A host of delicacies flavor Høstfest

From lutefisk to elephant ears, your tastebuds are covered at this four-day festival

Photo: Gemar Photography Old Ballard’s akevitt was the star of the refined Aquavit Bar.

Photo: Gemar Photography
Old Ballard’s akevitt was the star of the refined Aquavit Bar.

Darin Lietz
Seattle, Wash.

Høstfest 2015 offered plenty of options for hungry visitors, especially those looking to experience some classic Nordic cuisine, Scandinavian-American comfort foods, and Heartland fair favorites. In fact, the offerings from the sea of food booths and sidewalk cafes were so numerous, it would be virtually impossible for even the mightiest appetite to experience them all over the full four days. Fortunately, the event’s official Festival Guide provided a comprehensive overview from which an eager connoisseur could devise a strategy of attack.

For those seeking out the beloved staple dishes from Scandinavian communities across the United States, there was a veritable legion of Lutheran churches present to offer their homemade favorites, like meatballs and gravy, lutefisk, søtsuppe, rømmegrøt, potet klubb, and rice pudding. Other vendors provided plenty of Nordic stews, pølse, sweets, and pastries, luring in diners with promises of lapskaus, mojakka, æbleskiver, and krumkake. Looking for some of that “fish boil” so beloved by Scandinavian communities around the Great Lakes area? Then, Angelo’s Fish Boil had you covered. And, rest assured, there was certainly no shortage of lefse! Among the various lefse represented, Granrud’s Lefse, operating in Montana since 1977, proudly touted the banner of Official Lefse of Høstfest.

Photos: Darin Lietz isitors line up for a taste of traditional Norwegian foods.

Photos: Darin Lietz
isitors line up for a taste of traditional Norwegian foods.

If you were pining for some fair food of a not-strictly-Scandinavian sort, there was greasy goodness a-plenty. This category’s perfect fit for Høstfest was the Viking on a Stick—a massive, seasoned meatball, skewered, battered, and fried, corndog-style. Minnesota’s Oof-da Tacos brought their style of forgoing the tortilla and wrapping their tacos with an elephant ear. Other vendors offered several fairground mainstays, like burgers, dogs, beef and pulled pork sandwiches, gyros, funnel cakes, fresh donuts, and ice cream, as well as representing favorites from the upper-mid region of the U.S., like fried walleye, knoephla, and those glorious fried cheese curds. And if none of that was threatening to fill you up, you could always turn to the “Spud Hog,” a sausage baked in a potato and loaded with toppings.

Photos: Darin Lietz “Viking on a Stick” is at the intersection of Nordic cuisine and fair food; it’s a deep-fried meatball.

Photos: Darin Lietz
“Viking on a Stick” is at the intersection of Nordic cuisine and fair food; it’s a deep-fried meatball.

For many, however, the culinary prize most sought and savored was the rare opportunity to sample true Nordic cuisine from the Scandinavian chefs who journeyed across the Atlantic to share their flavors of home. Norway’s “Waffle Queen,” Stine Åsland, helmed the Norsk Vaffel booth, which dazzled diners with her sweet and savory flourishes on those classic five-heart vafler, topped with things like strawberries and fresh cream, bacon and cream cheese, and gjetost. A team of Norwegian chefs brought the impressive Scandi to life with a deft variety of classic dishes and fun twists on traditional flavors, including items such as the classic meatballs, traditional fiskesuppe, Icelandic cod loin, and their take on salmon burgers. At Polaris Café, two ladies, one from North Dakota and one from the Arctic climes of upper Norway, combined their chef skills to offer an array of dishes reflecting their respective backgrounds. The festival’s one designated “fine dining” space, En To Tre, featured refined selections from Norwegian chefs, including such delectable items as cured reindeer with lingonberry sour cream and delicate honey-roasted salmon.

Photos: Darin Lietz En To Tre was Høstfest’s fine dining experience, a pop-up restaurant sectioned off from the hustle and bustle of the festival by fabric walls stretched over frames with tree-shaped structures and shot through with colored light. This created a welcoming, peaceful ambiance, but it also made taking photos of the food—like this honey-roasted salmon—challenging.

Photos: Darin Lietz
En To Tre was Høstfest’s fine dining experience, a pop-up restaurant sectioned off from the hustle and bustle of the festival by fabric walls stretched over frames with tree-shaped structures and shot through with colored light. This created a welcoming, peaceful ambiance, but it also made taking photos of the food—like this honey-roasted salmon—challenging.

And where there is good food, there needs to be good drink. Beer and wine were found in various locations, including some quality microbrews. Naturally, there was also an ample amount of akevitt, both imported and domestic, perhaps the most notable of which were the innovative selections from Seattle’s Old Ballard Liquor Company Distillery. The Aquavit Bar featured a particularly fine display, available in straight shots or in unique cocktails, as well as the best ambience of any drinking area at the festival.

By the time Høstfest rolls around next year, there will surely be some new changes, as there are every year, but it’s safe to say that you can look forward to many of the same delights that this year’s visitors enjoyed and a host of new treats yet undiscovered. So, when that time rolls around, study your Festival Guide and remember that you only have so much appetite to go around, so use it well!

Darin Lietz was manufactured in Seattle, and resides in the area, decades hence, with his lovely wife, Amy, two ridiculously sweet dogs, Winston and (Licks) Luthor, as well as a rotund feline dependent, Hutch. Darin enjoys travel, food, and traveling to acquire food.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 16, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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