Saturday, January 06, 2007

Enjoy Food & Travel co-writer Ketil Zahl 50 years

January 6th 1957, co-writer on Enjoy Food & Travel, Ketil Johan Zahl, opened his eyes for the first time. Since then the world has never been the same. Ketil is a passionate foodie, and loves a good drink and is a cigar connaisseur.

I have offered to make a tapas buffet tonight, in his honour. So this morning we have filled up several shopping bags and in two and a half hours I'm ready for action.

What kind of tapas am I going to serve tonight? I will give you a short description.

Inspired from Barcelona I will make three kind of pintxos, i.e. basque tapas. They are small toasts with patés, salads and so on. I am making pintxos with:

Tuna salad and fried red peppers
Salmon mousse with sweet chili
Paté of venison with black truffles

Warm tapas

Small pizzas with mozarella, olives and spanish chorizo
Chicken wings in a hot smokie mesquite barbeque sauce
King prawns with a sweet italian sauce
Little piggies: Prunes rolled in a slice of bacon
Spanish chorizos in sherry

Cold fish tapas
Croustades with trout roe and sour cream
Salmon nibbles, small wraps filled with salmon mixed with cream cheese with chives

So I think it will be enough for anyone to be pleased. So tomorrow you'll see the result, so be patient.

I have to dash, I have a buffet to attend to.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The sights of Barcelona: Cathedral interior

The interior of the Cathedral. Beautiful gothic pointed arches, strectching, as if they were reaching for the sky.

The church has a wonderful enclosed choir, with beautifully carved wooden seats and walls. On the sides you can see coats of arms belonging to some of the powerful noble families of the area. And under the church, you find the crypt with the sarcofagus, where Santa Eulaila rests.

Sights of Barcelona: Roman remains

When you walk down the cathedral square, and turn right, you can admire one of the cathedral walls. It shows you that the current church rest on older history, dating back to the Visigoths and even the Roman era. Here I watch walls that may be up to 2000 years old.

Sights of Barcelona: The Cathedral

The Cathedral in Barcelona is dedicated to Santa Eulaila, a Roman Christian virgin who suffered martyrdom in Barcelona during the persecution of Christians in the year 303, during the reign of emperor Diocletian.

It dates back to the 13th century, but it was built on top of a much older church going back to the Visigoths that ruled the area after the Romans. But do not be fooled by the gothic facade, it is only around 200 years old. It is currently being restored, so you cannot admire the main facade facing the cathedral square.

It is a magnificent building. I always feel very small when I enter these buildings, struck by the beautiful arches, the small altars dedicated to different saints still being venerated by devout catholics.

The sights of Barcelona: The Knights Templars were here

I found this street sign in the Barri Gotic. It reminds us of the presence of one of the most powerful religious orders in the Middle Ages, The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon or the Knights Templars. This order was established in 1119 in the Holy Land in order to free the Christian Holy sites occupied by the sarascens. During two hundred years it spread through Christian Europe and was at the beginning of the 14th century one of the most powerful institutions on the continent. But in 1307 their reign ended with the arrest of the orders leaders and the confiscation of their riches. The Grand Master Jacques de Molay was executed in 1314.

And they were also present in the old quarters of Barcelona. Intriguing......

Sights of Barcelona: Barri Gothic

In the Barri Gotic you are brought back to medieval times, when Barcelona was protected by large city walls. Some of these can still be seen, and the base of the wall close to the cathedral goes even back to Roman era. The narrow old streets have changed little since then.

I love the Barri Gotic. You want to walk into every little dark street, and if you do, you suddenly find yourself in a little square. In these streets you find chic designer hotels, strange small shops, intimate and sometimes very dark bars and restaurants.

It is a wonderful area, and I will try to share some impressions with you from my walks in the medieval labyrinth. There are also interesting churches in the Barri Gotic. The Cathedral, Santa Maria del Pi, Sant Jaume. Beautiful places of worship even today for the citizens of Barcelona.

But the narrow streets may also be dangerous places to walk at daytime and after dark. Be adviced not to enter deserted streets as you may be robbed by criminals hiding in the dusk.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Shopping in Barcelona - say cheese!!

I found this shop in a parallell street to La Rambla, close to the Carmelite church. It sold only cheese, and the selection was very impressive.

