Saturday, January 19, 2008

A few delicious products






















I want to share some very good products I have found on the market here in Scandinavia. A great and inexpensive chocolate, sweet and spicy almonds, instant strawberries in a bottle, and a great ingredient to make instant mushroom stew.


Ecuadorian chocolate with high cocoa content from J. D. Gross

This rich chocolate with 70% cocoa is one of the main reasons why I pop in at my nearest Lidl shop on and off. This rich dark chocolate is a bargain. You get much for your money compared to similar products from Lindt, Droste, or any other high class producer. It is for offer at Lidl for NOK 17,60, or around €2.

This is the main ingredient in my creamy chocolate mousse where I also add a little cointreau for taste. Heaven.

Almonds dipped in white chocolate, coated in cinnamon.

This treat was a Christmas gift from Susanne. Seriously wicked stuff, much taste. At first glance I thought it was coated in coco powder, and I was surprised by the fact that the brown dusting was cinnamon. The combination of the crunchy nut, the intens flavour of cinnamon, and sweet, perfumed white chocolate is unbeatable.

It is marketed in Scandinavia by Estebans Agenturer in Sweden. They have a very interesting website with many other intriguing products. Enjoy!!

Instant mushroom taste from Borgens

This is an ingredient I buy when I go to Sweden. It is one of a wide range of products made from mushrooms by the Swedish manufacturer Borgens.

This little can means instant mushroom stew. It is a fine mousse made from mushrooms and butter. And if you do not use all - divide it into smaller portions and freeze.

An instant taste of summer - Strawberry Syrup.

If you have a bottle of Sirop Fraise Frais des Bois - fresh syrup made from wood strawberries in you cupboard, you are lucky. With this deliciously red, fresh and sweet sauce you can turn ordinary vanilla ice cream into a feast, or you may dip some cupcakes in it. Wicked.

I have done both, today I served Mövenpick ice cream with toffee liqueur and strawberry syrup. A dish you are willing to burn in hell for - believe me! Pure gluttony!

It is produced by Routin, located in Chambéry in the Savoie region in south eastern France.

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Sundown Ranch Hotel




















I chose to stay at the Sundown Ranch Hotel for the last two nights during our stay in South Africa. Originally I had decided to book one of the cabins, but I was not satisfied by the standard of these cabins. I was however very pleased by the hotel.


Location: BBB

This hotel is seriously far into the bush, with no public transportation available. This means that you will need to hire a car to get there. If you decide to stay at the nearby Sun City, you may travel there by airplane or you may get transportation from Johannesburg International Airport at special rates. But be aware, staying at Sun City comes at a price.

Service: BBBB+

The Sundown Ranch Hotel had a very professional staff. Top notch for service. Nice and pleasant staff in the reception and in the breakfast room.

The only exception was during the only lunch I enjoyed at the hotel, where I waited too long for a pasta dish that did meet my expectation.

Hygienic standard: BBBBB-

The floors in the rooms had wall to wall carpeting. It is extremely difficult to provide good air quality and good hygienic standard in rooms with this surface. In spite of this, the hotel held a very high hygienic standard. You found the same good standard throughout the rest of the hotel.

There was only one disappointment. As the tempting swimming pool in the enclosed garden, dirt started to float around in the water. This should be a word of warning to any hotel with such facilities - badly maintained and cleaned pools may be a source of health problems for vulnerable groups as kids or the elderly.

Room: BBBB

The Sundown Ranch Hotel provided good accommodation. It had spacious and light room, but the design felt a little outdated or old fashioned.

The big plus of the room was the large terrace overlooking the beautiful enclosed garden. This was the place to sit and enjoy a cold glass of white wine during the afternoon heat.

The tiled bathroom was a little small and outdated, but held an acceptable standard.

Here I have recorded a film, so you may judge the rooms yourself, and by the way, opening the door to the terrace posed the same challenge every time.


Breakfast: BBBBB

Thank God! The breakfast was included in the price, and they made proper coffee. I was very impressed by the breakfast. Here you could order freshly made omelet with cheese and ham, there were a good selection of meats, cheese, muesli, yogurts, and juice. As this delicious colorful glass of fruit juice.

And you could sit down outside in the beautiful enclosed garden in enjoy your breakfast.

I loved ever minute of it.

Facilities: BBBB+

The Sundown Ranch Hotel offers a whole range of facilities. You have a bar and a restaurant. The bar was a little dark and I tended to go out to enjoy my drinks at another bar located by the swimming pool. The prices were ridiculously low, after our standard.

I had one lunch at the restaurant. It did not cost very much, but was not a success. Pasta carbonara, that tasted neither bacon, nor eggs, or cheese.

