Saturday, July 19, 2008

Smoking Halibut - a readers request















Michael in Santa Ana, in California had the following request:


"Many years ago while in Bergen I bought some "Bla Kveite" at the Bergen's Fish Market. Our Norwegian friend prepared it for us-it was steamed -served with young summer potatoes and of course gurken salat och akvavit! I fish often off British Colombia and catch some halibuts-where can I get a recipe how to prepare and smoke the halibut the bla kveita style? As I remember it was only slightly salted and smoke?

Many Thanks in Advance

Mike"

Answer:

Dear Mike!
Blåkveite or Greenland Halibut is a subspecies of the halibut and has a circumpolar distribution and is found in both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

I tried to look for a procedure on how to smoke halibut or Greenland halibut. I found that a Norwegian, Kjell Gilje has a description in Norwegian on how he prepare and smoke different kinds of fish including halibut. A rather bad English translation (google) may give you some information.

I suppose it would be a good idea to contact him directly on e-mail to get further information. His e-mail is: kjell@gilje.org.

Smoked halibut is a delicacy, and I have had the pleasure to enjoy thinly sliced halibut on a few hotel buffets. They have served the halibut cold with scrambled eggs or a cold potato salad.

On www.matoppskrift.no, they recommend that smoked halibut is cut into one inch slices and boiled very gently for 7 minutes. In fact the water should not bubble merely be just at boiling point. The fish sould be served with boiled potatoes and fish stock thickened with a little cornflour and plenty of parsley.

You will find a recipe on Norwegian cucumber salad here.

I hope this has been at some help for you!

Tor Johnsen
Enjoy Food & Travel

Some other recipes with halibut on Enjoy Food & Travel:

- Fish Parcel for Fish Lovers (June 8th 2008)
- Fish Casserole Skagerak (February 24th 2008)

Friday, July 18, 2008

The awakening




















I am usually critical and occasionally grumpy when visiting a restaurant. I am hard to please, as I have had my fair share of good meals in my culinary career. But then, suddenly you accidentally find a place out of the ordinary. This means the awakening to new flavours as I did at L’eveil des sens in Strasbourg. This was a place that offered that extra refinement lifting our experience from the good to the extraordinary. This was delicious, delicate, delirious, delightful dining!!!

Location: BBBBB

Located by the canals in La Petit-France, one of the most beautiful historic areas in Strasbourg, you may hardly find a more romantic and beautiful location for a restaurant. Just by you find the historic building Maison des Tanneurs built in 1572, housing a traditional Alsatian restaurant, and around there are beautiful half timbered houses along narrow ancient streets or along the canals that criss cross the area.

L’éveil des Sens is located in one of these ancient beautiful houses and you may sit outside or inside. Either choice is the ultimate location. A perfect spot for that romantic dinner, or to celebrate old friendship as we did.

Atmosphere: BBBBB-

L’éveil des Sens had invested in interior and style to enhance its beautiful location. We decided to sit outside to digest the beautiful architectural room along with the food, but the interior matched the exterior – equally beautiful.

Outside was decorated with flowers and the tables were beautifully set for a delicious dinner. There could have been a little more space available, but these are mere details my friends, and not to spoil the experience.

Service: BBBBB

Excellent service! We were well taken care of. The delicious food was brought out without much delay and to relieve our hunger, they served small dishes neither asked for, nor paid for. Good advice on what wine to choose, even though I had a wine expert available on the other side of the table. Øivind, my friend and former colleague confided that he had taken a one-year wine course.

Price: BBBBB-

EUR 150 for two is a pretty steep price, but considering the location, service, food, wine, and the little extras it ended up as highly recommendable even at this price.

The Food: BBBBB

The teasers: BBBBB-

I called them the teasers or amuse bouche, as these small delicacies are called, amusement for the mouth. The fact that we were served these two small dishes deserves the full bargain rating. Small shot glasses served before we started, a tomato and a melon shot, delicious and neutral, maybe a little too neutral.

After our meal we were served two mini desserts, one shot with caramel. What a generous idea.

The Foi Gras de Canard: BBBBB

This was a great feast, closer to perfection than most I have eaten lately. A thick generous slice of the most succulent, creamy duck liver, served in a most original culinary setting. I think that there was a theme that the cook had toyed with.

The ducks are fed corn, there was a shot based on corn, and one piece of popcorn in a sugar flake. Neat! I found the popcorn more as a decorative element, but I took a bite, but the shot tasted delicious. The duck liver was as always – beyond words. Both duck and goose liver has this incredibly sweet aroma, and an exquisite creamy consistency. Do enjoy it with a glass of Sauternes or Gewurztraminer Vendages Tardives, as I discovered that Alsace produce an equally superior wine as the ones from Bordeaux. The sweetness of the wine and the duck liver melt into a spiritual ecstatic experience in taste heaven.

