Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fanueil Hall - the Jewel in the Crown

Faneuil Hall is one of the most important buildings in Boston from the time of the American revolution. It was built already in the early 1740s as a Market and meeting place and funded by the Merchant Peter Faneuil (1700-1743). It is one of the most important stops along the Freedom trail, and is often referred to as the Cradle of Liberty. Together with the Old State House and the Old North Church it is the Jewel of the Crown of US Revolutionary History.

Faneuil Hall, is a stately colonial style red brick building. It burnt down in 1761, and was rebuilt the next year. Todays appearance is from 1809 when the famous American architect Charles Bulfinch great expanded the building.

The golden weather wane on the top of the tower was modeled in 1742 and survived the fire. This sign was of great significance for the local population during the revolutionary period. It has its origin from the family crest of Sir Thomas Gresham, the founder of the London Stock Exchange.

The knowledge of this weather wane was used to determine if people were spies during the Revolution period. Suspected spies would be asked of the identity of the object on the top of Faneuil Hall and if they answered correctly, then they were free; if not, they were convicted as British spies.

Faneuil Hall is located in an area that has continued its long history as a trading centre. Just by you find the high rise buildings of Boston's Financial district where elegantly dressed men and women are keeping the wheels of the Northern New England economic system going. Behind Faneuil Hall you find Quincy Market, where you may enjoy food from all corners of the world. In this area you will also find a great number of shops where you cause distress to your credit cards.

But do visit this place also to reflect on an important piece of US revolutionary history on your walk by the Freedom trail and on the ideas of those that founded the modern United States. Whether you agree on the current American policies or not, they founded a state with focus on religious and political freedom and tolerance, ideals that should be as important today as they were 240 years ago.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The lost palace of an Arab prince

In the oldest part of Sitges you see a mysterious structure, a palace with an ornate exterior and with the intriguing name Palau Del Rei Moro. My knowledge of Catalan language is restricted, but does the name suggest that it once housed Arab princes?

I have been fooled before, as what I assumed was a medieval building – Palau Maricel, was just a century old. I have tried to verify the roots of this beautiful building through the internet, without finding too much information. Part of the building is said to have been built in the 14th century. I had only what I assume is the right translation of the name:

Palau = Palace
Del Rei = of King
Moro = Moorish

In a way I love the fact that I do not know the origin of this house. Whether it was built as a whim for a local tycoon as Palau Maricel, or whether it once in a distant past housed an Arab king and his harem.

When walking to see its exterior, you see a fortified building with roughly cut yellow-brown stones enclosing a hidden courtyard? The most striking feature of this building is an impressive ornate doorway.

Maybe one of you that visit my site may enlighten me of the true origins of this mysterious building. What is the origins of the name – did really an Arab king once live in what once was a humble building, or did a Catalan architect manage to create another Medieval illusion for a rich and eccentric Catalan tycoon a century ago?

De mystify me!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christmas dinner at Spisekroken

Spisekroken in Bergen presented me with one of my best meals ever in May 2007. This small restaurant located at Nordnes, a quaint area of Bergen served a three course meal to die for with the best wines. I am pleased to say that I will revisit this restaurant the coming Saturday.

Very few restaurants choose their ingredients with care in order to create an ultimate experience for their guests. During the life time of Enjoy Food & Travel I can count a hand full of places that have presented food that leaves you speechless.

Spisekroken is definitely one of these restaurants. The meal served 18 months ago had no flaws, what so ever. Presentation, taste and texture were immaculate. Even though we paid a staggering sum (around €225) we left feeling that it was worth it, and that is a rare experience. I do not hesitate to say that this was truly a Michelin style experience.

I called on Tuesday to book a table for two, and I was told that I was lucky to get one. She informed me that they had introduced their Christmas season menu. I checked at their website and my eyes fell on their special menu - a revelation:

King crab with ananas salsa and raspberry AND
Lobster bisque AND
Grilled scallops with petit poire puré
Gourmet veal with balsamic vinegar, and red wine sauce
sauteed oyster mushroom, asparagus and amandine potato
Blackberry and Advocaatparfait AND
Espresso panacotta with sitrus salad AND
White chocolate mousse with cognac and cherries.

