Saturday, 30 December 2017
Norwegian smalltowns can be a frustrating experience for those used to organic food, hunting-gathering the nation-wide chains as described here. What a surprise when I spent the time waiting for a bus in Steinkjer with a stroll through the town's main street, Kongens gate. Five minutes from the train station you'll find Grønn bølge ("Green Wave"), a small friendly organic convenience store cum day cafe where you not only can buy daily supplies (surprisingly much of it from local producers, including a small selection of fresh seasonal fruit and veges) but also have a smoothie, plain coffee, home-made cookie or seasonal soup. Until 2016 the shop was located in a side street a few steps away.
For a more substantial meal in the afternoon or evening simply cross the street.
Here you'll find Ox Steak House, where you can have grilled or cured beef, burgers (with home-made buns), sausages, and more from free-ranging highland cattle from a small-scale farm about 15 kilometers north-west. The animals are allowed to keep their horns, but neither the farm nor the restaurant is certified organic. The place was however recommended to me by another local farmer in the course of an exchange on free-range and organic farming. You can also order food to take away.
To dine in style at a decidedly committed organic farm you'll have to book in advance and take a taxi 12 kilometers out of town to Bjerkem organic farm and cultural heritage centre. Since September 2017 the farm has been playing host to the new organic gourmet restaurant of acclaimed Norwegian (formerly London-based) chef Kim Tore Sjøbakk, the Experience.
tasting menu consisting of 14 courses comes at
1250 NOK per person, together with matching wine and drinks at 2250 NOK. Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to dine there yet, so let me know about your experience.
- Grønn bølge, Svein Jarls gt. 1 (convenience store)
[Steinkjer, organic, supermarkets, grocery, eatery, restaurant, burgers, fastfood]
Monday, 25 December 2017
For those of us living in big Western cities and metropolises and used to a stable supply with eco-conscious products small Norwegian towns like Namsos in Northern Trøndelag come as a shock: In this rich country with lots of well-educated people the individual has to take a big extra effort to source organic food and eco-conscious household products. It's not only about to know where to go, no -- you may simply not be able to find staples in organic quality. Planning ahead often is no option since you cannot rely on supermarkets to have organic sugar or cream all the time, flavoured yoghurt, gomme (traditional Norwegian dairy spread), durum pasta and ice-cream once where available, but no longer, yeast or mushrooms (to name a few) have never been seen here. Creativity is key: Shop what's available and hack your meals according to what is on offer.
There's no support for the zero waste approach, in fact the big chains usually sell organic vegetables and fruit pre-packaged in plastic foil to avoid accidental mixing with the larger conventional batches.
Forget completely about eating out -- in a town like Namsos which has dozens of branches of the cheaper supermarket chains, but not even a single branch of more upmarket chains like Meny (which was closed about eight years ago) or Coop Mega (which was converted into an inferior Coop Extra at about the same time) the general inhabitants' priorities obviously do not include quality food. (The region's organic farm-to-table delivery service, Økomat Innherred, stopped serving Namsos at about the same time owing lack of demand.)
Food and staples
The good news is that even Namsos is not completely ignorant of a certain trend towards a more sustainable lifestyle, and, to my surprise, after years of stagnation, I have been observing an improvement since 2016. By now there's a steady supply of organic apples, oranges, lemons, bananas, eggs, milk, wheat flour, whole-meal pasta, butter and oil, fresh herbs and a basic assortment of dried herbs and spices, tomatoes (both fresh and canned chopped), onion, carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, salad, tortillas, ketchup, coffee, tea, chocolates, muesli, apple juice, kefir and sour-cream ("rømme"), cheese, crispbread, sesame and sunflower seeds, preserved olives, canned corn, peanut butter and chocolate spread, honey, baby food and usually also bread, potatoes, rocket in summer, and cauliflower (I may have forgotten some items). Hence vegetarians are quite reasonably catered for, and this is a vast improvement compared with the situation only two to three years ago.
