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Make mine Norwegian

Voss taps a Scandinavian well for water that's out of this world

There's no question that the

dragon fruit, $65 loaves of sourdough French Poliane and 8-pound, live Alaska king crab are colorful and

excitingly foreign. But at Urban Fare market in Vancouver, British Columbia, the most striking item is a stark bottle of water.

Urban Fare is an elegant composite of City Market, Whole Foods and Zupan's located in Vancouver's happening Pearl District proxy, Yaletown. And its hottest seller is Voss Artesian Water, a Norwegian beverage designed for the American market.

Voss' sparkling variety boasts mercifully subtle fizz and only slight sodium and mineral content. But customers don't pine for it because of its pure, clean taste. They're after the bottle.

Neil Kraft, a former creative director for Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, designed the tall, cool drink of a bottle, which is all midcentury modernistic Žlan. If Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art sold shampoo, it would come in vessels like these. Urban Fare displays Voss backlit on shelves Ñ just like art Ñ and no doubt many shoppers use the empties as objets, vases and cocktail mixers around the house.

Madonna drinks Voss, and it's fabulous enough to be served at fashion shows, even though it retails for a not-so-outrageous $2.50 for 12 ounces, $4 for 25 ounces.

The suave water, which comes from a virgin aquifer in the wilds of central Norway, apparently is so precious that it is bottled under supervision of the Norwegian Institute of Water Research.

While Voss is not yet sold in Oregon, the director of business development for Voss U.S.A. says that it could be soon. 'We're trying not to overextend ourselves right now,' George Reichling says. 'We love the demand for the product, but when we put it in a market, we want to make sure it's the right market.'

Reichling says Voss is sold in about 20 states and will be available in Washington by early May. But is it popular in Norway?

'It's available in one restaurant in Oslo,' Reichling quips. 'In Norway, the quality of the water is so good, people don't think that much about bottled water.'

Voss water can be ordered online from Philadelphia-based food and beverage supplier Joel Assouline at www.caviarassouline.com or by calling 1-800-521-4491.

Contact Christina Melander at

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