Saturday, November 29, 2008

A pre-christmas duck revisited




















Saturday I have my the yearly Tante Pose banquet for four guys in our 40's. We are the last generation that may connect this Norwegian film classic to our childhood Christmas celebrations. The distant echos of innocent love, trivial plots, and VISA-free shopping. Images of a good old fashioned Christmas on a manor house located in a winter wonderland we now just remember, being four guys in our 40's of the climate change generation. Do we miss these times? Hardly! Credit cards, free love and prospect of palm trees coming soon are much better. But it does not harm to look back and reflect...... once a year!!

One days work - from Dusk to Dawn

Tante Pose or not, this event is dedicated to good food. As one of the participants has a Danish mother, duck is not far fetched as seasonal grub.

I went to my local supermarket to look for a victim (alias Donald Duck), and found a French canette (i.e. small duck, à la one of the Duck triplets) of around 1500 grams (3,2 lb). This is not much meat, so I always make a starter and a dessert plus the stuffing, pickled red cabbage, Brussels sprout and thick gravy for the fowl!

A Thai-East Asian Fusion seafood soup

This year's starter is under construction. I plan a East Asian seafood soup with Devils on Horsebacks.

The soup will be based on stock made from prawn shells, salt, pepper, and Kaffir Lime leaves with curry, sweet chili sauce, and coconut milk.

To prepare Devils on Horseback you will need large scallops (2 per person), fold one slice of bacon around it and fry in a hot oven until bacon is crisp. Then I will add the shelled prawns and heat them through and I will add the Devils at the end.

Dessert? I do not know yet, but I know what to drink. White wine for the starter, red wine to the duck and cognac to the coffee.

And then we will sink down into my comfortable chairs and dream back to the age of innocence - now long gone!!

How to prepare a duck from dusk to dawn

I follow the same procedure every year, and for more information I will refer to my story from 2006 here on Enjoy Food & Travel:

- How to prepare a French canette "Tante Pose Style"
- How to prepare the stuffing

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hurtigruten ASA cuts 200 jobs to slash budget deficit



















Hurtigruten is called the worlds most beautiful cruise. The cruise line operates along the long and breathtaking Norwegian coastline from Bergen in the south to Kirkenes in the north. It is now in deep financial problems and will, according to Norwegian newspapers, be slashing 200 jobs to cut costs as the company struggle in heavy financial seas.

Earlier Hurtigruten served as an important life line for the small and large communities scattered on many of the islands and peninsulas along the coast. It brought supplies to and was the main transportation link for the coastal population.

This role changed in the 1980s and 1990s as the service increasingly was marketed as tourist cruises. This change was emphasized by construction of larger and more luxurious vessels.

The decline in passengers were noticed in 2008 as fewer tourists booked tickets to discover the rough coastline, there are serious doubts of whether the cruiseline will make it through these trying times.
The company will have to reduce costs with 35% in 2009 in order to survive, and these expenses will be taken on sales, marketing and administration.

See the Hurtigruten website here

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dubai - do we wanna go there? No thanks!!

After two british tourists decided to take sex on a beach one step further, this incident clearly shows what hasards Western tourist face when visiting an apparent modern society. I do not know whether they got the idea from having one too many "Sex on the Beach" in the bar one evening, but they left the counter in order to have a public shag.

See story in Los Angeles Times here

That was not a good idea in Dubai. Under the slick facades of this tempting destination lures old prejudice, not only against such explicit expressions as the one above. Even what we consider normal behaviour as a romantic kiss, or getting a little tipsy when walking home may get you to jail. I would certainly think again if considering love making when watched by the locals, but do we really wanna go somewhere where you risk so much for a kiss or being a little drunk. You may. I do not.

Where gays should never thread

This is definitely not ground for homosexual and lesbian travellers. Holding hands and kissing among gays and lesbians in public do still cause a few raised eye brows even here in liberal Scandinavia.

In Arab countries homosexual travellers risk a death sentence for being gay or lesbian. Holding hands here may result in terrible consequences.

Here you see why. This map shows the conditions for homosexuals in different countries of the world.

The green colours are friendly or neutral territory and the yellows, orange or reds are distinction of penalty for homosexual conduct and among those with the harshest penalties are countries on the Arab peninsula - up to death penalty.

Gay or not gay - does any one really wants to visit such countries - think again!!!

