Serving up Nordic love in Louisville
Christy Olsen Field
Taste of Norway Editor
Louisville, Kentucky, might be best known for Derby Pie and the Mint Julep, but Uffda Hospitality delivers traditional Scandinavian flavors with a touch of Kentucky at their restaurants and bakery.
I was delighted to chat with Liz Huot, who co-owns Uffda Hospitality with her husband, Jesse Huot, in Louisville, to learn more about their work.
The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Christy Olsen Field: What was the inspiration to open Uffda Hospitality? Who is the team behind it?
Liz Huot: Uffda Hospitality came about after we saw an opportunity to open more Scandinavian-themed concepts in Louisville and the surrounding region after we opened our Scandinavian-influenced restaurant, Oskar’s Slider Bar. It made sense to create one parent company, and we think it’s tongue-in-cheek to use the phrase Uffda to name a hospitality company.
The Uffda Hospitailty team is me and my husband, Jesse Huot. We both have some Norwegian heritage and Jesse grew up in Grand Forks, N.D. Our pastry chef, Kenna Pennington, has worked in some of the best bakeries in the city, and is half Swedish and half Norwegian. We had known her for several years before she came on board, but she has been such an amazing addition, because she is linked to the culture in a way that we weren’t. Kenna has been able to bring in traditional recipes that have been passed down from her family.
COF: Can you tell me about your restaurants/ventures?
LH: We have two restaurants, one bakery, and an online gift shop. Grind Burger Kitchen was our first venture. We started as a food truck in 2012 and grew it to a brick and mortar location in Louisville a few years later. It makes some amazing burgers and was featured on the Food Network television show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Our second restaurant, Oskar’s Slider Bar, features all sorts of sliders and small bites. We have several Nordic and Midwestern items like a lamb and lefse taco, skagen, and house-made gravlax, but we also have more regional items, like buffalo chicken sandwiches. However, it’s made with a juniper buffalo sauce to sneak some of those Scandinavian flavors in there.
Smör Nordic Bakeri came about after we opened Oskar’s, when we asked our now pastry chef to come in and do a couple dozen Nordic treats a week. A couple dozen a week started selling out in one day, so we realized we were on to something. Smör now produces all of our burger buns for Grind, desserts for Oskar’s, and seasonal special orders for weddings, holidays, and parties. It is pretty amazing to see the culture embraced here in Louisville.
And we have Kos Scandinavian Goods, which is a little shop of Nordic and Midwestern items (www.koslouisville.com). We focus on bringing in items that are made in the Nordic region, but also places like Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Seattle that have significant Scandinavian communities. Our holiday pop-up shops with Kos and Smör are very popular so we look forward to doing those again in a few months.
COF: What has the reception been like in Louisville?
LH: Louisville is a really fun city to do food in because people are always interested in trying new cuisines. We looked around and realized no one was doing Nordic cuisine, but we knew it was on its way here. So given our personal connection to it and our experience in the restaurant business in Louisville, we knew at the very least if we offered family-friendly foods with Scandinavian influences, but also threw in some really authentic items, we could appeal to a broad audience.
We never realized how many people had Nordic roots in the Louisville area, but we have seen a big outpouring of support. It has also been fun to see people come in and realize they used to eat krumkake with their grandmother and had no idea it was Nordic. So many more people are Nordic than they realize, but German and Irish heritage is really prevalent in this part of the country so it has kind of taken a back burner.
COF: What are the most popular items that people order through Smör Bakeri?
LH: People love our classic Prinsesstårta, potato lefse, and rosettes. Though we really see the excitement people feel about being able to get krumkake and sandbakkelse and the like in Louisville. We have received so many emails from people shocked they can get traditional Nordic items fresh because they have been doing mail-order for years. We hope to jump into mail-order in the next few months, with items like bourbon balls done with aquavit and Kenna’s incredible Fullkornsbröd, multigrain and sourdough boule.
Additionally, our amazing Kenna does really beautiful seasonal desserts that are so smart because they use flavors that you would find in both Nordic and southern food. So it’s approachable to even those clients who may not be as adventurous. A great example is our Gulrotkake (Norwegian carrot cake with fresh ginger, orange, cream cheese, caramel, and honey roasted peanut crunch) and Jordgubbstårta (layers of strawberry cake, local strawberry jam, and pecan pretzel crunch, topped with macarons and marzipan twists), which have both been huge hits this season.
Learn more about Uffda Hospitality online at uffdahospitality.com, or on Facebook and Instagram. Smör Nordic Bakeri has its own website with seasonal offerings and special order options at www.smorbakeri.com.
Oskar’s Slider Bar is located at 3799 Poplar Level Rd., Louisville, KY 40213.
Do you have a Scandinavian restaurant or bakery recommendation? Write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christy Olsen Field became the Taste of Norway Editor in April 2019. An enthusiastic home cook and baker, she lives north of Seattle with her husband and two young sons. She is a grantwriter for small nonprofits in the Seattle area. Write to her at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared in the September 6, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.