Louis Freyburger & Fils Gewurztraminer 2001 Vendanges Tardives: BBBBB

I love the sweet wines from Sauternes, and I lived too long with the illusion that the wine growers in this region were the only that could produce sweet wine of such an outstanding quality.

This illusion was seriously challenged when I had my first taste of an aged Tokaji. This Hungarian wine had a slightly different taste but was absolutely equal to a good Sauternes. Then I tasted a bottle of Bru-Baché Jurancon la Quintessence 2004, and suddenly I realized that I lived in an illusion.

At L'éveil des Sens I tasted a Louis Freyburger & Fils Gewurztraminer 2001 Vendange Tardive - a wine to die for. The name - late harvest, refers to the fact that the wine is made from grapes that are allowed to hang so long that they start to dehydrate, thus concentrating the sugar. The Gewurztraminer had aromas of tropical fruits, peaches, and honey, and in spite of all the flavours, being fresh and so easy to drink. The wine created the same culinary union with the duck liver as a good sauternes would.

Beef braised in Geuze: BBBBB

I love beef in two forms. Either prepared red to medium when serving a fillet or an entrecôte, or simmered for a long time in either red wine or beer. This way to prepare meat requires tougher meat of lower quality, i.e. from other parts of the animal. Whereas the fillet is lean, this meat has more fat, but ends up equally tender in a stew as a prime cut of beef.

At L'éveil des Sens they offered beef braised in Geuze, a strong often sweet Belgian beer. The beef was cooked to perfection, tender, having been simmered gently for a longer period. It was served with a brioche, a thin slice of fine bread, fried onion, and crunchy salad leaves. Good texture, rich and well balanced taste. This was absolutely perfect.

2006 Maestria Madiran BBBBB-

I was lucky to have Øivind to choose wine. He chose a Madiran wine from South West France. He highly recommended these wines as a good alternative to Spanish wines. The Maestria 2006 was absolutely perfect.

It is a blend of tannat, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc grapes. It had a brilliant ruby colour, a nose of ripe red fruit, flowers and toast. A characteristic fruit mouth, with soft tannins, persistent freshness and a final liquorice-peppermint. It was a great choice to the the beef and the lamb that Øivind ordered.

Rating the L'éveil des Sens experience: BBBBB (4,81 points)

As close to perfection as possible. Enjoy Food & Travel recommends L'Eveil des Senses as one of the best eating experiences until now.

Address:
L'éveil de Sens
2, Rue Escarpée
67000 Strasbourg, France
03 88 32 81 01

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tapas by the catwalk




















I call Marqués de Montroig, the main pedestrian street in Sitges the catwalk. This as the crowd pass by a row of different bars or cafés on their way to the beach. As they walk they pass a crowd of mostly gay males seated by the tables - watching! Pesquadito Tapas y Mariscos is one of these bars. It was our first tapas experience in Sitges and probably the one we liked the least.


And we have seen such tapas bars before. A slightly shabby oak interior, and very empty.

The latter is an important indication whether you actually have found a good restaurant. My friend Øivind, an experienced diner stated that the amount of people and/or dust on the floor was an indication of quality. Much/many = good, or little / few = go elsewhere!!

I know we went to get a snack on a time where most spaniards were between a substantial lunch and a late dinner. This could explain the fact that the place were nearly empty.

The only snag was that the restaurants around had guests more or less the whole days (At least the ones that were popular). This as most visitors were non-nationals with their own dining habits. We should have followed Øivinds advice.

Croquetas.......

Terje and I went in to have tapas, and I knew what to order - croquetas! My favorite snack, thick bechamel sauce with ham or cheese, cooled down - rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried. Hardly the most healthy choice, but oink, oink!!!

Croquetas are served in Belgium as well, here called croquettes (ofcourse). Here they make Croquettes de Fromage (cheese) and jambon (ham), as in Spain. In Belgium they also make croquette from "des crevette grises", i.e. small grey prawns, the latter delicious!!

The croquetas at Pescaditos did not taste very much of what it was supposed to be made of - ham. They were a little greasy as well. A little rest on some kitchen paper before serving would have been a great idea.

Read more on tapas experiences in Barcelona here

Calamaris - deep dried squid in batter

I think calamaris is one of the original tapas dishes, i.e. what was served as free snacks in Spanish bars before it became trendy and they started to serve them for money.

When well prepared, calamaris is delicious. Crispy on the outside, and soft and tender on the inside - two contrasting textures and tastes. Squeeze over some lemon and tuck in.

