Friday, February 08, 2008

In the presence of the Lion King





















As I had missed the two largest animals - the elephant and the lion on my safari, I decided to see the latter at the Sundown Ranch Lion Park. It was located just a short walk from the Sundown Ranch Hotel. I did not have high expectations, to be quite honest. Seeing an animal in its natural habitat is so much better than in cages or in enclosed areas. After visiting the park I am happy to say that it was an absolutely GREAT experience.


Among the roaring lions

As I passed through the gate of the park I walked along a passage with cages on both sides. Here there were lions either sleeping or walking slowly under the hot African sun.

There were several groups of lions with males and females in different enclosed areas. It was a good distance between the walkway, with at least two different set of fences keeping the public away from the inner fence. I would not guarantee what would happen if somebody put their arms through the fence.

O! They are really small kitten!!



As I came down to the centre I was followed by a charming guide, that followed me around. I did not know that I was in for the experience of a life time. She explained to me that the park was more than an ordinary lion park. It was a breeding station for lions that were to be released in the park. She took me to one of the cages and this is what I experienced. Fancy! In the cage were to small six week old cubs. I was allowed to touch and play around with them. They were like the small kitten I have played me through my life. Press the play button and enjoy what I saw.

Older, but still playful!



Having played around the cubs, the guide took me to another cage, and locked me in. On two large rocks there were three, considerably older, lions. She explained to me that they were six months old, and for another year man and lion could interact. As they reach the age of 18 months, the park prepared them for a life in freedom. I was a little skeptic to touch the animals, as they had paws larger than my hands. In fact, one of them did not like my hat, and this stopped my filming. Here is another clip on the larger animals.

Seeing and touching these animals was a wonderful experience. What about their parents then. Do you want to see the big cat. OK! Here is a film.



Visiting the Sundown Ranch Lion Park is a wonderful experience. If you missed the big cat on you safari or not, cuddling a real lion is the experience of a lifetime.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Giovanna's delicacies!




















Giovanna had brought some of the food products she imported, and she had made this large, beautiful flower arrangement from sweets wrapped in coloured paper. She had put some of the other food articles on a small table. She mostly sold her articles in large quantities to gourmet restaurants, but she made an exception for us, and we were allowed to taste and buy smaller amounts. Here are some of the stuff Giovanna placed on the table.

Gold and silver almond nuggets

These almond sweets wrapped in beautiful silver and gold paper were absolutely scrumptious. In fact, I thought that the sweets were coated in silver and gold, and ate one with the wrapping on. With or without paper, sugar coating and high quality almonds - great stuff.


Villa Paradiso - sensational aromatic sweets

These Villa Paradiso sweets were truly sensational. As you put one of them in your mouth you were amazed by the aromas.

The intriguing thing as it touch your tongue is the question you ask yourself in wonder - what does this piece of candy get its taste from? They had a distinct aroma of fruit and pleasant, unidentifiable flower aromas.

Iranian saffron

Giovanna praised the quality of this Edman saffron, that she imported from Iran. I personally would not buy a food product from such an oppressive regime, but I do not deny that it looks exclusive.



Mexican Vanilla

Giovanna held a lecture on vanilla. The vanilla from French Caribbean, from Madagascar, Mexico. She imported Mexican vanilla, and sold them in bags of 100 vanilla pods for a little under €100. We were allowed to buy vanilla pods for a Euro each, and I bought five.

They had the most different aroma than the ones sold in the shops - even a hint of a good cigar.

To get hold of Giovanna

Giovanna's
Pastas Maltagliati Elaborazione artegianale
Phone: +47 924 38 227
Fax: +47 22 80 53 27
Mail: Giovanna4food@yahoo.com

Ravioli with Saffron





















As Slow Food Oslo assembled in Oslo last night, we did so in real slow food manner. This was the evening where all food was made from scratch. The mind behind the evening was the charismatic cook Giovanna, from Peru, but with Italian ancestors. She brought us all the way from flour, eggs, cheese and spinach to the tastiest raviolis with the most delicious filling. I will share with you what happened. On the menu was ravioli with saffron, Sicilian style.


