5 Bites of the NORTH Festival

Credit: Kate Kolenda

Chef Bart Vandaele of Belga Café and B Too in Washington, D.C. shows off his ingenious salmon belly push pop.

On Sunday, September 14, The Brooklyn Brewery hosted the Norwegian Seafood Council’s NORTH Festival, a gathering of chefs and vendors showcasing the food and flavors of Scandinavia. The Daily Meal was in attendance to sample five different bites of the chefs’ creations and learn more about Nordic food beyond René Redzepi and his top-ranked, world-famous restaurant, Noma.

Upon entering the hall in the brewery, we made a beeline for Chef Bart Vandaele of Belga Café and B Too in Washington, D.C. The warm and convivial chef was obviously having a blast interacting with the crowd as he detailed the beautiful dish he had made for the event: bite-sized pieces of raw, kelp-marinated Norwegian salmon belly lay atop a layer of thick and tangy yogurt with oyster sauce, all garnished by a sweet and juicy blackberry. The dish was cleverly plated, in that no plate was involved – Vandaele and his team loaded them into clear push-pop-like apparatuses, which made the snack fun and, most importantly when considering the venue, portable.

Luckily for us, chef Greg Hozinsky of The Strand House in Manhattan Beach, California was at the next table over. He and his team were quickly dispensing their dish: a halibut tataki with yuzu, green apple gelée, green grapes, and celery espuma. The textures of the gelée and pieces of grapes worked gently over the palate and lent a pleasingly sweet taste to the dish as a whole. Hozinsky also presented his food in a playful manner, using small bamboo boats as plates, which allowed attendees to move about while enjoying his carefully prepared fare.

Next came the offering from vRÅ, a restaurant in Göteborg, Sweden. Executive chef Frida Ronge was on hand to explain that all of their main ingredients are sourced from Sweden or the North Sea, which are then treated using both Swedish and Japanese culinary techniques, as both are cuisines are dominated by seafood. To perfectly demonstrate this, they served cured salmon on Swedish hard bread with mustard, miso, soy sauce, pickled onion, dill, and seaweed. The salmon was a dream and the whole snack was delicate and light; we had to tear ourselves away before we devoured all they had.

Next came R/DK, also known as Revolving Dansk, which is a company that makes and serves a Copenhagen street dog called Pølse. Sera Høedholt explained that she and her husband, Martin, invented the recipe in their kitchen when Martin, originally from Denmark, wanted to recreate a street food favorite from his home country. The result is an approximately four-inch sausage served on a golden bun with ketchup, mustard, remoulade, chopped raw onion, fried onions, and sweet pickles. As much as we love seafood, the hand-sized treat was a welcome respite from the fish we had been inundated with, and was smoky, juicy, and extremely satisfying; especially when paired with a cold beer.

Finally, there was Restaurant Hafnia from the Faroe Islands in Denmark, the northernmost establishment in attendance. The Faroe Islands are situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, and to drive home how much they rely on the gifts of the sea, the team from Hafnia served tiny sweet scallops with beer-battered fried seaweed, rutabaga, and skyr, an Icelandic yogurt. The gentle texture of the scallops was beautifully complemented by the satisfying crunch of the battered seaweed, which in turn was smoothed by the yogurt, all of which entertained the mouth and amused the taste buds.


Kate Kolenda is the Restaurant/City Guide Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @BeefWerky and @theconversant.