Omnivores have a harder life: You may be so fortunate to find "Gilde økologisk spekepølse", a cured meat speciality similar to a salami, and if you scan pre-packaged meat products (both frozen and fresh) you may find minced meat, sometimes even beef cuts and before X-mas pinnekjøtt. In general scan carefully for the "økologisk" keyword and all organic labels you know of, especially the Debio label, the European one and the Swedish KRAV. You may be surprised to find a new type of cheese, pre-backed rolls or even Norwegian beer.
To keep frustration as low as possible shop from the Coop supermarkets -- the Coop Extra Verftsgata within the Storsenter mall and the Coop Extra Bygg in Spillum offer most organic options and often complement each other. All products of the Änglamark own brand as well as all dairy products from Røros meieriet are organic. Veges are often advertised as the Aroma variety, but to be sure check for organic labels. The branch on Verftsgata has had a stronger organic focus during the past years and still offers a better selection of veges, among them pears, fresh ginger and garlic, and sometimes even of non-mainstream varieties. But the bigger Spillum branch has kept up: They even showcased a surprisingly good selection of organic lemonades and light beer from Reins Kloster for the holiday season 2016/17, proudly sporting hand-written organic labels. By now organic fruit and veges have their own sales area, so it's been easier to find them. The Spillum branch has been offering organic parmesan cheese, frozen bread rolls, plain yoghurt and even organic cream since -- products I've never seen in town before. Still, there are quite a few product categories which are impossible to find in organic quality, among them Norwegian staples like sauerkraut, frozen pizza and (!) Italian-style pasta made from durum wheat.
For ice-cream stop by the (otherwise inferior but late-evening open) Rema 1000 supermarket opposite the Rock City cinema: The chain recently invested in Kolonihagen, a 100% organic delivery service, allowing them to develop and extend their own brand. Some of these products (like ice-cream and orange jam) can be found in Namsos as well.
To supplement baking ingredients, dried fruit, tea and sweets head for the small Life healthfood store within the Storsenter complex -- just follow the indoors aisle starting at the Coop branch and head for the second shop to the left. They offer a decent range of products of the Helios brand of organic and biodynamic quality and are the most reliable and exhaustive source of organic tea and tisane bags in town.
Organic wine and stronger beer can be sourced from the town's Vinmonopolet also located in the Storsenter mall -- they usually have a small selection of organic items in stock, but you're required to order more fancy stuff in advance.
If you happen to be in town on the few occasions a farmers' market (Bondens marked) is being held or during the annual Kulturmartna fair on the premises of Namdalsmuseet in August shop for organic cured meat smoked in the sauna of Brattlia farm in Namdalseid. If you call in advance you may also pay a visit to the farm itself and buy their products directly (leave the bus from Steinkjer to Namsos at Lyngen stop and follow the signs.) On both market occasions one or two other local organic small scale farmers will sell their produce.
The best source for smoked or fermented wild salmon as well as fermented char or trout ("rakfisk") and dried wild fish is the town's only real butcher cum delicatessen, Aakervik. On a few occasions they also stock organic meat, and they are a reliable source of Norwegian lamb chops: Even though usually not organically certified most Norwegian sheep spend their lifetime roaming in the mountains, feeding on what the countryside has to offer, and thus, a stress-free death provided, can be taken for almost organic.
In general a huge amount of the country's organically produced milk and meat is being sold undercover as conventional food. Where, you might ask, go all the Norwegian organic hens at the end of their lives as producers of organic eggs? As of today organic Norwegian chicken meat products have been unseen of in the country's supermarkets. While the countries largest dairy distributor, Tine, seems to give up its long-time opposition against organic products, egg distributor Prior and meat distributor Gilde often are not interested in marketing their products as organic claiming that consumers would refuse to buy them as they would be perceived as overprized.
