Saturday, February 17, 2007

Saturday evening - an easy solution

Puff pastry calzone with red peppers, salami, and mozarella

Easily made from ready made ingredients, that you usually have in your refrigerator, and you may vary what you put into it.

Ingredients in this recipe:

1 roll of puff pastry
3-4 tablespoons of tomato sauce (I used a glass of bolognaise sauce)
Mozarella, sliced - how much; you decide
Salami, sliced -
how much; you decide
Red pepper, thinly sliced
Herbs, I used herbs provencal

Roll out the puff pastry. Cover half the sheet with tomato sauce. Leave some room by the edges free of sauce. Put salami, mozarella, sliced red peppers on top.

Fold the other half over the filling. Use a fork to seal the pie. Bake in moderately hot oven (380F /190C) until golden brown. Be alert and check the pie often. Puff pastry may burn easily.

Serve with salad and a good glass of red wine.

Enjoy! Have a nice Saturday!!

Saturday evening - an easy solution

Puff pastry calzone with red peppers, salami, and mozarella

Well, Saturday dinner time! I cooked yesterday and went out after dinner and had (as usual on a friday) a little bit too much to drink. So for Saturday evening dinner I looked for an easy solution, and found it in the refrigerator!

I decided to make a calzone from puff pastry, and did it. Now I am sitting very content after am easy dinner, that tasted great. I will tell you how to make it!

Completely corked - or deviate taste?

Beaune- Cent- Vignes, Premier cru 2004

My friend, Hans Kristiansen, brought this very exclusive wine produced at the Château de Meursault estate in Burgundy, for the dinner yesterday. He told the staff in the wine-store that he needed a wine to match a pungent Cajun/Southern pork dish, and was recommended this one. And he paid up, NOK 237, close to €30!

I have had wines from Burgundy earlier, and many of them need to develop for a long time. The personell told, however that this wine was ripe for consumption. It matched the pork alright, but not in the way you think.

Beaune-Cent-Vignes, Premier cru 2004 is made from 100% pinot noir, and decribed as "medium violet red colour, young fruityness from strawberries and raspberries, hint of oak." When we opened and tasted the wine, however, it had a strong and peppery character and a very bitter aftertaste. As Hans' partner, Frode Grøstad arrived, he suggested that the wine had to be corked.

Since none of us had tasted any corked wine, previously, we decided to bring the wine back to the wine store. The staff gave us a lesson on the characteristic tastes and bouquet of corked wine. They described the bouquet of a corked wine as "damp cardboard, or damp moulded basement." They did, however, conclude that the wine had a deviating character and registered the case into their database.

A pity, really, as I would have loved to taste this wine! The good thing was that he got two bottles of Allesverloren Cabernet-Sauvignon 2004, and he gave me one as a compensation for the other bottle! The personell highly recommended this wine as one of the best in their selection. I will give you feedback when I drink it.

Allesverloren Shiraz 2005: An exquisite wine

Allesverloren - "all is lost" - nothing could be further away from the truth, as this wine is one of the best I've had for ages. If you see this bottle in you local shop, do not hesitate to buy a few ! A great choice for a romantic candle light dinner!

The producer, Allesverloren estate, is situated in Swartland , 100km north east of Cape Town. The estate goes back as far as 1696. The Allesverloren brand covers a whole range of wines from different grapes. I have tasted their wine made from the grape tinta barocca earlier and it was terrific. This wine, made from 100% shiraz, was, in my mind even better.

The colour is deep ruby red. It has an extremely rich taste of red berries, plums and spiced oak. It has a high alcohol content (14,7%), and is very suitable for red meats and game. This is also a very good wine for a quiet evening in front of the fire.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Two great restaurants in Brussels

I have visited Brussels both privately and profession- ally for the last ten years. In this period I have visited such a great number of restaurants, and I do not know whether all of them still are in business. This is an account of the restaurants I have visited and that I know are running. In the house at the extreme left, you find the famous restaurant Maison de Cygne. If you want to eat here, you have to pay up. Still Brussels is definitely the place to eat well relatively cheap. But you have to know where to go. And remember - stay away from the tourist traps!!

As a word of warning, though - many restaurants in the central area really are tourist traps, and do not fall for their agressive marketing. You are paying a good deal more than necessary for food that is not representative the best of the Belgian capital. This is particularly the case of Rue de Bouchers and the Grand Place itself. But also here, you can get good food. You just have to know where to go.

