Saturday, December 09, 2006

Beef - cheap cuts

For me a good stew is the ultimate food during the winter. And to prepare one, you can settle for the cheaper cuts of beef. The cheaper cuts have more fat, and have to be boiled for a long time. After 3-4 hours, however, the once tough meat is tender and moist. Saturday I am expecting a friend for dinner, and I have decided to prepare a classic meal for the cold season.

In France they use red wine in their preparation of their famous Boeuf Bourgognion, and in Belgium they make their stews adding strong dark beer. Stout like Guinness or Caffreys are also great to use. I use ordinary lager. In these stews it is vital to use enough sugar to balance up the saltness and the bitterness from the beverages added.

Beef stew with beer

To prepare this you need the following ingredients

2 fluid oz / 50 cl olive oil
2 lbs / 900 grs of cheap beef cuts, diced roughly
2 small onions, sliced
2 small tomatoes, diced
One stalk of celery, sliced
1-2 tbsp flour
6 oz / 150 grs of mushrooms, sliced
1 pt / 500 cl of lager
1 pt / 500 cl of water
2 stock cubes
3-4 teaspoons of sugar
Dried herbs (thyme, parsley, bay leaf, etc.)
6 fluid oz / 150 cl single cream

Heat the oil, brown the diced meats in 4-5 portions in the hot oil. Remove meat from pot. Brown onions, celery, mushrooms and tomatoes, the stir in flour properly to avoid lumps. Then add meat. Add the lager, water, sugar and stock cubes, and leave to boil for two hours.

Remove meat from pot. Place vegetables and remaining stock in blender and blend until smooth. Then pour the sauce back into pot, Add cream, and boil for another hour. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.

Food Markets in Marseille - baking bread for 200 years

Close to Saint Victor I found this bakers shop. Four des Navettes has provided bread and pastry to the citizens of Marseille since the era of the French revolution and claims to be the oldest "boulangerie" in Marseille. I do not think it has much competion.

Food markets in Marseille - fish and shellfish

Marseille is of course a great place to buy fish and shellfish. The most famous place is the fish market at the Quai de Belges by the Old Harbour, where local fishermen sell their catch every morning. Here you find fish, shellfish, and squid of every variety fresh from the sea. Walk down and have a look. This fish market was situated in a sidestreet to rue Canébière and sold oysters, prawns, lobsters, and fish. The prices were high though, but freshness is definetely worth paying for.

Food markets in Marseille - Rue Longue des Capucins

Rune Longue des Capucins is a great street for foodmarkets. Here you can buy sweets, fresh meat and pultry, vegetables and already prepared meals. It has definetely a North African atmosphere. If you want to visit this street be aware of the presence of petty criminals though. Two young men tried to steal my wallet as I walked around, but I had placed it my backpack. So promise me - do be careful.

Friday, December 08, 2006

News flash: November 30th to December 6th

Don't be a fart - on a plane!

The latest security scare in American aviation took place on an American Airlines flight bound for Texas. The plan took an emergency landing in Nashville, Tenn., as the passengers resported a strange smell on board. The cause of all this was a women that, due to the smell from a fart, had lighted a match to mask the smell of the gas.

Read the rest of the story at WSMV Nashville

How to survive a dinner party.

Do you avoid entertaining due to the stress before and during the party? If you do, George Erdosh, an American upscale caterer let you in one some of his secrets that will make the evening more enjoyable both for the guests and the host of the party. The three steps includes who to invite, how to organize your grocery shopping and how to prepare your meal efficently, and how to choose serving style. So maybe by reading this article you will get the necessary courage to entertain your friends.

Read the story in Christian Science Monitor

German Wings give up low budget flights from Norway

German Wings gives up the its last service from Oslo to Cologne february 2007. When the German low price carrier launched flights to Norway it flew from Oslo to Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne. The carrier has had strong competetion on these routes and gives up the Norwegian market due to bad results.

Read more at Forbruker.no (Norwegian only)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Eating at La Daurade - Sorbets

The Blackcurrant and lemon sorbet served as desserts were simply delicious - nothing more, nothing less. All in all, sorbets turned out to be our favourite dessert during our dinners.

Eating at La Daurade - The Bouillabaisse

Marseille is famous for its Bouillabaisse. It was therefore natural for us to choose this as our main course. It was served with small toasts with rouille. The toasts and the rouille are supposed to be added to the soup itself. Our bouillabaisse was served with moules and two types of fish.

