Southern California’s winter storms have come and gone, the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok (spoiler alert) have achieved full vengeance on Vikings & the great California drought has been (mostly) drowned out. With the winter comes the hearth; with the hearth comes the flame; with the flame comes epic stories and legends – the exploits of Pancho Villa, the Mongolian conquest, and the tales of viking raiders.
The epic stories of Ragnar Lothbrook and Nordic history has always peaked my interest – thus I’ve always had a keen adventurous interest in sampling the traditional foods of the regions from whence they came – including the fermented food that the vikings ate.
San Pedro based Brouwerij West, (recently named LA Weekly’s “Best New Brewery” for 2016) hosted their first annual Norwegian dinner earlier this winter with Primal Alchemy. The dinner included a traditional lutefisk (description below), lefse (a Norwegian unleavened bread), rømmegraut (a sour cream porridge), and assorted accompanying native Scandinavian fare: meatballs, lingonberry sauce, and boiled potatoes.
Brouwerij West Founder| Brewmaster & 4th Generation Norwegian American Brian Mercer + Multitalanted Tasting Room Manager Andi Hakim
Lutefisk is fermented dried cod that is been soaked in a lye solution for several days – then rehydrated. During long winter months viking communities would live off lutefisk, unleavened break and ale. Lutefisk is rinsed with cold water to remove the leftover lye (eating lye is a bad idea), boiled or baked, and then served with clarified butter, salt, and pepper.
At first bite, my mind went one odd direction: fish jello. The fermented fish was a bit gelatinous due aging – but was much more mild than one would expect, with a flavor that could almost be described as the subtle essence of a fish. Dress it up in the traditional toppings – plus a full helping of warm bacon fat – this tasted more like sushi than like a fermented food. It’s the opposite end of the sushi life cycle, in a sense. Pop Fuji Pilsner washed away the fattiness attributed by the gelatinous lutefisk and bacon fat (and, of course, butter).
Maybe you’re not a fan of lutefisk – maybe not even the traditionally dressed, traditionally dancing – well, traditionally traditional – Scandinavian dancers could convince you to just have a bite (or would that be a bjëit?). Well, you’re not left out – as long as you could eat meatballs, you could feast. Top ‘em with butter and bacon fat; salt ‘em up; eat ‘em by the spoonful; or just roll them up in the wonderful lefse and eat it like a burrito – maybe not traditional, but definitely yummy.
Oh, and then there’s dessert.
Luxurious. Silky. Smooth. This delicious buttery porridge tickled with the slight tang of sour cream, but less savory – and more sweet. Topped generously with cinnamon sugar this decadent Norwegian fluffy porridge ended the dinner on a sweet note – like a liquid churro.