Saturday, August 08, 2009

Here stood the residence of John Hancock.....

John Hancock is one of the icons of the American revolution. He was a wealthy merchant and politician, and the first governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. His flamboyant signature on the Declaration of Independence made his name synonymous with signature. His residence was located on Beacon Hill, by today's State Capitol building. At this location you find this marker.


Above you see one of a very few photos of the building, taken in 1860. It was a large building, 56 ft. long, built in solid granite from Quincy.

Information states that his house was built 1737. It was the first house west of the summit of Beacon Hill and erected by Thomas Hancock, John's uncle. It was left to his widow, Lydia Henchman and was taken over by John Hancock in the year the Declaration was signed in 1776.

Sadly it was torn down in 1863, after a heated discussion on whether to preserve it as historic landmark or not. The only thing left is the empty space that once housed this beautiful building. The controversy around the preservation of the house of John Hancock did, however, save other historic landmark from the same fate.

Read more on the Hancock Manor here

See maps of hotels, restaurants, and sights of New England here

(Photo of house: Boston Public Library)

Friday, August 07, 2009

5 Scandinavian airlines among Europe's 9 most punctual

August 3rd Flightstats launched their Airline and Airport On-time Performance - July 2009 Report. The report measures every month the number of flights arriving within 15 minutes of published schedules. 48 European airlines have been evaluated by Flightstats, and 5 out of 8 of the most punctual airlines were either Norwegian, Danish or joint Scandinavian.

The two top airlines are smaller airlines operating fewer number of flights. The most punctual airline, Binter Canarias' result is based on 1547 flights, most of which are running within the Canary Islands, and to Spain, Portugal, Madeira and Morocco. VLM is even smaller (based on 894 flights) as it operates between Antwerp and London City airport.

The results of the larger airlines (SAS Norway, KLM Cityhopper, Wideroe's, SAS, and KLM are based on much larger samples (5938 - 8945) showing a surprising punctuality even among larger airlines. Norwegian Air Shuttle's good result is based on only 2700 samples, a surprising low number, as it is taking over an increasing share of Norwegian domestic and international flight market.

See the full report from Flightstats here

Europe's best 8 airlines

The 8 best airlines in Europe July 2009 are:
  • Binter Canarias (ES) 97,48%
  • VLM Airlines (BE) - 94.07%
  • SAS Norway (NO) - 93.72%
  • KLM Cityhopper (NL) - 93.58%
  • Wideroe's (NO) - 93.49%
  • Cimber Air A.S. (DK) - 93.24%
  • SAS - (SC) 90.19%
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle (NO) - 89.74%
  • KLM (NL) - 89.50%
The old giants are struggling

The larger airlines are less punctual. 81,1% Lufthansa flights were more than 15 minutes delayed according to schedule. For Air France and British Airways the performance was even lower (78 and 73 %)

Budget airlines are less punctual

Some of the worst performers were the largest budget airlines. This in spite of the fact that they are working hard to cut down on time for check-in and boarding flights. This to such an extent that flights have left earlier than scheduled when remaining passengers have showed up for check-in too late. Some of them are also using smaller airports with less traffic, instead of the main European hubs. Here are the results of some important budget carriers.
  • 18. German Wings - 1889 out of 2280 flights (82,85%) arrived within 15 minutes of published schedules.
  • 26. Air Berlin - 3016 out of 3811 flights (79,14%) arrived within 15 minutes of published schedules.
  • 38. Ryanair - 8229 out of 11678 flights (70,47%) arrived within 15 minutes of published schedules.
  • 43. EasyJet - 8221 out of 16503 flights (62,98%) arrived within 15 minutes of published schedules.
(Photo: Klaus Botta)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Passage to Cinque Terre

I am asked to provide assistance in ordering trips, and I gladly do so. In July I was asked by a friend to find cheap air fare and accommodation in the Cinque Terre district by the breathtaking Ligurian coastline in October.

She had been told by her local travel agent that a trip here would end up very expensive, even outside peak season. I do not know whether this showed pure incompetence or whether it was a blatant lie in order to secure a over priced deal for their company.

