The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Bergen, Day 4: Buns, Lamb Ribs, and Meeting the Parents

Let's go back....five months. I was in Norway. I'm still writing about it. Refresh your memory with day 1, day 2, and day 3.

Clear skies
Good morn—I mean, afternoon.

Taking photos doesn't just allow me to (sort of) visually remember events that happened, uh, five months ago, but can also tell me the exact time the fading memory happened. The above photo (the view from Kåre's apartment) was taken at 1:23 p.m. on February 15. This means my slovenly self probably woke up some time after 1 p.m. Kåre and I were supposed to be at his parents' house, about a 30-minutes drive away, around 4 p.m. for a home cooked dinner. And thus explains why not a whole lot happened in between.

But "not a whole lot" is still more than nothing! Something, even. And something we did.

Baker Brun School bun caramel and chocolate buns
Baker Brun, purveyor of buns and buns.

We started our day by pumping up our bodies full of sugary buns from Baker Brun, a Bergen-based bakery chain that makes loads of bread and...sugary buns. Here you can buy favorite Weegie pastries like skolebolle (school buns) filled with custard and topped with dried coconut-covered frosting, or karamell bolle (caramel buns) topped with caramel frosting and crushed almonds, or princesse bolle (princess buns) with custard and raisins rolled into the cinnamon and cardamom-flavored dough and drizzled with icing (like a variation on the French pain aux raisins). We got one of each.

School bun Mm, caramel bun Frosted bun
School bun, caramel bun, and princess bun.

For some reason I thought three sugar-and-fat-and-carb-filled buns would be an easy conquest for our two stomachs. Of course, they weren't. Because of the sugar-fat-carb thing I just mentioned. Times three. The caramel bun was my favorite; the others were a bit too sweet for my liking, probably more enjoyable if you eat something savory beforehand. But I enjoyed them all.

I think this place is closed A random open space Kindergarten Happiness is homemade Old building Bird tracks Colorful street Red door Dentist
Some things around Bergen.

We strolled around the city center, passing charming houses, a charming kindergarten, a charming guitar shop, a charming dentist's office, charming snow-covered sidewalks dappled with charming footprints (I mean, there may be repulsive bits lurking around Bergen, as it is a reasonably large city, but they just keep shoving all that charming stuff in your face, and I ain't gonna fight it), until the buns ran out...and then we were off to dinner.

I'm not sure if I was supposed to be nervous meeting Kare's parents for the first time, but I wasn't. From the message his mom, Aslaug, had sent me on Facebook before my trip, it was easy to tell that she and her husband Arne were pretty much the nicest people ever, which makes sense since they raised one of the nicest sons ever. THE CHARMING-NESS CONTINUES.

lamb ribs
Lamb ribs, boiled potatoes, and mashed swedes.

For dinner, Aslaug cooked a traditional western Norwegian Christmas meal (but also popular in other parts of Norway) of pinnekjøtt ("stick meat")—cured lamb ribs that are brined for weeks, then hung to dry, and sometimes smoked—with boiled potatoes and mashed rutabaga. If you like well salted, rich, adequately tender meat (I do), you'll like pinnekjøtt (and I did). The pinnekjøtt we ate was just salted, not smoked.

Aslaug prepares the ribs by first soaking them in a pan of water for 24 hours (you can do it for a shorter time, but the longer the soak, the more tender it'll be). After soaking, she pours out the water, then steams the stacks of ribs on a grill grate in a pan of water (adding more water as needed) for three hours, until the meat starts to separate from the bone. Traditionally the ribs are steamed over birch sticks though, hence the name "stick meat." (See more photos of the cooking process at My Little Norway.)

Mashed swedes (rutagbaga) potatoes sauerkraut
Sides: Mashed swedes, boiled potatoes, and sauerkraut.

Pinnekjøtt is traditionally served with boiled potatoes, sauerkraut, lingonberry jam, and mashed rutabaga/swedes. To make the mashed rutabaga—3 to 4 rutabaga to feed four people—cut the rutabaga in half, then into slices, and then peel the skin off. Cut into cubes and cook them in a pan of water until tender. When done, strain out the cubes and reserve the water. Mash the rutabaga, then add 3 to 4 tablespoons of butter (I'd go with four, of course) and sprinkle 3 to 4 tablespoons of flour (you can leave out the flour for stronger flavor; just add less liquid). Stir well, adding some of the rutabaga water until you get the right texture. (I guess you have to know what that texture is to do it though. Um. You know. Mashed texture. You can do it.) Salt and pepper to taste. You can add pinnekjøtt-cooking water for more flavor if you want. (Thanks to Aslaug and Kåre for the instructions!)

