Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gran Canaria in my window

I did some more shopping after my Canarian experience. When visiting the local Supermercado, I found this little package of native seeds. What a great idea to have part of the islands fauna in your window. But beware – do not bring live flowers back – you may spread plant pests to new areas.

Last weekend I provided my plants with more space and soil. I decided to plant some of the seeds I had bought at Gran Canaria. The package contained seeds from different native plants. Among those mentioned on the package were:

Dracaena Draco – the Canary Island Dragon tree

The Canary Island Dragon tree is a plant native to the Canarias, Madeira, Cape Verde, Azores and western Morocco. Traveling around you see this plant, with much of the appearance of a giant yucca everywhere. They have huge trunks and long, pointed leaves on top.

The Canariy Island Dragon tree is said to grow to be hundreds of years of age. In fact there is one specimen at Los Vinos in Tenerife (right) estimated to be 650 years old. They are easy to grow. A friend of mine gave me a plant grown from seeds 25 years ago, and it is still growing in my living room. I look forward to a possible new generation growing in my window.

Phoenix Canariensis - Canarian Date Palm

The Phoenix Canariensis beautiful palm tree is closely related to the date palm. It is a hardy plant that may be, and is grown in most subtropical and temperate climates. They are easy to buy in local flower shops, as well. What fun to grow this beautiful plant from seeds. It gives a completely different provenience to the plant.

Bird of Paradise - Strelitzia Reginae

The Bird of Paradise is closely related to the banana plant, and is found growing throughout the Gran Canaria.

It is actually a South African flower, so the fact that it is found in this seed packet is slightly misleading. Still it belongs to the botanic memories from this trip, and I hope it will sprout in my window.

Life is like a box of chocolates…

And there were so many other seeds in the packet, so who knows – we will be in for some surprises. I will keep your progress of my small horticultural project.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Nodee - sushi in hyperspace

I and Enjoy Food & Travel co-writer Susanne Koch met for an after work snack last Friday. We were both craving for sushi, and after a short deliberation we decided to visit Nodee. We had both heard of this new Japanese restaurant, but had never visited. Nodee was truly sensational, and will be revisited for a full story here at Enjoy Food & Travel.

Nodee is located at the Majorstuen, an area at Oslo's west end, a restaurant best described as mainly Japanese but with a strong world fusion element.

We decided to buy two sashimi and two maki dishes to share. I have to say that we found Nodee to be one of the most sensational restaurants we have visited in Oslo for years. We enjoyed a sensational meal for around €50 a person, a price not hard to beat in one of the worlds most expensive capitals.

Sadly I did not bring my camera or notebook, so I cannot give a full review of the exquisite restaurant. But have no fear - I will return soon in order to provide a full review of this great eatery.

This is what we ordered:
  • Mixed sashimi new style - lobster, trout, hamachi, and scallops served with the house sauce
  • Sashimi white & red on ice - white fish and salmon with ponzu sauce, spring onion and lime
  • Ice bear roll - king crab, flying fish roe, cucumber, foie gras, avocado and wasabi mayonnaise (!!!)
  • Tempura maki - scampi, avocado and cucumber with mango sauce
It was a sensational world of beautiful presentation, tastes and textures brought to you by a very professional staff. Nodee is in a completely different league than any other of the Japanese restaurants I have visited in Oslo. I highly recommend it to any of you that love sushi.

For those of you that wants to book a table tonight - here is the address:

Middelthunsgate 25A, 0368 Oslo
Phone +47 22 93 34 50
Visit the restaurant website here

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Las Gacelas Apartments - Playa Del Ingles

We thought we had struck a good deal when we ordered our trip over the internet. 3800 NOK or €475 for a round trip flight ticket, one week in a two room appartment, transportation to and from the airport, and food on flight included. We were however warned that the stay at Las Gacelas Apartments could be a disappointing experience, as a few guests had left some damaging reviews on the internet for all to see. I do not know whether it was a disaster, considering the price we paid, but Apartment Las Gacelas were certainly no first class experience.

