Saturday, October 24, 2015

Things I Ate in Norway: Ålesund and Geirangerfjord

We had three dinners in Ålesund, which is a little ironic since it was the smallest town we visited. But that's the way the itinerary worked out.

Our first night, we went to XL Diner, which specializes in Bacalao--cod of various forms being one of Norway's national dishes. Of course, this place specializes in salted dried cod, but then goes out of its way to prepare it in non-Norwegian ways. Because other countries do a better job of making it palatable and Norwegians are no fools?

Anyway, XL Diner has glorious views--Ålesund is all about the ocean. We looked out at islands and fjord and a great sunset as we enjoyed a batch of terrific mussels and our Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish-style bacalao. Not sure I'd go back for more, but it was interesting, and you can't beat the setting.

One last XL note, they had whale carpaccio on the menu, too, but the family agreed that we were just fine not tasting whale this trip.

The second night we went very low-key; we'd had a very long day trip by bus, boat, bus, boat, bus, and bus (if I remember my count correctly) to see some amazing fjord scenery.  So rather than make a reservation we rolled the dice and went to a place called Lyst on the pedestrianized art nouveau street, Kongens gate. Fried appetizers and salads all around and we were very content. I don't have pictures, but trust me, they make a tasty and pretty salad.

And for our third dinner we went to Anno, which was fancy, though we ate pretty lightly, so I can't give it as full a review as I might've liked to.

On the aforementioned Geirangerfjord adventure, we stopped in Hellesylt for a while before the ferry departure. I ducked into the small and unprepossessing Ocal's Pizzabar to get a coffee (and so that we could use the restroom without shame). The proprietor was super nice and surprisingly persuasive about the desirability of having a piece of apple cake.  And, hey, who can say no to apple cake in an insanely beautiful setting?

After the ferry ride up Geirangerfjord (which, really, if you get to go to Norway, do this trip.  Amazing scenery!) we ended up in Geiranger, which is sadly super touristy. But we found a place called Naustkroa, with a sign out front saying "Open Terrasse by the fjord!" And a minimum of exploring revealed that in fact the place DID have a little terrace right on the fjord, with a table exactly right for mom, J., and me. So we had pizza in a spectacular setting. One was pretty normal, veggie, but the other involved salmon and potatoes.  Fun!  Really, almost any food in that setting would have been great--it was just wonderful to sit out with a nosh and a beer and enjoy the scenery.
 And our last lunch, back in Ålesund, was a great find. We tried 2-3 different places, and struck out repeatedly, before J. mentioned seeing a cafe called Invit on Apotekegata, which I recalled from Tripadvisor and other places. It's part super-upscale design boutique, part espresso bar/cafe that serves food, too. And, while not very Norwegian (I think this is a trend with our Norway dining), this place also featured a hidden back...well, barge, really, moored at the end of the narrow waterway that divides the town. The food was of the fresh-and-organic variety, and they served wine. All very excellent! On the photo below, Invit's barge is on the water (duh) left of the red building, with the umbrellas on it.

And finally, before I wrap this long post, I have to say a word about the best coffee I had in Ålesund, which was at Raccoon Coffee, again on Kongens Gate. Got a very fine flat white, and a chocolate-covered almond meringue pastry called a Sarah Bernhardt. And a beluga whale sighting, to boot!