Saturday, March 14, 2009

Chicken breast Jeanette


















I visited my good friend Laila last weekend. She had no clue, as to what to serve when I arrived Friday evening. Jeannette, one of her colleagues, gave her a very easy and tasty chicken dish. This will only take 10-15 minutes to prepare. The Indonisean Sambal oelek gives the dish a great kick. If you do not have Sambal, ordinary chili powder will do. If you want it less hot, add less chili. I will give credit to Lailas colleague, by calling it Chicken Breast Jeanette.


For four people you will need:

4 chicken breasts
1 tbsp butter
One leek, finely sliced
2 containers (600 ml / 1 pint) light creme fraiche or sour creme
2-3 tbsp Sambal oelek
1-2 teaspoon sugar
150 – 200 grams / 5-7 oz cheddar, gruyere, or jarlsberg cheese

Fry chicken breasts in hot butter until brown. Allow to cool.

Place sliced leek in bottom baking dish, place chicken breasts on top of the leeks.

Mix creme fraiche, Sambal oelek and sugar in a bowl. Pour over chicken breasts until covered. Add cheese on top. Bake in hot oven (200C/400 F) for 30-35 minutes.

Serve with rice.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Five star airline – five star price?




















This week Skytrax awarded six airlines the highest five star ranking. All the airlines were Asian, a sign that Europe and US airlines are lagging behind in standard. I wondered whether the five star airlines had a price level that reflected their newly awarded status and decided to check it out. I found that you may, if ordering on the net, find that these high class air carriers offer prices competing with some of the established European airlines, but not always. On some destinations the prices of the "Tiger airlines" were mile high, compared to its competitors.


The 6 airlines awarded five stars in 2009 by Skytrax were:
I decided March 6th to check the prices offered by these airlines on services from London, Paris, and Frankfurt to their home base and compare them with prices offered by British Airways, Air France and Lufthansa on the same flights. I did neither compare flight times nor any stopovers, but decided to make a comparison from a low budget perspective only.

I checked prices from Europe to the destination, departing May 14th with return May 23rd . Prices compared were in GBP for London and EUR for Paris and Frankfurt. Where prices appeared in other currencies it was calculated to pounds and euros after their value that day.

Qatar Airlines.

I checked prices from Europe to Doha. Prices varied with close to 2000 Euros - for an economy ticket!! The cheapest ticked was 443 GBP with British Airways from London Heathrow, and the most expensive was 2354 EUR with Lufthansa. I had to double check, whether I, accidentally had booked business, but I had not.

Qatar airlines managed the competition well. On the distance London Doha, it was only 16% more expensive than its competitor, but 16% cheaper than Air France and 73% cheaper than Lufthansa. That was the greatest difference in price in my findings.

Singapore Airlines

I checked prices to Singapore. There were not the same differences in prices compared with flights to Doha. The cheapest ticked was 520 EUR with Lufthansa from Frankfurt, and the most expensive was 825 EUR with Air France.

Singapore airlines competed on an equal level with Air France and British Airways. On the distance London Singapore it was 19% cheaper than its competitor, and 4% cheaper than Air France. On the service from Frankfurt it ended up 27% more expensive than Lufthansa.

Asiana Airlines.

I checked prices to Incheon intl airport in Seoul. This was a distance where the traditional European airlines had an advantage. The cheapest ticked was 572 EUR with Lufthansa, and the most expensive was 2314 EUR with Asiana from Seoul to Paris.

Qatar airlines lost out to both Air France and Lufthansa, On the distance London Seoul, it was strangely 58% cheaper than British Airways, but 183% more expensive than Air France and 216% over the price offered by Lufthansa.

Kingfisher Airlines.

I checked prices to Bangalore. The only prices to compare were with British Airways as the two ther airlines did not offer tickets from neither Frankfurt nor Paris. The cheapest ticked was 435 GBP with British Airways from London Heathrow, and the most expensive was 481 GBR with Kingfisher.

Kingfisher airlines managed the competition well. On the distance London Bangalore it was only 10% more expensive than its competitor.

Cathay Pacific

I checked prices to Hong Kong. The cheapest ticked was offered at 375 GBP with British Airways from London Heathrow, and the most expensive was 793 EUR with Air France.

Cathay Pacific managed the competition very well. On the distance London Hong Kong, it was only 7% more expensive than its competitor, but 16% cheaper than Air France and 35% cheaper than Lufthansa.

Malaysia Airlines

When trying to book flights with British Airways on the dates, and even made a request on other dates I got the following message.