Location: BBBB

Las Gacelas Apartments is located in the centre of Playa del Ingles within walking distance of amenities as the Yumbo and Prisma shopping centres and approximately a 10 minute walk from the beach. There are buses going to the beach as well as to Las Palmas and Puerto de Mogán nearby, making it perfect as a starting point to discover the islands. It is not particularly scenic, but it definitely helps to have a large palm tree and a view to the sea from your balcony. Here you have little film to give you an impression.

Service: BBB

When arriving at the Las Gacelas Apartments we were not given the best reception. The man behind the desk acted more like a caretaker / janitor than a receptionist, but we were given our keys, and that was basically our contact with the staff.

Room: BBB-

We had ordered a two room apartment, i.e. living room with kitchenette and balcony, bathroom and bedroom.

The flat was located on the 4th floor. It was very Spartan in any sense of the word. It felt small and crammed. There were one uncomfortable sofa, a table, and a bench with a pay TV (!). There were also a small dining table with two chairs. There were a cooker with two heaters, a large refrigerator and a generous amount of kitchen storage, with cups, plates and cutlery for three, and with pots and pans to cover the most basic needs.

It had a spacious tiled bathroom and a small bedroom. The bedroom was located on the back side of the complex, saving us from traffic noise during nights. Here you had a large, but unpractical closet. The beds were terrible, comparable to those found in a cell block in any penitentiary. The thin blankets made us cold during the cool Canary nights. I really missed my duvet.

There were also a safe where you could deposit you valuables for 10 Euros.

The living room were very badly maintained. There were numerous marks on the furniture. The walls had not been painted for years, and the yellow colours varied in brightness, as I suspect that they had not been cleaned for years. There were room for the refrigerator to be integrated in the kitchen, but due to size, this had not been done. Curtains had been partly torn, and there were several marks or nails from where different decorative elements once hanged.

Bathroom was well maintained, with no major flaws. Hygienic standard at the Las Gacelas Apartments was, with the exception of the dirty walls, satisfactory.

Breakfast: unrated

Las Gacelas Apartments is a self catering apartment complex. Breakfast or any other meal are expected to be prepared in your flat or enjoyed in one of the restaurants nearby.

Facilities: BB

The Las Gacelas Apartments had very little to boast of, of facilities. The one (and only) plus was the large swimming pool in front of the complex. It was continually cleaned and maintained, and it was a great joy to have a swim there. There was a rather uninviting area by the reception, where you could sit down, but I was never tempted to. You could buy cold beverages here, and I (suspect) it was a PC available for guests for money. We, however, had our own PCs.

We were told that we could subscribe to a wireless service, and we found Waivenet Canarias offered such a service for 20 Euros per week. We found that the wireless access was slow or nonexistent in our flat and we had to go tp the Yumbo centre nearby to get proper access. Even here the access was slow at times, and I do not recommend this service.

The price: BBBB

We had paid for the hotel as part of a package. 3800 NOK (460 Euro) for plane ride, transportation to and from the hotel, and 7 nights is cheap, and as most of the price is for the air travel, the Las Gacelas Apartments must have been cheap.

Total Score: BBB+ (3,4 points)

The Las Gacelas Apartments is a cheap accommodation at Playa Del Ingles in more than one sense of the word. The relatively decent score is due to the price tag (the score without the price would be BBB - 2,9 points). I will however NEVER visit Las Gacelas Apartments again, due to the flaws mentioned here, and I would hesitate to recommend it any other than to those who are looking for a inexpensive place to stay and do not care about comfort.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

SAS Radisson Hotel Oslo Airport

(Photo Kjetil Ree) On our way to Gran Canaria, we decided to have one night at SAS Radisson Oslo Airport Hotel, as we were to catch a very early flight. From here we had a short walk over to the termkinal building. That was not the only asset of the hotel. Staying at the Radisson SAS Oslo Airport Hotel was a great experience!

