Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Comfort food at Dovrehallen

My mother died in 2000 at the age of 79. She cooked according to traditions from her generation, good, honest early to mid 20th century comfort food. Sadly this style of cooking is disappearing rapidly and when you look at a menu in an Oslo restaurant you see food that you can order in Sydney, London or Johannesburg. This is certainly not the case at Dovrehallen, one of the few places left in Oslo where you still may enjoy traditional food at an affordable price.

Dovrehallen has been around for over 100 years. This old tavern is a time capsule, with its old, and worn down brown furniture, old movie posters on pale blue walls, and sparkling chandeliers. Dovrehallen is a place with traditions in any sense of the word.

They have a daily special - highly recommended for lovers of traditional cuisine.

Mondays they serve Meatballs with stewed cabbage, the signature dish of many Norwegian mothers. Tuesdays Eisbein with mashed swede, smoked and salted pigs knuckle with the sweet mash often served to many salt meats in Norway. Thursdays they serve another delicacy - fårikål a mutton and cabbage stew, Norwegian style - a must for the culinary tourist. Saturdays special, flesk med duppe is a dish that I remember with much joy. Salted pork belly with a creamed onion sauce and potatoes.

The daily specials cost from NOK 85-115 (€10 - €14).

They have a summer menu with cold specials. From their main menu I recommend traditional diners to order salted beef and pork with mashed swede. Be aware that this was a dish from long gone times of hard labour. The meat is very fat, so be warned - but this is traditional at its best.

Last Sunday I ordered from the fish menu, fried trout with sour cream sauce and cucumber salad. It is an excellent choice, both summers and winters. This is one way to serve trout where I come from. The cucumber, thinly sliced, marinated in a oil and vinegar dressing, provides a great contrast to the fish and the rich sour cream sauce.

I have never tried their pizzas, but I suspect this is not what they do best. You may, however try an open sandwich. A steak or minced steak sandwich, the latter with fried onion or fried egg, in itself a substantial meal. Another interesting sandwich, not tried is the one with cod roe and mashed peas.

And what to drink? Dovrehallen have license to sell both, beer, vine and liquor, but I recommend a traditional pilsner beer, "en halvliter" or a pint in Norwegian. Then you are in for a meal Norwegian style.

Times are changing, and I feel that these places are loosing ground to new and trendy restaurants with hip food. So do visit Dovrehallen when you are in Oslo as more and more of these culinary pearls are closing, due to corporate greed and disinterest to our old culinary traditions. If you postpone your visit, you may loose out, as the next time you come it may have closed. I do, however, hope that this traditional tavern will survive to serve coming generations.
Storgt. 22, 0184 Oslo
Phone: +47 22 17 21 01
e-mail: post@dovrehallen.no
Official website: www.dovrehallen.no

What is your favourite place to eat?

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Monday, March 17, 2008

1st Century Roman portraits

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek contains so many treasures from antiquity. When you walk from hall to hall it is hard to digest all you see. From Egypt, Greece, to Rome masterpiece after masterpiece are on display. I was particularly impressed by some heads in marble or bronze from the 1st century AD. They are so life like, that you nearly expect them to wake up and start talking to you. Like this beautiful Roman lady, found in Rome carved from solid marble. She is dated from the period AD 61-96. How do we know the age of this sculpture? Because of her hairstyle, typical of the Flavian dynasty.

Emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus (51-96 AD)

68 AD Emperor Nero was murdered, and civil war broke out after his death. The emperor Vespasian founded a new dynasty, the Flavian dynasty. The emperors Titus and Domitian succeeded him, and this small bronze statue is the latest ruler of this dynasty - Dometian.

Titus Flavius Domitianus became emperor in 81 AD and died after 15 years in 96 AD. Contemporary writers have described him a tyrant rivaling his predecessors Caligula and Nero. He may however have been better than his old reputation. Modern historians have claimed that his policies was a precursor to the peaceful century to come.

Heracles (Rome 1st century, bronze)

This pretty young man is Heracles, son of Zeus and the greatest of Greek heroes. A hero was a demi good, and centre for one of the largest cults in the Greek era.

The young hero used to have a lion skin in his right hand and an arrow and a bow in his raised left hand. Over his chest there are traces of a quiver strap.

This demi god is attributed with abilities as strength, courage and sexual ability. The latter was, in good Greek tradition, directed both towards females and other males.

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus - called Caligula (12-41 AD)

Few emperors have such a reputation as Caligula. He was murdered after a short reign in a conspiracy involving his own bodyguard and the senate. He was only 29 years old.