We have not been able to find any available seats for the itinerary you requested. The most common reasons for this are:
  • You may have requested a route at a time of the year when we don't fly it - although that route may operate at other times. (Editors remark: I tried other dates but got the same answer)
  • We may not fly at all on part or all of the routes that you have chosen. (Editors remark: The flight map showed a non-stop service from London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur)
  • Your requested itinerary may only be possible with more than six separate flights. Unfortunately ba.com can only book journeys with a maximum of six flights. (Editors remark: Non-stop flight available)
Malaysia Airlines does not have operate flights to Frankfurt, so the only airline we may compare is with Air France.

Malaysia Airlines managed the competition with Air France very well. On the distance Paris - Kuala Lumpur, Air France was 87% more expensive than its competitor.

Conclusion

Five star airlines are absolutely to consider when traveling to destination where they have connections. On most of the flights Enjoy Food & Travel has looked at the five star air carriers are either cheaper or competitive compared to the largest European airlines, at least on the two days we looked at. Knowing the internet, you must check yourself, as prices may vary from week to week. This means that the result shown here may not be applicable to other days and destinations. You are therefore advised to check the different alternatives. Cheaper prices may mean longer flight time and stop overs, and this should be taken in account when booking your flights.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

War of the skies - new costs to look out for

Airlines are cutting costs to stay in business. This will affect service on board, as every carrier will let you pay for what used to be free. We did not complain when the free food disappeared, as you may bring your own. Some of the latest costs may be more irritating, and may be perceived as mean by the passengers. Airlines should remember that there are limits to what passengers will accept. Here are a few examples. Would you react to these? I would!!

Going to the toilet? Two euros please!

Going to the toilet while being 33000 feet over earth’s crust may be an uncomfortable experience. You are crammed into a tiny space while you are forced to do the bare necessities, under turbulent conditions. These visits are not the things you would gladly pay for, and I think most airlines do agree – except Ryanair!

Ryanairs boss is the master of pricing their services, piece by piece. If you pay one euro or two for a ticket, paying the same price for a visit to the toilet would, according to O'Leary, not matter, but when paying for additional booking, seats, luggage, hand luggage, having to pay a Euro to go to the loo, is closer to a no go area.

For those of you that may think I am joking, I am not. Ryanair is seriously considering letting you pay to go to the toilet on board from April 1st. You may book the number of visits ahead on the net, and if you either suffer from prostate problems or if you are a frequent flyer, you may buy a prepaid card. If you book on the net you get two visits for the price of one.

I have to say that this is certainly one of the most stupid ideas ever!!! I sincerely hope fliers will use their power, and allow Ryanair to fly with empty planes. Pecunia non olet!!

Would you like a blanket? 800 krónur please

I love Icelandair, so I am sad to tell when they have a seriously bad idea. Icelandair has the best connection to the US, and the airline should try to make a serious effort to keep guests loyalty to this very competitive service. The airline has however been tempted to charge you for blankets and pillows, through their new travel package.

What is a nicer thing to have, when gliding in the sky at cruising altitude than a blanket to cling to, and allowing your head to rest on a soft pillow. It is stupid to charge anyone5 Euros or 800 Icelandic krónur for these objects of consolation and comfort, even though you are allowed to keep them afterwards.

Who would fill up the valuable space of your hand luggage with a pillow and a blanket? Most of us would rather cruise without these necessities, but it would not be the same experience.

So a serious prayer to the Icelandair management, it may give a few extra euros income, but you risk losing more in traveler loyalty and sympathy.

Ryanair enforce new rules on luggage and hand luggage

I am losing my sympathy with Ryanair. There is no end to the creativity of its founder Michael O’Leary to cut costs for the airline or charging you with new inventive fees. The two areas Ryanair will target now is check in of luggage and the amount of hand luggage allowed on board.

The world according to Ryanair would be passengers travelling to their destinations with one small piece of hand luggage, and they are working hard to force the traveler into its image . First they are removing all check-in points, replacing them with check-in machines and luggage drop. This is not the worst of their ideas, but a step that many airlines has taken to reduce costs. They will also open the net for check-in. This may be a win-win for the airline and the passengers.

When it comes to hand luggage the airline will vehemently enforce a strict one piece of hand luggage – only! This would be reasonable if travelers try to bring oversized luggage on the plane.

If you, however, should choose to do some tax-free shopping – be aware, you may be fined by Ryanair for those extra shopping bags. The airline police will enforce a one piece of hand luggage in such a manner that you risk leaving the bottles of wine, spirits and cigarettes you bought or pay 40 Euros to the airline. If you do not accept this policy they may refuse entry to the plane - and future flights.

