Saturday, March 28, 2009

The best airport and airliner review sites

By guest writer Per Koch, Pandia

Péter Jacsó from the University of Hawaii covers sites that review the quality of airlines and airports in the latest issue of Online Magazine.

His picks are the Skytrax and Kayak databases.

Skytrax

He writes that there are "many fluffy rankings of airlines and airports in various magazines," but Skytrax is in his opinion the most comprehensive, respectable and independent.

Skytrax have rankings of airlines and reviews of airports based on surveys and interviews, as well as customer reviews and trip reports.

These are the world's best airlines at the moment, according to Skytrax:

  • Asiana Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Kingfisher Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qatar Airways

Skytrax claims to cover 620 airlines and 645 airports. As Péter Jacsó says, however, the real number is somewhat lower.

It is too bad Skytrax haven't got hold of the skytrax.com domain name, though. Too many visitors probably end up at spam sites with spellings similar to www.airlinequality.com. We first ended up at airlineequality.com. Hm.

Kayak
Péter Jacsó calls Kayak one of the best federated travel search engines around.

(A federated search engine is one that gives you access to information buried in various online databases -- the so-called "hidden web".)

Unfortunately kayak.com insists on redirecting us to a Norwegian version of the site and I have not been able to replicate Jacsó's experience directly.

Kayak is best not in finding the best fares, he says, but in terms of the amount of information provided and in the way it presents information to foster educated choice at a glance.

It presents all the airlines that serve a particular route and the relevant prices. It does not cover all the best budget airlines, though. It does not sell tickets, and should rather be considered as an advanced referral service.

I am impressed with the Norwegian version, as well. And you may actually use the site for booking tickets, as kayak.no.com provides direct links from your selected journey to the online ticket seller TerminalA.

OAG

According to Jacsó the pan is the new Travel Planner Pro database and service of the Official Airline Guide.

In the US it has had a monopoly in print format for decades on airline routing and schedule information, but, Jacsó points out, it is unlikely to survive for long in the Web universe in spite of some recent improvement in its software.

His main complaint is that it is a subscription service prized at US$ 76 per month with a one year subscription as a minimum. Moreover, fares are not shown in conjunction with schedules.

The full article can be downloaded for a fee over at Online.

Per Koch is co-editor of Pandia, a site devoted to search engines.

What wine to serve to parma ham?

Having admired the impressive selection of cured ham and salami at Capris - Italian Delicatessen and Specialties at Saluhallen in Göteborg, I ended up with 100 grams of Parma ham that had aged for 30 months and 100 grams of truffle salami. I planned to serve these two products, thinly sliced, as a starter for my good friend Ketil. I wondered what wine to choose, and decided to ask the staff at our local Vinmonopol. I was recommended a white wine - a dry German Riesling. What a choice.

Markus Molitor Riesling Trocken 2007

This wine is produced by Weingut Markus Molitor, Haus Klosterberg in Bernkastel-Wehlen in Rhineland-Palatinate.

It was a dry wine, just after my taste with distinct fruit (peach, citrus and apple) and mineral character and was recommended to seafood, sushi, Asian food, ham and poultry.

I would certainly have considered a Riesling to sushi or seafood. but I had never considered this wine to salami or ham, but it ended up as a perfect choice. This shows that it may pay off to have an open mind and ask an expert if you are not completely certain what wine to serve to your dinner.

I am happy that I did!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Monkfish with fried potatoes, baked asparagus and Nantua Sauce

















The Monkfish is called the lobster among fish, and here in Norway it is nearly as expensive as lobster. At Erling Moe in Oslo I paid a staggering NOK 340 / €37 per kilo, but it was worth it. It is an exquisite fish with a firm consistency and a delicate taste, and it ended up as a delicious dinner March 20th.

You need around 300 grams or 10z monkfish per serving.

Season with pepper, salt, lemon and dill, or choose your own favourite fish seasoning. I used Tone's Salmon and seafood seasoning, that I bought in the United States, containing dried onion, garlic, lemon peel, dill and other spices.