He did not waste his time. During his four years reign from 37-41 contemporary sources gave him a reputation of cruelty, extravagance and sexual perversity, describing him as an insane tyrant. Whether this reputation is completely reliable is unknown.

This cuirass bust of the emperor, i.e. the emperor being dressed in armour is from Rome and made from solid marble.

Old Roman woman

This wonderful realistic marble bust of an old Roman woman was found in the Licinians grave in Rome. It is dated from the 1st century AD.

It is an extremely realistic portrait. She has some wrinkles around her mouth and a little double chin. She has a nodus on her forehead, a hairstyle popular 30 BC.

As a Roman woman she is dressed in a stole over her tunic.

Saving Oslo's past

Oslo has a history going back 1000 years. Still very little is left from its earliest history, as most of the city has been built in wood. During the centuries fires ravaged the old city and its buildings were rebuilt - in wood. The few buildings made in stone were official and targets for armies, and what was left after the wars fell into decay. After the 14th fire in 1624 the history of Oslo changed direction.

Christian IV, the renaissance king of Denmark and Norway decided to move the city from what is known as Gamlebyen to the areas close to the old fortress in order to protect it from invaders. Another crucial decision was to rebuild it in bricks and stone to protect it against new fires.

There are quite a few buildings left from this period and I will present them here at Enjoy Food & Travel. They are located in what is known as Kvadraturen, the area close to Akershus Fortress. Today these buildings from Oslo's past are listed and protected.

Outside the Oslo's walls, people continued to build their houses in wood. Here much have disappeared and the same level of consciousness is not present to preserve them.

As this old building in St. Hallvardsgate. Built in wood, probably in the late 19th century it is left to decay by their owners. Sadly the reason is greed, as ground in the centre of the Norwegian capital is getting more and more expensive. People often wait until the house is beyond repair, and then torn down.

Some will say that this is a part of the city's life cycle, its renewal. That is probably true. Still in this way Oslo is getting poorer as its history is vanishing.

The same thing is happening with the houses of Grønlandsleiret 55-57. These houses are even older than the house in St. Hallvardsgate. Grønlandsleiret 55 is more than 200 years old, dating back to the 1700s. It was ravaged by fire in the year 2000, and these beautiful buildings are left to decay.

There are so few buildings left here. You have Grønlands bydelshus, where you find the old tavern Asylet. One of the buildings newly renovated in the Grønland basar complex is said to be from the 1780s. It angers me that no one takes the responsibility and saves these beautiful buildings from our past.

Enjoy Food & Travel to Venice

Venice, the Pearl of the Adriatic sea was a cultural and political power to be reckoned with for centuries. The history of this powerful city state, built on islands, goes back nearly 2000 years. Today tourists from all over the world gather to admire its rich heritage.

March 22nd to 29th, my good friends and Enjoy Food & Travel co-writers Per and Susanne Koch will visit this beautiful city by the Adriatic.

They will stay at the Best Western Hotel Ala in the old city, a short walk from St. Mark's Square, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Fenice opera house, Palazzo Grassi and Ca' Rezzonico. The building goes back three centuries and the hotel has furniture from the 19th and 20th century.

Susanne and Per are interesting in history, religion and art. They will share their impressions of this rich cultural centre here on Enjoy Food & Travel

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Enjoy spends summer 2008 in Sitges

The travel plans for 2008 is getting clearer for the Enjoy Food & Travel team. I am excited that I will revisit Spain with my god pal Terje. Last year we had a wonderful time Barcelona, and during our stay we spent a day in Sitges, as two other Norwegians friends stayed at Santa Maria Hotel. This was a seriously great place to be, so great in fact that we have booked a large double room with a terrace at the same hotel from Monday 16th until Sunday 22nd of June.

Other places the Enjoy Food & Travel team plan to travel in the coming year is the following:
  • Copenhagen, March 19th to March 23rd
  • Venice, March 22nd to March 29th
  • Copenhagen, April 22nd to April 24th
  • Sitges, June 16th to June 22nd
  • Montenegro, July 2008
  • Boston, September 2008
  • Christmas destination, December 2008 - December 2009.
So enjoy an interesting food & travel year in 2008

The Vigeland sculpture park

One of the largest tourist attractions in Oslo is the sculpture park commemorating the Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. It is located in the affluent Majorstuen - Frogner area of the Norwegian capital and consists of around 200 sculptures in granite and bronze. Personally I find it rather ugly and think it is a tourist trap to be avoided. One of my objections to the park is that Gustav Vigeland created his works in a period during the rise of German national socialism and Soviet communism, and the park reflects this Zeites Geist clearly. That is nothing to commemorate.

When entering the main gate, there is a walkway in a straight line up to Monolitten, the main feature of the park. It creates one of its two main axis.