There is only one thing to say to this, my fellow travelers. This airlines deserves bankruptcy, and I am glad to say, with a 110 million Euro deficit for the three last quarters of 2008, that Ryanair is on its way there. Good riddens!! Let us have budget airlines that respect their travelers. Air Berlin may be a good example. They even serve food on their flights – free!

If that was not enough, Ryanair will make some of their services luggage free, that means that you will only be allowed you 10 kilo hand luggage on board. Who travels on vacation with one piece of hand luggage – only? I do not, and I do not intend to.

Even budget airlines live off their passengers, and there are definitely limits to what they may do, in order to save money. I would rather pay a price that involves a service that is predictable, and does not involve hidden costs and passenger harassment. Ryanair is certainly not an airline to be trusted in that respect.

(Photo: Ruthann)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Coming up on Enjoy Food & Travel - Gothenburg




















I am always looking for new traveling experiences. It does not always have to be expensive. I and some friends decided to visit the largest city nearest to Oslo, Göteborg. Located on Sweden's east coast, it is just 3,5 hours away from Oslo. We found that a visit here in March does not have to be expensive. In fact only NOK 1400 per person (175 Euros) for two days, included two nights in a double room in a four star hotel and a round trip ticket. That is a price hard to compete with!!!! So coming up on Enjoy Food & Travel in March - Göteborg, Sweden.


How to get there

It is very easy to get from Oslo to Göteborg, by several kinds of public transportation. The most expensive way is to take a plane from Oslo airport. It will cost you around NOK 2000, and including transportation to and from airports, check in time, it is by no means the smartest way to get there.

If you use your own car, the city is around 3 hours drive from Oslo on good roads, but why bother? Avoid the steering wheel, and book a trip on the train or even better the bus. It will cost you from NOK 550 to around NOK 1000 per person, round trip.

We decided to take the new comfortable buservice run by Bus4You. Buses with fewer seats and more leg space and free WIFI-connection. In this way I may write a story or two on my way to the destination. The price tag? Only 544 NOK for a round trip ticket, seat reservation included. Who could beat that!!!!

SAS Radisson Hotel Scandinavia - luxury on a budget

Travel to and accomodation in Sweden is cheaper for Norwegians, as the Swedish krone is worth less than 80% of its Norwegian counterpart. I chose to find a hotel via my favourite hotel reservation site, the German www.hrs.de. I found double rooms priced from SEK 550 and up.

A hot deal was the SAS Radisson Hotel Scandinavia, located in the city centre, a stone's throw away from gthe Central Station and Nordstan, the main shopping district in the city. A four star hotel with swimming pool, fitness studio, spacious rooms (35 square metres / 350 square ft) and even the breakfast was included. This sounds too good to be true, but it is, so I booked a room for two nights. I do look forward to a luxury break.

What to do?

There are so much to do in Sweden's second largest city. One place we will go is Saluhallen, the city's food market. Here you get a smell of the continent, as meat, vegetables, fish and spices are offered from the small stalls.

Another place I will revisit is the Universeum, a giant building under glass where you may wander from the landscape found in Scandinavian mountains to a large rain forest under glass, where even tropical insects fly around free.

Fine dining

I have made some research, and found that there are restaurants offering good food at all prices. The city has a number of Michelin star restaurants, and Fond as been given a favourable review by the New York Times. It will cost you around 500-7o0 NOK (65 - 90 Euros) for a five course dinner. Not frightening for a gourmet exdperience.

From my previous visit I particularly remember a great patisserie offering delicious cakes and open sandwiches at a ridiculous price. I will have to find, as it was well worth visiting. Göteborg is also known for its seafood, and the fish soup at Sjöbaren at Haga has been recommended at the net. I will have to try that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Memories from my aunts kitchen III - American Pie(s)




















Quiche or pies are easy to make and delicious with a crispy salad and a good glass of red wine. My aunts clippings has five different varieties from the indulgent and rich to the more healthy. Here are three of those American pies to choose from, choose the one that fits your occasion.


Broccoli pie (Serves 6)

One or two sheets of pastry (suitable for a 25 cm / 9 inch baking dish)
300 grams / 10 oz of broccoli, parboiled
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp of butter
1 cup single cream or milk
3 eggs
Salt, pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground
160 grams / 6 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp flour
dried herbs

Roll pastry until it fits the baking tray. Fill the pastry and place baking paper on top of pastry, the fill up with dried peas or beans to prevent shrinking. Bake pastry in a 215 C/ 425F oven for 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool.

Cook onion in margerin until tender.

Mix eggs, cream / milk, and seasoning in bowl. Toss cheese and flour and add to the egg and milk mixture. Place broccoli and onion on the pastry shell. Pour over the milk, egg and cheese mixture. Bake in a 175C / 350F oven for 30 minutes or until set. Allow to rest before serving.

