Saturday, December 30, 2006

Restaurant "Mona Lisa", in Hammerstein / Idar Oberstein

Antonio Caiazzo, one of Andreas' best friends, is the owner of the restaurant in Hammerstein, Andreas hometown. It is also the village kneipe, the local pub.

I was invited to a meal at the restaurant. As starter, I was served onion soup, served in a deep plate made from a pizza dough. Antonio insisted on a main course not on the menu, the famous Saltimbocca alla Romana, made from rabbit thighs and veal, served with french fries. He served a Sangiovese di Romagna 2003 to the Saltimbocca, followed by a great number of grappas........

Luckily, Andreas and his family will move into the building that house the restaurant in 2007. Conveniently close to Antionios great food and company.

This article has been written by Dagfinn Koch. You will find link to his website on Enjoy Food & Travel under the label "Friends">

Restaurant "Alt Oberstein" in Idar-Oberstein

If you would like to know how to prepare and eat traditional German food, I highly recommend a visit to Idar-Oberstein, the renowned gemstone-centre in Germany.

The most famous dish here is the Spiesbraten. It is a marinated piece of steak either from beef or pork, roasted on an open pit over a wooden fire. The restaurant "Alt Oberstein" has made thise one of its specialities. I visited this great restaurant with my friend and collegue, composer and producer Andreas Röhrig, who lives in Idar Oberstein. The owner recommended at 350 gram (12 oz) spiesbraten dish, which was not a part of their menu. It was served with Bratkartoffeln, made from sliced fried potatoes, onions, bacon and sweet cucumber. It was served with a Puerta de Alcala Reserva 2000 from Spain, making this a memorable meal.

We were also invited to see how the roasting process was conducted in a nearby building. The grill reminded me of a large wheel hanging down from the roof. The chef rotated the wheel slowly over the fire.

And we were served a brandy made from hazelnuts, made exclusively for the restaurant.

This article has been written by Dagfinn Koch. You will find link to his website on Enjoy Food & Travel under the label "Friends"

A great bargain in Barcelona: Hotel Atlantis

Staying at Hotel Atlantis

We ordered our rooms through, and I think we got a better deal here, than if you had booked at the hotel website. Paying less than €70 a night is nothing less than a bargain. Enjoy Food & Travel strongly recommends this hotel and we will tell you why!

Location: BBBBB
The hotel is situated at Carrer Pelai, just five minute-walk from Placa Catalunya and the higher end of La Rambla. From the hotel there is also easy access to the metro system as the station Universitat is at the other side of the street. At Placa Catalunya, you can take the bus to the airport leaving every 6th minute. So - the location of Hotel Atlantis could not be better!

Service: BBBBB-
The service is very good, both at the reception and in the breakfast room, and even the cleaning staff smiles at you. One of the maids at the breakfast room seemed, however, to be short-temperred and rather in a bad mood, but when you are going to serve so many hungry guests in such a short time, who could blame her!

Hygiene: BBBBB
This hotel is clean all over!

Rooms: BBBB+
I had asked for a quiet room, and if it had not been for a fan outside my window, it would have been very quiet. Room 310, faced a small and narrow passage in the middle of the building providing fresh air, but not much light. It had TV with spanish, german, and french channels, BBC World and Sky News, and a well filled minibar. The bathroom had beautiful marble tiles, with a bathtub (great) and a bidet, all very well maintained and clean.

Breakfast: BBBBB-
The breakfast was included in our price. It is, however, not included if you book at the hotel web-site. The breakfast buffet should cater to any taste. Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, potato croquettes, and fried mushrooms. Cheese, and cured meats, as well as muesli and jam. Brown and fine bread, rolls and pastry. Coffe, tea and hot milk (great). Youghurt and juice. The orange juice was a little thin. All in all, the breakfast will provide you with all the energy you need until lunchtime.

Facilities: BBBBB-
The breakfast-room is a little small. Close to the breakfast room you'll find comfortable white sofas and a free WLAN for the guests. For those of you travelling without your computer, there is a PC for guests in the reception area, free of charge. There is a small bar, that also serves snacks until 10.30 PM. There are also comfortable sofas at designated areas at every floor.

Price: BBBBB
Paying less than €70 is a bargain, you get MUCH for your money.

Total rating: BBBBB-
Enjoy Food & Travel strongly recommends Hotel Atlantis to those of you visiting Barcelona.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas in Barcelona - the city of lights!

As I booked tickets for Christmas in Barcelona, early November, I did not know what to expect. One of the main reasons was that I have never been a tourist during the Christmas season before. Secondly, I had no idea how spaniards celebrated their festive season, and how that would influence the city as a destination. The conclusion is!! Barcelona is a great destination, even during Christmas. No problems getting fed, or being entertained!! And it was truly a city of lights!! Highly recommendable!!

The weather made its contribution! Blue skies, sunny, highs in the high 50s (+14-+15C), lows in the low 40's (+5-+6C). When you were sitting in the sun you could easily enjoy your drinks wearing a thin sweater or even a T-shirt. The weather we experienced was a few degrees over the seasonal average.

Shops were closed during Christmas day and Boxing day. For us northerners, celebrating Christmas Eve December 24th, it was strange to find that most of the shops were open this day, even as the day this year was a sunday. Most shops were opened for business December 28th.

A great number of restaurants were opened Christmas Day and Boxing Day. A piece of advice, though. In order to get a table of your choice, go to the restaurant of your choice 15-20 minutes before it opens. We found that long lines formed outside many restaurants. But with this in mind, we always got a table. And! We did not have to book before we dined.

