Saturday, February 21, 2009

Comfort on road to compete with domestic airtravel

Norway is going greener. Earlier air travel provided the easiest and most time efficient service between most domestic destinations. This is not necessarily the case anymore as increased security on airports and heavier domestic traffic have resulted in increased time consumption from destination to destination. In a country with a huge domestic flight market, competitors on rail and road are trying to tempt domestic travelers away from shorter or medium long air travels with more comfort on board new express buses and trains.

The Norwegian company Netbuss have recently launched a new bus service with more leg space, working space and free internet access between Oslo and Kristiansand.

February 2nd 2009 they will, through their subsidiary Bus4you, expand with another service from Oslo to Göteborg in Sweden.
There are already several services by road, rail and air on the same distance, but Bus4you believes that more comfort will tempt more travelers to hit the road.

How is this bus service more comfortable than the others? First the number of seats are nearly halved, as there are 35 seats here, compared with 56 seats on ordinary buses. That means in short - more leg space for each traveler. There are wireless connection as well as a plug for your computer included in the price, making it easy for you to work as you travel.

The service will have three departures every day, 2 on Saturdays, and will bring you to Sweden's second largest city in 3 hours and 35 minutes. As this is a non-stop service you beat the train by 30 minutes (if you are on schedule). Even though the flight from Oslo to Gothenburg will take less than 1 hour, the transportation to the airport, check-in, security and waiting may take enough extra time to make some business travelers consider the bus.

What may tip the balance is the price. A round-trip ticket to Gothenburg in February by air may cost you as much as 2600 NOK (€271), and you must add the cost of transportation to and from Oslo airport (160 NOK / €17 each way). The bus service will cost you from NOK 199 to 474 (€21-45) each way.

And where to book?

You are adviced to book on the net. There are bargains even here, and they are easily found on the websites of the company, and here they are!!

You may book comfort seats from Oslo to Kristiansand S here

You may book comfort seats from Oslo to Gothenburg on the bus4you website from February here

(Photo of Nettbus coach by Halvard Hatlen)

Friday, February 20, 2009

A pilgrimage to Teror

The year is 1995. Here I stand in front of the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pino at Teror, a large church in an historic city located on the Northern part of Gran Canaria. For the Canarians it is the venue to pay hommage to the Virgen del Pino.

The Virgen del Pino is the patron saint of the Canary Islands. In 1481 an image of Virgin Mary appeared miraculously over a large pine tree. Since then the citizens of these islands have regarded this as a sacred place.

The Virgin was canonically crowned in 1905, and Pope Pius X declared her Bishop Marquina and Patron Saint of the Canary Islands in 1916.

For those interested in religious festivals, the Virgin del Pino is celebrated September 7th each year. The festival dates back to the 16th century, when the image of the Virgin was brought to Las Palmas to pray for rain during a severe drought. There is another festival dedicated to the Virgin at El Paso, Tenerife. It is celebrated every 4th year and has outgrown the festival at Teror, in spite of it being a later tradition.

The present church was built in 1760, and inside you may admire a beautiful statue of the saint, as well as the enormous amounts of precious gifts donated to the Virgin Mary during the ages. For those of you who wants to explore more of the Canary Islands, Teror is absolutely one of the most beautiful places.

What else can you do at Teror?

You may enjoy a bottle of Aguas de Teror, a mineral water, the only one of its kind at the Canary Islands. In fact the city is called the Lourdes of the Islands.

The city is very beautiful, with many old historic buildings. You may also visit an old Cistercian monastery.

Teror is also a centre for craftsmanship. I bought a beautiful, embroidered table cloth, with matching napkins.

So there should be enough in Teror to draw you to the city. This time around, we did not go there, but I am very happy we visited this historic city, back then.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Memories from my aunts kitchen volume II - divine aubergine, scalloped potatoes and more

Here is another collection of my aunt Hanne's recipes. Divine eggplant, cheese balls, potato pancakes and scalloped potatoes. Read until mouth waters.

Scalloped potatoes
(Photo: Simdaperce)

Peel and cut 4 medium sized potatoes into wafer thin slices. Soak in water for 1/2 hour.

Remove and dry potatoes on paper towels.

Butter a shallow baking dish. Arrange a layer of potatoes, and place dots on butter on top of layer. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Continue with layers of potatoes, butter and seasoning.

Add enough milk or chicken stock to cover potatoes.

Bake in a 350F / 180C oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour until potatoes are tender, but still firm.

Cheese Ball (Serves 12)
(Photo: Christian Bauer)

2 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
8 oz crushed canned pineapples, drained
3 bacon slices, fried crisp and crumbled
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup natural cereal, coarsely crushed

Beat cream and Swiss cheese and mix until well blended.

Stir in pineapple, bacon, celery, Worcester sauce and salt, mix well. Chill until firm.

Form one large or 2 small balls. Chill.

Roll ball(s) in cereal before serving.

Serve with crackers or raw vegetables.

Divine eggplant (Serves 4)

(Photo: Horst Frank)

1 medium eggplant
2 large eggs
1 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup olive oil
15 oz ricotta cheese
14 oz Italian tomato sauce
8 oz Mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 tsp Italian herb seasoning
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Thinly slice eggplant crosswise.

