Saturday, July 07, 2007

Bars and pubs from A-Z

Here you find bars and pubs reviewed here at Enjoy Food & Travel, for your convenience.

Enjoy!


A
Alt Berlin, Berlin

B
Baja Beach Club, Barcelona
Bar del Pi, Barcelona
Barker Tavern, Scituate MA
Bezenkammer Bar, Berlin
Bistro am Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin
Blue Moon, Norwell MA

C
Cancun, Berlin
Chef Howies Hobo Café, Salisbury beach, MA

D
Das Bezekammer, Berlin
Den Gode Nabo, Trondheim

E
Eis-Cafe Family, Berlin
El Curandero, Berlin
Esperanza, Berlin

F
Fiskebrygga kafé og bar, Arendal
Fru Burums, Oslo

G
Get Bar, Marseille

H
Hook, Barcelona

Olympen Bar, Oslo

P
People Lounge, Barcelona
Plata Bar, Barcelona
Poppes Bar & Restaurant, Arendal

S
Schilling, Barcelona

U
Uncle Eddie's Oceanside Tavern, Salisbury beach MA

Some nice Barcelona bars

Barcelona is a place to eat, and after you have had your meal, you can have a drink. You bet we did. The latter part of our vacation we were regulars at People Lounge with Martin and Antonio (more on that later). But before we discovered this charming place we went on a walk on the straight, wild side. Here are three charming bars for you to try. And we liked them all.

Bar del Pi

This is really a hole in the wall bar. We discovered it as we were looking for an open network for Terjes skype phone, and here we could call home via the net.

Bar del Pi is located by the church Santa Maria del Pi in the middle of Barri Gothic, not far from La Rambla.

The bar is tiny, in fact what you see here is pretty much it, pluss a gallery, where we sat. It serves coffee, tea, soft drinks, juice, beer, wine and spirits - and tapas. They were slicing ham, cutting tortilla triangles constantly serving them with drinks. This is really a great bar to visit. We really liked it there.

Address:

Bar del Pi
Placa Sant Josep Oriol 1
Phone: 93 302 21 23

Schilling

We had been over eating at Els Quatre Gats, and needed to ease our stomachs. What would be better than a real digestive. Thus we entered Schilling.

This trendy bar is located at Ferran, not very far from Bar del Pi. This was clearly a place for the hip crowd. Its dark wooden decor in a kind of a art nouveau-ish style, marble tiles, subtle lighting, and bookshelves with row after row after row of - wine bottles!

Well we sat down in the corner and relieved our stomachs with a large glass iced Fernet Branca, watching the trendy international crowd as the dusk crept in over Barri Gothic. And the mysterious herbs in the digestive had its magic touch. We were able to leave Schilling and walk around to find another bar and we were Hook-ed.

Address

Schilling

Address: Ferran 23
Phone: 93 317 67 87

Hook


As we walked direction harbour, we ran into Hook. I guarantee - you never saw such a place! Serious theme bar with a piracy look. You enter and sit down, and you can use the rest of the evening studying every little detail of the decor.

We had seen large posters over the whole town promoting Magners Irish Cider, and here you could get it, and we ordered it.

Hook is hardly a minimalistic bar. It is filled up with objects more or less related to the Captain Hook. Old sail ships, posters, pictures - well there are so much to look at, and lighting!! We nearly got that Christmas feeling.

There were nearly no one there, but this is the place where you imagine bats fly in after midnight. A Gothic feeling in the Gothic quarters.

The cider was a real pint of the stuff, and it was delicious. Not like the ciders we have in Scandinavia, that tend to be very sweet. It had that natural acidity and tasted what it was made of - real apples.

Address:

Carrer Ample (I think)

Friday, July 06, 2007

What happened to poor little piglet?

In our modern times, we have been moved so far from the reality of food production. Meat and fish finely chopped up, prepared and packed in plastic, are sold in supermarket counters. You would never know what it once was. Well, at the Barcelona meat market this is very different. Now, we really know what happened to little piglet....

In Norway, you may be shocked what you will be served when you visit Voss on the Western Coast. Smalahove, i.e. salted and smoked sheep's head, brain is removed, but with both eyes intact. In fact the latter is regarded the best part of the meal. My mother used to make "hodesylte", i.e. a kind of roulade made from the meat of a pig's head. The head itself had so much gelatin that it held the meat together. It was delicious.

The Chinese serve chicken feet during dim sum, deliciously crisp, and the TV chef Nigella Lawson keeps pigs ears in her freezer and deep fries them when she craves for something ravishingly unhealthy. Not very kosher, but very wicked...