Fry the fish in butter 4-5 minutes on both sides, until lightly brown, then place in the oven at 180 C / 260F for 8 minutes. My slices were rather thick (5 cm / 3 inches), and you may have to adjust your cooking time according to the size of your fish.

Do not overcook!

Nantua sauce

When I visited Lyon, May 2008, I did some grocery shopping at Monoprix the day I left. Among the products I brought home with me was this can of Nantua sauce, a French classic based on a traditional béchamel, mixed with cream, crayfish butter and crayfish tails.

This particular product, from Monoprix Gourmet, contained 24% lobster, 8% crayfish, creme fraiche from Normandy, white wine, tomato concassée, cognac, seasoning, chicken stock and butter AOC from Poitou-Charentes. Seriously yummie.

I opened the can, and had a taste before I started to prepare it. I found the original product contained too much salt for my taste, so I decided to add a little sweet chili, single cream (10%) and a little more butter at the end of the preparation. This turned the content of the can into a revelation, and the sauce was served in my 150 year old Staffordshire pottery.

You certainly need some greens to such a fish, and what is better than asparagus. A British friend of my sister taught me how to bake asparagus. Bend them until they snap, as that is where the soft part of the asparagus ends and the woody starts, and you will certainly not eat the tough, woody part of the stalk. Alternatively, you can peel the lower part of the asparagus.

Sprinkle with oil seasoning and bake in the oven for 10 minutes with some thinly sliced potatoes.

I am very happy to say that I still have a small slice of Monkfish left and some sauce in my freezer and I will make myself a treat later!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Boston: Food of the world at Quincy Market

Every time I return to Boston, I just have to revisit Quincy Market. It is a stroll through the kitchens of all continents and you may get a free nibble here and there. When I visited September 15th 2008, I got a small skewer with teriyaki chicken, New England Clam Chowder and a small taste of an Indian curry.

What is left is all the delicacies on display. There and then I wished I had appetite for three as walking there is a feast for the eye. I will take you through a small walk in Quincy Market and show you a little of what this great food market has to offer.

Quincy Market has been around nearly 200 years. As the city of Boston grew so did the the demand for shopping space. This prompted the construction of Quincy Market, and the process was initiated and organized by Boston mayor Josiah Quincy III (1772-1864), thus the new market was named after him. Since then, food has been sold to the citizens of Boston here in small shops and stalls.

Baklava - sweets from Bosporus!

I always associate Baklava with Turkey. This sweet, multi-layered cake made from thin phyllo dough, nuts, and honey, is definitely a treat for the carb-junkie, as it will seriously boost your glucose level.

I do not eat more than one slice of Baklava myself, but enjoyed with a strong glass of Turkish tea it is a delicious treat. Here displayed in one of the middle eastern stalls at Quincy Market it certainly looks as good as it tastes, doesn't it?

The taste of New England

There are few things more typical to New England than Lobsters. Found in abundance in the cool waters outside the North Eastern coast, makes this delicacy more affordable here than in other parts of the world.

At Quincy Market you are offered lobster in any shape or form. You can get cold lobster, warm lobster or as here in a lobster roll.

A lobster roll is most often a fine roll, sliced in two and filled with a salad made from lobster meat, mayonnaise, and celery. In other parts of the world you are often offered small quantities of lobster meat, when ordering a dish made from this delicacy but as according to the saying "everything is bigger in America", this applies even to the portions of New England lobster served in a bun. They contain a decent amount of succulent meat.

Wrap it up!

Wraps are easy food to eat. This is a package in its own right, as you may eat the content and the wrapping for lunch. Convenient for those in a hurry as well as for the hungry tourist. At a seafood stall at Quincy Market I found these four different wraps on display. I still get hungry looking at them.