Falstaff

Close to the Bourse and Cirio, you find Falstaff, a wondeful art nouveau restaurant that has been in business since 1903. A few years ago, the restaurant was beautifully restored, back to its former glory.

Falstaff offers traditional Belgian cuisine and a great interior. Try a Waterzooi or Vlaamse Stoofkarbonnaden, served with pommes frites. Or you may choose a Salade Liégoise, a salad with green beans, lard, onions and vinegar. And what to drink - what about a Leffe Blonde, Duvel or a Grimbergen Blonde?

Falstaff offers a great Brussels experience - and expect to leave satisfied, filled up and a little tipsy - the way to leave a good Belgian meal.

Adress: Rue Henri Mausstraat 19
Tel.: +32 2 510 05 50

L’Huitrière

If you want to enjoy great seafood, take subway 1a/1b to the Place Saint Cathérine, or walk down - it only takes 10 minutes from Grand Place. When my best friend, Ketil Johan Zahl, visited me during my stay in Brussels in 1999, we had the greatest seafood meal ever, for a ridiculous price of 2000 BEF (€50), including aperitif, entree, two main dishes (!), dessert and 1 litre / 1/4 gallon of great white wine.

We ordered oysters (Ketil), foi gras(me), cold, boiled lobster with salad and two mayonnaise based sauces, then two baked lobsters with whiskey and champagne and how we struggled at the end - a Belgian chocolate gateau.

I have returned twice since then, and the restaurant serves great food, still the meal 8 years ago was the best ever. Enjoy Food & Travel highly recommend this restaurant.

Adress: 20 quai aux Briques
Phone: +32 2 5121 26 99

A few other good restaurants:

  • L' Amadeus
    Great food in the atelier of the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin.
    Adress: Veydtstr. 13
    Phone: +32 2 538 34 2

  • La Quincaillerie
    Restaurant in an old art nouveau hardwareshop, where you can be seated on galleries overlooking the vibrant restaurant
    Adress: Rue du Page 45
    Phone: +32 2 533 98 33

  • T'Kelderke
    Wonderful restaurant in an old basement at Grand Place. The first and only place I have eaten horse meat. Very good and very tender!!
    Adress: Grand Place 15
    Phone: +32 2 512 3081

  • Skieve Architect
    Eccentric place to eat and drink situated at the Market square of the Jeu de Bal.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Brussels: Where Arthur Rimbaud shot Paul Verlaine

Close to Grand Place you find this plaque that translates "Here stood L'Hôtel a la ville de Courtrai, where the 10th of July 1873 Paul Verlaine wounded Arthur Rimbaud with a revolver."

The relationship between the two gifted poets Rimbaud and Verlaine are brilliantly portrayed in the film Total Eclipse, where Leonardo di Caprio gives life to the young and brilliantly gifted poet Arthur Rimbaud. He and Verlaine were passionate lovers after Verlaine had abandoned his son and his wife to stay with Rimbaud, 10 years his junior. Their relationship ended tragically as Verlaine was imprisoned in connection with the shooting accused for this deed and also (rightfully) accused of sodomy.

Brussels - a foodstory: Sweet delicacies at Rue de Tongres

Living in the neighbour- hood, it was hard to resist the delicate pastry and cakes on offer at the Tea room rue de Tongres. No wonder I put on 20lbs / 10 kilos in 3 months!!

Brussels - a foodstory: Sweet delicacies at Rue de Tongres

Merode is situated close to the European Quarters and the Parc Cinquantenaire. Here you find this teasalon where you can indulge in the most delicious french confiserie, made from chocolate or fruits.

I lived in this neigbourhood in 1999 and this place was one of my favourites. French roast espresso coffee accompanied with great pastry. I strongly recommend saturday tea or coffee there. And it is easy to get there. Take subway line 1a/1b, direction Hermann Debroux / Stockel. Leave at Merode subwaystation.

Jack Daniels Tennessee Whisky - An American classic

I love Jack Daniels, delicately sweet and smoky, on the rocks or the Scottish way, with lukewarm water. Jack Daniels, and the two other brands of Tennessee Whisky, Gentleman Jack and the wonderful rich and sophisticated Jack Daniels Single Barrel are classical American specialities from a tradition going far back in time.

In fact, the Jack Daniels saga goes back to the mid 1870s, when Jasper Newton "Jack" Daniel, founded Jack Daniel's Tennessee whisky distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. He was of welsh descent, and as he was childless, his nephew Lem Motlow took over, and owned the distillery until he died in 1947. Since 1957 the brand name and production were taken over by the Brown Forman group.

