Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The food and wine counts - after all!!

Restaurants rated after their food - December 2006 - December 2007

A good restaurant experience is not only a question on how the food taste. Location, service, interior and style is equally important for a memorable evening. But the food and wine are still the most important part of the experience. Here you find the food and wine rating on the restaurants I have reviewed until now. Have a nice evening - and bon appetit!!

BBBBB – Highly recommendable

Bella Vita, Oslo: BBBBB
Bilbao Berria, Barcelona: BBBBB
Els Quatre Gats, Barcelona: BBBBB
Feng Shui, Cohasset MA: BBBBB
Peder Oxe, Copenhagen: BBBBB
Risotteria, New York NY: BBBBB
Sammy's, New York NY: BBBBB
Santamonica, Barcelona: BBBBB
Soi, Johannesburg: BBBBB
Spisekroken, Bergen: BBBBB
Taste of China, Oslo: BBBBB
To Rom og kjøkken, Trondheim (BBBBB)
Cerveseria Canarias,, Barcelona: BBBBB-
NEW: Mezza Luna, Johannesburg (BBBBB-)

BBBB - Recommendable

Café Zeleste, Copenhagen: BBBB+
Le Cirio, Brussels: BBBB
Tapelia, Barcelona: BBBB+
Blue Riband, M/F Pearl of Scandinavia : BBBB
La Fonda, Barcelona: BBBB
Los Tapetes de Gaudi, Barcelona: BBBB
Les Quinzenitz, Barcelona: BBBB
Spud's, Rowley MA: BBBB
Santa Maria, Sitges: BBBB-

BBB: Good

Bistro Latitude, M/F Pearl of Scandinavia: BBB+
Restaurant Versailles, Durban: BBB+
Siddharta, Barcelona: BBB
Tenorio Braseria, Barcelona

BB: Not recommendable

Da Yin He, Barcelona (BB+)
Piccola Venezia, Boston MA: BB
A Taste of Indian, Bergen BB

B: A waste of time and money

None, thank God!!

See the total rating here!

A well deserved culinary interruption on my way home

An open sandwich at Fyret in Oslo

Today I have walked 12265 steps, or that is at least what my pedometer tells me. That means 7,3 kilometer (3, 5 miles) and 288 calories burnt. That equals (probably) one tuna sandwich and two pints of beer and a chat with Laila, one of my best chums. The latter being completely calorie-free of course. Lucky me!!

Fyret, or the Lighthouse, is one of my favourite hangouts in the Norwegian capital. Located in the bazaar under the old Police station in Møllergata. A tiny cafe/restaurant serving French/Danish/Continental food. Here you get the best Danish open sandwich in town - with warm liverpaté served on rye, raw onion and pickled cucumber.

What to choose on this cool evening of June, when you experience a fall in temperature from 31C (96F) to less than 20C (68F)? The sandwich of course, - mine having a large heap of tuna salad made from mayo, tuna, raw onions, curry powder as main ingredients, garnished with black pitted olives. Recipe claimed to be inspired by a tuna experience on 42nd street in the Big Apple.

And two dripping cold glasses of beer. One should at least pretend that the heat was here still, and I had burned the calories, after all!!

This means that the fresh pasta for today will be chucked into the freezer to be prepared another day. And if you are in Oslo right now, why not have a snack at Fyret. Here is the address:

Fyret Mat & Drikke
Youngstorget 6, Oslo
Phone: +47 22 20 51 82

See other restaurants visited in Oslo and around the world here on Enjoy Food & Travel!

See restaurants reviewed here on Enjoy Food & Travel

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bergen Food Hall and Fish market

Food stories from Bergen

Bergen is a wonderful place to enjoy locally produced food. You have shops and markets you will not find nowhere else in the country, offering fresh, cured and smoked meat products, and cheese and fish caught in the cool seas on the Norwegian west coast.

Kjøttbasaren (Bergen Food hall) is located by the harbour (Vågen) and close to Bryggen. It is unique in a country where five main retailers have taken over most of the market. This has not encouraged local production but left the Norwegian consumers with mass produced low quality food products.

But the tides are turning. At Kjøttbasaren you can buy locally produced cheese as these from the Myrdal farm at Tysnes. Albert Muilwijk and his family, originally from the Netherlands, has settled here, and they produce this delicious cheese from goats milk on their local dairy.

At Kjøttbasaren you will also find an abundance of high quality meat products. Here I found veal, a meat I rarely found in shops in Oslo. I prepared this succulent and extremely tender meat for my nephew and two of his friends.

For those of you that want to bring a culinary memory back with you from Norway, there are a wide variety of products made from sheep or venison.