I particularly love the AND-words here, as they have chosen three different starters and desserts to offer a wider range of tastes. The price is NOK 525 per person (€75), and believe you me - it may well be worth it!!!

Time will show whether we go for this menu or another. What ever we do, we are guaranteed a great experience - our expectations are sky high!!

See my review "A Michelin style experience" here

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lobster raviolis at Assaggio

One of the most luxurious experiences I know is Maine lobster, in any kind or form. Lobster roll made with fresh mayonnaise, celery and lobster meat in abundance. Freshly boiled lobster, still hot, served with melted butter only. Sublime and exquisite lobster raviolis, served in a rich, smooth and creamy seafood sauce. As I roamed the narrow streets of Boston’s North End, looking for a place to enjoy my lunch, lobster raviolis were one of many choices at Assaggio, and guess which I made? Not a hard question to answer. Choosing the lobster raviolis, I was in for pure bliss.

The North End is the oldest part of Boston. It is criss-crossed by small alleys. Here you find houses going back to the dawn of the United States and beyond. The home of Paul Revere (below), the famous hero from the American Revolution, predates the constitution with more than a century.

North End, once a home for the first generation of Irish immigrants, is now the dominated by the Italians. Here you find family owned hole-in-the-walls restaurants serving food only surpassed by the cooks in the home country itself.

When visiting Boston, the narrow streets of the North End are one of my first choices, when looking for a good place to eat. With no research in advance, it may be difficult to choose the right place to eat as there are many restaurants in a small area. I found Assaggio discreetly tucked away a side street of one of the main streets of the North End.

I quite honestly found the interior at Assaggio a little kitch. It was not ugly in any way, but very predictable. It looked like an Italian restaurant is supposed to look like. Rustic ochre coloured walls, art deco style lamps with frosted glass, tables and chairs in dark wood with white tablecloths. In short – it looked like a million other Italian restaurants I have visited.

The service was very good, I was very well taken care of from I entered the restaurant until the moment I left.

When studying the menu, my eyes immediately spotted the lobster raviolis. My mouth started to water, and I knew! There was no doubt in my mind. That was the right choice for that lunch that day!

I have had several encounters with these pasta treats during my many visits in Boston. I particularly remember one such occasion with great joy, in a chic seafood restaurant in Back Bay. They served the most luxurious homemade lobster raviolis in delicious saffron and orange sauce, an interesting contrast to the salt and sweet lobster meat.

The lobster raviolis served at Assaggio were a revelation! They were beautifully crafted with red and white coloured pasta, presented to me immersed in a delicate, well balanced creamed sauce with green asparagus.

The texture was perfect, as the pasta was not overcooked, slightly al dente. The asparagus had a beautiful colour and that nice crunch. The sauce was delicious, thick and creamy. The ravioli filling had those distinct, discreet and sweet flavours of lobster. Whereas the lobster ravioli dish at Back Bay toyed with contrasts of citrus and pepper in the sauce, ravioli and sauce at Assaggio were playing in pure harmony. The sauce could have had a little more bite, a twist of lime and some pepper could have made it even more interesting.

29 Prince St
Boston, MA 02113
Phone: +1 (617) 227-7380

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bolero Schwerin - no ring of fire!

Tex-Mex is modified Mexican food to please the pallet of their Texan brothers and sisters north of the border. Whereas Mexican food can bring you into a culinary ring of fire, the tex-mex are spicy but not too hot. When bringing this kitchen over the Atlantic it may go both ways. Back to the cradle with generous amounts of chipotle and habaneros, or to the native (here German) kitchen. In Schwerin they call it tex-mex fusion food, and Bolero is one place they serve it. No ring of fire here! Dull as dishwater if you ask me!

Welcome to Schwerin! This grown up palm tree stood in a large pot in the courtyard behind Bolero in Schwerin, in order to bring the feeling of Cancun closer. The similarity with the atmosphere and the tastes of the Yucatan peninsula ends there.

