A Norwegian welcome at Brimi Seter.
Brimi Seter is a farm, a factory, an inn, an idea. It occupies a world every Brooklyn hispter longs to reproduce, where everything – everything – is organic and handcrafted and deliberate and aestheticized. It is, in short, one of the strangest, most beautiful places I have ever visited.
Sitting near the geographical heart of Norway, Brimi Seter is first and foremost a “summer farm.” Since Viking times, Norwegian farmers moved their livestock from lower elevations to the country’s interior uplands, which during Norway’s brief summer grow lush with emerald grasses. Brimi Seter happens also to be the ancestral home of Arne Brimi, Norway’s most celebrated chef.
Now, Brimi’s son Hans, together with Hans’s husband Ola, has transformed the farm into a strange amalgam of art, nature and hospitality for which English lacks the proper word.
I arrive at Brimi Seter with a group of friends after 8pm – later than we planned, nighttime in most of the world. But this being Norway in June, a bright yellow sun still rakes the landscape, which is at once desolate (no trees) and vivid with new grasses. In the midst of this strange scene, we come upon a cluster of buildings clad in clapboards silvered by the years and capped by turf roofs blooming with wild flowers. With shy Nordic warmth, Hans and Ola welcome us into the largest of the buildings – their barn/shop/factory/inn. It seems we have arrived at the end of the world, or perhaps the fertile side of the moon. Anyway, it is not like anything any of us has experienced before.
We pause first in the neat little shop, an almost tooperfect combination of midcentury modernism and rustic chic. All the products – butter, cheeses, jams, charcuterie, pottery – are packaged and presented with extreme restraint and extreme good taste. After a gander at their retail offerings, Ola and Hans then lead us up upstairs to the oddest – and among the best – restaurants I have ever patronized. The restaurant consists of a single long, narrow, rustic table that runs down the middle of a long, narrow, rustic room. And this strange room serves as more than a restaurant. Its walls are lined with tiny alcoves where farmhands once slept; several of the choicer ones are now fitted up for overnight guests. What the arrangement lacks in privacy it makes up for in country realness.
For below the weathered, raw-wood floors lie the cow’s stables. We can almost hear them mooing as Ola and Hans serve us raclette of cheese made from their milk. The boys also serve us organic greens with reindeer salami, a vegetable soup sprinkled with wild flowers (perhaps culled from the turf roofs?), and recycled bottles filled with local pilsner, cloudy, flowery and artisanal. The whole experience, from the melting cheese to the nighttime sun to the veiled alcoves, retains an odd, dream-like quality in my memory.