A recipe for happiness

Aimée Smith, 27 April, 2018
Another year, another World Happiness Report dominated by the Nordic countries. This time it was Finland who claimed the coveted top spot, with Norway and Denmark coming in at second and third respectively. It prompts the question: just why do the Scandinavians have so much to smile about?

Well, one explanation for such unfaltering contentment could be the commitment to social equality, innovation and the environment that exists in the Nordics. So central are these values to Scandinavian life that they have even made their way onto the nations’ plates, in the form of the ‘New Nordic Food’ programme. Ever since its launch in 2005, this pioneering culinary movement has championed simplicity, freshness and seasonality, promoting farm-to-fork sustainability and the ethical sourcing of ingredients.

And it looks like all the hard work is paying off – Copenhagen alone now has 19 Michelin stars, and a constantly evolving gastronomic scene that makes this a very exciting place to dine, whether you’re eating in style at the newly reopened Noma, or enjoying a simple Smørrebrød (an open sandwich piled high with your choice of toppings) by the quayside.

In fact, the ‘New Nordic’ vision has proved so successful that it is now recognised and embraced all over the world – Nordic eateries are springing up across New York, and last year London hosted a Great Nordic Feast – a three-day celebration of the exceptional food and remarkable diversity of these inspirational northern lands.
An edible hug
Only a special kind of bun has its own birthday. And Sweden’s beloved kanelbulle  – a light, delicately spiced swirl of sweetened dough, topped with pearl sugar and known to most of us as a cinnamon bun – is certainly that. First introduced in the 1920s, after wartime rationing of sugar, butter, flour and spices had ended, this sweet treat has become so popular that the average Swede puts away an impressive 316 kanelbullar  per year! And, while the official celebrations are limited to 4 October, in our opinion there’s always a reason for a cinnamon bun. They’re best eaten fresh from the oven, when, warm and comforting, they feel just like an edible hug.
Dining on legend
Sitting at the head of one of Norway’s most picturesque fjords, Flåm’s Ægir BrewPub serves up award-winning craft beer and dishes inspired by Norse mythology.

With its dark wooden exterior and multiple pitched roofs capped by dragons’ heads, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the Ægir BrewPub for one of the country’s centuries-old stave churches. Step inside and the illusion continues – the exposed beams, central stone firepit and long tables with high-backed chairs wouldn’t have looked out of place in Viking times. And that’s the whole point.

For, though the building actually dates from 2007 rather than 1007, everything about it is inspired by Norse mythology – starting with the name. According to Norse legend, Ægir was a master brewer who threw elaborate parties for the gods, at which the food was magically transported to the table and the drinking-horns refilled themselves.

While the team at the Ægir BrewPub haven’t been able to replicate this particular feat, they have won several national and international awards for their beers. And as well as being able to enjoy a drink with your food, you can also appreciate its delicious hoppy or malty flavours in your food, with the beers featuring in several of the marinades and sauces. Even Inntravel’s Scandinavian expert Rebecca Bruce is a fan – and she doesn’t really like beer!

Further information

Norwegian Highlights
See Flåm and the spectacular western fjords for yourself as part of our fabulous two-week Norwegian Highlights journey.
More about our journeys by boat and rail through Norway >

Nordic Cities Explorer
Or for a true Scandinavian smörgåsbord, choose our Nordic Cities Explorer – a discovery of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki.
More about our journeys by boat and rail through Denmark, Sweden and Finland >
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