A quick search on the net proved airfare and nine nights in a double room an affordable venture. But do not expect any luxury, as this means economy ticket with stopovers and staying in a one star hotel with character.

This booking covers round-trip tickets for two from Oslo Airport October 21st to Genoa, returning from Genoa October 31st and nine nights in a double room in one of the towns of Cinque Terre.

I tried a quick search on, and found that offered a roundtrip ticket for NOK 2015,- or 229 EUR. Hardly a rip off. Flight serviced by Augsburg Airways, Air Dolomiti, and Lufthansa, with good margins at the stopover. Some would say too much time, on the return trip, but the alternative to 4 hours in Munchen is 30 minutes, and I do recommend all transit travelers good margins on corresponding flights. Less risk and less stress, and Munich airport is one of the better places to relax between flights.

And at I found Hotel La Zorza in Riomaggiore. The website gives this description of this small one star hotel:
Housed in a building dating back to the 17th century, La Zorza is a lovely affordable Cinque Terre hotel boasting a convenient location in Riomaggiore, a medieval town rich in history where you can admire the castle offering breathtaking sea views. The city of Riomaggiore lies the Cinque Terre National Park.

La Zorza Hotel is named after the typical Riomaggiore vineyard and offers a great spot for a pleasant and relaxing vacation in the Cinque Terre, Italy. The hotel will welcome guests in a completely restored setting.

Start the day with a delicious Italian breakfast served in the charming breakfast room and after an interesting sightseeing tour or a pleasant day at the local beach, sip your favourite drink at the hotel bar. Moreover, in the breakfast room there is an Internet Point to keep in touch with your friends.

The pictures look nice, but what is more important. Former guests has evaluated their experience to 8,2 out of 10. Only two, however, have stayed there, but their reviews were good.

And the price for it all? 1248 EUR, i.e. flight and nine nights shared accommodation, breakfast included – for two! Hardly a chocking price for a trip to one of the most beautiful towns of Cinque Terre.

I am waiting in suspense whether they will take my advice and book. I will keep you posted.

UPDATED: Status per August 6th 2009

I am pleased to announce that the trip is booked and the two fellow travelers are VERY happy!! As we booked, we discovered that the price of flights had dropped even further, meaning more money to use on their destination.

More booking stories on

(Photos: Brenden Prendergast and

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The art of enjoying an artichoke

Artichokes are, to many, an ingredient yet to be discovered. They are the ultimate slow food, as it takes time to eat them. During the process of dismantling and devouring one, you will have time to socialize while grabbing the grub concealed in these large flower buds. As artichokes are flowers, cut before blooming. They are a giant species of the thistle family, so well known to many of us. If left to bloom you would clearly recognize it as related to one of the species thistle growing where you live.

My friend Dagfinn Skoglund brought two beautiful artichokes to be prepared in my country kitchen. Before I give an instruction on how to cultivate the art of enjoying this treat, let me tell how to prepare them.

Artichokes are clearly not edible as raw, but has to be boiled in a large casserole with enough water. Some take the opportunity to trim the outer parts of each leaf with a pair of scissors. before boiling them. Unless the tips are brown and dry, this is not necessary. If the leaves are in this state, do not buy the artichokes.

Add a little salt and allow the artichokes to simmer for 40-50 minutes. It is ready to be eaten, when the outer leaves slips easily.

The guide-on-how-to-eat-artichokes for dummies

First and foremost prepare one or two dipping sauces you like. You may use cold mayonnaise, hollandaise, a sour cream sauce or a vinaigrette. I made a garlic and herb vinaigrette. Start by removing the first leaves by the stem of the bud. The edible part is the base of the leaf. Simply dip it into your sauce and suck out the meaty base, using your lower front teeth. Continue by eating leaf by leaf. When you get the hang of it, you may free your mind and start socializing.

As you work your way into the flower, you will find that the inner purple leaves are softer and will have less and less meat. There is always a question when you should stop, but at the point that you find that the effort does not pay off any more – do so. If you think this is it, think again. It is the beginning of the quest of the real treat, the artichoke heart.