Most major attractions are closed on Christmas Day, and some during Boxing Day. We found that Parc Guëll were in business December 26th. The two famous houses by Gaudi in downtown Barcelona, Casa Mila and Casa Batllo, were however open from December 27th.

So, the nearest week I will provide you with information on our hotel, the restaurant and bars we visited, and the lovely sights of historic city of Barcelona.

The airline experience, Oslo - Barcelona and back - Rating Lufthansa

We booked our tickets on December 23rd on LH 3151 from Oslo to Hamburg, travelling on with LH 4486 to Barcelona. The return took us on the LH 4453 to Frankfurt am Main, with the corresponding flight LH 3134 to Oslo. The rating confirms Lufthansa as a good and reliable airline for the traveller, leaving them with with four B's, with a small minus. The biggest potential - the food!!

Punctuality: BBBB+
Overall the planes left on time and the boarding went smoothly. The reason why it miss a full score is a 15 minute delay in Frankfurt, where we were left in the airplane, with no information on the delay.

Price: BBBB
We paid all in all around 300 Euros roundtrip, including taxes. A strong price for the ticket, and the airline experience is worth it.

Comfort: BBBB
The seats were comfortable on economy class, maybe a little narrow, but with adequate room for the legs.

Food: BB+ Meals were included in the price, but if it had not been for the warm lunch served between Hamburg and Barcelona the airline would have been awarded a miserable two B's.

On the flights from Oslo to Hamburg, and back from Barcelona to Frankfurt, we were served sandwiches with either cheese or beef/turkey. I chose sandwiches with cheese on two flights. They were very dry and uninteresting. A leaf of lettuce or even a slice of tomato, would have provided a more moist experience and left a better impression of the food. As I chose the sandwich with turkey to Oslo, I found it slightly better, due to the moist provided by the sliced turkey, but the bread was as dry as ever.

The warm meal served from Hamburg to Barcelona was much more delicious. Bulgur wheat with pesto and a mediterranean vegetable stew - deserves BBBB. But all in all, the biggest potential Lufthansa has on its european destinations is the food, at least when they serve sandwiches.

Drinks: BBBB
Coffee, tea, softdrinks, beer and wine, including sparkling wine were provided, free of charge. I would, however, have liked to have a gin & tonic, but sadly.....

The total score: BBBB-
Lufthansa is still a reliable and good airline and it deserves its score. The biggest potential to become an even better airline is definetely the food, if it has the overall standard we met on the trip. But still - a good airline experience!!

B is for Bargain - new rating system at Enjoy Food & Travel

Enjoy Food & Travel would like to help you in your quest for the best bargain when travelling. To help you to know how to travel, where to stay, what to eat and what to see we now introduce the B-rating. We will rate airlines, hotels and restaurants on a scale from 1B, - "never again", or "stay away" up to 5B's, - "highly recommendable".

Rating airlines

In a increasingly competitive world, airlines perform a difficult balancing act, where you, as a customer, may suffer, through declining service and comfort. Enjoy Food & Travel will use our Bargain-rating to describe the airtravel experience on the following criteria.

Punctuality: Does the plane leave when it is supposed to leave, and if not, does the airline provide you with enough information?

Price: Is the price to the destination competitive and does it reflect the service you are given on board?

Comfort: Personal space. Is your seat and surroundings comfortable for the economy class traveller?

Food: How is the quality of the food served on board? Freshness, quantity and taste. Will will rate this only when meals are included in your ticket price.

Drink: How is the assortment of free drinks on board? Will will rate this only when drinks are included in your ticket price.

The airtravel rating: Being the average of the five (or three) criteria ratings.

Rating hotels

When you book a hotel you get what you pay for, or are you? It should be obvious for you that you should expect a better standard if you book a five star hotel than a hotel with two or three stars. However, there are things you never should accept, what ever rating, hygiene and service being the most important. Enjoy Food & Travel will give you a rating on the two criteria and on other facilities according to the rating awarded to the hotel.

Location: Is the hotel well located, according to the information you are given when booking the hotel. Does the location have a WOW-factor?

Service: Does the staff in the reception, in restaurants, and in other facilities treat you well as a paying customer? How do they respond to your requests?

Hygiene: Is it obvious that the surfaces in hotelrooms, in the reception, breakfast room and corridors are cleaned regularly? Is the hygiene in the bathroom well maintained? What about your bed linen?

Room: How is your quality of the room? Size, interior design, quality of bathroom, and other important factors.

Breakfast: How is the breakfast? Does it give you, as customer, the breakfast of your choice?

Facilities: How is the breakfast room? What about other areas you can use? Does it meet your expectations according to the rating?

Price: Does the price you have paid reflect what you get according to the hotel rating you have paid for?

The hotel rating: Being the average of the six criteria ratings.

Rating restaurants on the destinations:

Some restaurants may leave you as a victim of a total rip-off according to the price paid at the end, the quality of others, however, may be sky high. Here the general rule is, the more you pay, the more you should expect to get for your bucks. At the lower end, however, you may be amazed by the quality!!

Location: Is it easy to get to the restaurant? Does it have any wow-factor?

Atmosphere: Interior design. Is the interior inventive and creative? The presentation of the table? Do you sit comfortably?

Price: How is the general price level? Does it reflect the quality of the food?

The service: Is the staff polite? Do they give adequate information on the menu? Are there an english menu? If yes, is it obvious to you what you order?

The food: Presentation, is the ingredients well prepared? How is the texture and above all how does it taste? What about the wines on the menu?

The restaurant rating: Being the average of the five criteria ratings.

The first destination I will use this rating on will be Barcelona, having returned yesterday after a five day christmas vacation!