Location: BBBB

The Radisson SAS Oslo Airport Hotel is located by the terminal building of Oslo Airport, perfect when you have an early flight to catch, as we had. The hotel is easily accessible directly from the airport, as well as the train terminal and bus stop. What the area has of practical assets, it lacks in beauty. This is an airport hotel, and the environment may therefore not be regarded as neither beautiful nor scenic.

Service: BBBBB

When arriving at the Radisson SAS Oslo Airport Hotel you are met by a very professional staff at the reception, as well as in bars and restaurant. This is certainly an area where the hotel chain has succeeded.

Room: BBBBB-

We had ordered an ordinary double room, and was pleasantly surprised of size and quality.

The room was located by one of the sharp angled corners of the building. This meant that it was very spacious and light. The room was 20-25 square meters in size with all kinds of commodities. It had a retro look with at 1950 styled furniture, well colour coordinated in light shades and brightly coloured curtains.

There were storage space in abundance, ironing board, trousers press, coffee machine, minibar, and flat screen television. The beds were very comfortable – I just wished we would have had the same beds at the Canary Islands.

The bathroom lacked the same spaciousness as the room, but were practical with generous space for toiletries. It had a bath tub (hallelujah!) and hair drier.

Both bathroom and room were very well maintained, not much to put your finger on – no cracked tiles, marks on walls or spots on the carpets. The hygiene followed the same high standard.

Breakfast: unrated

I have enjoyed the SAS Radisson hotel breakfasts before and have always left very satisfies. At Toot's" restaurant serves all hotel guests "Super Breakfast" from early morning. As our flight sadly left as early as 6.45 AM, and we had to check in 5.45 at the latest, we left before breakfast time. I have no doubt that the breakfast at the Radisson SAS Oslo Airport Hotel would have been as delicious as the ones I have previously enjoyed at the other hotels in this chain.


The Radisson SAS Oslo Airport Hotel is a professional business class hotel with a large number of facilities. You have wireless Internet access free of charge for all registered hotel guests. You get your password and username at the reception. There are several inhouse restaurants and a nice bar where you may enjoy your meals and a good drink during the evening. There is also a fully-equipped sports- and wellness centre offering a solarium, sauna and even a golf simulator with 32 virtual golf courses to choose from.

The Radisson SAS Oslo Airport Hotel has a delicate designer hotel interior with many larger and smaller secluded areas where you may relax with your computer or with a book.

The price: BBBB

At NOK 1190 for two, you are offered a superb hotel experience in a very pleasant distance from the airport terminal. It certainly is worth this price to rise in the morning and just walk over to the airport terminal to get your early plane. This is not the last time I have enjoyed at stay here.

Rating the SAS Radisson Oslo Airport Hotel Experience: BBBB+ (4,28 points)

An excellent choice for those that want to catch an early plane. Very professionally run hotel comfortably located by the Oslo Airport terminal.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An island in bloom

We left a cold, inhospitable Norway, and were moved to an island in bloom in only five hours. It is difficult to describe the feeling when landing on a beautiful green island outside Africa, seeing palm trees, cacti, and other exotic plants along your way. Here are a few botanical highlights from this beautiful spot outside the North African coast.

The Canary Islands is a Spanish province, and on these islands you have a pleasant climate all year around. We visited Gran Canaria where you find the largest airport and the largest city of the province.

The North of Gran Canaria has a subtropical climate. Here you have more humidity, as there are far more rainy days than the southern part that enjoys a North African climate with a very dry and hot climate. This is the part of Gran Canaria we stayed in. Due to artificial irregation, there are beautiful gardens and park even here, in the dry desert like landscape. Here are a few of the flowers we saw on our way.

A Golden trumpet - a Solandra maxima

Look at this breathtaking yellow flower! We found it during a morning strole from our hotel on February 9th. A firework of shades of yellow and dark red!

It is called the Golden Chalice Vine, Cup of Gold or Hawaiian Lily, and is endemic to Mexico and Central America.

This huge flower is an impressive sight, and when touching it, it felt like leather, as it folded up. It appeared in a shrubbery climbing on a fence, and the different kinds of plants protected the bungalows located on the other side.