In spite of the beautiful saffron colour, I am sad to say that I found the bouillabaisse at La Daurade very uninteresting. It was just salty, lacking the aromas from the herbs or the other ingredients that are supposed to be added to the soup during the preparation. It was not close to the experience Arthur Che had from the restaurant Chez Michel, described in his blog Arthur Hungry. So read his description, and we will certainly visit Chez Michel for the famous fish soup the next time.


Eating at La Daurade - Profiteroles au foi gras de canard

Profiteroles or crem puffs, are usually served for dessert. We were therefore intrigued by the chance to have profiteroles filled with duck liver. Our expectations rose as the entrée arrived at the table. A cream puff floating in a puddle of light brown gravy. The latter was delicious, but as the fork sank into the profiterole itself, an important question materialized. Where are the foi gras de canard? We had expected a good amount of the stuff, but the amount of duck liver was very small, indeed.

So we felt slightly disappointed, but finished our plate waiting for the main event of the evening - the serving of the Bouillabaisse.


La Daurade - the definite tourist trap

We passed La Daurade during the evening, and the interior looked very charming. We decided to try one of their menus but the meal turned out to be a great disappointment. It looked charming but it was really a tourist trap.

The €18 meal looked extremely intriguing, the main course being the legendary "Bouillabaisse" the fish soup from Marseille. After visiting La Daurade, however, my advice is, go to another restaurant and eat Bouillabaisse and pay more than we did. Then you get the real thing.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Marseille: Notre Dame de la Garde

The church of Notre Dame de la Garde can be seen where ever you are in Marseille. This neo-byzantine basilica with its large golden statue of Saint Mary is situated on the signal hill of la Garde, 162 metres over the sea level.

It replaced a 13th century church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The construction of the basilica started in 1853 and the work lasted for 11 years.

My sister and I decided to see the church and admire the view from the Signal hill. It was fascinating to climb up the steep streets leading up to this magnificent monument. Reaching the summit we were amazed by the wonderful church and the stunning view over the city and its surroundings.

If you can, make the trip to Notre Dame de la Garde into your own little pilgrimage. Reaching the top is nothing less than a religious experience.

Marseille: The fortifications protecting Le Vieux Port

Large fortifications protect the narrow passage into the old harbour. The work on these impressive constructions was started by King René I of Naples in 1447 and the work lasted for 6 years.

The engineer Jean Pardo planned the defences and Jehan Robert, the mason of Tarascon, carried out the work. You may take a walk on the defences on the left side of the port by foot, but it is limited access to much of the fortress, as it still is a military area.

Marseille: The Remains of the Saint Victor

These are the remains of the patron saint as it rests in the Abbey dedicated to him. In another niche you can see the remains of John Cassians skull

Marseille: The Abbey of Saint Victor

The Abbey of Saint Victor has been standing on the same place since 416. At that point Marseille had seen the rise and fall of the Greek and Roman empires, and was close to a new important epoque, the Merovingian era.

That year, the mysterious monk John Cassian, founded a church dedicated to the patron saint of the seafarers, St. Victor of Marseille. The remains of the patron saint and the skull of the abbeys founder John Cassian still rest in the church.

The Abbey looks more like an old medieval fortress than a church, as it is situated on a hill overlooking the fortifications protecting the old harbour. Only a small part of the current structure, close to the old doorway, goes back to 5th century. The church as it is today, dates back to the early 11th century. Part of the old church was demolished during the French revolution.

It is a wonderful experience to enter the darkness in this small mysterious basilica, built in the romanesque style. It is probably the oldest piece of archictecture left in Marseille from a turbulent and important time in European history.

Marseille - a few historic sites worth visiting

The city of Marseille goes back 2600 years. Still it has no old town and very few grand monuments, but there are a few, and they are witnesses to an long and dramatic history of this city.

The Chateau d'If (picture), was built as a fortress on the smallest island in the Frioul archipelago 575 years ago. This fortress, was converted to one of France's most famous prisons, immortalised in the novel the Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas.

Today you may visit the old prison by taking a ferry from Quai de Belge in the Old Harbour. Sadly, we did not get the chance to visit the Chateau d'If. Still we managed to see a few other interesting historic sites and I will present them to you.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Eating at "Coquillages" - desserts day 1 and 2

I have no sweet tooth, so the Profiteroles with chocolate was out of the questions. The remaining options, however were tempting.

Both days I ended my meal with cheese, lightly sprinkled with walnut oil and pepper. The small triangles of blue cheese, camembert, and chévre were served a little too chilled for my taste, but I found this to be the perfect end of my meal.

My sister ordered the sorbet of her choice, passion-fruit, pear or lemon. The first day she ordered lemon and got pear, the 2nd day she got the lemon. If I had not chosen the cheese I would have taken the sorbets. As we shared desserts, I got a taste and found them delicious.