From left to right you have:

Chicken Caesar Wrap. Oven roasted. All white meat. Chicken strips. Romain lettuce. Parmesan cheese and finished with creamy caesar dressing. I get dizzy. I love Caesar Salad, but I would have loved to have a few of those crunchy croutons as well, but let us face it, they would have turned soggy.

Albacore Tuna Wrap. All white Albacore Tuna Salad with just enough Mayonnaise. Plum tomatoes and red onions with fresh mixed greens. Fresh tuna has the texture of real beef, and is lean and healthy, but it will certainly not be ruined by some mayo!

Seafood salad wrap. Our seafood salad blend of crab meat and white fish mixed with Mayonnaise. Plum tomatoes and fresh mixed greens.

Roasted chicken wrap. Oven roasted. All white meat. Chicken strips. Plum tomatoes, red onions fresh mixed greens and pesto mayonnaise. What a great idea mix pesto and mayonnaise!!

Now you have the recipe! Make them yourself! Great idea for a picnic or as an easy lunch. I will certainly be inspired to try.

Carrot cake

For those of you concerned with healthy living, a carrot cake may sound like a healthy treat, but I can ensure you, it is not. It is more the choice for carb-junkies, as the mere sight of it will wake that urge.

Carrot cake is, in fact far sweeter than many other cakes I know, and is topped with an equally sticky frosting. Grated carrots are mixed into the batter and will release its sweetness as it softens during baking.

Here at Quincy Market carb-junkies are offered a slice of this sweet sticky treat, with a small carrot made from marzipan (?) on top. Eat you heart out, Bugs bunny!!!

Cheesecake - an American classic

I am really not into cakes, with one exception - I simply love cheesecake. Its creamy succulent consistency flavoured with lemon, strawberry or other fruits.

There is nowhere better to enjoy a cheesecake than the US. There is a wide range of different varieties offered made with different cheeses and flavors, as this one, served with strawberry jam.

More stories on Quincy Market:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Café Prag - Schwerin

The Café Prag is a traditional restaurant located in downtown Schwerin. It is a decent place to enjoy a piece of cake or a simple lunch or dinner. I enjoyed three small dishes (during two days) there and it was enough to make me completely satisfied. One or two delicious pints of good German beer helped as well.

Location: BBBBB-


Café Prag is located in Schloss-strasse, with Schloss Schwerin just down the street. Just by you find old charming houses like the rococo building in number 10. Café Prag is just a short walk from the Pfaffenteig and the railway station.

Service: BBBB+

Decent service, swift but the waiters were not charming or sociable in any way, but they brought the food quickly, so why bother?

Interior & atmosphere: BBBB+

I really liked the interior, traditional in the way you would expect to find in a medium sized German town. Shades of cream and yellow and dark wood. Arched windows and arches in the room flanked by solid columns.

The round tables and chairs were located with a good distance to each other, and the atmosphere felt easy and relaxed.

If you are looking for white napkins, wine glasses on the tables you have to go elsewhere. You get what you need when you order.

Food: BBBB+

(August 21st 2008) Alsatian onion soup: BBBB

Onion soup is, at its best, a delicious lunch. When arriving at the table, I was intrigued by the presentation. It looked very French, indeed, served in a rustic brown ceramic cup. Brown and glistening, topped with a round piece of bread and golden brown cheese.

Sadly the taste was not equally delicious. The cheese was crunchy, all right, but the delicate balance I expected to find in a French Onion soup was not there. It was salt, but adding more would have been a created a more pungent taste balanced with an equal amount of sugar. But where was the sugar? Adding sugar is vital to many dishes, and in an Onion soup it will enforce and enhance the sweetness found in the onions. At the nice price of €3, this soup ended up a little plain.

(August 22nd 2008) Prager toast: BBBB+

Described as fillet of turkey on toast garnished with fresh asparagus and hollandaise sauce. Sounded seriously yummie.

It certainly looked good, and the vital ingredients had an excellent texture. The turkey was succulent and very tender and the asparagus were freshly green and had that reassuring crunch.

