It seems that today is the spring equinox, here in the northern hemisphere. We actually hit twelve hours of light a couple of days back, and I expect spring is still a couple of months away, but we are approaching Easter, after which there are lots of bank holidays in Norway.
Covid is still kicking my ass. I returned to work on Monday, but then woke up during the night with my heart racing at double its normal rate. I ended up at the emergency doctors, where they couldn’t find anything specific, but hooked me up to a drip and let me sleep for an hour, before sending me home. It’s been an up and down week since then, but it seems this is not uncommon.
I did manage to get into work for an hour on Thursday, when I had my annual review with Hilde. She’s quite satisfied with my work and I’m quite satisfied with how it’s going, so it’s all good. Next week I need to sit an exam (which she’s not expecting me to pass, thank goodness) and hopefully, on Wednesday, I’ll be flying off to Lillehammer for a veterinary conference, so I’m very much hoping that I’m well enough to go.
John took me out for a drive yesterday, which was lovely. He’s bought his first car – an old Ford Mondeo – which he is naturally, very proud of. Hopefully he’ll pass his test soon, and then he’ll be very much more independent. But yesterday, he took me up and down the E6, and we ended up in a café in Setermoen, where we had coffee and cake.
So, this entry is both short and late, but I hope that normal service will be resumed next week! A few photographs from our trip yesterday. It’s been raining for a couple of days, and the big melt is well underway.
I said last weekend that it wouldn’t be long until John and I returned to Senja Roasters. We decided to explore the three course menu and so we booked a table for this evening. There’s always anticipation before going to a new restaurant. It’s not always possible to predict how the food will taste from reading a menu and though there were good signs (local and international ingredients, paper menu, limited choice) those things don’t always translate into food heaven. This time there was no disappointment. John and I decided to share the meat and fish options, though next time, if there’s a vegan risotto, I will definitely go that way. But for now, I want to share this evening’s fabulous meal with you.
The starters sounded interesting: Cod tongues and coffee-crusted tataki reindeer. The cod was wonderful, light and crispy. For me, this was extra special. Fish in batter isn’t common here. It was like a tiny taste of home.
The tataki reindeer was exquisite. Almost black on the outside, rare in the centre. It was meltingly tender and packed with flavour.
We must have looked hungry because in the fairly brief interval between the starters and the main courses, we were brought some more of those delicious crusty bread rolls we had last Sunday.
Onto the mains, again we shared the meat and fish dishes. The waitress was very attentive and happily brought us separate eating plates and bowls for all three courses. We started with a tasty halibut dish on an unusual sweetcorn and red onion salsa. The flavours were lifted by a light-touch citrus sauce:
Next up, slow roasted lamb shank with a rich red wine sauce. Traditional flavours, but extremely well done.
We spent a few minutes chatting in between the main course and the dessert. The view outside the window kept drawing my gaze as the light changed over the fjord. Here we were in a modern restaurant, not in the centre of a city, but out in the wilds of Norway. Imagine popping over in your boat and tying up outside… maybe one day!
And finally, onto the dessert. Two very different choices here: a rhubarb crumble, sweet and piquant, and a tiramisu, bittersweet coffee taste with a sweet, creamy finish.
We rounded off the meal, me with a cafe latte and John with the hot chocolate at the top of the page. It was a perfect end to a fantastic meal. I think our enthusiasm must have been noted because the chef came out at the end to talk to us. As John pointed out afterwards, you know when you’ve had a great meal when you run out of ways to tell the waitress how much you loved it all.
And a final touch, when we were in Roasters last Sunday, they told us they were expecting a visit from Mattilsynet and hoping to earn the smiley face that means the inspectors found the hygiene was good. It seems they must have passed as I saw this on the way out.
Here is this evening’s menu, for Norwegian speakers. For any non-Norwegian vegans reading, the starter was cauliflower soup with fried almonds, raisins and mint oil, and the main course, butternut squash risotto with porcini mushrooms.
Edit to add a photo of the risotto from a week later. Also delicious!
Something caught my eye as Thomas drove into Stonglandseidet on Friday. On the front of an unassuming building, a sign: Senja Roasters. It seemed an unusual name for somewhere so far out into the countryside. Cafe culture hasn’t reached rural Norway to the same extent it has reached the UK. I have driven round the northern end of Senja before and thought that a coffee shop would have turned a pleasant drive into a proper day out. And so I tucked away the information in my head to check out later. It was more a stir of curiosity than a white hot hope.
I checked it out when I got home and my interest grew. Senja Roasters, I discovered was indeed a café with, as I had hoped, a special interest in coffee. Not only that, it had a real foodie vibe. Local Arctic ingredients – tick! Complementary use of imported food – tick! Vegetarian? Vegan? Yes to both. There it was, a truly international eating experience, tucked away on an island in a remote part of Norway.
The menu sounded great. The brunches or Frunches (the Norwegian word for breakfast being frokost) included the delicious sounding Challah Toast – “French toast made out of challah bread or brioche, brunost and mascarpone whipped cream, honey, roasted pears, pumpkin seeds and almonds.” and Banger Fritters – “Beetroot and ginger, smoked carrots, and crispy tofu.“
The dinner menu sounded good too. Butternut soup with fried butternut and crispy cabbage, poached halibut with cherry tomatoes, sugar buttons and saffron sauce, homemade rhubarb crumble.
