Friday, February 09, 2007

Discreet luxury in Cambridge MA: Royal Sonesta Hotel

Since my first stay at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, I have returned five times, in spite of the fact that it is not the most inexpensive place to stay in central Boston. Why? The Royal Sonesta is simply a great hotel to stay in, large and spacious rooms, wonderful service and a view to die for.

Location: BBBBB

The hotel is located by the Charles River, close to Lechmere, the end station of the green lines, and a 10 minute walk to Kendall, on the red line between Alewife and Braintree/Matappan. It is also close to CambridgeSide Galleria, where you have a large number of shops, a large food court and a few good restaurants, the Cheesecake Factory, Paparazzi, and California Pizza kitchen. In the neighbourhood you also find the Boston Science Museum.

The hotel is situated with a magnificent view at the river and downtown Boston with Beacon Hill, the Charles Bridge and the Back Bay Area.

Service: BBBBB

The best thing with this hotel is the staff and their wonderful service. During the whole stay you feel extremely well taken care of as a guest. They have done their homework. They are, through their hotel computer system, well informed that you are a returning guest. Porters and receptionists welcome you back, and even “remember” details from previous visits.

And sometimes it pays off returning. The last time we stayed there, I had ordered a Cambridge view room, but was informed that I had been upgraded to a Charles River view. The picture gives you the spectacular view one late summer morning, but you can sit enjoying the American feeling by watching all the lights from the highrise buildings of downtown Boston during the night.

And they provide you with excellent service during your stay and the are very helpful if you need information on what to do in the Boston area.

The only downside is that the hotel does not include breakfast in the price, but most hotels in US does not offer breakfast included in the room price. The alternatives are there, however, an inexpensive breakfast cafeteria where you can shop at a relatively low price. If you would, however, like to eat in style you can order an Egg Benedict, but enjoying their breakfast comes at a price, it is expensive. But if you are on vacation, why not!!

The rooms: BBBBB

The rooms are very spacious, and delicately decorated, in beige, and cream. The double rooms you get two, very large and very comfortable beds, so much room for one, and even for two to dream the night away. So even so much space that we have, at one occation even have stayed three.

You have a television, concealed in an elegant TV-cabinet, radio alarmclock and a hot water bottle so you can make coffee and tea in the morning. And if you want something stronger you can use the hotel minibar.

The bathroom have a bathtub and shower, all beautifully decorated. And there are small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and bath foam.

And all the rooms are immaculately clean and very well maintained.

Hotel facilities: BBBBB

And if you want to stay in the hotel, there are plenty to do.

You can visit the Dante Restaurant, bar and patio where you can get food, and during the hot season you can sit outside enjoying the river view sipping to a Gin and Tonic, or a Long Island Iced Tea.

If you want to stay fit you can visit the Health Club and their wonderful swimming pool, that even have a retractable roof so you can swim outside during hot days. Or you can be pampered in the Spa department.

Price: BBBB

From a budget point of view, the Royal Sonesta is not the best deal in Boston. The best price, with a cambridge view in february (low season) is $139 + tax. Still you get much for your money, the service, the comfort, and the experience of discreet luxury

Overall score: BBBBB-

A very good place to stay, and for those of you that want a romantic weekend, Royal Sonesta is a very good deal.

Hotel information:

Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston
40 Edwin Land Boulevard
Cambridge, MA 02142
P: (617) 806-4200

Online booking

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Lucullian delights - a scrumptious Italian experience

Ilva Beretta, a swede married and settled in Pistoia in Tuscany, has created a food website to die for. Lucullian delights - an Italian experience is a sensational food site in more than one way. Beautifully designed with clever, creative recipes combining unusual ingredients and sensational photos makes it into a feast for the eye. Click here, and immediately indulge in the Lucullian experience!

I stumbled on the site, while exploring a list in Food porn watch, and I immediately was filled with admiration and, I have to admit, envy. My blog suddenly looked boring and unadventurous. Still, Ilvas sites are the ones to learn from, as she has the secret how to make a good blog into an excellent blog.

