Last weekend I was at a conference at Rica Park Hotel in Sandefjord. The stay was all-inclusive. Being at a hotel when on a low-FODMAP diet is a little scary. In a way, you put your health in the hands of a foreign kitchen. My experiences with eating outside of the home has varied from extremely nice to horrible. For this reason there will be posted reviews of restaurants and other food serving places from time to time.
Since my stay at the hotel was planned I had sent in my diet to them beforehand.
Buffet Chaos at Rica Hotel
First meal was lunch on the Saturday. We were 400 people and roughly equally hungry. There were tendencies to chaos in the beginning. Until people started finding out where to find the food they wanted and where to sit. Once I got an overview I saw a sign saying “For serious food allergies, contact the staff.” So I found the closest chef’s hat and inquired about my list. He quickly assured me that the list was known, and led me to a different buffet where the chaos was less well.. chaotic. We found some sushi I could safely eat for starters. Meanwhile he went into the kitchen and prepared something (unknown) for me to eat.
The sushi bits were more than satisfactory to me who absolutely love sushi. However, they did have that sort of sweet and grainy consistency on the rice. Like that on the packages of sushi you buy in the grocery stores. The sampi was a bit chewy. The plating was nice, with decent pickled ginger and caviar shedding a good light on the flavor. The lack of gluten free soy sauce disappointed. All in all, an alright entre for lunch. Then came the main course. Especially prepared for me, a large bowl of salad with baby mozzarella, cold turkey, baby tomatoes, cucumber and a selection of green and red leaf salads. It was an easy dish, but quite good. I chewed eagerly on tomatoes and mozzarella, and a bit of everything else. It was overall a good salat, even though the naturally dry turkey would benefit from some dressing. For that reason, and limited time, the turkey was mostly left untouched. As was the leaf salad, as only limited amounts go well with my diet. Since at a hotel, a desert was required for every meal. To this purpose I brought with me a green jelly. Most certainly the standard Freia variety, which works fine. At this point my time was up. Being a slow eater to begin with, and then have to wait for the food to be prepared leaves little time to spare. So the jelly was brought in to the conference hall. Handily made in a small glass it was the perfect hand held size for this purpose.
Three course dinner deliciousness
There was high spirits and loud bellies when dinner was to begin. The banquet hall was exquisitely decorated. Large, roof high windows, covered by heavy curtains. Elegant carvings on the roof and a wonderful atmosphere. Almost everyone went for a bit of red and white to drink. I had to go with apple juice from lack of better options. The drink menu eluded the assumption that you were either a “child” or drank alcohol. Somewhat disappointing, but also a rather common costume. I quickly informed the waiter that I was the “person with the list”, when ordering drinks.The waiter made sure everything was served correctly for the evening.
As appetizer we had scallops. That’s a rather safe winner. As an added bonus, my dish had a scallop more than the other plates. The three scallops laid surrounded by leaf salads, and sliced boats of orange and grape fruit. The amount of leaf salads nearly equated what I had eaten of them for lunch, coincidence? Whilst my company had fresh reddish I was happy to observe mine had been pickled, which I much prefer. There was also pickled ginger and some mild oils for a sauce. The potent flavors mingled surprisingly well with each other. The combinations of bitter, sweet and mild was exiting.
The main course was tenderloin of ox, with potatoes and root vegetables. The ox was apparently from Chile, whilst the rest was local produce. I waited anxiously whilst the plates around me were filled to the rim with beef, vegetables, potatoes and sauce. Then my platter came from above and landed in front of my nose. It was a minimalistic version of what the others had received. The same amount of meat, some vegetables hidden below it, and potato flakes arranged in a circle around it. It looked and tasted delicious, but was not enough to fill me. Beef is not usually my favorite, but this was so tender it almost melted on my tongue. Quite a nice meal.
The desert was, rather disappointing. Especially in regards of the quality of the first two servings. Whilst my company had tiramisu I was handed a bowl with assorted fruits and berries, with vanilla sauce poured over it. The same vanilla sauce that had been used on the jelly and puddings for lunch. It had those tasteless blueberries from the grocery store that are white on the inside. And the strawberries still had the green leaves attached. It was a quick and easy solution for a FODMAP friendly desert. However, hardly exiting, and I have had similar dishes served a few times too many. Not was I full either, at the completion of the third course, the waiter was thus notified of my hunger.
Breakfast the day after
Like so many others, I had stayed up beyond my usual bedtime the night before. Thus breakfast began rather late for me. There was both a hot and a cold buffet. To start up, I went for fried egg’s bacon. The bacon was a bit soft to my preference, but otherwise no complaints. There after I went for cheeses, with grapes and water melon. Thereafter I was unsure, so talked to the lady who made omelets on order, and had a chef make me a desert for after. They were both so sweet and welcoming. The omelet chef even washed the pan before she made mine, even though I said it was not needed. And stuffed it with cheese just as I prefer. While I was waiting on the next dishes I went back to finish my cheese platter, only to find it had vanished. It brought up memories of a hotel in Turkey where you almost had to hold on to your plate in order to keep it until you were done. Soon I could pick up the omelet though, and get my dessert yoghurt to go in a glass on the way back to the table.
breakfast was overall very satisfying. The omelet was proof of the chef listening to me when I said “There can never be too much cheese.” And the yoghurt with berries, bananas and grapes was the perfect to go meal for next seminar.
Finishing with a blast at Rica Park Hotel
During the last meal, which was lunch, I followed routine from the previous meals. Went first for some sushi, then a bit of cheese with grapes. And, then, asked about my options with the staff. At this point, already beginning to feel satisfied, I learned that they had prepared a plate for me beforehand. So then it was just to sit and wait expectantly. Would it be another salad bowl? It turned out to be a lot more then that. Nearly a buffet in mini format just for me! This huge plate, or well, it was rather the size of a tray, filled with goodies. Perhaps they decided to be certain I would not leave the table hungry again?
And just to be sure, I even got a dessert platter on the side.
It was even a proper dessert. caramel pudding is not usually one of my favorites, but this was sincerely good. I left that plate empty. After all, whenever you can not finish all meals, the dessert is first priority. In fact it was a shame I had already eaten, the prepared platter was way too much now. And everything was perfect. The salad was no more than I could eat. The scrambled egg had the proper yellow color, it was not diluted with milk as often is the case. The smoked salmon was full of flavor and the ham was tender. Everything was fresh, and delicious. I was nearly rolling back home, how much I stuffed myself with this. Even though there was no chance to complete that plate.
Conclusion of Rica Park Sandefjord
The staff provided excellent service. The hotel advertisement about focus on hospitality felt truthful. The impression was that all the chefs knew about my list, and one chef was assigned responsibility of handling the food for those with allergies. I felt safe throughout the stay that everything I was served could be eaten without resulting in symptoms. That, is hardly the ordinary. Every request and question I had was met with a smile and hospitable attitude. It even appeared as if details from one meal was remembered during the preparation of the next.
With the minor exception of pre-produced sushi and some chewy scallops everything was of high quality. The kitchen did an impressive job of serving quality food for 400+ people. And maintaining nearly the same level for allergists. Throughout my stay I felt safe, was symptom free, partially gluttonous and quite happy during the meals.
Rica Park Hotel in Sandefjord can safely be recommended for food allergists.