Rice pudding

For dessert we had rice pudding with raspberry sauce and ice cream cake. Riskrem, Norwegian rice pudding, is a bit different from the American version, in that they add whipped cream to rice porridge, resulting in a lighter pudding that isn't as rice-dense or as sweet (although I guess that's what the sauce is for). It's not bad, but I must admit I prefer the standard Kozy Shack version.

ice cream cake
Ice cream in cake form!

The horseshoe-shaped ice cream cake, on the other hand, was nicer than American ones I've had, featuring some almond brittle and caramel stuff in the ice cream. I was too stuffed to eat much of it, but little did I know...

Swedish almond cake?

...THERE WAS MORE DESSERT, and it was better and richer than before: suksessterte ("success tart"?), a Swedish almond cake made with a base of egg whites, sugar, and coarsely ground almond (sounds like a French macaron, but with lots more almond) and topped with a custardy frosting made of egg yolks, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and butter. Maybe I'll try to make one before I visit Norway again. ...Ok, probably not. But I'm sort of compelled! Because it was damn good.

Cinnamon buns
Cinnamon buns!

...AND THEN THERE WAS MORE DESSERT, in the form of homemade skillingsboller, cinnamon buns. I already did my time writing a Norwegian cinnamon bun primer (plus recipe) on Serious Eats, so you should just go read that. Summary: Norwegian cinnamon buns have a hit of cardamom in them, as many Scandinavian baked goods tend to have. They are tasty. You should eat 'em.

Kåre, plus dad and mom.

We had a nice night of eating desserts and chatting, which is how most nights should be. It had been a long time since I had been in such a...homey home. The sort of home where the walls are lined with family photos, like this gem:

Family portrait

Mom, Dad, Kåre, and his sister, Anne-Kristin, I'm guessing in the late '80s or early '90s. Oh god oh god it's adorable. I've never had a family portrait quite like this. I mean, we had family portraits, but not any kind that demanded special lighting and being printed on canvas.

Group photo
Our photo!

Of course, we needed a group shot too. I'm obviously bad at this—I mean, remember that group shot from Blue Hill featuring three attractive, well composed people, and one person named Robyn? (Oh, my name is Robyn. Hi.) And here I am in the photo above, doing something funny with my leg. I don't know why. I forgot everything I learned at the finishing school I never went to.

If there was some sort of girlfriend test, I'm pretty sure I passed with flying, blazingly vibrant colors, preferably the ones trailing behind an eternally buoyant Nyan cat. But there was no test, so it was just a fun, chill night full of good food and conversation.


kim / July 17, 2011 6:50 AM

Awww...what a lovely family gathering! I could see your family in the family photo of theirs. :) Get your Norwegian language textbook a cranky, you know, just to impress your future in-laws, hehe.

I Live in a Frying Pan / July 17, 2011 7:57 AM

This is so adorable, I'd have been a nerve wreck if I were you! That's awesome that they had like a bazillion rounds of dessert...that custardy frosted cake looks like its worth a million dollars. or a million bites.

And the BUNS! I LOVE BUNS OR ANYTHING SOFT AND CARBY! I'd have bet on the caramel one too...or maybe that custard one. Great, now look what you've done, I need to go get me a bun now.

Meister / July 17, 2011 10:50 AM

Man, this post is awesome -- not only because it's full of DELICIOUS TREATS OMG, but also because you & your squeeze are the damned cutest ever.

I'm so glad meeting the parents went well (nerve-wracking!), but then again, I can't imagine you not just charming the (Norwegian) pants off of anybody.

roboppy / July 17, 2011 10:16 PM

Kim: I bought a "How to Speak Norwegian"-ish book way back in 2004, before I thought I'd ever even visit Norway...and...uh, I obviously didn't keep up with it since I know pretty much nothing now. Damn. To make things more confusing, Bergen has its own dialect. WILL I EVER FIT IN [SOB]?

I Live in a Frying Pan: No need to be nervous around such super nice people! And SOFT AND CARBY IS SO GOOD, YES. (I think a good bakery name would be "SOFT AND CARBY.") Especially when there's custard involved.