Pasta with saffron

Giovanna had brought her own 40 kilo (80 lb) pasta machine, a squeaky clean Italian kitchen wonder in quite another league than the small food processor most of us have in our kitchen. This enormous machine mixed the pasta dough as well as the thin pasta sheets that would end as the most delicious, rustic raviolis.

Giovanna prepared us for the process. She explained that the raviolis we were going to make had most of the traditional ingredients of ordinary raviolis. Two ingredients were, however, of Arab origins. This as Sicily had a strong Arab influence during the Middle Ages. To the dough Giovanna would add Iranian saffron and to the filling she would use sultanas.

As there were many of us, the raviolis were made from industrial sized amounts of ingredients. I do not dare to give you the exact amount used to prepare this dish for a normal setting. I recommend you to find a normal ravioli recipe and add the extra ingredients.

Giovanna cracked a great of numbers off eggs into a large bowl. When using saffron, do not add the saffron in the food directly. Saffron is an extremely strong food dye, but in order to extract the maximum colour from it do as Giovanna. She had soaked the saffron in water two hours in advance, and then she added the saffron to the eggs and mixed well.

The wonderful yellow colour of the eggs got even more intense with the saffron.

Giovanna had already placed the correct of flour in the large Italian pasta machine, and then she started, and my what sound it made. It did not sound like any kitchen I have heard before.

Giovanna stressed the importance of the quality of the flour. It needed to be extra fine in order to get the right texture of the pasta. Then the egg/saffron mix was poured in the machine. During the mixing she checked the quality of the pasta and added a little more flour and a few tablespoons of olive oil.

The ravioli filling

I told you that the filling had a little twist. Giovanna used peccorini Ricotta, a lean soft cheese made from sheep's milk.

Then she used pine nuts. She did not roast them, but added as they were, whole to the ricotta cheese. Then she added a highly unusual ingredient - sultanas.


I would never have thought of using sultanas in such a mix, but adding sweetness to savory food is not a bad idea. In Northern Africa, e.g. in Morocco spices used in puddings are added to hot food. A good example is the classic pigeon pie made with a very thin filo pastry and topped with icing sugar and cinnamon.

To the mix was added chopped fresh spinach. This is a favourite. I have used spinach and ricotta in a cannelloni recipe I have shared here on Enjoy Food & Travel. The final two ingredients were parmigiano and a whole nutmeg.

The amount of nutmeg added is something to be remarked. If you make a normal portion add a small just a little nutmeg. This as it has a pungent taste, and the quantity used here may create a strong hallucinogenic reaction, as it contains strange stuff.

Then the filling was done. Now was the time to assemble the dish.

Making ravioli

The dough had the most striking colour. Normally, it would have been pale yellow, but the colour of the pasta that Giovanna had prepared were strikingly similar to the Sicilian sun.

Then Giovanna started her pasta machine once again, and the eager members of Oslo Slow Food association started the hard labour transforming large lumps of yellow pasta dough into long, fine, and thin sheets to create rustic ravioli.

And the texture of the pasta sheets was sensational. The times I have made lasagna sheets from scratch, I have experienced that the pasta has been much drier. This had a smooth, wax-like surface.

The sheets were separated by cling film and semolina flour were added to avoid the sheets sticking together.

The sheets were placed on the table, brushed with beaten eggs in order for them to stick. Then we placed the filling on the half of the sheet, and folded the other half over, and thoroughly sealing the stuffing inside.

The raviolis varied in size and shape, rustic like a Sicilian mother would have made. They were placed on large trays with semolina flour in order for them not to stick.

Presto!

Rustic raviolis with saffron, served with a good salad, melted butter with sage, good bread and grated parmigiano. Yum!!