The calamares served at Pesquaditos were coated in too much batter thus ending up greasy. The calamares were also a little rubbery.

Read more from an equally uninteresting calamares meal served in Boston here

Albondigas - ye tasty Spanish meatballs

Another favorite, or at least when well prepared. You may find me grumpy or hard to please, but we both agreed that we had eaten better elsewhere.

Both the meatballs and the sauce had a flat and uninteresting taste. The meatballs should have had amounts of garlic to scare the devil away, and the sauce should have been sweet and salty, with Mediterranean herbs. Should have been - should have had, as they had neither.

But there were small green peas in the sauce - fancy!

A piece of advice - try the other tapas restaurants. May I recommend Pintxos at Izarra, or Bianco, the latter over priced but my how much taste. More on these later here on Enjoy Food & Travel.

If you want to check whether I am grumpy here is the address:
Pesquaditos Tapas y Mariscos
Marqués de Montroig, 4
Tel. 938947479

See location of other restaurants and bars in Sitges here

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chinese food in Lyon? Avoid Le Mandarine!




















I have been extremely unlucky in my choice of Chinese restaurant. Da Yin He in Barcelona was a disaster (food BB+), The Golden Bamboo in Copenhagen was boring (BBB). I am happy to say that there are good Chinese places, but ask your hotel for recommendations. I did not. Le Mandarine was just a stone's throw away. There were a majority of Chinese guests - reassuring, but the food was just plain and uninteresting, and the rest was just the same.


Location: BBBB+

Le Mandarine is located in Rue de Lanterne in the historic Terreaux district at the east bank of the river Saone. Rue de Lanterne itself, is a narrow ancient passage, as most of the streets in historic Lyon.

It is easy to get there. Take the bus service to its end destination, Lyon Perrache, enter metro line A direction Vaulx-en-Velin, and leave at Hôtel de Ville / Louis Pradel (5th stop).

Atmosphere: BBB+

The interior is neither creative nor particularly charming. It is like any other traditional Chinese restaurant you find in different corners of the world.

Painted in rich red and golden shades, with much of the same decor, the same prints and Chinese lamps found in Oslo, Nice or Dublin.

Nice tables set with white table cloths, I sat down and found myself well seated on dark Chinese chairs.

Price: BBB+

€20 for a two course dinner with half a bottle of Beaujolais wine. In itself not much, but in my mind too much for the food and wine. If you are the one that do not care much about what the the food tastes like, you would leave happy - I did not!

Service: BBB+

A little slow service, business like - no smiles and no charm. The food was delivered within reasonable time, but the waitress did not make any effort to provide more than just the essential service.

The food: BBB

I ordered a bowl of wanton soup and fried duck lacquered style.

Chinese wonton soup

A wanton soup is usually a clear broth with finely chopped vegetables and Chinese ravioli.

The cook at Le Mandarine had simmered the wantons in a lightly salted stock, in my mind too lightly salted and the seasoning lacked the necessary character. The wantons itself were soggy and overcooked and the filling did not taste very much.

The wanton soup was like the service neither good nor bad, just plain boring.

Duck Breast lacquered style

The duck breast looked delicious, brightly coloured served on a bed of lettuce. I gazed hungrily on the piece of art and expected the rich blend of Chinese spices and sauces to reach my pallet, but I ended up disappointed.

It definitely had some kind of a taste, aromas from the Chinese cuisine, still it was bland - dull. I have tasted the most delicious blend of salt, sugar, and heat - and all these elements were in the sauce, but not in the necessary quantities. The duck was reasonably well cooked.

"Domaine de la Roche Saint Verand

When ordering Beajulolais you should know that this is a very fruity wine with very little body. It was my intention to get a light wine, as Chinese food is light and cannot take a more mature wine.

The Beaujolais from Saint Verand was as expected. Young, with very little of the richness of the wines that I usually drink (as I usually stay away from Beaujolais).

Rating Le Mandarine experience: BBB+ (3,66 points)

Stick to the bouchons, this was hardly a place to enjoy a good meal in Lyon.

Address:
Le Mandarin
15, Rue Lanterne
69001 Lyon, France
+33 4 78 28 45 66

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

News from the herb garden – Ruccola pesto


















I have a large ruccola plant in the garden of our summer home. As the taste is very strong and peppery, I have found that it is more an herb, than a salad leaf. Before returning from Spain, I tried to figure out how to use it. After visiting an Italian restaurant in Sitges I suddenly knew what to do. A ruccola pesto – what a great idea and what a taste!!