And so this morning, I asked John if he would like to come out on an exploratory mission with me. Good as thecafé sounded, there was a chance it wouldn’t live up to expectations. I also wondered about price. The website didn’t say and it seemed liked the kind of upmarket place that would charge upmarket prices in a city in the UK. How expensive would the same experience be out on Senja?
It was a fair drive from home, so by the time we arrived, it was definitely approaching lunchtime. First impressions were good. Though it was empty, the surroundings were very pleasant: a mixture of clean blue walls and rustic wood that fitted well with the menu.
We had intended to drink coffee, check out the prices, and come back another day. We ordered coffees – a cappuccino for John and a latte for me. The waitress (I think she was Daniela, though I forgot to ask) brought our coffees very promptly. I explained we probably wouldn’t be eating today, but would like to see the menu. She brought them – printed on ordinary A4 paper – another good sign. A pre-printed menu doesn’t always indicate poor food, but if the chef is using local ingredients, which can vary from day to day, it’s much more likely the menu will vary as well.
To my pleasure, the prices didn’t seem any higher than they would have been in London. For Norway, they were normal. The coffee was wonderful too: well rounded and smooth, with no trace of bitterness. Within a couple of seconds, all my careful plans were abandoned. I asked John whether he would like to share the cheese platter, and he agreed he would.
The website had listed the team behind Senja Roasters as being from Spain, Finland, Germany, Russia, Australia and France, so I was hoping for a truly international selection and I was not disappointed. There was Manchego Ezequiel, imported directly from Spain, Chevre goats cheese, Norwegian Brie from Dovre Ysteri and Gorgonzola pikante defendi.
It was accompanied by homemade blueberry and onion jam and quince marmalade. There were warm, crusty bread rolls, salt biscuits and Norwegian flatbreads. It was a wonderful combination.
I asked Daniela a little about how long Roasters had been open. To my amazement, she told me that it had only opened last week. Like us, the team had felt that Senja was rather short on coffee shops, and rather than regretting, as I had done, they had decided to do something about it. Amazing to think that if Thomas and I had passed by only a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have made such a wonderful discovery.
As it is, we will definitely be going back. Today’s menu sounded delicious, and Daniela said it would continue until the end of this week. After that, there will be summer menus. I hope that the tourists, who flock to Senja in the summer, will discover Roasters. It is definitely worth a visit.
I always start the morning with a coffee. I make it, then put on my coat and take Triar outside, warming my hands on the mug while Triar has his first sniff around the garden. Whatever the weather, it always feels like a good start to the day.
It’s not been the most cheerful of weeks. There are riots and insurrection in the US, and round the world COVID19 is on the rise. Looking at previous pandemics, it seems common that when winter returns and the second wave rises, it’s often worse than the first and this one is following that pattern. Cases here are relatively low, but we are locked down along with the rest of Norway and I have spent the past week (and will be spending next week) working from home.
The weather has turned colder again, though there’s still no snow. Locals tell me this is almost unheard of and I have been watching with bemusement as my social media feeds have filled up with lovely wintery pictures from the UK. I’ve found myself having a wry chuckle or two because back in October when I wrote about having a white Halloween, I had it in the back of my mind that I might eventually bore people with my snow pictures.
It was also my birthday this week, and knowing my love of coffee (and my enjoyment of Harry Potter) my children bought me a mug.
I also received a latte glass from Charlie from Steam, one of my favourite coffee shops down in the south of Norway. One of the things I miss most in these pandemic days is going out to cafés. They are still open here and the risk isn’t as high as it would be in the UK, but the easy life we had before, when going out was a straighforward pleasure, seem a long way away. So now, thanks to Charlie, I can have the echo of those days with a homemade latte.
Having started the day in the garden, I often end it there too. At the moment, it is dark at both ends of the day, but there are compensations. The picture at the top was from Thursday evening. Odd the things people see. I thought it looked a little like flames licking across the sky, but I posted it on Twitter and many people commented that there was a goddess looking down at me. The aurora last night was less spectacular, but still there, like searchlights across the sky.
And so, the polar night is ending. On Tuesday the sun will rise for the first time in 2021. I am hoping for clear skies and looking forward to longer days. And whatever happens, hopefully I’ll be able to share it with you.
Charlie and I have been fortunate to travel to Italy a number of times. On this occasion, we visited Genoa in the Liguria region.
We stayed on the converted fourth floor of an Italian Palazzo. We approached by taxi, which was a hair-raising experience through the tiny streets.
The ancient city of Genoa still hosts a thriving port and the narrow streets of the old town are filled with life. Gilded churches abound. Prostitutes sit in doorways in the half-light. Threading our way through the maze of cobbled streets, we emerged from dim ravines into sunlit piazze.
We began to ascend, through wider streets, rising steeply up towards the mountains that embrace the city. Up and up, unable to see past the lofty buildings that scaled the hillside.
Then we emerged to wonderful views of the city and the sea beyond.
A night’s sleep and then we set off to explore some more.
At street level, the city is intense, occasionally to the point of seeming almost oppressive. Not so bad in the April sunshine, I found myself wondering how it would feel in the depths of January.
But as ever, in Italy, food was not far from our thoughts.
On the last day, we took the funicular railway up into the hills and walked back down.
And then we were back down into those narrow streets again.