These are the special shops that I miss in Scandinavia, where much of the cheese are found, plastic wrapped, in supermarket shelves. If you ask anyone of the staff on what to choose, they often can not give you any advice. In these shops, however, the staff know the range of their products - they are experts in their field. So they can easily pick a good selection of cheeses for that special dinner.

Xocoa - To chocolate heaven and beyond!

Are you a chocoholic? If you think real chocolate is serious stuff, Xocoa is definetely the place for you. Here you can buy chocolate in traditional shapes as well as untraditional, i.e. music for chocholate lovers - a CD shaped chocolate in its original cover. For beer lovers, why not serve a chocolate beer!

Xocoa is an inventive shop, that will make you raise your eyebrow one minute, have a laugh the next and then face the deep, serious hunger for a truffle or a bar with a 70% cocoa content. They have the most amazing range of chocolate products, and the design is great, as well!! So if you want a chocolate experience out of the ordinary, go there and face the hunger - yourself!!


Shopping in Barcelona - unedible food at Effeti Natural

Try a bite of this mango and papaya pie, and you will find it completely unedible. This is a part of the food shelf at Effeti Natural in Barri Gothic. I do want to reveal to you, however, that this is a shop that sells soaps and bathing products in every imaginable and unimaginable shape.

Many of them, however, look more like the real thing, and you can buy some other amazing products to increase your well being. We fell for their effervescent bathing bombs. As I was in possession of a bathtub I bought two effervescent bathing bombs called pink champagne for my evening bath. Aaaah!! They turned out to be pure luxury!! Do find Effeti Natural! They will make wonderful gift baskets from the large selection of soaps, as well, and you or the lucky one will have a great laugh.


Barcelona - What to shop where?

Barcelona is perfect for compulsive shoppers. You can shop till you drop in every possible category, designer clothes, food, shoes, antiques, jewellry and bijouteri, and so on, and on.

Eat your heart out, Sophie Kinsella!! Why don't you send Becky Bloomwood for some serious retail therapy on Passeig de Gracia. Her credit card debt would have reached new heights!

I do not pretend to be a shopping expert. But everywhere I turned I saw wonderful ideas for gifts. I am (naturally) very happy to find a well stocked food market, but I also found the most incredibly inexpensive shoe-shops at Carrer Pelai, great design with a nice pricetag. Around Placa Catalunya you find Spanish brands like Sphere, Zara as well as well known European brands. On Passeig de Gracia, Becky Bloomwood could easily have shopped for a fortune at Louis Vuitton Chanel or Massimo Dutti.

There were some serious shopping surprises, including some very edible non-food, and some very unedible food (or what you thought was food). Let me give you some examples.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Eating at the Santamonica

Confit of duck with calvados sauce

This dish is as close to food-porn as you can get, and it doesn't go away. When duck confit is prepared like it is at the Santamonica, it is nothing less than an erotic or a spiritual experience, or maybe both.

The meat fell off the bones, the sauce perfectly balanced, sweet and at the same time salty, and the fried vegetables melting away on your tongue. This might be one of the best dishes I' ve had, ever...... I am hungry!

Eating at the Santamonica

Sole fish filled with spinach and toasted almonds

I thought I ordered sole, but as flounders go, it was rather long and thin.

This dish was however very clever. It was served with a wonderful sweet reduction and with toasted almonds on the top, and filled with steamed spinach. And a sprig of rosemary proudly garnished the dish.

The fish were perfect, and the combination of tastes were exquisite!!

Eating at Santamonica

Foi gras de canard with caramellized fruits and armagnac essence

This was our starter at christmas eve. I love foi-gras, in every shape and form. If you do not enjoy it with a sweet wine as a Sauternes, you would be well adviced to balance the stronge taste with something sweet. At the Santamonica it was served with caramellized fruits and a great sweet essence tasted with armagnac - and small toasts.

This was a dream of starter, and I get hungry again, by just looking at the picture.

Eating in Barcelona - The Santamonica, Placa Reial

We had our christmas dinner at the Santamonica, and the food was so great that we decided to revisit this restaurant. We did the last evening of our stay. Enjoy Food & Travel finds this restaurant highly recommendable. The combination of a very trendy interior, great wines and above all a very inventive menu makes this our best dinner experience in Barcelona.

