Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kong Hans in Copenhagen



























As I passed through a quiet street in Copenhagen I passed this door. There was a menu on display outside, and I soon discovered that this must be place to go if you really will discover Danish gourmet food.


Little did I know then that this humble door leads into the basement of the oldest building in Copenhagen, lending its name from the king that once ruled both Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

King Hans (1455-1513) ruled all three countries until his death. The house is in contemporary texts called Wyngaard or Myntergordt and it is over 500 years old. It is said that the king used the house as the Royal mint. The house in Vingårdsstræde was later the home of another famous Dane, the author Hans Christian Andersen.

Today you can sit under the gothic arches and enjoy an extremely exclusive selection of dishes. Starters (March 2008) at DKK 275 (€35), main courses ranging from DKK 415 (€52) to DKK 750 (€95), and cheese and desserts at DKK 165-175 (€21-22). All in all you may get the whole menu at DKK 850 (€106). Wines not excluded. What to choose. Do these dishes tempt you?

MOSAIC OF GOOSELEG CONFIT & FOIE GRAS

With local apples & Danish apple balsamic vinegar (DKK 415)

LOBSTER TIGER LEE

With ginger, soy & garlic (DKK 750)

DESSERT OF VALRHONA CHOCOLATE

With citrus fruits (DKK 175)

A dinner for a king!! Sadly it is not open during Easter, as I am taking another trip to Copenhagen during the Easter Holiday.

Address:
Kong Hans Vinkælder
Vingårdsstræde 6
1070 København K
Phone: +45 3311 6868
Fax +45 3332 6768
Online booking
The official website

Friday, March 14, 2008

July in Vernazza


















On evening in July 2000 I was picked up at Malpensa airport in Milan by a Laila, a good friend. We had hired a car and our first destination was a small coastal town on the Ligurian coast. It was my first and only time in Italy, but all the places I visited during our voyage left a mark. I simply loved the rugged coastline south of Genova, the steep hills covered with in vegetation rising up from the most wonderful blue sea.

If you are planning your honeymoon, Vernazza is an ultimate romantic destination. It is one out of five cities climbing the cliffs of Cinque Terre, a rugged landscape that displays everything you can wish for. The Cinque Terre area is listed as a UNESCO Heritage site.

These small cities goes back as far as the year 1000 AD. Belfort, the medieval castle in Vernazza was built around 500 years ago to protect the city from pirates. The whole city with its beautiful rustic town houses fulfills every dream of what Italy may be.

We went by car, but Vernazza and the other cities are not easily accessible by car. There is a small railway station in the city. Why not take the train from Genova?

There are little accommodation available in Vernazza. We stayed in a room rented out by Giuliano Basso. (ph: +39 333 341 4792). We got a room that faced a steep hill with lush vegetation. We had a large bush of wild rosemary growing outside our window. The good thing with our quarters was that it provided enough shade during the scorching hot Italian summer. Giulano Basso has rooms available from 70 Euro a night.

There is a small beach where you can swim, but the best thing at the old harbour is to sit sit down and have a great meal during the hot Italian evening. I enjoyed the best seafood pastas with fish, shrimps and vongole served in white wine produced in the area, and sipped to the same wine to the food. Here you may order freshly made pasta with the most outstanding pesto genovese, made from local ingredients. The areas around Vernazza is renowned for their olive oil, said to be of the best in Italy.

The season is long, from March or April to October/November if you are lucky. But book your room early as Vernazza is popular with the international crowd. As you roam the city the presence of Germans, French, English and American is felt. In spite of this, Vernazza does not feel like a tourist trap.

Alternatively, you may try to book a room in the larger of the cities, Monterosso al Mare. Here you have a better beach and several larger hotels, and Vernazza and the other cities are just a short trip away.

Lidl gives up Norway!


















Norwegian newsmedia report today that the Germain grocery chain Lidl gives up Norway and sells their 100+ shops to Odd Reitan, the founder of the chain REMA1000. One reason was that the Norwegian consumers never got used to the new brands Lidl introduced, except the many immigrants that supported the giant through thick and thin.

The collapse of Lidl in Norway is however an omen to the consumer, as it marks the return to a domestic food market controlled by a small number of tycoons. They have fought Lidl from day one with all kind of dirty tricks. And the looser here is the consumer, as the competition gets less, the range of products gets smaller and price is the only thing that matters. In that sense, I will miss Lidl, as they offered different products as an alternative to boring Norwegian brands.