Swiss salmon pie (Serves 6)

One or two sheets of pastry (suitable for a 25 cm / 9 inch baking dish)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp of butter
200 grams / 8 oz Emmentaler or swiss cheese, grated
200 grams / 7 oz salmon filet, poached and flaked
1 tbsp lemon juice
25 cl / 8 oz sour cream
3 eggs
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup green peepers, chopped
Bread crumbs

Roll pastry until it fits the baking tray. Fill the pastry and place baking paper on top of pastry, the fill up with dried peas or beans to prevent shrinking. Bake pastry in a 215 C/ 425F oven for 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool.

Cook onion in margerin until tender.

Arrange cheese in bottom of the pastry shell. Toss salmon with lemon juice and arrange over cheese.

Beat together eggs, sour cream, onion, flour and salt in a bowl. Pour the mixture over salmon. Top with green peppers and bread crumbs. Bake in a 175C / 350 F for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to rest before serving.

Cheeseburger quiche (serves 6)

One or two sheets of pastry (suitable for a 25 cm / 9 inch baking dish)
120 grams / 4 oz Cheddar cheese, grated
220 grams / 1/2 lb ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup single cream or milk
1/4 cup of ketchup

Roll pastry until it fits the baking tray. Fill the pastry and place baking paper on top of pastry, the fill up with dried peas or beans to prevent shrinking. Bake pastry in a 215 C/ 425F oven for 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool.

Brown beef, pour off excess fat. Stir in onion and salt. Cook until beef is tender.

Mix egg, cream and ketchup and beat until smooth. Stir in beef mixture and cheese. Pour into prepared shell.

Bake in a 175C / 350 F for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to rest before serving.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Saint Bonaventure's Church Lyon

The present church, begun in 1325, and completed in 1494 formed the centrepiece of a Franciscan monastery (The Franciscans were also known as the Cordeliers as account of the cord they used as a belt.) It was here that St. Bonaventure, the cardinal and superior general of the order, died and was buried in 1274, and that the chapels of the various guilds were housed; the coats of arms of some of these guilds may be seen on certain arches. The monastery was destroyed in 1790 and the church was a period used as a granary before resuming its original function as a place of worship in 1806.

Another of the many churches scattered around in Lyon. Saint Bonaventure's church is located on the other side of the river Saone.

This text is written on a plaque on the wall of the church. The authorities of Lyon has done a great job telling the story of many of the old buildings in the city centre.

The church is sadly very dirty and run down. Many of the old buildings in Lyon are marked by soot and other pollution, and are in need of renovation. The church of Saint Bonaventure is not among the most impressive of churches, and may not get the attention than larger churches will get.

Still the church of Saint Bonaventure has beautiful details as these ornate frames found around the main door delicate as the finest lace and a great example of the Gothic architecture.

The church marks the spot where the 8th leader of the Fransiscan order Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio was buried in 1274. He was christened Giovanni de Fidanza in Bagnoregni in 1221 and was a distinguished scholar.

He was canonized 1482 and declared doctor of the church in 1588. He died suspiciously July 15th 1274 having attended the second council of Lyon and it was rumored that he had been poisoned. This painting by the Francisco de Zubarán (1640-1650) shows Saint Bonaventure as he revies the envoys of the Byzantine emperors at the council of Lyon.

His remains were burnt during the the French Revolution, and the only relic from him is his arm and hand, that wrote the "Commentary on the Four Books of Peter Lombard." It is now kept in Bagnoregio, where he was born.

So here is another building that is a witness to the history. Another example of the importance of Lyon as a religious and cultural centre during 2000 years.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

What to consider when booking a Diving safari




















Are you tempted by Lena Holmströms Red Sea adventure? If so, remember when going on a diving vacation, your own safety is crucial. Here are a few pieces of advice on what (not) to do before you book such an adventure. Do remember that these vacations are not offered only in the Red Sea but in a wind range of destinations. Maybe you can find one closer to where you live?


If you consider booking a Red Sea diving safari it is important to check whether the company that organize the trip is reliable. One important thing to remember is to make sure that the divers have free access to a pressure chamber in case of emergency. In addition to this, you as a traveler must have an insurance that also cover incidences that may occur during diving and if treatment in a pressure chamber is needed.

A health certificate is compulsory in some countries if you are going on a diving trip. This will be vehemently checked by the diving centres.

In order to be sure that the company you plan to book your trip is reliable, you are advised to ask your local diving association or a diving gear dealer whether they have a company that they would recommend, or whether there are companies you should stay away from.

Diving safaris - some recommended links

Here are some links to a few sites that offer Diving safaris.
Have a nice (and safe) trip!!!