Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Late snack at Spagos Bar & Lounge

As we arrived at Park Inn Alexanderplatz we were ready for a late night snack, and we left our designer rooms and went down to Spagos Bar & Lounge on the ground floor. As we sat down and looked through the menu we found a good choice. Italian pizza with spicy salami, pineapple and mozzarella.

The pizza was delicious, a thin and crisp Italian style crust, and as the fresh fruit and the salt spicy aromas hit the pallet, I knew that this was perfect food at the end of a long day. I know many that many of you only go for the traditional Italian varieties, but I could eat pineapple pizza at Spagos any day and be very happy.

Cannelloni - variation over a theme

I have already shown you one recipe of cannelloni, with lamb ragout topped with a bechamel sauce. When I visited my friends Øyvind and Stian at Stav, Østre at Løten, I made another cannelloni - actually my favourite - with a ricotta and parmeggiano filling, and a tomato and red wine topping. That was serious yummie!! Due to some ingredients that were out of stock in our supermarket, we had to improvise, but the results was delicious!!

As we went to the supermarket at Hamar, I discovered that they did not have ricotta cheese, the Italian low fat cheese used in this recipe. I decided to buy 2 boxes cottage cheese (500 grams / or a little under 1 lb). I mixed this with steamed spinach leaves into a brightly green cream. Then I added some parmeggiano cheese, salt, pepper, and do try a little nutmeg. Delicioso!!

Then we made a good ragù, and we used 400 grams / 1 lb ground lean beef, and added a glass of good red wine.

The supermarket was also out of cannelloni tubes, so even here we had to improvise, with success, if I may say.

We bought a packet of lasagna sheets, boiled them lightly, and folded them around the cheese and spinach mix, and placed them in a greased oven proof dish. Topped it with sliced mozzarella, grated parmeggiano, and butter.

And it was heaven, the bright red sauce, the green and white cheese mix reflected the colours of the Italian flag!! Viva Italia!!

And Italian wine - a Masi Campofiorin Vendemmia 2004. Campofiorin is a vineyard in Valgatara close Marano di Valpolicella in Veneto

This wine is a blend of corvina, rodinella, and molinara grapes. Lightly sweet, with aromas of dark berries, well balanced with fine tannins.

And what a great wine to the succulent and tasty cannelloni.

Are you wondering what to cook today?

See other recipes on Enjoy Food & Travel here!!

Sun, sand, sea - and surf!!

The white fine beaches of Durban display works of art from artists of different kind. They amazed me, on land or at sea, with sand or the blue mild waters as materials. On land I felt I was, where I was supposed to be - in Africa, but when I turned around, facing the sea I felt I was along the Californian coast. Magic in sun, sea, sand and surf!!

There are many arts to perform. As I started to walk along the beach, I encountered these amazing sculptors that created short lived pieces of art out the purest white sand. I have never ever seen such masterpieces.

I love the display of the five big shown above. A large sculpture showing a leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros that eventually would fall victim to the elements, the wind, rain, and the sea itself.

And just behind it - a leopard, resting in the hot African sun.

And then I turned around and saw the young men challenging their element, the sea, on their surf boards. It was amazing to see how they mastered their art, lying on their surf boards as the sea swelled, and jumped up, as the waves grew and they could start their ride towards the beach.

I took three films of these artists, and here is one of them. The powerful sound of the sea and the art they performed there give me an urge to return to the beaches of Durban.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rating Restaurant Versailles - Durban

As the staff at the Blue Waters Hotel did not recommend leaving the hotel after dark, I decided to eat at the Restaurant Versailles, the hotels elegant restaurant on the first floor. That was plain food, slow service in elegant surroundings. The Versailles restaurant is recommended to upgrade its food to fit the style of the restaurant.

Location: BBBBB

The Versailles had a location many restaurant would dream of. Tall windows facing the beach and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The perfect location for a romantic dinner.

Atmosphere: BBBBB-

The Versailles had an old fashioned, and slightly outdated decor. It had, however, retained some of its old world charm. It had all the accessories of a first class restaurant, white table cloth, silverware, wineglasses, and textile napkins. And you sat down on oldish soft chairs. Colours - light turquoise, beige, gold, brown and white.