The garden was an enormous asset, and I will write a separate article showing the beautiful flowers here. The swimming pool was impressive, but the latter had not been properly cleaned.

Price: BBBBB

Paying a little under €50 per night, breakfast included, is a real bargain.

Overall score: BBBB+ (4,4 points)

Sundown Ranch offers recommendable accommodation at an unbeatable price.

Address
On R565 Road, 10 km from Sun City
Phone: +27 (0)14 - 573 1000
Fax: +27 (0)14 - 573 1055
Website: http://www.nw-platinumprovince.co.za/sundownranch/home_page.htm
Booking: bookings@sundownlionpark.com

More hotels?

See hotels visited and/or reviewed on Enjoy Foods & Travel in 2008 here

Read more on hotels 2006-2007 on Enjoy Food & Travel here


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shrimp salad from Vesterålen




















What could be better than fresh shrimps. Caught in the dark, cold Nordic waters. The wonderful sweet and salty aromas from the sea, served with French loaf, good butter, mayonnaise, and slices of lemon. I love them, and as I visited my brother in far north of Norway, he showed me another way to enjoy them - in his own shrimp salad, from Vesterålen.

Mayonnaise-based salads are very popular in Norway. If you go grocery shopping in Norway you will find a large range of different salads made from mayonnaise and shrimps, chicken, tuna, ham, or smoked salmon.

I have already showed how to make one of my favourite salads, Skagenrøre, named after Skagen, the charming little town on the northern most tip of Jylland in Denmark.

Shrimp salad like my brother likes it

My brother prepared the most delicious shrimp salad. He used mayonnaise and sour cream as a base, in order to make it less rich. He mixed in peeled shrimps, chopped hard boiled eggs and one finely chopped small raw onion. As in Skagenrøre he added smoked and salted fish roe, lime/lemon for freshness, and tomato ketchup for sweetness and colour. He used the fish roe and a few shrimps as garnish.

And it really tastes as good as it looks.

Booking at Sterling - a confusing experience


















The most irritating experience is when you think you have made a bargain, and you discover that there are hidden charges, that you cannot avoid. Be aware that this is the case when booking Sterling. I thought I had purchased a cheap ticket, but the price doubled? No the end price was more than three and half times higher.


One way to Copenhagen at NOK 94,- - what a bargain!!

Happy when I discovered the price of a one-way ticket on Sterling NB696, departing January 30th at 6.40 PM. One way for NOK 94,- This was too good to be true, and it was...

Unavoidable - taxes / fees NOK 146,-

Taxes and fees is the unavoidable part of a ticket. At this price I did not expect fees to be included, as the taxes exceed the price of a ticket. Well, well the price, NOK 240,-, is cheap enough.

What! Extra luggage NOK 27,-

This is completely hopeless and irritating. This is a hidden, and for me unknown fee. I knew before traveling with Ryanair that I had to pay per suitcase. The fact that I had to pay extra for one piece of luggage is horrendous. We are now up in 267,- NOK. Where will this end?

Sit down - pay NOK 65,-

The end was not in sight. We were allowed to book seats, and I chose two in front of the airplane. In order to sit down in an airplane belonging to Sterling you will have to pay up NOK 65,- per seat. And the price goes up to NOK 332,-

NOK 50,- to book on the internet

Well, at the end I had to pay NOK 50,- to do the job, making it easy for Sterling, by booking on the net. Well let us face, this is not fair competition.

This is what you have to pay at Sterling

Ticket: NOK 95,- +
Taxes/fees: NOK 146,-
Extra luggage: (I declared that I had one piece) NOK 27,-
Seat reservation: NOK 65,-
Handling fee: NOK 50,-

Thus the real price was not NOK 95,- but NOK 382,-. Four times more. Maybe you should check somewhere else?

Copenhagen - again!!




















Those of you that have visited Enjoy Food & Travel for a while will discover that I have visited Copenhagen two times during 2007. Now I am returning to the Danish capital in 2008. Why? Because "det er dejligt å være norsk - i Danmark", or; it is great to be Norwegian, in Denmark.


How to get there

Today I shopped on the net. In order to get the best price I booked Sterling, on our way down at January 30th. It is the first time I use this low cost carrier. I'll keep you posted.

Back on February 2nd the best bargain was Scandinavian Airlines. Not on price, as Norwegian and Sterling offered very low prices during their only departure early Saturday morning. But as we wanted to get most of the Saturday, we decided to leave 6.10 PM.

Where to stay

On both trips to Copenhagen in 2007 I traveled by boat, and had a cabin included in my fare. It is the first time in a while I am going to stay in a hotel in the Danish capital.