The Jack Daniel website has what it calls a "tasty part" of the official site called Around the Tennessee Table. Here you get recipes for drinks as the Tolleytown Celebration Punch or Jack Daniel's Cactus kicker. Jack Daniels is also great as an ingredient in savoury dishes as part of a marinade, or in sauces and you can even use it in desserts. I love Buffalo Wings and what about Tabasco® Jack Wings, or Hot sweet and sour Tennessee whisky meatballs? It sounds seriously good. And you can share your recipes.

The restaurant chain TGI Friday's has successfully used the whisky in different dishes as the Jack Daniels Sampler with Jack Ribs, and sesame Jack Chicken with its own Jack Daniels sauce. The smokyness blends in with its sweet and salty ingredients in their dishes.

My cousin, Ann Eastman McDonnell makes her own Tennesse whisky marinade. Jack Daniels, Dijon mustard, demerara sugar and soy sauce blend into a great mix of sweet smokyness from the sugar and whiskey, the heat from the Dijon mustard, and the salt soya sauce. I do not think she use any measurements, as she cooks the way I do, mix ingredients with caution and taste until you like the combination.

She allows the steak or steak tips to marinate for at least two hours (I personally recommend over night), and then pan fry the beef. And do not throw the marinade away!! Use it as a base for a sauce.

I personally have used Jack Daniels in sauce for beef or game, and it really gives an interesting twist to the sauce, and people always ask what the secret ingredient is.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Food & Travel News Flash February 7th to February 14th 2007

Missed some pieces of good food or travel news last week. Enjoy Food & Travel will give you a relevant weekly newsflash around the world. We will start at the perfect getaways for a romantic vacation.

A few hotels for the romantic getaway

Looking for the perfect location for the romantic vacation? Well, do not look further. Susan Hendrick, a couples therapist and professor of psychology at Texas Tech University, and Sarah Jang of consulting and publishing company Wedding Solutions have chosen to share some her secrets to Forbes magazine, when you start to prepare that special vacation. Their special advice are:

  1. Find out what is the most romantic location for you. The tropical beach, the mountain slopes, or the busy life in the city?
  2. When decided, pick the best hotel of its kind!
And they have even chosen 10 hotels, for 10 different romantic couples. So open your wallet and book a double room and a bottle of Moët & Chandon. Or you can just watch the slide show and start dreaming.

Read the full story at Forbes.com

A destination defying gravity is now history - but there are 20 more left

In Lake Delton, Wisconsin, you find a grey shed called the Wonder spot. In spite of its uninteresting looks it has intrigued travellers for over 50 years. Why? Well - in this little shed it is claimed that people cannot stand up straight, and that water runs uphill and even chairs balance on two legs. This and 20 similar places are called mystery spots or gravity vortexes.

If you want to experience the mystery of Lake Delton, it may be too late, as 21 mystery spots are reduced 20, as the owner last month sold the grey shed to the city of Lake Delton. The place will be demolished and replaced by a much needed road. But you still have 20 left.

Read more on where you find the Mystery Spots on Roadside America

Are you a owner of a Penfolds Koonunga Hill 1976? Drink it now!!

Australian red wines, yes, even the most exclusive, are not known to be wines to store in you cellar for over 10 years. The only expection to this rule, are the Penfolds Koonunga Hill wines. A journalist in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has opened and tasted several vintages of this well known wine brand as old as 1976 and found that they all have withstood the long storage period.

The journalist had the privilege to taste the vintages from 1976, 1978, 1986, 1996, and 2004. The oldest was still drinkable, but had started to go down (Konunga) hill, but the other vintages were still very good. The 1978 had "flavours of red berries, mushrooms and undergrowth (!), and were not unlike a vintage burgundy wine or a Barolo." And the other two older vintages were of excellent quality as well. The 2004 vintage could, according to the journalist, easily be stored for another 10 years.

But if you have a 1976 vintage - it is definitely ripe for consumption.

Read the story at Aftenposten (Norwegian only)

Stately living in Brussels: Hotel Metropole

There are few hotels, I have ever stayed at, that have left a mark than the stately Hotel Metropole in Brussels. It is built in 1895 and is a monument of times long gone carved in granite and marble, and lit by crystal chandeliers.

When you enter the wonderful lobby you feel that this is the kind of hotel you would never would afford to stay. If you, however, try book over the internet, you may be lucky, and you are really in for a treat.

