written by Cathy Carroll | photography by Carly Diaz
Chefs who strive to create the authentic cuisine of faraway places must frequently rely on what they’ve learned from family, travels and research. At Broder Söder, however, chef James Drinkward works in a microcosm inside the Nordia House of Southwest Portland, a cultural center which opened in 2015. Here, he’s merely a Thor’s hammer throw from experts on all things Danish, Icelandic, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish.
“The people at Nordia House are influential,” said Drinkward, who grew up in Southwest Portland. “I get lots of interesting feedback, such as, ‘My grandma made it this way.’ Scandinavians tend to be pretty direct, so they’ll tell you what they think.” Not your grandfather’s Sons of Norway lodge, Nordia House exemplifies contemporary Nordic design inspired by Viking ships, ancient rune stone carvings and birch forests.
Natural materials offer clean lines throughout, including floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the surrounding wooded haven and the historic log home of Sir Ross Fogelquist, knighted by the King of Sweden. The home has one of the largest private collections of Nordic antiques and folk arts in the U.S.
The center, run by the nonprofit Nordic Northwest, hosts traveling national exhibitions on Nordic topics. The main hall is where Nordic cooking classes attract folks of a range of ages and cultures. They learn iconic dishes, from lefse, the notorious Norwegian potato pancake, to fika, the quotidian Swedish coffee break with cakes and pastries. For winter holiday parties, it’s a class in glögg, a mulled wine with aquavit, raisins and almonds, along with cookies including mandelmusslor, an almond pastry, and krumkake, a buttery cone-shaped treat.
“Every year we do one or two julbord, a big Christmas smorgasbord with lots of singing and drinking, and traditional favorites such as Swedish meatballs with lingonberries and Jansson’s Temptation, a kind of scalloped potato casserole with anchovies that’s really delicious,” Drinkward said. Workshops in Nordic dance, jewelry making and art, plus lectures centered on authentic traditions and modern Nordic life’s ideals of sustainability, egalitarianism and a deep connection to nature round out the offerings. Learn more about Nordia House.