Friday, July 13, 2007

Els Quatre Gats - Barcelona

An exceptional dinner!!

There are regular restaurants, and there are those that has turned into institutions. I have no clear view how and why they have gained this status, but it has something to do with history and tradition. Els Quatre Gats has achieved this status as it encapsules the rich artistic traditions in Barcelona. Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso went here and paid (i.e. before they became famous), as many other less famous artists, their dinner with paintings. Els Quatre Gats captures, in my mind the very essence of Gaudís Barcelona. And the food and service is excellent too.

Location: BBBB+

Els Quatres Gats is located in Carrer Montsió 3B, a narrow street in the Barri Gothic, close to the Portal Angel and the Cathedral Square. It is easy to find and within walking distance from Placa Catalunya.

Atmosphere and interior: BBBBB

Eating at Els Quatre Gats is a feast, and the interior is an important part of the experience. As you are led through the bar you enter a large bright yellow room, with a roof covered with white tiles. Stairs lead up to a narrow gallery where you can get the most romantic tables for two overlooking the restaurant. Chairs made from dark wood and white tables creates a classic style. The walls are covered with pictures with many different motives, and quite a number of them are memories from when a celebrity visited the restaurant.

A wonderful contribution to a great evening is the live music. A man by the piano and an old violinist played classic café style music, and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Price: BBBBB

We paid around €111 for two entrees, two main courses, and two desserts and a bottle of excellent white wine. It was worth every euro.

Service: BBBBB

Brilliant service from a polite and professional staff. Our English speaking waiter was of great help and a white wine that was perfect to our food. We did not wait long to be served and all that was served was steaming hot.

Food: BBBBB

The food was as close to perfection as possibly could come. I chose duck mi-cuit with apple and Cumberland sauce, and Terje ordered a "Escalivada" baked bell pepper and aubergines. The slices of semi cooked duck liver was delicious, and the sweet apple and the homemade cumberland sauce with plenty of orange zest provided the necessary acidity to cut the richness of the livers.

We chose the same main course - salt cod with Catalan spinach and honey aioli. The combination of the ingredients used was highly unusual. The salted cod, perfectly prepared was placed on top of the spinach. On top you had a slice of apple topped with honey aioli. The saltiness of the fish was perfectly balanced by the mild sweetness from the apple and the honey aioli. The sauce on the plate was a mild tomato sauce garnished by preserved sweet fruits. This dish was most extraordinary culinary experience, I have had for years. The dry white wine was perfect to this dish. If you like fish, order this dish - you will be amazed!!

Terje ordered the Crema Catalana and I chose a fresh fruit mousse. It was a perfect end of a great evening.

Total rating: BBBBB (4,9 points)

As the Muslims say, only Allah is perfect - but this is very close to perfection.

Address:

4Gats
Carrer Montsió 3 bis
08002 Barcelona
Phone 93 302 41 40
Fax 93 307 40 33
Visit the restaurants official website

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hamar - a modern city with roots in a medieval past

Hamar is the largest city in Hedmark county. With a population of 27000 inhabitants, it is an important administrative and commercial centre in the Eastern part of Norway. The city, as you see today was built up during the early to mid 19th century, but already in medieval times Hamar was an important political centre. This as it is situated by Mjøsa, the largest Norwegian lake, along an important part of the trade route from the fertile agricultural areas to the the east coast. During medieval time it was an important stop for the pilgrims travelling up to Nidaros Cathedral to pay homage to Saint Olav, the Patron Saint of Norway.

I visited my friend Øyvind and Stian, and they took me around to see the sights of Hamar and the countryside around the city. I will the coming week show you what is left of the city's medieval past. The ruins of the large cathedral and what once was the fortress built to house the bishops of Hamar during the middle ages. I will also take you to a haunted medieval chapel hidden in the middle of the forest.

The fertile area by Mjøsa has been the most important bread basket of Norway. Here you find wide fields with grain, potatoes, vegetables, or pastures used for milk or meat production. Some of the largest estates in the country are found here, and large manor houses with a history going far back in time.

The area is also the home of one of the most famous Norwegian export articles. At Løten you have produced some of the most famous brands of akvavit (akevitt). Among the best is the Løitens linie, matured in oak caskets as it is brought on ships over the equator to Australia and back.

And I will share some culinary memories. Knutstad & Holen is one the best fish mongers in the middle of the country. We bought some halibut and prepared in an nontraditional way.

So visit Enjoy Food & Travel in week 28!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Barcelona - from a walk on the wild side

Greetings to Martin and Antonio at the People Lounge

Barcelona is certainly a place for a walk on the wild side. The city rival any other, when it comes to nightlife in any form. Terje and I wanted to have a walk to explore gay life, and we seriously fell in love with People Lounge and the two charming men in charge of the bar - Martin, originally from Caracas, and Antonio from Genova.

We spotted two nice men walking in direction C. Casanova, where we knew we would find some bars, and we just followed them to People Lounge.