You may think I am a monster, but I have really eaten suckling pig, i.e. small piglets only fed on milk, and if you had, you may end up as me - accepting reality. I ate suckling in Brussels. Both meat and in paté, and the taste is absolutely delicious. Succulent, tender, and very tasty.

This is the real food story, like it or not. You may turn vegetarian - but it does not help little piglet.

Oink!!

See more food stories from Norway and around the world here

Waking up the fairy in the Absinthe

It used to be the drinks of artists as Degas and van Gogh, Rimbaud and Verlaine. Absinthe, or le fée verte was served in the most bohemian circles, as well as among common people.

This spirit had a high alcohol content and was flavoured with herbs as anise and artimisia absinthium (wormwood). Thus it was diluted with water and added a cube of sugar to sweeten it up. The wormwood was said to create hallucinations. In fact the taste is rather like Pernod, but much more bitter, and in fact Pernod produced large quantities of absinthe until it was banned.

Absinthe became such a problem, that it was banned in most countries early in the 20th century. It started in 1905, when a Swiss man named Jean Lanfray murdered his family and attempted to kill himself after drinking absinthe and the murders were blamed solely on absinthe. The Lanfray murders were the last straw, and a petition to ban absinthe in Switzerland was quickly signed by over 82,000 people. Other countries followed.

Well - it is back, and the fairy has different colored devils, all highly alcoholic. From the Diable Noir with as much as 85% to the Diable Rouge with an alcohol content of only 50%. These bottles were for sale in a shop in Barri Gothic.

Well for us it can stay there. Importing liquor containing more than 60% to Norway is strictly forbidden. In fact these bottles would be regarded as drugs and you would be treated accordingly by customs and police.

Interesting.......

See more food stories from Norway and around the world here

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Stranded in style at the Amalfi Coast

Coming up: Report on the legendary Imperial Hotel Tramontano in Sorrento

Enjoy Food & Travel co-writer Ketil Johan Zahl and his wife Astrid Meling are spending their vacation on the Imperial Tramontano Hotel located in Sorrento on the Amalfi coast.

This legendary hotel has had guests as Goethe, Byron, Scott, Shelley, Keats, and Longfellow. James Fenimore Cooper lived here until the completion of "Water Witch", and it was here that Harriet Beecher Stowe found her inspiration for "Agnes of Sorrento". During a six-month stay, our greatest playwright Henrik Ibsen wrote his immortal "Ghosts", just here.

Through Enjoy Food & Travel, Ketil Zahl will write on his stay on this very famous hotel and from the faboulous Amalfi coast. We are certainly looking forward to it.

Dining at the Santa Maria Hotel

Paella and Arroz Negre!!

As the evening approached in Sitges, we had to find a place to eat dinner. John, Øystein and I had tasted the famous arroz negre, and we decided to initiate Terje to this fascinating dish. And as guests at the hotel itself, they asked whether we would be interested in trying its restaurant. We were game!!

Location: BBBBB


You could not find a better location for a restaurant. Situated on the main promenade facing the beach it is easy to find and has a real wow-factor. Full score here.

Atmosphere: BBBBB-

The hotel has a traditional Spanish interior, light walls, and wooden details. No minimalism here. Some would call it a little kitch, I would rather call it rustic. There were plenty of charm inside, but we were led to a table outside on a terrace, overlooking the restaurant and with a view to the sea.

We were well seated by an elegant round table with a white tablecloth. I absolutely loved the atmosphere.

Price: BBBB

We paid around €100 for a dinner for four, two sharing one entree and one arroz negre and a paella, and including a good bottle of white wine. Very reasonable from our perspective. The food, however, was good but not great. This means that it is no full score, but it gives reasonably good value for money eating here.

Service: BBBB+

As John speaks Spanish very well, he took care of the situation and ordered our food and wine. We did not find out whether the staff could guide us through an order in English, but the staff did their work well. We did not have to wait long, neither on the food nor wine.

Food: BBBB-

We ordered gambas al ajillo, small shrimps in garlic, tomatoes and a lot of olive oil. So delicious in fat, that we used the bread served, to soak up the liquid on the trays. Yum!!

Then they brought the large tray of Paella. It looked absolutely great, rice, onion boiled rabbit and squid in a rich tomato sauce, garnished with lemon, large prawns, mussels and langoustines (or Norway Lobsters)

It had a good rich taste, the mussels were great, but the squid was a little overcooked being a little tough to chew. I tucked into the prawns and langoustines and they did not seem very fresh.