Price: BBB+

As everywhere in South Africa it was not expensive, after Norwegian or European standards. Still dining at the Versailles was the most expensive culinary experience I had in South Africa, and by far the best. Compared to what you paid you were served a medium quality meal.

Service: BBBB+

Versailles seemed to be a under staffed. This may be the due to the fact that it had a buffet as the main culinary attraction. There was a charming elderly Indian waiter that did as good as he could, but the service was slow, at times. This was particularly the case the second day when I decided to choose something out of the à la carte menu.

The food: BBB+

First day I chose from the buffet. and this was first serving.

Fried ochra and a hot Asian/Indian beef stew served with rice - relatively pleasant taste.

Something I picked from an oven proof dish. It had the texture as mashed potatoes, and a mysterious but relatively pleasant taste.

All in all, good, but not great.

Second serving from the buffet.

A fried chicken thigh, not well seasoned, and I added something I interpreted as an onion stew, but was it?

The worst thing was the salad. A little limp, but the worst thing was the croûtons that were not served aside, but had been added to the slightly damp salad. And they were wet and soggy and had texture as small sponges. Ouch!!

Hardly not to look back at.

The second day I shunned away from the buffet and chose from the à la carte menu.

I love asparagus, and they were under offer with two different toppings, with butter or with mayonnaise.

As the optimist I expected home made mayonnaise, but this was after my notion something out of a can. The white asparagus were delicious, but the mayonnaise were a little too much in quantity, and did not taste very good.

For the main course I chose sole, and this was certainly not the best place to eat plaice.

The fish itself was a little dry, in spite of the parsley butter that were supposed to moisten the fish a little.

And I have never had sweet corn with this, that was a strange experience. The French fries was a little under cooked.

A plaice slightly out of place.

The wine served was a well chilled Nederburg Riesling. Dry but with pleasant fruit aromas. Not the worst choice, I just wished that the food at Versailles had met my expectations. Maybe you will be more lucky.

Rating the Versailles experience: BBB+ (3,25 points)

Great location, old charm ambiance, bad service and food. Get more staff and a better cook, and the experience will get so much better.

The Versailles:
175 Snell Parade
Marine Parade
South Africa

More restaurants?

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Chic living at Park Inn Alexanderplatz

The two tallest buildings in the old east are found at Alexanderplatz. The first one is the impressive TV-tower, that once was the pride of the DDR-regime. The second is the 39 floor Hotel Park Inn Alexanderplatz. Besides my hotel experiences in New York City, I think that living here has been the most urban hotel stay I have had in my 45 year life. And it was cheap, chic and comfortable living.

Location: BBBBB

This is the place for you that love the urban jungle. You get that hyper urban experience, as you arrive at the busy Alexanderplatz area. If you are into quiet and cozy, this is definitely nothing for you, but I loved every minute of it.

Service: BBBBB

Top notch for service. Nice and pleasant staff in the reception, in the breakfast room, and in bars and restaurants. We were even allowed to keep our room till 2 PM on our day of departure without extra charge.

Hygiene and maintenance: BBBBB

Our rooms were very well maintained and held the highest hygienic standards. The same thing could be said of the rest of the hotel. This was top standard.

Room: BBBBB- / BBBB+

I have given the rooms two scores, one for single occupancy, and one for double. Let me explain.

We ordered a single room, but stayed in fact in a double room. For one it was perfect, I would maybe hesitate to order it for two.

Design wise it was extremely smart, in dark wood and white clean walls. Smart white lamps with chromium base, black and chrome chairs. Extremely comfortable beds, and sound proof windows locked the traffic out. Very good ventilation provided fresh air and comfortable temperature.

So why would I hesitate to recommend these rooms for two? I will tell you.

The rooms at Park Inn were very compact indeed, and the bathroom area was restricted, in fact the sink was only protected with a blind, and the glass shower was situated in the room itself. The bathroom area was tiny, more than good for one, very little for two.

The toilet was the only room completely shielded behind frosted glass walls. I would prefer to have such a room for me only, and as a single occupancy it get a high score, but for two a lower.

