The Night
— Before Christmas

December is the darkest month of the year up North. It is a time of anticipation, waiting for Christmas (or jul, as we call it - the same word as the old English Yule, the pre-Christian midwinter ritual that celebrates the turning of the sun) and waiting for the snow to fall and brighten up the ground. At times, the wait can seem long, and it is no coincidence that December in Norway is packed with traditional celebrations and feasts. It is how we get by.

The most notorious of these parties is julebord– literally translated to “Christmas table”, but meaning Christmas feast. Julebord is celebrated with colleagues at work, and is meant to be a pleasant ending to a busy year of work where co-workers enjoy good food and drink together.

For many, julebord is associated with ritualistic binge-drinking and situations which inevitably lead to awkward moments the next workday. Some, however, seek to reclaim this well-meaning tradition and use it for what it was meant for. The employees at DogA, for instance, wanted to celebrate with a gastronomic and dramaturgic twist, and thus asked Food Studio to arrange a special evening for them.

Most Food Studio events take place in more or less remote areas. We like to harvest from nature, and our getaways are normally excursions into places where our guests get away from the city and out to the woods, the seaside, or the country. This time, however, we decided to use our own premises at Prindsen, which is as central as you get it in Oslo. Our guests, wooden staffs in hand, were led through the vast backyard which is surprisingly tranquil when considering it is located in the heart of the city. Honouring the fact that this backyard was once a pleasure garden with blooming orchards, we lit a campfire outside our headquarters and made our guests sit down around it. Here, they were tasked with providing their own food: Making campfire bread twists (pinnebrød in Norwegian), and churning butter by shaking a glass of cream.

The campfire and the seemingly endless shaking kept people warm in the chilly evening. Meanwhile, a hot toddy and a snack of pickled and roasted root vegetables was served. Everyone got a sightseeing around Prindsen, which carries volumes of intriguing history and a spellbinding atmosphere. And finally, all guests were invited into the house, for the banquet was to take place in the old kitchen of the 19th century institutional factory building.

Conveniently enough, Prindsen is also the home of our favourite butchers at Indre Oslo Matforedling. Magnus and Timon are very talented gastronomers, and they readily took the challenge of cooking for up to forty guests. The menu was far from the Christmas feast standard (either cured lamb, roast pork or lye fish), but all the more inspiring.

The first course might have been a take on a peculiar Norwegian breakfast spread – mackerel in tomato sauce. Norwegians eat this out of sardine tin cans for breakfast or lunch. This starter, however, consisted of freshly smoked mackerel deliciously paired with tomato wine, preparing our palates for the main course in an excellent manner.

The main course was quite a treat. Dubbed Kje i Rosé , it consisted of kid cooked in rosé wine served with potatoes. The kid is locally sourced – from the island of Håøya in the Oslo fjord, where goats graze in the summer. Local farmer Helge Haugen runs a workshop on the island in the summer months, making and selling cheese from his goats. Just a few weeks before, some of the animals were slaughtered, and a number of these were refined by Magnus and Timon into this warming meal.

The dessert was called Høl i hue (literally “hole in the head”, but colloquially meaning silly, out of line) and was based on baked apples, nuts, whipped cream, and pork fat! A glorious end to a highly interesting dining experience.
And so, our honourable guests from DogA, having enjoyed a pleasant supper accompanied by a selection of splendid natural wines, ventured out in the city. Perhaps some of them sought to celebrate their julebord in a more traditional way over a few drinks. But the memory of a campfire under a star-lit sky in a nearby backyard is likely to have lingered on, making this a night to remember.

Words by Kristian Krogh-Sørensen

Photographs by Alexander Benjaminsen