Thursday, December 06, 2007

More non-stop services from Oslo to New York?

Tore Grundstad, the CEO of Continental Airlines in Norway wants to extend the airlines non-stop services from one to two a day during peak season in 2008.

Continental took over the only non-stop flight from Oslo to Newark International Airport from SAS in 2004, and it has been a success story for the American air carrier.

In 2004 there were three weekly flights from Oslo. Continental has gradually extended its schedule, and today planes leaving from Gardermoen airport are booked over the 80% average that Continental has on its European flights. From January 2008 there will be daily transatlantic services from Oslo.

Continental may even plan to increase its current capacity by switching their current Boeing 757 planes with 175 seats to Boeing 767's with around 240 seats. This increase may bee good news for the travellers, as it may increase the number of low-price tickets.

Source: Aftenposten. Read the full story here

Rediscovering Spaghetti

I remember the first time I tasted spaghetti. It was overcooked, mixed with tomato sauce, meatballs, cocktail sausages, and in the best tomato sauce. Spaghetti à la Capri came out of a tin, and you can still get it here in Norway. I remember it was the most delicious experience, but as I tried it again a few months ago, I was certainly disappointed. Either my taste, or the product had changed, but it was too bad as I want my childhood memories back!!

Traditional spaghetti is certainly an ingredient to rediscover. Served with a strong tomato sauce, and with a drizzle of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.

I have discovered two ready made sauces that I really can recommend. One is made by the Italian producer Barilla. The Gorgonzola Ricetta Speciale has the most distinct taste of the delicious Italian blue cheese and the creamiest consistency. The Knorr sauce with tomato, oregano, onion and garlic is a chuncy, spicy, garlicy, experience. Both are easily turned into the most delicious meal - with a few modifications.

Warm up a generous amount of olive oil and add more garlic (you can never have too much of it). Then add half an onion and streaky bacon or even better - pancetta. I substituted this ingredient with cubed German salami. Then the spaghetti sauce goes in. One thing is vital, add the necessary amount of sugar to balance the acidity and saltiness of the sauce.

You have of course boiled the spaghetti in the same pan to save time and effort. Add it to the sauce and stir well. This is before and after a good hand full of grated parmigiano reggiano and a few roughly torn basil leaves go in. Now you cook as a true Italian.

And boy how that taste, and it is very easy to make, taking 20 minutes at the most. For you guys there is another reason to eat tomato sauce. It protects against prostate cancer. Great stuff!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Norway Lobsters

This weekend I visited the South Eastern coast of Norway, and during our brief visit we drove down to Kristiansand, the largest city along this coastline, and here we visited the local fish market. There they were, the most wonderful Norway Lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) waiting for us, and we bought four, just to enjoy - and we did.

If you wonder how do you serve these beautiful creatures, there are many options. If you choose to heat these precooked crayfish, do remember to be careful, as overcooked they will be very tough. I have prepared them hot, after I have cut them in half, and brushed them with garlic butter and parsley, or pesto, garlic and parmeggiano and baked them in the oven until the liquid bubbled.

I, however, find them best in natura, meaning cold. Peel the tail, as you would a lobster or a prawn. Here you'll find most of the meat, crack the claws carefully with a nutcracker. Cut the tail and the claw meat in slices or pieces, spread on a toasted slice of ciabatta. Add a couple of white asparagus, lemon juice and a good squeeze of Hellman's mayonnaise. Great stuff.

And if you do this at home, do not throw away the shells. They are full of taste, and ideal for the most exquisite stock, to use in sauces or soups. Put the shells in a large pan, pour over water, add salt, pepper, dill, alternatively one or two stock cubes and allow to boil for twenty minutes to extract all the lobster taste. You may use it immediately in a fish soup or freeze down in smaller containers to use later.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A lunch in Zululand

On our way back from Durban to Johannesburg we stopped in Hammerstein, a township between Durban and Pietermaritzburg to visit our friend Phumziles mother. She had promised us lunch, and this was one of the most memorable experiences from our trip to South Africa.

Hammerstein was not a place of wealth, but the people here seemed to be better off than those living in many of the other townships we had seen and/or visited. Phumziles mother lived in a three bedroom house, and had a small living room, a bathroom, and a modern kitchen.