Eating at "Coquillages" - main dish day 2

Fried salmon with creamed green pepper sauce


This was really delicious!! The salmon was perfectly prepared, the interior being slightly undercooked. The mild, creamed sauce, given a little heat from the whole green peppercorns tasted great with the fish.

The salmon was served with slices of courgettes soaked in butter (out of this world!), a baked tomato with herbs and rice.

This is definitely a dish I would recommend, and order again!

Eating at "Coquillages" - entrées day 2

Salad with seafood and salad with baby squid

The base of these to entrées was more or less the same, green lettuce with an oil and (hvite-wine?) vinegar dressing, mixed with small bits of lemon.

My sister were served a mix of shellfish, shrimps, and squid, and I got a large heap of whole baby squid. The taste from the dressing and lemon was very well balanced by the lightly salted seafood. However, I found the baby squid surprisingly tough. A result of overcooking, maybe?

Eating at "Coquillages" - day 1, Duck breast with dried porcini mushrooms.

My sister chose entrecôte with green pepper sauce, and I ordered the duck breast with dried porcini- mushrooms.

The breast was perfectly prepared, moist and tender and the creamed sauce had a wonderful taste from the porcinis. The mushrooms were very lightly soaked in water before added to the sauce. The french fries were perfect.

A real hit!

Eating at "Coquillages" - entrées day 1

Oven baked oysters with herb and garlic butter


I am ashamed to tell you that I am no fan of raw oysters. This as every gourmet tells you that they are a real treat. In spite of this, I decided to try the oven baked oysters served the same way as escargots, baked in the oven with butter, parsley and herbs.

As I had my first oyster, it felt oversalted. When eating the 2nd and 3rd, however, the other tastes came through, but I was not captivated by the dish. As we switched entrées during the meal, my sister loved the oysters prepared this way. For me, however, this dish will not be a favourite memory from this trip.


Moules Farcies Provencal style

The moules in this dish was lightly breaded, buttered, and baked in the oven added garlig and herbs. We both agreed that this way to prepare moules gives a delicious result. For us both this was a perfect hit!

"Coquillages"

I have placed the name of this restaurant in quotation marks, as I did not take a picture of the sign displaying its real name. Having said that, it is easy to find as it is situated over street from La Daurade, that I will tell you about later.

My sister and I had different feelings for this restaurant. She loved it, I thought it was a tourist trap. It had menus varying in price from € 12 to €18. We got excellent service from our waiter but asking for the menu one or two of them clearly disliked our choice and showed us! This shows a disrespect of us as customers and I have to admit that this made me feel less welcome here, than on other restaurants we visited on our trip.

You could choose one entrée, one main dish and a dessert from the menus. My sister and I did not share our main dishes here, as she found her favourite - entrecôte. I, however made my choices.

Tourist trap or not - this restaurant was very popular, and was packed with people. It had a large menu, and the staff were busy preparing oysters, and large trays of fish and shellfish were prepared for La Bouillabaisse. So maybe I was wrong here. If you visit this restaurant, give me its official name and let me know whether you agree with me or my sister.

Couscous at Un Escale à Marrakech

I have eaten Couscous as a dish in Maroccan resturants a few times and I have loved it. We decided to try the dish served with chicken and merguez-sausages. On earlier occations couscous, vegetables and meats were served on one large tray, but at Un Escale à Marrakech the semolina, the vegetables and stock (picture) and meats and chickpeas, were served separately. The dish was accompanied by small bowl of harissa-sauce.

Couscous is no fancy dish, but made with good honest ingredients. The mild herbs from the stock, vegetables and couscous was perfectly balanced by the heat from the merguez-sausage and the harissa-sauce. When I return to Marseille I will most certainly have a larger meal here.

To the meal we enjoyed a chilled bottle of Maroccan rosé-wine, Boulaouane.

Une Escale à Marrakech

This restaurant is situated further out on the west side of the Vieux Port. As we passed it on one of our walks, we decided to return to dine there. The restaurant serves a Maroccan or Northern African menu. Une Escale à Marrakech is really the most beautiful restaurant we ate in during our stay, decorated in an arab style with ornate walls, exotic lighting and wonderful painted panels. We were flown over to the other side of the Mediterranean in a flash.

It was clearly a popular choice for many as we succeeded to get a table in a corner in the back of the restaurant, as the rest of the place was packed with people. We had one meal here - a traditional couscous, and I think this is too little to make a review of the restaurant. I am, however, convinced that this may be a very good place to enjoy the maroccan cuisine. If anyone visits this place once, or on a regular basis, let me know what you think.