Some years ago I was very lucky to get involved with an initiative to get British products and companies into Norway. This consisted in staying at the Ambassador residence hosting a trade delegation and also demonstrating at the Oslo culinary school.
It was not only good fun but also a very interesting exercise. Back then Norway was quite far behind in up-to-date foods ready to go in supermarkets and delis. So, for them to see British companies producing such British delicacies as great pastry, pickles and relishes were a real eye opener.
That was my first experience of this beautiful country. Since then I have been back skiing to Geilo with a friend Sue & husband Knut (who worked at the consulate) and last year returning again to see the northern lights in Tromso, a 1 ½ hour flight from Oslo. This is where my Phil’s Big Worldwide Cook Out would begin.
We landed after a short hop from the UK; thank goodness after so many long flights previously, it was a refreshing change. Oslo airport is very modern; Nigel the soundman described it as a large IKEA store, with pale woods and lots of metal. It reminds me of a squash court. Janice, my boss, Matt, cameraman (from the Alaska trip) Rhian assistant producer, Hanne our Norwegian PR are on top form and rearing to go.
After re-checking in we are off for my first real taste of Norwegian food at a small restaurant in the airport. Hanne insists we have waffles, a Norwegian favourite. After a couple attempts from the chef we finally get them, smelling delicious and looking very good indeed. She goes onto say that you eat them with sour cream and jam or plain or with brown cheese (Geitost or Brunost) and jam, but with no cream. A little too complicated for me. I wasn't sure what she meant by brown cheese until I saw it again. Yes, I quickly remembered I had seen it before many years ago on Ready Steady Cook, when TV vet Trude Mostue produced from a bag. I thought it was vile then, and a complete waste of time, could she change my mind? For those who have not had the pleasure, its a softish cheese, with the colour of the 70’s Caramac bar. It has a sweetish edge, and its flavour is a cross between Marmite and Caramac, and Plastacine in texture. I'm not selling it very well I know but to be fair once Hanne had cut up a waffle into wedges, then added the very nice jam, topped with brown cheese it was okay. I think the sweetness of the jam and warm fluffiness of the waffle really did help. And yes is the answer to your next question, I would eat it again washed down with some okay coffee. We boarded again to get the short flight to Tromso.
Whilst on the flight I studied the long map of Norway, and it is a 'long thin' country but a lot bigger than you think. If you were to stick a drawing pin into Oslo, then spin Norway around and down, the country would stretch down to bottom of Italy!! I fall asleep, and the next thing we know we are landing at Tromso. It is a clear afternoon, and the mountains around are sprinkled with snow. The ski jump is clearly visible. It’s not cold, but a bit like a British cool summers day, the sun is high in the sky, even at 4 o'clock. We are transported to the Clarion Hotel Bryggen along with a new member of the team Goril our Marketing Coordinator. She is larger than life and very funny and loud. The bus is a very smart almost pimped up vehicle, complete with neon lights changing colour in the roof space. The short drive I remember is under the mountain, through a labyrinth of tunnels complete with roundabouts and before you know you are in Tromso town. It's a large fishing town, but also big with tourists, not only for the fishing and the northern light show, but cruise liners dock all the time.
We check into the hotel with all the kit and relax for 10 minutes. We are off immediately to go sea kayaking with a local chap. I change into my working gear and off we set. The drive is about 20 minutes out of Tromso, past the airport and slightly inland.
Across a long narrow bridge I could see the Kayak trailer in the distance; it was a beautiful evening with the late summer sun still really high in the sky.
I meet up with Tove Sorensen a bear of a man who runs the company. We exchange greetings then I slip into, well force my way into a dry suit that nearly cuts off the blood to my brain. Tove laughs and we have a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. He gives me a safety lesson and the dos and don’ts of open water kayaking. I have to say it all made perfect sense and made the journey really enjoyable.
Matt and Nigel check out the boat that is to accompany us so they can film and after a couple pieces to camera. Lifting my director into the boat, we set off and go under the bridge we had just crossed. It’s a peaceful evening with a slight breeze. As we paddle around the small peninsula, the water gets a little rougher. We film and chat about seafood species, weather and Norway in general. Tove wants to know about premiership football, and we josh each other as to who supports the better team.
In no time at all we are heading back, it is easier with the wind behind us, then its back under the bridge and we all get out. I lift Amy out and plonk her on the shore.
We lift the boats out of the water and carry them to the trailer. I really enjoyed being on the water, but it was getting a little chilly.
I undress, shake hands and take a couple of pictures. I think I may go back at half term with my youngest daughter as Tove runs 300 Husky's and takes tourists out to sleep in reindeer Tee Pees. Mind you 35 C below, may be a problem, but what fun!!!
We head back to the hotel to shower and warm up. It has to be a quickie, as dinner at the very well known Fiskekompanie restaurant is at 8:30 sharp. Luckily the restaurant is only a two minute walk from the hotel on the stunning quay. My wife and I ate here on our last trip, so I did recognise it. There is no doubt it is a very stylish and beautiful place with lovely views and has certain calm to it.
We are all seated with a cold Mack beer, perfect after a long trip. We swiftly moved onto a 2009 Barbera Supriore and an equally good Sancerre Rose Pinot 2011. In fact, I loved this, it was delicious. I personally love drinking a blush, dry rose with any fish, especially in summer.
Sourdough bread was nice, and the starter arrived, it was king crab with coal fish, salmon, all very pretty and delicate. It tasted fine but was a bit confusing for me; in fact I'm trying to remember what it actually was?
Main course was halibut; I had seen it in the fish cabinet as we arrived, and it looked magnificent. Unfortunately when it arrived it was overcooked, however, the lardons, broccoli, tarragon sauce and hazelnuts were all very nice.
Dessert; Brulée, too eggy and a bit too firm for me, but had a nice flavour. We head back to the hotel, shower and turn in.