The good taste of Kvinesdal

Jette Marie Thranberg Eriksen bak kjøttdisken på Nico Mat .
Photo: Gjermund Glesnes
Jette Marie Thranberg Eriksen bak kjøttdisken på Nico Mat .
Photo: Gjermund Glesnes

If you are tired of all shops having the same food, you should take a trip to Kvinesdal.

Varer i torvboden til Asbjørnsen Bakeri og Gårdsutsalg - Kvinesdal .
Photo: Gjermund Glesnes
Varer i torvboden til Asbjørnsen Bakeri og Gårdsutsalg - Kvinesdal .
Photo: Gjermund Glesnes

- As a German in Norway, you almost have to make your own sausages, says Daniel Asbjørnsen and laughs heartily.

Because Norwegian sausages have improved during the 24 years he has lived here. And right behind his market stall in the center of Kvinesdal, shop butcher Nico Mat makes them the way he wants: Without ingredients other than meat, fat and spices.

Yet there is some seriousness as well, despite the jocular tone.

The products he sells from Asbjørnsen Gård are all made with real ingredients and a deep love for food. And he and his wife Bente have made it themselves, at home - on the lower floor of the rebuilt barn that burned down around 30 years ago.

- Only the foundation wall remained. So I have chopped wood at the place where we now cook the food, he laughs.

to ansatte på gårsproduksjon

Daniel Asbjørnsen and his wife Bente in the production room on the farm. Photo: Gjermund Glesnes.

Trying and failing

The crow cakes are made according to my grandmother-in-law's recipe. The goat ram jelly, chokeberry jam and the idea of mixing Norwegian apples in the cranberry jam are his own. The beef jerky is made at home on the farm with venison shot by a member of the family. The bacon is smoked on hickory chips, and for the smoked salmon he uses river-caught wild salmon and a cloud of smoke from juniper and maple.

- It's all about trial and error. And lots of tasting. It's not like you hit on the first try, smiles Daniel.

Then he has to stop. A customer walks across the square. The customer's name is Jarle Andestad and he says that he almost always takes the chance when he sees a farm sale.

- It is very nice to shop directly from those who prepare the food. You get fresher goods. And they tend to taste better, he smiles.

kunde kjøper egg fra Asbjørnsens gårdsutsalg

 Jarle Audestad buys eggs from Daniel Asbjørnsen on the square. Photo: Gjermund Glesnes.

Beehives at Asbjørnsen's Bakery and Farm Outlet

Bokuber hos Asbjørnsens gårdsutsalg .
Photo: Gjermund Glesnes
Bokuber hos Asbjørnsens gårdsutsalg .
Photo: Gjermund Glesnes

Food village Kvinesdal

Kvinesdal is not large. Around 6,000 inhabitants live in the municipality, even though it stretches from the far end of the Fedafjord to an altitude of almost 1,000 meters far up in the Setesdalsheiene. The small, white-painted center has only three grocery stores.

Nevertheless, few Norwegian towns offer such good opportunities to buy local food.

The food store Nico Mat has its own butcher shop and a sausage maker of the type you almost never find anymore. On the square directly outside, Daniel stands every Thursday and sells, among other things, meat, jam and honey from his own beehives. For the rest of the week, he and Bente welcome the customers at home.

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A couple of kilometers south of the city centre, short-distance food directly from the farmer is even more accessible. In the self-service farm shop Egeland Familiegård, the doors are always open.

Høstfarger på Egeland gård

- Shall I move it in? asks Gunhild Egeland and points to the hand trolley with dahlia tubers that she has taken up for the winter.

We agree that the trolley can stand and go into the farm shop itself. There, the sacks of potatoes are lined up on the floor - full of faxes, a type of potato you will never find in the grocery store. They are grown here on the farm, where she and her husband Harald also harvest morels and strawberries in the summer.

The rest of the goods come from small producers in the area. There are vegetables from Lista, jams, jellies and vinegar from Vintland in Lyngdal, mountain honey from Fjotland, lefser from Heddan and trefjøl from Kvinesdal.

- We are essentially an old-fashioned market shop that has moved into a house. With potatoes and carrots that have not been in the washing machine - then they taste better and last longer, Harald says.

That he is not alone in thinking that, quickly becomes clear. During our conversation alone, three customers come in to make purchases.

- I almost always buy eggs and vegetables here. They are very good. And my impression is that it is also cheaper, states Liv Siri Dyrstad.

dame utenfor Egeland gård

Hyller i butikken på Egeland gård

A local institution

While Daniel has a year and a half behind him as a market trader, it is five years since the Egeland couple opened the farm shop - at the beginning it was located in a caravan with an awning.

In return, Nico Mat has been cooking since 1937. In the roughly 85 years, the shop, butchery and sausage maker have developed into a real institution in Kvinesdal.

- All children under school age receive a Nicopølse in their hand. Then they can chew on it while they are with their parents around the shop, says Geir Nilsen.

He is the third-generation general manager of the shop that his grandfather Nicolay started, and still uses several of his grandfather's recipes. The philosophy has also been retained. The sausages are made here several times a week, and the minced meat is freshly ground every single day - in the same building as the shop.

Geir Nilsen kjøper pølser hos Nico mat

- People are so used to seeing gray minced meat in the shop, that many wonder what we have done with ours. It's red! This is what minced meat is like when it is freshly ground, smiles Geir.

He admits that it costs a bit to have premises and staff to operate in the "old way". At the same time, it is obvious that the customers appreciate the effort.

- Many people come from far away to shop with us. You could almost say that the more others who quit, the better it is for us who are left, he says.

It is just as certain that the taste buds will be delighted by a trip to Kvinesdal. And if you don't want to cook the food yourself, you can try out some of the ingredients at La Strada Restaurant and Utsikten Hotell.