Best Scandinavian food – I want to hear from you!


This time, it’s all about you. What do you love best about Scandinavian food? Do you have a favorite Norwegian soup recipe or a beloved Swedish cookie you remember eating while growing up? What memories do the foods of Scandinavia evoke for you? I want to hear from you!

I’ve enjoyed hearing from many of you who read this blog and have shared your enthusiasm for the recipes and stories you’ve found here. Your comments always make me so happy, and it’s great to know that what you read here on Outside Oslo resonates with you.

So, this time I want to hear about your experience with Scandinavia and what the foods of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland mean to you. Please leave a comment below or e-mail me. Or maybe get in touch on Facebook or Twitter. One of the great things about blogs and social media is that they’re all about the conversation. Now it’s time to hear from you!

I still love Paris

It’s been two years since Norway stole my heart. True, I’ve always been intrigued by my heritage, but seeing the country for the first time—walking the same streets my grandparents must have tread upon, visiting the same Viking ship museum my dad visited as a child on a field trip in the 1950s, and putting a physical place to the culinary traditions my grandparents carried with them when they left Norway—brought it to life for me like never before.

Just a short time in Oslo was enough to inspire me to declare to my husband, “I want to move to Norway.” I can’t wait to return, whenever that might be. But I still love Paris.

Just as I fell in love with Norway in less than 24 hours, two nights in Paris earlier this month—bookending the rest of our European road trip—were enough to rekindle my adoration of the city. Since visiting for the first time in 2001, I’ve returned more often than I’ve visited most cities in my own country. But as I experienced during those two nights, the enchantment is still there, and perhaps in different ways than it ever has been before.

I can thank Hemingway for at least part of the wonder. Afraid of running out of books to read during the aforementioned trip to Norway, I bought a copy of his A Movable Feast from a bookstore in Bergen. Hemingway’s experiences in Paris in the 1920s gave me a new perspective on the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, especially his time spent at Cafe de Flore, Les Deux Magots, and Brasserie Lipp (that’s it peeking out from behind Cafe de Flore in the photo above). So even though I stayed in the 6th arrondissement while visiting in 2006, when I returned there a nearly two weeks ago to eat at Le Relais de l’Entrecôte, I saw the area in a whole new light.

In addition, having just spent several nights in Berlin, where–as someone accurately pointed out–the city is still trying to find its identity after nearly all of it was destroyed during World War II, I couldn’t help but see the picturesque buildings of Paris in the context of the history of the 20th century. While many cities were ravaged, Paris was preserved, and its iconic architecture survived.

Other sources of the wonder are the sheer beauty and vitality of the city. After experiencing the raw, buzzing energy of the metro at rush hour–its trains screeching through the tunnels, carrying passengers stacked vertically next to and up against each other–emerging into the heart of the 6th is magical. Contrasted with the stuffy, loud, cramped, and fluorescently-lit metro, the open air and natural light of a busy Parisian boulevard makes the overcast May afternoon sky seem to smile and transforms the metallic sound of cars into a song.

All these photos are from our last night in Paris, and from the little sliver of the city we visited that night. What a beautiful way to remember Paris …

… until next time.

Dream house

What’s your dream house like? Is it a Victorian farmhouse, a beachfront cottage, a modern architectural wonder? How many rooms does it have, and what special spaces are a must?

I’ve been thinking a lot about houses lately. I can’t say I have a dream house in mind, per se, but it’s fun to think about what one wants in a home. The usable spaces indoors and how they’re laid out are just as important than the style of the exterior. However, one look at this house in Oslo is enough to make one dream–even without seeing the interior or planning to move to another country!

Please post a comment and share what your dream house is like.

Marzipan candy and other delightful things

I’ll be honest, it took me a while to fully appreciate some of the finer parts of my Norwegian heritage, such as the beauty of the language and elegance and simplicity in Scandinavian design. As a child, my primary connections with Norwegian culture were through my grandparents and by living near Ballard, a Seattle neighborhood that used to be full of Scandinavians. Therefore, I liked my Norwegian heritage, but it seemed quaint and old-fashioned, and sometimes just plain goofy thanks to Norwegian jokes and Stan Boreson songs. That said, one of the Scandinavian treasures I’ve always loved, as far back as I can remember, is marzipan candy.

Commonly shaped into pigs or various fruits, marzipan candy is a popular Scandinavian treat. Imagine taking a bite of almond extract, if that were possible, sweetened and given a delightful pasty consistency. I know, it doesn’t sound that appetizing, but it’s so good!

These days I love the sound of the Norwegian language, and how it feels to speak it (I’m contemplating taking another class soon). I’m intrigued by Norwegians’ sense of beauty and wealth; despite being one of the richest countries in the world, Norway isn’t packed with high-rises and ostentatious design, instead the Norwegians I’ve met seem to truly value quality and have a sense of contentment about them. And I’m enjoying discovering more about Norwegian and Scandinavian cuisine, in addition to the traditional dishes my grandparents served for holidays each year.