First you pass through a wooden park area. As you walk you have the Frogner manor house on your left hand side. The magnificent manor dates as far back as 1750.

As you proceed you pass over the stone bridge decorated with bronze statues. It was the first part of the park that opened to the public, in the tragic year 1940. The main theme is family scenes. Here you find the most famous statue in the whole park - Sinnataggen, meaning a very angry little boy.

The marvelous fountain in the heart of the park was supposed to stand in front of the Norwegian parliament, but was erected in the park after World War II. The enormous vessel is held up by four giant nude males in bronze.

The fountain is surrounded by smaller statues with young children and skeletons playing in trees, an idea inspired by the notion that death creates new life.

The fountain is, in my mind the masterpiece in the park and attracts crowds of admiring tourists, summers as winters.

The statue most admired in the park is Monolitten, literally meaning single stone, a giant phallic monument made from one piece of granite rock weighing hundreds of tons. People crawling up and up to seek spiritual enlightenment is the official interpretation of it.

I cannot help it I always see the survival of the fittest in it instead, representing the ugly variety of social darwinism that was an undercurrent of both Nazi Germany and partly Soviet communism.

The straight line from the gate ends up in a sculpture called the wheel of life. Behind this point you are in a quiet and affluent neighborhood.

Personally I try to avoid taking guests to Oslo to the Vigeland Sculpture Park. There are so much more that Oslo has to offer of sights from a long and interesting history. So that means I do not recommend this as a must for those of you that visit us. Here I am sad to say that I am quite alone, but here you have my piece of mind.

Try the nearby manor house instead. It house the collection of the Oslo City museum. During summer Herregårdskroen (The Manor House Tavern) offers cold pints and something to eat under the tall trees of its old park.

Chicken curry

The secret is in the sauce. This is most certainly the fact when describing Indian curries. As I had dinner guests last Wednesday, chicken curry was on the menu. I make Indian food the same way as I make my other foods, using ingredients at hand. In this case I had some leftover marinated roasted chicken, and vegetables. I had, however purchased a box of Rajah curry powder and half a can of coconut milk.

Dice one stalk of celery, one large carrot, and one large onion. Heat 5 cl sunflower oil in a pan and add three, minced gloves of garlic and three tablespoons of curry powder. A word of warning; I use the mild variety. If you use Madras curry powder assure yourself that you can enjoy all the heat.

When spices and garlic have infused, add vegetables and fry until golden. Then add 30-40 cl (10-15 fluid oz) good chicken stock, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Taste for balance between salt and sweetness and add sugar/salt if necessary.

Then pour vegetables and sauce into a liquidizer and blend until smooth, and return to pan. Add coconut milk and stir. Place chicken in the gravy and pour sauce over pieces. Allow to simmer on a gentle heat for 10-15 minutes. Do not put a lid on, as this will make the coconut milk separate.

Serve with saffron rice.

Easter in Copenhagen

During Easter in Norway, people desert the city, and travel to their cabins, or abroad for their vacation. This Easter one of my alternatives would have been to head south to our old house by the South Eastern coast. It has been an extraordinarily mild winter and some spring flowers will certainly be in bloom now. The
Snowdrops, and Coltsfoots have already started to bloom in the Oslo area.

This was the original plan, before friends asked me to join them on an Easter vacation in Copenhagen, and I accepted. Until June this year I will have visited the Danish capital three times, but I still feel the same thing for Copenhagen that Samuel Johnson felt for London when he said; The man that is tired of London is tired of life.

Some facts. I will fly down with the Danish budget airline Sterling Wednesday 19th and return Sunday 23rd. The round trip ticket was cheap - €70, all included.

Once there, I will revisit Sct. Thomas Hotel in Fredriksberg, where I have booked a single room for around €75 a night.

What sights have I planned to see this time? I would love to see the Rosenborg castle, built by the Renaissance king Christian IV in 1606 and the home of the Danish crown jewels. Another treat is the Danish National Museum.

Where to eat? I would love to visit Skindbuksen, the 300 year old tavern by Kongens Nytorv and Sct Anne, a good place for Danish open sandwiches at Nyhavn. Another great alternative is Le Pavé at Gråbrødretorg. We are, however visiting two living in Copenhagen so they might have a better idea.

And since we all are of cheerful lot, we may end up on a gay night out. Danes are so wonderfully liberal!!

So stay tuned for stories from Copenhagen starting here at March 25th 2008.

Have a lovely Easter vacation.

What are doing during you Easter vacation?

Traveling abroad or going discovering the place where you live? Share your story on Enjoy Food & Travel