To be completely frank, I do not care who gets my money. Norwegian tycoons as Odd Reitan, Stein Ivar Hagen or other like them are as good or as bad as German tycoons, but they won.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Seaside meal in a landlocked county





















For urban dwellers it is great to just jump on a train and leave the pace of the city for the quiet countryside. I am privileged, as my good friends Øyvind and Stian, have a wonderful large house. They simply love a good meal and a late night party. Who could ask for more. We did not, but we made a great meal a Saturday three weeks ago.

Less is more - Italian bruscette

Less is more, this is also the fact talking of bruscetti, or Italian toasts. This was Øyvind's treat for us, a starter before the main meal.

And what could be a better blend of tastes than sweet cherry tomatoes lightly heated in garlic infused olive oil. Then served on rustic Italian bread with black olives, and a sprinkle of grated parmigiano on the top.

And a glass of red wine. Who can ask for more?

I can't.....

Smoked cod with mashed swede, and mushy peas with mint

I love smoked fish, and this particular Saturday we ended up at Knutstad & Holen, the one of the best, well stocked fish mongers I know, both on fresh and salt water fish. Funny really, as it is located in one of the few land locked counties of Norway. Landlocked - people in Hedmark county would object, as it is bordering Mjøsa the largest Norwegian lake.

We were looking for smoked haddock, but they had the next best thing - smoked cod. Very easy to prepare, but the secret is in the what to choose as vegetables. The salt fish needed a sweet contrast, and what better to make than mashed
swede and mushy peas with mint.

The fish was placed on a baking tray, I added a little water then covered it with tin foil and allowed to steam at 200 C / 400F for 10-15 minutes.

Roughly dice the swedes, and boil in salted water or stock until tender. Then mash.

Use frozen peas, add them to boiling water and boil for 1-2 minutes and drain. Add butter and allow to melt. Then pour peas, butter, and 4-5 mint leaves in a liquidizer and blend until smooth.

The swedes have much the taste of sweet potato mash, an intense honey flavour, the peas have a sweeter fresher taste enhanced by the mint.

We served the cod with boiled potatoes and melted butter - bliss!!

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Lunch with Queen Ida!




















Ida Davidsen is a living legend, a queen rivaling the deeply loved Danish regent Margrethe. Whereas queen Margrethe rules this small, densely populated Scandinavian country by law, queen Ida is the undisputed queen of the Scandinavian open sandwich. She has, from her dark basement restaurant in Store Kongensgade in Copenhagen conquered the hearts of lovers of Scandinavian open sandwiches. You have not heard of her!!! Well, pal, you are greatly out of touch - at least if you love open sandwiches.

Location: BBBB+

Ida Davidsen is located in Store Kongens Gade, close to Kongens Nytorv and Nyhavn. Very easy to find, but hardly the most romantic or scenic location.

Atmosphere and interior: BBBBB-


It is very difficult to rate Ida Davidsen in any traditional context. This is a restaurant that has been in business for over 100 years. The interior is hardly creative or inventive but should not be rated as such.

The presentation at the table is not stylish, but the whole atmosphere is wonderfully informal. The minus here is therefore for those of you that may not like it. Very Danish, very dark and filled up to capacity, as tables here are in great demand, but what spirit!!!

Price & value for money: BBBBB

Price of 540 DKK (€65) for two pints, one akevitt and 4 sandwiches would normally be stated as an outrageous price - but not at Ida Davidsen. This was the final price, but it is absolutely worth it!!!

Service: BBBBB



You have to wait at the counter - but hey, here is the Ida Davidsen standing herself at the counter. Just look at this film clip.

Ida Davidsen has the most wonderful personal service. You order what you will drink by the table and then you have to wait by the counter to be served.

Here you may ask all you want and as the clientele is international you are given the same instructions in English. And you may need it as there are 300+ sandwiches on the menu. I do suspect that you may to order in advance if you want the more special sandwiches.

The food: BBBBB (!)

God help me, how I love this food. Ketil chose smoked eel, not my favourite, but he was over the moon!! Here are my sandwiches

Niels Jørgen Kaiser (€10)

This sandwich is named after the Danish culture celebrity, Niels Jørgen Kaiser. He had a hell of a taste for a good sandwich.