In celebration of the delightful things about Norway, I’m going to go eat another one of those candies…

Norwegian holiday fare: Trondheim Soup and The Bishop

I’m so excited to try the recipes that Jenn of The Leftover Queen is sharing in today’s guest post. The Leftover Queen is all about eating well and frugally, and is packed with recipes and her experiences with food. Jenn lived in Norway for a while, and shares some traditional holiday fare here. Thanks, Jenn!

Over 10 years ago, I spent a year living in Norway in between high school and college as part of AFS (American Field Service). It was certainly a life-changing experience in many ways and a time I remember as one of my most fond adventures. Norway is still a part of me, and it is a place that is and always will be very near and dear to my heart. It was my first time away from home, in a brand new culture where I didn’t speak the language. I came home from that experience having learned a new language and culture, as well as so much about myself and the world.

I still have many friends to this day that I met when I lived in Norway, and I also enjoy learning more about Norwegian and Scandinavian cuisines. For me, keeping in touch with old friends, and cooking Norwegian food, is a way for me to keep a piece of my life in Norway always with me. For some reason, during the winter holidays, that urge to bring a little Norwegian flair to my cooking, trying new recipes, and re-creating recipes of foods that I enjoyed when I lived there becomes very strong.

Here are a few other posts that I have done over the years that focus on my love of Norwegian and Scandinavian cuisine:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Christmas Rømmegrøt
Winter Solstice Gløgg
Norwegian Farmers Market Finds

This year, I wanted to make some new things. I have made gløgg (a spiced wine with almonds and raisins) and rommegrøt (sour cream porridge) at winter holiday time every year since I have returned from Norway. In Norway there are often gløgg parties where people get together with their friends and family before Christmas, and it is served with either rommegrøt or a rice porridge called risgrøt. I loved rommegrøt when I lived in Norway; it is rich, flavorful, stick-to-your-bones kind of food. Perfect for cold weather! It is also a tradition in Norway for children to put out a bowl of porridge for the Nisser–the elves! Although these elves have nothing to do with Santa, they are associated with and originate from Norwegian farm life. These are the elves that look after the farm animals–and in return for their protection, they want their Christmas porridge on Christmas Eve!

For me, the holidays always mean porridge and spiced wine!

Gløgg is wassil; wassil is a broad term used for any wine or ale that is sweetened with sugar and spices, and served during the winter holidays. It is one of the oldest Christmas traditions there is.

This year, I decided to branch out a bit in my yearly spiced wine and porridge menu and check out a few different Norwegian recipes. For the spiced wine, I decided to try “bisp,” or in English, “bishop,” which is red wine flavored with vanilla, cinnamon, and peppercorns, swirled with aquavit (a Norwegian potato-based liquor, flavored with caraway ) and named after the red color of the bishop’s cloak.



3 cups filtered water
1 vanilla bean
2 cinnamon sticks
12 whole black peppercorns
2/3 cups sugar
1 bottle (3 cups) red wine
3 ½ TBS aquavit


Bring water, vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and sugar to a boil. Simmer over low heat for about 1- 1 ½ hours. Strain and reserve liquid. Add the red wine and aquavit to the sugar syrup. Serve in heat proof glasses. Bisp can be made also using berry wines – like cherry or blueberry. This drink can be made non-alcoholic using black currant or blueberry juices. Ingredients can easily be doubled for a larger batch!

I also decided to make Trondheim soup, which is named after the city in Norway that I lived in, the old Viking capital, which is over 1,010 years old. It is a sweet rice soup, not really considered a porridge, but along the same lines, flavored with cinnamon and raisins, and it is considered a dessert, unlike grøt.

Trondheim Soup


1 ¼ liters of water
¼ cup rice
1/3 cup raisins
1 cinnamon stick
1 TBS flour
1 cup whipping cream
4 TBS sugar
salt to taste


Combine water, rice raisins and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Simmer until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk cream and flour together and then add to the pot. Bring mixture to a boil, and simmer for 1-2 minutes until thickened. Stir in sugar and salt to taste. Serves 6.

I love introducing people to these Norwegian holiday traditions! Especially when the recipes are so easy and so delicious. So go ahead and during this season of celebrations, try having your own gløgg party where you can experience the flavors and customs of Norway! God Jul og Godt Nytt År!

Photos by Jenn of The Leftover Queen.

A little something to brighten your day

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are today, but as it’s fall, and the days are often on the dark and gray side–at least here in the Pacific Northwest–I’d like to share a little bit of the beauty, color and brightness of Bergen with you.

