The Easiest Way to Get This Opulent Nordic Tasting Menu Is by Inflatable Power Boat

Kvitnes Gård is among the most talked-about dining destinations in Nordic cuisine. It is also very remote.

Lofoten Island Norwegian Farm Feast
Photo: Eivind H. Natvig

A fierce wind pierces through my winter coveralls like a hot knife through butter. Rain flings horizontally at my face, while the jagged surf of the Norwegian Sea has its way with our motorized inflatable boat, juddering its dozen passengers like rag dolls. It's mid-June in the Lofoten Islands, and this is one of my favorite summer days in recent memory.

I'm on my way to Kvitnes Gård, among the most talked-about dining destinations in all of Nordic cuisine. Its celebrated status exists despite, or perhaps because of, its elusive locale — nestled amid fjords and glaciers in the remote town of Vesterålen, Norway.

The nearest town with a commercial airport, Svolvær, is a two-hour drive, if you prefer the more traditional overland approach. I opted for the maritime alternative, hiring a local outfitter which tours riders through the rugged archipelago on an afternoon-long adventure.

As for our destination, the restaurant and inn is run by Halvar Ellingsen, who cut his teeth in Michelin kitchens of Oslo, before returning here to his great-grandfather's 19th-century farmhouse. He spent the last three years repurposing the property into the culinary powerhouse it is today. Over the course of three hours in his ancestral home, I worked my way through 25 courses and wine pairings.

Lofoten Island Norwegian Farm Feast
Eivind H. Natvig

"These are some snacks from the forest," the chef says modestly, placing down an artfully arranged medley of cured reindeer neck, moose- and porcini-stuffed barley crisps, and reindeer liver, all sandwiched between birch syrup crackers. At the perimeter of the plate, a dry ice-induced fog engulfs pine needles, affording a Middle-earth mystique to its presentation.

"And these are snacks from the sea," Ellingsen continues. "Don't eat the rocks, they are just there for show." Propped against smoothed beach stone is a seaweed tart of fermented trout — under grated duck yolk, dollops of sea urchin and raw shrimp abut smoked cod encased in a squid ink cracker. I washed down the unctuousness with slurps of a tangy, slightly oxidative 2012 Vin Jaune from Arbois.

The courses get more whimsical as the evening advances, yielding little to the depth of flavor therein. A latticed leaf-like chip holds a house-made goat cheese dusted with speckles of smoked pig heart. After serving minke whale with black garlic purée, the chef emerged from the kitchen holding the massive midsection of a roasted halibut. "I grill it with dried hay from the property, so it takes on a pleasant smokiness," he says. "I'll be right back, I'm just going to remove the skin and bones."

Lofoten Island Norwegian Farm Feast
Eivind H. Natvig

I stepped outside in the interim to admire a rainbow arcing gracefully over an adjacent fjord. It was nearing 9 p.m., yet a midday light characterized the summer scene this far north of the Arctic Circle. Before returning I allowed a moment for the farm to speak: cows were mooing, goats were bleating. It turned out to be a lamentable decision, for as I settled back into my seat I was greeted by fried lamb testicles, presented in their furry pouch of origin. Not at all what I was expecting, but that's kind of the point at Kvitnes Gård.

Dinner concludes with honey cake with bee pollen and ice cream under caramelized oats, all backed by several selections from an aquavit trolley. Afterwards I was relieved that I needed only amble up a single flight of sloped stairs to my 1800s-era bedchamber.

And I was even more thankful that chef Ellingsen's cooking would literally be following me for the next few days. From here I headed south of the Circle on Hurtigruten's Norwegian Coastal Express. The native cruiseliner has just announced its culinary ambassador program, which will highlight national chefs and sustainable sourcing aboard its fleet.

Lofoten Island Norwegian Farm Feast
Eivind H. Natvig

"The concept of his restaurant is very similar to what we already do, but he takes it, and us, to the next level," says Øistein Nilsen, head of food and beverage for Hurtigruten Norway. "And fittingly, we pass the area where his farm is every day with our ships, so it feels extra close to our hearts."

As one of the program's first featured partners, his creations appear on three separate menus across the MS Nordkapp. This particular seven-deck ship floated me from Sortland — at the eastern edge of the Lofoten Archipelago — to disembarkation in Bergen. So I had plenty of time to acquaint myself with even more of Ellingsen's alchemy.

For those seeking the same, the Hurtigruten route makes the experience far more accessible; you won't find lamb testicles or garlic-rubbed whale here. Settling into my cabin an ethereal portrait stared back at me through the porthole: the chiseled peaks of Lofoten, stark and scarred by eons of glaciation. Sure, I'd seen its silhouette captured on too many Instagram posts to count. But after a rough ride straight through its heart I finally know precisely what this part of the world feels like; what it tastes like. It's all smooth sailing from here.

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