Guide to proper conduct from Madinat Jumeirah hotel in Dubai (Source: Times Online)

This prestigious hotel in Dubai has at least made a flyer in order to point to the small distance between normal human activity and imprisonment. Here are the advice the hotel give to their customers.

On drinking alcohol:
“Drinking is not a part of Muslim culture and alcohol is not served openly. Drunken behaviour, especially outside licensed premises in the hotel, is severely punished.”
On showing affection!
“It is strongly recommended that you employ discretion when expressing affection in public. Anything more than a peck on the cheek could offend those around you and even possibly lead to police involvement.”
You might as well book a single room in a convent, it would be much more fun. A culture with such an attitude does not deserve any tourists. I do thank the tourists that had sex on the beach for their contribution in highlighting the cultural absurdity in countries as Dubai.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Call of the wild - roast of moose




















In spite of being an urban cowboy, I am well connected. These connections often provides some rare treats. The other day I was invited to a great party. Roast of moose was on the menu. These huge animals roam the deep forests of Norway. Alive they are majestic animals, but I rather prefer them dead, on my plate. They have a lean, gamy meat, ideally served medium to bloody, as it may easily get dry as there are rarely no fat on these animals.

Last weekend I visited good friends at Løten, a 2 hour drive north of Oslo. In this area you may easily buy good moose meat during the hunting season. We were offered meat to prepare, and it arrived vacuum packed. There were several cuts of meat from different parts of the animal.

It is always important to seal the meat before you roast it in the oven. I melted butter in a pan until very hot and fried the surface until golden brown. The preparation offered us a challenge as most of the guests preferred the meat well done. The best way to keep the meat moist at this state is to long roast it. We placed it in a moderately hot oven (120-130C / 250-270F) for three hours. If you lower the temperature further you may leave the meat for another two to three hours and still have a delicious result. You may also use a roasting bag to preserve the moistness.

And do not throw away the butter you used when sealing the meat. Add 1-2 (large) glasses of red wine, herbs and tomato puré or ketchup and scrape to remove all the delicious residue on the bottom. Allow to reduce. This was used to make a delicious aromatic gravy with extra red wine, stock, salt, pepper, sugar and creamy velvety double cream.

And vedge? We used a steamer do prepare bouquets of broccoli and cauliflower until medium soft. They are easily over cooked, but are best when a little crunchy. We boiled small potatoes until soft, or you may roast them in a hot oven with pepper, salt, olive oil, garlic and olive oil.

There is nothing to say other than it was an exquisite meal, even when well done. This due to the fact that we used extremely low heat when preparing the meat.

Other moose stories:

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bergen November 20th to November 23rd 2008




















I have just arrived back after 4 beautiful days in Bergen by the Norwegian West coast. This city is usually embraced by the mild winds of the Atlantic. During these days Father Frost dressed it in white snow brought by cold northerly winds. I experienced much during my four days there. Here is a list of stories to come on Enjoy Food & Travel


Hotels:

Bergen has a large number of hotels at any price range. I have stayed in different hotels and paid from €50 to €200. This time I stayed in one prestigious and expensive hotel and in one tourist class hotel. I also discovered that price does not necessarily mean high standard and good service, and you may save much by ordering via a hotel reservation site rather than directly. These are the hotels I stayed in during my 4 days in Bergen.
  • Radisson SAS Hotel Royal (November 20th to November 21st)
    Located in the historic Bryggen Area, this hotel won international awards when opened. When I stayed there 12 years ago I was very impressed. Now I experienced that old glory is not enough to maintain a good reputation
  • Bergen Travel Hotel (November 21st to November 23rd)
    Located a stone’s throw away from Torgallmenningen, Bergen’s main square. This small tourist class hotel had experienced a full makeover, and for a mere 100 Euros a night it provided good value for money.

Restaurants:

Bergen is a great place to enjoy good seafood and game. The cool North Sea provides good seafood and fish in abundance and venison, deer and reindeer roam the forests and mountains near by. Here you may purchase organic cheese and dried codfish to enjoy when you get back. I enjoyed all the high quality ingredients in the restaurants of taverns of the old city.

  • Wesselstuen
    The place to enjoy a Danish style open sandwich with a cold beer and a shot of akvavit.