Household and body care
Detergents and toiletries of Coop's Änglamark brand meet the requirements of the Nordic Ecolabel and are your best choice for household detergents usually free from artificial colourings and perfumes. Unfortunately this label, to name a few disadvantages, allows aggressive tensides such as SLS and SLES and does not require all natural or even organic ingredients.
For superior natural skin care or even organically certified body care products you have the following options: The Life healthfood shop stocks a basic selection of creams, lotions, soaps, toothpastes and hair care products. In addition the town's only natural care hairdresser's cum beauty parlour Art of Nature in the centre of town will sell organic hair and skin care to passers-by. You will also find a very limited selection of natural body care at Namsos Bandasje opposite Storsenter.
There's no supplier of natural or even organic decorative cosmetic products in town.
Fashionistas should keep clear of Namsos, but the local H&M branches at Storsenter offer a reasonable selection of fast fashion items made from organic and sustainable materials. Look out for the "H&M conscious" brand with their green labels.
[Namsos, organic, wine, supermarkets, grocery, market, fashion]
Monday, 30 October 2017
Leaving the train at Altona station does not bring you to the heart of the city but to the vibrant neighbourhoods of Altona (to the East) and Ottensen (to the West) offering a great choice of lively (partially) organic places. None of them are very posh as the distinguished bourgeouis citizens usually live and roam elsewhere, and there's a good chance to mingle with locals.
Where to stay
As long as you are satisfied with a basic yet clean and well-kept hotel room head for
the Schanzenstern. The name derives from its original location in the Sternschanze neighbourhood, but even though the hostel moved to its current location surely ten years ago references to its old address haven't vanished from the net completely. Most rooms are
equipped with bunk beds, and you are well advised to book in advance especially if not travelling alone.
The entire building is painted in clear basic colors, orange and blue the rooms, yellow the hallway. Since rain water is used
for flushing the toilets its colour can be explained easily, and the soap dispensers in the bathroom are filled with liquid organic hand wash.
If you're travelling by bicycle there's a locked shed where you can store it safely overnight.
The hostel's 100% organic breakfast buffet keeps open daily from 7:30 to 10:30, but is not included in the price for the night. For 8 additional Euro you can order it until late on the evening before. The restaurant also serves organic lunch on weekdays, and there are board games and journals to spend the time with.
Breakfast and lunch alternatives are located within five-minutes walking distance:
For one there's the Zeit für Brot ("time for bread") artisanal show bakery next to a branch of the Denn’s organic supermarket chain in Ottenser Hauptstraße. Through a window you can watch the bakers at work, and buy German bread fresh from the oven. If stepping by for a coffee or another non-alcoholic drink, a pastry, cake, savoury snack, or a light lunch (all organic) queue with the other customers and place your order at the till. Find a place at one of the tables inside or -- during the warm season -- outside under a sunshade also sheltering from the occasional rain shower and enjoy the gorgeous smell of real bread together with your snack.
Cafes and lunch restaurants
Another organic breakfast alternative is cosy cafe Lillisu offering 100% organic food and drinks. In addition to breakfast the women owners also serve sandwiches, filled pasta, spaghetti, soup and salads for lunch, both vegetarian and omnivore, prepared in the tiny kitchen in view of their guests.
Place your order at the counter
and add a home-made cake from the display.
You'll be served but are expected to return to the counter for payment.
Set breakfast plates are served on weekends only.
Decorated in pastel colours this is also the place to buy nostalgic presents and some organic delicatessen (chocolates, olive oil, coffee, ...) as well as "Glück in Gläsern" ("happiness in jars"), (in)famous 100% non-organic nostalgic sweets many Germans will remember from their childhood, sold by the piece.
As in the Schanzenstern restaurant a selection of magazines from Hamburg-based publishers are there to be read by the guests.
