Vice Chairman Bob Binder is currently onboard Marina
hosting a sailing in celebration
of Oceania Cruises’ 10th anniversary. I’ve joined him on this wonderful voyage
because, as part of the many festivities and special events, we are launching an
exciting new season of Culinary Discovery Tours in the Baltic. I can’t think of
a better way to celebrate Oceania Cruises’ 10 years of destination-rich
itineraries and exquisite cuisine than with a series of new tours offering an
in-depth, hands-on culinary experience of a diverse array of local cultures.
Today Bob and I kicked off the Baltic season by welcoming
guests on our new Culinary Discovery Tour in Oslo, which includes a visit to
the famed Mathallen Food Hall and a lunch with beer pairings at a local
restaurant that is both historic and trendy.
We began the morning in Marina’s
Bon Appétit Culinary Center with an overview of New Nordic Cuisine, which
has been setting the pace in the local, fresh and simple culinary trend among
chefs worldwide. Initiated by the chefs of Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, a
group of 14 chefs from the Nordic region held a summit in 2004 to discuss their
passion for local, fresh, simple and sustainable cuisine, which soon put this culinary
region on the map. We also discussed the salmon farming industry and how Norway
continues to lead the world in the innovative arena of aquaculture.
After the overview, we were off on this sunny, Nordic spring
day to our first stop at the courtyard of the Mathallen Food Hall. We were
greeted by our host for the day, the owner of the smallest pub in Oslo,
which seats only 16 guests and was officially opening that night. Before entering the pristine food
hall to explore the 33 fascinating stalls, we were treated to a tasting of
three artisan beers – so we would be fortified for our shopping adventure. Not
knowing much about beer, I was enlightened about this region’s passion for beer
and the wide diversity of brewing styles and products.
Then we ventured into the food hall for a tasting of cheeses and
smoked salmon. The Mathallen Food Hall is a feast for the senses, with
each vendor presenting their specialty product in eye-catching and innovative
The airy, ultra-modern building is
quite inviting and caters to those who want to wander and taste, as well as the
business person who pops in for a quick bite of lunch. After a brief
orientation, we were off to try some local cheeses – an
assortment of soft blues and aged sheep cheese with a hint of juniper berry. We
were then treated to a lovely taste of smoked salmon and cream cheese as well
as another local beer.
Each pair of guests were given a shopping assignment and 200
kroner, so we had about 30 minutes of free time to purchase local and seasonal
produce, some cured meat, specialty preserves and other delicacies. We wandered
the market, taking in all of the eye-popping displays and delicious offerings. There were even beautiful
carvings made from a turnip!
One of the things I love most about our Culinary Discovery
Tours is the opportunity to interact with the local vendors. And the experience is all the more meaningful
because we are able to return to the Bon Appétit Culinary Center onboard the
ship, where we can taste our purchases and make local dishes. The hands-on
experience gives us an even greater appreciation and understanding of our
At the cheese tasting, one of our guests purchased her
favorite cheese and planned to share it with the class later that day.
When our shopping was complete, it was time to take a brief
walk to our luncheon spot, Akersberget, which sits at the base of a
mountain that was previously a mining site. The red-painted wood building had a
rustic yet upscale Nordic ambiance. This charming and very trendy restaurant is
booked for months in advance, but we were fortunate that our host had agreed to
open for a special luncheon exclusively for Oceania Cruises guests!
We took a seat in the restaurant and were soon poured a
glass of beer to welcome us. (I’m starting to figure out that beer really is the
national drink of Norway!) The chefs were beginning to plate our lunch,
so we grabbed a quick sneak peek at their handiwork.
Soon we were served
a fabulous white fish in a light sauce with new potatoes, spring carrots, baby
spinach and radish foam. Bob said the potatoes were his favorite, and we soon
learned the secret: they were simmered in butter, herbs, sugar and – of course
We all enjoyed sitting around the table together, not only
savoring a wonderful meal but also meeting new friends and hearing about where
they had traveled. We finished our lunch with a chocolate fondant cake
with fresh strawberries and, you guessed it, a dark beer that paired perfectly
with the chocolate!
After saying a heartfelt thank you to our host and chefs, we
boarded the coach for a quick tour of downtown Oslo and its distinctive
architecture. The city was alive with
locals and tourists, all enjoying the beautiful, crisp, sunny day. Maybe it’s
just me, but it always seems that there is more oxygen in the Baltic, and today
I had happy lungs breathing in this clean Nordic air!
As with all of our Culinary Discovery Tours, we met back at
the Bon Appétit Culinary Center onboard for a brief class to bring together what
we saw and learned today. Bob was pleased to discover that the culinary center
has a magical machine that churns out granitas in just 20 minutes. So we
started by making my special recipe using champagne, lemon and St. Germain, the
liqueur made from the fragrant Alpine elderflower. As we sipped our cocktails,
each guest shared what they had purchased at the market today.
The class was devoted to salmon, so we made smoked and
poached salmon rillettes with toasts, as well as gravlax. It was a delightful
way to end our special day in this enchanting city of trendy restaurants,
stunning architecture and, of course, its passion for beer!
Just in case my elderflower cocktail appeals to you as much as a beer does, here is the recipe:
- 1 bottle (750 ml) cold sparkling wine
- 1½ cups simple syrup, infused with lemon rind and cooled
- ½ cup St. Germain elderflower liqueur
Pour all ingredients into and ice cream maker and prepare according to manufacturer's instructions. Enjoy!