collaboration: friends of lysverket 5… (qui)

Midnight in Bergen.
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If the clouds are just so, and if you happen to look at the right time – just before midnight in a mid-calendar month – the skies over Bergen, Norway will appear as if they’re on fire.

Summer had arrived on the northern brow of the world, and the sun had become restless, lingering well past bedtime.

But I wasn’t in bed.  At one in the morning, I was standing on the cobblestone sidewalk under the flicker of florescence wiping sauce from my mouth and trading hot dogs with friends. This was becoming a familiar street scene on my visits to Bergen.


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Paul Qui

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This was my third trip to Norway this year, and my sixth since I first met Christopher Haatuft in March of 2014.  Since that first meeting, Haatuft and his team at his restaurant Lysverket have created a series of collaborative dinners, of which I have been a lucky partner and participant.

My latest visit, in early June, marked our fifth Friends of Lysverket dinner, featuring guest chef Paul Qui (he of multiple restaurants in Austin, Texas; and soon, in Miami, Florida); British concert violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved; the design firm Odd Standard (from Stavanger, Norway); and bartender James Grieg (who is currently working at Bar Babylon in Oslo, Norway).

This dinner coincided with the Festspillene i Bergen – an annual classical music festival that brings world-class musicians and tens of thousands of connoisseurs from all over the world to the city over a two-week period.  It’s Bergen’s largest event.

So, since the city was saturated with classical musicians and classical music that weekend, Haatuft incorporate all of it thematically into this fifth dinner.

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Lysøen

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On the Sunday before the Friends of Lysverket dinner (which always takes place on a Monday), the staff of Lysverket, the guest chef, and I take a field trip.

This time, Haatuft enlisted the help of Knut Magnus Persson, a diver who has been a part of previous Friends of Lysverket dinners (I went SCUBA diving for scallops with him on my trip in March), and Knut Magnus’s brother, Rune Persson.  The brothers Persson picked us up from the docks of Bergen’s harbor in a beautiful sailboat, and we headed south into the crisp, blue Norwegian waters.

After a couple of hours of navigating through the splintered land that lies shattered along the North Sea coast of western Norway, we arrived at a heavily wooded island known as Lysøen.  Rising proudly from the greenery, fully visible from the water as we rounded the bend, was a peculiar-looking Victorian house with an onion dome.  This was the house that Norwegian violinist Ole Bull had built for his retirement, when he purchased the island in 1872.  This “villa,” which has been donated to the Norwegian Ancient Monuments Conservation, is now maintained and operated as a museum by the Kode, an umbrella organization that oversees a collection of museums in and near Bergen.  (In addition to the museum that houses Lysverket, and Ole Bull’s villa, the Kode also manages the preservation of the homes of two other notable, local musicians, Edvard Grieg and Harald Sæverud).

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Ole Bull's Villa

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Haatuft had arranged a private tour of the house for us.  Leading us to a grand hall on the second floor, with a stunning, vaulted ceiling, two docents in traditional, Norwegian dresses gave us a brief introduction to Bull’s life and career, which was fascinating.  A synopsis from their retelling: “By the age of 8, he was admitted to the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, which had to amend its rules to allow such a young member to join. By age 9, he became first chair violin… As an adult, he was incredibly handsome. He stood 6′ tall, had a 44″ chest, and a 26″ waist. He carried smelling salts with him, to revive the ladies who would faint upon his arrival at the concert hall… In his seventies, he retired to this private island with his second wife, an American. Here, he built this home from monies earned from two performances… And here he died.”

Bull was one of the most well-traveled musicians of his time. And it’s reflected in the eccentric – verging on gaudy (in my opinion) – design of his villa, which incorporates architectural styles from all points on the compass.  A friend to America, a country that he visited often, Bull married an American in his later years, and even lived part-time in Maine, until he returned to this quiet island permanently.  I wished we had more time to explore Lysøen, which offers hiking trails all over its rocky, forested landscape.

On our return to Bergen, we paused for a few, breathtaking sessions on the jet ski that we had towed behind us.  At one point, Qui, and Swedish forager Anton Olausson jetted off with Persson to a small, rocky island to gather vegetation for the dinner the next night.

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Jet ski.

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Back in Bergen, we hit a number of local places that have become a part of my routine when I’m in town.

I took Qui and his business partner, Deana Saukam, who joined us in Norway, to Kaffemisjonen, where I’m often found in the mornings having coffee and pastries. We also checked out Blom, the café’s newer, second location near the opera.