But all in all it was a fairly good experience.

I had tasted the arroz negre before, at La Fonda in Barcelona, and I loved it. This dish is so dramatic - the black squid ink colouring the rice and seafood adding flavour to it, as well.

My arroz negre experience at Santa Maria was clearly beating by the one I had eaten before. Once again, the squid was tough to chew, and I did not fancy the consistency of the whole dish. It looked like something digged out of a puddle.

Still it tasted reasonably good, but my favourite for the evening was the paella.

We enjoyed a dry, but very fruity white wine that matched the food very well.

Overall rating: BBBB+ (4,39 points)


Recommendable close to la Playa. Fab location, but no ultimate food experience.

Address:

Pg. De la Ribera 52
08870 Sitges

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A pilgrims progress

Paying hommage to the Black Madonna


A trip to Montserrat would be nothing, if you do not embark on your own personal pilgrimage to see and touch the Black Madonna at Montserrat. We did. This is an account on two pilgrims progress.

We did, what people have done for over a thousand years. In fact, people have regarded Montserrat as a Holy place since 880. The story said that the Benedictine friars that once settled here, did not manage to move the Black Madonna from the place she originally stood, and therefore constructed the monastery and church around her.

As we approached the church from the outside, we saw the long line of people along the right side of the courtyard leading up to the door.



In fact this long line was the start of our pilgrimage, outside, in the cool shade provided by gothic vaults leading along the right side of the church courtyard. As we progressed towards the entrance, we could, on our right side admire beautiful marble statues, on the left side the magnificent courtyard and the strange mountain formation above them.

This was a seriously international crowd. We stood in a group of Russian tourists, but different tongues could be heard all around us. We all stood in anticipation of what we were about to see.

Suddenly we stood in front of the door leading into the church. Over the door we saw a depiction of Our Lady herself. The Black Madonna on a crescent shaped stone. The stone had an inscription. My modest knowledge of Latin told me that this stone celebrated the hundred years gone by since Our Lady was proclaimed to be Patron Saint of Catalonia. It was pope Leo XIII that made this declaration September 11th 1844.

As we enterred the church itself we found ourselves in the dusk. The light outside was filtered through beautiful stained glass windows as we were going from one chapel to another.

Through the centuries, pilgrims have waited patiently here. The time were spent in silence, contemplating their own lives and relationship with God.

In our modern society we have little time to ourselves, and a pilgrimage as this, is therefore the best time to try to do as others did through the centuries, standing silently, seeing and understanding some of the beauty and the hidden meanings carved into the altars, statues and paintings along your way to the end of you quest.

As this altar dedicated to Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order.

Domingo de Guzmán Garcés, was born in 1170 in Caleruega in Castille. He worked as a preacher, and tried to run his mission among the Cathars, a religious group flourishing in Languedoc in todays France. After Saint Dominic failed to convert the Cathars in this area, Pope Innocent III, ordered a crusade against the heretics killing thousands of innocent men, women and children. This ended with the siege of the Cathar stronghold of Montségur in 1244. This was also the reality in Medieval Europe. No wonder people needed time to understand the times within they lived.

We passed through several chapels decorated with altars. There were a large modern painting where several of the pilgrims sat down and prayed.

As we moved through room after room, we realized that this would take much of the afternoon. The good thing with the whole march was that it was cool in the dusk within the church.

Then we saw stairs leading up, the vaults over it were made from partly polished, partly natural stone. This was the part of the ascension up to the holy golden room, where Santa Maria de Montserrat resides.

As we slowly walked up the stairs, we were led into another room - and more stairs in front of us.

At this point, we saw some of the Dominican Friars and priests working here, as they brought a chalice with wine and a tray of bread for a communion somewhere else. Until then there had been no signs of any of the men of the church that still live and pray here.

As we turned around the corner leading up to the room over us, we could finally see the Golden Room and the Queen herself, and we slowly walked the final steps to pay hommage to the eternal queen of Catalonia.

Two and a half hour later we were the first in line to stand face to face with this statue, that many believed was as old as Christiany itself. It is said to have been carved during the trying times of the first church.

This veil of mystery has, however, been removed by scholars declaring it being younger than the Monastery itself, a romanesque statue dating back to the late 12th century.

Sometimes it is sad that these mysteries disappears. In my case, however, this did not affect my feelings as I faced her. Part of the orb in her right arm was outside the glass case, and I allowed my hand to touch it, and say a prayer.

And what did I pray for? You will never know.....