Location: BBBB

The restaurant is tucked away in the southeastern corner of Placa Reial. It looks very anonymous, and you have to go down a few steps. In this sense the location is great but it has not the same wow-factor at Les Quinenzenitz, but that does not matter. The rest is so much better.

The interior: BBBBB-

The interor is very trendy and very tasteful. Colourful prints with geometric figurs on the wall, different coloured lights behind a row of bottles behind the bar. Great bathrooms. The colours do not stand out, they are striking, but at the same time tasteful. The plates that the dishes were served on were different in shapes and material, square, round, white clean china and glass. The chairs were, however not very comfortable, but these are details.

Price: BBBBB

The food was fantastic!!! And the best thing, most of the dishes were priced under €25, and they were worth every cent!!! The wines were, after our standards, very inexpensive.

Service: BBBBB

Service was very good, and we were not in need of much supervision from the staff. English menu, maybe a little greek (or spanish) for a no-foodie, but for us, it said all.

The food: BBBBB

And when we were served our starters, main dishes, and desserts both times, they were mouthwatering. Delicately presented. The salads, the foi-gras, fish and meat were prepared to perfection. The meats ordered were tender, the fish well fried, but still firm, and a duckconfit falling off the bone. The tastes were subtle but refined. A foi gras de canard with caramellised fruits and armagnac essence, fish with a sweet sauce with crunchy almonds, a duck with a sauce with a hint of calvados. The desserts were dripping of sinful dark chocholates, and a sorbet with cava and margarita. Yum, yum!!

For christmas dinner we had a great cava for €11, and the last evening we had a Rioja Crianza with a twist! Truly faboulous!!

Total score: BBBBB-

This restaurant is so close to perfection.

Adress:Plaça Reial 12
City: Barcelona
Phone: 93 301 13 64

This picture has been taken by Susanne Kjekshus Koch. You can read her blog here

Memories from Susi's souvenirs: Gaudí's Barcelona

Among my favorite souvenirs from 2006 are the memories and photos from the creations Gaudí in Barcelona. Not many architects can build a house that makes you change your opinion of what a house is. Gaudi certainly coud and he did over and over again!

Read the whole article at Susi's souvenirs

The heritage from Antoni Gaudí: Park Guëll - The Gingerbread House

This is one of two houses marking the lower entrance to the park. My friend Susanne called the gingerbread house, as it reminds us of the cottage housing the wicked witch that caught Hansel and Gretel, threatening to eat them up. Once again the Grimm brothers come to mind. But the shape of the roof reminds you of the top of Casa Milà, that I will tell you about later.

This picture has been taken by Susanne Kjekshus Koch. You can read her blog here

The heritage from Antoni Gaudí: Park Guëll - The view

Another reason to visit Park Guëll is the view of the city. Here you see the view towards the Eixample area dominated by the giant church Sagrada Familia, also designed by Gaudí.

The heritage from Antoni Gaudí: Park Guëll - The lizard

This lizard is one of the most famous sculptures, left by Antoní Gaudi. You can buy it in any size and quality in numerous souvenir-shops in the city.

This picture has been taken by Susanne Kjekshus Koch. You can read her blog here

The heritage from Antoni Gaudí: Park Guëll - The Hall

These columns support a large hall. They are strong, clean, and stand in contrast to the nature-like walkways. When I first saw them, I was reminded by the temples built in old Egypt. Still, the mosaics, the roaring cats and the curves on the top cries Gaudí!!

The heritage from Antoni Gaudí: Park Guëll - the walkways

These walkways are typical of one of the many expressions Gaudí left in Park Guëll. They look like paths found in the stories by Tolkien, or from the often grotesque fairy tales by the Grimm brothers. Even if they are obviously man made, they also kind of blend into the landscape around. This is so typical Gaudí, as he sought inspiration from nature. This inspiration often gives you a feeling that his buildings, though being solid stone structures, are alive, and in motion.

This picture has been taken by Susanne Kjekshus Koch. You can read her blog here

Monday, January 01, 2007

Memories from Susi's souvenirs: Street art from Barcelona

I spent this Christmas in Barcelona. Our hotel was close to the old town, the Barri Gotic. This fascinating part of town is all narrow streets with crooked Medieval buildings that are home to tiny, dark pubs, exotic restaurants, and tapas bars where you can nibble at delicate traditional Spanish "fast good" all through the night.