One day, we ducked into Paradis, a delicatessen opened by the Colonialen group, to escape the rain, and to share a couple of sandwiches.

We had lunch at Café Don Pippo, a cubbyhole wine bar popular with the local college students.  I love the ciabatta panini here. The fillings are simple – tomato, mozzarella, and basil; salami if I’m feeling for it – and the crust is always ultra crisp.  It’s great.

And, we spent some time rummaging through the junk food aisles at convenient stores around town.  This is always a rewarding and insightful way of learning about local culture.  In particular, I’ve fallen in love with the Norwegian snack “Kvikk Lunsj” (or “quick lunch”).  The name is slightly misleading – or maybe not, if you consider Kit Kats a meal. That’s basically what they are – chocolate-covered wafers.  But the Norwegian Kvikk Lunsj, in my opinion, is milkier than the American Kit Kat (my assessment is corroborated in this very thorough and informative review of Kvikk Lunsj on Series Eats).  I’ve had cherry blossom and matcha Kit Kats in Japan, and Kvikk Lunsj in Norway, and as interesting as those international versions of Kit Kats are, the American version is still the one I love best (proving, perhaps, that nostalgia and habit record themselves in permanent ink).

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Three Asians

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Since Qui, Saukam, and I all love to shop (in fact, the three of us spent a week in Hong Kong last year on a food and fashion feature), I took them to some of my favorite spots in Bergen.  Our first stop was at T. Michael’s haberdashery at Skostredet 9A.  A British transplant to this rainy corner of Norway, he has established a fantastic line of rainwear under the label Norwegian Rain.  I own one of his couture coats, and now Qui and Saukam do too.

Diagonally across from Kaffemisjonen is Lot 333, a clothing shop run by Marcus Smith Hvidsten, a former hip-hop club owner.  I was first introduced to Hvidsten by Haatuft and his business partner Fredrik Saroea, who both knew Hvidsten through the music world.  Quite a few years ago, Hvidsten came into a couple of original Banksy works of art, which he later sold to finance the opening of Lot333 (they were sold at Sotheby’s as a part of lot 333, hence the store’s name; you will find a more detailed rendering of this story on the Well Dressed Dad). His store carries a collection of popular, international brands, in addition to less mainstream fashion labels, including a couple of local, Bergen-based designers, like T. Michael’s Norwegian Rain, and Kaibosh.

The Kaibosh headquarters and retail shop is actually only a few blocks away from Lot333.  Kaibosh makes eyewear that is both fashionable (some of it too fashionable for me) and very affordable.  You can get a pair of prescription glasses for under $300 (unfortunately, I don’t think they ship to the U.S., yet).  I really like their new line of Biblio glasses.  I bought a black pair of Biblio sunglasses with mirrored lenses, and a pair of prescription Biblios in “dirty olive,” which I can’t wait to pick up on my next trip to Bergen.

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Lappe

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As luck would have it, we caught the monthly market in Bergen on Saturday morning.  Not since the first Friends of Lysverket weekend, when Justin Cogley and I grazed our way through these food stalls along the city’s charming bryggen (wharf), have I had the chance to redeem myself at the pancake stand.  Uninitiated gringos, Cogley and I made a buffet out of the condiments, using our giant pancake as a palette for a rainbow of jams and spreads.  Since then, I have learned that Norwegians are not into sampling.  They prefer commitment.  So, this time, I made sure to limit myself to one jam, and a smear of sour cream.

The woman at the pancake stand was also selling a Norwegian parfait called “tilslørte bondepiker” (or “the veiled peasant girl”), in which cooked apples – apparently, standing in as proxy for the peasant girl – hide coquettishly beneath a cloud of whipped cream and breadcrumbs.

A dairyman that Haatuft knew was selling rømmegrøt, a slimming Norwegian porridge of stewed sour cream capped with a generous layer of clarified butter.  Annette Tveit, Haatuft’s wife, showed me how to do it up right: topping the buttery porridge with cinnamon, sugar, and raisins.  We Americans watched with both awe and horror as the Norwegians lapped up the rich gruel with speed and delight.

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5th Course: Grilled Sucrine

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Unlike previous guest chefs, who have all collaborated with Haatuft, Qui wrote the entire menu for this fifth Friends of Lysverket dinner.  He presented nine courses on plates and vessels made by Constance Kristiansen and Tonje Sandberg of Odd Standard (these two women had also made the serviceware for the first Friends of Lysverket dinner with Justin Cogley).

