian government fully supports Hurtigruten's efforts, creating a partnership that makes it possible for small, local producers to supply vessels with the necessary quantities of these regional specialties.
The ingredients used in the new menus that will launch on April 1 as part of Hurtigruten's "Arctic Awakening" season are sourced almost exclusively from the regions the ships visit and are supplied by small, local producers. After a stop in the Norwegian city of Trondheim, for example, passengers can enjoy an evening dessert of sea-buckthorn (a type of berry) and aquavit (a spiced spirit) ice cream produced by Gangstad Gårdsysteri dairy. On another day, the restaurant will offer kvæfjordcake, a dessert made of meringue, vanilla cream and almonds; it's said to have first been created by a small café in Harstad. Other menu items include cured leg of lamb from Hellesylt, a town near the picturesque Geirangerfjord, and roast reindeer from Finnmark, Norway's northeastern county that borders both Finland and Russia.
North Americans are still learning about Nordic cuisine, and are discovering that it goes far beyond the stereotypical dried cod - though fish and seafood do play prominent roles on Norwegian menus. In addition to cod and char, Norway is also the world's largest producer of both salmon and trout, with reindeer providing a distinctive land-based source of protein. Norway's cool climate, slow growing pace and quantity of sunlight (north of the Arctic Circle, the sun shines around the clock for two months in the summer) enhance the taste of vegetables and berries. Carrots here have an extra sweetness to them, for example, and Scandinavian "cloudberries" produce a memorable taste for syrups, vinegars and wines.
Hurtigruten's 11 intimate ships, which each carry 100 to 646 guests, allow travelers to enjoy the scenery and culture of Norway in a relaxed atmosphere. Passengers have the opportunity to visit 34 ports along Norway's coast.
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