Saturday, July 05, 2008

Coming up in July on Enjoy Food & Travel - Strasbourg




















July 4th 2008 I leave for Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace. This is purely a social visit, meeting a former colleague that has started to work at the Council of Europe. Strasbourg is not unknown to me, as I have been there before. In fact it is the 3rd time. The first time was nearly 30 years ago.

Then five students at my high school was invited to attend a EU / Council of Europe seminar starting at Jugendhof Scheersberg in Schleswig-Holstein, ending with a visit to Strasbourg. That time we stayed in a small village, Kork Bei Kehl, in a old hostel, crossing over the Rhine into France to visit different European Institutions.

Strasbourg was the first place I tasted Foie Gras, waking up a passion that has followed me ever since.

The second time I ended up in Strasbourg was in 1985, on an interrail trip lasting three weeks from Oslo to Paris, on to Toulouse, Carcassonne, Sète, Avignon, and Strasbourg. At the television room at the Hotel Carlton I watched the Norwegian duo Bobbysocks win the Eurovision Song Contest for Norway for the first time.

July 4th at 7.15 AM I leave Oslo bound for Copenhagen, changing planes there arriving in Frankfurt Am Main before noon. From here I will take a bus to Strasbourg where I will arrive just after 3 PM. The return is late Monday evening.

I have so many sweet memories from this beautiful ancient city, and I do look forward to re-explore it with my good friend Øivind.

So stay tuned for exciting stories from Strasbourg here on Enjoy Food & Travel.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Hotel Santa Maria, Sitges



















We made Hotel Santa Maria our home for a week from June 16th to June 22nd. Last year we had visited Sitges for a day and fallen completely in love with the city and the hotel. Its superb location right by the beach was the thing that tempted us to book a room here, and we do not regret the choice. Its old world charm, good service, large rooms and our own balcony facing the blue Mediterranean sea has already made us decide to return in 2009.

Location BBBBB-

The hotel has a superb location. You just have to cross the street in front of the hotel and you are directly on the beach.

The location does, however, have its downsides. The road is a place where people walk and drive around the clock. Having this superb view thus means that it is not the most quiet of places. For those of you sensitive to noise may consider to abstain from the beachfront rooms and settle for a room facing the back yard.

Service: BBBBB

When considering the service - nothing to put your finger on. Professional English speaking staff at your service in the reception.

Thorough cleaning every day at 1 PM, making it a feast returning to your room.

Every morning at breakfast warm coffee and milk was delivered immediately on arrival.

Hygienic standard: BBBBB

The hotel tiled floors making it easily to maintain a high hygienic standard. No carpets sucking up dust here! All corridors, rooms, and other facilities were cleaned regularly.

Room: BBBBB-

Room 121 was large and spacious, and the bathroom was larger than some of the single rooms I have stayed in.

It had been newly redecorated, still there were a few things that brought the score down a little.

The tiles on the floor had not been fastened properly meaning that they moved when walking over them. One or two of the beautiful tiles had even cracked in spite of the fact that they were brand new.

There was an old lamp in the ceiling, and the main light lacked a matching cover, showing a bare light bulb. There were a few cracks in the plaster of the ceiling as well.

Then to its asset, and they were many!!

The size is already mentioned, and our own balcony. A little small but as you opened up the shutters you could take out a glass of wine and look at the sea and the people that passed by.

And when settling in for the night, you could rest on of two large beds. If you did not want to sleep with the doors open you could switch on the air conditioning, that worked perfectly during night.

TV, mini bar, a large desk. Two large closets where we could hang up our clothes. In-room safe where you cold close in your valuables.

The bathroom had been redecorated with new tiles on the floor and walls in delicate shades of beige and cream. A bath tub (O luxury!), shower, two large sinks with space in abundance to your toiletries.

So room 121 did give us much for the €120 we paid per night. This was comfortable living by the beach.

Breakfast: BBBBB-

Yes, the breakfast was included in the price. What joy to come down in the morning, getting a jug of fresh brewed coffee with warm milk.

You could pick from a great breakfast buffet. Cheese, ham, salamis, jam, boiled eggs, tomatoes, meat patés, rolls, and sweet pastry. Having eaten you could take a glass of fresh orange juice and a yogurt.

What did I miss? I missed rolls made from whole grain, and I do love eggs and bacon when on holiday.

But the breakfast buffet was a pleasant surprise for me, and it provided enough to get us going until lunch time.

Facilities: BBBBB-

I did miss a garden, and I did not find any comfortable lounge to sit in. Some would perhaps miss a swimming pool, but who needs it with the beach right over the street. Very small things that draws a few tenths off the rating.