Read more on Susi's souvenirs

Memories from Susi's souvenirs: Magic in Barcelona's Cathedral Square

On Christmas Eve we were having lunch in Barcelona's Cathedral Square (Basque tapas, or pinxos, as they are called -- mini sandwiches with hot sausage, peppers filled with tuna mousse, pickled anchovies -- a meal to remember). That's when I met an angel. No, really! I met an angel and it was a magical moment. Here's what happened:

Read more on Susi's souvenirs

Memories from Susi's sovenirs: Gaudí's Barcelona

Among my favorite souvenirs from 2006 are the memories and photos from the creations Gaudí in Barcelona. Not many architects can build a house that makes you change your opinion of what a house is. Gaudi certainly coud and he did over and over again!

Read more on Susi's Souvenirs

Sights of Barcelona: Park Guëll

Park Guëll

Park Guëll is situated on a hillside and from the park you can enjoy a spectacular view of the city. You can easily reach the park by taking subway L3, direction Canyelles, leaving at Vallcarca. From there you follow the signs, and you do not have to loose your breath to get there. There are outdoor escalators all up to the top of the hill.

Park Guëll shows so many of Gaudís styles. Some of the walkways he designed looks like more like natural grottos, than man made constructions. Standing there you have a spooky feeling being on the set of the Lord of Rings movies. This is contrasted by a hall held up by large columns, nearly egyptian in style.

There are so many expressions in buildings, through wrought iron decorations, tiles, mosaics and much more. Parc Guëll is one of these places you have to return to in order to discover new details you have not seen before. For instance, this time I discovered a beacon on the top, I had not seen before, with steps to climb and shaped like a small ziggurat, like the tower of Babel.


Sights of Barcelona: Gaudi

No one has left its mark on Barcelona as much as Antoní Gaudi. As he graduated as an architect in 1878, his teacher, Elies Rogent, expressed his bewilderment of his pupils talent. As he signed Gaudí's title, he declared, "I have either found a lunatic or a genius." From his graduation until he was run over by a tram in 1926 Gaudí expressed his strong catholic faith through so many different styles and architecural expressions. Today nobody doubts Gaudís place as one of the most remarkable architects the world has ever seen.

The last time I visited Barcelona, I watched the facade of the Sagrada Familia, with awe from the outside, and I visited Park Guëll. This time, I managed to enter this majestic church building and revisit the park as well as the famous Casa Milà at Passeig de Gracia. I will share my memories of these wonderful monuments for you her at Enjoy Food & Travel. But if you travel to Barcelona, you have to visit these sites to see for yourself the wonderful heritage Antoní Gaudi has left the world.

Eating in Barcelona - Les Quinze Nitz

The suquet de peix

The suquet de peix is a catalan speciality, a fish stew with potatoes, served in a tomato and garlic based jus. It is supposed to have 3-4 varieties of fish, shellfish, and mussels.

I found that the suquet served at le Quinze Nitz did not have much of the flavour you should expect from freshly caught fish and mussels, the tomatoes, garlic and herbes.

Eating in Barcelona - Les Quinze Nitz

Carpaccio of beef

The carpaccio of beef was served with olive oil, parmeggiano cheese and toast. The presentation was great, but it did not taste very much

Eating in Barcelona - Les Quinze Nitz, Placa Reial

We dined at les Quinze Nitz the first evening in Barcelona. It had the simple reason that it seemed to be very popular, as a long line formed shortly before the restaurant opened. The atmosphere of the restaurant was great, but the food? I found it a little boring, to be honest!

Location: BBBBB
The restaurant is situated on the north end of Placa Reial, in the middle of Barcelona close to La Rambla.

Atmosphere: BBBB+
Lovely interior, mainly in red and white, red lampshades, white leather chairs, very comfortable. We were placed on the first floor overlooking the square. Great atmosphere!

Price: BBB+
Inexpensive. Most of the food on the menu costs less than €20. The price does however reflects the quality of the food. Only tree B's, and a pluss!

The service: BBBB+
The staff gave us good service. There was an english menu that provided us with enough information for us to easily choose what we wanted, and we did not have to wait long to get our food.

The Food: BBBB
We ordered ham croquettes as an entree, followed by a carpaccio of beef. As main course we had suquet de peix, a catalan fish stew that I shared with Susanne. For dessert I had a lemon Sorbet.