See the website of Slow Food Oslo here (Norwegian only)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Restaurants - Best Bargains 2006-2007




















Enjoy Food & Travel has visited and reviewed a great number of restaurants in 2006 and 2007. For those of you wondering what the best bargain was, here comes the five best restaurants reviewed last year. The best experience in 2006-2007 was a small restaurant, in a narrow street in Bergen

1. BEST BARGAIN 2006-2007: Spisekroken, Bergen (4,92 points)

There are places you go to eat and leave a large sum of money, but feel it has been worth every penny. This was certainly the case at Spisekroken, a small intimate restaurant at Nordnes in Bergen with a continental/french style cuisine. It lacked many of the features of a true Michelin star restaurant, but the food was truly at the same level!

See full review here:

2. Els Quatres Gats, Barcelona (4,9 points)

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 en capsules 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.

See full review here

3. Peder Oxe, Copenhagen (4,88 points)

I visited Peder Oxe for the first time the summer of 2005. It was great to sit outside in the heat, ordering open sandwiches, beer and aquavit. Returning to Copenhagen, I was determined to to get more of the delicious open sandwiches and beer and aquavit, of course!!

Peder Oxe is a feast!! There is hardly nothing to put your finger on. This is great food and drink, in a beautiful, honest and very Danish environment.

Read more here:

4. Bilbao Berria, Barcelona (4,75 points)

Sometimes it is really a pity that you cannot eat for two. This especially the case if you go to Bilbao Berria, a restaurant close to the cathedral serving pinxtos, tapas from the Basque region. This is a must, if you want to eat good and cheap, but you may have to fight to get a seat. And when you want to get the bill the waiter counts the number of long and short sticks on your plate.

Read full review here

5. Santamonica, Barcelona (4,73 points)

We had our Christmas dinner at the Santamonica, and the food was so great that we decided to revisit this restaurant. We did the last evening of our stay. Enjoy Food & Travel finds this restaurant highly recommendable. The combination of a very trendy interior, great wines and above all a very inventive menu makes this one of our best dinner experiences in Barcelona.

See full review here


See restaurant ratings on Enjoy Food & Travel from 2006-2007 here

See unrated restaurants on Enjoy Food & Travel from 2006-2007 here

From kneipe to kneipe in Copenhagen




















One of the things I love the most in the Copenhagen is the numbers of old taverns. Some of them, as Hviids Vinstue and Skindbuksen are going back to the beginning of the 1700s. Here you may enjoy a fresh pint of beer and a shot of aquavit or a digestive. As Ketil and I landed, we were eager to discover more of the taverns Copenhagen has to offer, and believe me, were not disappointed.

Cafe Viggo

Ketil and I found this bar / cafe by chance. Classification wise is it more a tavern where you may eat out of a French or maybe Belgian menu. Let us face it, Viggo (Gaston Lagaffe) is a Belgian cartoon figure, or?

Belgian or not, this was a seriously nice place to hang around. I could even use my French a little and try an innocent flirtation in the bar. We enjoyed a few good glasses here, as we visited twice. It was, after all, just around the corner to our hotel.

Address:

Cafe Viggo
Værnedamsvej 15
1819Frederiksberg C,Denmark

Hviids Vinstue

I have to return to Hviids Vinstue. This tavern goes as far back as 1723, located by Kongens Nytorv, close to the historic district of Nyhavn.

Last time I was here, there was no smoking ban in Denmark. Now there is a smoking ban, but there are some exceptions. If you have an area smaller than 38 square meters or 400 square feet, you may be exempt of the ban. At Hviids they have glassed in a part of the tavern, where you may take a cigarette to your beer.

Hviids Vinstue was as rustic as I remembered it, and it is a must if you want to experience a real Copenhagen kneipe.

Address:

Hviids Vinstue
Kongens Nytorv 19
1050 København K

Værtshuset Pinden

Whereas Hviids Vinstue is visited by many tourists, Værtshuset Pinden is the real thing. We felt slightly at odds, as Norwegian tourists, as this was the place for the locals. Thus Værtshuset Pinden was the most authentic bar we visited during our days in the Danish capital.