Price: BBBBB

Room 121 is absolutely worth its €120. If you settle for a room facing the back yard you can even get a better deal.

Rating the Hotel Santa Maria experience: BBBBB- (4,87 points)

Highly recommended with true value for money. And do stay away from room 121 in June next year. That room is mine!!!

Address:

Hotel La Santa Maria
Pg. De la Ribera 52
08870 Sitges

You can book your room at the hotel here:



Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ghosts of Enrico Ibsen




















The beautiful Amalfi coast has attracted celebrities as tourists so much longer than most other places in Europe. The beauty of this rugged coastline south of Naples has inspired artists for hundreds of years, and a great many of them has lived at the impressive Hotel Imperial Tramontano in Sorrento. As the Ritz in London and the Negresco in Nice, this hotel is an institution as well. But if you want to roam the halls where Lord Byron once stayed it will cost you, but it is worth it.


Shelley was here and Sir Walter Scott, and...

For your interest I would like to refer to the text of the memorial plaque on the left.

"The west wing of this hotelry is the historical BIRTHPLACE of the celebrated Italian poet TORQUATO TASSO author of "Jerusalem delivered" and "Aminta" March 11th 1544.

Through its long history as a private mansion and as a hotel, the Tramontano has sheltered many great people of the literary world. It is legendary that
Milton visited this shrine during his travel, and it was graced by Goethe, Byron, Scott, Keats, Shelley, de Mousset Lamartine, Leopardi, and Longfellow.

James Fenimore Cooper lived here while writing "Water Witch" and Harriet Beecher Stowe here recieved her inspiration to write "Agnes of Sorrento."

Henrik Ibsen lived at Tramontano for six months and wrote his immortal "Ghosts" during that time.

"Come back to Sorrento" by G. B. de Curtis was composed at a terrace of the hotel.

This house has been patronized by royalty including
Queen Wilhelmina of Holland,
Empress Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, and Edward VII as Prince of Wales in 1862 and later King of England.

You who are visiting now are just as welcome and honoured as guest."

A room with a view to die for

I never went there, but my good friend Ketil and his wife did for their 50th anniversary. They had an incredible 10 nights in the shadows of the volcano Vesuvius.

To book a room with this view, does not get cheap, but if a room facing the blue Mediterranean water as the sun set behind Vesuvius is not the ultimate romantic venue, what is. From what Ketil and Astrid have told me sleeping under the same roof as Lord Byron was worth the price.


So what would a room, i.e. from July 29th to July 31st cost me? A query at http://eurobooking.com shows a wide range of rooms at different prices, included buffet breakfast, VAT, service charges, city tax.

You can get a single room from €210 a night.
If you want to upgrade to a Double Superior Room Sea View the price rise to €320. On the top shelf you have a Senior Suite Sea View priced at €570 per night.

Maybe not what most of us would be willing to pay, or maybe we would? This is a location for a honeymoon, or anniversary, these once or twice in-a-lifetime-experiences. I would certainly consider this hotel for my honeymoon, a romantic setting where ghosts of many celebrities roam its rooms and halls.

It would be interesting to know how much of Henrik Ibsens drama that derives its inspiration from Imperial Tramontano?

Only the dead master knows, as he rests six feet under at Vor Frelsers Gravlund in Oslo. Here you may see his grave, and ask this question in vane.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

More tapas!




















June 13th, I invited my colleagues at the Norwegian Cancer Registry for tapas. This to mark the start of the summer season. The easiest way to serve food to many people is tapas, bite sized food prepared Spanish way. I have made tapas buffets many times, and I try to develop new bites every time. Here is what I served.


Taco tubs - a smart way to serve tuna salad (1-2 per person)

Taco tubs - neat! It is called innovation. Santa Maria has folded taco into small edible containers. Perfect to serve my homemade tuna salad.

Mash one can of tuna in jelly with as much mayonnaise as you find acceptable. Mix in half an onion and the spices and herbs that you like. Salt in moderation, pepper, chives is great, and sweet chili dipping sauce balance it up. You make your variation.

Fill into tubs, and garnish with black fish roe and a slice of onion.

Cherry tomatoes with Pesto alla Genovese (4 per person)

Wonderfully easy to make but my, how they taste.

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half.

Use a good pesto (personally I prefer the Pesto alle Genovese from Barilla). Spread on top.

What could be easier, and healthier. Olive oil contains antioxidants and fresh basil is so colourful that simply has to be good for you!!