Checking hotel reservation sites, I found Copenhagen to be an expensive city to stay. A former colleague gave me the name of her favourite hotel.

Hotel Sct. Thomas had single rooms for DKK 595 (around €85). She highly recommended the hotel, and now I have booked a single room for three nights - lucky me.

So coming up at Enjoy Food & Travel in February - wonderful, wonderful - Copenhagen! I will also spend a whole week there, during Easter as well. So this spring will be dedicated to beautiful Denmark.

See Map of sights, restaurants, and food stories in Copenhagen here:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Classical Treasures of the Pergamon Museum

The Pergamon Museum is the home of many other treasures from the classical world. As you enter, you get that feeling that you get at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or at the Louvre in Paris. This feeling of sadness that you may not wander through these halls in a week just to try to digest the impressions these great work of arts give you. Sadly you have to choose.

As you walk through the door at the left, facing the Pergamon Altar, you enter a room filled with treasures from the Greek era. As this part of a row of columns, once carrying a heavy row. The mere weight these tall and slender Corinthian columns once must have carried.

The room had another great part of building from antiquity.

This magnificent gate used to be a propylon dedicated to the god Athena, and dates back to the 2nd century BC. It is reconstructed from original marble fragments. The sign did not give information on where this magnificent building once stood.

This propylon is constructed in the same style as the Pergamon Altar. Here you have two rows of beautiful ionic columns, as found at the altar, carrying a classical Hellenistic roof.




The Market Gate of Miletus


When you face the altar and enter through the door at the right you will find the room housing the Market Gate of Miletus.

Miletus (Μίλητος) was a city that existed from the bronze age until far into the Middle Ages, when the natural port
became silted up, which led to the city being abandoned.

This magnificent building used to be the Market Gate of this old city. It was excavated by the Germans in 1899 and brought back to Europe.

Berlin - The Pergamon Altar




















I was determined to visit the Pergamon museum during my stay in Berlin. I had high expectations, and I was not disappointed. Seeing the Ishtar Gate and the Pergamon Altar was one of the highlights from my short stay.

The Pergamon Altar

The altar was constructed in the city of Pergamon (Greek; Πέργαμος, modern day Bergama in Turkey) from 189 - 150 BC. It was either dedicated to Zeus or Athena. Pergamon was an important city in Mysia on the north east coast of Asia Minor. During the Hellenistic Period the city grew in affluence and importance. The city had the largest library in the old world, only beaten by the library of Alexandria in Egypt.

The city of Pergamon has given its name to parchment (pergamenum in Latin), made from calves skin, that replaced the papyrus in the 3rd an 2nd century in Pergamon.

From Asia Minor to Berlin

The German archaeologist Carl Humann started the excavation of the altar on the Castle Hill in 1878. The excavation lasted for 8 years and did, after having paid the German a larger sum, move the remains to Berlin.

When you enter the large hall that house the altar, you are struck by the size of the monument. It covered a little over 1000 square metres (more 10000 square feet). The altar has been reconstructed on the giant staircase on which the altar once stood.

Giants and Gods

The Altar is very impressive, with a large number of ionic columns that carry the flat roof with decorated with large statues.

The base of the altar you find the remains of statues that once were there. The remains show the fight between giants and the Greek Gods. The remains have been placed without further restoration. The altar must have been a wonderful sight on the castle hill in Asia Minor.

The sculptures show the rich mythological world of the Greeks. This fragment depicts a snake being attacked by a bird or another winged creature. By its side you find a man with wings.

It is hard to absorb all the impressions in a place like this. The history, the fact that Revelation in the New Testament refers to it as "In Pergamos where Satan's Throne is". The fact that so much has survived the last two millennia and the bombing of Berlin during the Second World War.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bjerke Gård: Traditional luxury





















By guest writer Susanne Koch


Last week I spent two glorious nights and days with my closest colleagues at Bjerke Gård. Bjerke is a traditional Norwegian farm outside of Lillehammer. The old buildings have been lovingly restored and converted to a luxurious little hotel.

Bjerke is a stately farm with roots back to 700 AD. The family of the current landlord have resided at Bjerke for almost 300 years. All the buildings are historic, one dating back to 1650. The farm is located in quiet surroundings with a lovely view of Lillehammer across the valley.

I slept like a princess in an antique bed and had breakfast in the old kitchen with a fire blazing in a huge open fireplace. The hosts and owners, Annikken Stranger Bergerud og O. Henrik Akeleye Braastad, prepare and serve the meals themselves and loving attention is paid to every detail.