An old acquaintance - Possibly a Bauhinia purpurea?

I had seen this beautiful purple flower before, another place in Africa. October 4th 2007 I walked down a street in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, and spotted the same tree in bloom.

I am a little in doubt whether it is a Bauhinia purpurea, a flowering tree nativ to South Eastern Asia.

It is still a breathtaking flower with shades in white and purple, and it is amazing to see such a tree in bloom.

Blue beauty in Puerto de Mogán

Puerto de Mogán is a beautiful spot I will return to later. When wandering through the beautiful narrow passages in this town you find an abundance of flowers and plants climbing on the facades of the houses.

As this blue beauty, found in a shady street. You just wish you were there - again!!

My friend Dagfinn told me that this was a Thunbergia Grandiflora. Read the story here.

Tulipa africana (Spathodea campanulata)

These magnificent flowers were found on a Spathodea campanulata, a tree native to tropical Africa, planted along the streets of Playa Del Ingles. They were huge and were found in large numbers on each tree.

There were many buds on each branch, and as soon as one had died another opened up, revealing its bright red and yellow colours.

Strelitizia nicolai - the white Bird of Paradise

Strelitzia, or bird of paradise, is a beautiful orange and blue flower. It belongs in fact to the Banana family, and here you have one of its relatives.

This pale and white blue flower grow on a tall plant that originates from South Africa, with a bundle of large intensely green leaves. You can easily see that it related to a banana plant.

This is also a plant I have seen before in the enclosed garden of the Sundown Ranch Hotel, close to the Pilanesberg National Park north west of Johannesburg.

Is it a Daisy?

No, this is definitely not a Daisy. It is the leaves, not the flower that gives it away.

We found this brightly red flower in a low bed at Faro, on the southern most tip of the Canary Island. It adorns a hardy plant with thick water filled leaves, that may survive long droughts.

Flowering cacti

Most of us that have one or two cacti in our window, will never see it flower. When flowering, most cacti have beautiful flower.

We found these beautiful yellow flowers on a cactus planted at Faro.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Canarian shopping bag

A week has passed since I came back from Gran Canaria. One of my favourite tasks when travelling is to bring some of the flavours from my destination back with me, so February 13th I roamed through my local Supermercado and bought €26 worth of food stuff. Here is my culinary shopping bag.

Sopa de Marisco y Arroz (Shellfish soup with rice)

You may find me rather stupid to bring dried soup mixes back from a place where fresh fish and vegetables are found in such an abundance. I would normally have refrained from this, if the pictures on the packages of the two soups had not been so delicious.

I am also fascinated that Knorr adjust to the different markets and make soups that please the Spanish crowd as these ones. The Norwegian varieties of soups, casseroles or sauces are not to be boasted of, but the Spanish products may be a surprise - who knows?

I will find out, and you may always add some double cream and sherry, that will do the trick - every time!!

Crema de Langusta (Lobster cream soup)

Look at that lobster tail on this packet! My mouth started watering immediately, and I needed a packet to prepare at home.

The fact that lobster soup is bought in a packet, and not prepared from the shell of the real thing, makes you wonder what perception people have of food.

Still, I am one of the many millions Knorr has lured into buying a luxury item , dried and sealed in a packet. If disappointed some double cream may come in handy!

Mejillones en escabeche (Pickled mussels in vinegar)

At last something that has a shape found in nature.

I love mussels, and these are perfect as a snack before a good meal. Find a toothpick for each and people may stab mussels until all are gone, over a good glass of white wine or cava.

Mussel Paté with Brandy (Mouse de Mejillon al Brandy)

Here is another food item made from mussels. This mousse originates from the Spanish mainland, as a local specialty of the city of Aguiño in Galicia, just north of the Portuguese border.

I have no idea to serve it, except the traditional way - to spread it on crackers or crostinis to follow fore drinks, e.g. to a dinner party.