French pork liver paté on toast (2 per person)

I bought three smal cans of "Paté de foie de porc" at Monoprix in Lyon. I had high expectations for this product by Lou Gascoun in Saint-Médard-d'Eyrans in Gironde, close to Bordeaux.

The expectation was not met. Large white chunks of cold fat made it less appetizing than many of the other similar products I have tasted. The question remains; what to do with the last can? Heat it slightly in order to melt the fat? Maybe.

These toasts were not touched. Use a paté, by all means, but a smoother one. I love paté made from foi-gras d'oie, goose liver - quack!!

Salmon swirls (4-6 per person)


Delicious and dead easy to make. Mix finely chopped smoked salmon, onion, and Philadelphia cheese. You can use plain cheese or with chives, as I did.

Heat tortillas in a dry non-stick pan, spread cheese in the mid section of the bread, fold over and roll into a wrap. Allow to cool in the refrigerator to set.

Cut in slices and place on a tray.

Chili-orange marinated Manchego cheese (4-6 per person)

Orange and chili - a delicious marinade for well matured Spanish Manchego cheese.

Dice the cheese. Mix equal quantities of sweet chili dipping sauce and orange juice. Allow cheese to marinate in refrigerator for a few hours. Serve with toothpicks.

Goodie!!

These examples of bit sized foods does not belong to the traditional Spanish tapas. I will present the genuine tradition and its basque counterpart - the pintxo, when writing more on my experiences from Sitges. They still provide the inspiration for true culinary innovation for us modern Europeans. And they are eaten in the same way as the original, as social food.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Around the world on Enjoy Food & Travel – June 2008


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By June 30th, 2101 of you had visited Enjoy Food & Travel. In addition to this, an average of 26 of you subscribed daily to feeds, bringing the total number of visitors close to 2800. I am still curious who you are, those of you that visit my website.


Visitors on all continents

It is Feedburner that has made it possible for me to follow where my visitors come from, and it has been exciting to follow the increase in traffic.

From the humble start in September 2006 Enjoy Food & Travel has grown in size. In average I have published one story each day, and in a month or so the site will have more than 1000 stories on food and travel. As the site has grown, more and more of you visit. The first year I struggled to reach 400-500 visitors a month, now the number of visitors have increased five fold.

There are some hot spots. Most visitors come from the United States and Europe. In the US there are hot spots as the Boston, New York City-New Jersey, Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. In Europe I am pleased to say that many visitors are in my home town Oslo, from neighboring Denmark, England, The Netherlands, and Belgium. In Africa there are quite a few in the Johannesburg area.

Overall I am very pleased to say that I have visitors on all continents. There are relatively few in the Russian Federation, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, more in Australia and New Zealand.

I have had no visits from the PR of China, the Caucasus region and Central Asia, so we have to gain new ground there.

Visitors from new countries & territories

In June I am pleased to see that I had visitors from new countries and territories on all continents.

I would like to welcome my first visitors from:
  • Cyprus (Palekhori, June 5th 2008)
  • Russian Federation, Siberia (Tomsk, June 5th 2008)
  • Egypt (Alexandria, June 7th 2008)
  • Guatemala (El Zapote, June 11th 2008)
  • Saudi Arabia (Riyadh, June 12th 2008)
  • Ivory Coast (Abidjan, June 14th 2008)
  • Panama (Panama City, June 16th 2008)
  • Iraq (Unspecified, June 18th 2008)
  • Kuwait (Unspecified, June 19th 2008)
  • Jamaica (Portmore, June 22nd 2008)
  • Belarus (Minsk, June 23rd 2008)
  • Jordan (Amman, June 23rd 2008)
  • Mozambique (Maputo, June 23rd 2008)
  • Russian Federation, Murmansk Oblast (Murmansk, June 23rd 2008)
  • Barbados (Bridgetown, June 24th 2008)
  • Cameroon (Unspecified, June 24th 2008)
  • Mongolia (Unspecified, June 26th 2008)

Welcome back to Enjoy Food & Travel!!

Share a sight, a restaurant or your favourite recipe on Enjoy Food & Travel

Send an email to johnsen.tor@gmail.com, attach a picture and get your story on Enjoy Food & Travel. Then the other visitors may get to know you! Then we could experience what a true global community may be.

And again, thank you for visiting Enjoy Food & Travel!!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Rosenborg Castle - a royal country house



















Christian IV was Denmarks renaissance ruler. He built palaces and planned new cities. He rebuilt Akershus Castle in Oslo and Kronborg Castle in Helsingør. Scandinavian cities as Kristiansand, Christiania and Kristianstad bear his name. In the middle of Copenhagen he built Rosenborg Palace as his country residence in the period 1606-1624. The present castle is designed in Dutch renaissance style by the Danish-Flemish architect Hans van Steenwinckel. It is one of the most beautiful renaissance building I know.