There is a large population of venison in the Vestlandet and Trøndelag regions, and it is spreading. There are wide range of cured venison meat and sausages for sale at Kjøtthallen.

If you have room in your suitcase you may buy a whole or a chunk of fenalår, a salted and cured leg of lamb. This is usually enjoyed with Norwegian flatbread and sour cream - and a pint of beer. If you are bold, you could try Smalahove, salted and cured sheepshead, with eyes and all.

Kjøtthallen does not only sell meat and cheese. Here you may also buy fresh fish, jam, oils, tea, coffee and much much more.

If you go down to the harbour, you can enjoy the famous Bergen fish market, showing the abundance of life found at the Western coast. The market is more a tourist trap than a place offering fresh and high quality products. In fact there have been several examples of the opposite.

If you are looking for fresh fish, you should go to the other side of the harbour to visit fish monger Erik Sundal at Strandkaien Fisk. I passed his window displaying fresh mussels, peeled crab, whale meat and salted cod.

In 2004 Sundal bought the neighbouring grocery store Kvamme Kolonial & Fetevare, established as far back as 1898. If you did not find anything to buy at Kjøtthallen, try going here.

Sadly these traditional shops are disappearing in Norway as well in Europe and us consumers are left with food wrapped in plastic on the shelves of large super markets. Let us hope that there are enough enthusiasts among us to keep these traditional shops alive. I am an optimist, as food heroes as Albert Muilwijk, provides us with new products based on local ingredients. It is a funny coincidence here. Filipinos at Åndalsnes and Dutch farmers at Tysnes are helping us to rediscover our heritage.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Nice interior, strange food - A Taste of Indian, Bergen

Having spent close to €200 on a brilliant dinner at Spisekroken, we had to hunt for a less expensive dinner place on June 2nd. My nephew Knut had dined at A Taste of Indian before, and wanted to try it again. Good location, nice interior, but nothing more to boast of.

Location: BBBB

A Taste of Indian is located at Marken, in a small charming wooden house in a small quaint street not far from the Bergen Railway station. Relatively easy to find.

Atmosphere: BBBBB-

Inside the house you find yourself in a small and intimate room, painted in a deep red colour with Indian objects on the walls. I found the red rooms slightly over decorated. The strong red colour and the objects left me with almost a Christmas feeling, hardly the right sentiment in an Indian restaurant.

We were seated by the window. Our table had large plates in metal by each seat. The china, used during the meal, had been custom made for the restaurant, and beautifully decorated crystal glasses for our wine. The food was served in Indian metal pans heated by a hot flame underneath. So far so good. Pity the food was so strange, by such a nice table.

Price: BBB

The price on the food was reasonable, as paying up to €20 for a main dish is normal in Norway. I, however, would never have paid €20 again for the food we ordered.

Service: BBB

Service was OK, but nothing more. Ordering went smooth and we were served our meal in reasonable time. My nephew remarked that the staff seemed rather uninterested. No small talk and no smile to customer. This as a contrast to the helpful and kind staff at Spisekroken two days earlier.

Food: BB+

This rating is mostly due to the poppadoms and the red wine. If we were to rely on the food, the scored would have been much lower.

The poppadoms served with chutney, raita and a strong chili/coriander dip were good.

Knut ordered nr. 16, Saslik, from the tandoor described as "tender pieces of bone free lamb marinated over night in yoghurt and spices. Baked in tandoor med spiced onion, red pepper, tomato, and mushrooms. Served with green salad, lemon and mint sauce."

I ordered number 27 - Pasanda, "tender pieces of bone free lamb in a sauce from tomatoes, cashews, almonds and coconut milk, garnished with raisins."

We shared from both trays, and discussed the food during the meal.

The Saslik was served on a hot plate, brilliant red colour, and with a small heated pan for the sauce. The meat was a little dry, but the taste was good, moderately spiced - not very well balanced. But when you tried the gravy, you asked yourself - is it really this way Indian mint sauce is supposed to taste? It tasted bitter, a touch burnt, and no mint.

The pasanda were a few (too few) chunks of lamb in a pale coloured sauce. Smooth with no chunks of as tomatoes, almonds or cashews - and where were the raisins?

Tucking into the meal, I caught myself thinking - again; is this the way it is supposed to taste? A sweet, mild, borderline puddingy taste, and the few pieces of lamb drowned in the little pot of gravy. As we were supposed to share, my nephew got one small and one slightly bigger piece of lamb from my dish, whereas there were plenty lamb to share from his plate. No hint of the lovely balanced spiciness of the Indian kitchen here. Even the coconut flavour was absent and I used a big dash of salt to create some balance to the dish.