The ruccola leaves you buy in your store are great for salads. A mild, still distinct taste make them ideal as contrast to the milder leaves with more texture than taste. My ruccola is standing in the sun, and comes back each year to produce leaves in abundance. I have tried to mix in leaves in smaller quantities, but there are still too much left.

This weekend I made a serious harvest to produce one of the best pestos I have ever tasted.

The inspiration for this is the Italian restaurant Claudius in Sitges where they served gnocchi with a fabulous sauce from ruccola pesto and gorgonzola cheese - a mouth watering experience.

Basically it was just like making an ordinary pesto. One large bowl of ruccola leaves was mixed with around 20 cl of good Spanish olive oil and blended smooth using a hand mixer. I toasted 100 grams of pine nuts lightly and continued to blend ending the process by adding 75 grams of Parmesan cheese and a little salt. The spicy peppery taste of the leaves was perfect for a rich green, oil based sauce.

Fettucine with fresh ruccola, Parmesan and ruccola pesto

Perfectly simple and very tasty.

For two you will need:
250 grams fresh fettuccine
5 cl good Spanish olive oil
50 grams Parmesan cheese, grated
50 grams ruccola leaves, finely chopped
4 tbsp ruccola pesto
Salt, pepper

Heat 2 litres water with 3-4 teaspoons of salt, boil tagliatelle for 4 minutes. Pour out water but keep a few tbsps of the cooking liquid in the pan. Toss spaghetti in the remaining liquid over heat. Add oil, mix well, then ruccola leaves, Parmesan, and pesto while tossing the tagliatelle each time. Add a little salt and pepper and serve hot.

De-li-ci-oso!!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

I love Kitty’s Sushi




















Kitty’s sushi is a shrine for lovers of Japanese food in Oslo. Last week I went there to meet some friends after work, and got great food, as always. Unpretentious, honest and creative flavours, a bit pricey, but be assured that the food is worth paying for.

Kitty’s is a great place to meet friends. Located in the downtown trendy Grünerløkka area it is a clear winner for the young crowd, and quite a few middle aged as myself. We went there for a light meal and my how I was satisfied.

I ordered a delicious seafood Carpaccio, thin slices of raw scallops and tuna fish with Kitty’s own special sauce (NOK 82). It took a while to be served but the waiting was worth it.

The fish and scallop had been sliced in extremely thin slices and layered, first the tuna, then the lettuce, and the scallops on top. The relatively neutral taste from the fish was complemented by the most extraordinary sauce. I recognized a few of the flavours as sesame oil, teriyaki (possibly), soy – a perfect taste of nuts, sweetness, and salt sea. A masterpiece of simplicity AND refinement!!

Then I decided to go for one of Kitty's noodle dishes, a Japanese curry wok udon (NOK 128) with crisp chicken drumsticks and vegetables. Delicately curry flavoured thick and creamy udon noodles, with vegetables and on top the most delicious crisp pieces of chicken meat, crunch, crunch!! Seriously good!!!!

To this we enjoyed a few bottles of Kirin - the light Japanes beer that match the Japanese food so well. Dripping cold as refreshing that Wedenesday evening.

If you are in Oslo, and crave for sushi or other Japanese treats I highly recommend Kitty's. But my advice is - book beforehand, or you may not get a table.

Address:
Kitty's Sushi
Helgesensgt. 14, 0553 Oslo
Phone: +47 22 38 36 93

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Is my flight on schedule?

Expecting someone arriving by plane today? If you want to check whether the flight is on schedule, check the site flightstats.com. It is packed with useful information.

Flight delay index


Flightstats provides a whole range of useful information. The first you see is the delay index - a map providing information on current status on delays on different airports, ranged from very low to excessive, and it is interactive. In this way you may check whether you have to be prepared for large delays, even before you leave for the airport.

See FAQ on this service here

Flight status information

On your right you find the flight status information. Here you may check according to different parametres.
  1. Airport allows you to check delays on airport and airlines. If you type in Oslo Airport and SAS you are provided with updated information on the performance of the airline at the present time
  2. Flight status allows you to check current delays on flights from one airport to another. If you type in Paris Charles de Gaulle on departure and Oslo Airport on arrival you are provided with updated information on all flights on this distance on all airline at the present time. You may even get an alert to your e-mail or mobile phone. This requires that you register and when having done that flight status will notify you if anything changes and when the flight arrives.
  3. Flight Status by Flight, allow you to check delays on your specific flight. Typing in your airline name or code and flight number you get updated flight information.

FlightStats provides you with more tools in order for you to evaluate the overall performance of airports and airlines, thus enabling you to choose the airline most useful for you. All in all this website has a whole range of different services worth exploring.

Enjoy!!