Lucullian Delights have the most exquisite photos, I have seen in a very long time, echoing my own experiences of the scenery, buildings, and food of Tuscany. She captures the ingredients before and during the preparation into the finished dish, beautifully presented. You get very, very hungry in the process, as you indulge into the Lucullan delights. Ilva does not only take photos of food, in between the great recipes she presents Tuscan scenery, buildings, plants, flowers, all as delicately presented as her food.

Ilva Beretti does not present recipes from the traditional Tuscan kitchen, rather her intrepretation of it. She also presents her own culinary creations combining interesting ingredients creating the most scrumptious soups, salads, and pasta dishes. Still there is one important part of the Italian tradition reflected in her cooking. Less is more.

Italians use few rather than many ingredients in their food. In fact italian cooking is often very basic, but the quality and freshness of the few ingredients used, transform the simplest pastadish into a heavenly experience. I, for instance, one warm night in July in the year 2000 had pasta with pesto Genovese in a local restaurant in Viagliagli in Chianti and a bottle of the local wine. It tasted as no pasta with pesto had tasted before - magic.

One example of this is one of her latest creations, Red beetroot soup with horseradish ricotta (Zuppa di barbabietole e crama di ricotta e rafiano) where she turns the ingredients into the most colourful and sexy dish I have seen. Her photos show the tranformation from root vegetable, into the intensely lipstick red soup, with a floating lump of horseradish-flavoured macarpone in the middle.

Go and experience Ilvas world. I will certainly continue to browse, exploring the pages I have not visited, and I will certainly try her recipes.

Enjoy Food & Travel newsbrief: January 31st to February 6th 2007

Travel: Another record year for world tourist

In spite of the war on terror, people travel more than ever. 842 million of us increased international arrivals by 4.5% last year making it a new record year for the industry. It is the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer that released these results.


The turbulent geopolitical situation will not damage the tourist industry, this year either. UNWTO suggests that 2007 will turn into the fourth year of sustained growth, in spite of terrorism, avian flu and rising fuel prices.

Increasing interest rates could however change these predictions. A weaker US dollar would reduce foreign travel demand by Americans. A stronger euro could, however, stimulate European international travel.

The growth in international tourist arrivals in the different continents for 2006 were according to the UNWTO:
• Africa, 8,1%
• Asia and the Pacific: 7.6%,
• Europe, 4%
• Middle East, 4%
• The Americas, 2%.

Read more at the UNWTO website

Wine: Jackpot for a wine loving thief

It is not very often that you find a thief with such a specific taste. A homeowner in Atherton California came home early January, and found that a thief or thieves had entered the property and stolen – the 450 most precious bottles in the wine cellar. The star price was a magnum bottle Château Pétrus 1959 from Bordeaux, France. Price tag: $11000. The collection also included a magnum of 1959 Château Beychevelle and a magnum of 2002 Jones Family cabernet, a Napa Valley cult wine.

In this Silicon Valley community, one of the country’s wealthiest, a $100,000 theft, has captured the minds of sophisticated wine lovers in the Bay Area.

As the owner was on vacation around New Years Eve, thief or thieves made their way into the basement, where the collection, was stored. There was no sign of forced entry, indicating the possibility of an inside job. The house is gated, and a code and a key would have been needed to enter it, police said.

They knew what they were after, as they left other valuables in the property untouched.

Read more in New York Times

Food: Warum, warum - is the poppadum flat?
- UN propose standards for the perfect poppadum.

United Nations will apply international standards for the production of the Indian flat bread poppadum. This product joins Cheddar cheese and dried shark’s fin on a list of internationally traded food products drawn up by the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants.

Codex was set up by two UN agencies, the FAO and the WHO, in 1963 to protect consumers and ease international trade. The new poppadum standard will importers or consumers a basis for legal action if a poppadum falls short of Codex standards.

The Indian authorities, anxious to promote their food exports, first proposed including poppadums and other popular Indian products at a meeting in Tanzania in 2003. So now you can start to evaluate whether the Poppadum you get in India takeaway falls short of the international standards. If so, you may claim your money back.