  • Café Opera
    An informal café close to “Den Nasjonale Scene” Bergen’s theatre. We enjoyed a delicious cod wrapped in bacon. Yum!

  • Spisekroken
    A gourmet restaurant revisited. Located in the charming Nordnes area, specializing in a nouvelle Norwegian cuisine.

  • Holbergstuen
    Another Danish style tavern in Bergen. We enjoyed a great plate of pre-Christmas specialties served with an interesting sauce

  • Fincken
    For those of you that want a walk on the wild or queer side of Bergen

  • Scruffy Murphy’s
    My favourite Irish hangout in Bergen

Sights:

Bergen is, in my opinion, the only truly Medieval city in Norway. Even though few buildings from this era are still standing, it has a truly ancient character. The 300 year old Bryggen reflects an architecture that is far older. You may explore the narrowest of streets and visit one of the ancient churches that are still standing as monuments from Bergens great past.

  • Bryggen in Bergen
    A UNESCO World Heritage site. Houses from around 1700 built according to medieval traditions from the Hansa Merchant Companies. I found some very interesting old houses predating the great fire

  • Fløien
    The funicular from Bergen city centre brought us up 1000 feet into a fairy tale winter wonderland and to a view of the city to die for

  • Muren
    An old city house built 1561 as a residence for Erik Rosenkrantz, a Danish noble man representing the Danish king.

  • Rosenkrantz tower
    An old keep of the old fortress built in the 16th century.

  • Jørgen Hansens wall
    A 16th century addition to the old fortress

  • Nykirken
    A beautiful baroque church built on top of the Medieval Episcopal Palace with a long and dramatic history

  • Nordnes
    A quaint area in the city centre with narrow passages and charming small wooden houses

  • Bergen Aquarium
    Located on the southern tip of Nordnes. Definitely the place for both adults and kids. Do as we did, watch when they feed the penguins and seals - great fun!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Grave of Georg Adolph Demmler, Schwerin



















Outside Schwerin, in an old cemetery, you find a remarkable monument. It is raised as a memorial to Hofbaumeister Georg Aldolph Demmler, the architect of the Dukes of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. It is remarkable, as it is one of the largest Masonic graves in Europe.

Georg Adolph Demmler was a prominent Freemason, and donated a house for the masonic lodge in Schwerin. The Lodge Harpokratus zur Morgenröthe was founded as far back as 1809. This house is located close to the Schweriner Dom.

The most famous monument of Hofbaumeiser Georg Adolph Demmler is the Palace in Schwerin, the home of the Dukes of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

He designed several other buildings in and around Schwerin, as the Arsenal am Pfaffenteig and the City Hall.

The last memorial to him was designed as a tribute to the organization that meant so much to him. It is strange to see a monument so different from the others.

It is really a different sight to see when visiting Schwerin.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The home of the white stork

Parc de l'Orangerie is located on the outskirts of Strasbourg, not far from the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. This is a wonderful place to visit on a hot summers day. Here you may wonder in the shades of large beautiful trees and get a glimpse of its most famous inhabitant - the white European stork

July 7th was a rainy day in Strasbourg. We decided to leave the city centre and visit Parc l'Orangerie.

The roots of this park goes back over 300 years. It was laid out as a French garden by the famous French gardener Andre le Nôtre (1613-1700), and later remodeled into an English garden for Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais (1763-1814), wife of emperor Napoléon Bonaparte.

It is a beautiful place to take a stroll. From the strict flowerbeds and large gracious date palms close to the Pavilion Joséphine, the small beautiful palace in the park, to slightly curved walkways in the shade under tall old trees.

When you are through with your walk you may visit one of the two restaurants in the park.

We settled for a dripping cold weissbier, Edelweiss enjoyed sitting under cover in a restaurant. At this point of our trip it had really started to rain heavily.

As we sat down, we spotted the large white European stork. It was surprisingly relaxed and walked around in the park, among us humans. I followed its motions and got my fair share of snapshots as it walked close and far away from us.

If you would like to enjoy some finer dining, try Le Buerehiesel, an excellent gourmet restaurant. The head cook Edward Westermann offers a large menu of starters, meat- and fish dishes, cheese and desserts.

Le Buerehiesel is located in a charming Alsatian farm building from 1607 that was taken down and transported to the park piece by piece for the international industrial exhibition of 1895.