This is a seriously nice bar, great interior, nice crowd, slightly eccentric music and above all - good company. Easy to get in touch with people. In fact, we loved the People Lounge so much, that we came back - three evenings in a row!! So this is certainly a place for you to discover, if you would like to have a walk on the gay side of town. Beware - good company give you serious hangovers. We had large glasses of wine and the occasional drink, and the liquor was not measured in thimbles, but was pured in generous quantities into our glasses. So we certainly needed to an ibuprofen or two the next morning to clear up and take a da capo the next evening.

Up C. Casanova we visited a few of the other gay bars. Plata bar, was another great place. A hip, modern bar, with an equally hip modern crowd. Another charming bartender making his contribution to my next day hangover.

But - visit People Lounge when you come the next time. It is a great place to hang out.

And thank you, once again, Martin and Antonio - for a great time!!!

Looking for another bar?

Find other bars reviewed here on Enjoy Food & Travel here

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Da Yin He - a terrible choice

As we passed in front of the cathedral in Barcelona, we were handed a tempting flyer. Da Yin He - Buffet Libre on a Asiàtico-Japones restaurant. As both Terje and I have great experiences with Asian buffets - AND the eat-as-much-as-you-want-offer for €6,85 made this a tempting offer. I wish we had not gone - it was terrible!!!

Location: BBB

Da Yin He is located at Fontanella 15, by Placa Catalunya. It is easy to find, but as it is situated in a busy street it is hardly the ideal place to choose for a good meal.

Atmosphere: BBB

Hardly an inspiring interior, but I never pay any notice to this in Asian restaurants, as some of the best Chinese buffets have been served in rather uninteresting interiors.

White walls, wooden furniture, white tablecloths.

The buffet was located in the back of the restaurant. It did not seem to be the most hygienic place serve yourself, as dirty dishes were standing close to the buffet - hardly an appetizing sight for the guests to see on their way to the food.

Price: BBB

€6,85 for 40 different dishes (€8,55 during night and weekend) is hardly expensive, depending on the food. However - in spite of the low price, you are adviced to spend your money more wisely - somewhere else!!. Even at this low price, I think Da Yin He was a terrible choice. Go and eat some tapas. It is much better.

Service: BBB-

We waited to get service. We were very hungry, but as the (non-stop) buffet had not ben prepared we had to wait for this buffet-feast to commence. The restaurant was not short of staff, but most of them were close to the buffet, out of sight for us guests to call. And when we wanted to flee, and asked to pay, we waited and waited.....

This is BBB- but the rating average is 2,75. Hardly the best score for service!!

Food: BB+ (2,25!)

Well, it looks great, doesn't it? Do not be fooled.

The buffet had 40 different dishes, if you counted. I took this plate first.

Two sausages - hardly Chinese, very boring! The fried squid was overcooked, tough, and the deep fried batter was not crisp, but moist and sticky. The pork on skewer was dry as wood, hard and crisp. The fried beef with oyster sauce (?) had a strange unfamiliar taste. The roll made from tofu (I think), was filled with meat. What had died in here? I would not know!!

We had a second helping, but it held the same standard, either strange or tasteless. The beer, Tsing Tao was the only beacon shining in this culinary darkness.

Rating the Da Yin He experience: BBB

Do not be fooled - look at the rating of the food, and go else where!!

Address (if you want to defy me)

Da Yin He
Fontanella 15, 08010 Barcelona
Phone: 93 481 44 17

Looking for a better place to eat?

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Recycling the succulent lamb

Remember the lamb? Well the bones are in the bin, but the rest has been subjected to the recycling queen (me). In fact it is now on its way into a cannelloni dish, via a great stock. Let me tell you the recycling story!

Making a delicious stock!

Most prepared pieces of meat may have several culinary lives. The lamb prepared, was great and succulent, after 5 hours and 30 minutes on low heat. I and my guests enjoyed the chunk. The day after, I peeled off the rest of the meat. I prepared some with some Jack Daniels barbeque sauce in the oven, with some leftover potato dauphinoise.

The rest of the meat is now in the freezer, i.e. the meat that was peeled off. But there was more meat to enjoy on the carcass itself. So I chucked the bones, two carrots, two stalks of celery, one red onion, in a large pot, and added water and salt.

And then I added a bag - of herbs!!

The cute packages of herb is certainly not a Norwegian invention. Far too inventive! I bought these three boxes of herbs in a bag in Marseilles. Ducros has made individually packed bags of herb mixes for fish and crustaceans, vegetables or meat casseroles.

So I took one intended for meat casseroles and added to my stock. This is another lazy dish, as I left the stock over a very low heat for three hours. I took out the bones and removed the meat, and when it was cold I placed the meat together with the boiled vegetables in a zip-lock bag. And the bones flew into the bin.

A recycled ragout

I try to figure out what to make from the recycled lamb. I found out that I would make cannelloni with a meat sauce, and step one would be a lamb ragout.