But the design of the bathroom was top notch. Round designer sink on a marble top. Chrome and glass - very elegant.

Here is a small film that will show you the room, so you may judge by yourself. Maybe it is good enough for you two?

Breakfast: BBBBB

Breakfast at Park Inn was not included. Sadly this is the trend, as the hotel price now what used to be free, and a good breakfast at the Park Inn does not come cheap. €16 is the double price for a decent breakfast in one of the many breakfast cafes located around Alexanderplatz.

Having said that, if you should pay so much for your breakfast, the best alternative would be here.

No bacon, but scrambled eggs with speck and another batch with herbs, fried tomatoes, potatoes and wonderful crunchy sausages.

Pastry for every taste, jam, yogurt, muesli, and juice. Good strong coffee. All this provided you with enough energy to roam around Berlin far beyond noon.

Facilities: BBBB+

The reception area was relatively small, and there no areas where you could sit down and enjoy a newspaper in quiet atmosphere, at least what I could see. This hotel was huge and there may have been a salon tucked away somewhere.

On the ground floor there was however a great restaurant / bar with live music. This place was the natural venue for a last drink before bed time and a night snack. I will tell you more later.

On the ground floor you had wireless access for the guests. The rooftop bar, located by the casino demanded foreign guests to bring their passport to get access. As we were inside the Schengen area, we declined the demand, thus missing the view from the top.

If you have some Euros for personal pampering, Park Inn had its own spa department, but the treatments were a little out of our league or rather priorities.

Price: BBBBB

€85 a night - unbeatable, even with no breakfast included.

Rating the Hotel Park Inn Alexanderplatz experience: BBBBB (4,81 points)

Great bargain in Berlin!!


Park Inn Berlin-Alexanderplatz
Alexanderplatz 7
10178 Berlin
Telefon: +49-30-2389-0
Telefax: +49-30-2389-4305

More hotels?

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Porcupine Ridge Merlot 2006

The first evening in Durban I enjoyed a wine with a story attached to it. Named after the South African porcupine and with a long story on its character. I do prefer the wine to the animal.

This wine comes from the Boekenhoutskloof estate dating from 1784 located in the Franschhoek Valley in the Western Cape region - one of the main South African wine areas.

The owners of the estate is known for the Boekenhoutskloof wines as well as the range of wines called Porcupine Ridge.

Porcupine Ridge is a handcrafted range of wines, and carry a label featuring an original pen and ink of the crested porcupine drawn by leading South Africa wildlife artist, Zakkie Eloff. These crested porcupines inhabit the vineyards of the Boekenhoutskloof homestead.

The wine had a wonderful rich character with chocholate, as well as ripe red cherries, and was perfect for the mild and humid night as I admired the lights of Durban. Do you want to see what I saw that night? Here is a short film of Durban that night.

No wonder I loved this wine and this night!!

Enjoy Food & Travel at the Travel Cooler

I was contacted by Annie Poulsen on the Travel Cooler in request on an interview on Oslo. Here is what she wrote:

"I have just found your brilliant Enjoy - Food & Travel blog via the Glorious Food and Wine blog.

I run a small travel blog, The Travel Cooler , which includes travel articles, photographs and news. One section on this blog features interviews with locals from around the world. I was wondering, if you would be interested in taking part in an email interview about Oslo for this section?

The section is called View of a Local and is meant to be a light-hearted way for visitors to a particular place to get a few tips about the place that they might not be able to get from a guide book. On a deeper level I'm hoping the interviews help travellers become better visitors and learn to respect the places they visit."

Of course I was happy to have space on another website to promote the city I love.

See what I shared from my city Oslo on Travel Cooler

Sandwiches at the Seafood Bar

I and my traveling buddy, Ketil Zahl, were hungry as we waited for our plane to Berlin. To satisfy our hunger we went to eat at Seafood Bar at Oslo Airport. And what better to choose than open sandwiches.

I had enough hunger for two large sandwiches and that was I ordered, and what a treat.

One large sandwich with a pile for fresh large prawns, served a generous portion of black roe and half a lemon to squeeze over.

And the second was covered with two large slices of premium smoked salmon served with a delicious traditional mustard sauce, sweet balancing the salty sea taste. Yum!

