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Norway's Simon Liestøl Talks Salmon, Mackerel and Beer

Welcome back to Eater in the Embassy, where we ask ambassadors, diplomats and the chefs behind DC's diplomatic receptions and events about their native cuisine, working in an embassy kitchen and their favorite places to eat around the city. In this latest edition: Embassy of Norway Chef Simon Liestøli.

[Photos: Missy Frederick/Eater.com]

So what do the happiest people in the world eat, anyway? Smoked salmon. Mackerel. Meatballs. Herring. Dumplings. Veal. Anything pickled. And even reindeer.

That's what Embassy Chef Simon Liestøl has to say about the native foods of Norway, which he gets to highlight through his job. Liestøl serves a total of 4,000 guests a year through his professional duties, which also include making sure there's enough cuisine to fill a 120-person buffet dinner, or cooking for the ambassador, who loves soups like cauliflower or bouillabaisse.

Read on to hear about what makes Norwegian cuisine special, and don't forget to listen to Eater's partner WAMU 88.5's Metro Connection today at 1 p.m., for their version of the story.

Liestøl is fond of taking ingredients and giving them a refined touch, whether it's accenting butter-poached lobster with a unique seaweed topping or making a cheese plate out of Norway's humble brown cheese, brunost. He also likes educating guests about the more unique aspects of Norwegian cooking. "Salmon and herring is like Norway to them," he said. "I try to teach as best I can." One opportunity he had to educate D.C. about his native country, where he lived until nine months ago, was at the Kennedy Center's Nordic Cool Festival, where he prepared a buffet dinner.

It's tough for Liestøl to get a taste of home — though there are New York restaurants that celebrate Nordic cuisine, he says he hasn't found anything similar in the D.C. area. One thing he misses: the high quality berries that find their way into Norwegian desserts, whether they be expensive yellow raspberries or sea buckthorn, a sour berry (here's a taste of home for the chef — 2941 in Falls Church recently used the ingredient as a jam accompaniment to a cheese plate).

Breakfasts for Norway lean towards the savory side, according to Liestøl. A typical morning meal might include black coffee, bread, ham or salmon, cheese and jam. Waffles are popular for a lunch item or for a snack. Norway isn't celebrated for its wine, but rather for its Akevitt (or aquavit), accented with flavors such as dill or caraway seed, and its beers. "We have some good beers from small breweries," he said. One brewery American audiences might know is Nøgne Ø.

Is it that beer and liquor that keeps Norwegians like Liestøl smiling all the time? The chef instead attributes his country's happiness to close-knit, small-town life, where everyone takes care of their neighbors. "And eating seafood a lot," he says. Of course.
· Eating In The Embassy: Norway, The World's Happiest Nation [WAMU]
· All Previous Editions of Eater in the Embassy [-EDC-]

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