New Nordic food movement

How to eat like a Scandinavian

"One of the things about the New Nordic food movement that I like is that it's in line with what most cooks really want to do," says Fitzgerald, "which is to work with fresh ingredients and clean flavors. I'm trying to take that idea of traditional food and flavor pairings and make nice, simple, clean food."

Ingebretsen's

WHILE THE NEW NORDIC MOVEMENT flows through menus at the Bachelor Farmer, Heartland, and Café Fika, Ingebretsen's looks pretty much as it did in 1921 when Norwegian immigrant "Bud" Ingebretsen moved his meat market and butcher shop from the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to East Lake Street, then the heart of the Norwegian community and strategically located on a streetcar line.

"Things haven't changed much," says Steve Dahl, whose father Warren joined Bud Jr. as a partner. Dahl manages the meat market today while Julie Ingebretsen, granddaughter of the founder, runs the Scandinavian gift shop on the opposite side of the store.

Soile Anderson's Finnish Bistro in St. Anthony Park serves hearty pasties, but also delectable pastries
Bre McGee
Soile Anderson's Finnish Bistro in St. Anthony Park serves hearty pasties, but also delectable pastries
Taste of Scandinavia, owned by Finnish-Swede Tiina Nordlie, is known for its Nordic flag-bearing kransekage and wedding cakes
photo by City Pages
Taste of Scandinavia, owned by Finnish-Swede Tiina Nordlie, is known for its Nordic flag-bearing kransekage and wedding cakes

The biggest changes at Ingebretsen's may have been made in the early '70s, when Warren imported a pølsemaker (meat maker) from the old country and expanded the menu to include even more Scandinavian recipes. Today, Steve says that 75 percent of what's on the shelves come directly from Norway, Sweden, or Denmark.

The meat market and deli stock julskinkas (a Christmas ham) for Swedes, lutefisk for Norwegians, and blood sausage for those barbarian Danes. Ingebretsen's smokes its own hams, bacon, frankfurters, and wieners, as well as offering a variety of Scandinavian cheeses, eight different kinds of herring, and delicacies such as pigs' feet.

For those with less adventurous palates, the Swedish meatball mix makes an excellent hamburger, and the Swedish sausage of beef, potato, and onions is a top seller.

"We're still here because we make pretty much everything ourselves," says Dahl. "You can't get this stuff anyplace else. We're unique in that sense."

Scandinavians on visits to the Twin Cities often express amazement at how many traditional foods they can find here. Sometimes they even find candies or other treats so traditional that they are no longer readily available back home.

Do Minnesotans not intimately connected to their Viking culinary ancestry ever have trouble warming up to herring and pigs feet?

Yes and no, says Dahl. "Lutefisk is something you either like or don't like: There's no in between there."

To expand the ranks of the faithful, Ingebretsen's offers lutefisk tastings on the second to the last Saturday in October.

"Some who've never had it before actually like it!" Dahl says.

Finnish Bistro

HERE IN THE MIDWEST, the most recognizable Finnish food is the Karelian pasty, a hearty meat or fish pie that became popular with miners in Minnesota's Iron Range. But as in neighboring Sweden, with which the Finns share many of their culinary traditions, foraged fruits and vegetables are also abundant in Finland.

In St. Paul's St. Anthony Park neighborhood, across the street from Micawber's bookstore, Soile Anderson's Finnish Bistro offers dishes that are sweet and savory, light and hearty.

If your day begins with the "Perinteiset" traditional breakfast — a plate filled with smoked salmon lox rolled into a cone, pickled herring, salami cold cuts, eggs, and slices of cucumber, tomato, Swiss cheese, and fresh bread — you'd do well to sit and nibble until 3 p.m. No one will stop you. Then have a spinach scone to help you transition to the Finnish Bistro's delectable pastries, cakes, and sweet crepes. Or if you're a working man on your way to a construction site, nourish yourself with the Finnish Beef Pasty, stuffed with beef tenderloin, carrots, rutabaga, onion, and cucumber dill sauce.

Anderson, who hails from Savonlinna near the Russian border, started her first Twin Cities business, Taste of Scandinavia, in 1982, and opened the Finnish Bistro in 1996. Six years ago she sold Taste of Scandinavia to a fellow Finn, but continues to run the bistro, as well as Deco Catering, which serves private events, weddings, graduations, and holidays.

What does New Nordic mean to her?

"It's a creative take on what you can do: old-style cooking but with good quality," says Anderson. "The Nordic food scene is changing. People think about meatballs and potatoes, which is what the hard-working immigrants ate when they came here, but there's potential for so much more color and diversity."

Taste of Scandinavia

HAVE YOU HEARD THE JOKE about the Scandinavian cruise ship that marooned on an uninhabited island? Two days later, when the rescuers arrived, they could easily tell the Scandinavians apart: The Danes were all drunk and carousing, the Norwegians were all fighting each other, and the Swedes were standing around waiting to be introduced.

But at Taste of Scandinavia, which boasts suburban locations in Little Canada, North Oaks, and Bloomington, the descendants of those stubborn Vikings get along just fine. Neither the regulars nor the food need any introduction.

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3 comments
Makka
Makka

Minor correction: Syttende Mai (Norway's Constitution Day) is actually May 17th, not May 7th. Thanks!

Finlady
Finlady

Soile - Time flies, it has been 8 years since you sold Taste of Scandinavia!

dkisling
dkisling

I was stationed in Iceland and Norway in 1963,sampled Nordic food from the Arctic Circle to Oslo,both traditional and European.After a degree in Scandinavian Studies from the Uof M I studied at Oslo Univ. from 1973-75. I cooked and ate off the local economy and collected Norwegian/Scandinavian cookbooks."New Nordic" was was normal fare without the hype.

I was long disappointed that Scandinavian cooking was rare fare in local restaurants and I prepared  Scandinavian recipes at home from local ingredients.

I can't wait to try the -places on my forays into Twin Cites from my home in WI.

I would refer readers to the Scandinavian cooking shows on Twin Cities Public Television:New Scandinavian Cooking With Tina Nordstrom,Andreas Viestad creates tantalizing recipes with unusual ingredients against stunning natural backdrops. In several episodes, two guest chefs - Sara La Fountain and Claus Meyer - join Andreas on his culinary adventures through Finland and Denmark.

Skaal paa Fiske!

 
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