It was a wonderful generosity to be served a meal like this. The meal was simple, yet very delicious. On top you see our lunch table. On your right you see pieces of chicken baked until golden. In the middle was the most delicious steamed white bread. To our chicken we had a dark and hot gravy, flavored with Indian spices, steamed spinach with ginger, fried onion and carrots, and a salad. For dessert we had a delicious vanilla custard dessert.

This meal is supposed to be eaten with your fingers, but we had the privilege to get forks and spoons, so we did not (unfortunately) enjoy this the Zulu way.

Berlin - shaken, not stirred

We had some very good drinks in Berlin. Who can resist a dry martini, shaken but not stirred. This dry martini was served at Spagos Bar at our hotel, and let me present some of the drinks we enjoyed.

These two beer varieties, Berliner Kindl and Warsteiner (right and left) were traditional lagers or Pilsner beer, as we call them in Norway. Very light and refreshing on a summer day but as good during late fall or winter. Enjoyed at Cancun and Bistro am Gendarmenmarkt.

Krusovice Kralovsky Pirovar (middle), a delicious beer brewed since 1517 in the old town of the same name.The brewery got a contract in 1581 to provide beer to Emperor Rudolph II of the Holy Roman Empire. A noble history for a good pilsner beer enjoyed at Bierstube Alt Berlin.

A Margarita and a Mojito, two great drinks to enjoy as a night cap. The Margarita was served at El Curandero, while the Mojito was enjoyed at Spagos Bar at our hotel, Park Inn Alexanderplatz.

Berlin from kneipe to kneipe

Berlin is a great place to roam from kneipe to kneipe. This genuinly German word is even used here in Norway, meaning a bar in more than one sense of the word. Kneipe is often used as a term to describe brown bars, places that are growing increasingly rare in current Europe, as one country after another bans smoking in bars. As little you may like smoking, the kneipe as a cultural-historic phenomena is disappearing. Well in Berlin we found some very brown waterholes, as here smoking is (yet) not been banned.

Wednesday, November 21st 2007

Cancun Potzdamer Platz

Ebertstr. 14
10117 Berlin

Cancun was actually not a kneipe in a traditional sense of the word, but rather a Mexican style restaurant and bar. The reason why we ended here, was thirst for our first pint of beer around noon, and the sense of being lost. We had walked down Unter den Linden, passed under Brandenburger Tor and passed the Holocaust Memorial, on our way to West Berlin.

Cancun had really worked on the South American theme, with maya paintings on walls and columns, and the beer taps were shaped as large cacti.

With a pint of Warsteiner, einer Königin unter den Bieren, we retrieved our sense of direction, and our thirst was satisfied for the time being, before we headed for Kurfürstendamm in old West Berlin. Cancun - not really my place really. A little too hip for my taste.

El Curandero
Schönhauser Allee 10
10119 Berlin

After a long day, after one lunch, and with a great Vietnamese meal in front of us, we went out for a drink and found another bar, inspired by South America.

El Curandero is located in Schönhauser Alle, in my favourite part of Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg. Once a part of East Berlin, it has escaped some of the worst examples of the old regime, and today you find old brick buildings and small restaurants along Schönauser Alle and Eberswalder Strasse.

And if you are going South American, why not order a Margarita. This is one of my favourites. Lime juice, Triple Sec and Tequila in a glass lined with salt crystals. And the price - €4,50!! It was delicious as we were lost again, in our quest for a place to eat dinner.

Bierstube Alt Berlin
Münzstr. 23
10178 Berlin

Well here is an old kneipe for you, located by Alexanderplatz, going back to the last decade of the 19th century, to 1893. Der schönster aller Dinge, ein schneller Schluck bei Heinz und Inge, and so we did late on Wednesday.

This was a dark kneipe with a century+ of tobacco colour - dark mahogany. It was very small, and as a non smoker I am happy that it was just a few people there. We sat down and ordered Krusovice Kralovsky Pirovar - a Czech beer, and sat down.