This was one of the bars that still welcomed those of you that want to light up a cigarette or a cigar. The dark interior in brown and green, the red and white tablecloths, and a huge painting gave it an intimate and cozy atmosphere.

If you want to see an authentic Danish kneipe, Værtshuset Pinden is it! Go in, buy a Carl and a Gammel Dansk Bitter and breathe in the atmosphere.

Address:

Værtshuset Pinden
Reventlowsgade 4
1651 København V

Skipperkroen

In one of the ancient houses in the historic district of Nyhavn you find Skipperkroen. In Nyhavn you are in serious tourist trap country. People are captivated by the beauty of the old houses by the old docks.

We went into Skipperkroen on Nyhavn, as a shower made us wet, as we had forgotten our umbrellas. We had a pint, and discovered that we were surrounded by fellow Norwegians, Swedes and German. Here there were a full smoking ban, and in spite of the interior, Skipperkroen lacked atmosphere. So unless you have forgotten your umbrella, I would have enjoyed my pint somewhere else.

Address:

Skipperstuen
Nyhavn 27
1051København K

Lurblæseren

Another tavern in another tourist trap.

Lurblæseren is a tavern located in the shopping area Strøget, close to Rådhuspladsen, the City Hall Square.

Here you may get traditional Danish food and a pint. The food is OK (I have eaten here before), and the beer is expensive. Here you pay 50 DKK for a pint, i.e. close to €7!!

Is it worth it? No. Pass the square, go towards Copenhagen Railwaystation and find Værtshuset Pinden!!

Address:

Restaurant Lurblæseren
Frederiksberggade 27
1459 København K

More bars?

See bars, pub, and tavern visited in 2008 here

See bars, pubs, and tavern visited in 2006-2007 here

2008 - Bars, pubs and taverns from A-Z




















To help you in your quest for the perfect pub, bar, or tavern, Enjoy Food & Travel links to all stories on visited waterholes in 2008. Enjoy!!

A
- Asylet, Oslo (March 2nd, 2008)

C
- Cafe Viggo, Copenhagen (February 5th, 2008)

F
- Fru Burums, Oslo (March 2nd, 2008)

H
- Hviids Vinstue, Copenhagen (February 5th, 2008)

O
- Oslomekaniskeverksted, Oslo (January 20th 2008)

P
- Public House Two Dogs, Oslo (March 2nd, 2008)

R
- Restaurant Lurblæseren, Copenhagen (February 5th, 2008)

S
- Shebeen, Oslo (March 3rd, 2008)
- Skipperkroen, Copenhagen (February 5th, 2008)
- Stortorvets Gjestgiveri, Oslo (March 2nd, 2008)

V
- Værtshuset Pinden, Copenhagen (February 5th, 2008)

More bars? See list on bars reviewed on Enjoy Food & Travel in 2006-2007.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Budget bed in Berlin - Hostel Alcatraz

I loved staying at the Park Inn Alexanderplatz. If you would like to use less money on hotels, and more on booze, you may find extremely cheap beds in Berlin - as in hostel Alcatraz in Prenzlauer Berg.

I stayed here in July 2006, as I attended the Christopher Street Parade, the gay pride in Berlin, with four good friends. We shared a flat on the top floor for three nights, and shared two double rooms for two nights. The prices then as now were ridiculous, and the standard was surprisingly good.

The flat on the upper floor had one bedroom with a large bed and a living room/bedroom sleeping two. Then it one lavatory and a kitchen with a shower! It sounds strange, but it works if you are traveling with good friends. If you are traveling during summer - be aware that all hot air goes up to the upper floor. Berlin in July on the top floor at hostel Alcatraz was a very hot experience.

The double rooms faced the back yard, and were newly redecorated, two and two sharing one very nice bathroom. They were cooler and pleasant even in July. And price? €16-40 per person during peak season. If you decide to travel four to six, you may rent one of the two flats for €20 per person per night.