The sauce could have had a little more lemon and a little more salt would also have been a good idea, but the toast was all in all a decent dish to tuck into. Price: €5,80.

(August 22nd 2008) Gravlax with mustard sauce: BBBBB-

This was certainly a dish after my taste. Rich, pink, glistening slices of gravad lax sprinkled with dill weed, served with rich, sweet mustard sauce and a little round piece of crunchy rösti potatoes on the side. This was salt and sweetness in perfect balance and harmony.

If you should choose something from the menu at Café Prag I would certainly recommend gravlax as the thing to eat. You may order it either as starter at €6,80 or as a main dish at €10,80.

Beverage: BBBBB

And what better to drink for lunch than a pint of weissbier. Schöfferhofer Weizen, a fresh amber coloured beer. This beer is bottle conditioned and may have sediments. This is certainly a beer for the warm summer days.

Rating the Café Prag experience: BBBBB- (4,53 points)

Café Prag is a traditional yet informal café / restaurant in downtown Schwerin. Decent food at very nice prices. I recommend the toast of the house and the gravlax.

Address:
Café Prag
Schloßstraße 17, 19053 Schwerin
Tel./Fax.: 0385/56 59 09
See official website here

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Palais Rohan - Strasbourg




















Palais Rohan
is a major sight in Strasbourg. It is a beautiful example of baroque architecture, as well as being the home of three of the city's museums. It is named after Cardinal Armand-Gaston-Maximilien de Rohan-Soubise (1674-1749) that ordered its construction. It was completed in 1742.


It was designed by Joseph Massol on the site of the old residence of the Archbishops of Strasbourg, the Palatium that had been on this site since 1262.

Armand-Gaston-Maximilien de Rohan-Soubise was a strong political figure that made an impressive career within the Roman Catholique church. He was made archbishop of Strasbourg and thus Prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1701, only 27 years old, and became cardinal in 1712.

Another Prince bishop of the same family, Louis René Édouard, cardinal de Rohan was involved in the infamous affair of the diamond necklace that seriously affected the reputation of the Bourbon dynasty and in particular its last French queen, Marie Antoinette.

Palais Rohan has housed many prominent historical figures as King Louis XV (1744), Queen Marie Antoinette (1779), Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte (1805, 1806, and 1809), Empress Joséphine, and King Charles X in 1828.

The main facade of Palace Rohan face the Ill river, and looks magnificent with the tall tower of Strasbourg cathedral in the background. It consists of a number of smaller and larger connecting buildings enclosing a courtyard.

It has been home to the important historical collections from 1898, after having served as the main building of the German university. It was badly damaged in a bomb raid on October 11th 1944, but has since then been faithfully restored.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pascal - a Franco-Norwegian foodstory
















When Pascal Dupuy opened his first pâtisserie in Oslo in 1995, he brought the fine art of creating French cakes and chocolates to Norway. Since then he has expanded and now you can indulge in his delicacies in 5 different locations in the Norwegian capital.


If you come to Oslo I highly recommend a visit to his first pâtisserie at Tollbugata 11 in downtown Oslo.

Here there have been served cakes since 1895, and Pascal Dupuy is the 9th pâtissier that has been located here. There were baker's shops here even earlier, in the house from 1650 that burnt down in the 1860's.

The interior is rustic and full of patina, with a spectacular glass roof. You may also admire a beautiful fresco painted by Åsmund Stray.

I am not very good at preparing neither desserts nor cakes, and I am therefore a regular customer at Pascal when I am entertaining. Last weekend I bought a delicious creamy chocolate cake with lemon as a dessert and four French macarons. Wicked stuff!!