Susanne chose salmon carpaccio as a starter, whereas Per had a tomato soup followed by roast chicken-breast.

We ordered a bottle of cava - a great choice to our food!

The ham croquettes were delicious!!

All the dishes were very well presented. The beef carpaccio was, however, a little tasteless. Susannes salmon carpaccio, served with a cream cheese dressing had much flavour and the cream cheese dressing was delicious (I had a little nibble).

My expectation rose as the suquet arrived in a large metal pan. The fish and mussels were cooked to perfection, but I found the tomato based sauce rather bland and boring. I would have expected more flavours from the fish, garlic and herbs.

The finale - the sorbet was delicious!!

Total score: BBBB+
A good restaurant, but not a great one!

New Years Eve 2007

This New Years Eve, was celebrated with my good friend Tore Li, former science attaché in Washington DC, currently working in NHO - Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise and my travelling buddies Per and Susanne Koch.

It was a highly memorable evening, the food, wine and good company. As a main course, Tore served duck breast, jacket potato, steamed broccoli and pepper sauce. To this, he served a great red wine from Margeaux, Bordeaux. And at midnight organic champagne was poured into our glasses, as we admired the fireworks from his rooftop terrace overlooking downtown Oslo.

A truly great evening, with exquisite company!!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sights of Barcelona: Placa Reial

Placa Reial is the ultimate place for a romantic evening. This wonderful square, the old street lamps designed by Gaudí, and the tall palmtrees creates a great background for a good dinner or an evening drink.

Placa Reial is a favourite. It is situated just a stones throw away from La Rambla, and the entire square was constructed in the 19th century. There are arcades around the whole square housing bars as Colon and Cerveseria Canarias, where you can get a drink and some tapas. You can also get a great dinner at Les Quinzenitz, Taxidermista, or Santa Monica.

So a visit to this beautiful old square is highly recommendable. It ended up as our favourite area to eat and drink. I will share our culinary memories from four restaurants and bars around the square.

So enjoy!

Eating in Barcelona - Bilbao Berria

The interior

A rare moment at the bar, as some guests just left. On the main counter you can see the large selection of pinxtos to choose from, and on the other side you can treat yourself to hot tapas. There is also a good selection of sweets to choose from.

Eating in Barcelona - Bilbao Berria

Assorted pinxtos

If you want to make pinxtos, you can see some examples here. To the left you have bread with two different fish pates, one with tomato or pepper, and one with herbs. In the middle you have a pinxto with grilled red pepper stuffed with a mayonnaise based tuna salad. Right you see a pinxto with thin slices of smoked salmon and a smoked white fish, garnished with red peppers and black fish roe.

Eating in Barcelona - Bilbao Berria

Sometimes it is really a pity that you cannot eat for two. This especially the case if you go to Bilbao Berria, a restaurant close to the cathedral serving pinxtos, tapas from the Basque region. This is a must, if you want to eat good and cheap, but you may have to fight to get a seat. And when you want to get the bill the waiter counts the number of long and short sticks on your plate.

Location: BBBBB
The restaurant is situated at Placa Nova, a ten minute walk from Placa Catalunya in the heart of the old city. If you choose to enjoy your pinxtos outside, you can admire the cathedral and watch the action at the large square. Location is nothing less than superb.

Atmosphere: BBBB+

The restaurant is always packed with people and at times it may be difficult to get access to the pinxtos, as people tend to eat directly at the bar. The interior is very traditional and rustique with tables and benches / chairs made from solid wood, very charming.

Price: BBBBB
€15 for two pints and a more than average number of pinxtos is unbeatable!

The service: BBBB
The restaurant is based on self service so you get what you see. The staff mainly serves drinks and counts the wooden sticks when you want to pay. The overall service at the restaurant is good.

The Food: BBBBB!
The food served is divine!! Pinxtos are small slices of white bread with different toppings, as thin slices of cured ham, red peppers stuffed with tuna salad, fish patés with olive and mayonnaise, slices salmon, and skewers with hot spanish chorizo. The tastes are varied and superb and sometimes very inventive. A few years ago I grabbed a slice with manchego cheese, orange marmalade and chili. Great!

Total score: BBBBB- (4,75 points)
One of the best places to eat in Barcelona.

Address : Plaça Nova, 3, Barcelona
Area : Barrio Gótico
Opening hours : Every day from 9am to midnight.