Address:
Hostel Alcatraz
Schönhauser Allé 133a
10437 Berlin
Tel.: +49 (30) 48 49 68 15
See the Hostel Alcatraz website

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

Stange Church - as old as the hills

One foggy Sunday in October, we went to see the majestic church at Stange. This wonderful building goes far into the Middle Ages, but the current structure is not the first on the site. At Stange Church you tread on historic ground. Here people have come to pray to their God for nearly 1000 years.

The church at Stange is one of two large church buildings in the area. The even older and larger church at Ringsaker goes even further back, to around the year 1100, and was dedicated to the Norwegian patron saint, Saint Olaf, that christened the area in 1018.

In the Håkon Håkonssons saga from 1225 Stange church was mentioned as the church at Skaun, and it was the centre of a community "with many large houses and church buildings." If you look around, you will see why. Wide areas of arable land has been created during thousands of years of hard struggle. Here you find some of the largest houses in the country belonging to old aristocratic families.

When the saga was written, there was another church on the site. The current church was built 25 years after the saga, in 1250. Under the floor of the nave, you find the remains of even an older building with old roof paint and an altar preserved.

These old church remains were found in an archaeological excavation in 1986. Then even old graves were found, that may predate even this building. If so we may be even further back into the mist of time.

The churches at Ringsaker and Stange were important for the pilgrims from the eastern part of Norway. The would walk along the lake Mjøsa, or maybe crossing it by boat. From the end of the lake, they would walk up the Gudbrandsdal valley and cross over the mountains. Their goal was the magnificent cathedral at Nidaros, the resting place of Saint Olaf, Norways eternal king.

Stange church has, as most sacred buildings of the same age, been changed several times. We know of alterations from the years 1300, 1703, and 1800. In 1620 a fire ravaged, and a new roof and the tall tower is dated from that time. This tower is covered by wooden chips, as many of the old stave churches and the recently described church at Sunnemo.

In the church you find a baroque altar piece dating from 1652 and a painting by the famous Norwegian Harriet Backer.

Stange church is absolutely worth visiting. The site and the area around is packed with historic remains and buildings. The importance of the church can be seen by the size of the residence of the local priest.

This house rivals the largest farms in size, so there is no doubt that the priests holding this church belonged to the local elite.

Wonder where the church is located?

See my map the Hamar area here.

Delicious, delightful dumplings!





















I love raviolis in any form, and with any filling. These delightful, delicious Italian dumplings, served in a pungent tomato, or a creamy mushroom sauce. I have eaten lobster raviolis with orange sauce in Boston, with walnuts and basil in a white truffle sauce in Florence. As your teeth sink into these tasty treats you eagerly want to learn how to make them yourself. Coming Wednesday I will climb a new step on my ladder to pasta heaven, as Slow Food Oslo invites to ravioli night.


I attended my first Slow Food session before Christmas where we were taught by the brilliant Bodil Nordjore, a local food guru, to prepare traditional Norwegian meat dishes.

Gravlax, mutton roll and hodesylte, equivalent to the French tête pressé - a gelatinous minced meat dish made from a pigs head.

Now we will meet in order to make raviolis. I will bring my camera and share with you how to make it.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Safari in Pilanesberg National Park




















At 5.30 AM, October 10th, I sat in the reception of the Sundown Ranch Hotel and waited to be picked up. Destination - Pilanesberg National Park. Mission - morning safari. State of mind - extremely excited!! During these four hours I saw most of the animals of Africa as the sun went up over the savanna.


We were picked up by a charming man with a strong Afrikaans accent. We sat in an open bus, giving us a good view. Beware - yes you are in Africa, but dress well if you visit during the South African spring. These mornings were extremely chilly, and I had a serious chill during the first hours of our safari.

We were only two from Sundown Ranch, and we drove through the gates of Sun City and here more guests entered. Our ranger gave us some precautions and then we were ready to enter the wilderness. And here is what we saw.

Monkeys!

This blurred picture of distant monkeys was sadly the only encounter I had of these our distant cousin during my whole stay.

