Norwegian Julebord Goodness!

With this being my first Christmas away from family and in a new country, I decided to organize a proper Norwegian julebord with new friends here in Oslo.  Julebord directly means Christmas table.  It’s typically a large party with holiday food.  We didn’t party hard but had a really lovely dinner at Stortorvets Gjæstgiveri.  Stortorvets Gjæstgiveri is a traditional Norwegian restaurant in downtown Oslo.  It’s a lovely old yellow building near Oslo’s central train station.

Upon arriving, we walked into the building and were directed upstairs where the julebord was being held.  When they were ready to seat us, they took us through different rooms, much like a house, and finally sat us.  It was quite the maze but gave the restaurant a really charming feel.  Our waiter explained that they had two seatings per night and fed up to 300 people with each seating.  We were ready – and we were in for a treat.

Our first course was a choice of rakørret, røkelaks or skagenrøre.  My husband had the rakørret, or fermented trout, and I had the røkelaks, or raw salmon.  Other members of our party also had the skagenrøre which is a mayonnaise and shrimp dish.  Everyone spoke very highly of the starters.  The rakørret was not too fishy and tasted good with the dill, beets and cucumbers.  If they hadn’t told me, I would never have assumed it was fermented.  Really lovely, clean trout flavor.  The raw salmon is, of course, delicious.  This is Norway after all!  The mustard on the side added a nice spice with each bite.

For our next course, we had the option to choose between lutefisk, rakørret, pinnekjøtt, juletallerken with ribbe, medisterkaker and pølse, or rosastekt reinsdyr (roasted reindeer steak).  My husband had the juletallerken (aka Christmas plate) which featured rib roast, meatballs and sausage.  The rib roast (ribbe) was pork and had incredibly crispy fat on top.  We got some lessons on how to eat the ribbe properly and really enjoyed every bite.  Ribbe is the most popular dish for Christmas Eve dinner in the Oslo area.  The meatballs were very tasty and of course, the sausage was good.  It was a lovely plate of pork overload (if that is even possible).

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I decided to go with the pinnekjøtt which are lamb chops that are cured, dried and smoked.  It has a very distinctive game smell but at this restaurant, the game flavor wasn’t nearly as strong.  Pinnekjøtt is heavily salted (hence the curing) so you definitely get your sodium fix.  It’s very popular in Northern and Western Norway for their holiday meal.  And you know what?  I actually really enjoyed this dish.  At first, it’s a bit daunting since it’s a grayish color and just piled up for consumption.  However, the meat was really tender and served with a tasty jus.  I can see this dish going poorly with poor preparation but luckily, Stortorvets Gjæstgiveri is top notch.  It changed my view of pinnekjøtt and I’d gladly eat it again in the future.

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Now – I also had the opportunity to try lutefisk as a friend of mine ordered it.  This dish – I was actually a bit scared of.  Lutefisk is dried whitefish which is treated with lye.  The result is a gelatin-like fish which is a very popular dish in Southern Norway and other areas over Scandinavia.  All that said, I liked it!  It tasted like fish with just a bit of a gelatin texture.  Like pinnekjøtt, I can imagine this dish going horribly wrong.  Luckily, we were at Stortorvets Gjæstgiveri and they made a delicious lutefisk dish served with an entire serving dish of bacon topping.   Of course, everything is better with bacon 🙂

Finally, my most favorite round – dessert.  My husband decided on riskrem (rice and cream pudding) and I decided to have the karamellpudding (creme caramel).  The riskrem is a traditional dessert and a really nice creamy treat.  Folks that ordered this dish got the HUGEST portion.  I was pretty jealous.  The karamelpudding was also creamy but in a different way.  Like creme caramel, it has a flan consistency with a sweet caramel sauce (water and sugar cooked together).

And no meal is complete without a nice toast of Aquavit.  I decided to try the linie aquavit which I was told would have a fuller flavor.  Well, it delivered.  The first time I had aquavit a few years ago when traveling in Oslo – all I thought was… this tastes like burning.  But, the linje aquavit was really nice with a bourbon-esque finish and a whiskey warmness.  (On a side note – this is a small sipping glass even though it looks like I drank a wine glass of liqueur).

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What a lovely julebord with a incredibly bunch of friends… Cheers!

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