Qui really captured the spirit of the Friends of Lysverket series by bringing his own cultural perspective and voice to the table and incorporating what he saw, tasted, and learned in Norway. For example, he was inspired by the fish cakes that Norwegians eat (heavy on the nutmeg) and was reminded of the fish cakes of his own Asian background.  So, he served us his version, which included asparagus,

He loved the grilled sucrine salad that we had at Lysverket a couple of nights before, when Haatuft had cooked for us.  So, Qui grilled the lettuces for his menu, and coated them in a sauce made of pork blood – an adaptation of the Filipino dinuguan that he serves at Qui (here is a version that he served me in Austin, with pig’s head, black trumpet mushrooms, and as side of steamed buns).

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10th Course: Cloudberry

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Qui presented other quirky adaptations of the food he serves in Austin, including the Filipino dessert “halo halo.”  Traditionally, it’s a parfait of shaved ice with sweetened, condensed milk and various toppings (including fruits, boiled beans, nuts, cheese, and jello).  His version at Lysverket included local, Norwegian ingredients, like cloudberry and brunost (Norwegian brown cheese).

But, perhaps my favorite dish was the roasted chicken “with a bang” that Qui served alongside a spread of lettuces, fresh herbs, fish sauce, and bowls of pickled and fermented vegetables.  The chicken was juicy and flavorful. And I loved using my hands to roll the meat in the lettuces with herbs, and dipping all of it in the fish sauce.

In collaboration with Lysverket’s beverage team (Stein Berge Berntsen, Elias Vega, and John Miller), guest bartender James Grieg paired a number of cocktails with the meal, including a brown butter-infused rye whiskey with bitters that was poured into imaginative glassware (balancing precariously on sticks) made by Odd Standard.  (That cocktail was paired with buttermilk-sea urchin ice cream with toasted barley.)

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Peter Shepphard Skaerved

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After dinner, the man with whom I had the pleasure of sitting – Peter Sheppard Skærved – pulled out a violin made by Nicolò Amati, the famous Italian luthier who reputedly passed his craft on to Antonio Stradivari, and played a few tunes.  This violin, which dates to 1647, was, at one point, owned by the Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, whose island home we had visited the day before. Bull referred to this violin as his “pearl.”  In this video, you will hear violinist Sheppard Skærved (who was in Bergen for the Festspillen i Bergen) play Bull’s Amati pearl and trace its amazing provenance through centuries of certainty and obscurity (a story no less incredible than the tale told of “The Red Violin“).  [As it so happens, I was, at the time, reading Antonia Fraser’s laborsome, but informative and authoritative biography of Oliver Cromwell.  I marveled that this violin was made two years before Cromwell signed the death warrant for the beheading of Charles I.  As Sheppard Skærved recounted, two centuries and six monarchs later, George IV attempted to buy this violin.]

And with that melodic circle being nicely rung around our weekend, the fifth Friends of Lysverket drew to a lovely end.

We have two more Friends of Lysverket dinners scheduled this year.  As I had mentioned in a previous post that in late August, we will welcome Danish chef Esben Holmboe Bang (of Maaemo in Oslo) to Bergen.  And in mid-October, I will be traveling with my friends Colby and Megan Garrelts (of Bluestem and Rye in Kansas City) to Norway for the seventh Friends of Lysverket.  I look forward to learning much more about the Norwegian culture with the terrific company that I will share in the upcoming trips to Bergen.

You will find all of the photos from this fifth Friends of Lysverket weekend in this album.

You may also read about the first two Friends of Lysverket dinners here, and the third and fourth dinners here.

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3 A.M.

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Photos: The midnight sun setting the sky over Bergen harbor afire; Paul Qui, with Rune Persson sailing the crisp, blue Norwegian North Sea; Ole Bull’s villa on the island of Lysøen; an American flag is draped proudly in one corner of Ole Bull’s house on the island of Lysøen; Knut Magnus Persson rides alongside our sailboat; jumping with Deana Saukam and Paul Qui in their Norwegian raincoats in the historic, Hanseatic Bryggen of Bergen; Annette Tveit and Deana Saukam dress their pancakes, as Paul Qui and Christopher Haatuft look on and wait their turn; Paul Qui dresses his grilled sucrine in pork blood at the Friends of Lysverket dinner; building Paul Qui’s Norwegian take on “halo halo” at the Friends of Lysverket dinner; Peter Sheppard Skærved playing a tune on an Amati violin dating to 1647; a midnight hot dog run to Tre Kroneren in Bergen, Norway.

~ by ulterior epicure on July 15, 2015.

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