For dinner we had fillet of deer with pommes duchesse baked in fillo pastry and vegetable timbale. By this time, my camera was out of batteries, but trust me when I say that it was as pretty as it was delicious.

For lunch the following day, we had salmon and monk fish with herbed cream cheese baked in puff pastry, served on a bed of spinach with a balsamico and hazelnut dressing, sprinkled with a chutney of figs and apricots. Another memorable meal.

A two hour train ride took us back to Oslo and even though it had been a busy two days, I felt pampered and invigorated when I returned home. What a treat!

More hotels?

See hotels visited and/or reviewed on Enjoy Foods & Travel in 2008 here

Read more on hotels 2006-2007 on Enjoy Food & Travel here

Susanne Koch is an Internet professional who works as an e-learning and web communication adviser at the University of Oslo. She blogs about search engines and search engine optimization at Pandia.com. Susanne loves to travel and blogs about her journeys at Susi's Souvenirs. You may also want to have a look at Susanne Koch's homepage.

Trifle in a glass

I always keep a jar with strawberries in rum in my refrigerator. They are a great base for a tasty drink, as well as delicious desserts. Having six people for dinner I needed an idea for an easy and good dessert, and I chose to make a trifle, in a glass!!

How to make an easy trifle.

Buy a sponge, cut into thin strips and coat the sides of the glass with the white side out, if using the bottom. Place a small piece of trifle in the bottom of the glass.

Place two tablespoons of strawberries in rum in the bottom of each glass, and pour the rum-strawberry mix over the berries. I also added some French strawberry syrup for taste.

Then pour over fresh custard, garnish with fresh strawberries, and allow to infuse in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!!

Tough!!!




















Look very hard. Meat like this is one reason why I object being a consumer hostage. I bought a roast of Norwegian beef produced by Gilde, the Norwegian food cartel. It weighed 1,5 kilos (roughly 3 lbs), and I paid NOK 271 (€34). It was tough!!

Being a hostage to the industry

I am a consumer hostage. Hostage to politicians that allow farmers, and agricultural cartels like Gilde to continue to provide inferior products to the Norwegian consumer.

This is not a new experience. A year ago, I bought a roast of lamb. It was labeled "Hallingskarvet", an exclusive range of meat products. Then as now, I paid a horrendous price for an inferior product.

This time, I decided to prepare it gently, roasting it on a very low heat (100C / 210F) for a long time (6 hours). This would, under normal circumstances be a guarantee for a tender and succulent end result.

This was not a bull, rather an old cow. Even thinly sliced, the roast provided considerable gymnastics for your gums. I am embarrassed on behalf of Norwegian food industry to provide these products to the market and demand more Argentinian beef at lower prices. Tear down the boundaries!!

Seasoning!

Well the seasoning was imported. I always buy spices in the United States, and this little package is in true American spirit. Bag'n Season from the well renowned brand McCormick, provides the easy and clean solution for those that will prepare Beef Stew.

A package of seasoning and a plastic bag to avoid dirty trays and oven. I decided to separate the two. I dissolved the seasoning in oil and allowed to infuse. Then I coated the roast of beef with the seasoning. I tasted the mixture, and it had the distinct taste of good brown gravy, and I decided to use the rest in a good sauce. Good idea!!

Dauphinoise potatoes

I love the frozen dauphinoise potatoes now widely available in our supermarkets. Making them from scratch is quite a job. Peeling and slicing potatoes, boiling them in a cream with seasoning, adding grated cheese and then baking them in a hot oven until brown and tender. I do not doubt that homemade is better, but chucking frozen mixture in dish, adding grated cheese and seasoning is much easier. It tastes good as well!

Baked Mediterranean vegetables

Baked red peppers, zucchini, tomatoes and aubergines with olive oil is great. Here the easy solution is frozen as well. This great vegetable mix is the thing. Simply pour the frozen vegetable in a baking tray, add a generous amount of olive oil and salt, pepper, and Mediterranean spices.

Gravy

As the Bag'n Season mix was intended for beef stew, it had the most delicious taste of brown gravy. I fried an onion until golden, and added the rest of the Bag'n Season seasoning, water and marsala wine to provide sweetness and acidity. Then I placed the mix in a liquidizer to blend into a smooth sauce, and a finishing touch - double cream. Great stuff.

At least the tough Norwegian beef went down with the help of delicious vegetables, creamed potatoes and gravy. It is however another blow to Gilde as a producer. So to those of you that want to enjoy a tender piece of fresh meat. Stay away from the cartells, and be advised to choose internationally produced frozen meats. They may be even more expensive than the domestically produced meats, but my experience is that they are so much more tender.