If your budget calls for a cheap lunch you may head for the uninspiring self-service restaurant on the first floor of the IKEA branch in Altona. On their website they do not announce organic food, but when I was there they offered two organically certified pasta dishes. If they do not have an organic dish when you visit or you would like to have an organic drink afterwards just walk a few steps in Eastern direction where you find yet another Denn's supermarket branch which also serves snacks at their self-service cafe.
For a sweet threat head back to Altona train station (where you by the way will find another organic supermarket, this time an Alnatura branch).
Since 1913 there has been an Italian ice-cream parlour in Ottenser Hauptstaße, which, after world war II became Eiscafe Venezia. Today, the owners are no longer of Italian origin, but use
organic milk for all of their about 20 flavours. Unfortunately the ice-cream isn't fully organic itself; the scoop goes for 1.20 EUR. Usually the cafe closes at midnight, but you may find it closing earlier on bad weather.
More to try
Here's another organic cafe and a bakery I found during my research but did not have time to visit. I'll be happy if you'd share your impressions with me!
The following places do no longer exist although you might find them referenced on the web:
[Hamburg, Altona, Ottensen, organic, coffee, ice-cream, supermarkets, grocery, eatery, lunch, breakfast, cafe, hotel, accommodation, bakeries]
Sunday, 20 August 2017
As you might have noticed from the restaurant reviews Stockholm is full of small-scale local food chains -- the majority of them with two or three branches when counting in the day-open cafes covered by this post.
When entering Stockholm C train station through the main entrance and immediately descending to the basement you'll notice the bright green signature colour of the Coop supermarket store (which, by the way, should be able to provide you with sufficient organic food for your trip). With its entrance in your back you'll easily discover a branch of the city's first and so far only fair-trade coffee chain
Barista. Fine when you're on the go, but they also have a real cafe in Söder. Coffee and milk are organic as is the yogurt you may have for breakfast and the majority of all ingredients used in salads, sandwiches and scones. Their aim is to have a fully organic store cupboard in the very near future but do not promise anything for fresh produce. If you stay in Stockholm for a while you may consider a customer card which entitles you for a ten percent discount on your purchase and an Ethiopian school child for a free meal.
If you're looking for a place to work alongside a tasty coffee drink (made with organic milk if not plain) head
Johan&Nyström coffee roaster's bar and co-working space in Kungsholmen. You can rent a working place
or meeting room by the
hour, day or month, and enjoy organic
juice or iced tea. Not all the coffees and teas you may want to buy for use at home are organic, and you have to ask about the ingredients of the (absolutely tasty)
toasted sandwiches and pastries. Note that the place accepts
There are two more Johan&Nyström cafes in town, one near Mariatorget (shop, class room, coffee and tea bar) and a coffee house in Östermalm. The latter will offer co-working space and meeting rooms starting autumn 2017.
Note that the opening hours given below apply in summer. In the dark season many shops including these open later and close earlier.
If you walk or cycle along Folkungagatan in Söder you might pay attention to a shop window filled with bicycles.
Bicycle shops aren't an attraction on its own right in bicycle-friendly Stockholm, but you may want to have a closer look at this one, as Café Le Mond isn't just a bicycle (repair) shop, but a cyclist cafe offering partially organic breakfast, soups, salads and sandwiches. On Tuesdays and Fridays there's a breakfast buffet (cyclists are entitled a discount), and on weekends you can have brunch.
On weekdays between 11am and 2pm there's free coffee with your meal.
Since I could not make it inside, I'm happy to hear about your experience.
In and around museums
If you're on a tourist's track you may find relieve in that an organic coffee drink at Moderna Museet on Skeppsholmen is easy to have -- not at the museum's cafe bar itself, but at the entrance to
Arkitektur - och designcentrum next door. Here you find Café Blom, a cosy self-service cafe with a serene outdoor terrace accessible without a ticket to the museum. Bread and pancakes, most lemonades and some of the ingredients of the tasty and nourishing salads or sandwiches are organic but stay away from shrimps, mayonnaise, chicken and meat products.
