I took a two-week break from the blog because Steve and I were on vacation. We took 10 days off and spent five of them in Paris and five of them in Norway.
Paris was lovely, as always. We had incredible weather the entire time (as well as in Norway). We saw our good friends who live there and we explored some new restaurants. One night they took us out to Claude Colliot for my birthday, where the meal was beautifully prepared, with fresh ingredients and unfussy preparation. On another night we went the the Frenchie wine bar, where we had “bar food” that was better than what most restaurants serve. On our last night, our friends introduced us to Le Sergent Recruteur. The meal was fantastic. The service exceptional. The first course alone, a mix of tomatoes with a licorice-like herb (not tarragon), covered by a disc of frozen tomato water, was worth the price of the whole meal.
But perhaps the biggest surprise was our lunch at Lafayette Gourmet, the newly renovated high-end food market in the center of Paris. We found the whole market a little too sterile for us, the food displayed like jewels, the walls pure white and pristinely clean. But we ate lunch at the butcher stand (all of the different stands also serve as restaurants). We both had steak and it was one of the tenderest, most delicious pieces of beef we’ve had in a long time.
Next, we flew to Oslo, Norway. Norway is a beautiful country. We took the train from Oslo to Bergen on the west coast and hit a fjord cruise on our way back to Oslo, the steep slopes of the mountains on both sides of the boat watching us as we dodged the hordes of screaming kids that had joined the cruise with us. The train ride to Bergen was almost better than the fjord cruise. Our train went from sunny Oslo up to completely snow covered mountains (at 2,000 meters above sea level) and down to cloudy and cool Bergen in the span of seven hours.
We ate some good food in Norway and some not so good (like the hot dogs we ate on the train because nothing else looked good). In our hotel in Oslo, we were surprised to find out that our room not only included breakfast, but also included a “light dinner” every day, which was a full dinner with soup, appetizers, a main dish, and dessert, all for nothing. Given how insanely expensive everything in Norway was, this was very welcome. The breakfast buffet every morning was huge, with everything from eggs and “Norwegian paté” (no idea what was in it, but it was tasty), to fruits and muesli, pickled herring, breads and cheeses, including traditional Norwegian brown cheese, or brunost.
Oh my god, the brown cheese! Shaped in a cube with the color of dulce de leche or caramel sauce, it didn’t look very inviting. But I took a slice and as soon as I put it in my mouth I was hooked. The cheese is made with milk, cream, and whey which are boiled until the milk sugars caramelize. This gives it a sweet, caramel-y taste and a wonderful stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth texture. It’s like cheese made out of caramel. I went crazy with it and had it every morning. I don’t know where I can find it in the U.S. but I’ll look for it. I think it will be fantastic on top of a slice of this johnnycake bread.
Johnnycake Bread – From Bon Appétit
¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for pans
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cornmeal
¼ cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup mild-flavored (light) molasses
1 tablespoon maple sugar or raw sugar
Heat oven to 325°. Lightly oil two 5×2½” loaf pans (or one 8½x4½” loaf pan). Whisk flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, add eggs, milk, molasses, and ¼ cup oil, and whisk in dry ingredients. Divide between pans. Sprinkle with maple sugar.
Bake breads until golden and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 40–45 minutes for small loaves (50–55 minutes for large loaf). Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before turning out.
DO AHEAD: Breads can be made 1 day ahead. Store wrapped tightly at room temperature.