Overall score: BBBBB- (4,8 out of 5 points)

Locatio
n: BBBB

You find Hotel Metropole at Place Brouckère, close to Theatre de Monnaie and the shopping street Rue Neuve. Sadly, there are just a few buildings left, like the Metropole left. The area has been ruined by a tasteless mishmash of buildings from different eras. It is situated by the de Brouckère subwaystation, and you can catch a subway/tram (Green line) from both Gare de Nord or Gare Centrale (Line 1a and 1b - direction Roi Baudoin / Bizet). But it is not the area around the hotel that counts, but its interior.

Service: BBBBB

The service at the hotel Metropole is excellent, polite english-speaking staff took well care of you from you arrived until you left.

We were lucky to have breakfast included in our price. The breakfast area were situated in the basement area, and we enjoyed a wonderful buffet in very stately manner.

Hotel facilities: BBBBB

The interior of this wonderful hotel is to die for. You are back to the turn of the last century and you are overwhelmed by this old time charm. The lobby, the café, the restaurant and the large ornamental rooms connected to the lobby, where you can just sit and enjoy a drink in a stately environment. You can also have a great dinner at
L'Alban Chambon from an exclusive menu.

But as luxury hotels go, it lacks some of the facilities that you might have expected in a luxury hotel. For those of you that prefer some physical exercise there are no swimming pools. However there is a health and beauty centre at the hotel. You may also enjoy a WLAN in the hotel lobby free for guests.

Price: BBBBB

As there are a large range of different rooms, you will have to pay different prices. The best rates are on weekends between €130 - €160 for a superior or medium sized room, and €399 for a junior suite, while you have to pay €950 for the faboulous Suite Toscanini. During weekdays the prices are higher for the ordinary rooms, starting at €195 for a medium sized room.

You can book over the hotel booking site, offering up to 60% discount on certain dates. The hotel also offers exclusive packages, e.g. romantic stays at favourable prices.

Hotel reservation sites, as www.hrs.de, offers favourable prices. So you can afford to stay here if you do some research on the net.

Adress: Hôtel Métropole
Place de Brouckère 31-1000 Brussels-Belgium
Phone. + 32-2-217 23 00 -
Fax. + 32-2-218 02 20
info@metropolehotel.be

Stately living in Brussels: Hotel Metropole - the room

The room: BBBBB

You can choose from a range of different rooms:
- Medium sized room

- De luxe rooms
- Priviliege rooms
- Special privilege rooms like P.R. Jean Piat
- Junior suites
- Large suites, like the Sara Bernhardt suite

We were very pleased by our medium sized room, spacious accomodation with much light in a newer extension on the top of the hotel. As it was on the top of the building, it was very quiet as well.


The two large beds, the desk and chairs were in light birch wood with a 1950's design. We had a TV, minibar, and a safe for our valuables.

Stately living in Brussels: Hotel Metropole - the bathroom

The bathroom was immaculate, decorated with cream coloured tiles. The bathroom had a glass room with downlights, and the best thing of all - a bathtub, where you could enjoy a drink and a foam bath.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Recycling yesterdays lamb disaster

Even tough meat may turn tender, and the leftovers from yesterdays lamb disaster will get new life through, what the italians call a ragù

Lamb ragù

The amount of ingredients in this recipe is really not important. A ragù is made with the ingredients you have at hand. But you need meat, preferably very tough meat, as this will simmer for a very long time. You also need garlic, herbs and tomato pulp or passata. Do remember to taste the ragù as the cooking progress - and do use a generous amount of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.

Ingredients

Leftover meat - her 300 grs / 11 oz tough lamb, diced
7-8 cloves of garlic. I use garlic in olive oil
Olive oil, amount by choice, but enough to brown the meat
1 can of plum tomato pulp or passata
250 ml / 7,5 fluid oz water
100 ml / 3 fluid oz single cream
Herbs (dried organo, rosemary, thyme)
1/2 small zucchini, diced
1-2 tbsp liquid beef stock
20 grs of dried ceps
Generous amount of sugar, taste to season right
Pepper

Pasta (Here I have used tagliatelli with cep-mushrooms)

Grated parmeggiano reggiano

Fry meat and garlic, and add zucchini. Lightly brown them. Add the herbs.
Add the passata, water, beef stock and cream. Then add sugar and pepper. Add the ceps dieectly in the liquid.

You can also use tomato ketchup to replace some of the sugar. Allow to simmer for three hours.

Boil pasta according to the instruction. Mix ragù with pasta. Sprinkle with grated parmeggiano.