As it looked like it would rain, we went to sit inside. The contrast to the tropical atmosphere was striking, very dark and a rather boring and uninviting interior. As at La Oca in Sitges there were nearly no one there, except ourselves. The question I ask myself is when will I learn that just that is a bad sign and leave to find another place to eat .

Well, over to the food, fusion food, no tex-mex, fusion food with no taste. So far away from Mexican food as absolutely possible. One chicken salad for my friend Ketil and one pasta carbonara for me. I think Ketil appreciated his salad, whereas I wondered what had gone into, or not had gone into my pasta carbonara.

The coal burners pasta is the Italian equivalent to bacon and eggs. Pancetta, Italian streaky bacon, eggs, cream, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. At its best this is honest, filling, and tasty food. The salt derived from the bacon and Parmesan, immersed in a yellow, creamy, savoury custard with a good amount of pepper.

The carbonara at Bolero could not haven further away from its origins. It neither looked, nor tasted as a proper carbonara. White sauce, not yellow. Slightly overcooked penne, sauce lacked character. Where were the bacon and parmesan tastes - and pepper???? Why do restaurants serve food like this? Do the cooks lack tastebuds? Why? They had certainly not been burnt away in a ring of fire!!

If the rest of the menu is as uninteresting as my pasta, no wonder why there were nobody there to eat. Schwerin is not a big city, but there are definitely better restaurants as Bolero, so go somewhere else to eat! It would probably be a better idea to go there for a drink, as there are a large bar area as well, and you can not go that bad mixing drinks - or can you?


Bolero Schwerin GmbH
Mecklenburgstr. 2
19053 Schwerin, Germany
Phone: 0385 5936600

Monday, November 17, 2008

Recession? 10 smart ways to save money on groceries

I am living in a part of the world where we take food for granted, that food are and will be available in abundance. This is, sadly not, the case for the majority of the worlds population. I have always considered wasting food as a mortal sin. Here are some pieces of advice on how to not waste food, how to conserve your leftovers, and recycle them into delicious new dishes, and save money on groceries.

Advice number 1: Plan what you need for the coming week!

I am living alone, and try to plan my food consumption for one week at a time. Then it is easier to find out what and how much to buy for the period. A good day to do your grocery shopping is Saturday. Then you can plan for the week ahead and start preparing fish or meat dinners for you and your family on Sunday. When you plan, try to think of how much you will need for the different meals during the week. Try not to buy too many varieties of cheese or meat products for your sandwiches, unless they have a favourable use by date.

Advice number 2: Buy food once a week

My experience is to avoid buying food every day. If you do some strategic planning, the only thing you may have to buy during is milk for your coffee. If you buy food several times a week you risk ending up with too many products that will go bad in you refrigerator.

Advice number 3: Respect the use-by date

The date of consumption shows you the recommended point of time by which you should prepare or use the food. The "use by" date shows you the last recommended point of time of use. This does not necessarily mean that the food has gone bad after this point, but I highly recommend not to eat it after the date. If you see that food are close to the date, divide it into several small portions and freeze it in.

The "best before" date means that the food in itself will not go bad after the date, but storing it further may affect the taste or quality of the product.

Advice number 4: Prepare several different ingredients on the same time

A good idea is to bake different ingredients in the oven, in one large pan.

I love to prepare vegetable and different meats in one pan, on a very low heat for a very long time. If you, e.g. buy three fresh chicken, rub them with lots of spices, then place them on top of diced well seasoned vegetables and bake them in the oven for 4-5 hours at 100C / 210F, you get many ingredients to use for the coming week. During the preparation period you do not even have to stay in your house, but go for a walk in the park or have a coffee in the nearest coffee bar. And the end result is mouthwatering tender.

Advice number 5: The expensive cuts are not necessarily the best

You can have great success with the less tender cuts of meat if you know how to prepare them.

I have already shown you how to prepare delicious stews from cheaper cuts of beef, and how to prepare a long roast shoulder of lamb until it ends up deliciously succulent and tender after five hours at a low temperature. In many dishes you have to use tough meat, as in the famous beef stew from Burgundy where the meat will simmer for five hours or more and in this stew, the wine is the most expensive ingredient.

