Julia Joern jokes that she and her partner Henning Nordanger opened Julia’s Local because they had a secret desire to turn strangers into friends. Of course that works best if the food is delicious—and Nordanger had me at his incredible entrée of sesame trout with soy beurre blanc.
Nordanger grew up in Bergen, Norway, went to culinary school, and worked in hotels, as well as for the King of Norway on his royal yacht—a prestigious assignment that also satisfied his military obligation. He came to the United States at 25 and worked at restaurants in New York City until 2006, when he decided to move to the Catskills because he wanted to buy his own house.
When he couldn’t find a place to cook in the Catskills, he opened Henning’s Local in Cochecton (Sullivan County), where he serves Scandinavian interpretations of American comfort food. The restaurant remains both a fine dining destination and a beloved local haunt.
Joern and Nordanger met 18 years ago when she hired him to do carpentry work and they’ve been together for six years. They share a minimalist aesthetic and often discussed working together in some capacity, but it wasn’t until 2019, after Joern purchased a former bakery on Hearts Content Road, that the two decided to open it as a restaurant. To support the renovation during lockdown, Nordanger prepared comfort food which Joern delivered. They built a fan base and once they got their liquor license, they offered Saturday dinners. Last May, Julia’s Local opened.
The restaurant attracts a range of guests who are drawn to the laidback vibe and Nordanger’s sublime cooking. “We’ve welcomed everyone from our plumber to Academy Award winners,” says Joern. The restaurant is open Thursday through Saturday for dinner, and Sundays from 1–6 p.m. The menu features Scandinavian-influenced American cuisine including several preparations of Beaverkill Trout Hatchery’s trout (which Nordanger or a staff member picks up daily to ensure it’s fresh—even though it’s a 3-hour round-trip drive away), as well as produce from the couple’s farm. “We serve salmon from the Faroe Islands and venison from New Zealand because that’s what Henning likes,” says Joern.
The popular Snack Stand starter may include pickled and preserved root vegetables, pork rillettes, homemade sourdough bread, and Henning’s “butter of the day.” (Past flavors have included radish, thyme, and fennel.) Like many of us, Nordanger spent lockdown baking bread and in addition to sourdough, he makes Danish rye for gravlax and Kneippbrød, a Norwegian whole wheat that’s perfect with chicken liver paté.
Trout is prepared many ways including raw, smoked, seared, and pickled. There’s also delicioius rib-eye, pork belly, and venison. Mark Landsman at Elevated Wine & Spirits (Hunter) created the Euro-centric wine list to complement the food and Dave Snyder at Left Bank Ciders (Catskill) did the same with cider. The cocktail menu showcases creations that Joern crafts with her friend, Gwen Carlton, a lighting designer and cocktail enthusiast. A Tom Collins riff features gin and lemonade with St-Germain liqueur. Desserts feature a chocolate ganache tart with kransekake, a Scandinavian almond cookie, and delicacies often inspired by Nordanger’s formal French training.
Everything is served on ceramicist Rita Payne’s whimsical pottery which Joern discovered at Beekman 1802’s shop in Sharon Springs. Dishes include plates slip-casted from sunflowers and lovely bowls cast from cabbage leaves.
This winter, Nordanger is planning to prepare Babette’s Feast—the elaborate spread featured in the 1987 Danish movie based on an Isak Dinesen short story. The dinner would include turtle soup, blinis with caviar, and quail tucked in puff pastry with foie gras and truffles.
Having enjoyed several memorable meals at Julia’s Local, I must confess my desire to turn Joern and Nordanger into friends. I think I’d call them my (culinary) friends with (delicious) benefits.
1507 Hearts Content Road, Round Top