Address:
Pascal
Tollbugata 11, N-0152 Oslo, Norway
Phone: +47 22-42-11-19
Official website

(Photo of macarones: Cantabilis)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

SAS Radisson Hotel Scandinavia - Göteborg

I had great expectations to SAS Radisson Hotel Scandinavia in Göteborg. I had browsed through their website and other sites, and all of them had favourable reviews of the hotel. I dare say, I was not disappointed. SAS Radisson Hotel Scandinavia was an excellent place to stay and Enjoy Food & Travel highly recommend it to those of you travelling to Göteborg.

Location: BBBB

Radisson SAS Scandinavia Hotel is located in the heart of the city, close to the Central station and Nordstan shopping centre. As most areas close to railway stations, it lacks charm and character, but it is excellent to stay in walking distance to restaurants, shops, and public transportation.

Service: BBBB+

A kind and professional staff met us as guests, both in reception, bar and breakfast room. In the bar it did take some time to get drinks and food, but this was the exception, rather than the rule. I would especially commend the receptionists that permitted us to keep our room until we left at 2 PM. It is always nice to be able to return to your room and rest at the day of departure.

Room: BBBBB

The hotel has one standard size for double room. 32 square meters or around 320 square feet is a generously sized room. The bathroom was equally generous in size, with enough space to fulfill the needs of two.

The room had two beds, a large desk, one comfortable chair and a sofa in beige leather, and the bathroom had a bathtub - great!

The rooms at SAS Radisson Scandinavia Hotel are decorated in three different styles, urban, chili or ocean. We were given an ocean room in pleasant blue and green shades and furniture in light wood. The design provided a cool and relaxed atmosphere to the room.

The beds were very comfortable and you could take a spare duvet and pillow to increase your own comfort even further.

Both hotel room and bathroom were immaculately clean and maintained No cracked tiles, no spots, only a little dust on one of the picture frames. It is very rare to find such a standard and this indicates a very professional management. Such a standard is not always the case at hotels in Radisson hotels. One example of the opposite is the SAS Radisson Hotel Royal in Bergen, where I ended up as a very disappointed guest as my room was in dire need of a total makeover.

Some other features of our superb double room were: TV, minibar, free safe, hot water kettle with coffee and tea, free wireless connection, iron board and iron, hair drier, and room service.

Breakfast: BBBBB

Breakfast was included in the price, and we could indulge in any kind of breakfast foods we desired. There were bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, baked beans, fried potatoes and fried tomatoes. The scrambled eggs was a little under cooked and watery Saturday, but was prepared drier and more fluffy on Sunday.

There were different kind of rolls and breads, and they even provided a gluten free alternative. I also enjoyed herring, patés, cheese, and eggs. For the health freaks there were muesli s, fruits and yogurt. There were freshly brewed coffee on each table and you could choose from grapefruit, orange and apple juice. It was hard not to over eat, as there were so much to choose from.

Facilities: BBBBB-

This is a very comfortable hotel with business class facilities. You find one restaurant, breakfast restaurant and a comfortable in the large indoor atrium.

You will have access to an indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, spa, sauna and fitness room for a 100 SEK fee. For those in business class rooms or junior suites the access was free. The swimming pool and jacuzzi was well maintained and cleaned. There were some wear and tear in the changing area and in the bar.

We arrived late Friday evening and we needed a snack before we returned to our room.

We ordered buffalo wings, carrot sticks and celery with blue cheese dressing and mustard mayonnaise. It was a winner. At a price of 95 SEK (€9) you got deliciously crispy and well seasoned chicken to dip into delicious dipping sauce. A perfect end to the day.

Price: BBBBB

We paid 1175 SEK (800 NOK / €90) for a spacious double room. A nice price, considering what this hotel has to offer its guest. A bargain, if you ask me!!!

Rating the SAS Radisson SAS Hotel Scandinavia experience: BBBBB- (4,69 points)


Highly recommended by Enjoy Food & Travel. A professional run business class hotel to a economy class price. A bargain in Göteborg.

Address:
SAS Radisson Scandinavia Hotel
Sodra Hamngatan 59-65
Gothenburg, S-401 24
Phone: +46-31-7585000
Official website