And the wine. I started on the wine-list, and after 4-5 requests of wines that were "sadly not available", I ended up with the house wine. We could have been worse off, as the Spanish / South American wine (unidentified) tasted great. Rich, fruity with a distinct oak character - a perfect wine for a perfect Indian meal but sadly not for ours. To be frank - the 2 B-rating would have been even worse with another wine.

A strange meal, so unlike the numerous other Indian dishes I have enjoyed, aromatic, well balanced, some of them hotter than hell, but a reflection of this great country. I hope they are better with their other dishes. Some newspaper reviews have been good, but we were very disappointed.

Rating BBB+ (3,41 points)

Much due to the interior, location, and the wine. The food would definitely only score 1 or 2 B's by itself. If some of you have better experiences from Taste of Indian, you are welcome to adjust the picture, as this was not good enough.

Address: Marken 12, N-5017 Bergen
Phone: + 47 55 31 11 55
Fax: +47 55 31 11 56

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Fair for food heroes

Farmers market in Oslo, June 10th 2007

From Friday 8th to Sunday 10th of June, there has been a large farmers market on the upper part of Oslo's parade street, Karl Johans gate. I took a two hours walk in the hot summer weather to look, smell and taste products from the entire country. These producers are the true food heroes, sharing a passionate love for what they produce.

There were a wide range of product under offer. The producer Sjømat (Seafood), located on Sakrisøy at the Lofoten archipelago had different fish products to sell, caught in the cool northern seas and processed locally after old traditions.

The products from this small producer, impressed us, and we were given samples of some of the specialities.

In the foreground you see the dried cod, or Baccalà, that has been produced in these areas for centuries. This product is treasured in Italy, Spain and Portugal. It was exported from northern Norway to the continent as far back as the Middle Ages.

In the background there was salted and smoked halibut, and smoked wild salmon under offer.

Another interesting producer is the Avdem farm dairy, located at Lesja in the northern part of the Gudbrandsdalen valley.

This cheese, Fjelldronning (Mountain queen) is their pride, an unpasteurised white, well matured cheese made from cows milk. It had a wonderful aromatic taste.

They also produce fresh unmatured cheese, with and without herbs and garlic, freshly made sour cream, and butter.

Norway is changing rapidly, and other nationalities have much to teach us. And they are changing the face of Norwegian food production as well.

At the farmers market we saw these filipinos, that produce and sell their specialities, directly from the farm far away from the urban jungle, at Åndalsnes, located at the North Western coast.

"Farm food after traditional filipino recipes" - meat skewers and spring rolls. Welcome to the wonderful changing world of food!!

Sadly this large farmers market was a stunt, but luckily there are farmers market once a month at Vibesgate on Majorstuen in the borough of Frogner once a month on Saturdays from 10 AM to 4 PM. Here are the dates, in case you would like to buy some locally made products.

  • September 8th
  • October 6th
  • November 3rd
  • December 1st
  • December 8th
See more food stories from Norway and around the world here

Stav Østre - a new blog!!

Remember the story from Stav Østre? My friends Stian Sagerud (image) and Øyvind Lodten are now fellow bloggers.

They share stories to those of you on how to reconstruct an old Norwegian wooden building. They are true handymen and have undertaken a big responsability of preserving a small part of the cultural legacy of Løten, a community close to Mjøsa, the largest Norwegian lake.

Good luck, friends! You have achieved much during such a short period.

Visit Stian and Øyvinds blog here, and follow the progress of restoring the old house.

A perfect Duck Breast

Friday dinner - and I was preparing a dinner with the main course - fried duck breast. A challenge to prepare in the right way...

I was initiated into the noble art of preparing duck breast in Brussels, and my friend Øivind Grimsmo has the honour of this initiation.

I had bought two breasts in Sweden, frozen. The price of this ingredient is one third there compared to Norway. Here this is a luxury at nearly €50 a kilo, compared to €15 in Sweden, This due to a stupid policy of protecting a very small domestic production.

The tricky thing is not to over cook, nor under cook the breast. Under cooked poultry may be a source to serious food poisoning. Over cooking, however, makes the meat less succulent and tasty.

How to prepare a perfectly succulent duck breast

The duck breast has a thick layer of fat. Do not remove, but allow the duck, literally to fry in its own fat. Use a sharp knife to make incisions into the layer of fat. This will allow it to escape, and create a crispy delicious crust on the finished product. Rub it liberally with salt and pepper.

Put a non stick pan on a moderate heat. Place the breast, fat side down, and soon you will discover that most of the fat will be in the pan, and not on the duck. Fry the breast slowly, in order to avoid the crispy skin to burn. When the colour on the upper side turns from red to grey, turn the it and allow to fry for a few minutes.

Then take the breast out and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes. Slice it with a very sharp knife.

And the other ingredients.....