Meister: :) Thanks! All we need is a pile of kittens for TRUE OPTIMUM CUTE. Then we could charm off everyone pants.

Lil / July 18, 2011 1:28 PM

Too cute to be true! I think your leg thing is the up-the-leg-scrunch-because-we-are-snuggling movement. Classic. =P
P.S. I hope your children have multiple family portraits in their future, especially canvas ones!

Marsha Calhoun / July 18, 2011 1:36 PM

The buns, the dinner, the desserts, the family, the photos - I am charmed (and I needed charming this morning) - but I'll keep my pants on, regardless (you'll thank me).

Kevin / July 18, 2011 2:01 PM

I just tried some awesome cardamom buns and cinnamon buns from a Swedish bakery this weekend, so those Scandinavian countries sure do know how to whip up some great buns.

And every time I hear about someone "meeting the parents," I'm slightly disappointed when they aren't asked about what can/cannot be milked haha

Nicholas / July 19, 2011 7:55 AM

haha, "mashed swedes." I guess Norwegian people really hate people from Sweden?

jokes! :( I'm so sorry for that.

Rodzilla / July 20, 2011 2:06 AM

I hope Aslaug doesn't read what you said about her pudding :p I'm all about the density myself - like that almond cake, damn it looks thick.

Rodzilla / July 20, 2011 2:23 AM

I hope Aslaug doesn't read what you said about her pudding :p I'm all about the density myself - like that almond cake, damn it looks thick.

Mikey / July 21, 2011 4:41 PM

Mashed Swedes? Do the Norwegians hate their neighbours so much that they mash them and eat them?

roboppy / July 21, 2011 6:35 PM

Serena: Thanks!

Lil: HAHA, ahhh snuggly...yes perhaps that was it. :)

EVERY KID WILL HAVE A CANVAS PORTRAIT!! In a shiny gold frame. With special lighting.

Marsha: Glad I could charm! With pants on!

Kevin: The language barrier may make it difficult to talk about milking...or would make that conversation BETTER.

Nick and Mikey: SAME JOKE (almost), hehe.

Rodzilla: The almond cake was awesome! Not super dense, but it was..riiich.

Rosebud: Aw, thanks. :D I am honored to be compared to that video. That's a pretty damn cute video.

Rosebud / July 25, 2011 11:48 AM

My boyfriend just accused me of wanting to post the video ( at this point he's um, seen it, um, a thousand times, wait what?) Seriously though you are not only lovely but funny in a refreshing way. I still think you should do a book! I'd buy (especially if there was a manatee on the cover, but yes, even if there wasn't...)

roboppy / July 29, 2011 2:17 AM

Rosebud: I hope I one day get the discipline to write a book. Also, a more interesting life. Those things combined = BOOK DEAAAL YEAAAHHH. (Seriously though, I am so undisciplined. Damn internet, it is just so interesting and makes me not want to do any work.)

Norlinda / August 8, 2011 6:47 PM

I totally missed the entire Robyn-<3-Kare love story (yeah I haven't been reading this blog as diligently as I should). You guys are so cute.

I really should check out if there's a Norwegian bakery in Vancouver, BC.

robin / August 9, 2011 6:14 AM

Just found your site, enjoyed reading about the trip. Now is Rosebud the same girl that was on TV? I know thats a strange question but I have not heard of that name too often.

roboppy / August 17, 2011 12:22 AM

Norlinda: It's never too late to catch up! (Unless I'm dead. In which :) And I don't blame ya for not reading super diligently, considering I don't update it diligently...faaaail.

robin: Thanks for reading! I don't know about Rosebud though.

irridium / September 24, 2011 6:14 AM

looking at the Mashed Swede recipe, it contains flour that is somehow uncooked in the mix. Is this correct? Here in England, we have mashed carrot and swede as a side to our traditional Sunday Roast Meat dinners.

One day, I'll get round and make the lamb rib dish, but as with all time-consuming recipes, i have to make the time!

lovely and v. informative blog, thank you!

roboppy / September 30, 2011 1:30 AM

jesika: Three dessert meals are some of the best kinds of meals!

irridium: Thanks for reading! Kåre's recipe includes the flour bit, but admittedly I didn't find any recipes that said to use flour. Hmmmm. Mashed carrot and swede sounds good! I'd like to try that.

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