IMG_2913_2When I was planning to visit Norway for the first time a year and a half ago, I was warned that the weather–at least in Bergen–could be chilly and wet, even in the summer. As I was going to be flying to Norway from a vacation in Greece and Turkey, I knew I had a packing challenge on my hands: I was going to be spending time in two climates, but I didn’t want to have to haul around clothes for both. So, I brought along a pair of jeans and a light sweater, and just figured everything would work out. Somehow.

IMG_2911_2Thankfully, I happened to be in Bergen during some of the most beautiful days of the year. These are some of the photos from that trip. Bergen is such a gorgeous place, with the harbor framed on one side by the colorful buildings of Bryggen, the Hanseatic wharf, to the seven mountains that embrace the city.

Some of the things I enjoyed seeing were the lovely houses with their roses and other flowers. Imagine living in a place like this! It’s almost like a fairy tale. Grandma D. used to tend roses at her house in Seattle. When my parents and I would visit my grandparents when I was young, Grandma would cut a bouquet and send it home with us. I don’t know if she had roses when she lived in Norway, but looking at these homes, I can’t help but imagine that maybe Grandma’s roses brought her back to her old home.

IMG_2915Today is one of the grayest, wettest days of the season so far here in Seattle. The rain has been pouring, and there’s no apparent chance of the sun breaking through the clouds. But still there’s something beautiful about it, as I imagine the months ahead, full of opportunities to read a book in front of the fireplace with the rain hammering the roof. And though it may sound trite, sometimes we need weather like this to help us truly appreciate the sunshine.

Veering from the news reports: an Oslo photo gallery

President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. By now journalists from around the world have covered the news with a wealth of angles, so I won’t get into the details. But I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you the beauty of Oslo around the Nobels Fredssenter or Nobel Peace Center.

IMG_2820The Nobel Peace Center opened in 2005 in a building that used to be a train station.

IMG_2816Here the center peeks through the foliage.

IMG_2814The area around the Nobel Peace Center is full of life, from the boats going in and out of the harbor, to the people walking through or taking a break in this beautiful area adorned with statues and fountains.

IMG_2826Nearby, even waiting for a bus presents the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of this wonderful city. (You may recognize this photo from my first post.) There’s something wonderful about Oslo in the summertime. Maybe it’s that the climate reminds me of Seattle, where I’m from. In any case, I could show you more photos, or I could just recommend that you go and see it for yourself.

Photos taken during a trip to Norway in the summer of 2008.

An opportunity lost

I was going to talk with her. I was going to finally start asking questions about life in Norway, particularly during the resistance. I was going to show her the photos from my trip to Norway last summer, of the new opera house, the Viking ship museum, the beautiful sunsets in Olso, Bergen and Ålesund.

I had plans to visit Grandma D. one Sunday in July and to bring her a kringle or some other Scandinavian treat. Just as I was putting my opal earrings on before heading to Larsen’s bakery to pick up a pastry that day, my mom called and said, “Grandma’s gone.” What horrible words!

How does one respond? What happens when one hangs up the phone, when the reality starts setting in? On an ordinary Sunday, I would have been at church at the time I got the call, but I had stayed home to prepare to visit Grandma. Change of plans. I now had the whole day open, in which to process my grief.


I’m glad that time is over. My pillowcase is still stained with black mascara, but I can think about Grandma now, see pictures of her, and see her belongings without the same pain, although I may always carry some regrets.

I’m honored to have in my possession some of her handiwork, including a number of tapestries she embroidered throughout the years. Grandma had an eye for detail, and tremendous patience. She even embroidered a portrait of me when I was a child.

Yes, I’m honored to have these pieces of art, treasures that I’ll be able to pass down someday. But I wish I had her stories most of all.

Transitioning to fall

This morning I awoke to a foggy morning, the fog so low and near that the buildings across the street were veiled.

Finally leaving the house a couple hours later, I decided to take a detour on my way to work and take some photos at a park overlooking Puget Sound. Walking from my car, I took in all the beauty of this mid-September morning: the wet grass on my sandaled feet, the sounds of the birds down by the water, the hint of salt in the air.


Already the fog was making way for the sun and blue sky. It was going to be a beautiful day.

I wonder what it’s like to live in Norway and know that the change of seasons brings not only colder weather, but also much shorter days. It can be bad enough here in the Pacific Northwest, but I’ve never experienced winter in the far-northern latitudes. I suppose a lot of people just get used to it and find ways to adapt. But it can’t be easy.

Bergen sunsetOn the other hand, the extra-long summer days are wonderful. I experienced them for the first time last summer. I was in Bergen during some of the few really hot and dry days of the year, and people were living it up, soaking up as much of the daylight as they could. I took this photo (left) around 10:30 at night. The sun was lingering, taking its time as it set, and people were still outside, boating, and having a great time.

Someday I’d like to visit Norway in the winter, and experience the opposite.