Sardine & Tomato Paste

This dinky little jar of sardine & tomato paste is actually manufacured in the UK by Princes Food & Drink group.

Norwegians love their mackerel in tomato sauce, and "Stabbursmakrell" is a genuine part of my childhood. The mix of sardines and tomatoes feels Mediterranean. It provides instant sunshine to a piece of toast or a crisp cracker.

Editors remark: Opened up glass and had a taste of the content. I am sad to say that the sardine and tomato sauce did not provide the ultimate culinary experience. Lack of salt and sugar made the paste rather bland and uninteresting.

Tuna and Mayonnaise Paste

Another dinky British jar ready for some crackers. You may really believe that I am a party person. It is true that I entertain a lot, meaning that having these spreads in the house make it easier to serve a snack in a hurry.

Buying a mix of Tuna and mayonnaise is however a little waste, as preparing a good paste or a mousse from scratch with tuna in jelly, Hellmann's mayo, onions or chives and salt and pepper is easy and much better. If you want it chunky, serve it immediately, if you want it smooth, use a hand mixer.

Bon appetit!

Estirpa Negra con Roquefort

This product originates from Fregenal de la Sierra by the city of Badajoz in the Extramadura region. This region borders the southern part of Portugal, and the nearest larger city is Sevilla.

This product is made from livers from the Black Iberian pig and 8% of Roquefort cheese.

I love these rich patés, that may be emjoyed with a good glass of sherry or a Sauternes or late harvest wines.

Quesos Flor Valsequillo - Gran Canaria

A genuine Canarian product - at last! This semi cured cheese with pimento originates from the region of Valsequillo, located in the mountains just up from the city of Telde close to the islands main airport.

The island has a small agricultural production. When we visited the island 15 years ago, there was only ultra pasteurized milk available, whereas now there are local cheese and fresh milk in the shops.

Chorizo Pamplona

Spanish chorizo is such a treat. This product is manufactured by Argal, a large firm with a wide range of different products.

This Chorizo is made Pamplona style. Brightly red coloured with large pearls of white fat. This is delicious on a buffet tray with some good rustic bread and aioli. Yum!!!

Oscar Mayer bacon

Oscar Mayer is a well known American brand most famous for its packages of Bologna, based on the Italian Mortadella.

It was therefore a big surprise to find Oscar Mayer in a Spanish Supermercado. I decided to buy a few packages for our breakfast at Playa del Ingles, and I discovered, to my surprise that it was a superior product. So what would be more natural than to buy a package or two for some good Sundays breakfasts. I'm getting already.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Say cheese!!

I read declarations on products I buy far too rarely, but it may be very instructive when you choose to do so. I bought 500 grams of grated cheese of the low cost brand First Price the other day. As I looked into what this product contained, I was very surprised. My question is whether you may call this product cheese.

This is what the producer declare: Grated topping:

Ingredients: skimmed milk, palm oil, salt, whey, acidic culture, colorant (E160a), cheese, (milk, salt, whey, conservation agent (E251), acid regulating substance (E509), acidic culture, potato starch. May contain lysozym from eggs.

Most of these ingredients are known. The funny thing is that this product is only partly based on traditional ingredients. Some deserves a remark.

Palm oil has been the substance producers have turned when they have been forced to switch from trans fats to other oils. Palm oil is one out of very few vegetable oils that are saturated and quite harmful for you.

E160a is a colorant called beta-carotene, found naturally in fruits, but produced chemically to be added to a wide range of product.

E251 is sodium nitrate, added to prevent bacteria to grow in the product particularly Clostridium bitulinum that may produce lethal poisons.

E509 is a calcium chloride is a relatively harmless substance added to keep products fresh.

It also contains lysosyme of eggs.

The First Price is a low price alternative to high quality cheeses, but I have to ask my self whether this cheesy product is cheese? Palm oil, potato starch, enzymes from eggs and genuine cheese are components, and many different chemical substances.

Say cheese! I will certainly read the label when buying cheese next time, and choose a purer product made from traditional ingredients, even if it may cost more.