I served the duck with baby potatoes, with skin and all, tossed in salt, pepper and herbs, and baked in the oven. Vegge - asparagus with Spanish Serrano ham, with pepper (the ham is salty), olive oil and baked for 10 minutes.

Sauce. I peeled 20 chalottes, fried them in hot butter, added red wine until covering the onions, and allowed to reduce. I removed the onions, and placed them in a tray and baked them with the asparagus, and added butter to the reduction. Yum!!

There are several other ways to prepare duck breasts. One colleague use cointreau at the end of the frying process. Caution - as the liqueur may ignite at high heat!! The combination orange and duck is famous, both in the far east and in the west.

Try to find you own variety, and what ever you do - keep the duck fat in the fridge. It is marvellous to use in you cooking!!

God luck - and enjoy!!

Wondering what to cook today?

See other recipes on Enjoy Food & Travel here!!

The churches of old Bergen

Monuments from a powerful past

Bergen has more medieval buildings preserved than any other Norwegian city. Among them, there are three large churches dating back as far as 900 years. Most houses in Bergen have, throughout its history been built in wood. The city has therefore experienced many large fires and this has effected the old churches as well. They have been rebuilt and extended during the last 900 years and are today living memories from the city's long and glorious past.

Mariakirken (Church of Saint Mary) Built 1140-1170

Mariakirken is the oldest building still standing in Bergen dating back to the mid 12th century. It is situated close to the old fortress. It burnt down in 1198 and 1248. From 1488 to 1766 it was the church for the German merchants in Bergen, and until 1868 there were still sermons held in the German language in the church.

Today it is probably the best example of Romanesque architecture in Norway. The south entrance has the best preserved Romanesque style gate in the country

Mariakirken has some exquisite pieces of art. The pulpit, of Dutch origin, was a gift from Bergen's German merchants in 1676 and is made from exotic materials as tortuous-shell. The wonderful altar was made in Lübeck in Germany late 15th century, depicting scenes from heaven and from the birth of Christ.

Sadly, as the church was closed when I planned to visit it, and I missed its beautiful interior. For the historically interested tourist, Mariakirken is an important sight to visit, in order to understand Bergen's beautiful past.

More on Mariakirken on

Korskirken (Church of the Holy Cross), late 12th century

The church dedicated to the Holy Cross, was built during the second half of the 12th century and has been effected by the fires of 1198, 1248, 1413, 1582, 1623, 1648 and finally the big fire in 1702.

It is a cross shaped church, but the two arms of cross was added later in its long history.

The southern arm was built in 1615 as a gift from the Danish noble Knud Urne, and the northern arm with a beautiful gate was a gift from the noble Jens Juel and his wife in 1632.

From 1530 it served as parish church for the locals and for the garrison at Bergenshus fortress.

The present tower was built in renaissance style during the last decade of the 16th century.

The interior of Korskirken. None of the lavish decorations you will find in Mariakirken. White stone walls and a dark wooden roof and very few ornaments. It was open for prayers and reflections, and I sat down and enjoyed the silence.

More on Korskirken at

Domkirken (Bergen Catedral), built late 12th Century

This church was dedicated to Norways patron saint, Saint Olav, and was built before 1181, when the usurper King Sverre took refuge in the church during a battle.

Domkirken has also been affected by many of the fires that have ravaged old Bergen. After the fire in 1248, it was rebuilt as church for the citys Franciscan friars. After the fire in 1270 it was rebuilt by the king himself, Magnus Håkonsson Lawmender, and it is claimed that he was buried in the church. No royal grave has, however, been detected within its walls.

A franciscan monastery was connected to Domkirken, and King Magnus Lawmender himself is said to have been educated by the franciscan friars here.
In 1537, after the Lutheran reformation, the church dedicated to Saint Olav, was made the cathedral of Bergen, and seat for the local bishop.

The Church at Holmen had, at this point, burnt down, and the Cathedral was extended. The photo on the left shows how the church has been extended. The gothic style stone building, with its unique architectural features and the newer extension in contrast to this.

The interior of the Cathedral. The strange thing here is the extension on the right side of the church. Many medieval churches are basilicas, with one nave, and two smaller aisles on each side separated by columns.

Here there are only one nave and one aisle, the latter built for the first time around 1600. Domkirken then burnt down three times, during the large fires in 1623, 1640 and 1702. The tower was erected in 1725 and a new aisle was built during restoration work 1880-1883.

You find the interior much like the one you find in Korskirken. Dark roof and white stone walls. But it feels much darker and mysterious. There are an impressive organ, here as well, with a large wooden exterior.

In the entrace area you find an impressive collection of paints of the bishops that has resided in Bergen.

More on the catedral on

And these are just the few of the churches that are left...

Read more on:

And more sights...

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