For an all organic coffee or lunch break head for Fotografiska cafe inside the museum of photographic art. Unlike the museum's restaurant it is however not accessible without a ticket to the exhibition.
Arriving early at Stockholm C and fancy a 100 percent organic breakfast? Take the short walk to
Café Genuin, a somewhat hidden organic bakery. For later on the day
lunch sandwiches, wraps and salads
are available, too, and of course a coffee or soft drink, roll or fancy pastry.
In the heart of Gamla Stan you'll find Naturbageriet Sattva, a holistic, predominantly vegan organic bakery, not using refined sugar. Step by for a soft drink, decent coffee (with organic cow's milk if you like) and a tasty cinnamon roll (kanelsnurra), but scan the organic labels on the pre-packaged beverages as not all of them are organic. In summer they also offer pre-packaged vegan organic ice-cream. Seating is limited, especially when the weather disallows for outdoor tables on the street.
When the weather is nice the island of Djurgärden is humming with locals and tourists alike, and all places covered in this section keep open only when a steady stream of visitors can be predicted.
In winter all of them are closed, and opening hours outside the light summer season quite restricted. Places inside the theme parks require the purchase of a ticket.
On the water-facing promenade inside Gröna Lund entertainment park the Boardwalk Café offers organic and fairly traded coffee drinks and tea on the go. Note that the cinnamon roll adverted as a package with the coffee is neither of both. The opening hours match those of the entertainment park.
Inside Skansen outdoor museum you'll find a self-service Koloni outdoor cafe covered by the eateries and restaurants section. Note that the opening hours of this predominantly organic place are more restricted than those of the museum itself.
Open to all tour goers on Djurgården is decidedly sustainable
Rosendals Trädgårdskafé. Unfortunately I couldn't make it there during their opening hours, so no review here (yet). Note that the place accepts cards only.
Waiting for a flight is tedious, and having an overpriced coffee at an uninspiring airport coffee bar an efficient way to kill the time. Fortunately Arlanda allows you to do this with a better conscience, with tea brewed from an organic tea bag or an organic, fairly traded coffee drink served with organic milk in a real ceramic cup instead of a one-way plastic or cardboard one. To do so
on international terminal 5 watch out for the Lavazza sign presiding over an otherwise boring place dubbed Food market. They also offer 0.2l tetrapaks with organic orange or pear juice.
There are also two Johan & Nyström coffee bars at terminals 2 and 4.
[Stockholm, organic, coffee, breakfast, lunch, snacks, fair, cafe, Arlanda, airports, trainstation]
Sunday, 13 August 2017
Restaurants in Stockholm may surprise the foreign visitor with practicalities: Most places have unisex toilets, and an increasing number of places trade entrepreneur safety against customer's data privacy and the right to pay her bill anonymously: They do no longer accept cash, only cards. Given the high resolution of current cameras which make it easy to spy your pin code it sounds fun when shop owners argue with customer safety here, but alas, it is the sad reality, so be prepared.
Eating out at lunchtime in Sweden often means "smørgås", in the restaurant version a slice of bread heaped with salads. Its modern interpretation with fusion influences can be found at fully organic Kalf & Hansen
at Mariatorget. Choose a set menu and organic, partially home-made drinks from the fridge, pay, sit down and be served. Five of the menus ("Oslo", "Stockholm", "Nuuk", "København", and the children version dubbed "Vimmerby") are variations of the same theme: Swedish "falafels" made of fish, meat or vegan -- you choose. What's different is the bread, the veges of the season and condiments to go with. If this is not what you're up to you may opt for the soup of the day or a cheese sandwich or simply step by for a coffee and (vegan) cake. Rhubarb lovers will be delighted by the rhubarb lemonade -- less sweet than elsewhere a refreshing delight. Note that the place does not have a public toilet and closes early in the evening. There's a second branch in Hammarby Sjöstad which keeps open during lunch hours only.