They had spent the night on the top of this small dam. Here they could protect themselves against birds and animals of prey.

They were still rural dwellers. Many of their cousins had moved and enjoyed the urban living offered by Sun City.

Common Duiker

Suddenly the car stopped, as a very small antelope jumped up along the bus and ran away.

I managed to take this snapshot. I do not remember what the ranger called it, but I have made some research, and it may be a Common Duiker antelope. These species are among the smallest antelopes to be found.


Springbok

Then we saw three Springboks playing by our car. This beautiful brown and white gazelles with their beautiful horns.

They used to be found in large numbers in most of the Southern Africa. The numbers did however diminish due to hunting. Now they are found in growing numbers due to conservation by e.g. the South African government.

Black Rhinoceros

And then we saw our first large mammal. The black Rhinoceros.

There are several species of Rhinoceros, and the black and the white are the main ones in Africa. The black and white are misleading, as colours go on these majestic mammals. They are very similar in colour, and white are probably derived from "wide" in Afrikaans.

The black are, luckily, the less aggressive of the two, shown here as they grazed on several locations along our route.

Signalling bird

We stopped the bus, and the ranger asked us to look up into one of the nearby trees. There we saw the silhouette of a bird. He explained that it was a bird whose cries would alert prey, if a cat of any kind would be close to hunt.



Giraffes

O Joy! Then I saw my first giraffe of many along our way. There were at least two varieties, one darker and one lighter one. The difference of colour are caused by their original habitat.

As giraffes were never a part of the natural fauna in the park, they were transported from different areas. The lighter variety came from drier conditions, whereas the darker (image) came from more densely forested areas.

I was thrilled to see these animals grazing local trees. In fact many trees was not seriously affected by giraffes, as they were allowed to eat for a very short time. As they started to eat, the trees would excrete an uncomfortable smell, making the giraffe to stop, thus saving some of its foliage to allow regrowth.

A short break in the park

After around two hours we were allowed off to enjoy some refreshment and visit other vital facilities.

In the middle of the park we came to this beautiful building where you could buy hot dogs, biltong, potato chips and much more, and get some coffee, soft drinks or beer.

This was a haven not only for people but also for birds that ate food wasted or left behind by the stream of safari guests enjoying the park by bus or in their own car.

Then, we proceeded to see more of the wild animals of South Africa.

Wildebeest or Gnu, if you will!

We saw many herds of Wildebeests roaming far away from the car, but they got closer, and we got an increasingly better look.

Here a Wildebeest graze between us and a large lake, where we could see other antelopes in the distance.

Mind - Zebras on the road!

Suddenly we stopped. Not because we saw something along the road, rather on it. Two zebras were either resting along the road, and one did its best to stop the traffic.

It just stood there, clearly unaffected by the fact that people left their cars and started to take pictures.

After a short stop, the zebra reluctantly left the road, walking into the dry grasslands.

The amazing Marula tree

Then we stopped to see a tree.

Many of you have probably enjoyed the delicious Amarula Cream, the creamy liquor made from the fruits of the Marula tree.

Well this is where this great drink comes from - the Marula tree, growing along our way.

Warthogs

Then we saw the first, and only pigs - the funny warthogs with large tusks.

A group of two or three were by the road, nearly at the end of our safari.




An Eland?

Is this an Eland? It was a large animal, with a hump, and with stripes over the body. The biggest problem was its horns, or rather the lack of them.

Still it was a wonderful animal that leapt over the road and entered the grasslands, and we were not considered any danger.

The River Horse!

Here is the most dangerous we met of our trip, the River Horse - the Hippopotamus, resting in the morning sun.

Resting, lucky for us, as you should never be fooled but their apparent clumsiness. These animals may outrun anyone and kill you with one large bite with their gigantic jaws.

And then we left the Pilanesberg, sadly having not seen any lions or elephants. I will leave you with a short film clip from our trip.

And visit Pilanesberg National Park. The fact that we saw so many different animals one early morning may indicate that here you get your money back when going on safari.