Beat eggs. Dip eggplant in egg, then breadcrumbs. Shake off excess crumbs.

Heat oil in a skillet. Sauter eggplant slices 2 minutes on both sides, one layer at the time. Drain off excess oil on a paper towel.

Use a medium sized baking tray. Start with one layer of eggplant, then cover with ricotta, tomato sauce, mozzarella, seasoning and Parmesan. Make extra layers of eggplant, Ricotta, tomato sauce, mozzarella, seasoning and Parmesan until all ingredients are used.

Bake in a 350F / 180C oven for 20 minutes. Allow dish to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Potato pancakes

(Photo: Boris23)

3 cups potatoes, shredded
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 eggs
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of pepper
2 tbsp parsley, minced
1/4 cup oil

Drain potatoes on paper towels.

Combine all ingredients, except oil, in a large bowl.

Heat oil in a skillet until sizzling. Add mixture, 1/3 cupful, to in skillet. Flatten to shape patties.

Fry 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden. Dry off excess oil on paper towel.

Some conversion from imperial to metric

1 cup = 0,5 pint (23 cl fluid / 550 grams dry goods)
1 pound = 0,453 kilograms
1 pint = 46 cl
1 oz = 28 grams

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Le Gruber, Strasbourg

Le Gruber

This house was from
old time called "Zum kühlem Brunnen"
(By the cold well)
and was built 1651.
It housed over 200
years the chapter
of Strasbourg cathedral.
For over 150 years was in
this house a restaurant
named Bureschenk.
Many well known personal-
ities were in centuries
guests in this guesthouse.

This 350 year old house is found close to the cathedral. It is one of those charming ginger-bread houses found around in Strasbourg city centre.

I have a special memory from the present restaurant. Le Gruber, the restaurant found here today, was a favourite when I visited, and I had a small flirt going on with one of the garcons working there.

Then as now they serve Alsatian food. I particularly recall a dish served that really tasted great, pheasant in white wine sauce. This is certainly a place to return to and remember, and may, who knows, continue where I left 30 years ago.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Traveling with fluid medication

Life is full of learning experiences, and what to do when you know something new (to you). Answer: Share it. Due to an infection and a coming travel, I had to learn how to bring necessary fluid through the strict security. Have no fair, you who need coughing mixture, may bring a bottle with more than 1oo ml in your hand luggage under certain conditions.

February 1st: Woke up with a fever, a terrible cough, headache, and a bitterly sore throat. My first thought - God I've got the flu, and I am leaving in 6 days.

A made an appointment to go to meet my physician on Wednesday 4th, and was diagnosed with a light lung inflammation, caused possibly by a bacteria. The remedy - a long cure of antibiotics, and Cosylan, a mixture containing among other things low levels of morphin.

I suddenly had 2 problems. The first is that Morphine is classified as a hard drug, and bringing medication containing such a substance may complicate matters. I asked my physician what to do. She wrote me a declaration that it was a prescription drug, and that I was definitely no drug user.

The second problem appeared at my chemist - the size of the bottle. 300 ml, is far over the amount you may carry through security and bring in you hand luggage. The worst thing is that the content is dark and sticky, and tastes terrible (it is supposed to, I have been told, it works better then). The consequence of the bottle breaking in my suitcase would be horrific.

What to do? I called Oslo Airport, and my fear was laid to rest. I was told that I was allowed to bring excess amounts through security if I could get a written confirmation that it was a prescription drug, and the declaration from my doctor would definitely do.

So there are hope for the ill. I would however say that this is Oslo Airport, and I would take an extra check if you are posed with the same problem that I had. The security regulations should, be standardized, at least for travel within the EU, so I do not think you will meet any problem.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hakkebøf - a Danish treat

Hakkebøf is a genuine Danish specialty. Coarsely ground beef made into generous sized hamburgers served with thick, brown gravy. A week and a half ago I tasted a few very decent ones, and believe it or not - they came out of a can.

For me most canned ready made meals are no alternative to food prepared from scratch. As I and my good pal Terje did some grocery shopping on our way back from Sweden, a few months ago, he highly recommended a can displayed. 6 Jaka bøffer in gravy, produced by the Danish Tulip group, containing in total 840 grams, or around a pound and a half.

Tuesday 3rd, I was home with a flu, and needed a quick dinner and found the Hakkebøf in my refrigerator. I opened it and was surprised to see that the six hakkebøffer were quite small, and the amount of sauce larger, making it suitable for two, rather than three dinners.

I separated bøffer from the gravy and placed them in an oven proof dish. I chopped one medium sized onion and fried the lightly in oil, before adding 2 tbsp of sweet chili sauce to create a good balance.

I poured the gravy over the meat, and placed in a medium hot oven (170C / 350F), until the sauce bubbled and bøfferne was heated through.

Hakkebøffer from Jaka had a great meat structure, but I was surprised that it had very little seasoning, and could have had more salt and pepper to spice them up. Still, when adding the delicious brown gravy, it ended up like a winner.

So if you see this brand in an Danish or Swedish shop, it is worth buying, but fortify the gravy in order to get the maximum experience.