Summer nights may be long in Stockholm, and everybody is enjoying themselves outside. At this time of the year an evening with a light predominantly organic meal at a terrace overlooking the waterways is one of the most pleasant things to do. So head for Koloni Strömparterren, a summer only self-serving kiosk at the northern end of Helgelandsholmen next to Norrbro bridge. Have a refreshment, a sumptuous salad, smörgås, baked potato, or cake and coffee drink. If you are in the mood for a traditional shrimps sandwich: Here's the place to try. And if you insist you'll get a real drinking glass instead of a disposable plastic cup for your water or soft drink.
There's another self-service kiosk inside Skansen theme park, located next to the dance floor. If you can tolerate the musical accompaniment it's the best option to get decent food (including pancakes with berries and whipped cream) and coffee in the park, although everything is served in one-way dishes.
The third Koloni summer kiosk is located on Saltsjö beach, and they run three indoor branches all the year around, too.
For a posh evening out head for the Fotografiska museum's ambitious restaurant sporting a nice sea view to Djurgården and Skeppsholmen. It's a short (though ugly) walk from Slussen traffic hotspot which is currently being rebuild in a cyclist friendly and human way. The restaurant's focus is on 100 percent organic ingredients and zero food waste, although the first does not apply (yet?) to the contents of the bar. During the restaurant's summer break an informal and easy-going outdoor grill takes its place, the Veranda with a simple vegetarian set menu (one for children and a bit more elaborated one for grown ups) which you can complement with grilled sweet water fish (røding), a pork steak or sausages.
The aperitif cocktail ("grogg") was nicely balanced although based on inferior Beefeater (the bar has better gins on offer), and there's a non-alcoholic version, too. Wine and other drinks can be choosen from the bar's menu.
Unlike the museum itself the restaurant still takes cash.
It's easy to be vegan at the places mentioned above, but if you fancy a purely vegan restaurant playing with a bunch of cliches mount the flight of stairs behind Fotografiska to Hermans Trädgården. Before you take a seat in- or outdoors to adore the fine sea view be reminded that an all-you-can-eat place run with the slogan "Give peas a chance" most certainly is somewhat special. During rush hours (between 6 and 7:30 pm when I was there) you may find yourself confused in a crowd of people queuing inside. There are two queues: One for the organic self-service buffet, and one for the cash desk. Find the end of the last one (the one made of people without plates), tell the friendly staff how many grown ups, children and students you are, order your beverages and pay. During lunch hours (11-15) the set menu goes for 135 SEK, at dinner time and on weekends you pay 195 SEK per person, students are entitled a 50 percent discount (as long as they sport a valid student ID and buy a drink), and children pay according to age.
You are provided with a plate, so now it's the time to join the second queue which will lead you to a richly laid table offering soup, bread, warm and raw salads and dishes, a hearty mingle-mangle inspired by European and Asian cuisines. Organic tea, tisanes and coffee from a self-service side-board come free with your menu, with oat milk if you like. Help the staff to clean the tables -- as soon as the rush is over it's easy to have a small talk, and try a vegan cake for dessert.
In the heart of Gamla Stan, directly located at Stortorget with its bloody history you'll find Grillska hus which got its name after its former owners, the Grill family. Today it is run as a socially responsible enterprise and houses a cafe cum restaurant sporting a one star certification from KRAV ("matboden") as well as a bakery cum pastry shop ("brödboden"). The one star makes it the restaurant in this post scoring last in the percentage of total organic ingredients. If you don't mind the touristy buzz in general here's a responsible place for lunch, early dinner or coffee amidst the crowd.
More to try
Here's a list of (partially) organic restaurants I found during my research but did not have time to visit or found summer-closed. I'll be happy if you'd share your impressions with me!
Ceased to exist
The following places shut down and were replaced by other, not organic ones even though you find references to them on the web:
[Stockholm, organic, lunch, dinner, vegetarian, vegan, bar, restaurant, eatery, coffee]