Read more in London Times


Travel: War on terror - Damage to the US tourist industry


The security measures in the aftermath of 9/11 may have cost the US as much as a billion dollars (£508m) in lost tourism revenue.

Discover America Partnership shows great concerns over stricter passport and customs controls have led to a 17% drop in tourism to the US over the past five years The security measures over the past five years may appear to have strengthened security. Gone, however are the efficiencies and customer service.

More read on Travelog:

Monday, February 05, 2007

And then we sailed into the night

This concludes my account from this minicruise from Oslo to Copenhagen.

I hope you will join me on my next voyage, to Massachussets, New Hampshire and Maine, starting February 24th.

M/F Crown of Scandinavia: A nightcap in the wine bar

Close to midnight I enjoyed a very good glass of red wine in the wine bar on the upper deck. I chose a glass of red wine - a Ripasso at DKK 74 (€9)

Wonderful, deep red, soft like velvet, with a intens taste of red fruits. You may that it was much for a very small amount served in a large wine glass, but I ensure you - it was worth the price!

M/F Crown of Scandinavia: Eating at bistro Latitude

The salad with goats cheese, aubergines and red pesto, was a great experience. Three thick slices of luke warm, lightly grilled goats cheese melting away on your tongue! Indecent, sinful!

This is definitely a favourite - one to choose!!

We chose a great South African wine, Paradyskloof, cabernet sauvignion, and we strongly recommend this to the Ships wine, Laroche. And the price difference was only DKK 20 (€2,50). So little difference, for so much more taste!

M/F Crown of Scandinavia

Eating at bistro Latitude

We were very pleased by the food at bistro Latitude, on our way down, in spite of the bad service. Very much so, that we decided to tuck into rest of the menu. This, as we had, in fact, nearly been through the wholde menu at the end of this evening.

This sandwich with beef, guacamole, jalapenopeppers, salsa and nachos was the most expensive dish on the menu, DKK 135 (€16). The meat was very tender, but the sandwich did not taste very much, and at that price a disappointment. But it was a decent portion.

Leaving Copenhagen

Eight hours are such a very short time for a city like Copenhagen. If it had not been for the short travel, and the fact that we have been there so many times, it would have been senseless. For those of you that want to travel to Copenhagen - you can easily spend a week and still not seen it all, as there are so much to see.

Sunset, as we wait to leave, over the wonderful dome of Fredriks church or Marmorkirken (Marble church), a magnificent monument from the 1st part of the 18th century. This image sums up the memories of a great day.

The ship leaves at 5 PM, and as she glides out in Øresund, a brass band march is played on the ship stereo.....

Det er dejlig å være norsk - i Danmark!

(It is great to be Norwegian - in Denmark)

Serving Danish pastry to the citizen of Copenhagen since 1879

Reinh. van Hauen

So now you know where you can admire all this pastry and bread, and maybe sneak in and indulge in flaky pastry and lovely custard. You find the shop close to the end of Strøget, by Kongens Nytorv.

And as the sign says:

"Det smager af mere....", it tastes (of) more!

In the land of the Danish Pastry

When walking down Strøget, on our way to the ferry, we went to admire this display for bread and pastry. This reminds us that Copenhagen is the capital in land of the Danish pastry.

Danish pastry are made from a kind of puff pastry, or "pate millefeuille", and filled with custard or applejam. In Norway these pastries are named after the capital of the country where they are supposed to come from. In Norway a piece of Danish pastry is called "Wienerbrød", named from Viennoiserie bread from Vienna.

In this window there are, as well as great italian loaves of bread. So if you are going to taste the real thing - you might as well try one here, on your way to the boat.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ferry services to Norwegian ports

If you want to bring your car, and maybe your camper to Norway you can drive non-stop from the continent. However, the easy way is often a ferry. The reason is that the non-stop driving will bring you through Denmark and Sweden (and you will have to pay for at least one ferry). In addition many roads in Scandinavia are toll roads, and you have to pay up at every toll-station. So it will cost you money to drive non-stop, money often better spent on a ferry ticket.