And by buying larger chunks of food you may even save a lot of money and still experience gourmet style dinners.

Advice number 6: Recycle food!

Cool down leftover food and recycle. I have used leftover puff pastry and mashed potatoes as thickeners in leftover soups and it works well. Use leftover vegetables in other stews during the coming week. Freeze down leftover wine to use in food later. Clean the lamb or chicken carcasses, place in zip lock bags or containers, cool down or freeze for later use.

Make a good stock from the leftover chicken. If you have only one carcass, freeze it down and make a stock when you have another chicken carcass to prepare. Make a stock from the bones of the pork chops and do not throw away the waste of boiled shrimps - use it to make a fish soup!! There are no limits for your fantasy, and recycling food can wake up the alchemist in many of us.

Advice number 7: Plan your week ahead, make portions for every day

For me this has been a success when I have had time to do it. I do not mind eating a good stew several days in a row. If you prepare a large portion cool it down and fill up containers, one for each day. In this way you may come home, take out one, place it in the microwave and - hey presto, dinner!!

Many stews (if properly cooled down when you first made it) will keep for at least three days in the fridge. Excess portions may be put in the freezer for later use. When you reheat it you can spice it up by adding cheese or chili flakes for variation.

Advice number 8: Do not open up more packets than you need

You have probably experienced that you find leftover cheese with green fur and dried slices of salami in the back of your refrigerator. I have! That happens most often when I have opened up too much and did not manage to eat it up. You are well advised to only open up what you need, and you know you can eat.

Advice number 9: Use your freezer strategically - use what you put in!

I have a bad habit! I put too much into my freezer, and too little is taken out. This is such a common problem. Most foods may not stay in there forever, in fact some foods must be used within 3-6 months, if not it will seriously affect the quality. When used properly, a freezer is a great asset for you and your economy. You will have an efficient use of the food you place there if used within time, and you can create new and interesting dishes

Advice number 10: Recycle leftover leftovers in your compost

Food is organic matter and may be absorbed by the nature instead of taking up place in the rubbish heap. Where you have recycling of organic matter - use it. It you do not have it, and can, make a compost heap for your leftover leftovers. In this way you make your contribution to a greener society where you live!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Food for a recession

Ladies and gentlemen! We are entering an area of severe economic turbulence. Kindly fasten your seat belts, fold up the table in front of you, and switch off all electronic devices. You will be served a meal according to the present circumstances.

Suddenly we are in a period of financial hardship. As the value of the worlds stock tumbles, the impact can be felt in every home throughout the world.

In times like these, we all need to save money, even on food. A good thing in these bad times may be that we throw less food in the bin, and start recycling leftovers into new interesting dishes. There are so much good food to be made from leftovers.

One of my colleagues regularly supplies me with bones, and I made good and concentrated stock last Tuesday. Both stock and the excess meat and vegetables were placed in plastic containers and went into my freezer.

Today I made comfort food for a recession, a hot curry with meat, carrots, celery root, and leeks used when I made my stock, and even some frozen leftover coconut milk went into my pot. Food that normally would have ended in the bin reincarnated as one delicious hot pot!

See how to make a good stock here

Hot leftover curry with coconut milk

5o cl water
1 stock cube
2 tbsp medium hot Jalfrezi Curry paste with sweet pepper and coconut
2-3 tsp sugar
Leftover meat, finely chopped
3 leftover boiled carrots, sliced
1/2 leftover boiled celery rut, diced
1 leftover boiled leeks, sliced
7 cl leftover (once frozen) coconut milk

Heat up water, dissolve stock cube in the water, and add Jalfrezi Curry Paste and sugar. Add meat and allow to boil for 1 hour.

Add leeks and carrots. Place diced celery root in a blender, and add a little of the stock. Blend celery into a fine paste and add to the curry. Allow the curry to boil for another 30 minutes.

Add frozen coconut milk at the end of the cooking time. Do not boil and do not cover with a lid, as the coconut milk may split.

Serve with basmati rice.