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A pilgrimage to Montserrat

Up to the mountain top

Cataluña’s eternal ruler resides on a high mountain in a Golden Chamber and she holds the National orb in her right hand. She is the Mysterious Black Madonna of Montserrat. She is believed by some to have been carved in Jerusalem in the early days of the church, but she is most likely a Romanesque sculpture made in wood during late 12th century.

We decided, Monday June 25th to have our own pilgrimage to pay homage to this mysterious woman, and we did not know who or what to encounter. The pilgrimage was a mysterious experience, like the one so many pilgrims have had through the 1200 years she has resided there.


We had planned this trip before we left Oslo. The ones I know that have embarked on this pilgrimage, strongly recommended it. When we returned, we were filled with memories from this beautiful mountain, and I would love to go back.

This is not a trip for the fainthearted. The monks that settled at the mountain of Montserrat 1200 years ago were determined to isolate themselves from the world around. That meant that they built their Monastery far up on the steep mountain, only accessible by a narrow path. Today there are both a Cable Car that will take you right up and a train that snails itself up the 2100 ft to the Monastery.

How to get to Montserrat

When you land in Barcelona, you may get a glimpse of Montserrat itself, as it is much higher than the hilltops surrounding the Catalan capital. It is situated an hours time away by train.

It is rather easy to get there. Take Subway line 1, 3 or 5 to the the Subway station Espanya. From there you take Regional train line 5 to Montserrat - Manresa. It leaves each hour from 8.36 AM to 5.36 PM, and arrives Montserrat an hour later.

If you are up for a really nerve wrecking experience you can leave one station before Montserrat and take a Gondola lift up to the top. Here you can see what you are missing.



You can pay for all activities at Espanya. The price vary from a little over €10 round trip per person for the ride up to the mountain up to €30 if you want to visit the museums and take the funicular to the summit of Montserrat, St. Jerome 4055 ft (1236 metres) over

Alternatively you can drive up to Monistrol Vila - a station on the train line up to the mountain, leave your car for free and take the train up. In fact you can drive up, but the road up......

La Cremaillera - 2000 ft up, by train!!

As you leave line 5, a small green train awaits your arrival. It leaves from Montserrat every hour from 9.38 AM to 6.38 PM. As it leaves the station you look up the steep mountain side and wonder - is this little train going to take us up there. I have to say that I was a little
nervous as the train turned into a cable train/ funicular and started to snail its way up the mountain.

It was an awesome experience to see the little train drive up to the Monastery at Montserrat.

And this is the view you get when you come up.

As you are on the highest mountain in the area you can look all way to the coast, in fact from the summit of Montserrat, they say you can look out to Mallorca on clear days. Isn't that something.

The Monastery

The Monastery goes back to the year 880 as some local kids saw a bright light descend over the mountain and heard angels sing heavenly songs. From that time it was a sight of pilgrimage. The Benedictine order built a monastery here, that became the home of the revered Black Madonna.



From that point the monastery has grown into religious and even political centre. It was a free haven for Catalan art an language during times of oppression.

The buildings standing here today dates back to the early 19th century, when Napoleons armies attacked and destroyed the old buildings. Still you feel the traditions and spirituality of the old monastery are still present here.

Tomorrow I will share the pilgrims progress, all into the Holy of the Holiest, to the golden chamber of Santa Maria de Montserrat.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hotel La Santa Maria, Sitges

Great location by the sea!!

Øystein and John had chosen to stay at Hotel La Santa Maria located at Passeig De La Ribera in Sitges. This three star hotel offers spacious rooms, a superb beachfront location, and a great restaurant, that I will return to later.

As Hotel Romàntic, this hotel has a lot of charm, but in a very different way. Wheras you enjoy the old world charm and the tranquility of the hidden garden at Romàntic, at Hotel La Santa Maria you are right where everything happens.

Øystein and John had booked a large double room facing the sea. It had an old world charm, spacious with a high ceiling, tiled floor and french doors out to a terrace facing the blue Mediterranean Sea. A great space for a dripping cold bottle of white wine, as you enjoy the mild breeze from the sea.

And they had an airconditioning that they could operate themselves. A good thing, as the downside to this location is the hotel restaurant where guests have their drinks long into the hot Spanish night. Then it is a good thing that you may close the doors - unless you want to join them, that is!

I have a dilemma. Should I choose the old world charm and seclusion at Hotel Romàntic, or choose the terrace at the beachfront Hotel La Santa Maria? In this case I have a draw between the two. It does not help me a bit that the price level are the same. You get a double superior room for €124 a night during peak season, but I do not know whether they had to pay more for the terrace. In any case, I would!