What better to use than the leftover meat and vegetables. I chopped four fresh tomatoes and heated them in some very hot olive oil. I added the boiled meat and vegetables, 1/2 a small can of tomato pure and 4 ladles of stock. As the secret of a good ragout is the balance between sweet and salty I added the necessary amount of salt and sugar and some Italian herbs. Then I allowed the ragout to simmer until most of the liquid had evaporated.

Cannelloni!!!!

Cannelloni are small tubes of pasta filled with different sauces in the tubes and topped with sauce and cheese and then baked in the oven.

I use to make a Cannelloni Tricolor, i.e. filled each 2nd tube with either meat sauce or wilted spinach. Then use a white cheese sauce on top.

I had no spinach today, but started to fill each tube with the ragout. This is rather time consuming, but absolutely worth the hard labour.

Another delicious filling is a mix of spinach and ricotta cheese seasoned with salt and pepper. The you add tomato sauce on the top.

But I topped the cannelloni with 40 cl bechamel sauce. I used pre made, as this is a non-gourmet, lazy everyday dinner. I personally thought that the Dolmio bechamel was a little too sharp for my taste, but I poured it out of the glass and spread evenly on the top of the pasta. And 200 grams / 7 oz grated mozzarella.

Then - right into the oven

The end!

And here is the end result.

A once-upon -a-time-roasted lamb, recycled into a stock, then into this delicious cannelloni dish. And it tastes so much better than the thing you find in the supermarket, and it is 100% made from scratch. No additives - it is good for you!!

O rats! I forgot the Dolmio bechamel sauce!! It had some interesting ingredients

Doppio Passo Salento Primitivo

A smooth Italian choice

I wanted to taste something different. Normally, I do not buy bag-in-box wines, but this one was highly recommended by the my local wine shop. And it did not fail the test. This is a hell of a smooth Italian. Unbeatable!

This wine is sold in a 300 cl bag and will cost you around €45 (370 NOK) if you go to our native Vinmonopolet. It is made in Puglia, at Salento, on the tip of "Italy's heal", from 100% primitivo / zinfandel grape (hence the name).

This is a beautifully, rich red wine, deep ruby red colour with a complex taste. Aromas as dried fruits, blackcurrants, or cherries come to mind. Very concentrated, and extremely soft tannins. This is definitely not the wine for you that like Spanish wines. I do, but I love this wine as it has a very rich, sweet taste. It is not, however, too sweet, as its richness and body counteract the strong fruit aromas. I served this wine with lamb, and it worked great.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The food market at La Rambla

I have already told you about the great food markets in Barcelona here on Enjoy Food & Travel. Here you get an abundance of fresh food, and I can hardly remember anywhere else I have been that had so much different ingredients to offer.

The food market is located by the Liceu metro station on line 3. We wandered around in the market on the morning, Saturday June 23rd.

Terje had brought his camera with him, and she shot these two videos from the market.

Indulge!

Enjoy!!

See more food stories from Norway and around the world here

Sunday dinner: Marinated long roast lamb with vegetables

I am expecting some friends for dinner. Yesterday I bought a piece of lamb, front part. 4,5 lbs or 2,2 kilos. I have marinated it over night and now at 10.40 AM, I put it in the oven at 100C / 210F, and it will roast slowly for six hours. At that point it will be so succulent, the meat will fall off the bone.

Seasoning - dead serious stuff, and what is the main ingredient? Garlic!! Not one or two cloves, I am literally talking whole garlic. In fact, I used two whole garlics in this recipe.

Seasoning - marinade. When I visit my American cousin, I make sure that I visit Sams Club, in Seabrook N.H, to buy spices and herbs in industrial quantities. My cousin fell for Tone's Rosemary Garlic Seasoning, sold in 20 oz containers. It is delicious!! I crushed 8 cloves of garlic, took 2-3 tbsp of seasoning, and added 3-4 tbsp olive oil, and mixed well. Then I covered the lamb with the mixture, wrapped it in cling film, and allowed to marinate over night.

And if you do not like the smell of garlic when you are waking up in the morning, then this is definitely not the recipe for you.

This morning, Sunday Morning, I started the day by chopping celery. Then I chopped a red pepper, half a yellow zucchini, one red onion very finely on my mandolin. I the vegetables in layers in the tray, added salt, pepper, red wine and water.

Then I placed the marinated lamb on top.

So now dinner is in the oven, and will stay there for another four and a half hours.

The result

And this is how it ended up. After six hours in the oven, the meat was moist and still appropriately pink. Turning up the temperature to 200C / 400F turned the skin deliciously crisp and full of flavour from the seasoning.

And I could basically do what I wanted, as the meat took care of itself. A great option on a Sunday.

Wondering what to cook today?

See other recipes on Enjoy Food & Travel here!!

Montserrat - the descent from the Monastery down to the valley



On our way down from Montserrat, we really experienced the height, as the train was nearly empty and we were seated by the window. My fellow traveller, Terje, shot a five minute film, that you also can see at youtube. With his permission, I leave these minutes for you to enjoy. And - I am sorry, we only speak Norwegian, but the film speaks for itself.

Enjoy!!