Places to eat and drink

Brussels - The Cirio

When my friends Øivind Grimsmo and Monica Solér Perez stayed in Brussels, they introduced me to Cirio, and it was love at the first sight. When I am in Brussels, once a year I always return to Cirio. A visit in the European capital would not been the same without a glass of Leffe Blonde and a Croque Cirio.

Atmosphere: BBBBB

Situated by the Brussels Stock Exchange, Cirio is a beautiful café with outstanding Art Nouveau decor. Even after a restoration a few years ago, it has still preserved its character. The Cirio interior is a feast for the eye giving you a definite fin-de-siècle feeling. The sofas and chairs are very rustique and provide comfortable seating.

Price: BBBBB

It is not expensive to have a meal and a few beers at Cirio. The total bill rarely adds up to the €20 mark, and the quality of the food is good, but not excellent.

The Service: BBBB

There is a comfortable pace at Cirio, meaning that getting the food takes its time. The service is provided is good, offered by waiters appropriately dressed in black and white, with large black aprons. The menu is translated into several languages so you know what you order. And in the meantime you can enjoy the atmosphere.

The Food: BBBB

The menu offers traditional Belgian dishes as Waterzooi and Lapin au Pruneaux, rabbit stew with prunes. You can also order pastadishes or different Croques, like Croque-Monsieur, Croque Cannibale (beef tartar with raw eggs) or my favourite, the Croque Cirio, with tomatosauce, salami and mozarella. The pasta dishes are often very rich, with a lot of cream and cheese, filling you up completely. This is not refined cuisine, but good, old fashioned cooking.

You get several of the most familiar beer brands as Leffe Blonde and Leffe Brune on draught, and many more varieties bottled. The famous Half and Half cocktail (half champagne and half white wine) was invented here. They also have a good selection of red and white wines and drinks.

Overall Score: BBBB+

If you are in Brussels, do visit Cirio, an institution, and monument from the turn of the last century.

Address: Rue de la Bourse 18-20
Phone: 02/512-1395

A great aperitif - Lapponia Blueberry Liqueur

I am not very fond of liqueurs, as I often find them too sweet. The Blueberry liqueur from Lapponia however, is one of the best liqueurs I have tried.

Beautiful dark blue colour, not too sweet, and a really great rich and fruity scent and taste of blueberry.

Great for an aperitif before a dinner, or enjoyed with a cup of coffee and a cigar!

You can also get Lapponia liqueurs made from lingonberry, cranberry, cloudberry and buckthorn.

Corte Giara, Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2004

I love the Ripasso wines, with their deep red colour. The Corte Giara 2004 is has a distinct taste of red berries and a hint of licorice, providing a slightly bitter aftertaste. It worked perfect with the lamb!!

Corte Giara are made by the renowned producer Allergrini in cooperation with the Valpolicella cooperative. The wine is bottled on the Corte Giara property situated in the heart of the Valpolicella region.

The grapes varieties used in this wine is Corvina (50%), Rondinella (45%) and Molinara (5%)

Saturday dinner

Roast of lamb, with oven roasted potatoes and asparagus and morel sauce with cognac


This piece of lamb from Hallingskarvet products, weighing 750 gr / 1 1/2 lb, was expensive. At a price of €20, I expected more quality. But before I get into detail of the quality of the meat, let me tell you how to prepare a lamb roast to perfection. Lamb should rather be slightly undercooked, in order to stay moist and tender.

Wrap the lamb in thin slices of bacon, and fry it in a very hot pan with a little olive oil, then roast in the oven on a low heat (120C / 250F) for 45 minutes.

I used frozen, ready made potatoes and asparagus, roasted in a hot oven (210C / 400F) for 25-30 minutes. Put the roast in the oven for 15 minutes, allow to rest for five minutes before cutting into thick slices.

I served a sauce made with morels, creamed champignon, single cream, salt, pepper and 2 cl. cognac.

Sadly, in spite of the tempting labels, this meat was extremely tough, and hardly possible to eat. For this price I had really expected much better quality, so if you see this label in your shop, be aware that you may spend your money on a better cut of meat. The rest of this lamb will end up in a lamb stew that I will make today, and boil for a very long time!!

Saturday dinner

Roast of lamb with bacon


There are few meats that taste as well as lamb. I bought this lamb roast, that was marinated in herbs and garlic, produced by Hallingskarvet Products, located at Gol, in the Norwegian valley of Hallingdal

Sadly, a disappointment.