So not a bad idea for those you going back from Oslo. Avoid Pizza Hut and other fast food stands and go for the good natural ingredients from the pure Norwegian waters.

More on open sandwiches on Enjoy Food & Travel

Klot og duppe

Klot og duppe is a speciality from the Hedemarken area. The main ingredients are, however, variations of the same Norwegian and even European theme. Klot og duppe is potato dumplings, salted and smoked pork and sweet gravy - myssmør.

You should have most of the day to prepare this dish, as most traditional dishes, and here you have no recipe and improvise, if necessary, as indeed Stian did.

Use half and half boiled and raw potato. Grind the potatoes into a smooth pate and add barley flour and salt - no pepper. As Stian was out of barley flour, he substituted this ingredient with ordinary wheat flour. No eggs are, however, necessary as the starch in the potato will make the dumplings stick.

Potato dumplings are found around the coast as well as in the interior of Norway. They are called by different names and are known as klubb, kompe, komle, or raspeballer.

Along the coast the potato dumpling may be filled with salted pork or salted fish, or these ingredients may be served aside as with klot og duppe. Even the other things as sauce and vegetables may vary and are both sweet and savory as, sugar, bacon fat, or myssmør made from the local surost.

Well the potato dumplings went into boiling water and they need up to 30 minutes in order to boil through and then floating up top the surface.

And then the myssmør made from surost, and sweet and slightly bitter - a variation of the Norwegian brunost. The surost is dissolved in water and reduced until it gets a mild sweet taste and a creamy consistency. This was really a labour of love for Stian, as he had to whisk and stir continuously, for the myssmør not to stick in the iron pan.

And then the food was served in the presentation as you see above. An interesting experience between the crispy fried salted pork, the sweet sauce and the mild potato dumpling. Definitely an interesting and good experience.

And if you need your recipe here it is.

Klot og duppe (serves four)

400 grams / 1 lb peeled uncooked potatoes
400 grams / 1 lb peeled boiled potatoes
20 cl / 7 oz barley flour
1 tbsp wheat flour
1 tsp salt

1 tsp salt for each liter of water

Duppe :
30 grams / 1 oz surprim/- ost (here you may use brunost)
ca. 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
15 cl / 5 fluid oz water
3 tbsp butter or fat
1 slice of salted pork

Durban - the Beach

I have never ever seen such a beach front area as the one in Durban. It had the most beautiful white sandy beaches with large waves breaking. But large areas of the beach was practically deserted - a strange feeling in the middle of the second largest city in South Africa.

I do not know whether it was the season, as this was the South African spring, but at least I found a few other explanations to this strange thing.

The sign you see on the right was one of them. There were strict regulations along the beach and large signs on you where you could and could not swim, where you were allowed to play beach ball, scuba dive, and so on..

This was basically due to the fact that there were guards that monitored the swimming and beach activities. It is particularly important to be aware of one dangerous phenomena - the rip current, along beaches as these.

Rip currents occur along shallow beach areas and may draw even the most experienced swimmer out to sea. In New Hampshire, where I stay during late summer, early fall, there are strong rip currents and instructions are put up to tell swimmers how to behave if they are taken by these strong currents.

Then there are another sign, warning against sharks.

The Natal Sharks Board, had put up large information signs telling swimmers that there were indeed sharks nets outside, but you were entering the sea at your own risk. You were also advised not to swim at dawn, dusk and at night, as risk of shark attacks where greater at these periods.

It felt a little like Jaws, as these coasts were the ones where the Great White Shark roam to prey.

If you think that I am now building up to confess that I did not dare to take a swim, you are truly wrong. I have to admit that these signs were a turn off, but I just had to try the waters. I did so, however, according to the rules. I went to the private beach at Suncoast where you paid 5 ZAR and could take a swim and even get a chair to dry. It was a great experience to stand on the beach and feel the warm waters of the Indian ocean. The sea temperature felt in excess of 25 degrees or 75F.

In order for you to get more impression of the beach I will show a little film clip displaying a 360 degree vision from where I stood close to my hotel. The Durban beach front area is a large asset for this beautiful city and worth visiting if you plan to travel to South Africa.