A ferry will often bring you closer to your destination. If you want to see the impressive mountains of Western Norway you can take a ferry to Kristiansand, Stavanger, and even better Bergen. If you want to drive to the cradle of modern wintersport Telemark, you can take a ferry to Larvik.

In addition, you may enjoy a good meal, and a nights sleep on you way to your destination and buy some much needed custom free goods. Alcohol and sigarettes bear heavy duties in Norway. But remember! Norway is not a member of the European Union. Therefore there are strict quotas on how much you may bring into the country.

Ferryservices to Norwegian cities.

Here are a list of ferryservices to Norway from ports in Europe, the UK and Iceland. Many of the services are daily, all year around. Others ferrys sails on other schedules. Go to the website to find out prices and timetables. Some services operates on more than one port during one crossing, i.e. Bergen - Lerwick - Tòrshavn.

Unfortunately I have tried to locate English websites for Stena Line and Smyril Line without having found any. Bad services for foreign travellers.

Copenhagen

Fredrikshavn
Hanstholm
Hirtshals
Kiel
Lerwick
  • Bergen (Smyril Line)
Newcastle upon Tyne
Scrabster
Seyðisfjørður
  • Bergen (Smyril Line)
Strømstad
Tórshavn

Two other well known restaurants in Copenhagen

When I was a child, going to Denmark was the great trip abroad. This, as a daily ferry service operated from my hometown Arendal to the Danish port of Hirtshals. Thus, I visited Copenhagen, already as a kid, and have memories of great food way back.

Restaurant Grøften

Having served the citizens of Copenhagen for 132 years, I am pleased to see that Restaurant Grøften, in the Tivoli Gardens still exists. In 1974 my mother, sister and I stayed in Copenhagen for a week, and one evening we went to eat in the Tivoli Gardens. Restaurant Grøften was the first place I ate Boeuf Stroganoff, and I am very happy to see that it still is on the menu. The Tivoli Gardens may for some of you be a tourist trap, but I will at one point return to enjoy a plate of Boeuf Stroganoff and think of times long gone.

Restaurant Grøften is listed as a Frommers favourite in Copenhagen.

Adress: Tivoli, Vesterbrogade 3

Restaurant Ida Davidsen

As late as last year we visited Restaurant Ida Davidsen. She is a kind of a living myth in Denmark as she has brought the Danish smørbrød tradition to a level of perfection. In her restaurant close to Amalienborg Palace, she is said to offer the largest variety of Danish open sandwiches in Copenhagen (177 to be exact).

As we were travelling on the ferry last year, we read an article on her passion for sandwiches in the Norwegian paper Aftenposten and decided to try to make a reservation, for the day after, and we made it. But! If you plan to visit Idas place - make your reservation well ahead, as it is immensely popular. We tasted a selection of her sandwiches, and were very happy indeed!! As a curiosa - on top of a salmon sandwich, she had a placed a small plastic cup of aquavit, meant to be poured over the fish. Great idea!!!

Enjoy Food & Travel highly recommends this family restaurant that has served Danes their smørbrød since 1888.
  • There are sadly no menus available on the internet.
  • Ida Davidsen generously offers recipes of some of her popular sandwiches. Try and make some. You can see them here
Adress: Store Kongensgade 70
Phone +45 33 91 36 55

Restaurants in Copenhagen

Le Pavé

At Gråbrødretorv you also find Le Pavé, a great restaurant taking its inspiration from the French country kitchen. We had our lunch here, two years ago, and were very impressed by the food and the service.

The menu displayed outside intrigued us, but we decided to move on to our planned destination, Peder Oxe. However, do not our strength of will (or lack of spontaneity) deter you! For those of you planning a trip to Copenhagen - Enjoy Food & Travel highly recommends this intimate little restaurant. My sister and I found it highly enjoyable.

See the à la carte menu here

See the menu of the month here

Adress: Gråbrødretorv 14

Phone: +45 33 13 47 45