So I gladly recommend the two hotels. The restaurant at Hotel La Santa Maria was great. We discovered that as we dined there. But that is another story to tell.

Adress:

Hotel La Santa Maria
Pg. De la Ribera 52
08870 Sitges

You can book your room at the hotel here:

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Monday, July 02, 2007

A hidden gem in Sitges - Hotel Romàntic

I think this is one of the most romantic hotels I have visited. The Hotel Romàntic in Sitges is nothing less than a hidden gem, a quiet getaway in the busy holiday resort. A place you cannot wait to return to. Go there for the ultimate romantic vacation. I know for sure - the next time I fall in love, I will.

Hotel Romàntic & Hotel de la Renaixenca have the same owners. John and Øystein took us here for a drink, in a dark, mysterious subtropical garden. A perfect place for a cold drink during the hot Spanish afternoon.

Here you find tall date palms providing shade. You are seated around beautiful white tables, and are served highly alcoholic gin and tonics. This thanks to the very charming English bartender that poured very liberal amounts of spirits into our glasses - with wit!

We sat in the garden for an hour, enjoying the atmosphere, and did not want to leave this oasis. And when I left, I had already decided to return to have another gin and tonic under the tall date palms. But this time as a guest.

At Hotel Romàntic you can get a room from €50-90 early spring and late fall. From July the price range on the hotel is €65 for a room without bathroom, to €115 for a double room with bathroom and terrace. This is dead cheap, actually within reach for a budget traveller, and this place has so much character.

Address

Sant Isidre 33, 08870 Sitges
Reservations: +93 894 83 75 / +93 894 06 43
Fax: +93 894 81 67 / +93 811 41 29
E-mail: romantic@hotelromantic.com
Web: www.hotelromantic.com

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Enjoy Food & Travel goes to Thailand

Enjoy Food & Travel writer Per and Susanne Koch will travel to Thailand for a four week vacation. They have promised to supply Enjoy Food & Travel with captivating stories from this magnificent country, on its cuisine, sights, and people.

They will spend a whole week in Bangkok, before going south to Koh Samui to relax. Thai food has been one of Susannes favourite cuisine for years and years. She will write on the fire of the chillies, the sweetness of the fruits, the great noodle dishes.

We look forward to the stories these two globetrotters will post here on Enjoy Food & Travel. Have a great vacation!!

Spring in the southern hemisphere

Travelling to South Africa September 28th to October 12th

Enjoy Food & Travel is finally going to South Africa!!

Last week we ordered our tickets to South Africa. I am travelling with Tone, Jan Bjarne and Grete, three friends. We will leave Oslo September 28th 3.15 PM, bound for London Heathrow. At 7 PM we will fly out with South African Airways, and we will land in Johannesburg 6.50 AM, September 29th.

We plan to visit Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg and Durban. My friend, Jan Bjarne, has stayed in South Africa and knows the country and people well, and will be our guide.

We will also go on a safari at Pilanisberg game reserve, and I sincerely hope to spot an elephant or two, or maybe a lion....

Lunch in Sitges - Al Fresco!!

When asked, John and Øystein knew immediately where to lunch. They led us through the narrow streets of the city to Al Fresco café. A lunch restaurant at street level and a gourmet restaurant with the same name in the basement. This was not the place for large portions, but what was served was delicious.

Eating at Al Fresco Café was an entirely charming experience. In a light and rustic atmosphere with one row of tables of chairs we had great service and above all brilliant food.

We all decided to order the same food.

Oven baked lamb served with crisp sweet and ordinary potatoes.

It was very different from what I had expected. I had visioned slices of lamb served medium, i.e. pink to red in the middle.

The lamb served at Al Fresco Café had been very thinly sliced and baked, and had a very special seasoning. It reminded me of Moroccan spices. I tried to figure out what herbs and spices they had used, as I tasted cumin and coriander seeds, but there were definitely other spices used as well.

I had, however, expected additional vegetables to the lamb, as the amount of potatoes did not match the amount of meat. Unusual, as it usually works the other way. More of the inexpensive ingredients, less of the expensive.

We had a wonderful, dry white wine served with the lamb. An unusual choice, but in this case it matched.

For dessert we ordered white chocolate mousse with raspberries. Yum. The sweet, honey like taste of the white chocolate and the acidity of the raspberries. Al Fresco was a great place to eat, and if I return I will visit the gourmet restaurant and write a review.

Al Fresco Café
Address: Carrer Major, 33, 08870 Sitges
E-mail: alfresco@eresmas.net
Fax: 938 114 017
Phone: 938 113 307

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