EXPANDING THOSE PERSONAL BOUNDARIES: 3rd annual Smak Svalbard allows folks of all tastes under big tent – and beyond

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Yeah, there’s an election with a lot of divisive issues starting Sunday, but until then people of all persuasions are being invited into the big tent to support a party based on that unquestioningly universally supported platform known as eating.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t a wide variety of candidates ranging from a bus tour serving locally grown greens to a formal five-course king crab, or that some are controversial (sheep heads and whale, for starters) during the third annual Smak Svalbard festival. But such diversity also means the world’s northernmost food festival gets to expand its big tent offerings – literally, since the mentioned meals and many more events are taking place at locations around Longyearbyen between Thursday and Sunday.

This year’s festival (full schedule and event description) is both smaller and larger than last year (when The Guardian touted it among the 10 best fall food festivals in Europe) in that there are fewer total events, but the festival is being tended to its first-year length of four days after being reduced to three last year. Also, unlike the first two festivals that featured noted chefs from outside Svalbard hosting “pop-up” events, this year is essentially limited to local talent – although there’s no shyness about featuring them from organizers.

“We have invited local chefs who will make their own mark on each dish,” notes an announcement for a “Chefs of Svalbard” dinner at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Polfareren restaurant at Svalbard Hotell. “They will prepare reindeer, cod, seals, whales with all the trimmings.”

Other main evening meal events include the king crab dinner at 7 p.m. Friday at Funktionærmessen and the smalahovelag (sheep’s head) feast at 8 p.m. Friday at Gruvelageret. Several local restaurants are also featuring festival menus and/or events, including a fish and chips “breakfast” at Kroa from 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, a whale/seal/cod tongue menu at Mary Ann’s Polarrigg from 4-10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and an Arctic Tapas bus tour of Adventdalen featuring local food from Polar Permaculture at7 p.m. Thursday.

The weekend is when events and a wide variety of foods from vendors in the big tent in the Svalbardbutikken parking lot will literally take center stage. The tent will be open from 3-8 p.m. Saturday, with featured events including a presentation about trapping life at 6 p.m., Svalbardposten announcing its best of the town awards at 7 p.m. and dance music by Tomas & Trond from 8 p.m. to midnight.

For those needing liquids beyond water, a whisky tasting is scheduled at 4 p.m. Friday at Karlsberger Pub, a cognac tasting at 4 p.m. Saturday at Karlsberger, a champagne and sparkling wine tasting at 6 p.m.at Huset, a winemaking presentation at 7:30 p.m. at Huset, and a tasting of this year’s Christmas beer from Svalbard Bryggeri in the main tent Sunday.

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