Experience Authentic Scandinavian Cuisine Aboard a Viking Homelands Cruise
A Taste of Scandinavia
The executive chef for the enormously popular Viking Cruise line has a lot on his plate. Chef Anthony Mauboussin is responsible for the output in the kitchens of 62 river cruise ships and the growing fleet of ocean-going liners, now five with number 6 on the way.
Mauboussin, an attractive and youthful Frenchman, oversees every single item cooked aboard every ship. It is his job to assure universal quality no matter where Viking sails. So the Chairman’s Choice poached salmon that appears on plates from the Pacific Ocean to the North Sea is as close to identical as it can be.
Working in his home kitchen in Chamonix, France, Mauboussin is continually developing recipes that represent each destination Viking’s ships will travel to. An appetizer, a main course and a dessert will be created for each.
The Chef delves into his library of 250 plus cookbooks. In this time of fusion cooking, Chef Mauboussin looks for a certain geographic purity. He looks for dishes that demonstrate the true representation of each port. Then he is tasked with making sure that his on-board Chefs de Cuisine can be readily supplied with the ingredients needed to make each new dish he creates.
If there is one itinerary that demands the Chef’s particular attention, it’s those luxury cruises labelled Viking Homelands. Viking is above all a Norwegian-flagged carrier whose native son, founder and chairman Torsten Hagen’s stamp is on every vessel the line sails. So it falls on Mauboussin’s capable shoulders that these particular sailings reflect the culinary artistry of his boss’ native shores.
And he does just that. In fact, it would be entirely possible to “eat Scandinavian” even if you never stepped foot ashore.
Cuisine Aboard the Viking Star
Scandinavia’s geography has always determined what her people eat. Seafaring and farming have shaped a cuisine that is unique and distinctive.
While the region isn’t often mentioned in lists of culinary hotbeds, NOMA in Copenhagen topped the list of the world’s top 50 restaurants before it was shuttered in 2017. Now Norway and Denmark each have a restaurant on the prestigious list. Viking Ocean could easily be the third.
Aboard a recent sailing on Viking Star, the executive chef, David McDonald, is charged with maintaining Chef Mauboussin’s high standards. A South African, Chef McDonald proudly stated, “I hope I have tantalized your taste buds with some regional dishes that you’ll remember fondly at home.”
Starting Your Day
Those memories will almost certainly include breakfast in the Norwegian “Deli” at the top of the ship. Mamsen’s is a salute to Torsten Hagen’s mother — right down to the china that’s used. The ship’s designers were able to find the exact pattern she’d used at Hagen’s family home.
The piece-de-resistance at breakfast are Norway’s version of the waffle. Made in a uniquely patterned waffle-maker and flavored with sour cream, they’re topped with cornets of “Gjetost” (pronounced ‘yay-toast). With the texture of fudge and taste of caramel, Gjetost is actually 100% cheese — made with both pasteurized goat and cow’s milk. Fresh berries and maple syrup complete the dish.
Meanwhile breakfast guests in the casual Market Café and in The Restaurant can indulge in eggs Benedict with a Norwegian flair — salmon replaces the traditional Canadian bacon. What other Scandinavian cuisine can you expect on your Viking Homelands cruise?
Later in the day, Mamsen’s provides a selection of Smørbrød’s, the open-faced sandwiches which originated in Denmark. The idea here is to completely cover a single slice of bread with toppings. Reke features tiny shrimp. Roastbiff is topped with an onion ring. There’s even a beef tartare version.
A Five-Course Masterpiece
An entire Norsk dinner takes place at The Chef’s Table. One of two no-extra-charge specialty restaurants, it is a place for culinary adventure. Its menus change every three days, roaming the globe for inspiration. During the Homeland sailings, one menu is given over to nothing but Scandinavian specialties. They even re-name the Chef’s Table “Erling’s Scandinavian Bistro”.
The five-course meal begins with an amuse bouche of reindeer consommé, a bite of meat enclosed in a ravioli immersed in broth. Of course, there’s a salmon course, featuring both fresh-caught and farmed salmon. There’s an herb-crusted poached loin, an aquavit infused version of gravlax, a tartare flavored with lingonberries, salmon caviar and for color, pickled cucumber.
A granita called “Lappland Delight” is a prelude to lamb fårikål, which translates to “sheep in cabbage,” voted the National Dish of Norway in 1970 and still at the top of the heap.
Finally, the dessert course arrives. It’s a reflection of the cultural diversity that is now a part of Scandinavian life. Cloudberry soup is served with vanilla white chocolate panna cotta and a sesame wafer. Also a part of that diversity are the course-by-course wine pairings representing New Zealand, Portugal and France. There’s even an aquavit served with the salmon course.
The Dish That Encapsulates It All
Meanwhile in The Restaurant, the extraordinary service that’s put Viking Ocean into number one position in poll after poll, there’s one item that is available day after day. It is called the chairman’s choice: poached salmon.
One of the simplest of menu items, Torsten Hagen’s favorite meal consists of perfectly poached salmon topped with salmon caviar and served with simple boiled potatoes, a cooling cucumber salad and a light cream sauce enhanced with chives. The perfection of this dish is a perfect match for a ship that excels in everything it does.
For some passengers, it is an almost daily treat in a sea of wonderful Scandinavian adventures both ashore and aboard ship.
For all things food and travel, visit Monte’s website, Chewing the Fat.