Remove the last parts of the leaves, and you will find the thin sticky threads that are the centre of the flower. Start removing them, but be careful, as you may remove much of the heart if you are not careful. When you have removed it all, you will find the delicious meaty artichoke heart. Cut the stem off, cut it into small bits and enjoy slowly with your favourite dip. Or you can place them in oil to use in other dishes as pizzas or salads.

I had two hearts, and as I was planning a tapas party, I decided to make a tasty dip.

Artichoke and anchovies dip

2 artichoke hearts, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil (to match the consistency you want)
6 salt anchovies
Salt and pepper

Mix artichoke hearts, garlic, and oil with a hand mixer until smooth. Add anchovies. Season according to taste with salt and pepper. Be aware that anchovies may be very salt. Keep refrigerated in a jar.

Other social foods on Enjoy Food & Travel

Five delicious tapas to gossip over - see story here

Escargots - mouthwatering slow food - see story here!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Chicken and asparagus quiche

As I expected Enjoy Food & Travel Co-writer Øivind Grimsmo, his wife Monica and the kids the same day I arrived, I had to settle for an easy option for lunch / early dinner. I had bought a roast chicken at my local grocer’s, and had two chicken breasts left. The easiest way to use it was to make a tasty quiche, and I garnished it with long green asparagus!! Great stuff.

To feed 4-6 people you’ll need

One or two sheets of pastry (suitable for a 25 cm / 9 inch baking dish)

300-400 grams / 10-15 oz precooked chicken meat, diced
200 grams / 7 oz semi hard cheese, grated
8-10 asparagus tips
4 eggs
15 cl / 5 fluid oz double cream
A pinch cayenne pepper (Optional)

Use premade quiche dough, or make it from scratch. Roll pastry until it fits the baking tray. Place baking paper on top of pastry, then 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.

Spread half the chicken on the pastry, and add half the cheese. Add another layer of chicken and cheese.

Whisk eggs and cream, add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the amount of salt to the salinity of cheese and chicken. Pour over chicken and cheese. Garnish with asparagus tips.

Bake in a hot oven (200 C – 400F) for 25-35 minutes or until quiche is light brown and firm.

Serve with salad and bread.

Other quiche recipes?

See story Memories from my aunts kitchen III - American Pie(s) on Enjoy Food & Travel

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Tales of a Country Kitchen

Summer vacation 2009 is over. I spent two lovely weeks in tranquility in our old house on the South Eastern coast of Norway. Besides gardening, swimming, reading and other activities of leisure, I have had plenty of time to cook in my new kitchen. This has produced a few memorable culinary moments. Some of these tales from a country kitchen will come here on Enjoy Food & Travel in the weeks to come.

Cooking in a 400 year old house has its charms and its challenges. A brand new kitchen has certainly provided relief for an amateur cook. Enough desk space has made it easier to prepare food, and provide self-service at parties. Preparing tapas for 16 was SO much easier this year than last year, and preparing dinner for six has become a piece of cake. That was clear when my good friend and Enjoy Food & Travel co-writer Øivind Grimsmo arrived with his wife Monica and their two kids the first weekend.

Read stories by guest writer Øivind Grimsmo here on Enjoy Food & Story

The second and another Enjoy Food & Travel contributor arrived the coming weekend with a bag full of goodies. Dagfinn Skoglund is a magic cook, and the ingredients he brought went into a few magic memorable culinary moments. He brought fava beans, artichokes, merguez sausages, beef fillet, Hellmann's Dijonnaise, and even more. I will get back to the contents of this bag of goodies.

See Dagfinn Skoglunds story from Madeira on Enjoy Food & Travel

The essence of good country cooking is time, and with two weeks far away from any distractions, you have enough time to experiment and try to reach another level in your quest of culinary nirvana. But in that quest, less is often more. A few good ingredients are most often better than several of lower quality. My thoughts go to a meal with king crab, white bread, delicious rich butter from Kviteseid and Hellmann's Mayo. Heaven with a dry white wine!!

So stay tuned for Tales of a Country Kitchen here on Enjoy Food & Travel.


Read stories from my hometown Arendal here