Before Norway became one of the world's wealthiest nations on the strength of its North Sea oil reserves, it was a tough and hardy place, with a population relying on cured and salted foods in order to survive the long winters. Indeed, food preservation defined the national cooking style, and Valle was brought aboard by Pingvinen's owners to resurrect some of the techniques learned from her childhood on a local farm. With its exposed brick walls and vintage furnishings, Pingvinen is an appropriately domestic setting for Valle's homemade classics. Think hearty, comforting dishes like salted-lamb stew, or salted dried lamb ribs, washed down with glasses of Hansa, the local brew. On Thursdays, crowds pack the place for Valle's raspeballpotato-and-flour balls served with turnip mashbut weekends are the busiest, when both locals and tourists turn up for the true flavor of Norway. "You can't buy Norwegian food in the [supermarket]it's always going to be pasta or pizza," says Valle. "For 20 or 25 years we've been so focused on food from the rest of the world, we've nearly forgotten our own tradition." Pingvinen reminds Norwegians what good taste was, and still is. For reservations, call (47) 55 60 46 46.
If you associate contemporary Scandinavian dining with cloudberries, minimalist tableware and breathtakingly expensive menus, you'll find the Pingvinen (Penguin) restaurant in Bergen, Norway, a refreshing departure from form. Tucked into a corner of Bergen's university district, the year-old gastropub trades on unpretentious local fare, done the way it used to be. "People come in here and eat my food and you can see they get nostalgic," says 38-year-old chef Alma Valle. "They want to talk about it."