We discovered during our stay that most of the castle was closed due to renovation. This includes the beautiful large gallery with an exquisite stucco roof. Only the ground floor was open, and we were able to admire the 400 year old interior in a few rooms.

Christian IV did not find the old castle in Copenhagen suitable for a renaissance king. In 1606 he built a small "lysthus", a small residence, that still form a nucleus of the present building. The house was extended and around it he commissioned a garden. Kongens Have or the Royal Garden is the oldest park in Denmark, still a large green lung in today's city, then located in the countryside.

The rooms are dark and richly decorated. The black and white floors, walls and even ceilings are decorated with paintings.

There are also a great number of the kings artifacts. Most of them are found in the vaulted cellars. Here you find the Danish Crown Regalia (will be presented in a separate story). There are also clothes preserved as this richly embroidered jacket with a lace collar. This is how a king was dressed 400 years ago.

Rosenborg Castle is one of my favourite sights in the Danish capital, and you are recommended to visit this architectural pearl. It gives you a great idea how a renaissance ruler lived 4 centuries ago.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Salad and seafood - a culinary rendez-vous


















A year ago, we enjoyed paella and arroz negre at the restaurant at Santa Maria Hotel in Sitges, and it passed our tests rated as recommendable (4,39 points). This year we both stayed at the Santa Maria Hotel and had two meals there, lunch June 16th and dinner June 20th. The rating ended a little lower than last year. The restaurant at Santa Maria Hotel is good but hardly the best place to eat in Sitges. We found restaurants that were so much better!!

Location: BBBBB

You could not find a better location for a restaurant. Situated on the main promenade facing the beach it is easy to find and has a real wow-factor. Full score here.

Atmosphere: BBBB

The hotel has a traditional Spanish interior, light walls, and wooden details. No minimalism here. Some would call it a little kitch, I would rather call it rustic. There were plenty of charm inside, but we were led to a table outside on a terrace, overlooking the restaurant and with a view to the sea.

For our first lunch we sat down outside, by the street, not completely comfortable. When dining June 20th we were well seated outside by the same elegant round table where we sat last year, by a large banana plant. I absolutely loved the atmosphere.

Price: BBBB

We paid around €20 for the lunch June 17th consisting of soup for one, salad for 2 and two pints of beer

We paid around €90 for dinner for four June 20th consisting of one one entree and one main course each and including a good bottle of white wine to share. Very reasonable from our perspective. The food, however, was good but not great. This means that it is no full score, but it gives reasonably good value for money eating here.

Service: BBBB+

As John speaks Spanish very well, he took care of the situation and ordered our food and wine. We could however sit and choose what we wanted to eat from a good English menu. The staff did their work well, and we did not have to wait long, neither on the food nor wine.

Food: BBB+

Creamed lobster soup (BB+)

Creamed lobster soup is one of my favourite and I have a wide range of editions to compare them from. From the delicious soups at Gramadoelas in Johannesburg or at Cafe Zeleste in Copenhagen to the other range of the scale served at L’Huîtrière at Place Saint Catherine in Brussels.

The creamed lobster soup at Santa Maria was slightly bitter and salty and reminded me more of a tomato soup than seafood based soup. The success
is in my mind a good stock, sugar and double cream, and this lacked sugar and cream.

Salad with mixed meats (BBB)

The salad with meat was an interesting experience. Crunchy raw vegetables and lettuce, tomatoes, one asparagus and one slice of a variety of different meats. Decent, but as salads goes this was a hardly a culinary experience worth remembering.

Vichyssoise (BBBBB-)

The best dish served at Santa Maria. Deliciously creamy, ice cold soup made from potatoes, leeks, stock, and cream. The Vichyssoise served at Santa Maria was seriously good, thick, creamy consistency, slightly bitter but well balanced taste from the leeks.


Stewed scallops (BBBB+)

I prefer my scallops slightly fried, and slightly under cooked. The stewed scallops served at Santa Maria had been sliced and simmered in a white stew with the delicious roe (ouch!), mushrooms and served in scallop shells. I am happy to say that they were not over cooked (I do not understand why), and the stew tasted well. Still this is not the way to serve them.

Overall rating: BBBB+ (4,33 points)

Recommendable close to la Playa. Fab location, but no ultimate food experience.

Address:
Pg. De la Ribera 52
08870 Sitges