We were immediately far away from this slick modern world, and back in a century old bierstube. This was our first encounter with a genuin Berliner Kneipe, and we were mesmerized. This is one place for you to visit on your journey.

Thursday, November 22nd 2007

Bistro am Gedarmenmarkt
Markgrafenstr. 41
10117 Berlin

Once this charming old bar was located in East Berlin. Gendarmenmarkt is a charming square with some very impressive large buildings. Das Schauspielhaus (1821), flanked by der Französischer Dom (1701-1705) and der Deutscher Dom (1708). Both cathedrals and das Schauspielhaus were bombed during the Second World War and rebuilt 1977-1985.

Her we found a small intimate bar with a little and very German lunch menu and a few pints of Berliner Kindl, another beer we had grown very fond of. We were actually looking for the main centre of Kreuzberg, and we were not to succeed and were lost around Alexanderplatz again. But Bistro am Gendarmenmarkt is another place to visit or revisit.

And we paid €6,40 for two pints of Berliner Kindl!

Bezenkammer Bar
Rathausstr. 1
10178 Berlin

This is a tiny bar, and may I confess, a very gay bar, under the railway bridge leading into the Berliner Alexanderplatz Railway station. Very urban indeed under the trains thundering over our heads and just by the pride of the Deutsche Demokratishe Republik - the Television Tower.

As I was the gay guy and my companion were not, I was determined to take him to a place that would not intimidate him, and Das Bezenkammer is definitely not the place. Here you have the bar and small tables along the walls to place your beer.

Das Bezenkammer is a very relaxed place and very far removed from the hip crowd of young gays and lesbians. This was a place to enjoy a beer before we headed for dinner at Prenzlauer Berg, and another bar or two.

We loved the price of a 4 cl Jack Daniels - €4,40!

Danziger Strasse 3

10435 Berlin

We wanted to go for a coffee and maybe a drink, but found it not very cosy. So we just ordered a Coca Cola Light, an espresso, and an Averna - an Italian digestif - price €5,40. That was all, and we do not care to revisit.

Eis-Café Family
Gleimstr. 29

10437 Berlin

This is the only place we went twice, as we found it to be the most charming neighbourhood hangout, where everyone seemed to know each other. Drinking beer, playing retro music and playing dart, trying to have a conversation with the locals.

This is maybe the nicest place we visited during our stay in Berlin. Here we talked with those clearly happy that the days of the DDR had gone, as well as those having difficulities to adjust to the new reality.

This is the place I certainly will come back to the next time. The drinks were inexpensive, the people were nice, and the atmosphere of Eis-Cafe Family was Super!

Monday, December 03, 2007

For those of you living in Norway, look out for this site. Here you may monitor prices on flights within Norway and from Norway to Europe from day to day, and you may pick the lowest price at any date. This is the ultimate places for DINKS, i.e. those of you that may travel off season, or on ordinary weekdays.

The site compares airfare on British Airways, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Ryanair, Sterling, and Widerøe. Did you, for instance, know that you today, December 3rd, could have purchased a flight to Madrid for €10 with Ryanair one way? And it gets even better - by clicking on the different destinations you may find trips for as little as 10 Euro Cents, + taxes, from Sandefjord to Bergamo in Northern Italy in the middle of January. At you may really save money, so browse this site today and plan your escape to Europe.

Chicken Kiev at Daytona Spur

Daytona Spur is located in the Suncoast complex. Here I went to eat lunch, and chose this - Chicken Kiev. This dish is actually as Ukranian as this sounds, breaded chicken breast, fried in unsalted butter, originally served with potatoes and peas. The South African variety did not conform to the Eastern European traditions.

Daytona Spur is a restaurant in the front, by the food court at the main entrance. The Chicken Kiev served here was filled with cheese and was served with rice and a white creamed mushroom sauce. I do not think that it was a particularly smart combination, as the sauce should have been served aside and not on top. It made the crisp breaded surface of the chicken soft and sticky.

But the taste was not that bad, and served with a few Windhoek lagers it was a satisfactory lunch experience.

Daytona Spur
Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World
Battery Beach Road
Durban, South Africa
Phone: 031 332 4032
Fax: 031 332 4069