The Niels Jørgen Kaiser sandwich has a generous amount of warm liver paté garnished with lightly fried mushrooms, deep fried parsley, lingonberry and bacon.

According to Ida Davidsens first rule - can you see the slice of bread?

Pyntet Rødspættefilet (€10)

Decorated plaice sandwich. This is based on a traditional Danish sandwich variety. Breaded and fried fillet of plaice garnished with shrimps and remoulade or tartar sauce.

This had been improved by adding a few lightly boiled green asparagus and a herring fillet filled with black roe.

Seriously good!!!

And what to drink?

Do as I and my Ketil did, enjoy a cold beer and a glass of akevitt. They have many brands to choose from, and a few you have not even heard of.

Rating the Ida Davidsen experience: BBBBB- (4,83 points)

A place for plaice, liverpaté, eel, and much more on a slice of bread. The ultimate place to eat in the Danish capital.

Address:
Restaurant Ida Davidsen
Store Kongensgade 70, 1254 København K
Phone: 33 91 36 55
http://www.idadavidsen.dk/index.php?page=8

Sunday, March 09, 2008

By an old Oslo street





















Most of the historic buildings left from Oslos old history is located in the Gamlebyen area and around Akershus fortress. There are, however, other areas off the beaten track, that I would recommend you to visit if you want to see some pearls from Oslos past. One of these areas is the lower stretch of Maridalsveien.


Glads Mølle / Hjula Veveri (1736)

This large wooden building is in fact one of the oldest industrial buildings in the country. It is located one block away from Maridalsveien.

It was established by James Collett, an English immigrant, by his wife Karen Leuch married into the Oslo elite.

It is named after the proprietor of Grefsen gård, Fredrik Glad that took over the building in 1798.

Address: Sandakerveien 10

Vøienvolden gård (1710)

By Maridalsveien you find Vøienvolden gård, one of the oldest farm buildings in Oslo. As early as 1683 Johan Pettersen Bergmann built the first buildings here.

The merchant Wilhelm Cornix owned the farm 1708-1721 and built a renaissance style garden with two fish ponds. It has been run as a farm since 1721.

In the 1830s Haugianerne, the followers of Hans Nielsen Hauge, founder one of the first religious lay movements, assembled here.

Today the farm is owned by the Oslo branch of the Society for the preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments (Fortidsminneforeningen) and is open for the public.

Address: Maridalsveien 120

Nedre Vøyen gård (1783)

This stately building in Louis-seize style is actually a wooden building from the time around the French revolution. Vøyen gård has a history going back to pre christian times.

During medieval times it belonged to Nonneseter monastery in old Oslo. During the industrial era it was the residence of the director of Hjula veveri.

Address: Maridalsveien 87.

Biermannsgården (1700)

This building is the oldest in the whole area. It has architectural features dating back as far as the baroque era.

The house has its name from the merchant Johan F. Biermann. Over the main door you have a sign with the following text.

"DENNE BYGNING DER ANTAGES BYGGET CA. AAR 1700 EIDES AV J. F. BIERMANN (1771-1852) OG KALDES DERFOR BIERMANNSGAARDEN. DEN ANVENDES IFØLGE HANS TESTAMENTARISKE BESTEMMELSE NU SOM FRIITIDSINSTITUSJON FOR BØRN."

"THIS BUILDING BUILT AROUND 1700 WAS OWNED BY J. F. BIERMANN (1771-1852) THUS CALLED BIERMANNSGÅRDEN. IT IS NOW USED, ACCORDING TO THE INSTRUCTIONS IN HIS WILL, AS AN INSTITUTION FOR CHILDREN."

The buildings housed the first school in the area around 1800. It is now used as a kindergarten.

Address: Maridalsveien 78

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Resisting the Norwegian winter

Spring is around the corner, and the first trees and flowers have started to bloom in Oslo Botanical Garden. For one inhabitant in the Garden, I bet higher temperatures and longer days will be most welcome.


Most of us think of palms as delicate plants that may not resist sub zero temperatures. This is partly true, as there are palm trees that may survive under harsh conditions. In fact on the Island of Sør-Hidle north of Stavanger, 11 palm varieties have grown outside for as long as 10 years.

This has been a very mild winter in Oslo, and this palm tree From the Himalayas may be the first one to survive a winter in Oslo. It may survive temperatures as low as -17C (4F), and it has not been close to that temperature this winter.

If you want to see this plant, it is close to the palm house.