Awesomeness in Oslo
We consider Sunday to be "Ourday." We always try to enjoy Sunday, partaking in activities aimed at our personal interests. On our bus ride back to Oslo, we google farmers markets and recommended artisan food places in the city. We locate two spots that seem right up our alley; Mathallen Hall and "immigrant markets". We learn that in Scandinavia, an "immigrant market" is a term used to describe an international grocery store. Not only do these grocery stores have a plethora of international products and fresh produce, but they also have normal prices (normal to us means cheap for the Norwegians). To give you an idea of the cost of living in Norway;
a cup of coffee will cost you ~ $6.00 to $8.00 USD,
a glass of beer will cost you ~ $10.00 to $12.00 USD,
a large pizza for a family of four will cost you ~ $45.00 USD,
and a ham or turkey sandwich will cost you ~ $15.00 USD.
In the mid 1960's Norway discovered large reserves of petroleum and natural gas off of it's coast on the North Sea. This created vast economic prosperity, propelling Norway to be one of the wealthiest countries in the World. As a Norweigan citizen or laborer, you can afford these seemingly astronomical prices for everyday consumer items because your wages are proportionate to the cost of living; for example, a waitress can earn $28.00 an hour. This evens everything out for someone who is living and working in Norway, but for those of us who are just visiting, it is pretty daunting!
Back to our story! We arrive in Oslo at 3 PM and hope that Mathallen Hall and the immigrant markets are still open (most establishments in Norway are closed or close early on Sundays). We leave our backpacks in lockers at the bus station and quickly reach the Oslo Opera House. We then walk to the immigrant markets near the bus station on Dalehugen Gate street on the border of the Tøyen/Gamle Oslo neighborhoods. After criss-crossing through the city's streets, we start to see people congregating in front of storefronts lined with boxes of fruits and vegetables all speaking in fast Arabic dialogues. The first store we enter smells like the Arabic markets near Boston and brings Leila back home. It was odd to be in a different country, such as Norway and experience the familiar smell of Arabic spices.
We aim to arrive at Grünerløkka Bakeri by 4:00 in the afternoon. We chose to visit Grünerløkka Bakeri, because we read that they bake fresh bread daily from locally sourced flour. As we cross the Akerselva River, we are attracted to a very pleasant area that is formed by an arch between two restaurants. We venture through the archway into the open triangular-shaped piazza and are greeted by a young guy smoking a cigarette. With a strong British accent he introduces himself as Coby and ask us what we are looking for. We introduce ourselves as Leila and Anthony, The Recipe Hunters, and tell him that we are hunting for traditional recipes in Norway. Coby loves the idea of our journey and invites us into Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri (Schous Microbrewery) to try some of their freshly brewed beers…we certainly have come to the right piazza! We learn about the brew master process and taste some beers. All the beers have creative names invented by Luca, the brew master, like "Yeastus Christ Super Sour," Ryan and "The Beasterbunny," and "Hello my name is Luca." My favorite is "James Blonde," a Belgian Wheat Beer. Coby is happy to connect us with Luca so that we could witness Luca’s passion. Right as we thank Coby and head our separate ways, a light bulb goes on and Coby insists that we follow him to Trattoria Popolare to meet Mats, the Norwegian sous chef who is known for his love of cooking.
After retracing our steps through the archway, we walk past an outside sunlit dining area filled with tables of guests and enter the restaurant. Behind the transparent glass that provides full view of the kitchen, is a young blond chef quickly preparing spaghetti marinara…it smells like my mom's kitchen. Coby knocks on the glass, getting the chef's attention and then introduces us to Mats, the sous chef. Mats tastes the finished plate of spaghetti in front of him, calls the waiter, and invites us to a table to talk. We tell him about our adventures and our search for traditional Norwegian recipes. Mats is enthusiastic to invite us back to the restaurant to show us his grandmother's Raspeball Recipe. Our First traditional Norwegian recipe is planned! Thank you Coby!
We now rush to Grünerløkka Bakeri to get there before 5 PM close…thankfully it is only one minute away. We start to take pictures as we wait for the female employee to finish up with some customers. After finishing up with the last customer, the clerk immediately begins to explain that all of the baked goods in here are "baked with love!" We tell her about our journey and she acts with the same enthusiasm as Coby. She gives us the baker’s contact information and tells us that he bakes traditional Norwegian bread and that she would be happy to talk to him as well!! How good it feels when your expectations are not only met but exceeded. A key lesson we've learned about traveling: manage ALL of your expectations. Hope for the best and expect the worse!
Next we head to Mathallen Hall and make it just as they are closing. Although we are not able to try any of their awesome assortment of artisan foods, cheese, fish, and sandwiches, we definitely recommend the spot to any foodie traveling through Oslo. Off we go, back to the immigrant markets to make our weekly grocery purchases of fresh produce and buy some true arabic kebabs! As we wait for the bus, we finally sit down, enjoy some kebabs, and reflect about the excitement of the day. An ambiguous day turned into such a delight. Staying in Norway is the perfect plan!